Tag Archives: partisanship

Bring on the differences!

I am striking a note or two for ideological diversity.

We live in a polarized, deeply divided nation these days. The polarization is being driven by politicians in Washington, in our state capitals, even at our county courthouses; I’ll give our city halls a pass because almost all of them are non-partisan in nature and the pols we elect to municipal government are ostensibly not driven by partisan political concerns.

I have my bias. Others have theirs. They differ. The folks who hold differing biases are getting pretty darn nasty.

However, all that acknowledged, I do not want everyone to agree with me. I surely don’t want everyone to agree with those who disagree with me. Back to my point about personal agreement. We should live in a nation full of ideological diversity and at the moment, oh brother, we are, um … diversified.

A world where everyone thinks the same — even if they agree with little ol’ me — would be a boring world for certain.

Who wants to be bored to sleep? Not me. I have too much to do!


Glad he spoke out, however …

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As glad as I am to hear former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speak out against what he calls “political terrorism” within the Republican Party, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize an obvious element of history.

While the ex-speaker decries the harsh partisanship that has infected the current political climate, he needs to own his particular contribution to that infection.

He called the Affordable Care Act the greatest sin ever perpetrated on Americans. Boehner filed lawsuits to stop the implementation of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. He did plenty of blustering and bellowing from the House floor about the evils of his Democratic colleagues’ intent.

Has the former speaker had an epiphany? Has he realized what he did contributed to today’s toxicity? I hope that is the case.

Still, to hear him refer to Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and to express his profound revulsion over the insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 remains music to my admittedly partisan ears.

Why the partisan divide over this pandemic?

I am forced to ask: Why in the name of medical prudence does it seem to me that there is a partisan divide between governors’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic?

How is this playing out so far? Most of our 50 states have declared statewide “stay at home” or “shelter in place” mandates. They have been led more or less by Democrats who run those states. The remaining handful of states that haven’t yet issued those declarations all are being governed by Republicans.

What is going on here?

Donald Trump calls for an end to partisanship. He declares his desire to unify the country. Then he does something quite extraordinary.

When the bill that provided $2.2 trillion in economic aid to Americans reached his desk, he didn’t invite a single Democratic member of Congress to witness his bill-signing; the entire congressional delegation gathered in the Oval Office comprised Republicans who, I should add, were not observing “social distancing” practices while watching Trump sign the bill into law.

Here in Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to issue a “stay at home” ruling, although what is happening here is that we are observing a de facto stay at home order. This appears to me to be a function of Republican politicians adhering to the nation’s top GOP politician’s reluctance to be more proactive in his battle against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, gubernatorial Democrats across the nation are mobilizing their own forces and resources to fight this “war” against an “invisible enemy.” Their reaction appears to be an effort to stick it in Trump’s eye, to enact policies at a statewide level that the president refuses to do at a national level.

A “wartime president” speaks to an entire nation. He unifies us by appealing to our common mission against an enemy of our state. He does not attack politicians from the other party or the media that seek to report on the progress of the government’s mission.

It is my humble view that Donald Trump has overseen an incompetent response to the pandemic. He has delivered messages steeped in confusion and contradiction. He has undermined his own health experts. Trump has denied saying what he entire world heard him say, which is that the pandemic is a “Democrat hoax.”

The nation is full of competent, intelligent and serious Republican governors. Why in the world do they keep standing behind this president, whose categorical incompetence is putting Americans’ lives in danger?

McConnell exhibits stunning lack of self-awareness

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Of all the statements, assertions, pronouncements and declarations I keep hearing while we watch this impeachment drama unfold, I keep circling back to what keeps coming out of the mouth of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican keeps hurling “partisan political” accusations at his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. When I hear him accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of acting as a purely partisan politician, I find myself thinking: Dude, do you not remember your own political history? 

Of course he does!

I harken back to the Mother of All Partisan Acts when in early 2016 he declared that President Obama would not be able to select someone to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly that year; Obama sought to nominate Merrick Garland to succeed him; McConnell put the brakes on it, declaring that the president’s nominee would not get a Senate hearing in an election year.

