Hillary takes the blame — and places it elsewhere, too

Let’s stipulate something right up front: Political historians and journalists have a monumental task on their hands trying to assess and analyze the mind-boggling results of the 2016 presidential election.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the candidate who lost the election to Donald John Trump, did not make their jobs any easier when offering her own view of how she snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Clinton spoke during a Women for Women conference in New York City.

Clinton took responsibility for the errors she made. She has determined that she ran a flawed campaign. She also said FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress revealing that he was taking a fresh look at the e-mail controversy played a part; so did the release of data from WikiLeaks, which raised questions among undecided voters about Clinton’s candidacy.

“It wasn’t a perfect campaign — there is no such thing — but I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on Oct. 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off,” Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

She also blamed a latent misogyny among voters who just couldn’t vote for a woman to become president of the United States.

Was it Comey? The WikiLeaks release? Misogyny? Campaign incompetence?

All of the above.

Hillary did note something that continues to rumble in the president’s craw, which is that she did win nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump. She just was unable to win in those Rust Belt states that had voted twice for Barack H. Obama.

I’ll just add as well that pollsters took a lot of heat in the immediate aftermath of the election. But get a load of this: The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows that Hillary won the popular vote by a bit more than 2 percentage points, which is just about where the RCP pre-election poll average had pegged it.

What we have here is a perfect storm of circumstances that produced the most shocking U.S. political upset of, oh, the past 100 years.

Good luck, political historians, as you sort all of this out.

Don’t meet with the dictator, Mr. President

Donald J. Trump seems to have a fascination with ham-fisted dictators. He relishes praise that comes from the likes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and says he’d be “honored” to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”

Let’s set aside the Putin “bromance.” Kim Jong Un doesn’t deserve the attention of the president of the United States.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has counseled the president to avoid any temptation to sit across a negotiating table with Kim Jong Un. I believe Albright is correct.

North Koreans are starving while Kim Jong Un is squandering resources to build his military machine. Albright said it is wrong in the extreme for the U.S. president to talk to this guy, who’s also threatening potential nuclear attacks on South Korea and possibly Japan.

Trump already has referred to Kim as a “smart cookie,” which isn’t exactly the kind of description a president would apply to the leader of a nation that is still technically at war with his neighbor to the south; North and South Korea, you see, never agreed to a peace treaty when the shooting stopped during the Korean War, a conflict that cost more than 40,000 U.S. lives.

“Smart cookie,” my backside.

As for the “honor” the president would feel if he could meet with Kim under the correct circumstance … don’t go there, Mr. President.

Trump has boasted about his ability to make “great deals” as he seeks to meld his business acumen with his conduct of foreign and domestic public policy. Thus, Trump reckons that he can talk Kim Jong Un into a more reasonable posture in East Asia.

The president’s record of non-achievement — just a little more than 100 days into his presidency — suggests to me that he needs to rethink that particular talking point.

How do you define a ‘good’ government shutdown?

Donald J. Trump is wearing me out.

He keeps saying outrageous things, forcing bloggers and other commentators such as yours truly to figure what the hell the president is trying to convey.

Get a load of this one, the latest bit of crap-ola to fly out of Trump’s mouth: He now says the government can use a “good shutdown” in September when the money to fund it runs out.

Has there ever been another president of the United States who has uttered such abject nonsense? Umm, let me think. No. There hasn’t.

Trump frustration grows

As The Hill reports, it appears the president has grown frustrated with Congress, which has approved a funding measure that keeps the government operating, but includes zero money for that “big, beautiful wall” Trump wants built along our southern border with Mexico.

According to The Hill: “Democrats have argued that they won most of the battles surrounding the bill, and several media accounts have suggested that Trump and the White House were losers in the negotiations.

“A New York Times headline on the deal said: ‘Winners and Losers of the Spending Deal (Spoiler Alert: Trump Lost).'”

With the president, it’s all about winning and losing. He wants money to build that damn wall because it would constitute a “win” for him and his White House team.

