Vote your ‘conscience’ or that of the voters?

I’ve stated already my admiration for U.S. Sen. John McCain, who’s battling a life-threatening illness while continuing to serve the Arizona voters who have elected him.

That said, I want to offer a word of caution to Sen. McCain and other public servants who might want to follow his lead.

He says that his illness allows him to “vote my conscience” rather than adhere to the wishes of the president or even other fellow Republican Party congressional leaders.

Fine. I get it. Let’s remember that Sen. McCain serves in a “representative form of government,” which means he works at the behest of his constituents. Thus, he is not entirely free to vote his “conscience” if his conscience is at odds with what his constituents want from him.

There is plenty of talk these days about whether Sen. McCain is free to pursue a voting track that enables him to come down with a purer vote of conscience. He has written a book in which he trashes Donald J. Trump’s leadership as president. He says in his book that the brain cancer that ravages him gives him a stronger voice to oppose the president’s policies.

Is that what his constituents want?

I ask that question knowing that McCain is far from the first politician who occasionally ignores the cadence that’s being called among the voter bloc that elected him. Is that a prudent course? Is that keeping faith with the oath he took to represent the wishes of the people who have a vested interest in all decisions he makes as one who writes federal laws?

McCain’s declaration causes me great conflict. I want him to oppose the president, to vote his “conscience” where it’s appropriate. Then again, I do not live in Arizona, the state he represents in the U.S. Senate. I have the luxury of cheering his decision to vote his conscience.

Is it in the interests of his bosses, the voters who sent him to the high office he occupies?

Tread carefully, Sen. McCain. By all means, I am praying for your return to good health.

Please stay put, Justice Kennedy

I want to join a chorus of those who want U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay right where he is.

He is on the nation’s highest court and is reportedly, allegedly, supposedly considering retiring sometime this year.

I don’t want him to go. I want him to remain as a key “swing vote” on the court, giving it some semblance of balance. The consequences of a Kennedy departure could have — in my humble view — a potentially devastating impact on the way of life for millions of Americans.

The New York Times editorialized over the weekend about its desire that he stay on the court. Read the editorial here.

Yes, I understand that “elections have consequences.” I have taken particular note of that when previous presidents have made critical federal judicial appointments.

This president could shape the high court’s makeup for decades with yet another appointment. Donald Trump already has picked a solid conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. What would another Trump pick do? Hmm. Let’s see.

It could revoke a woman’s right to determine whether she wants to end a pregnancy; it could mean the end of same-sex marriage, which the court has determined was guaranteed under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution; it could roll back civil rights guarantees that previous courts have upheld repeatedly.

President Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy to the court in 1988. The president counted on Kennedy being a reliable “conservative” voice on the court. Kennedy hasn’t filled that bill. He has sided with conservatives and with liberals. He’s a swing vote. Kennedy presence on the court produces a certain drama as the public await key court decisions.

He’s now 81 years of age. It’s been reported that he wants to hang up his robe and spend more time with his grandchildren. I get it. Honest. I do. But why not wait another two years, until after the 2020 election? If Trump gets re-elected, then he could quit if he really wants out. If the president is not re-elected and the nation regains its political sanity and elects someone with a clue about how government works, then he surely can retire from the bench.

Just … not yet, Mr. Justice.

You say ‘Miam-ee,’ or is it ‘Miam-uh’?

One of the quirks of living in the Texas Panhandle is the pronunciation of a certain community about 80 or so miles northeast of Amarillo.

My wife and I have lived in the Panhandle for more than 23 years.

I have yet to get used to the pronunciation of a town in Roberts County. It’s spelled “Miami,” which is how one spells the name of the city at the southern tip of Florida. You say it the way you would expect to say it pertaining to Miami, Ohio and perhaps even Miami, Okla.

But you pronounce the Roberts County seat “Miam-uh.”

We’re moving away from the Panhandle. We’re heading for North Texas. I’m unaware of any peculiar names surrounding Fairview that will give us difficulty as we relearn our surroundings.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m just blathering briefly about something of no particular importance.

Miam-ee, or Miam-uh?

Ah, yes. Change awaits. I’m getting ready for it.

The blog isn’t going away

I feel the need to repeat this one more time.

I’ll type it slowly. So … read verrry carefully.

I intend to keep writing this blog until I no longer am able.

This restatement comes in the wake of some interesting responses to an earlier post that went out on High Plains Blogger. I wrote about the upcoming move my wife, Toby and Puppy and I are set to make to Fairview, Texas — a little village tucked neatly between Allen and McKinney, about 30 miles or so north of Dallas.

It’s in Collin County. It’s a bustling place, full of new things to do, places to see and explore.

Yes, the newness will be a joy to experience.

However, some things won’t change with the move from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex.

High Plains Blogger will remain alive and, hopefully, well. Some of the responses along my social media network come have asked whehter I’ll keep writing it.

Yes! A thousand times yes!

