Bill Clinton’s rehab appears complete

It’s getting difficult to remember that the 42nd president of the United States was impeached by the House, tried in the Senate and then acquitted of the so-called “high crimes and misdemeanors” he was accused of committing.

The latest evidence of that is former President Clinton’s appearance in Kentucky of all places, where he is campaigning on behalf of a Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Allison Lundergan Grimes is seeking to unseat the veteran Republican senator, so she brought in the Big Dog to help her: William Jefferson Clinton.

Clinton is going where the current Democratic president, Barack Obama, dare not venture.

Let’s recall an important fact here. Clinton carried Kentucky twice in his two campaigns for the presidency. He won them both barely, but he won them. Yes, it can be argued that he had some help with the presence of Texas zillionaire H. Ross Perot on the ballot in 1992 and 1996, but I’ve never quite bought into the notion that Perot was responsible for Clinton’s two electoral victories, as national surveys indicated he took roughly equal numbers of votes from Republicans as well as Democrats.

The point, though, is that Clinton’s political rehabilitation now appears to be complete.

The man who was impeached for lying to a grand jury about a sexual affair with a White House intern has emerged as one of the more consequential ex-presidents in U.S. history. His Clinton Global Initiative targets crises around the world and lends support — and money — to nations and people in need. He remains politically active here at home. His wife, Hillary, is considering a run for the presidency again in 2016 and you can bet he’ll be hitting the stump for her as well.

It’s an amazing thing to see. A man who could have been kicked out of the presidency had he been convicted of those mostly partisan charges has come out burnished and all shiny on the other side.

Democrats with stars in their eyes want him to speak on their behalf.

So help me, they are going to write books on this incredible story of political redemption.

Veto the bill, Gov. Brewer

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer probably doesn’t care what a Texas blogger thinks of a bill that’s sitting on her desk.

I’ll say it anyway. I hope she vetoes the bill, as many key Republicans in her state think she’ll do.

The bill allows people to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation. It’s proponents call it a bill to protect people’s “religious freedom.” They contend it enables people to act on their faith principles by denying individuals services if they are gay.

I see it as a bill that sanctions discriminations, that denies people their civil rights that federal and state laws are supposed to provide for them.

It’s gotten a lot of debate in recent days. The Arizona Legislature approved it and sent it to Gov. Brewer’s desk. She’s been out of town, attending a Republican Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., where she and other GOP governors met with President Obama.

Many organizations have vowed to boycott the state. The National Football League has talked openly about pulling the Super Bowl from Arizona next year if this law takes effect.

It’s becoming an economics issue as well as a human rights issue.

Whatever. The bill shouldn’t become law.

Gov. Jan Brewer has it within her power to prevent it. Unsheathe your veto pen, governor.

Defense budget plans to trigger new fight

You’ve just heard the latest shot in the fight between congressional Republicans and the White House over a key budget matter.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a proposed Pentagon budget that, in his words, takes the United States off its “war footing” for the first time in more than a dozen years.

I want to make a couple of points:

One is that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. As the liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell noted Monday night, it took a retired five-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, to coin the term “military-industry complex” in his farewell address to the nation as president of the United States. Ike understood the military better than most presidents. Hagel also understands the nation’s defense needs in this post-Cold War period.

Second is that even with the big cuts in defense spending, the United States still will spend more on defense than Russia, China and the United Kingdom combined.

The elimination of the A-10 Warthog close ground support jet is going to raise hackles. So will the reduction in surface ships for the Navy. Same with the elimination of the U-2 spy planes that will be replaced by unmanned drones. The Army will see its force reduced to 420,000 men and women.

Hagel’s point, though, is that the United States no longer will be fighting a war abroad but still will be able to respond to a future conflict while defending the homeland.

Our arsenal remains the most potent the world has ever seen.

The cuts will save the country billions of dollars over the short and the long terms, which is what fiscal conservatives say they prefer.

However, wait for it. The critics are going to declare that Hagel and the Obama administration are hell bent on disarming the United States in favor of domestic spending programs.

It’s untrue. That won’t stop the barrage.

Texas AG candidates misrepresent their role

Texas has a long history of tough-talking macho men running for state attorney general.

They make all kinds of vows: to crack down on border security, to be tough on crime, to fight the federal government.

That’s all fine, except that the office requires little of what they individuals are trying to sell.

This year’s Republican primary for attorney general is no different. It’s getting tiresome, to be honest, listening to these individuals try out to out-tough each other.