As for the government shutdown idea, that’s pure idiocy. Then again, if Trump had any knowledge or experience with government — or perhaps any sense of the good that government can do for those who need assistance — he wouldn’t have made such a ridiculous statement, which he made via Twitter.

House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the president’s rant. “The president’s tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point to drive home that this place — that Washington needs to be fixed,” Ryan said. “I think that’s a defensible position, one we’ll deal with in September.”

Shutting down the government can “fix” Washington? Oh, here’s an idea: Why doesn’t the president summon congressional leaders of both parties to the White House and start talking to all of them about constructive solutions?

That would fix Washington … wouldn’t it? It also would keep the government running and serving those Americans who need help.

‘None of your business’? Why, I never …

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa is getting a bit testy, or so it appears.

A reporter asked the veteran California Republican lawmaker how he intended to vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with some sort of Republican-sponsored alternative.

Issa responded, “It’s none of your business.” The reporter then responded with a question about Issa’s constituents. Don’t they need to know? “You’re not a constituent,” Issa replied.

OK. Let’s settle down for a second or two.

Exchange got tense

Rep. Issa is a member of Congress. He is one of 435 members of the House. This body writes federal law. It then enacts those laws, which then get approved by the Senate and gets signed by the president.

Thus, we’re all his constituents, if you get my drift.

Rep. Issa, you need to get a grip, sir. Reporters asking you for your opinion on an important piece of federal legislation is everyone’s business.

Issa has no special privilege to keep his views on these critical matters to himself.

More celebrities set to run for POTUS? Oh, please

Donald John Trump’s election as president of the United States was unprecedented at many levels.

He had never held public office; he was a TV celebrity and real estate mogul who slapped his name on seemingly every high-rise being built in the past two decades; he’s been married three times and has bragged about his infidelities.

But he’s the man. Now we hear plenty of chatter out here in the peanut gallery about other first-time pols — who also happen to be celebrities — pondering whether they want to run for the presidency.

Spare me! Spare the country! Please say we aren’t about to get more of this ridiculousness.

Kanye West has said something about running in 2020.

Oprah Winfrey has been mentioned as a possibility. Oprah? She’s far more preferable than Kanye “Kim K’s Husband” West … but, really?

Oh, how about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook? This youngster isn’t even old enough to run for the office  — but he will be by the time 2020 rolls around. He, too, has gotten a mention by some of the TV talking heads.

I’m a bit old-fashioned in this regard. I happen to think experience with government and politics is a valuable commodity on which to run for the highest office in the land. I also like the notion of politicians having a record of public service to reveal to the public whose votes they would be seeking.

Trump didn’t bring any of that to the 2016 presidential campaign. I guess he was blessed to be running against Hillary Rodham Clinton who, it turns out, became a terrible candidate. The irony in all of this is that the “smart money” thought the tables would have been turned, that Hillary had been “blessed” with getting to run against someone so patently unqualified and unfit for the office that he ended up winning.

Who knew?

Trump is now the president and his presence on the world stage is creating a bit of buzz out in the land of other celebrities with no qualifications for the presidency; they, too might decide to become candidates.

Say it ain’t so. Someone. Please.

Amarillo election produces some push back

This next weekend is going to produce a new Amarillo City Council majority, with at least three new members joining the five-member municipal governing panel.

However, in the run-up to this election I’ve been detecting a whiff of something about this campaign that sets it apart from recent municipal campaigns. It’s the presence of a well-financed political action committee, Amarillo Matters, that is backing an impressive slate of candidates seeking election to the council.

My mail box is getting nearly daily deliveries of circulars touting the virtues of the Amarillo Matters Five. Our southwest Amarillo neighborhood is sprouting lawn signs faster than the dandelions we see each spring. I’ve greeted three Amarillo Matters volunteers at my front door as they have handed out campaign material.

