Cheney shows his brass

Dick Cheney may have more gall than any politician living today.

The former vice president of the United States says the Benghazi, Libya attack last year that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the U.S. ambassador to Libya – is an example of President Obama’s failed leadership in foreign policy.,sb=1147791,b=facebook

Simply astounding, coming from this man … of all people.

He must be suffering from amnesia. He has forgotten, apparently, that 9/11 occurred on the watch of the administration he served. Wasn’t the vice president part of the national security team when terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers and into the Pentagon? Weren’t they responsible for the colossal breakdown that allowed the terrorists carry out that hideous attack against Americans on U.S. soil?

And wasn’t it the Bush administration that tried and failed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice? If memory serves, that triumph occurred in May 2011 when President Barack Obama – the man Cheney criticizes with such gusto – ordered the commandos to conduct the raid that killed bin Laden.

I’ll acknowledge that plenty went wrong in Benghazi. Chaos ensues whenever firefights erupt. It happened in Benghazi and the Obama administration did a terrible job in its aftermath of explaining what happened on that terrible day.

But to hear Dick Cheney describe the attack as the result of a leadership breakdown simply takes my breath away. If there ever was a breakdown, it occurred in the months leading up to the events of Sept. 11, 2001 – when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were in charge of keeping the country safe.

Welcome back and good luck, Mr. Sanford

All right, the South Carolina First Congressional District election Tuesday didn’t turn out the way I would have wanted.

But since I don’t live there, I didn’t have a direct say in who the voters would send to Congress to represent them. I’m just a silly ol’ blogger out here in Flyover Country who thinks Republican Rep.-elect Mark Sanford is a terminal narcissist who doesn’t give a hoot about anyone other than himself.

But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Sanford is going to have some challenges ahead as he takes his seat after defeating Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a special election to fill the seat once held by Sen. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate after Jim DeMint left to lead the Heritage Foundation.

The House leadership turned its back on Sanford. It didn’t help him with campaign cash or appearances by the speaker of the House. Why? Because Sanford is a seriously flawed guy. He cheated on his wife and then lied to his constituents about his whereabouts on Mothers Day weekend of 2009. He put the word out he was hiking in the woods when he was actually in Argentina frolicking with his girlfriend, who he now plans to marry.

Character ought to matter. Oh sure, both houses of Congress are full of scoundrels who wear both party labels. But when given the chance to elect someone who wasn’t toting the baggage draped around Sanford’s shoulders, they went with this clown anyway.

One social media comment noted that now Sanford can get out of South Carolina, head back Washington and he’ll somehow be out of his constituents’ hair. Not exactly. He’ll still be making decisions on their behalf.

They’ll just need to watch him like a hawk to ensure he’s actually doing what they’re paying him to do.

More on ‘bully’ comment

A Facebook friend of mine had perhaps the best response to Sen. Mike Lee’s demand that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologize for calling Sen. Ted Cruz a “schoolyard bully.”

She said that Reid’s comments were no more offensive than Cruz, R-Texas, calling his Senate colleagues “squishy.” My pal also noted that neither comment is profane.

I think Cruz, who was just elected to the Senate in November 2012 and who has elevated his public profile to rival those of his more senior and knowledgeable colleagues, has thrust himself onto center stage because of some self-aggrandizing strategy.

That Harry Reid would call him a “schoolyard bully” is tame compared to the language many other of Cruz’s colleagues are likely to use to describe his conduct as the months and years progress.

Lee ought to consult with his vastly more senior Senate colleague from Utah, fellow Republican Orrin Hatch, about what kind of language crosses the line. Hatch has served in the Senate since the late 1970s and has crafted friendships and alliances with many senators of both political parties, most notably with the ferocious liberal lion, the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Kennedy was known to raise his voice to a near-scream while arguing for whatever point he was seeking to make on the Senate floor. He, too, used some intemperate language on occasion.

That’s the nature of the institution in which all of these folks serve.

Take it easy, Sen. Lee.

Apology from Reid over ‘bully’ comment?

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to apologize to Sen. Ted Cruz for calling the Texas Republican a “schoolyard bully.”

Lee says Senate decorum doesn’t allow such angry language.