The attorney general essentially is the state’s in-house lawyer. He or she represents the state primarily in civil matters. Crime-fighting? They leave that job to the district attorneys elected to serve the state’s 254 counties.

The closest the AG comes to fighting crime is chasing down dead-beat parents who are delinquent on their child-support payments.

Barry Smitherman touts his experience as a prosecutor; Ken Paxton boasts that he has tea party U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s support; Dan Branch declares his devotion to the sanctity of human life. They’re all spending a lot of money to promote themselves.

None of it matters as much as how well they’ll perform as a civil litigator representing Texas.


My favorite attorney general candidate of all time, though, was the late Democrat Jim Mattox, who used to brag about how tough he was crime and how he loved a good political battle.

The late great liberal newspaper columnist Molly Ivins once said of Mattox that if he spotted an ice cream stand and a crowd of folks fighting on opposites sides of a street, he’d go for the fight.

Did that make him a good attorney general? No. It did make for a good punch line.

Mattox’s political descendants — who represent the other party — nonetheless are following his lead in their quest for the office he once held.

Look out if GOP captures Senate majority

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., thinks the Republicans will gain control of the Senate when the votes are counted in the 2014 mid-term election.

Of course he’d say that. He wants nothing more, except perhaps to be speaker of the House whenever John Boehner, R-Ohio, decides to call it a career.

My own thought simply is that Republicans had better get ready for the fight of their lives if they govern both houses of Congress.

It’s been a knock-down, drag-out bloodbath during the first term-plus of Barack Obama’s presidency. The GOP-controlled House has managed to stymie the president’s agenda at almost every turn. Senate Republicans had done a good job of blocking appointments to key judicial posts until Democrats decided to change the rules to make it easier to circumvent filibusters.

The atmosphere in Washington has gotten quite toxic since President Obama took office.

If you think it’s been bad so far, then the final two years of the Obama presidency will require gas masks.

If Cantor’s prediction comes true, then the Senate will be able to block virtually every appointment the president hopes to make. The Supreme Court? None of the justices is going to leave the high court voluntarily.

The fights over budget issues only will intensify. The majority in the House will feel emboldened to throw up even more roadblocks. With the GOP in control in the Senate, if Cantor’s dream comes true, there will be no way for the upper chamber to act as a counterbalance.

What will the White House do? Look for the president to examine every possible legal action he can take through executive authority. He still has the power of his high office.

You know the saying about “being careful what you wish for.” Republicans want badly to control all of Capitol Hill, not just half of it.

If you thought the fighting was bitter to this point, well, just wait. It’s going to get downright bloody — and this is not how government is supposed to work.

Congress too mean even for John Dingell

When John Dingell says that life in Congress has become too much to handle, then you know things have gone badly.

Rep. Dingell, D-Mich., is the longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. Today he announced he is retiring at the end of his umpteenth term.

For 58 years Dingell has been serving the people of his House district.

I’m trying to think if there has been a more cantankerous member of the House then Dingell. One name comes to mind: the late Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, who served for 40 years before losing his seat in the landmark 1994 Contract with America GOP sweep of both houses of Congress. “Sweet Ol’ Brooks,” which he called himself, was my congressman and we had, shall we say, a checkered relationship during the years I covered him while working for the paper on the Gulf Coast.

Dingell is at once a poster for and against term limits. He made congressional service his career, which term limits proponents say runs counter to the Founders’ wishes. Then again, the folks in his Michigan congressional district thought enough of him to keep re-electing over the course of 50-plus years.

“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” Dingell said. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

So, another longtime veteran is calling it a career. When this man says public service in Washington has become “obnoxious,” then you’d better break out the gas masks.

Olympics have ended; world can breathe now

Russia closed its Sochi Winter Olympics in fine fashion Sunday.

It ended without any terrorist incident, which had been the talk of the world in the days leading up to the lighting of the Olympic torch.

Mission accomplished, Russia.

The Russians’ Ring of Steel, which comprised several thousand military and law enforcement personnel, had been deployed around the Olympic venues to ensure that no suspicious individuals or groups got in. I take my hat off to the Russians for protecting the spectators and athletes from harm.

This does beg the question: Were the alarms sounding prior to the Olympics justified?

Members of the Congress were there, declaring they had evidence of “credible threats” to the Olympics. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, actually suggested that the Russians might want to consider canceling the Olympics because of these threats, which he deemed to be valid and potentially disastrous.

Not to be derailed, the Russian organizers — with plenty of help from other governments — proceeded with the Olympics and they turned out to be quite the affair.

