Spare me the lightning strike for speaking well of a looney bird

Oh, I am fearing a bolt of lightning killing me dead for saying something semi-supportive of U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, the East Texas loon who is prone to say the most outrageous things and cast the most outrageous congressional votes.

Gohmert was one of just four House members to vote against a bill that makes lynching a federal crime. It’s named after Emmitt Till, a young African American, who was lynched in the 1950s because he whistled at a white woman.

Gohmert’s objection to the Emmitt Till Antilynching Act is sound. He said the maximum 10-year penalty for a conviction in a lynching is far too light. Gosh, do ya think?

The House passed the bill 401-4. It was hailed universally as a get-tough federal law that makes lynching a federal crime.

I believe, though, that anyone convicted of such a crime in, say, Texas would be put to death. 

I am now left to wonder why this particular legislation — if it’s meant to make a harsh statement against hate crimes — carries such a mealy-mouthed, milquetoast punishment.

Here’s some good news about the Emmitt Till Antilynching Act: It now must go to the Senate, which now must approve the House version of the legislation.

How about this idea? The Senate ought to reject this measure, and then send it back to the House to apply a penalty for a heinous hate crime that matches what many states apply for the commission of such a crime.

Ain’t no ‘panic’ being conconcted here, Mr. POTUS

Donald Trump continues to make me sick to my stomach.

He has joined a leading right-wing radio blowhard, Rush Limbaugh, in suggesting that national Democratic Party leaders are seeking to create panic among Americans over the coronavirus outbreak.

I just want to remind the president that the coronavirus is a deadly strain of infection that has spread around the world. It has now touched every continent on Earth … except Antarctica.

I am also one who doesn’t want to see the markets reacting as they are reacting. My retirement fund is disappearing before my eyes. I don’t know if it’s coming back. I hope it does, but — as Trump himself is fond of saying — you never know.

Instead of blaming the other party, Mr. President, I prefer to hear you say with some detail what you’re intending to do to help stem the infectious tide that is threatening to overtake us.

No more giving short shrift to the medical experts who say we’re heading for a potentially serious pandemic. No more platitudes — and that’s all they are — about our “very smart” medical minds. No more handing off the leadership of this fight to a known science denier, none other than Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “incompetent” and said she is whipping up the frenzy to stir opposition to his administration. Good grief, man! Get over the impeachment thing!

Concentrate on the crisis of the moment and turn the medical geniuses loose to find some answers to how we cope with this frightening medical emergency.

That’s how you handle inter-legislative district affairs

I attended a public hearing this week that featured something that, in the moment, I didn’t consider all that significant. I gave it some thought and have decided that I watched a display of inter-legislative district cooperation.

State Rep. Jeff Leach is a Plano Republican who came to the Texas Environmental Quality Commission public hearing in Farmersville to speak against a proposed concrete batch plant for Farmersville. Leach said he there to represent other members of the region’s legislative delegation, all of whom also opposed the plant application.

Farmersville is actually represented in the House by Justin Holland of Rockwall. Holland wasn’t there. Leach carried his water.

Why is this interesting to me? Because once upon a time I witnessed two legislators go at each other’s throats because one of them thought he needed to intervene on a matter affecting his colleague’s legislative district.

It happened in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas.

One of the legislators there, the late Rep. Al Price, D-Beaumont, was an ardent foe of Lamar University’s hiring practices. He railed constantly against Lamar because, in his mind, it didn’t hire enough African-Americans to fill administrative positions; Price, of course, was an African-American.

Then came his fellow Democratic colleague, Mark Stiles, also of Beaumont, who interceded for Lamar, pushing through some funding legislation that the university thought it needed.

Prices’ reaction? Was he thrilled that his colleague went to bat for Lamar? Oh, heavens no! We went ballistic! He accused Stiles of meddling in affairs that weren’t his concern. He threatened to derail whatever it was that Stiles sought to do on Lamar’s behalf.

I said at the time that Stiles was concerned that LU, which drew students from his legislative district as well as from Price’s, needed the money and that it was a regional concern that transcended legislative boundaries.

He was correct. Price was wrong to react as he did.

I have thought about encounter since visiting briefly Tuesday evening with Jeff Leach and hearing how he would speak for his legislative colleagues regarding an issue that is important to all of them and the constituents they represent.

