No matter how you happen to feel about President Trump’s policies and pronouncements, even his most avid supporters concede his scathing tweets and unguarded condemnations have aggravated the national dialogue. While one might hope or expect a U.S. president to rally constituents on at least some issues — if only for the sake of his legacy — the Age of Trump has instead left Americans more polarized. We all seem meaner, angrier, less tolerant of one another.

Second Amendment advocates who regularly stress the need to enforce existing gun laws rather than forging new laws should welcome Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s Fix NICS Act, which proposes to do just that. Crafted in the wake of the Nov. 5 Sutherland Springs massacre that claimed the lives of 26 people, coldly struck down as they worshipped in church, this bill would bolster efforts to see federal and state authorities comply with existing laws and accurately report criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Operating on the theory that there’s no time like the present to address a challenge, Baylor University is commendably stepping up to address a problem gaining more and more attention in society as state demographics and political winds shift. As Trib staff writer Shelly Conlon reports, Baylor’s School of Education is exploring a new undergraduate and graduate program for training bilingual educators — the very sort long cherished in public schools across Texas, including here in McLennan County.

In the criminal justice system, the district attorney has more far-reaching powers than any other figure, given that some 95 percent of felony convictions arise from guilty pleas, resulting in prosecutorial discretion rather than that of judges or juries. Thus it’s critical that whoever occupies the post of district attorney be beyond reproach on all ethical and moral levels. And that’s why the sworn affidavit by one of McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s former prosecutors should be exceedingly worrisome to every law-abiding citizen.

The day Dallas Bandidos chieftain Jake Carrizal’s organized crime case went to the jury, the strapping, 35-year-old defendant looked confident, even jovial, joking at one point with his attorneys. Yet in other corners of the courthouse, McLennan County officials looked positively pale, thanks to what just a month of added security expense in connection with the first Twin Peaks trial seemed to portend.

Put aside any ideological differences between Republican Congressman Bill Flores and his predecessor, Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards, and one common priority stands out: veterans. And so it goes with many in Congress — and for good reason: With the generations who fought World War II and Korea passing from our midst and Vietnam veterans aging fast, most of the succeeding generations lack familiarity with the sometimes grim realities of military duty.

While a Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill ringleader told us recently she wouldn’t trust anything Waco’s City Hall said in the ongoing landfill uproar, that’s no reason for city officials and consultants to go blank under close questioning from Waco City Council members today, especially in explaining how collection rates could vary significantly dependent on where the next city-run regional landfill is placed. They must be able to justify rate projections with credible, transparent facts. It follows, too, that council members should bear down hard in their questioning.

The U.S. House Republican tax plan released last week is a lot like Christmas. There are many things to like, such as doubling the standard deduction to $24,000. Most folks use this because they lack enough deductions to itemize or flat don’t have the time to do so. And there’s cause for rejoicing at what’s not in the bill, including a stubborn proposal to cap tax-deferred savings in employee 401(k) plans — wildly inconsistent when Texas Republicans seek to pass a state constitutional amendment to encourage personal saving habits this week and some Capitol Hill Republicans want to overhaul Social Security.

Monday’s Waco Independent School District community meeting in East Waco on contingency plans for five academically struggling campuses at risk of closure saw more friction than a similar gathering a week earlier, but it culminated in a rallying cry by NAACP chapter president Peaches Henry for more commitment by those who volunteer to help. That’s exactly what it’ll take to reverse matters: commitment.

Judging from dueling guest columns in the Trib, at least some disagreement exists about the Waco City Council decision to appoint Deputy City Manager and perennial problem-solver Wiley Stem III successor to City Manager Dale Fisseler, who retires come March. David Littlewood, a McGregor banker, stresses the importance of new blood and new perspectives. He criticizes the council for its “short-sighted strategy, given the city’s potential.” By contrast, LaRaine DuPuy, a community volunteer who has the thankless job of serving on the city’s hard-working Plan Commission, stresses warm gratitude to Stem for agreeing to take the job, given the “vitriol, name-calling, false accusations and hyperbole directed toward him, as well as our current city manager and our mayor.” She describes Stem as an “intelligent, thoughtful, humble man who, unlike his antagonists, does not seek political power or publicity.”

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 dropped last week 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.

At one point during Monday night’s Waco Independent School District community meeting, a parent rose to stress how she had attended numerous meetings at academically low-performing Alta Vista Elementary School in South Waco and could personally vouch for the efforts there, including those of the teachers. Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson graciously acknowledged the compliment, then quietly noted: “There’s a difference between effort and ability.”