Democrats were rightfully outraged. It was an act of supreme partisanship, just as he has continued to exhibit his partisan bona fides during the run-up to the Senate impeachment trial that has commenced.

Speaking of that … for the Senate majority leader to accuse anyone else of partisan game-playing is akin to getting a lecture on marital fidelity from, oh, you know who.

McConnell sets no bipartisan example

Yeah, this Twitter message from a former U.S. senator — who once wrote jokes for a living — sums it up for me.

The Senate majority leader is lamenting the absence of a quality about which he seems to know next to nothing. Mitch McConnell is angry about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to withhold the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. He says House Democrats rushed to judgment against the president while impeaching him; then he says he won’t allow any witnesses to testify in the upcoming Senate trial that will determine whether Trump stays in office.

I don’t know whether to laugh or … laugh even more loudly.

McConnell is infamous for the partisan hit job he performed on President Barack Obama after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February 2016. Obama wanted to nominate someone to the SCOTUS to succeed Scalia. McConnell slammed the door shut, saying that the president shouldn’t appoint a justice in an election year that would determine who the next president would be.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. McConnell denied Garland a hearing. It was a major-league partisan power play. It worked for McConnell, given that Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

Of course, McConnell has kept up his partisan wrangling during the impeachment saga, declaring that he intends to take his cue from Trump’s legal team and that he is “not an impartial juror.”

So, for the majority leader to gripe about Democrats’ alleged partisanship now is as Al Franken has described it.


McCain tributes remind us of what has gone wrong

As I have watched the various tributes pouring in to honor the memory of U.S. Sen. John McCain, I am reminded of what some folks might say is the obvious.

I am reminded that as the men and women spoke of the late senator’s principled passion that much of the principle has been decimated in the name of partisan passion.

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke of his “love” for his political adversary. He spoke of a friendship that transcended partisan differences. The Democratic ex-VP talked about how McCain’s devotion to principle superseded his Republican credentials.

Indeed, the same message came from Senate Majority Leader (and fellow Republican) Mitch McConnell, who today echoed much of what Biden said the previous day. McConnell noted that McCain could be your strongest ally or your most ferocious political foe. Indeed, McConnell and McCain had their differences over campaign finance reform — for which McCain fought and McConnell opposed.

What is missing today? The sense that political opponents need not be “enemies.” McCain could be irascible, grouchy, in your face, profane. He assumed all those postures because he believed strongly in whatever principle for which he was fighting.

Almost to a person, those who memorialized Sen. McCain reminded us of how it used to be in Washington and how it could become once again. If only the late senator’s political descendants would follow his lead.

I have been uplifted by the tributes to this American hero and political titan. I also am saddened by the comparison to the political standards he set to what has become of them in the here and now.

Tilting left, most of the time


Readers of this blog, specifically those with a conservative political outlook, have at times accused me of being a flamer, a lefty progressive.

One reader keeps referring to “liberal logic” when trying to counter whatever argument I seek to make.

It’s time, therefore, to set the record straight on a few issues.

On abortion, I believe in a woman’s right to control her own body. Do I condone abortion? No. Neither do I believe government should set laws that criminalize someone from making an intensely personal and heart-wrenching decision. I could not counsel any woman to terminate a pregnancy, but I will never condemn her for making that decision.

Wealth redistribution runs counter to my capitalist instincts. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, makes no bone about it. He’s a socialist and he’s damn proud of it. Good for him. He wants to share the wealth. I don’t have much wealth, but my wife and I do have a nest egg that’s building and we intend to keep our hands on it.

War or diplomacy? I’ll take diplomacy every time whenever possible. I am weary of Republican critics of Barack Obama who contend he is too timid about the use of force against our adversaries/enemies. I have had a tiny exposure to war — back in the late 1960s. Some of you might remember that time. What angers me more than anything in this regard is hearing the get-tough talk from chicken hawks in Congress who fought like hell during the old days to avoid going to war while many of the rest of us were answering the call to duty.

