- Written by Dr. Paul Kengor
Before I write this defense of Donald Trump in Poland, let me remind readers—from the right and the left—that I come to this subject with some credibility. Not only have I written many articles and even and Poland but I’ve been highly critical of Donald Trump, especially his past statements on NATO and Russia. My biggest concern about Trump in foreign policy was precisely this area. His gullibility toward Vladimir Putin and the Russians on the campaign trail in 2016 appalled me. I was very fearful (and still am) of a President Trump being manipulated by the Kremlin in a damaging way we haven’t seen from a Republican president. We conservatives have come to expect Democratic presidents to be , from Franklin Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. But we expect better from a Republican president.
In fact, it was exactly this time last year, in July 2016, that Trump revealed Roosevelt-like pretenses when he glowed in one of his silliest Tweets: “Putin likes me.” That was same the language that FDR had used about Stalin as Stalin exploited him. (“He likes me,” Roosevelt boasted to Churchill on March 18, 1942, grinning in self-satisfaction over warm feelings he felt from his pal “Uncle Joe.”)
Trump’s naïveté was not limited to Twitter outbursts. Shortly after that July 25, 2016 Tweet, he appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” where he again engaged in humiliating self-flattery regarding Putin: “He has said nice things about me over the years,” . “I remember years ago, he said something, many years ago, he said something very nice about me.”
Those were just two of many troubling statements by Trump regarding Putin and Russia and NATO allies in 2016, from to his giving the fatal impression that he might not defend certain NATO member countries if they were invaded.
Once Trump was elected, my glimmer of hope was that such awful statements would give way to shrewd advisers that would set him along a firmer policy path and more sensible statements toward our friends in Poland and the Baltic region—the very survivors of the Soviet communist onslaught whose liberation we sought.
Well, that brings me to Trump’s speech in Warsaw last week.
The Donald Trump in Warsaw in July 2017 was so much better than the Trump of July 2016. In fact, I must go further: Trump’s speech in Poland was outstanding.
It is important to understand that I came to that conclusion after reading every line of the speech unfiltered, without listening to a single reaction. I was tasked to analyze the speech by a Polish publication with an immediate turnaround deadline. I didn’t consult anyone. I didn’t gaze at the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC and Fox. Thus, when I later glimpsed the hysterical, warped, —losing their minds over alleged Trump grunts about “Western civilization”—I shook my head in disgust. Especially appalling was the charge that Trump was blowing “” in Warsaw.
It literally pains me to waste time and ink responding to these tirades, which outdo some of the worst examples of Trump’s own hyperbole. They are totally out-of-line and utterly undeserving of a response.
The truth is that this was an excellent speech that Trump made in Poland—and that’s because the speech was on Poland. It was about Poland.
Here’s a stunner for you: Click a and see if you can find the phrase “Western civilization.” It isn’t there. (Yes, it has several references to the “West.”) By contrast, words like “Poland,” “Polish,” and “Poles” appear nearly 70 times. John Paul II was mentioned three times, and thus three times more than Western civilization was mentioned. Copernicus and Chopin and Pulaski and Kosciuszko and George Washington and Ronald Reagan and the Katyn Woods and the Miracle at Vistula were each mentioned more than Western civilization. The Warsaw Ghetto and Warsaw Uprising and the saving of Jews were mentioned 12 times by this loathsome white-nationalist dog-whistler—who paused to hail the special guests in the audience who rescued Poland’s Jews.
Enough of the left-wing hokum and handwringing. What we’re hearing there is less about Trump and Western civ than the left and Western civ. Liberals despise Western civ. They’ve annihilated it in their universities. They refuse to teach it. It is firmly fixed in their crosshairs.
You want a dog whistle? Here it is: Commend Western civ, and then watch liberals go barking mad. It’s precisely that university-trained ideological perversity that prompts mis-educated college students in Indiana to mistake a Dominican friar for a klansman. () It’s what prompts an Ivy League graduate to look at the American Founding and think not of the laws of nature and nature’s God but of trans-phobia.
Enough. Let’s not dignify these political-ideological obsessions. Let’s not take the bait. Now, on to the speech….
