Yep, the Russians are laughing at us.

Donald J. Trump tweeted the following, apparently early this morning: “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

It’s rare that I agree with the president, but I have to endorse part of the message he fired off today.

They’re laughing at us, Mr. President … just not for the reason you tried to articulate in this nonsensical Twitter message.

The Russians are laughing at the chaos they have created by hacking into our electoral system and by seeking to swing the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

To be fair, nothing has been proven — yet — about what they might have accomplished. However, every intelligence agency and expert in many countries agree with the premise that the Russians tried to influence the election.

Look at what has happened since Trump took the presidential oath.

The FBI has said it is investigating whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians; the president’s son-in-law has become the subject of another probe; the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to examine the “Russia thing”; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from anything to do with Russia; Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser because he lied about his own Russian contacts.

They also might be chuckling and chortling over the president’s refusal to call the Russians out publicly for what all those intelligence agencies have concluded about their meddlesome ways.

Are the Russians laughing at us? You’re damn right they are!

The WH shakeup has begun

Mike Dubke is out as White House communications director.

Sean Spicer won’t be meeting face to face as often with the White House media as press secretary.

A fiery former Donald J. Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, might be returning to the inner circle, which reportedly might trigger more departures from the White House.

And all the while, the president of the United States insists that the White House is running like a “fine-tuned machine.” All cylinders are firing as they should. The president hit a “home run,” he said, on his first foreign trip.

I’ll stick with what former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — and one-time GOP presidential rival — said about Trump.

He ran as a “chaos candidate” and is governing as a “chaos president.”

Dear Vietnam vets: Return to that beautiful land

A blog post I wrote noting a preview¬†of an upcoming PBS documentary special on the Vietnam War brings to mind something I’ve told Vietnam veterans for the past 28 years.

They should return to that land, to the place that was so ravaged for decades by war. Vietnamese battled the Japanese during World War II; then they fought the French who tried to re-colonize their country; then came the Americans, who went to Vietnam ostensibly to protect the south against communists invading from the north.

I was one of them who went there in the spring of 1969. The Army sent me there after training me to service OV-1 Mohawk airplanes. They ordered me to Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang.

After I returned home and eventually separated from the Army, I re-enrolled in college, got married, produced two sons, started my career in journalism and then, in 1989 had the opportunity to return to Vietnam as part of a delegation of editorial writers and editors.

The PBS series that will debut on Sept. 17 contains interviews with many veterans, one of whom comments on how beautiful the country was — and is! He is so correct.

Two decades after serving there, I found a country that had commenced its recovery from all that warfare. It, indeed, is a beautiful land, with beautiful citizens who — even then — welcomed these American journalists with open arms.

I’ve told many vets since that marvelous journey that they should return. Most of them beg off. Too many terrible memories, they tell me. The combat veterans especially seem to want no part of returning there. I tell them candidly that they should go nonetheless. They will find healing in a return there. Indeed, my trip to Vietnam with fellow journalists included several veterans, some of whom saw their share of combat during the war. They, too, felt revived upon returning to that place.

I did, too. I discovered one of the big surprises of my life upon returning to Marble Mountain in 1989. It was that I had been lugging around emotional baggage and I didn’t even know it!

Our government guide — a true-blue communist named Mai — was explaining to me how the Vietnamese were able to absorb all that we had left behind. The building materials, the equipment, even the pierced-steel planking (PSP) upon which we parked our aircraft all was put to use by the Vietnamese, she said.

That’s when I lost it. That is when I shed my emotional baggage.
The PBS documentary produced by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns is going to bring much of that home to vets who watch it.

I would urge them all to return to Vietnam if they can. Take my word for it. They will not regret returning.

Get ready for a major history lesson on Vietnam

 

No ‘Bathroom Bill’ on special session agenda, OK?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pledges that he is going to reveal later this week whether he’ll call the Texas Legislature back into a special session.

I am going to make a single request of the governor: Do not include that idiotic “Bathroom Bill” in the issues to be covered by legislators.
Property taxes? Sure. Sunset legislation? Yes. Bathroom Bill? Hell no!