Wacoans are probably just as flummoxed as jurors are at this early point in Bandidos Dallas chapter president Jacob Carrizal’s Twin Peaks organized crime trial. That’s perhaps as it should be for those keeping an open mind about the first trial stemming from the bloody, confused Sunday afternoon shootout at Central Texas Marketplace two and a half years ago. The incident left not only nine dead bikers but disturbing questions about biker culture, crime, law enforcement, Texas justice, even societal perceptions.

Those raising concerns about the McLennan County Commissioners Court devoting more money toward ensuring Lake Shore United Methodist Church is legally fit to serve as a voting place are right in their constitutional instincts. While Americans today clearly disagree on the notion of church-state separation and whether God permeates the Constitution, most of us would at least agree taxpayer money should not benefit one faith or denomination over another.

Politicians perennially seeking to curtail or scrap programs such as Medicaid or welfare regularly claim, with some justification, that President Lyndon Johnson’s so-called 1964 War on Poverty is a failure. Yet this charge raises relevant questions that these very same politicians decline to answer: Why did it fail? Did it fail in all areas or just some? Have statistics highlighted challenges that might be better addressed if the strategy in that War on Poverty were changed or refined? And, finally, what do folks in communities crippled by poverty say? Did anyone think to ask them?

To its credit, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality presents rigorous criteria for cities planning landfills, primarily to ensure water and air quality, public safety and easy access. If those are indeed worthy considerations along with restraining taxpayer-funded costs, we can see no logical reason why the Waco City Council should jettison from consideration for a future landfill a site that it already owns along Old Lorena Road near U.S. Highway 84.

As many politicians have remarked in the past when swimming against the political tide, polling doesn’t necessarily yield good public policy. Yet Texas Republican lawmakers, if not the president of the United States, should consider the overwhelming consensus against rounding up and deporting young immigrants brought to the United States as children and now here illegally.

No less than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made clear in his famous 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling that, like other cherished amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Second is not without its limits. While vigorously defending Americans’ right to maintain weapons for self-defense, the conservative jurist wrote that the Second Amendment and its legal precedents are “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

In an era when both state and federal governments seem allied in erecting stiffer challenges for the marginalized in society, let’s praise Sherri and Bobby Patton of Fort Worth for their $2 million donation bolstering Baylor Law School’s considerable pro bono programs that make this school especially relevant in our community. At a time when many so-called Christians cheer political efforts that ostracize and condemn the least of us, Baylor University’s Christian mission sets an example for those who actually heed Jesus’ call for compassion.

Skies were overcast and the humidity thick Thursday, yet folks carried on as usual at Magnolia Market at the Silos downtown. Two young men threw a football back and forth on the open patch of green just west of the rusty, old silos; a line of humanity spilled out of the Silos Baking Co. building and around the street corner; men relaxed on swings as wives and daughters shopped; and staffers kept handy complimentary umbrellas in case the heavens opened up.

If Monday’s release of an autopsy report in the Kerry Bradley case signifies anything, it’s that, for all the justifiable concerns of civil-rights advocates and minority communities nationwide concerning police violence victimizing African Americans, each allegation still has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. And the autopsy report in this case raises legitimate questions about allegations concerning a narcotics inquiry gone awry.

Does this sound familiar? Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they don’t fully understand what Trumpcare redux actually includes, but most Republicans are nonetheless lining up to vote for it. We won’t guess their motives, but reports indicate high-dollar donors threaten to withhold millions of dollars in campaign funds if Republicans don’t finally snuff the Affordable Care Act.

Sunday’s Trib report on enrollment at local school districts and charter schools might at first glance seem to offer little new. Yes, enrollment at school districts such as Midway and China Spring continues to grow. Yes, charter schools are drawing more and more students. Yes, student numbers are relatively flat in Waco Independent School District. In the old days, we labeled this scenario “white flight.” Some of it likely still is.

Today marks the 230th anniversary of an event of global significance. On Sept. 17, 1787, many of America’s greatest thinkers put their stamp on a founding document as misunderstood and misquoted nowadays as the Bible. Presidents, preachers, legislators and jurists on both the left and right have sought to twist and confuse its meaning. Political movements have cherry-picked what provisions they will abide by — while ignoring or even defying the rest.

After several seasons of victory, limelight and national envy, the Baylor Bears would seem to have fallen into old ways — and so have some of the fans. If this isn’t obvious around the water cooler, consider Facebook comments on Trib stories about the first two games of 2017. Blame is cast on everything from the offensive line to new coach Matt Rhule’s leadership to the decision to raze Floyd Casey Stadium. As Melissa Stamps notes: “As a Nebraska fan going through it for years now, new coach, new players ... but one thing stays the same: Fair-weather fans suck!”

The long, drawn-out fund-raising campaign to erect a proper memorial to Waco-reared, World War II hero Doris Miller has by now slipped into the realm of irony, not because of its own commendable reason for being but because of the ugly times it has spilled into. Today too many Americans feud over long-ago statues commemorating rebels fighting a scandalous and corrupt cause — and too few national and state leaders demonstrate the political courage to lead us out of our increasingly divisive times.