The text of Trump’s remarks is roughly 3,600 words, interrupted several times by sustained chants of “Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!” That’s no surprise for anyone who knows anything about Poland, as President Trump’s speechwriter clearly did. If you understand the 20th century crucible that was Poland—the “martyred nation of Poland,” as Ronald Reagan called it—the earthly hell that the Polish people went through, then you’ll appreciate why Poles were so moved by this speech.
It started with the opening, where President Trump called it a “profound honor” to be in Warsaw and in “a Poland that is safe, strong and free.” He told Poles that America “is eager to expand our partnership with you.” It was, he noted, his first visit to Central Europe as president, and specifically to “this magnificent, beautiful piece of land.” He called Poland “the geographic heart of Europe” and the Polish people “the soul of Europe.”
He connected to Poland’s suffering: “Your nation is great because your spirit is great and your spirit is strong. For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks. But while Poland could be invaded and occupied and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land, but you never lost your pride.” He affirmed: “Despite every effort to transform you, oppress you or destroy you, you endured and overcame.”
Trump saluted various Polish “great heroes” and patriots who joined American soldiers from the American Revolution all the way through Afghanistan and Iraq. Said Trump: “The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken and who have never, ever forgotten who they are.”
It truly is. At this point, Trump honored Poland’s remarkable history:
This is a nation more than 1,000 years old. Your borders were erased for more than a century and only restored just one century ago.
In 1920, in the Miracle of Vistula, Poland stopped the Soviet Army bent on European conquest.
Then 19 years later, in 1938 [sic], you were invaded yet again; this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. That’s trouble.
Under a double occupation, the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn Forest Massacre, the occupation, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people.
A vibrant Jewish population, the largest in Europe, was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland's Jewish citizens, along with countless others during that brutal occupation.
In the summer of 1944, the Nazi and Soviet armies were preparing for a terrible and bloody battle right here in Warsaw. Amid that Hell on Earth, the citizens of Poland rose up to defend their homeland.
I am deeply honored to be joined on stage today by veterans and heroes of the Warsaw uprising.
What great spirit.
We salute your noble sacrifice and we pledge to always remember your fight for Poland and for freedom. Thank you. Thank you. […]
From the other side of the river, the Soviet armed forces stopped and waited.
They watched as the Nazis ruthlessly destroyed the city, viciously murdering men, women and children. […]
The Polish martyr Bishop Michal Kozal said it well: “More horrifying of a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.” Through four decades of Communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity; indeed, the very essence of your culture and your humanity.
Yet through it all, you never lost that spirit.
Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken.
Anyone who dares to discern racist “white-nationalism” among these wonderful words of praise to a people who richly earned them needs serious help.
Trump next spoke of Poland’s most famous native son, Karol Wojtyla, who came to Warsaw as the first-ever Slavic pontiff and spoke at Victory Square on June 2, 1979, the start of nine days in Poland that changed history. Trump noted how Poles then had cried out, “We want God:”
The people of Poland, the people of America and the people of Europe still cry out, “We want God.” Together with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God.
Here were good words from an American president—words unheard by Polish ears over the previous eight years under President Barack Obama. And here, mercifully, was a new president who openly called out the “threat” of “radical Islamic terrorism,” here characterized by President Trump as another “oppressive ideology” that, like the “specter of communism,” seeks to “export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.” The 45th president asked for Poland’s help in defeating that “menace.” He said that “a strong Poland is a blessing to the nations of Europe … a blessing to the West, and to the world.”
Trump wrapped up the speech with stirring words that evoked John Paul II’s renowned thoughts of preserving Polish identity, culture, and memory:
Our freedom, our civilization and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture and memory. And today, as ever, Poland is in our heart, and its people are in that fight.
Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph. […]
So together let us all fight like the Poles, for family, for freedom, for country and for God.
Thank you. God bless you, God bless the Polish people, God bless our allies, and God bless the United States of America.
A powerful message.
Even then, President Trump could have said more. For instance, he gave only a passing nod to the NATO joint security commitment, saying clearly but all-too-briefly: “we stand firmly behind Article V, the mutual defense commitment.” That was good to hear, but more needed to be said, especially from this particular speaker in light of his poor statements about NATO on the campaign trail.
