Tag Archives: Contract With America

Yeah, listen to Newtie

Newt Gingrich makes me laugh, albeit derisively, as he tries to offer advice and a critique of the state of today’s Republican Party leadership.

The former (disgraced) U.S. House speaker doesn’t think much of GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership style. He likes the notions being pitched by GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and California’s U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Newt Gingrich questions McConnell’s strategy for Republicans: ‘As bad as Pelosi’ | Just The News

Sigh …

I am left to wonder: What in the world is Newt Gingrich’s track record as a legislative leader?

It stinks, man!

Newtie became House speaker after the GOP took control of Congress in the 1994 Contract With America election. He managed to work pretty well (for a time) with Democratic President Bill Clinton. The two men found a way to hammer out a balanced federal budget. Good deal, yes? Of course!

President Clinton then got re-elected in 1996 and in 1998, Democrats retook command of Congress, which of course occurred on Gingrich’s watch as House speaker.

Then came the scandal that resulted in President Clinton’s impeachment. Who led the impeach-him chorus? Newt Gingrich! Oh, but wait. In real time, Newtie was boinking a staffer, cheating on his second wife, while at the same time decrying President Clinton’s behavior with the White House intern.

Gingrich eventually resigned from the House; he married the woman with whom he was taking the extramarital tumble. He went to work for Fox News and has become a royal pain in the patootie ever since.

So, when this clown critiques today’s political leadership, I am, umm … left to snicker.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Anger pre-dates Trump

Donald Trump gets blamed for a lot of what is wrong about today’s political climate and I take a back seat to no one in expressing my loathing for the man and what he brought to the table when he entered political life in the summer of 2015.

However, I want to give the former A**hole in Chief a pass on something that’s been kicked around since his arrival on the political stage, which is that he introduced this era of intensely bitter feeling.

Wrong. It pre-dates Trump.

The actual bogeyman, in my view, happens to be the Republicans who ran for Congress on that Contract With America platform cobbled together by a back-bench House of Representative member by the name of Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich called the cadence to which the GOP insurgents marched. Gingrich infamously declared that he wanted Republican officeholders and candidates for public office to label “Democrats as the enemy of normal Americans.”

They did. You know what? That message worked with Americans who had grown angry with “politics as usual.” The Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 midterm election and Gingrich got chosen by the GOP caucus as speaker of the House, where he continued his anti-other-party bombast.

The anger carried over into the 2000 election cycle and the balloting that resulted in George W. Bush being elected by the slimmest margin possible.

Donald Trump, therefore, inherited a climate already tilled and planted with all manner of antipathy. But it was Newt Gingrich who sowed the ground with a form of nastiness that enabled Trump to take it to the next level and perhaps even to the level after that.

Those of us who are old enough to remember how the major parties were able to work together for the common good likely want a return to the “good old days.”

Political adversaries need not become enemies.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘Liberal’ is no epithet

Did you know the term “liberal” has become a four-letter word? At least among right-wingers it has become a sort of scarlet letter to hang around the necks of politicians and those who support those politicians.

I am a liberal, or a “good government” liberal. The term has been replaced in the lexicon, though, by “progressive,” which I guess among liberals is more suitable to their political agenda.

For the record, I don’t mind for an instant being labeled a liberal.

Here’s what my handy-dandy American Heritage Dictionary says about the term; mind you, it contains several definitions under the term, so the first definition is generally regarded as the most acceptable or prevalent.

It states: open-minded, tolerant. The book refers to a synonym, which is broad-minded.

Wow! Is that the stuff that should bring shame to an individual? I think not. It is the kind of description one should wear proudly. So, I do. I wear that label with pride.

My pride will enable me to dismiss the snark that accompanies descriptions that come from right-wingers who seek to denigrate liberal or progressive political thought.

As a side note: I continue to hold traditional “conservatives” in high esteem. I prefer to absolve them from the antics committed by the bomb-throwers on the far-right end of the political spectrum.

I turned to my American Heritage word book. Here is what it says about “conservative.” Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change. Hey, nothing wrong with that, either.

The right-wingers, though, take “traditional conservatism” to a level I do not recognize.

