One little word becomes focus of Trump-Zelenskiy chat

The attention of the political chattering class in Washington has drawn a bead on a single word contained in those notes released from Donald Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine.

It’s the word “though.”

Trump chatted by phone with Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The presidents were talking about U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in its fight with Russian aggressors. Zelenskiy thanked Trump for all he has done and what I suppose Trump was planned to do in the future.

Then Trump, according to the notes of that conversation, said the following:

I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it, if that’s possible.

There it is, the word “though.” 

Trump is offering to have Attorney General William Barr “get to the bottom” of Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. He was soliciting Zelenskiy’s help in digging up dirt that could harm Joe Biden’s potential nomination as a candidate for president in 2020.

Zelenskiy had just said the following prior to the Trump’s “though” moment: We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

Do you get it? Zelenskiy is anticipating the purchase of anti-tank missiles to use against Russia. However, Trump appears to put a caveat on delivery of those Javelins to the Ukrainians. The caveat deals with Joe Biden and whether there can be dirt to be flung at the former vice president in advance of his possible campaign against Donald Trump.

That looks to me like an impeachable offense.

Don’t take my word exclusively for it. Read the White House document here.

You be the judge.

Amarillo Matters shows that it really matters

A couple of years ago a group of Amarillo civic and business leaders got together to form a political action committee dedicated — according to its mission statement — to the betterment of the city.

They called themselves Amarillo Matters. Some critics in the city spoke out against the group, suggesting some sort of nefarious motivation was driving the organization’s agenda.

But what has happened since Amarillo Matters came into being in 2016?

It endorsed a slate of City Council candidates prior to the 2017 municipal election. All five of the individuals endorsed by Amarillo Matters won that election. They all ran for re-election this year and, with Amarillo Matters’ blessing yet again, they all were re-elected.

How has the city done? Quite well, based on my observation.

Downtown’s district renovation has proceeded apace. They built that ballpark along Buchanan Street. The Amarillo Sod Poodles played baseball at Hodgetown, drawing huge crowds at every home game and, oh yes, they won the Texas League pennant after a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the fifth game of the championship series against the defending champs, the Tulsa Drillers. I know … Amarillo Matters didn’t have a thing to do with the Sod Poodles’ success on the baseball field.

Amarillo Matters’ mission calls for the development of “positive opportunities for Amarillo and the surrounding area.” Man, that sounds pretty damn sinister, don’t you think?

Yes, I questioned Amarillo Matters along the way, too. I wondered in an earlier blog post about the identity of the individuals who comprise its leadership. I called on Amarillo Matters to be more transparent and to reveal their identities to the public. The IDs have trickled out, but I will presume that some critics still contend that Amarillo Matters remains too secretive.

However, the result of the group’s mission is worth noting, too.

Amarillo has made tremendous progress over the past few years, even pre-dating Amarillo Matters’ emergence as a political force in the city.

Does a group of business leaders deserve all the credit for the city’s success? No. However, neither does it deserve the brickbats that some critics have hurled at it.

Amarillo has fared well. Amarillo Matters deserves some of the credit for the success that has come Amarillo’s way.

Correcting small part of ‘the record’

I have been called out.

The release of a document chronicling a phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskiy is not a “transcript.” It is a memo, the contents of which are taken from a transcript of the phone call.

A social media friend mentioned it to me in response to a blog item I published in which I referred to the document as a “transcript.”

That’s my bad.

The recognition does lend credence to the view that the memo requires release of the full unredacted transcript and the whistleblower’s report that blew this case wide open.

At issue is whether Trump asked the Ukrainian president, Zelenskiy, for information regarding Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump appears to be seeking this information to use as a weapon against Joe Biden, who is a potential political opponent.

There you have it. The president allegedly used the immense power of his office to obtain ammunition to use against a political foe. He allegedly withheld military aid money for Ukraine if or until Zelenskiy produced the information requested.

The two men’s phone chat has been reported extensively throughout the day. However, we didn’t get the “transcript.” We got a memo describing the phone call, complete with ellipses that keep perhaps important segments of that phone call from full public view.

The impeachment saga continues to gather steam.


It’s in the transcript: POTUS asked for help to sink Joe Biden

I have just read the transcript of a phone call that Donald Trump had with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine.

I have two takeaways: One is the presence of ellipses in the released transcript of a 30-minute conversation; ellipses mean that some of the exchange between the two leaders has been kept out of public view. What’s in those deleted portions?

The second takeaway concerns that obvious moment when Trump asks Zelenskiy for help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, the leading Democrat running for the chance to replace Trump as president of the United States.

I believe I have read evidence of an impeachable offense.