That’s how it should work.

Why not let Dr. Fauci take the lead on coronavirus fight?

I don’t feel much safer now that Vice President Mike Pence has been put in charge of the fight against the threatened spread of the coronavirus.

I wish instead that Donald Trump would have handed that duty over to a fellow who is immensely qualified and who has enormous stamina: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s premier immunologists and the current head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

There he was, spelling out today in detail the problems facing the nation when — not merely if — the disease spreads in the United States. Then the president took the podium and declared that Mike Pence would lead the fight.

It made me go … huh?

Pence is claiming credit for enacting a health care program in Indiana, where he served as governor before joining the Republican ticket in 2016. Trump brought up the Indiana health care plan, calling it a model for other states to follow.

That’s great. But … I keep circling back to the actual and practical expertise standing near the VP on the White House podium in the form of Dr. Fauci.

He got his medical degree from Cornell University. He is a noted international expert on infectious disease.

I had the high honor of attending the HIV/AIDS international conference in Bangkok in 2004 along with other editorial writers and editors. We received an audience with Dr. Fauci, who was there representing the Bush administration and its own HIV/AIDS initiative. Fauci bowled us over!

I wish the vice president well as he leads this effort. My advice to the VP? Keep the phone line to Dr. Fauci open at all times.

Do these endorsements really matter?

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a happy man today.

He received a ringing endorsement from a powerful South Carolina politician who said Biden is the best among the Democratic contenders running for president of the United States.

Rep. James Clyburn, a fellow Democrat, is all in with the former vice president. But I have to ask: Will it really matter?

Clyburn is the senior African American member of Congress. He is a fine fellow, from what I have been able to hear. He packs plenty of clout. It remains unclear to me whether his endorsement of Joe Biden is going to persuade South Carolina Democrats, who appear to be drifting toward Sen. Bernie Sanders in the late stages of the state’s primary campaign, to change their minds.

Which brings me to a significant point. Do endorsements of any nature really bring along votes?

There once was a time when voters waited to read what their local newspaper editorial boards thought about a campaign. They waited to see who the newspaper would endorse. They were motivated for two reasons. They either followed the newspaper’s advice, or — and this is for real — they cast their vote against the candidate the newspaper favored.

These days, with a plethora of information flooding us constantly, 24/7, nonstop, unrelentingly, many voters no longer look to those learned editors’ world views. They make up their minds, seemingly based on the views thrown at them by TV and radio blowhards.

It is becoming an exercise in futility for many politicians and others who get paid to offer their opinions on issues of the day and the candidates who are their champions.

The Dallas Morning News this year has announced it won’t endorse anyone for president. The paper’s editorial board didn’t say it, but my sense is that there is a possible back story borne of frustration that the newspaper would have little impact on its readers’ political leanings. So, why bother? The DMN instead is going to concentrate on the issues it deems critical to the voters and to the candidates who are seeking voters’ support.

I trust that Joe Biden will take James Clyburn’s endorsement seriously. He will ascribe high motivation behind it. Perhaps it’s merited. I will wait along with many other Americans to see if it translates into actual votes in a key primary state that propel the former VP back to front runner status.

No, Mr. POTUS, justices need not recuse themselves

Donald John Trump hasn’t yet read the U.S. Constitution, let alone the part that declares that the federal judiciary is supposed to operate free of any political pressure or interference from another “co-equal” branch of government.

You see, the current president has declared that Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg need to recuse themselves from any cases involving the president. Why? He says they’re biased against him.

Please pardon me for saying this, but we all have our bias. Judges take oaths to administer the law fairly and without prejudice. Their oath does not scrub the bias from their minds or their hearts, any more than it does for any other high-ranking office at any level of government.

As long as we’re talking about bias, should those justices who agree with the president philosophically recuse themselves from any case brought by those parties that might oppose him? Of course not! The framers intended for the federal judiciary, including the highest court in the land, to be free of political pressure, coercion or intimidation.

Therefore, Donald Trump’s call for Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from any future case involving the president’s administration is laughable on its face. Except that I ain’t laughing. Nor should anyone who values the distinct separation of powers among the three branches of government slap their knees while they guffaw hysterically.

That separation is spelled out categorically in the U.S. Constitution.

The president of the United States needs to read it.