Trump also should have said more about bringing Poland back into the joint U.S. missile-defense rubric that Obama dropped on September 17, 2009, the 70th anniversary of Stalin’s Red Army invasion of Poland—one of Obama’s shameless moments of accommodation of Vlad and the Russians. Trump said only, “we applaud Poland for its decision to move forward this week on acquiring from the United States the battle-tested Patriot air and missile defense system, the best anywhere in the world.”
Acquiring? As in, what, buying? The heck with that, man, build a joint missile shield with Poland! Stop the silly “financial obligation” baloney. This is a matter of serious national security, not silly populism for Fox News watchers.
More needs to be said on this from our president.
And likewise, Donald Trump didn’t exactly torch Vladimir Putin in this speech. There was only this small statement on Russia: “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran.”
That was it.
But alas, this speech was clearly intended to be less about drawing out policy than re-forging a bond between the United States and Poland, one that was ripped by the previous president his first year in office.
To be sure, Donald Trump was obviously so vastly better talking about Poland and NATO here than on the campaign trail in 2016 because he was scripted. He was reading words prepared for him by intelligent speechwriters and researchers.
In all, a great speech in Poland, on Poland, and about Poland.
- Written by Eric Sandberg
It was intended to protect consumers from abusive practices by financial services. It was intended to promote financial stability of the U.S. by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, ending too-big-to-fail banks and protecting the American taxpayer by ending bailouts. But nearly seven years after Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, it remains a regulatory nightmare for both consumers and banks.
For banks, Dodd-Frank has resulted in approximately 24,400 pages of proposed and final rules since 2010. The new regulatory atmosphere and increased compliance costs have driven banks to merge in unprecedented numbers. In Texas, which has one of the healthiest economies in the nation, we have lost 159 banks since the law was enacted … and the number is growing. The too-big-to-fail banks, on the other hand, continue to thrive.
For consumers, not only are there fewer banks serving them, translating to diminished access to capital, but increased compliance costs have prompted banks to reduce the services they can offer. The fees banks charge have also increased. Remember free checking? Before Dodd-Frank, 75 percent of banks offered free checking. That number has since been cut in half. Those affected the most are low-income consumers who don’t have sufficient levels in their checking accounts to avoid paying fees.
Applied for a mortgage lately? It is now more difficult than ever for Texans to obtain home loans. While banks have money to lend, new Truth in Lending Disclosures and other regulations have increased the amount of paperwork for consumers as well as banks. Community banks can no longer rely on traditional methods of a borrower’s character, cash flow, collateral value and different elements of income to make you a loan. In short, the self-employed and small businesses are directly impacted.
Some community banks have stopped providing mortgages altogether. Others are only making loans to customers whose loans fit into the “Qualified Mortgage” designation. These customers aren’t being denied mortgage loans because they can’t afford them; rather, the community banks that would normally offer them simply aren’t in the business of lending anymore.
Texas’ own Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has a solution that will accomplish the intended goals of Dodd-Frank: end too-big-to-fail once and for all and ensure accountability in the form of tough penalties for financial fraud. His Financial CHOICE Act, which would replace the failed Dodd-Frank Act, relieves financial institutions from burdensome regulations in exchange for meeting higher capital requirements.
Among the provisions:
- Provide a Qualified Mortgage safe harbor to mortgage loans held in portfolio. This would enable more qualified borrowers, including retirees and the self-employed, to obtain a mortgage.
- Tailor supervision to banks’ risk profiles and business models.
- Reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Currently, the CFPB has no oversight or financial accountability. While there is a place for consumer protection, this out-of-control agency has no spending limits and needs to have an oversight commission and congressional budget oversight.
- Demand Wall Street accountability through enhanced penalties for fraud and deception.
- End too-big-to-fail and bank bailouts.
The adoption of Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act is a win-win for Texas consumers, homeowners and small business owners. His plan is simple: Focus on re-igniting America’s entrepreneurial spirit by increasing financing options and reducing regulatory barriers to small business so more Americans can create, build and innovate. The banks of Texas believe Hensarling is right on track!