He asked for help. The call was made just days after Trump suspended the shipment of a multimillion-dollar aid package to Ukraine, which is in a state of open hostility with, um, Russia.

So, what does this mean? I believe it means that the president well might have compromised national security by keeping assistance from an ally that is fighting a hostile power in exchange for information that could benefit him politically.

Where I come from, that looks for all the world like a direct violation of the oath Trump took to defend the nation against its adversaries. He put his hand on the Bible when he swore that oath, yes?

Read the transcript right here.

It’s a beaut, man, and just think … we don’t even know everything these men said to each other!

Nothing to see here? Uhh, hardly!

I guess we are now entering a battle of competing biases.

If you’re a Republican member of Congress, you see the release of a transcript of a phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine as a nothing burger. Nothing to see there, they say, even though the transcript reveals that Donald Trump did ask the Ukrainians for help in bringing down a potential political adversary, former Vice President Joe Biden.

If you’re a Democratic member of Congress, you see the transcript as proof that the president broke the law, violated the Constitution and implicated himself in a potential impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hmm. I think I’ll side with Democrats on this one. No surprise, right?

Still, I believe we have a serious matter that now needs to be picked apart and examined in the most detailed manner possible.

What’s more, the White House has declined to release a whistleblower’s complaint to Congress, which I believe is a violation of U.S. law, which requires Congress to receive this information.

This story is playing out in real time in a manner that, to be totally candid, is taking my breath away.

The impeachment train is threatening to become a runaway train.

Do not worry about U.S. government’s strength

Donald Trump can boast all he wants about how impeachment is “good” for his re-election chances and for the Republican Party. The truth has to be that in his private moments he is worried to the max.

To be candid, so am I. So should the rest of the country be worried about the course on which this man’s presidency is about to take.

It’s about impeachment, man!

The House of Representatives has taken on this task three times in the nation’s history: Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton all have traveled down this perilous path.

Johnson and Clinton both were impeached and acquitted in Senate trials; President Johnson survived by a single Senate vote, by the way. Nixon quit the presidency as the House Judiciary Committee submitted articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives.

Now it well might be Donald Trump’s turn.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed sadness at what she has announced, that the House will launch a full “impeachment inquiry.” Yes, she should be sad. So should the rest of us, even those of us who out here who detest the man who occupies the office we hold so dear.

He has denigrated, defaced and disgraced the office. He has insulted our allies, stood shoulder to shoulder with some of our international opponents, some of whom are dictators/killers/tyrants. His behavior has been reprehensible.

Now we hear reports that he allegedly sought a foreign government’s help in bringing down one of his political foes at home.

Is this the kind of thing that gives anyone joy? Are we supposed to cheer the prospect of the House traipsing down the impeachment path? Hah! No. We aren’t.

We should be sad. We should be worried.

I don’t worry about our system of government. Our nation’s founders crafted a system built to withstand this kind of tumult and turbulence. Indeed, as President Ford told us during his inaugural address moments after being sworn in after President Nixon left the White House for the final time, “Our Constitution works.”

If the House proceeds with impeachment, the burden then falls on the Senate to conduct a trial.

Therein rests what I consider to be where this matter could derail. Republican senators who comprise a Senate majority do not appear at this moment ready to join their Democratic colleagues in convicting the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

This will play out over time. It will get ugly. It will soil and sully our system of government and our politics.

It will sadden all of us as we await an outcome. However, I will argue that we shouldn’t worry about the strength of the government system under which this drama will unfold.

Speaker Pelosi hears enough to change her mind

I understand the reasons why U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has changed her mind regarding whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

I get it. She has heard enough now to proceed. Trump has provided the impetus all by himself. He admits to talking to Ukrainians about information they might have on Joe Biden, a potential 2020 political opponent. The question now looming over all of Washington is whether he pressured the Ukrainians for information or whether he offered them something in return.

That’s bad stuff, man. It’s impeachable. It’s enough in my mind to go all the way.

However, does Pelosi really want to risk obtaining articles of impeachment in the House only to watch a Republican-led U.S. Senate acquit the president of wrongdoing because they are loyal to the man and not the Constitution or the nation they all took an oath to defend?

This is where I retain my reluctance over whether to actually impeach the president.

Do I want him out of office? Yes, with emphasis and all due prejudice I want him gone, away from the Oval Office. However, impeachment might be too steep a hill to climb if Senate Republicans — who hold 53 of 100 seats — continue to cling to their fealty to this charlatan masquerading as president.

Pelosi has said she needs national buy-in. I am not sure she has obtained it.

