Tag Archives: Congress

Hoping for return to civility

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What do I wish at the end of this bizarre presidential campaign season?

A lot of things, to be candid. One of them happens to be a standard by which we don’t call attention to simple gestures that we used to take for granted.

Former President Obama wrote this on Twitter:

Michelle and I hope that the President, First Lady, and all those affected by the coronavirus around the country are getting the care they need and are on the path to a speedy recovery. Obviously, we’re in the midst of a big political battle right now, and while there’s a lot at stake, let’s remember that we’re all Americans. We’re all human beings. And we want everyone to be healthy, no matter our party.

Donald Trump’s hospitalization, along with first lady Melania Trump’s affliction with the COVID-19 virus, brings to mind the expressions of concern that have come from Joe Biden, among others. Then we have President Obama offering his own good wishes to the man who despises him.

This kind of once-common outreach has been plowed asunder by the venom, vitriol and venality of the past four years. It has sickened me beyond belief. Yes, I have been sucked into it at times and I do regret some of the hyper-angry rhetoric that has poured forth on this blog.

I want a return to civility. They call it “comity” in the halls of power. It’s just another word for civility and courtesy. There has been so little of it coming from the White House and, yes, from Capitol Hill.

Joe Biden spent 36 years in the Senate before becoming vice president during the Obama years. He says he wants to restore our national “soul.” Part of what has been missing from our political discourse has been the common touch of decency that used to be commonplace.

You’ll recall when the gunman opened fire in 2017 on Republican members of Congress practicing for the bipartisan baseball game. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise was nearly killed by the lunatic. When he returned to the House floor, all the members stood and applauded. Leading the applause was House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who said in that moment “we were all Italian.”

One of many fond hopes I have for a Biden presidency if it comes to that after the election is that we can set aside the hatred and the view that our foes are our “enemies.”

Recess context is appalling

Surely I am not the only red-blooded American patriot who finds the current congressional recess appalling.

Why? Because of the job that the House and Senate have left undone before they shoved off on their lengthy time away from doing the people’s work.

Both legislative chambers — which are getting no help from the White House — have so far failed to provide relief for Americans caught in the pandemic vise. What makes this so terrible, so galling, so appalling is that while Americans are suffering from job loss, the loss of their medical coverage and possibly even their homes, members of Congress have jobs to which they will retain even while they are cavorting through their districts or perhaps jetting off on those infamous “junkets” to glamor spots around the world.

Do you get my drift here?

Americans are hurting because of the economic hardship brought to them by the pandemic. They depend on their elected representatives and, yes, even the president, to help them with assistance from a government that is assigned to look out for them and to provide for the “general welfare” of the public.

They are failing. Who pays the price? The public is paying grievously.

Let me be clear on this point: My wife and I are not among those who are suffering. We are retired from our careers and we live a quiet but comfortable life in Collin County, Texas. We don’t get out much, owing to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

Other Americans aren’t nearly as fortunate as we have been.

They are looking for unemployment compensation assistance. Republicans want to scale it way back; Democrats are fighting for more money.

Oh, and Donald Trump? He’s threatening to gut the U.S. Postal Service because he doesn’t want mail-in voting — believing it will hurt his re-election chances. The upshot is to stall any sort of legislation that would assist Americans in need of help from the government during this perilous time.

This is yet another example of disgraceful demagoguery.

Meanwhile, Congress is failing as well. House members and senators are leaving their constituents in the lurch while they take time away from doing their job.

Their job is to legislate.

Tax returns! Let’s see ’em!

OK, it’s time for an admission.

I am fixated by Donald John Trump’s tax returns, his financial record/history and whether he is as crooked as I fear.

Where did I obtain this fixation? From Donald Trump his own self, that’s where!

For as long as I’ve been aware of Trump’s existence — which goes back a good while — this fellow has been bragging his brains out about how rich he is. I’ll say that I detest braggarts. No one who is as rich as Trump says he is has to tell the world about it; nor does anyone as smart as he says he is have to brag about his or her smarts. Yet this clown has been doing so ever since Daddy Trump staked him to his business and got the boy started.

So then he announced the start of his political career. He did so with panache. Along the way to his winning the White House, Trump kept telling us about his immense wealth, his “self-made” success … and he pledged to release his full financial records as soon as the Tax Man completed a “routine audit.”

I’m going to presume that (a) the audit is now done or (b) Trump lied about the audit, given that he never provided a shred of evidence that it was being done.

So, where are the tax returns? He now is fighting like hell to keep them from us.

He is the nation’s highest elected public official. His personal records, by association, become our business. Trump helps set tax policy, he asks Congress to spend our tax money, he is commander in chief of our armed forces, he is our employee.

Trump has fought so hard to keep those records from us that he went to the Supreme Court. Hah! The high court showed him he ain’t the boss, declaring that presidents aren’t immune from prosecution, that even Donald Trump isn’t above the law.

All of this adds up to my fixation with the tax records and Donald Trump’s financial history. I want to know whether he is as rich as he claims to be, whether he has business dealings that might compromise our national security and whether he is a crook.

That’s not too much to ask. Is it?

Disease knows no political labels

Donald John Trump needs to understand — although it is impossible to expect that he ever will get it — that the pandemic sweeping the planet is a non-partisan “enemy” of all humankind.

Thus, when he warns our nation’s governors that they need to express appreciation for the work he says he is doing, the president is politicizing a fight that requires all elected officials at all levels to pull together.

It ain’t happenin’.

You’ve heard the slogan that “We’re in this together.” But … are we?

Governors criticize the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic as being unorganized, scatter-shot, too full of mindless happy talk. They make a valid point. The federal government, which the president was elected to lead, has been too slow to respond all along the way.

But then we hear the president blast governors for doing a “terrible job,” for failing to recognize that the “we’re doing a hell of a job” at the federal level. They need to toe the line, he tells them.

I should add here that the criticism is coming from Democratic governors. Their complaints don’t matter to the Republican president. His ignorance of the need for bipartisan cooperation was so plainly evident at the bill-signing ceremony Friday when the only individuals standing behind him were Republicans. Congressional Democrats lined up with the president to ensure enactment of the coronavirus relief bill that Trump signed into law.

I should point out, too, that they weren’t practicing the “social distancing” that medical experts implore us to practice … but I digress.

The blame game will continue. It’s unfortunate in the extreme, primarily because the individuals who are going to pay the price ultimately are Americans like you and me might need help from our government if any of us get stricken … and it won’t arrive.

Disgraceful.

Why not invite Democrats to that bill-signing, Mr. President?

Donald John “The So-Called Unifier in Chief” Trump signed an important bill into law today.

It was the coronavirus pandemic emergency response bill approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved it 96-0; the House approved it by a voice vote, thanks to some procedural maneuvering orchestrated by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But …

Pelosi or other Democrats were nowhere to be found in the Oval Office today as Trump signed the bill into law.

Hasn’t he promised to unify the country? Hasn’t he pledged to work with Democrats as well as Republicans to “make America great again”? I believe the fate of this bill, which Trump supported after at first opposing it (while blaming Democrats, naturally, for wanting to load it up with unnecessary provisions) depended on Democrats as well as Republicans.

Oh, but of course Trump is still enraged at Pelosi because the House speaker engineered the impeachment of the president. That’s his rationale, although he hasn’t said it directly.

This individual’s petulance makes me sick.

Absent an argument over the facts, then where do we stand?

Congressional Republicans have laid down their marker: They are not going to argue the facts surrounding the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

Congressional Democrats are arguing that the facts are beyond dispute. They are acknowledged as being true.

So what is left, then, for Congress to consider? I am left to conclude only that the facts as presented either are impeachable or they are not. That’s what I get from all of this.

I happen to believe that a president who invites foreign involvement in our election has committed an impeachable offense. It is an abuse of the immense power of his office. Trump allies, I am presuming, believe otherwise. If that is their belief, then why are we not hearing them argue that point?

Moreover, I also believe that obstruction of Congress also is an impeachable offense. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress all the authority it needs to conduct an investigation into executive branch behavior. When a president orders all key witnesses to ignore congressional subpoenas, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

What do congressional Republicans use to justify their resistance to these two articles of impeachment that are heading inexorably to a vote in the House Judiciary Committee and then to the full House of Representatives?

I am just a voter, a patriot and someone with a deep interest in our government. I believe the president has violated his oath of office. Believe me or not, but I am waiting to hear someone on the GOP side speak to the facts at hand.

That specific defense is not forthcoming, or so it appears as we hurtle toward impeachment.

So we’re left with one side arguing that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are impeachable offenses. The other side seems to believe they are not impeachable.

What is the rationale of those who cannot defend the indefensible?

Praising a system that allows bloggers to rant

I want to say a word of high praise to the greatest political system ever created. Yes, it’s a mess at times, but as Winston Churchill noted, it is far better than any other system ever conceived.

The United States is in the midst of an impeachment battle. The House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald John Trump Sr. It will be sloppy and messy, perhaps bloody in a political sense.

Through it all, this system of government of ours allows folks like me to continue to rant over the performance of the president, who I believe should be impeached. The House will do as I wish, albeit my journey to this point took me some time to get here.

I watched a clip of a young Illinois state senator speaking to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Barack Obama saluted a system of government that allowed dissent “without a sudden knock on our door.” Amen to that. The young senator would be elected to the U.S. Senate and then, four years later, would become the nation’s 44th president of the United States.

Donald Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people.” He couldn’t possibly be any more wrong. The Constitution protects the press against government coercion and interference. Yet the president sees the press only through the eyes of someone who lusts for positive coverage of his words and deeds, no matter what! It does not work that way, Mr. President. If this man had any understanding of what the nation’s founders intended when they established the First Amendment to the Constitution, he might comprehend the press’s role in ensuring the freedoms we all enjoy.