The Texas Bankers Association is the oldest and largest state bankers association in the nation. TBA represents 95 percent of banking institutions of all asset and deposit sizes.
Before you go …
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- Written by Mayor Sylvester Turner
In 2017, our Houston police and fire departments will be under new leadership. Art Acevedo of Austin is assuming the position of Houston police chief and El Paso’s Samuel Pena will take over the fire department.
I want to thank Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Acting Fire Chief Rodney West for their service. They performed exemplary in dealing with some challenges and we are indebted to them. Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena will be part of the City management team that carries us into 2017 and beyond. We are going to build upon the successes of 2016 and be even more transformative, innovative and responsive.
Not only do I want capable managers, it is also important to have a leadership team at City Hall that is able to understand the different populations they serve. I know there is a lot of concern about the future these days. In Washington we are seeing the transition of power from one administration to another and that has caused worry for some of our residents. Please know that Houston has always been a welcoming city and that is not going to change no matter who is in the White House. I chose Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena because they understand this and share my strong commitment to keeping our residents safe.
Chief Acevedo has served as Austin’s police chief since 2007. His 30 years of law enforcement experience began as a field patrol officer in East Los Angeles. In Austin, he oversaw a department with more than 2,400 sworn officers and support personnel and a $370 million annual budget. He joined the department at a time when relations with minorities were strained due to questionable police shootings. He has been credited for a commitment to police legitimacy, accountability and community policing and engagement. His accomplishments include creating a special investigative unit to criminally investigate officer involved shootings and a new disciplinary matrix. Chief Acevedo holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne, is a graduate of the FBI’s National Executive Institute and speaks fluent Spanish.
Chief Pena joined the El Paso Fire Department in 1995 and then rose through the ranks to the position of fire chief, which he has held since 2013. He has previous experience as a fire fighter, paramedic, media spokesperson, advanced medical coordinator, Combined Search and Rescue Team member, Hazardous Materials & Special Rescue Task Force member and academy training chief. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at El Paso. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he served for four years as an air control specialist. Like Acevedo, he is fluent in Spanish.
We are a dynamic, diverse and growing city. We will keep growing regardless of the policies that are made, and we will continue to nurture our strong connections to the rest of the globe. It’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and join together to move our City and country forward. There are many challenges ahead that will need all of our talents and hard work for the benefit of everyone. Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena will be by my side as we tackle what lies ahead. Please join me in welcoming them to Houston!
- Written by Danielle Schaaf
Hi, this is Danielle, the woman in the photo next to this column. Except older. Much. You were expecting to read about Contessa but I’ve had to fill in for her because she’s missing. No, not sleeping-in- the-alley-behind-Spec’s-missing, but off-the-grid-missing.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many times, she’s threatened to run away. Just a few weeks after her wedding, Contessa broke down under the weight of marital bliss. Ironing The Big Guy’s undershorts every morning and fetching his Budweiser each night had taken a toll. Contessa told The Big Guy sometimes she felt the need to bolt.
Shaken, he asked, “I-10 East or West?” She wouldn’t say. Just in case.
There was the time Pinot and Grigio both came down with paralyzing twinitis. They slouched on the couch in front of the TV one afternoon and didn’t move for another five years. She tried running off with the pool boy then but he was too fast. All those wine bottles in her purse could slow a cheetah.
Contessa left once, after Tween-age Cat asked if she could wear thongs. The kind with a strap squeezed inside a crack that wasn’t between her toes. Contessa showed up at the Betty Ford Center the next morning, requesting Lindsay Lohan’s suite.
The getaway was ideal. Someone else would cook meals and scrub toilets. Contessa would be surrounded by folks asking what she was feeling. For real, and not as a ruse to trick her into mowing the lawn.
That escape backfired at the entrance when they said, “Leave the wine outside.” Contessa was too shy to walk around bra-less, and afraid she’d keep tripping, so she returned home.
This time, she’s really gone and it’s my fault. Nearly a decade ago, I forced Contessa to share her life and family with Tribune readers. Being a timid wallflower, she refused. After I threatened to break her corkscrew, Contessa relented. That’s when she introduced the entire Contessa household, and her nagging friend, Merlotta, to Tribune readers.