The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens faced similar questions and concerns about terrorism, given that it was the first Summer Olympics after the 9/11 attacks. The Greeks were thought to be terribly lax in their anti-terror preparation. However, they too were able to pull off a successful Olympic event.

Congratulations are due the Russians. They might be our foes in some key geopolitical disputes at the moment, but they managed to stage a successful Olympic spectacle. They spent a ton of money on it, about $50 billion.

Given that they headed off any terrorist attack, it likely will be deemed worth the cost.

So long, Piers Morgan

When you think about, the news that CNN has canceled Piers Morgan’s prime-time talk show should come as no surprise.

His ratings were terrible, almost as terrible as his show.

I tried many times to sit through his hour-long broadcasts. I don’t think I went the distance a single time.

CNN brought in the “Britain’s Got Talent” judge to succeed the venerable Larry King. From the get-go it became clear why Morgan was so different from King: He wouldn’t let his subjects speak their minds without getting into an argument with them.

Yes, King got downright bland late in his lengthy run on CNN. I reckon he grew tired. He’s, what, about 150 years old by now, right?

Morgan, though, distinguished himself — as the link attached to this blog notes — by making a fool of himself while trying to shame his guests.

He got onto an anti-gun kick for several weeks in a row after the Newtown, Conn., massacre of those children and their teachers, prompting some diehard Second Amendment fanatics to call for his deportation back to the UK. I did not buy into that silliness. He is, after all, entitled to speak his mind — even if he is a citizen of another country.

However, he seemingly failed to grasp how so many millions of Americans hold the words written into the Constitution as bordering on the holy.

I won’t miss Morgan. Frankly, I hadn’t watched his show in many months.

Which goes to show you just why CNN canceled his show. It’s the ratings, baby.

Former president takes up cudgel for vets

My goodness, we have come so far as a country in lifting awareness of the needs of our military veterans.

Take the latest initiative headed by former President George W. Bush.

The 43rd president talked today on ABC’s “This Week” with correspondent Martha Raddatz about a effort he has launched through his presidential library in Dallas in conjunction with Syracuse University.

His intention is to help veterans returning from combat reintegrate into civilian life. The former president told Raddatz about the “military-civilian divide.” Civilians, said the president, don’t understand all that veterans have endured fighting for their country.

He talked of the emotion he feels when he is in the presence of these heroes, many of them he sent into combat during his two terms as president.

How far has the nation come? Many, many figurative miles.

We can go back to the Vietnam War. Did returning veterans get this kind of attention when they returned from that conflict? Hardly. They were ignored and often scorned. No need to rehash that sorry episode.

It all began to change when the Persian Gulf War vets returned home from that brief, but intense, conflict in 1991. Then came the 9/11 attacks, which led to the war we have been fighting against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Bush wants to remove the “D” from the PTSD label. Post traumatic stress isn’t a “disorder,” said the president. It is a condition that requires the nation’s attention.

President Bush has made quite an effort to stay out of the partisan political battles that have raged since he left the White House in 2009. This battle, though, is worth his time and effort.

I am glad he is willing to fight it on behalf of our veterans.

This veteran thanks you, Mr. President.

George P. campaigns in the dark

George P. Bush — nephew and grandson of two presidents and the son of a former governor — was thought to be a natural candidate for public office in Texas.

Then he launched a campaign for Texas land commissioner and promptly hid from view, more or less.

He hasn’t submitted to lengthy interviews by newspaper editorial boards or made speeches from the stump of any substance. “P” — as he says he’d like to be called — makes brief appearances here and there and then drives or flies off to the next stop.

Well, P, what gives?

P was a huge hit at the 1992 Republican National Convention when, as a 16-year-old speaking for his grandfather — President George H.W. Bush — he exhorted the Houston Astrodome crowd with his enthusiastic “Viva Boosh!” declaration. P’s parents, of course, are Jeb and his Mexico-born mother, Columba and the then-teenager was thought to embody the GOP’s outreach to Latino voters.

He brought that cachet to this year’s land commissioner race, or so many observers thought.

As Paul Burka notes in the blog link attached here, the Austin American-Statesman endorsed businessman David Watts for the GOP nomination. The paper apparently was frustrated by P’s refusal to meet with the editorial board, which is a curious posture for a neophyte candidate campaigning for a statewide office, given that Austin is Texas’s capital city.

I won’t predict how this land commissioner primary will turn out March 4.

If P wins and then takes office in January, he’ll need to acquire some media relations skills, which would come in handy if he hopes to parlay a land commissioner post into something more visible.