I happen to be acquainted with many of the principals involved with Amarillo Matters. They are successful men and women who have sought to make a positive difference in the city. However, social media have been chattering of late with some push back from individuals who question the motives behind Amarillo Matters. They can’t fathom why a PAC would spend a six-figure amount to elect a council whose members earn a paltry $10 per public meeting … plus some expense reimbursements.

There’s been the implication in some of these social media posts about possible payback, that Amarillo Matters’ members are looking for favorable treatment by the council.

I’m not going to jump onto that runaway bus.

I am no Pollyanna and I do retain a healthy skepticism about politics — even at the local level.

Truth be told, I am glad to see a healthy discussion taking place about the municipal election and about the stakes involved. Electing the governing City Council will produce far more tangible impact on voters than electing members of Congress or the presidency. I would argue, too, that even countywide elections have significantly less impact on those of us who live within a city’s corporate limits; we are governed in Amarillo by a city charter.

One of the better aspects of City Hall’s governance is that the council is elected every two years, which is the same length of time a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. That means council members could, if they choose, kick right back into re-election campaign mode right after the ballots are counted; that’s how it works in Congress, right?

Voters would do well to stay alert to any sign of favoritism or deal-making with certain PAC principals at City Hall. My guess is that the new City Council — whether it comprises some or all of the candidates endorsed by Amarillo Matters — will be leery of falling into that trap as well.

At least they’d better be.

POTUS admits it: He is without principles

Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States, made what sounded — to my ears at least — like a confirmation over the weekend of what many of his critics have been saying since he began running for the office to which he was elected.

He seems to have acknowledged that he doesn’t have any principles. He lacks any core beliefs for which he would stand and fight.

When pressed by CBS News’s John Dickerson on “Face the Nation,” Trump blurted out that “I don’t stand by anything.”

Well. There you go.

Dickerson sought to press the president on the unfounded allegation he leveled that President Barack Obama wiretapped his campaign office. Trump declined to answer — and then he ended the interview.

The president’s remarkable acknowledgment came amid a flurry of media interviews that included untold numbers of bizarre assertions that demonstrated a number of qualities about this man: He knows next to nothing about U.S. history, about the government over which he presides and about the world through which he must navigate.

I keep coming back to the “I don’t stand by anything” statement.

Oh, man. That speaks volumes to me. What it means, I believe, is that anything that flies out of his mouth is fair game in the moment. It means that we have an unprincipled carnival barker sitting behind that big Oval Office desk and in the Situation Room. He is making decisions based on whatever someone tells him in real time and that he will not stand for anyone seeking to hold him accountable for anything he has said previously.

Hillary won the popular vote because of illegal ballots? Obama wiretapped his campaign office? Kim Jong Un is a “smart cookie”? John McCain is a war hero only “because he was captured”? Barack Obama is an illegal alien who wasn’t qualified to run for president? The media are “the enemy of the American people”?

Does he believe this horse manure? Or does he just say it because he has this insatiable desire to stir things up?

Donald Trump has just settled a serious talking point at only the 102nd day as president. He has just admitted that he is an unprincipled charlatan.

I won’t say “I told you so.” Oh, wait! I just did!

Yes, there really are dumb questions

Let’s all flash back for a moment, to a time when we all sat at our school desks. We would be perhaps reluctant to ask our teacher a question, thinking it’s a dumb query. Your teacher would say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Well, I think I we’ve heard one. It comes — believe it or not — from the president of the United States of America.

In an interview, Donald J. Trump said this: “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Let me take a stab at it, Mr. President.

The Civil War was fought because several states in the South seceded from the Union; they didn’t like the federal government telling them that they had to follow federal law. The governors of those states hued to the notion that “states’ rights” superseded federal law — and those states had the “right” to sanction slavery, to keep human beings in bondage, for slave owners to possess other human beings the way they possessed, say, farm animals or equipment. President Lincoln sought a compromise by allowing slavery in certain states, but would not allow any expansion of slave-holding states. Southern states resisted that restriction and then began to secede, forming the Confederate States of America.

In April 1861, Confederate gunners opened fire on the Union garrison stationed at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., harbor.