I did more than force her to share her world. I created that world, putting thoughts into her head and words into her mouth. That world was filled with chaos, humor, love, restraining orders and wine. And share her world, she did! Contessa spread stories from her life, like baking cookies for Pinot and Grigio’s gal-pals that landed those young ladies in the hospital. She regaled with tales about volunteering in classrooms, serving at student banquets and delivering treats to teachers – all of which led to the school’s adoption of TSA-styled pat-downs upon entrance into the building.
Contessa’s stories rang true to many readers, although in a wacky, hectic, and sometimes bizarre way. I created her adventures and shared them in more than 100 columns hoping readers might crack a grin and say, “Better her than me.”
I’ve come to that proverbial fork in the wine aisle and am following a different path. This is the final “Haute Flash Contessa” column. New writing projects await me and they demand all the creativity and time I can muster. At least they aren’t demanding my wine.
One project is a humorous companion piece to my book, “Don’t Chew Jesus!,” which celebrates its 10-year-anniversary this fall. Also in the works is a comedic memoir of self-discovery. Hint: think Growing up Catholic meets Jewtopia. (Google both if you’re unfamiliar.)
I’m appreciative of your readership, and for not bolting down I-10 after that first column, but it’s time to say good-bye. I won’t promise Contessa is gone forever. She might pop up performing Contessa Uncorked! comedy shows and there could be a book with her name in the title somewhere down the road. In the meantime, she (or I) can be reached at .
Contessa would want me to leave you with this reminder:
“It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere.”
- Written by Jeffry Tupa
From left are Lt. Col. Robert Rohm, JROTC Sponsor Humble High School; Joshua Jordan, Humble High School; and Rotary President Oran Bain.
From left are Twanna Robinson; 1st Sgt. Lanetia Valcin, U.S. Army Retired, Army Instructor, Summer Creek High School; Shakuri Robinson; Rotary Club President Oran Bain; and Rotarian Dr. Bonnie Longnion.
The Rotary Club of Humble presented Joshua Jordan and Shakuri Robinson with the “Leader of Tomorrow” awards at the regular luncheon meeting Jan. 27. Jordan is a sophomore at Humble High School where he participates in “Health Occupation Students of America,” which teaches young students medical skills to treat patients. He also participates in Humble High School JROTC and his current rank is sergeant. He participates in the Color Guard, S-2, which is accountable for rifles and computers. Jordan also plays violin, 4th chair varsity orchestra. He aspires to hold his class rank which is 12th or better, to graduate with a GPA of 5 or better and to attend Texas A&M with the long-term goal of becoming a neurologist while being active in the Army Reserves.
“I am very grateful for this award and congratulate others who will earn it this year. I will take this back to Humble High School and show that the little things such as doing your homework or following the rules can take you farther than you will expect. Motivating young people to become better citizens and to improve our society is my ultimate goal,” said Jordan.
Robinson is a junior at Summer Creek High School where she participates in Color Guard Drill, rock climbing, and art for Army JROTC. She also plays tennis.
Robinson has volunteered in the Summerwood Fall Festival, Summerwood Winter Festival and Humble Lions Bike Club. She has participated in the Grace Church event for Veterans Day and has served as a participant during a Flag Day event for wounded warriors. Robinson plans to apply to the Air Force Academy to graduate as an officer and become a nurse.
Robinson credits her mother, Twanna Robinson, for her success.
“The most important thing I have learned so far is to always stay positive and to keep moving forward,” said Robinson.
Lt. Bobby Brown, representing the Humble ISD Police Department, and Lt. Col. Robert Rohm, JROTC sponsor at Humble High School, and other members of the Humble ISD police were in attendance at the meeting.
1st Sgt. Lanetia H. Valcin, U.S. Army Retired, who is the Army Instructor and JROTC sponsor at Summer Creek High School was in attendance at the meeting with Twanna Robinson, both in support of Robinson as she made a brief presentation.
The “Leader of Tomorrow” award will be given to a student from each of the Humble ISD high schools during the year. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated leadership capability, academic success, and service and respect to others. The Humble ISD Police Department representative at each high school will lead the process to select the student on campus.