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted the Legislature to approve a bill that requires people to use public restrooms based on the gender that appears on their birth certificate. The bill discriminates against transgender individuals or those who might be on that journey en route to a change in their gender.

That the Legislature might be called back into session to deal with that issue is a monumental waste of time, let alone Texas taxpayers’ money.

 

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/29/abbott-promises-special-session-announcement-later-week/

Let’s not forget, too, the economic blowback that is likely to come Texas’ way if lawmakers approve such a bill. It’s happened in North Carolina, as companies have decided to take their business elsewhere.

Gov. Abbott affirmed that he alone can determine the agenda for legislators to consider. You do that, governor, if that’s what you want to do. “I can tell you this, and that is when it gets to a special session, the time and the topics are solely up to the governor of the state of Texas, and we will be, if we have a special session, convening only on the topics that I choose at the time of my choosing,” Abbott told reporters.

I just hope Gov. Abbott keeps the Bathroom Bill off the table.

Trump increases pols’ antipathy toward media

What is it about politicians who make lame jokes and then fail to own them?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is just the latest in a long and growing line of pols who have committed that transgression.

But here’s the deal: Abbott’s lame joke is speaking to a larger — more serious — issue involving the media and the politicians they cover.

The governor this past week signed into law a bill that reduces the amount of money that concealed handgun carry applicants must pay to obtain their license. Then he went to a shooting range, fired a few rounds at a target and then joked that he would carry the target around “in case I see any reporters.”

Few folks are laughing.

You see, it’s the context of Gov. Abbott’s remarks that are so damn troubling.

We can thank the president of the United States for it.

Donald Trump has all but declared war on the media. He calls them the “enemy of the people.” He accuses mainstream news outlets of producing “fake news.” He refuses to answer tough questions from the media. He calls news media outlets “a disgrace” and calls reporters “among the most dishonest people” anywhere. He reportedly told the then-FBI director that reporters should be jailed if they report on leaked classified material.

Trumpkins show up at his rallies wearing t-shirts that suggest journalists should be hanged.

Now the governor of Texas makes a goofy joke that seems to suggest it’s OK to shoot reporters. He won’t take it back. He won’t apologize for the hideous timing of the remark, coming as it did just two days after a Republican congressional candidate “body slammed” a reporter for asking him about the GOP health care overhaul.

Is this the era into which we have entered? That it’s OK to intimidate reporters for doing their job? That the First Amendment protection of a “free press” isn’t to be taken seriously, let alone literally?

Mimi Swartz, writing for Texas Monthly, has asked the governor to take it back. You can read her essay here.¬†I don’t expect Abbott to do as she asks.

Sadly, neither do I expect the president of the United States to back off his own campaign against the media assigned to report his actions to the people he governs.

 

Tiger hits another bump on the road back

When TV commentators and other media representatives refer to you as a “legend” in your particular profession, everything that goes wrong in your life is magnified exponentially.

So it is with “golf legend” Tiger Woods.

The fellow who has won 14 major golf titles got himself arrested and charged with “driving under the influence” in Florida.

Woods has been sidelined for some time now. He’s seeking to recover from injury and at least two surgeries on his back. He’s also had some more personal difficulties, stemming from¬†a 2009 incident involving his then-wife and reports that surfaced later about his serial marital infidelity.

Now this.

Woods had said something just the other day about how he hadn’t “felt this good in years,” meaning, I suppose, that his back pain is subsiding and that he might be able — maybe soon — to return to golf.

We don’t yet know whether he was “under the influence” of alcohol or something else.

I am a fairly avid golf fan. I am pulling for Tiger to come back. It’s just not the same without him competing for tournament victories on Sunday.

But, c’mon man! This isn’t the way back to where you need to be — or where your many golf fans want you to be.

Mitt Romney: ahead of his time in 2012?

Mitt Romney issued a warning in 2012 that many Americans — yours truly included — derided as hopelessly out of touch.

Perhaps you’ll remember when he declared Russia to be the world’s “No. 1 geopolitical threat.” President Obama all but laughed him out of the proverbial room.

The president spoke instead of the threat presented by international terrorism. Many of us agreed with the president and not the then-Republican Party nominee who was running against him.