I remember when Newt Gingrich, the godfather of the Contract With America movement in the 1990s, said his aim was to make “liberals the enemy of normal Americans.” Isn’t that sweet? Do you get what that implies? It is to say liberals are, um, “abnormal.” That we are weirdos. That we live outside those so-called “traditional values.”

Well, none of that worked out well for Newtie. He got caught cheating on wife No. 2. He married the woman with whom he was having a fling. He also resigned from Congress and became a right-wing messenger.

That was then. These days I will continue to wear my political leaning proudly. I make no apologies for anything I believe. I am open-minded and tolerant, just as the dictionary describes me.

What in this world is wrong with that? Not a damn thing!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Get ready for a blowhard

Based on what I have witnessed from afar and from my extensive knowledge of the man who has represented the 13th Congressional District of Texas since 1995, voters in that part of the world are about to get a whole new brand of congressman.

Dr. Ronny Jackson is the odds-on favorite to succeed Mac Thornberry as the Republican representative for the sprawling West Texas congressional district.

My knowledge of Jackson is limited. I acknowledge the obvious, given that I no longer live in the district. I know that he was born in Levelland, went into the Navy, achieved the rank of rear admiral, became a physician and has served as White House doctor for three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

He moved into the13th District when Thornberry announced he wouldn’t seek another term.

What is the difference that will occur? It will arrive in the vocal, more media-hungry style of the new guy. He is going to become a right-wing blowhard, the type of individual who generally annoys the daylights out of me. 

He has popped off, for instance, about mask wearing in light of the global pandemic. He has been dismissive of masks as protection against the killer virus. It’s the kind of baloney we hear from right-wing talking heads and various politicians such as, oh, Rep. Louie Gohmert, the East Texas loon who tested positive for the virus after making a public show of his refusal to wear a mask; Louie is singing a different tune these days.

Thornberry has served the13th District for 25 years. He won election in 1994 as part of the GOP Contract With America Brigade led by fire-breathing Rep. New Gingrich. Thornberry, though, became a quiet back bencher for much of his time in the House. He voted according to the Gingrich world view. He didn’t say much about anything publicly.

Rep. Thornberry was able to parlay his loyal service into the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee, where he served for a couple of terms before Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 election; he now serves — again, quietly — as the panel’s ranking member.

And so, Thornberry will leave at the end of the year. Jackson figures to win election over the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb. I will lay down a bet that Jackson will preen and pose for as long as he can, although some of that might be dictated by whether Donald Trump is still president after Election Day.

Whatever. A new day in congressional representation awaits my friends and former neighbors up yonder in the Texas Panhandle.

Newt’s legacy lives on with ‘Democrat Party’

REUTERS/Mark Avery

I laugh to myself when I see the term “Democrat” used as an adjective, or as part of the proper name of one of the nation’s two major political parties.

It’s a holdover from an earlier era when Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. You remember the landmark Contract With America election of 1994, right? Of course you do!

A then-young GOP bomb thrower, Newt Gingrich, led the insurgency that elected Republicans to the House and Senate that year. The GOP slate took down plenty of heavyweights, including House Speaker Tom Foley and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks.

Gingrich essentially coined the usage of the term “Democrat” in a way that sought to cast the other party as a sort of foreign element.

Democrats belong to the “Democratic Party.” Gingrich, who became speaker of the House in 1995, kept referring to the party as the “Democrat Party,” a term that just doesn’t roll off the way the proper term does.

Well, Gingrich left the speakership and the House after the 1998 midterm election and the failed impeachment of President Clinton. He ended up with his own personal baggage — the affair he was having with a staffer while married to his second wife — that took him out; it was one of the more ironic political downfalls in modern U.S. history, given the nature of the charges leveled against Bill Clinton.

However, Newt’s branding of Democrats and their political party lives on. Donald Trump refers to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party; so do his allies in Congress; so do critics of this blog, by gum, use that term.

It used to annoy me, given my understanding of the motive behind its use: the demonization of a great political party. I’ve gone beyond the point of annoyance. I am now mildly amused.

In defense of a congressman’s non-commitment

Mac Thornberry is now officially a lame-duck member of Congress, given his announcement today that he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to another term representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

I have plenty of issues with Thornberry and his tenure as a member of Congress. However, I feel compelled to defend him on a point for which he was pilloried and pounded over many years since taking office.