Actually, Mr. VPOTUS, you need to win … by a lot!

Joe Biden thinks he has the crucial South Carolina Democratic presidential primary in the bag.

Um, truth be told, he doesn’t. Even if he wins, it’s not tucked away. He’s got to win by a lot. You see, the one-time Democratic Party presidential frontrunner had the Palmetto State primary locked up. He was lapping the field. Then Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders started winning the early primaries.

Now it’s neck-and-neck between the two of ’em for South Carolina’s primary vote.

Biden said that a single percentage point victory over the field is enough, although he said he expects to win by a comfortable margin. OK, but expectations and reality don’t always mesh.

The former vice president of the United States needs to win by at least double digits. It would be better for him to smoke the field, to trample the rest of the remaining contenders — and that includes Sanders — into the ground.

Anything short of a decisive win spells doom.

It saddens me to say this, as I have staked my own preference on Joe Biden. I want his candidacy to succeed. I fear it’s teetering on the brink of failure.

Trump offering too little to fight coronavirus

It’s not every day during the Donald Trump Era when you hear lawmakers from both parties express concern about how the president is handling a burgeoning international health crisis.

Coronavirus, anyone?

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are speaking from the same notes. They want Donald Trump to take a more proactive role in seeking some remedy to the outbreak of the virus that is now spreading through Europe as well as Asia and which, if it’s not contained, could do the same in the United States and the rest of North America.

He is asking for $2.5 billion in supplemental budget funds. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer calls the administration’s response an example of “towering and dangerous” incompetence. Then we have Republican U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby calling the administration response lackluster.

Trump said in India today that the disease has been “contained” in the United States. No, Mr. President. It isn’t contained. Granted, it hasn’t spread in the manner it has spread in other regions around the world. Contained? Not yet.

I am not suggesting that the nation’s health-response team push the panic button. Or that we should invest in hazmat suits.

We simply need some sense of urgency coming from the White House … and from the individual who runs the executive branch of the federal government.

‘Energy’ doesn’t always equal ‘votes’

The nation’s political punditry is telling us about all that “energy” that emanates from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rallies.

The independent senator’s supporters are all in with Bernie. You can feel it, man! They’re going to carry the 78-year-old democratic socialist to victory against Donald John Trump in the fall, presuming of course that he gets the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

But … will he? Does that energy translate to votes?

I was part of an earlier “revolution” back in 1972. We thought we had “energy,” too, as we backed the candidacy of the late Sen. George McGovern.

I had returned home from the Army in 1970 after serving for a time in Vietnam. I was all in on McGovern’s stated intention to end the war. I enrolled in college. I became a political activist. I registered voters at the campus where I attended classes. We signed up a lot of new Democrats.

We went to rallies. We cheered loudly. We filled a downtown Portland, Ore., square when Sen. McGovern came to exhort the thousands of followers.

Hey, we had “energy.” We wanted to kick butt … by golly.

Then came the election. The networks called it almost immediately after the first polling stations closed on the East Coast.

It was over.

We were crushed under the weight of a 49-state landslide.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I want there to be enough energy to carry over that defeats Donald Trump this fall. I don’t know if Bernie Sanders is the guy to ignite the flame.

I just remain dubious of the pundit class’ penchant for hailing all the energy it feels from these Bernie Sanders rallies.

Yep, we are an inspiration

My wife and I are inspirations.

We inspired at least one young man. How do I know that? He told us so this afternoon.

Part of our daily constitutional, weather permitting, involves us walking with Toby the Puppy through our Princeton, Texas, neighborhood. The weather allowed it today, so off we trekked.

We turned the corner and started walking north. A young man drove up in his pickup. He stopped his truck and said the following: “You inspire me.”

I responded: “Oh, really? How’s that?” The gentleman said he enjoys seeing us walking through the ‘hood “holding hands.” 

We both chuckled. The young man said he has been married for 10 years and he hopes that “when I get to be your age that we’re still holding hands.”

I lifted my right hand that was clasping my wife’s left hand and told him, “Well, you know, this is part of our formula” for a lengthy marriage. We told him we’ve been married for 48 years.

He shook his head … I am presuming because he is impressed that we’ve been together for that length of time.

We wished him well; he returned the same to us.

I love it when we can inspire someone with such a simple gesture. Who’da thunk it?