The Dallas Morning News. Sept. 12, 2016.
Public has a right to medical records of presidential candidates
The nation is about to elect one of its oldest presidents. On inauguration day, Donald Trump would be 70, the oldest president ever elected. Hillary Clinton would be 69, the second-oldest president, right behind Ronald Reagan.
There are many indicators of a candidate's ability to endure the stresses of the presidency beyond medical records. Nonetheless, a president's health matters — and the public has a vested interest in seeing candidates' detailed health history.
It is ironic that we have gotten to this point after a few weeks of medical nonsense — a whispering campaign that Clinton has some sort of disqualifying illness, a half-baked letter from Trump's doctor that was dashed off in five minutes as a limousine waited. But when Clinton slumped at a Sept. 11 memorial this weekend and had to be helped into a van, the incident reinforced how important transparency is when it comes to presidential candidates' health.
We've been down this path before. In 1992, after months of media pressure, candidate Bill Clinton gave his doctors permission to discuss his health records publicly. Yes, there were a few embarrassing details — hemorrhoids, weight fluctuation and troubles with cholesterol — but the disclosure took off the table questions about his health and endurance to lead the country. Bill Clinton didn't think of this as an invasion of privacy. "The public has a right to know the condition of the president's health," he said in 1996.
Voters deserve to know more about candidates' health, too. Without being morbid, eight presidents have died in office, four from natural causes. Americans today live longer than in previous generations, but the responsibility that goes with making world-changing decisions demands as sound a mind and body as possible.
Despite a pneumonia diagnosis Friday, Clinton kept up a demanding schedule. That's understandable for a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. But after video was released of her stumble Sunday, her campaign took an hour and a half to release information — and initially said she was suffering from the heat.
Was Clinton trying to put on a good face after Trump raised questions about her stamina? Did she allow him to force her hand? In the end, the path she chose likely only fed the health rumors.
"I think that in retrospect, we could have handled it better in terms of providing more information more quickly," Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said. We agree.
It is up to each voter to decide what is most relevant in a presidential candidate's background. Voters deserve as full a profile as possible about a future president's health before they go to the polls.
Clinton and Trump have both pledged to release additional medical records this week; voters deserve as much.
San Antonio Express-News. Sept. 12, 2016.
Trump, Putin and the danger ahead
Among the more enduring oddities of this presidential campaign will be the bro-mance between GOP nominee Donald Trump and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
In a televised forum last week testing the commander-in-chief chops of the two major party presidential candidates, Trump again became apologist-in-chief for the Russian leader.
While Hillary Clinton, confronted with her appreciation for secrecy in communications, did not come away unscathed, Trump simply flunked on a number of fronts. He said the U.S. should have seized oil from Iraq during the invasion. He failed to disavow his claim to know more about ISIS than U.S. generals, whom he wants to fire. He said that intelligence briefers told him through body language that they "were not happy" with President Barack Obama.
But his remarks on Putin were particularly disturbing. There is high confidence that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Authorities warn that more Russian cyber-mischief in U.S. elections could be afoot. Putin seized Crimea and, in the Ukraine, is fighting a war by proxy and with covert boots on the ground. A Russian-made missile shot down Malaysian Flight MH17, killing 283.
Putin militarily backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, giving that murderous regime — and ISIS — breathing space. Putin's political enemies are murdered.
After the moderator tried to detail some of Putin's excesses, Trump said, "Do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?"
As with much of what Trump said during the forum, this should have not gone unchallenged. But it would have been more revealing of Trump than the president — revealing the GOP nominee as not just clueless but dangerous. Again.
Houston Chronicle. Sept. 7, 2016.
Border security? Diversion of DPS troopers is short-changing public safety in other parts of the state
Remember those campaign commercials that blanketed television airwaves a couple of years ago showing fear-mongering politicians scowling across the Rio Grande, trying to look tough as they vowed to "secure the border"?
Grab your wallet. Those guys are now running the show in Austin, and they're spending your money like spring-breakers on a border-town drinking binge.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which is already running the nation's largest state program to patrol the Mexican border, wants yet another whopping hike in its bloated budget for border security. With about $750 million already allocated for this program during the next two-year period, the DPS wants almost $300 million more to hire 250 more troopers, install 5,000 more cameras, upgrade cybersecurity and counterterrorism initiatives and replace 1,240 vehicles, four airplanes and two helicopters. If you've lost count, that'll boost the two-year tab for this DPS budget bonanza to more than $1 billion.
Never mind the crucial fact that state troopers aren't empowered to enforce federal immigration laws. They're still talking about spending a billion dollars to flood the border with even more cops who can't bust illegal immigrants for being illegal immigrants.
Just think about that number. As Mike Ward in our Austin bureau pointed out ("DPS requests a nearly $300 million budget increase for border security," Page A1, Aug. 30), $1 billion is about what Texas spends on all its psychiatric hospitals. That's roughly what it costs to feed free lunches to two-thirds of our state's public school students.
Instead, the DPS proposes to send more personnel to an area where there are already so many state troopers, local citizens are rolling their eyes and joking about how hotel owners are hitting the jackpot on the taxpayers' dime. Drivers along highways approaching the border report seeing DPS cars parked a mile apart on the roadside. On some streets in Rio Grande City, a local newspaper editor reports seeing troopers sitting in their cars just a block apart.
This saturation deployment of DPS troopers even has some local law enforcement authorities in border counties complaining it's a waste of money. That alone speaks volumes. Meanwhile, the diversion of troopers to the border is short-changing public safety in other parts of the state. At a House Appropriations Committee hearing in July, Col. Steve McGraw, the director of the DPS, conceded that other areas of Texas are being left with inadequate protection because the state's elected leaders are demanding more badges and guns on the border.
Here's the problem with those politicians who promised to "secure the border." They haven't defined what that means, so they've opened a bottomless pit into which they're shoveling more and more of our tax dollars without a clearly prescribed goal. And like any bureaucracy, DPS officials pressured by lawmakers to put more resources on the border will keep on asking for more and more money until somebody tells them enough is enough.
What we have here is the exact opposite of the conservative principles espoused by those politicians whose campaign commercials showed them scowling across the Rio Grande. This is big spending on bigger government. And so far, we haven't seen any proof the investment is paying off.
Texas lawmakers should reject this billion dollar boondoggle. South Texas doesn't need a DPS car parked on every street corner.
The (McAllen) Monitor. Sept. 8, 2016.
SBOE should reject textbook full of racist Mexican-American remarks
There's a general agreement among demographers who are familiar with Texas that the makeup of the people of the Rio Grande Valley represents the future of this country.
So it's baffling that, once again, elected officials in Austin threaten to marginalize South Texas demographics by insulting the history of the fastest-growing segment of the population, in this case through a school textbook that is being considered by the State Board of Education.
The book is entitled, "Mexican American Heritage," and it is rightfully drawing fire from historians for a number of inaccuracies that collectively paint Hispanics in Texas in an unfavorable light.
Exercising one of its most influential roles as an elected body, the SBOE will take a vote during its November meeting on whether to approve this textbook for use in Texas public schools.
For decades this approval process has given the SBOE influence far beyond the borders of Texas. This is because textbook publishers, seeing a lucrative market in serving the state's 5 million public school children, often placate Texas and distribute the textbooks that our board selects to other states with fewer students — and less clout.
In years past, the SBOE had even more substantial influence — and power — because of its ability to influence the state's curriculum.
But political power plays, driven by a social agenda by a majority of the board, caused the Texas Legislature to cut back the board's authority.
Despite this, social activists, who once tried to downplay for Texas children the role of Martin Luther King Jr., in U.S. history, are once again attempting to diminish the contributions of people of color — in this case Hispanics.
"It is an utter shame we must deal with racially offensive academic work," said Ruben Cortez Jr., who represents South Texas on the SBOE and, admirably, is denouncing the textbook.
Earlier this month, Cortez released the results of a study of the textbook that concluded it had 69 factual errors, 42 interpretive errors and 31 errors of omission.
We commend Cortez for waging this battle against a bigotry that is as overt as one passage in the textbook that reads, "In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day's work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of 'manana,' or tomorrow when it came to high-gear production."
We urge residents of the Rio Grande Valley to speak out against this book at this week's public hearings, as well as a final set of hearings set for Nov. 16-18, before the SBOE is set to vote on the textbook.
We call on the South Texas delegation to the Texas Legislature to weigh the actions of the SBOE, which continues to embarrass the state, and consider curtailing the powers of this board — or at least its makeup — to once again to stop it from its political posturing at the expense of our school children.
Finally, we demand that Gov. Greg Abbott denounce this textbook and all that it represents in the name of his Hispanic wife and the millions of Hispanic Texans whom he represents.
Texas has generally been able to steer clear of the ethnic conflicts that have plagued nearby Arizona. The adoption of this textbook would represent a giant step in the direction of Arizona.
It's a step that the people of the Rio Grande Valley should not have to take on behalf of social bigotry emanating from Austin.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Sept. 10, 2016.
Another view on what to do during anthem
"It marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. It rocketed into space on the shoulder patches of women, gays, Hispanic, Asian and African American astronauts."
What is "it"?
This isn't a quiz, and that question is why normally we don't start a sentence with "it."
So let us end the false suspense: "It" is the American flag. The quote belongs to Retired Admiral William McRaven, American hero and chancellor of the University of Texas System. We lifted it out of context — for that we apologize — because it moved us nearly to tears.
It was part of McRaven's impassioned plea for Longhorn athletes not to use the national anthem as a protest vehicle in imitation of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The admiral would prefer, strongly, that athletes "stand up straight" and "place their hand over their heart as a sign of respect to the nation" during the anthem, according to his memo.
It was a request, not an order. He fought and, frankly, killed in the service of upholding freedom of expression. (McRaven planned the raid that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.)
McRaven recognizes fully that Kaepernick is exercising his right to free expression, and would not infringe on UT players' right to do the same.
But he, too, has a right to share his strong opinion, and he did it in such an eloquent, moving manner that we felt compelled to share it. We cherry-picked the quote we used as our first paragraph because it points out people who felt the sting of oppression, yet chose to display and honor rather than disrespect the flag during their own statements of protest.
"Those that believe the flag represents oppression should remember all the Americans who fought to eliminate bigotry, racism, sexism, imperialism, communism, and terrorism," McRaven wrote.
"While no one should be compelled to stand," the retired admiral wrote, "they should recognize that by sitting in protest to the flag they are disrespecting everyone who sacrificed to make this country what it is today — as imperfect as it might be."
Remember those words — "as imperfect as it might be." The people who waved flags when they marched with Dr. King understood. So did suffragists, buffalo soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen — groups of people cited by McRaven because they honored the country that treated them as second-class. The country was not their enemy. The country was them. And the flag represents the country.
That's why they stood and waved it — for the same reasons Kaepernick sits out the anthem in protest. He's no more defiant than they were. That said, we respect Kaepernick's right and recognize his outrage at oppression of people of color to be righteous.
Kaepernick's protest has received its share of attention from the nation and from us. McRaven's words moved us to do the same for him. He said what he had to say — better than we could have said it for him. We salute the admiral and his message.