Mac Thornberry did not, despite claims to the contrary, ever make a personal pledge to limit the number of terms he would serve in the House of Representatives.

He ran in 1994 for the House under the Contract With America banner waved at the front of the Republican ranks by future Speaker Newt Gingrich. The CWA contained among other items a provision to limit House members to three terms. The idea was to serve six years and then bow out, turning the seat over to new faces, with new ideas.

The term limits provision needs a constitutional amendment. The House has not referred an amendment to the states for their ratification. Thornberry, though, has voted in favor of every proposed amendment whenever it has come to a vote of the full of House.

Thornberry never made a personal pledge. Indeed, he has been elected and re-elected 13 times to the 13th District seat. He ascended to Republican leadership over the course of his tenure, being awarded the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.

I just feel the need to defend Thornberry against false accusations that he reneged on his pledge to limit the amount of time he would serve in Congress. Thornberry knew better than to make a pledge he well might be unable or unwilling to keep, such as former Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington state, who defeated the late Tom Foley in that landmark 1994 CWA election. Nethercutt pledged to limit his terms, then changed his mind … and eventually faced the wrath of his constituents for reneging on his promise.

Mac Thornberry doesn’t adhere to my own world view of how government should work. Indeed, I happen to oppose congressional term limits, believing that elections by themselves serve the purpose of limiting the terms of congressmen and women who do a bad job. That’s not the point here.

He didn’t deserve the pounding he took from within the 13th Congressional District for allegedly taking back a campaign promise … that he never made.

Is it Rep. Thornberry’s turn to announce retirement?

About a half-dozen Republican congressmen and women have announced their intention to leave Congress at the end of their current term.

Some of those GOP lawmakers serve in reliably Republican congressional districts, so their re-election chances really are not in jeopardy.

My thoughts now turn to the man who was my congressman during my many years living in Amarillo, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon.

Is it fair to ask whether he’s going to bail at the end of this term?

Hey, I just did. So there you have it.

Thornberry took office the same week I reported for duty at the Amarillo Globe-News. That was in early January 1995. I have kidded him over the years that we kind of “grew up together.” He served on Rep. Larry Combest’s staff before defeating incumbent Rep. Bill Sarpalius in that landmark Contract With America election in 1994 that saw Republicans take control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

He ascended a couple of terms ago to the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. Then Democrats took back control of the House in 2018, relegating Thornberry to the role of “ranking member.”

He’s been in the House now for 24 years. I have disagreed frequently with his policy decisions or the votes he has cast. I say that while acknowledging that I like him personally. We had a good professional relationship and I always thought I worked well with his staff.

However, many Republicans in the House are finding it difficult to legislate in this Age of Trump. The president is untrustworthy and I am left to wonder whether his capriciousness wears thin even on those legislators who have supported him and his agenda.

That well could be you, Mac Thornberry.

If Thornberry decides he has had enough, I certainly would understand. Rest assured, too, that Thornberry is one of those politicians who represents a rock-solid Republican congressional district. The 13th Congressional District isn’t going to turn Democratic.

I don’t live in the 13th any longer, but it’s difficult to turn away from a politician with whom I share some history.

Wondering if term limits will return to debate stage

With all the hoo-hah in Washington about the battle of ideologies — conservative vs. liberal — I am wondering about the fate of the debate over term limits.

In 1994, Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, campaigned successfully on the Contract With America platform that included a silly proposition: to limit the terms of members of Congress.

Voters seemed to buy into the notion that we ought to place mandatory limits on the time House members and senators can serve. After all, we limit the president to two elected terms, thanks to the 22nd Amendment. Why not demand the same thing of Congress members?

Well, the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. It requires an amendment to the Constitution. Referring an amendment to the states for their ratification requires a two-thirds vote in both congressional chambers. Term limits proposals haven’t made the grade.

Term limits is primarily a Republican-led initiative. Democrats have dug in against the idea, saying correctly that “we already have term limits. We call them ‘elections.'”

I don’t favor mandatory limits. Indeed, there has been a significant churn of House members and senators already without the mandated limits. The new Congress comprises roughly a membership that includes roughly 25 percent of first-time officeholders. That ain’t bad, man!

