Cal Thomas

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What just happened? President Trump cut a deal with Democrats to pay for hurricane damage relief and raise the debt ceiling without getting anything in return, except the temporary avoidance of a government shutdown. How to describe this? Was it a sellout, or a pragmatic act? It's football season again, so let's call this deal the "option play." It isn't used much by today's professional players, but the play is designed to give a quarterback the option of running the ball, or, if he sees he can't make it through the defensive line, toss it to a player trailing behind him in an effort to gain yards.


ISTANBUL -- Coming from the airport into this city of about 15 million people and 5 million cars, as my driver describes it, I pass ancient Roman ruins and blocks of upscale shops; an old hotel where Agatha Christie penned "Murder on the Orient Express," smoke shops and modest restaurants, and luxury car dealers. It is a metaphor for the choices Turks are being forced to make under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: forward to a better future and a recapture of their secular state, or back to a nostalgic past when Islam was the official religion of the Ottoman Empire.


What is it about the month of August that finds so many celebrities dying? Just this month we've seen the passing of Glen Campbell, Barbara Cook, Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis. Thomas Meehan, who wrote the book for the musical "Annie," died last week. Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962 (though she "lives" on in so many ways). Elvis Presley died in August 1977. He, too, lives on, though it now costs $28.75 just to walk by his burial plot at Graceland.


"The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." -- Friedrich Hegel We will learn even less from history if we wipe it clean, as some are trying to do by removing statues of Confederate leaders whose beliefs about slavery and race most, including me, find offensive. Conversation beats censorship.


In the South during the Jim Crow era, the "one-drop rule," codified into law, asserted that if a person had just one drop of African-American blood, they were considered "black." I wonder what we'd learn if we gave former KKK leader David Duke and the "white nationalists" who caused havoc in Charlottesville last Saturday a DNA test to determine their racial makeup?


In biblical times, a sanctuary city was a place where someone who had committed unintentional manslaughter could find refuge from "the avenger of blood." If the offender left the sanctuary city, he could be set upon by a relative of the dead person and killed. No sanctuary was available to anyone who committed murder with malice aforethought.


One month after the election, President-elect Donald Trump made a "victory tour" of states that had helped deliver his surprise win. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, Trump introduced his choice for Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, and pledged the following: "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with. Instead, our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will."


The Establishment, a construct of Democrats and Republicans that rules in Washington no matter which party controls government, appears to be over its fainting spell following Donald Trump's election. It is now throwing everything at him from a daily -- make that hourly, even minute by minute -- onslaught of investigations to big media's equivalent of Molotov cocktails.


Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to eliminate governmental waste and fraud, just released its "2017 Congressional Pig Book," an annual publication highlighting wasteful government spending that should embarrass each and every member of Congress.


While scanning YouTube videos, I came across an appearance by Ronald Reagan on The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson. The year was 1975 and Reagan was "between jobs," having left office as governor of California, where he served for eight years, but not yet president. He would challenge Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976, barely losing at the nominating convention, but setting himself up for what would be a successful run in 1980.


Anyone looking for another reason not to leave life-and-death issues to the state need look no further than the conflict between the British government and the parents of 11-month-old Charlie Gard. Governments, including the British courts and the European court of human rights have refused to allow Charlie's parents to take him to the U.S. for what they believe is life-saving treatment.


"Where there is no vision, the people perish..." (Proverbs 29:18) In 1987 when he was contemplating a run for president, Vice President George H.W. Bush was criticized for his inability to articulate an agenda for the country. A friend suggested he spend a weekend alone at Camp David to figure out where he would take the nation. "Oh, the vision thing," Bush replied disparagingly. Though he won the 1988 election, the quote would haunt him.


President Trump once referred to the health care bill passed by the House as "mean." So how should we characterize his remarks about MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski? The president of the United States, reacting to her criticism of him, claimed Brzezinski was "bleeding" from a facelift when he saw her last New Year's Eve at his Florida resort. He further described her as being "dumb as a rock." That's worse than mean. It's cruel.


Is there anyone who can point to the "Affordable Care Act" (aka Obamacare) and credibly claim it is accomplishing the goals set for it seven years ago? Insurers are pulling out of the exchanges, premiums and related costs are going up, not down, as supporters of the misnamed law claimed they would. Many people who like their doctors are not being allowed to keep their doctors.


“Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1 KJV) That didn't take long. Less than 48 hours after the shooting rampage targeting Republican members of Congress and their staff on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, followed by the picture of Republicans and Democrats kneeling in prayer at Nationals Park before their annual charity game, things returned to normal...or abnormal.


In television it's called a "loop," the replaying of the same scene over and over and over again. The latest and most assuredly not the final terrorist attack in London last weekend was a "loop" that has become all-too familiar. The jihadists who claimed to be acting on orders from their god, killed at least seven and injured more than 45 others, some critically, with a brazen attack on London Bridge and in a nearby pub.


For sheer hilarity and hyperbole it's hard to beat a recent headline on a Washington Post editorial opposing President Trump's decision to remove the U.S. from the nonbinding and unenforceable Paris climate agreement. "Trump turns his back on the world," it screamed. A close second goes to the headline on a New York Times piece by columnist David Brooks: "Donald Trump Poisons the World."


The terrorism scenario is always the same. Events repeat themselves, like in the film Groundhog Day. First the video of screaming innocents, as in Manchester, England, where an Islamist detonated a suicide bomb at an Ariana Grande concert, killing at least 22 people, many of them children, and wounding dozens of others.


Roger Ailes was no genius, not in the league of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. The founding chairman of Fox News Channel, who died last week from complications after suffering a fall, understood and respected Middle America from whence he came.

 


The ransomware cyberattack that wormed its way into at least 74 countries recently exposed new vulnerabilities in the UK's National Health Service (NHS), as if it weren't vulnerable enough. Hospital systems in England and Scotland were taken offline. Major operations were delayed, causing frustration and additional worry to patients who spoke to TV interviewers.