I don’t pretend to have an infinite wave of fans who hang on every word that comes from this blog. I have my share of critics and political foes. Many of them are actual friends, not just social media acquaintances who like to bitch at me.

One of the greatest joys of writing this blog is how many of my actual friends — those who disagree with my politics — remain my friends despite our world view differences.

The folks who have asked me whether I intend to keep writing the blog generally are those with whom I agree politically.

I intend to keep firing off these missives and musings for as long as I have most of my marbles. There are times when I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but I don’t think the butter has slipped off my noodle just yet.

I retired from full-time print journalism in August 2012. I kept my head in “the game” through some part-time work. I wrote feature stories for Panhandle PBS and NewsChannel 10 websites in Amarillo; I helped produce the weekly Quay County Sun in Tucumcari, N.M. They kept me active and engaged in the community I have called home for the past 23 years.

Some new digs and new experiences await my wife and me. Toby the Puppy will be just fine as long as we’re nearby.

One element of constancy remains intact. High Plains Blogger is here to stay for as long as I’ve got my wits about me.

It’s what I do.

Obstruction of justice, anyone?

The news of the long list of questions special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask Donald J. Trump hits me hard at two levels.

First things first.

Mueller appears loaded for a deep probe into obstruction of justice, according to the questions obtained by the New York Times. From what I’ve read of the NY Times account of the inquiry, Mueller isn’t looking too carefully into collusion, given that there appears to be no federal statute that covers whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian government officials who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

He is zeroing in on obstruction and whether the president sought to derail the investigation by pressuring the Justice Department, and former FBI Director James Comey to back off their probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s role in those meetings with the Russians.

The Times also reports that Mueller is looking at the Trump family’s business dealings and whether there is any link between that aspect of the president’s other life and the one he inherited by getting elected president of the United States.

Mueller is known to be a meticulous lawyer. He dots all the “i’s” and crosses all the “t’s” before proceeding.

I hope he is allowed to continue this probe to its conclusion.

The second part of this story is the troubling aspect of the leak that apparently allowed the Times to obtain the questions in the first place.

I am forced to ask: Did someone within the Mueller legal team leak these questions to the media and possibly undermine its integrity?

I hope that’s not the case.

Mme. First Lady, this is in your wheelhouse

First lady Melania Trump has put the word out: She wants to take on cyber bullying as her signature effort as the wife of the president of the United States.

So, here we are: A foul-mouthed comedian gets Donald Trump’s base all fired up with her intemperate remarks; the president fires back on Twitter attacking her and the venue in which she delivered her remarks; he also attacks the former FBI director on Twitter and says he should be in jail.

The bullying is rampant. It’s out of control!

Isn’t this squarely in the wheelhouse of what the first lady said she wants to eradicate? Sure, she spoke initially about the bullying of children. That truly is a noble cause. I truly do wish the first lady well on that part of her campaign.

But her husband continues to wage cyber war against his foes, threatening them, bullying them, insulting them.

Mrs. Trump still needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with her husband about what he’s doing, how he’s undermining her effort to deal squarely with what she describes as a national crisis.

Oh, wait a minute. A “heart-to-heart” discussion presumes both parties possess a heart from which to speak.

McCain is now liberated to speak from his gut

There’s no need to pussyfoot around this.

John McCain is seriously ill. Accordingly, serious — life-threatening — illness has a way of liberating anyone. The Republican U.S. senator is fighting for his life against a virulent form of brain cancer.

He is about to have a book published in which he speaks from the deepest recesses of his gut about a man — Donald J. Trump — who once disparaged his valiant and heroic service to the nation he loves.

The book is titled, “The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations.” In it, the senator says this about the president: “He has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of despotic ones.” He adds: “The appearance of toughness, or a reality show facsimile of toughness, seems to matter more than any of our values.”

There’s more, of course, such as: “I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry,” McCain writes.

“I don’t think I’m free to disregard my constituents’ wishes, far from it. I don’t feel excused from keeping pledges I made. Nor do I wish to harm my party’s prospects. But I do feel a pressing responsibility to give Americans my best judgment.”

McCain is a brave warrior. Of that there can be no doubt. There can be no question or equivocation.

He fought for his country during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over Hanoi and taken captive. He endured unspeakable torture on top of the grievous injuries he suffered when he bailed out of his jet fighter and splashed into a lake in the middle of Hanoi.

Sen. McCain is one of those politicians one can admire even when you disagree with his politics. I am one of those Americans who holds this man in the highest regard possible, even though I did not cast my vote for him for president when he ran in 2008 against his “friend and colleague,” U.S. Sen. Barack H. Obama.

The nation he fought so valiantly to defend wishes him well. I hope for a miracle that he can beat the cancer that is ravaging him.

I’m glad he has found his voice, although I am saddened in the extreme over the circumstances that have led him to that discovery.

I want him to speak out for as long as he is able.