Sure, there are deep-rooted incumbents from both parties who make legislating their life’s calling. However, I only can refer back to their constituents: If these lawmakers are doing a poor job, their constituents have it within their power to boot them out; if the constituents are happy with their lawmakers’ performance, they are entitled to keep them on the job.

Of course, we don’t hear much from the nation’s Republican in Chief, the president of the United States, about term limits. He’s too busy “making America great again” and fighting for The Wall. He can’t be bothered with anything as mundane and pedestrian as establishing limits for the amount of time lawmakers can serve.

But where are the GOP fire starters? Have they lost their interest? Or their nerve?

I’m fine with the idea remaining dormant. Just wondering whether it’s died a much-needed death.

Balance of power shifting in Texas delegation

Here’s a thought or two to consider, according to the Texas Tribune.

Texans who have occupied a lot of chairmanships in the U.S. House of Representatives might be set to bail on the House in the wake of the newfound status as the minority party in the lower congressional chamber.

Buried in the Tribune story analyzing that development is a mention of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, who might “make the upcoming term his last.”

That’s according to “many Republican operatives” on Capitol Hill, reports the Tribune.

Read the story here

Thornberry won’t be able to serve as “ranking minority member” of Armed Services; GOP rules mandate that he is term-limited out of that rank. So he’ll become just one of the gang of GOP members serving on the panel.

I have a special “bond” of sorts with Thornberry. He took office in the House in early January 1995, in the same week I reported for duty as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I covered his congressional career regularly until I left the paper in August 2012. He and I developed a good professional relationship.

I rarely agree with his voting record while representing the sprawling 13th Congressional District, although my position at the newspaper required me to write editorials supporting him, given the paper’s longstanding conservative editorial policy.

And, to be fair, Thornberry has been pilloried unfairly over his more than two decades in office because of the term limits issue. He was elected in 1994 as part of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” team of GOP insurgents. The CWA called for term limits for members of Congress. Thornberry never pledged to limit his own service to three consecutive terms, but he did vote to approve it when the House considered it.

He took office in 1995. It’s now 2018. Twenty-three years after becoming a freshman member of the House, Mac Thornberry is about to become a former chairman of a key congressional committee. The Republican majority is set to become the GOP minority. That, according to the Texas Tribune, might be enough to send Thornberry packing and returning to the Texas Panhandle in 2021.

Yep, elections do have consequences. We’re about to see one of those consequences occur on the new day that is about to dawn over Capitol Hill.

Entering crucial stage of midterm campaign

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before. A “wave election” occurs when the least likely incumbent takes a fall, signaling a dramatic change in fortunes for the halls of Congress.

In 1994, I had a ringside seat for one of those events. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks of Beaumont represented one of Texas’s last Democratic bastions in the Golden Triangle. He’d been in Congress for more than four decades. His foe that year was a guy who came out of nowhere.

Steve Stockman shocked the political world by beating the late “Sweet Ol’ Brooks” to take his House seat as part of the Contract With America GOP delegation.

I figured at the time if Brooks was to lose, the entire House was going to flip. Sure enough. He did. The House did flip.

Stockman lasted one term before being defeated for re-election in 1996. He was elected again much later, but then lost again after another single term. He’s now facing prison time for fraud.

Fast-forward to the present day. Texas’s U.S. Senate seat is in play. Democrat Beto O’Rourke is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that is as Republican as it gets.

The way I figure it today, if somehow O’Rourke manages to pull off what looks like the Upset of the Ages, then the U.S. Senate stands a good chance of flipping from Republican to Democratic control.

It’s a steep hill for the El Paso congressman. He trails the Cruz Missile. But not by much. I see polls that swing from 2 points to 8 points. Cruz should — by standard political measures — be way up. He’s not.

O’Rourke well might lose on Nov. 6. I don’t want him or his allies to claim some sort of “moral victory” by making it close. A loss is a loss. For my money, Cruz needs to lose. He might represent a lot of Texans’ values. He doesn’t represent mine.

If the Cruz Missile gets blown out of the sky, then I am betting that the entire Senate turns over.

Believe me, stranger things have happened — just as it did in the Golden Triangle all those years ago.