An Open Letter to My U.S. Senators

Dear Senators Cornyn and Cruz:

I just watched you through a news camera’s lens from a distance as you welcomed the president to El Paso. It was your duty, certainly, as our state’s United States senators. But you have another duty that bears on your relationship with the president and your party. And you should be cognizant of how that relationship looks to the people you represent.

The people bullies need most and respect least are cowards. And you have met the president’s need for cowards time and time again. I think you can be better than that or I would not be writing.

I am a constituent of yours. And while we most often disagree on policy and legislation, I am nevertheless entitled to your most basic services. And perhaps the most crucial one is simply that you show courage in the performance of your duties.

The voters of Texas have entrusted you with the job of discerning what is best for Texas and America. What I am asking you to do is to sit down with members of the Senate, including the minority, your senate leadership and the president to make some meaningful decisions about how we confront domestic terrorism, racism and gun violence in our country. And I expect you to stand up to the president and the majority leader and tell them when they are wrong about the needs of the people you represent.

What happened this weekend in El Paso can’t be blamed on video games, mental health, “fake news” or social media. Gun violence at the level of horror we saw in El Paso begins with the largely unregulated marketing of powerful instruments of war to the mass market. The motive is money, not constitutional rights. Don’t look to your party and the NRA to tell you what to do. Do what is right. Do your job.

The prerequisite for any legislative solution is that you demonstrate moral integrity and enough spine to disagree with the president and the NRA.

Texans have a right to expect this from their United States Senators.

Thank you.

Lake Jackson Citizen

The Democratic Debates: A Team of Rivals?

Watching both nights of the Democratic presidential debates last week was informative and exhausting. Even more exhausting, although not as informative, were the hours of commentary offered by some of America’s best journalists. I have stolen a few of their thoughts and grafted them into my own commentary. If you are a politics junky of the MS-NBC persuasion, you may spot a few of my borrowings. You have no standing to sue me and I can’t be impeached. So just read on.

In my post last week, I confessed a partiality to Elizabeth Warren, although I made a commitment to watching the debates with an open mind. I am certain that all of my many readers have been waiting anxiously for my conclusions and advice. 

Well, I can’t help you that much. I concluded, like most folks,  that Bernie and Joe came across as a little tired. Though they be a little worn out, I still hoist my Bernie mug and my Obama mug (Was there ever a Biden mug?) with pride any time I sip a cup of tea. Although I think a lot of both gentlemen, I confess to a little ageism that I am permitted only because I know exactly what it feels like to wake up and face every morning with 75 years of history pulling you down and informed by the knowledge that gravity never loses. So, let’s take a look at some of the other candidates.

Elizabeth Warren proved once again that she is a fighter for social justice and building an economy and government that serve the people, not just those wonderful corporate entities the Supreme Court has lately endowed with rights we once thought applied only to individual citizens and residents. She demonstrated well thought out policy proposals, passion and a willingness to go forth and fight. She has never been one to give up when confronting a bully. 

These debates ought not be evaluated as performances, yet it is an unavoidable standard when the survivor is likely be forced to go up against an incumbent for whom this whole enterprise is nothing more than poorly produced television for tired old white men. Warren meets the standard of political performance art and even makes it appealing to the larger demographic that would include women, minorities, LGBTQ voters, the poor and thinking people of all identities. EW is solid gold. Go Cougars!

But then there was Kamala Harris. What she did to that nice man who used to work for President Obama was almost frightening. I would hate to have to face her as a defendant in a courtroom. And if you agree with me that what Donald J. Trump needs more than anything is to face off with a good prosecuting attorney, then I will suggest to you that Kamala Harris would be the one to do the job. She is fearless, brutally logical, and and quick to the attack, all the while respectful and able to use her expansive vocabulary with withering effectiveness. Better be ready to duck, Donald. She won’t be upstaged.

Julian Castro presents himself as a serious candidate, well rooted in national politics and very capable of taking on a more challenging leadership role. And there was Eric Swalwell, young but well schooled with his serious participation on House Intelligence and judiciary committees. And there is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, And Beto O’Rourke. And so many more. 

As I watched them through the two nights of debate, I recalled the premise of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s analysis of the Abraham Lincoln’s genius use of his political rivals after the election of 1860. In Team of Rivals (Simon and Schuster, 2005), Goodwin tells how Lincoln pulled talented opponents into his circle of advisers when it was time to take charge of the government. William H. Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon P. Chase were Lincoln’s opponents in the contest for the Republican nomination. Yet he didn’t ignore them and treat them as “losers”. He asked them to join forces with him to do the nation’s work during its time of greatest strife.

Seward became his secretary of state, Chase, his secretary of treasury and Bates, his attorney general. 

He also brought some former Democrats into cabinet positions, including Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war. As Goodwin points out in her introduction (p. xvi), most of these men had credentials and achievements that far exceeded those of the country lawyer from Illinois who had pulled off the upset victory for the nomination and election. 

Lincoln’s great self-confidence and dedication to the task of preserving the Union allowed him to marshal the country’s best talent in service of that goal.

Could 21st Century Democrats do the same following success in the 2020 election? They would be well positioned with the fine set of competitors I saw among the twenty who presented on Tuesday and Wednesday night last week. One commentator (I do not remember who) suggested that one of the least known of the candidates, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, would make an excellent Secretary of Defense. She served as an army officer in Iraq and, in the House of Representatives, on the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Financial Services Committees. I don’t believe she is at all intimidated by the Trump Gang. And she would certainly be a better Secretary of Defense than the one DJT has currently serving in that office.