I struggle with the term “gay marriage.” I happen to be a traditionalist on this matter. But I do know what the U.S. Constitution says about “equal protection.” It guarantees that anyone is entitled to marry whomever they wish, without regard to their sexuality. If that’s what the Constitution states — and if the Supreme Court affirms it, which it has done — then I accept the document’s intent.

I am not a partisan Democrat. Texas voting law gives people the opportunity to choose which primary in which they can cast votes. In the two-plus decades I’ve lived in the heavily Republican Texas Panhandle, I’ve cast many votes in the Republican primary. Why? Because here, the Republican primary is where the action is. Democrats often don’t field candidates for local offices. I want my voice heard on races involving county government and the Legislature. I’ll acknowledge here, as I’ve done before, that I haven’t yet voted for a Republican for president since I cast my first vote in 1972. I do, though, split my ticket liberally.

Rich people should pay more in taxes than middle-income folks. I have no difficulty insisting that wealthy Americans should pay more per capita than those of us who haven’t acquired as much wealth. I don’t want them to pay all of their wealth, just enough to help fund government. Hey, they can still be rich!

Finally, I believe in good government. I don’t believe necessarily in big government. I believe government can be a force to help people. I don’t believe, as Ronald Reagan said upon taking the presidential oath in 1981, that government “is the problem.” I want our elected leaders in Congress to stop using their anger at certain agencies to threaten to shut down the entire government. That is demagoguery at — or near — its worst.

There could be more examples. I’m sure some of you will challenge these few items. I just felt the need to lay it out there.

Do I lean left? Sure. There you have it.

Partisanship gone too far?

Barack Obama could have made this argument possibly long before now. Heck, maybe he has.

But now the president says partisan bickering over the merits of the Iran nuclear deal brokered with five other great powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran has gone too far.


He spoke at the Summit of the Americas, where he has made historic inroads in restoring relations with another longtime enemy, Cuba.

Back to Iran.

The deal seeks to scale back Iran’s nuclear development program. It also seeks to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb. Republicans universally seem opposed even to talking to Iran about such a deal. Some Democrats have expressed misgivings too. Let’s throw in the categorical objections of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and you have the makings of a donnybrook over a critical U.S. foreign policy initiative that in an earlier time might have enabled the president and his loyal opposition to speak with a single voice.

Those days are gone — at least while the current president occupies the White House.

You had The Letter signed by the 47 GOP senators urging Iran to reject a deal, which they stated might not survive once President Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. Yes, the letter sought to undermine U.S. negotiators.

I certainly understand the need for partisan principle to matter, to count for something. These issues of foreign policy, of difficult and complicated international negotiations need to above that kind of bickering.

Obama’s critics say he is guilty of diminishing U.S. standing in the world. Those very critics are doing that, and more, when they seek to ambush the president while he and his team are working to prevent an enemy nation from developing a weapon of mass destruction.


Obama deserves unified nation

The late great Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan had it right.

Partisanship, he said, should “stop at the water’s edge.”

Put another way: When a president takes a nation to war then it becomes imperative for a nation to rally behind the effort.


President Barack Obama went before the United Nations today to tell the world body that it’s time for the world to step up in the fight against the Islamic State. He didn’t sugar-coat it. He said the fight well could take years. He said ISIL is a tough and resilient foe. He also said that dozens of nations have lined up as part of a growing coalition to fight the terrorists.

But can the commander in chief perform his duty to protect Americans without much of the partisan carping that has plagued him to date? If his Republican foes choose to heed the words of one of their predecessors — the late Sen. Vandenberg — then there might be a unified nation rallying to fight a determined enemy.

Unity, of course, isn’t always the norm.

President Bush was able to rally the nation initially when he took us to war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Much of the support evaporated when he expanded that fight into Iraq in March 2003.

President Clinton had his critics when he started bombing fighters in Bosnia and Kosovo.

President Truman heard the critics when the Korean War dragged on.

And Vietnam? Well, we know what happened there.

Barack Obama received congressional authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels. He’s consulted with political friends and foes in advance of launching the air strikes. Some critics will continue to say the strikes are too little too late.

Let us not undermine this necessary effort to destroy the Islamic State, however, with partisan carping.