The war began. When it ended in 1865, more than 600,000 Americans died on battlefields; it was the costliest war in terms of lives lost in U.S. history.

Why the Civil War?

Could they have worked it out? Could the states of the north and south reached some sort of common ground?

Hey, this is just me, but I doubt it.

The president would do well to crack a few books on the subject of the Civil War. He would learn a great deal about a defining chapter in the history of the nation he now governs.

Castro clears the decks for Beto O’Rourke

I swear I thought I could hear the faint chants way off in the distance.

“BE-TO, BE-TO, BE-TO … “

And on it goes.

They could be coming from breathless Texas Democrats who have worked themselves into a tizzy over news that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro has decided to forgo a challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in next year’s mid-term election.

Thus, the way is cleared among Democratic Party loyalists to rally behind the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s been barnstorming our massive state of late, acquainting himself with Democrats who want little better than to oust Cruz, the fiery Republican senator who I’ve dubbed — in not-so-friendly terms — the Cruz Missile.

O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, stopped in Amarillo over the weekend for a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant. From what I have heard, the crowd to meet him was enormous, meaning that O’Rourke’s advance team — with a lot of social media help from a group called Indivisible Amarillo — did a good job of filling the room.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s heed a dose of sobering reality — if you’re a loyal Democrat we used to refer to in this state as “Yellow Dogs,” meaning they’d rather vote for a yellow dog than vote for a Republican.

Texas flips from D to R.

Texas is a seriously Republican state. It has flipped just in the span of a few years from being reliably Democratic. The Cruz Missile represents the colossal strength of the state GOP. He is one of a complete slate of statewide elected officials who wear the Republican label.

Cruz will be difficult to beat, so let’s not believe that just because there might be an attractive and articulate challenger from the other party that it guarantees a neck-and-neck race. Do you remember another Democrat who was thought to be a serious challenger to the GOP vise grip in Texas? Her name is Wendy Davis, the former state senator from Fort Worth. She was supposed to present a serious challenge to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in the 2014 race for governor; she lost by 20 points.

I am not crazy about one-party control at any level. I prefer a competitive two-party system. A healthy minority party puts the majority party on notice to defend its positions; a competitive environment makes incumbents accountable for the statements and the decisions they make on our behalf.

Maybe we can restore some level of competitiveness to the Texas political battleground. For the sake of those anxious Democrats around the state — and in the Texas Panhandle — I hope it’s O’Rourke who can make Cruz answer for his grandstanding and his transparent self-centeredness.

Happy Trails, Part 13

I recently told a longtime friend of mine that I am now “fully retired” and he responded with an observation that he hadn’t met any retired individual yet who didn’t enjoy retirement to the hilt.

Today, we got some good news and some great news in the mail. It all relates to our retired status.

The tandem bit of cheer arrived enclosed in a single envelope from the Potter-Randall County Appraisal District, the entity that assesses the value of property in the two counties that Amarillo straddles.

The good news is that the assessed value of our property has escalated significantly in the past year. That didn’t surprise me, given all the commercial/business construction that’s ongoing not far from our home.

The great news is that our estimated property tax bill remains the same as it was last year. Texas state law allows old folks like me to have their property taxes frozen in perpetuity. Ain’t it cool?

That brings me to another point, on which I’ll dwell only for a moment. It’s that taxing entities that seek additional revenue to pay for brick-and-mortar projects — which they submit to voters in the form of bond issue elections — often run into resistance from the least-affected constituency group: elderly homeowners.

For instance, a school system wants to build a new school. The entity calls for a bond issue election, but it might get defeated because older voters reject it. They claim they don’t want to spend more on property taxes; therefore, they reject these bond issues because they don’t want to bear the additional burden.

Except that they don’t bear any additional burden! State law freezes their property tax bill!

But … I digress.

I’ll just salute the state for giving old folks such as yours truly a break on their tax bill, while allowing the value of our property to increase.

Indeed, that increase will come in handy, too, once we get ready to put our house on the market.

Growing older isn’t so bad … you know?