Oh, I forgot. It’s one of several vacancies he is carrying while he, Ivanka, and Jared do it all.

There was plenty of talent on the stage both nights of the debate. I think the party will be primed to install a competent government once again when they take the presidency in 2020. President Obama was wise to appoint HRC as his Secretary of State after defeating her for the presidential nomination in 2008. It was a script he borrowed from our favorite Republican, Abe Lincoln. This time we have a whole cabinet full of good talent.

That is the main thing I took away from the debates last week. 

That and the fact that any one of them will take more ability and honor to the office than the current incumbent. Yes, Maryanne Williamson, if you secure the nomination you have my vote and total support. 

Here Stands a Clear Winner: Choose the Path of Most Persistence*

In case this link does not take you to this report, find a way to read it. Subscribe if you must. Good journalism deserves your support.

So much of the reporting we see today treats politics as if it were a contest for prize that only the winner of the election can truly enjoy. The rest of us (the supporters at least) have the vicarious thrill for a week or so. It is as if the whole purpose of politics is for our entertainment, yes – much like a horse race.

Elizabeth Warren reminds us that it is about so much more than winning and losing elections. This report from the New York Times Magazine goes into a good bit of depth examining her credentials, her positions and her character. I was sort of a fan when I began reading. I think that I am now completely sold.

Certainly I can identify with her as a University of Houston grad and the importance that the $50 per semester tuition played in our ability to go to college in the early 60s. Beyond that we share some deeply-seated values with respect to the purpose of an economy and the need for regulating free markets.

I will listen to the upcoming debates, but I will be surprised if any other candidate will be able to elaborate consistent policy proposals that resonate with me the way hers do.

*Borrowed from one of the items in the shop on the EW campaign web site. I may have to buy a few of her “Resist Responsibly” ale glasses. Let’s go shopping.


	

Speaker Pelosi: It’s Time.

I read recently in the New York Times that the president paid no taxes during eight of the ten years from 1985 to 1994 when he was writing off losses of $1.17 billion for the decade. The next day he went to his Twitter account to tell us that it was fake news, of course. Then he went on to say that developers took advantage of laws during that period to take big write-offs. They considered it “sport.”

The day of that report I received a letter from the IRS telling me that I had miscalculated my return for 2018 and that I must send a check for $922.73 by May 27 or pay additional interest and penalties. My underpayment was not the result of sporting the government. I made an honest mistake. My check is already written, sent, and cleared my bank.

What is the word for my mood?

Continue reading “Speaker Pelosi: It’s Time.”

There’s a Fire in the Attic . . .

A month ago I sat in front of the television the better part of the day and watched as the roof and spire of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris were ravaged by fire. The entire structure, the beautiful windows, and the immense organ whose notes have been measured to reverberate for a full six seconds at the midrange of the scale — all of it was at risk of destruction.

The shock was immediate as the world looked on. As I watched the fire progress, there was among the people of France and around the world a growing sense of foreboding and sorrow as it appeared that it could all be lost. The cathedral represents one of the spiritual and cultural centers of western civilization. It is irreplaceable.

I feel that way every day as I watch Donald Trump go about his work attempting to destroy American democracy. In fact, the cathedral is an apt metaphor for our constitutional democracy. Continue reading “There’s a Fire in the Attic . . .”

Recommended: Thomas Friedman in the New York Times on Immigration Policy

Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent review of immigration problems, procedures and policies for the New York Times in this morning’s edition. It is listed as an opinion piece but Friedman always writes from a background of solid reporting and this piece provides a comprehensive review of the current situation at the southern border and the likelihood of future developments if we do nothing to change.

Fans of the president may not get beyond his endorsement of the need for physical barriers. That is unfortunate because he makes the point that a wall alone accomplishes little or nothing. However, he also describes places where physical barriers have worked to the advantage of communities on both sides of the border allowing commerce to thrive and homeowners to enjoy their property.

Federal employees whose job it is to enforce our rag-tag immigration policies are underfunded and tasked with carrying out unenforceable laws. Comments you are likely to encounter on FB often present our choice as being between open borders and building a wall. Not so. Life is so much more complicated than that and it gets more complicated the longer we ignore the real problems we share with our neighbors.

(The Friedman article is here. If you cannot read it from this link, you may have to subscribe to the NY Times. Maybe it’s time to throw your support to good journalism.)

Yes, We Have a National Emergency – A Mental Health Emergency.

And if you have any doubts, watch this video from the New York Times web site this morning. We haven’t had a leader with such serious mental health issues since King George III.

Here’s a piece by Jennifer Senior that helped me understand him. From her February 9 column in the New York Times:

I’m not convinced, as some people are, that the Twitter fusillades from the White House are part of a larger strategy of distraction, specifically intended to divert us from this particular administration’s malfeasance and failures. I think our president’s attention span is genuinely scattershot. (“Post-literate,” Michael Wolff called him in “Fire and Fury.” Seems about right.) When I imagine his brain, I imagine a bug zapper in a drizzle. Bzzzzzzzzzzt. Fzzzz. Bzzz fzzz bzzzzzzzzzzt.

And there is this from the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank citing his Rose Garden performance as evidence enough to provoke discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment.