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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

October 31, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Oct. 27, 2017.

Evidently Rosamaria Hernandez, 10, who has cerebral palsy and recently had gall bladder surgery at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, is one bad hombre.

Rosamaria has been a U.S. resident since she was three months old. Immigration authorities discovered her undocumented status at a checkpoint in Freer when she was being transferred from Laredo to Corpus Christi, accompanied by a relative who is a U.S. citizen.

The feds couldn’t just turn the ambulance back to Laredo and her back to Mexico. Her situation was a medical emergency. So they escorted the ambulance to the hospital and waited at the hospital until they could take her into custody. Leaving her with relatives who are U.S. citizens wouldn’t have been the letter-of-the-law thing to do. It only would have been the right thing to do, fully within immigration authorities’ discretion. They could have deployed their resources where they might actually be useful for national security. Being able to look themselves in the mirror and sleep at night would have been mere added bonuses.

Instead they took Rosamaria to a detention center in San Antonio that purportedly can accommodate her medical needs. The time she has been away from her mother, who also is undocumented, is the longest the two have been apart. The mother is avoiding having to go through a border checkpoint.

This girl does not make a convincing criminal or threat to national security. Could federal officials’ fixation on her reflect any more poorly on them, or on the Trump administration for fostering the soulless enforcement posture that has led to this? Could it reflect any more poorly on us as an alleged nation of immigrants?

The ugly truth is that there are people who applaud the enforcement effort against Rosamaria, and who don’t think the resources could have been better spent elsewhere. A look at the Facebook comments on our stories about Rosamaria confirms it. Some people want her and her family sent to Mexico posthaste and a bill for all of her expenses sent with them.

These people are by no means a majority, as the popular vote in the presidential election confirmed. But they are a significant minority and they are steadfast. They are as insulted by her and her mother’s presence in the United States as we are by the way our government is treating this case.

What the government is doing goes against its own policy, which is to avoid enforcement actions in what we all should agree is an inappropriate place or event. Examples: schools, places of worship, hospitals and public events. Veering from this policy is supposed to require either the before-the-fact approval of a higher-up, or emergency circumstances.

We fail to see why Rosamaria or her mother would be among the exceptions. And we are not alone in this. It is precisely why this is a local story that has become a national story. The facts add up to bafflement and dismay.

And they expose how divided we are as a nation. There are those who are offended by what the government is doing and those who are offended by Rosamaria and her mother and who consider the two of them to be scam artists trying to bilk U.S. taxpayers. Those people elected a president, largely on this issue.

We wish we could conduct an experiment in which the people who say they’d like to send Rosamaria and her big medical bills back to Mexico could have the opportunity to tell her that in person. Not her mother. Just her. Because this is about her, an innocent 10-year-old. It’s also about us and the kind of people we are.

We think the outcome of this experiment would be cathartic. We think it would unmask goodness lurking under callous exteriors. At the very least, it would change the tone of the conversation, which is to say that maybe there actually could be a conversation rather than a shouting match.

Whatever becomes of Rosamaria, she and her story have done a great service to this nation by confronting us. She has taken Trump policy and attitudes toward immigration from the abstract to the real. She has exposed the immediacy of the need for real immigration reform. We desperately need laws and enforcement policies that allow exceptions for situations like hers — laws and policies as compassionate as we as a nation aspire to be.

Immigration authorities say they were just doing their job. But placing a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who has lived in this country all but the first three months of her life in detention, separating her from her family, and starting removal proceedings on her is a dirty job. No one, really, has to do it.


Waco Tribune-Herald. Oct. 28, 2017.

If you need a discouraging example of the growing rift threatening the Republican Party’s long-term future, you need not look to the chaos of Washington. Consider the bombshell Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently dropped when he announced his decision not to seek another term as a state representative. If you’re a Republican who believes social issues and “family values” from a fundamentally Christian perspective should define the Republican Party and Texas life, you cheered Straus’ announcement. If you’re a Republican who believes that politicians should stay out of our bedrooms and bathrooms and that they should instead help invigorate the business climate, public education and tomorrow’s workforce, you may well be contemplating relocation to another state.

Whatever you think of Straus’ brand of conservatism, there’s no doubt he offered a worthy model of governance. Elected speaker in 2009 by a coalition of Democrats and some common-sense conservatives in the Republican Party, Straus governed accordingly. While the Texas Senate has become more impractical and unapologetically partisan under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the House has allowed Republicans and Democrats to share in governance with resulting legislation better reflecting the diversity of Texas. We have debated strongly for this model in the U.S. House with influential Republican Congressman Bill Flores, but he remains loyal to the so-called Hastert Rule, a model for tawdry partisanship. Now some Republicans seek to bring such destructive partisanship to the Texas House.

Ideological right-wingers dismiss House Speaker Straus as a RINO — “Republican In Name Only” — but in fact he harkens back to an authentic, old-fashioned vein of Republicanism that believed in less governance and fewer regulations, both in business and daily life. For instance, Texas’ business community cheered his opposition to the “bathroom bill” because, for all the Bible-thumping rhetoric of Patrick and his ilk, no one furnished evidence hordes of transgender people are preying on women and children in public restrooms. And one cherished tenet of conservatism holds that you don’t pass laws without a proven need for them. On the other hand, this newspaper soured on Straus after his fealty to the business community clouded his good judgment on an even greater priority: safeguarding transparency when it comes to taxpayer dollars mixing with private endeavors.

Straus isn’t leaving with the outrage shown in Washington by fellow departing Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Flake. He insists that he wants to explore other opportunities — he’s 58 — and that he believes elected officials shouldn’t hold office forever. Fair enough. Yet, given that candidates regularly claim they’re pursuing public service in the manner one serves in the military, one is entitled to ask if Straus and other Republicans concerned about extremism in the party aren’t heading for the home front just as the battle intensifies. Whatever House Republicans and Democrats do in 2019, Joe Straus’ absence will rob both Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott of a convenient Republican foil — and thus test their own political prudence and statesmanship.


The Eagle. Oct. 29, 2017.

Lewis Carroll could not have dreamed up today’s political climate. We have gone down a rabbit hole that has taken us not to a wonderland but to an ugly place full of hate and derision. Alice would not be happy.

There was a time when men and woman of principle and character were sought out by the electorate. We knew they would work hard for us, would put country before party, before self.

Not any longer. We seek out politicians who cater to our basest nature, who seek to divide, to anger, to debase.

Now, those who rise above party, who stand up for principles, who speak to our better nature are ostracized. They are ignored, they are dismissed and, lately they are threatened with defeat at the polls.

It is frightening to Americans who cherish the system established by our Founders, a system that has made us the envy of much of the world.

America became that “shining city on the hill,” as Ronald Reagan called us on the eve of his inauguration, because men and women of principle worked hard, talked with each other and, eventually reached compromise. They understood that ideas could and should be debated honestly, that give and take was healthy, that getting some of what they wanted was better than getting none.

Democrats and Republicans always had their extremes, those for whom it is all or nothing. For them, politics is a blood sport, a winner-take-all contest that serves no one well.

Fortunately, more moderate leaders in both parties understand that America governs best from the center. But that center is narrowing, disappearing to politics of exclusion rather than inclusion.

And those leaders who clung to the middle are being rejected, threatened with defeat.

On the national stage, leaders such as American hero John McCain of Arizona, his Senate colleague Jeff Flake, also of Arizona, and Bob Corker of Tennessee all have spoken out against the politics of division, have warned of a president who governs by threat, by derision, by contempt. All three know there time in Congress is limited, McCain by serious illness and Flake and Corker by obvious defeat in elections a year from now. Rather than spend considerable time, effort and money on a losing fight, they have announced their decisions not to seek re-election. This has freed them to speak truth to power, and that they have done, eloquently and loudly. We ignore them at our peril.

On the state level, we learn of the decision by House Speaker Joe Straus — a man of strength and decency and courage — not to seek re-election next year. It is a loss, a huge loss, for all Texans. Rather than spend his time and efforts running a likely losing race, Straus said he will “continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of pulling us apart.”

Straus said he will work to “be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.”

We wish him well. Boy, do we wish him well.

We understand the frustrations of those on the far right, the tea party folks who have changed the focus of politics. For too long they have felt — and have been — ignored by the politicians. The issues they care about have not been heard in Austin and in Washington. They are right to be angry, but they are using their anger to hold the government hostage, to prevent our nation from moving forward for all of us. Their blind fealty to a president who, at best, has not been the leader they had sought and that America needs has hurt our standing in the world at a time the world needs a strong America more than ever.

Do not mourn for Joe Straus, for Jeff Flake, for Bob Corker. They have made their decision not to run.

Rather mourn for the rest of who are left struggling for brave, sensible leaders to fill the void they are leaving.

Where are we heading as a country? Republicans are in a feeding frenzy on their own party. Democrats are in a lather over what might have happened on Election Day 2016, so intent on scrutinizing the past that they cannot be bothered with the future.

God bless America.



Houston Chronicle. Oct. 30, 2017.

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Those words were made famous by U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., in the midst of the Watergate hearings. Now, as the nation lives through the 21st century reboot of that political scandal, the question must be asked yet again.

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and longtime associate Rick Gates pleaded not guilty on Monday to 12 federal charges, including failure to disclose work on behalf of a foreign government and illegal international money laundering before and during the 2016 campaign. Manafort has long drawn scrutiny due to his close relationship with Ukrainian oligarchs backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. We’re waiting to see if Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn faces similar charges for failing to disclose his own foreign advocacy work after receiving significant payments from Russian-linked companies.

However, the real bombshell in Monday’s news involved the now-revealed guilty plea by George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser, on charges of making false statements to the FBI. The extensive charging documents show that, after being brought on by the Trump campaign, Papadopoulos had been contacted by an overseas professor and offered information about thousands of emails stolen from the Hillary Clinton campaign. The hacking only became public knowledge months later. Papadopoulos also said that his campaign boss had encouraged him to visit with Russian government officials in person, and that the Trump campaign had approved a meeting with Putin’s office.

Shortly afterward, Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner held their now-infamous meeting with representatives of the Russian government.

These sworn facts lend support to the core allegations aimed at Trump: The president and his campaign colluded in Russia’s break-in of email servers and subsequent election interference. Yet again, more than 40 years after Watergate, the American people deserve to know whether their president is a crook. Congress can ensure that the nation gets an answer by passing legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation from executive interference. Trump has made no secret of his willingness to meddle in this Russia probe — his firing of former FBI Director James Comey is what triggered Mueller’s inquiry in the first place.

One member of Team Trump has pleaded guilty. Two face charges. Others will likely follow. Congress must help Mueller see this through to the end.


The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 30, 2017.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller thinks he’s a pretty funny guy.

So much so that he touts as one of the perks for following his public Facebook page the chance to read his regular “joke of the day.”

His idea of a belly laugh Sunday: Have you heard the one about a depressed person calling a suicide hotline and getting an opportunity to enlist as a terrorist martyr?

That’s a real knee-slapper.

The bar for calling out the state’s agriculture commissioner has to be a high one, otherwise a news organization would need to assign a writer to the Miller beat full-time. He keeps his social-media spigot wide open, and his gusher of commentary regularly offends even the most reasonable people.

But settling on suicide — not to mention broad-brushing Pakistanis as terrorists — as the topic for the joke of the day crosses the line into mean-to-the-point-of-dangerous territory.

If depression and a prevention hotline are laughing matters to Miller, perhaps has never known a person who has suffered mental illness. Nor spent any time with the family and friends of the thousands of Texans who commit suicide each year.

In 2015, the most recent year for which state suicide numbers are available, 3,403 of Miller’s fellow Texans took their own lives. That’s more than double the number killed by homicides, according to a June analysis from the University of Texas system and UT Health Northeast.

For those ages 15 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death; for ages 15 to 64, taking one’s own life was the fourth-leading cause of death.

Not only is suicide a serious topic, ridicule of those living with mental illness is a perfect example of what allows the perpetuation of the stigma around it.

Because Miller peddles so much garbage on his Facebook page, it would be easy to just write the post off to his simply behaving true to character. But this time we must speak up.

As a newspaper that has devoted considerable editorial space to spreading the truth that diseases of the brain are no different than diseases of other parts of the body, we find it deeply disturbing that a state leader thinks this topic qualifies as humor.

A hat tip to our former colleague Bobby Blanchard, who now runs the Texas Tribune’s social media operation and first spotted the Miller joke of the day.

The item disappeared from the commissioner’s page later Sunday. Whether Miller took it down or Facebook removed it, we don’t yet know. His office has not responded to our call for comment.

Here’s our suggestion to Miller: Step away from your social media funny business and spend a few hours observing at a suicide call center. Or better yet, ride along with one of Travis County’s mobile crisis outreach teams.

Then reevaluate just how funny your Oct. 29 joke of the day was.

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