Oh really?

He’s probably right about the need to follow decorum. But someone ought to remind the junior senator from Utah that much worse things have been said to senators by their colleagues.

My favorite outburst came from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was serving as the presiding officer of the Senate – the VP’s role under the U.S. Constitution. Cheney was involved in a heated argument on the Senate floor with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. I can’t recall the topic at the moment, but Cheney ended up telling Leahy – within earshot of several other senators – to, shall we say, do something quite unnatural to himself.

I’ll merely invoke my late father’s favorite description of the term Cheney used on his colleague: Dad would call it the “functional four-letter word.”

Sen. Lee needs to chill out. “Schoolyard bully” is far from the worst transgression ever committed on the floor of the Senate.

Speaker ‘endorsement’ not worth having

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said he would welcome Mark Sanford “with open arms” into his party’s House ranks.

Then he said members of Congress don’t get to choose those with whom they serve.

Where I come from, that’s what I call “damning with faint praise.”

Sanford is the former South Carolina governor who once served in the House. He’s running for the First Congressional District seat against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch. The race is neck and neck, or so they say.

It’s close because the First District is as reliably Republican as, say, the 13th District of Texas. Colbert Busch has a chance of winning the seat against Sanford, who you’ll recall left the governorship after his much-publicized dalliance with his Argentine girlfriend. He lied about where he was, saying he was hiking in the woods when he was in Argentina doing whatever.

It’s oh, so seedy.

But here he is, trying to climb back into the arena.

First District South Carolinians are voting today whether to send this clown back to public office or entrust their interests to a newcomer. My proverbial money is on the new kid, who I hope sends Sanford backpacking.

Maybe this time he’ll really hike the Appalachian Trail.

Surgery done for family? Sure thing. And who else?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., has revealed that he had weight-loss surgery done in February.

He did it for his family, the governor said. OK, let’s not question that statement’s face value. Perhaps he did.

I am thinking, though, he had some other folks in mind as well.

Say, maybe the Americans who’ll be voting in the 2016 presidential election?

Christie burst onto the national scene three years ago when he defeated Democrat Jon Corzine to become the Garden State’s governor. He’s a blunt, garrulous lawyer/politician who took the national political stage by storm almost immediately. He’s chastised regular folks for asking what he deems to be inappropriate questions. Christie also has fired back at TV talking heads and has made zero apologies for the way he has done his job.

The governor also is more than a tad overweight. And in this image-conscious age, appearances do matter.

Thus, he had the surgery to take some of the pounds off his ample frame.

Yes, the governor’s health is an issue and he should do it for his wife and children. My hunch is that Gov. Christie is addressing other people’s concerns as well.

‘Friend’ isn’t a throwaway word

Politics – and chiefly its practitioners – tend to cheapen certain words and even occasionally values.

Take the word “friend,” for example.

How many times has one heard the word “friend” used to describe a congressional colleague when the person who tosses the word out likely cannot stand the sight of the person who he or she has just described.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may have done it the other day in talking about Republican colleague Ted Cruz of Texas.

The use of that word in such a seemingly cavalier fashion bugs the daylights out of me.

I don’t know either of these two men, although I’ve read enough about them over the years to know plenty about them. Maybe they’re best pals, but I rather doubt it. Reid tossed the “friend” label at Cruz while saying on the Senate floor that the freshman Texas senator acts like a “schoolyard bully” on budget matters.

Over my more than six decades on this Earth, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I can call “friend.” I have been careful for many years not to use the word to describe individuals with whom I have friendly relationships but who don’t qualify as “friend.”

How do I describe a friend? He or she is someone – other than a spouse of a member of your immediate family – to whom you can say anything. These are individuals who you love unconditionally and who are there for you through thick and thin. Two of the individuals on my short list of friends go back with me a very long time; one of them goes back to the seventh grade.

So when I hear the word “friend” thrown around the way Harry Reid did on the Senate floor, I just shrug and maybe chuckle to myself. He’s not telling the truth.  He has cheapened a once-valuable word.

Love/hate relationship drives me nuts

There must be something wrong with me.

I have this love/hate relationship with a piece of electronic equipment. I hate the thing, but I cannot live without it.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the cellphone that goes with me everywhere.

I need to stipulate that I have one of those “ancient” flip-top phones. No smartie-pants phone for me, at least not yet. My little gadget does what I need it to do: It makes phone calls; it receives them; it tells me when I miss a call; it gives me the phone number to call back – if I want to talk that person; it does receive text messages (and if I felt like learning how to send one of those messages back, I would, but I so far have resisted the temptation).

When I take my cellphone out of my pocket, I receive strange looks from my younger friends and colleagues, and from family members who’ve “updated” their status to the smart phones, I-phones, the things that can tuck you in at night – after singing a lullaby. One friend looked at my Samsung and said, “Hey, that looks like my first cell phone.” Then he laughed out loud, with the slightest hint of derision.

Having declared my love/hate relationship with this phone, I want to add one critical caveat. I will not, as one of my former colleagues once admitted, go back home to fetch it if I manage to leave it behind. My ex-colleague even admitted to me that he would leave his driver’s license at home – but not his cellphone. “So,” I asked my friend, Brad, “you would rather break the law by driving without your driver’s license in your possession than go through your day without your cellphone. Is that right?” Brad said he would.

I won’t go there, I told him. And do not even get me started by mentioning those who drive their motor vehicles while blabbing on one of those devices.

But I do find the phone increasingly indispensable to my daily routine – even though I hate it.

Railroad Commission may get new name

The Texas Railroad Commission has taken another step toward a new identity.

It’s about time.

Senate Bill 212 would rename the three-member panel the Texas Energy Resources Commission. Appropriate, given that the RRC has not a single thing to do with train regulations. It has everything to do with energy regulation Texas.

So, why not have a name that reflects its duties? Because over many legislative sessions, some dyed-in-the-wool old goats didn’t want to change the name because, well, they thought history and tradition were important than relevance.

It’s been a ridiculous resistance effort from the get-go.

I’ve lived in Texas nearly 30 years and the Railroad Commission has had nothing to do with trains almost during that entire time. The RRC once regulated trucking rates, but gave that up too in the 1980s to concentrate on energy regulation.

The Railroad Commission had a member, Kent Hance – the current chancellor of the Texas Tech University System – who wanted Texas to become an ex officio member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Texas does consider itself a “whole other country,” but that seemed a bit pretentious.

The Senate vote to rename the RRC passed with a 21-0 vote, which is a sizable mandate to do something that makes sense.

Besides the new name can morph into a nice acronym: TERC.

Let’s do it, legislators.

Cruz for president? Oh, please

Ted Cruz may be setting records in Washington for Senate ostentatiousness.

First, the Texas Republican defeated the state’s lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, whom almost every political “expert” in Texas thought was a shoo-in to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Senate. Didn’t happen, as Dewhurst lost the GOP primary to Cruz, who then went on to defeat Democratic former state Rep. Paul Sadler handily in the 2012 general election.

Then the rookie senator took his seat and began slinging accusations left and right about President Obama’s picks for at least two key Cabinet picks: John Kerry at State and Chuck Hagel at Defense. He suggested the two men, both decorated Vietnam War veterans, lacked “sufficient regard” for the military. Cruz has never served in the military, let alone put his life on the line.

He’s strutted and preened in front of TV cameras, joining the likes of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Rep. Peter King, both of New York, as the most TV-hungry pols on Capitol Hill.

Now comes word that Cruz might want to run for president of the United States of America in 2016.

Count me as one American who’ll never vote for this guy, but who kind of hopes he takes the leap.

I’ve never particularly liked politicians – or businessmen and women, for that matter – who act like know-it-alls when they take on new assignments. Cruz just seems to have this way about him that gets under my skin. He chastises individuals with many more years of experience in the sometimes-complex act of legislating. He lectures his colleagues on the Constitution, such as when he scolded Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California on the fine points of the Second Amendment, to which Feinstein said she is “not a sixth-grader” and knew a fair amount about the Constitution.

This guy, a tea party favorite, is going to be fun to watch, if only to see if his hubris has any limits. So far, Ted Cruz’s reservoir of self-aggrandizement seems infinite.