It well might be that Mitt was ahead of his time five years ago. Republicans in Congress are starting to echo their party’s one-time presidential standard bearer.

Sen. John McCain is one of them. Speaking to an Australian radio station, McCain said: “I think ISIS can do terrible things. But it’s the Russians who tried to destroy the fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.‚ÄĚ

It’s still to be determined just how much impact the Russians had on the 2016 electoral outcome, but they surely have succeeded in throwing the U.S. political debate into a tizzy.

Indeed, the Russians still possess a lot of nuclear weapons. They have a formidable conventional military force, which they have used in places like Ukraine and Syria.

Are the Russians the most fearsome political foe we face?

Yes, it looks that way to a lot of us — and, yes, that includes yours truly.

I regret that I doubted you, Mitt.

Paying tribute to those who fell in battle

My sappiness is a pretty well-known quantity to those who read this blog.

It was on display again today as my wife and I attended a Memorial Day ceremony at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

The event drew a substantial crowd, which is no surprise to be sure. Many of the men in attendance sported their gimme caps proclaiming their own service to the nation. I wore one of mine and did so with considerable pride.

The aspect of the hour-long ceremony that brought a lump to my throat is the kind of thing one sees these days at events commemorating military service.

It’s when the band strikes up the anthems identified with various military branches. The emcee asked those who served in that particular branch to stand and be honored while the music played the pertinent anthem.¬†That part of the service began with “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”¬†I got to stand. It does fill me with pride. I am unafraid to acknowledge it.

It was a great way to start a day full of remembrance and honor for those who paid their last full measure of devotion.

We owe them everything. I am grateful them all now — and for eternity.

Attack ‘unacceptable’? That’s it, Mr. President?

A man believed to have white supremacist links stabbed two other men to death on a Portland, Ore., mass transit rail line the other day.

The victims were breaking up a disturbance involving a man and two young women. The man was verbally attacking them; one of the women was wearing a Muslim hijab.

Police have arrested Jeremy Joseph Christian, who’s been charged with murder.

Meanwhile, back in the White House, the president of the United States was blazing away on his Twitter account blasting “fake news,” and congratulating the winner of a Montana special election after he “body slammed” a reporter.

Where was Donald Trump’s outrage at the senseless murder in Portland?

No mention of hate crime

He weighed in today — finally, saying that the “violent attacks in Portland are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/them.”

According to the Huffington Post: “Not one of Trump‚Äôs personal Twitter messages mentioned Portland, the two deceased men being hailed as ‘heroes,’ or a condemnation of the attacker‚Äôs actions that are being investigated by police as a hate crime.”

Is it me or does this expression of presidential emotion seem just a bit tepid?

JFK’s life will be forever unfinished

It sounds strange to consider that John F. Kennedy would turn 100 years of age today.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the 35th president of the United States remember him as a young man who, even stranger as it seems, seemingly gets younger the older we all become.

JFK was the youngest man ever elected president in 1960. He was 43; the youngest ever to become president was Theodore Roosevelt, who ascended in 1901 to the highest office at 42 upon the death of President William McKinley.

Less than three years after taking the oath of office, President Kennedy’s life ended as he took a rifle shot on that street in downtown Dallas.

I have resisted the temptation to rank President Kennedy among the greatest who ever held that office. I consider his life to be an unfinished work. I bristle a bit at those surveys that place JFK at or near the top of such lists. How can we measure what he actually accomplished? The truth is we cannot.

I prefer to think of the president in terms of what he might have done. Even that is an exercise in futility because we cannot know with absolute certainty how history would have played out had he served the entire length of his presidency. I’ll presume he would have been re-elected in 1964. Then what? How would the Vietnam War have gone? What would he have done, say, by the end of his second term?

His life is frozen in time. For the president, it ended after just 46 years on Earth.

Still, the man’s legacy remains in large part due to the work done by those who came after him. President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty,” his landmark civil rights legislation and, yes, the tragedy¬†that continued to unfold in Vietnam all are part of JFK’s historical record.

I have trouble even grasping the notion of John F. Kennedy becoming an old man, let alone one who might have lived long enough to celebrate his centennial birthday.

If only he could have finished his marvelous life. JFK will remain, as the song suggests, “forever young.”