Trump continues to cast this weird spell over Republicans in Congress. He isn’t a real Republican. He brought zero GOP credentials into the 2016 presidential campaign, other than to say he would run as a Republican. So, he did and he won.

Pelosi expresses “sadness” over the course she is taking. She said she doesn’t see impeachment as a political process, but rather as a constitutional duty that the House must pursue.

I get that, too. Except that the political element looms over whether the House Judiciary Committee passes impeachment articles out and sends them to the House floor for a vote.

Yes, I get why Pelosi changed her mind on impeachment. I am with her in principle. However, I am dubious about whether impeachment will achieve the goal many millions of Americans want, which is to get Donald Trump out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible.

I believe we now should all hold on with both hands. It’s going to get rough out there.

Get ready for an ugly and sad political spectacle

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has seen and heard enough.

Nancy Pelosi, who had dug in hard against impeaching Donald J. Trump, has changed course. She has announced a formal “impeachment inquiry” based on allegations that Trump has pressured the president of Ukraine to find dirt that would damage a potential political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

So … there you have it.

Pelosi has contended that if the allegations are true the president of the United States has enlisted the help of a foreign government to bring down the candidacy of someone who might run against him next year.

This where it gets ugly in the extreme, ladies and gentlemen.

Congressional Democrats are talking about their “sadness” as they proceed toward formal impeachment. Are they crying crocodile tears? I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The allegations against Trump now have been brought into the sharpest focus yet. Trump has acknowledged talking to the Ukrainian president about Biden and his son, Hunter, whose business dealings in Ukraine have become part of the story. He says he will release the transcript of a single phone call he had with the Ukrainians.

Is that enough? Hardly.

We need to hear from the whistleblower who revealed all this alleged behavior in the first place. This person reportedly witnessed a sequence of events that could blow Trump’s presidency straight out of the water. The word today is that the whistleblower will reveal himself or herself perhaps as early as this week.

That individual needs to tell the nation what he or she saw or heard from ringside.

Nearly three-fourths of the House Democratic caucus have endorsed the impeachment of Donald Trump. What we do not yet know is whether any Republicans will join them. Has the GOP House minority had enough as well?

No matter how all this ends up, with an impeachment or the House choking at the climactic moment, it will not end well no matter who is able to declare some semblance of victory.

We are moving — perhaps hurtling — toward an ugly chapter in a sad political story.

Highway memorials: What are their stories?

TULSA, Okla. — As my wife and I have trekked across the western half of the United States I am struck by something I have seen all along the way.

Many sections of interstate and intrastate highways have signs honoring individuals’ memories. They usually are police officers or state troopers or are military men and women.

We settled into this city for a couple of nights after traveling along a stretch of U.S. 169 that contained in the span of about five or six miles four signs identifying four individuals after whom the highway is named.

I see the signs and wonder: What are the stories behind these people? Why do states or local governments choose to honor them? What did they do to earn this eternal memorial?

Hey, I am just a curious American motorist who wants to know things such as this.

This country has turned an important corner over the past two or three decades in honoring the men and women who serve in our nation’s military, as well as those who suit up to protect and serve as members of our law enforcement network.

Why not erect historical plaques near the signs identifying these individuals that would explain to motorists who would be interested to stop and read them just why the highway carries an individual’s name?

Texas does a wonderful job of placing historical markers along its tens of thousands of miles of highway. It doesn’t explain to motorists why some stretches of highways carry signs honoring the memories of law enforcement and military personnel.

Our nation was built by heroes. I suspect all the individuals whose names are on those signs have committed acts of heroism that cost them their lives.

I would like to know their stories.

‘Fake News’ becomes part of the political vernacular

Donald Trump has done it. He has turned a ridiculous epithet into part of our national vernacular.

I refer to “Fake News,” the term he uses to describe any coverage he deems to be negative. He calls it “fake,” continuing the incessant mantra he began about the time he entered political life in June 2015.

He announced his presidential campaign and not long afterward began hurling the “Fake News” around.

It has stuck. Who knew?

You see, what makes this label so remarkable is its source. Donald Trump once called himself the “king of debt.” He’s actually the “king of fake news.”

He has lied so often, on so many levels that for this individual to accuse anyone in the media of peddling “fake” information simply defies logic.

However, he has gotten away with it!

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, this carnival barker/huckster/charlatan/serial liar managed to get elected president of the United States in the first place.

He has defied every political norm known to most of us. Why, then, should it surprise anyone that he could turn “Fake News” into something ingrained in our national political vocabulary?

I offer a tip of the proverbial hat to a most unlikely recipient of this salute. You’ve done it, Mr. President. You have created a monster in your own image.