Accordingly, that role extends to folks like me. I no longer work full time for a formal media organization. I’m out here in Flyover Country sharing my views with the world through this blog. High Plains Blogger is my therapy, my release and my vehicle to vent my frustration with government. I also offer praise now and then.

As I continue to write critically of Congress, the president and even the courts, I do so with the knowledge that I can speak my mind freely without concern for the knock on the door that will not come.

Trump wants to “make American great again”? Hah! Our system of government crafted by those wise men at the founding of this nation ensured our ongoing greatness. It will last for as long as there is a United States of America.

Rick Perry leaves Cabinet under his own power; no small feat

I’ll acknowledge what you may already suspect: Rick Perry wasn’t my favorite Texas politician when he served as the state’s longest-ever tenured governor.

However, as secretary of energy, Rick Perry proved to be, well, a survivor in the sausage grinder that passes for Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

He’s about to leave office under his own power. He’s walking way because he chose to do so, not because Donald Trump kicked him out. Believe me, given the president’s record of booting top-level officials to the curb, that is no small feat.

How has he done as energy boss, running an agency he once targeted for elimination were he elected president in 2012 — and which he (in)famously forgot to mention when he sought to list the agencies he would eliminate? Not bad, but not great.

My biggest bone to pick with him is that he was virtually silent in pushing alternative energy development. That was not what occurred on his watch as Texas governor, when he presided over the state’s ascent to leading the nation in the development of wind energy. OK, so his governorship wasn’t a total loser.

His energy secretary tenure featured none of that kind of leadership, which I find a major disappointment.

However, he is able to walk away from the Cabinet without being forced out. That is a relatively important aspect of his departure from public office.

He wants to come home. I guess he wants to do something else. Maybe spend “more time with the family.” I don’t know.

There might be some questions to answer, though, as his name has gotten entangled in that Ukraine matter involving his soon-to-be former political benefactor, Donald Trump … the man he once described as a “cancer on conservatism.”

Keep your phone close by, Mr. Secretary. Congress might be on the other end of a call.

‘Jury tampering’ mixes with political necessity

I have laid out already the notion that the president of the United States, while launching a charm offensive with potential U.S. Senate trial “jurors,” might have committed an act of jury tampering.

However, I also am enough of a realist to understand that presidents who seek to govern effectively need to talk to legislators about the enactment of bills that become the law of the land.

Thus, Donald Trump is facing a serious governance quandary as he awaits the near-certain impeachment of him by the U.S. House of Representatives. The House then would hand it off to the Senate, which will put the president on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Trump met with GOP senators this week to talk about the impeachment trial that is sure to occur. What did he discuss? Did he seek to persuade them to stand by him? That sounds like jury tampering to me.

However, what about their legislative initiative? Or the president’s legislative agenda? Or the agendas awaiting action by Republicans and, oh yes, Democrats in the Senate?

Were the president to invite senators to the White House to discuss those issues — and stay far away from the impeachment trial that will be looming soon in the Senate — well, that would be OK with me.

That, of course, requires that the president understand how government works and how he must be able to compartmentalize the issues that lay before him. President Clinton was able to do that when the House impeached him in 1998. This president is consumed by the impeachment battle and it is getting in the way of him doing the job to which he was elected.

Sigh …

Impeachment inquiry confirms many of our worst fears about POTUS

As I watch the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry drama unfold, I am drawn back to what many of us said about this man when he declared his presidential candidacy.

We said he was unfit for office. We wondered how in the name of political sanity could this guy ever get elected to anything, let alone to the presidency of the United States. We feared the worst about this guy’s instincts.

I do not relish watching this drama play itself out, let alone delivering evidence that our worst fears are being revealed to all the world.

Yes, I am acutely aware that not everyone shares the view of many of us. Many other Americans are lining up behind this guy. They are attacking the process that has produced the impeachment inquiry. They question the motives, even the patriotism and love of country of many of Donald Trump’s critics.

But at the base of all this drama we are left with wondering about the core values of the man who scored arguably the most remarkable political fluke in U.S. history by being elected to the only public office he ever sought.

He brought not one single moment of public service to the 2016 presidential campaign. He crafted his entire adult life around one goal: self-enrichment. He worried exclusively about his own fortune. He didn’t know a thing about the complexities of governing, let alone how the nation’s government was constructed.

Now we are in the midst of an inquiry to determine whether he should be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” What lies at the base of those crimes? Complete ignorance, or perhaps willful flouting, of what the Constitution prohibits.

It doesn’t allow a president to solicit foreign governments for political favors. That is what has been alleged against Donald Trump. Nor does it allow a president to profit from his public office. That allegation hasn’t been made formally, but it well might be in the offing once the House completes its impeachment inquiry.

This all arcs back in my mind to the very questions that so many millions of us had from the very beginning of this man’s candidacy for America’s highest and most exalted public office.

Donald John Trump had no business being elected to this office. Yet he was elected. He had some unforeseen help, to be sure. We now are watching the drama resulting from that election play out before our eyes.

It isn’t pretty. However, none of us should turn away. We need to stay alert and engaged while awaiting the final curtain.

And yes, many of us saw this drama coming.