For a decade now, the Waco Tribune-Herald has strongly advocated for expansion of state mental-health hospital beds, not only to better address a problem far more prevalent in society than many of us might realize but also to relieve a major burden placed on long-suffering law enforcement agencies and hospital emergency-room staffs. Our humble efforts have gone hand-in-hand with striking research by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas, which has laid down the foundation for solving mental-health problems statewide.

Given the humiliation that Baylor University has experienced over sexual assaults the last couple of years, losing Saturday’s season-opener to Liberty University, of all contenders, might seem a relatively minor flap, but it was nonetheless a bitter pill for alumni, students and players to swallow. None of it was made any easier when, on the eve of the game, fans learned that former head football coach Art Briles, fired in 2016 for administrative failures in the scandal, received last May a letter from Baylor recommending him to potential employers.

Tuesday’s announcement by the Trump administration that it was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive policy has sparked outrage nationwide, much of it justifiable in terms of American values. Of all those swept up in the furor over immigration, few are more worthy of genuine sympathy and understanding than the “Dreamers” — those brought to our country illegally by parents or guardians and now Americans in every sense of the word except for the letter of the law. President Obama implemented this policy by executive order to give Congress time to decide the fate of this young population, reportedly some 800,000 strong.

Reports indicate President Trump and Republican congressional leadership may at least temporarily shelve earlier plans to cut $1 billion or so from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a border wall because of mounting relief costs required to help tens of thousands of Texans left homeless by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If true, Trump and Republicans deserve our praise.

Last week’s “Gathering for Racial Unity” at First Presbyterian Church of Waco, put together in response to an increasingly venomous racial divide nationwide symbolized by the violence in Charlottesville, proved a thoughtful, warmly reassuring affair, complete with testimonials from folks on all spots of the political, religious and racial spectrum. Organizer Berkeley Anderson, the Rev. Leslie King and church officials rate our deepest thanks for its execution.

Tuesday morning the clouds over Waco cleared, the sun took center stage and a soft breeze helped usher out the humidity that has stifled Central Texans much of the summer. And the temptation was to think, at least for a moment, all was right with the world. But all is not right, especially in Texas. Millions of Americans — Texans, no less — are hurting. And while clouds also have parted in Houston, some residents’ future there is clouded in anxiety and fear.

It’s enormously tempting to assume Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Michael Seabolt, in openly claiming the Tribune-Herald makes up negative facts about the district, seeks to channel President Trump for his own purposes. After all, Trump’s rallying cry of “fake news!” resounds whenever some story appears in the mainstream news media and the facts don’t match the president’s boisterous balderdash.

Students might be back in school, but the Labor Day holiday weekend beckons — and that means many Americans might make one final summertime jaunt to our national parks and monuments, including Waco Mammoth National Monument. In that cheerful context, we praise Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s reported decision to preserve those national monuments whose designations suddenly appeared in doubt.

When it comes to eclipses of the sun, 2024 is clearly our year. According to NASA projections, Waco will be smack-dab in the middle of a narrow band across much of the United States where folks can behold a total eclipse. While totality will last but a couple of minutes, the spectacle will be enough to prompt a healthy respect for our truly inconsequential place in the heavens. It also guarantees you visits from relatives you see even less than solar eclipses.

In the Texas Legislature’s summertime march to crush local governance, state Sen. Brandon Creighton’s bill to block removal of Confederate statues appears belly-up as the special session now seems to have ended prematurely. Filed midway through the session, it obviously sought to play to far-right passions of those who champion what others see as a treasonous rebellion bent on keeping black people in chains for generations to come.

Given the Aug. 5 death of former Texas Gov. Mark White, the many eulogies praising his rare leadership and his final fight for accountability and transparency on the part of leadership at his alma mater, one can’t help noting the irony of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge involving White’s beloved Baylor University. The court ordered Baylor to furnish local attorney Jim Dunnam with notes, recordings and other relevant information from the controversial Pepper Hamilton investigation that reportedly uncovered administrative indifference regarding sexual assaults involving Baylor students.

In light of the growing divide between Americans over border walls, racial profiling and curtailing even legal immigration, one can only marvel at transcripts of President Trump’s frantic telephone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — a conversation in which Trump whined, pleaded with and begged Peña Nieto not to tell the press that Mexico wouldn’t pay for any border wall, no matter how often and how loudly Trump promised just that while campaigning for president. So much for the idea the president of the United States can treat the president of Mexico like a subservient peón.

If any simmering initiative during the Texas Legislature’s special session best symbolizes the growing rift in American conservatism, it’s the infamous “bathroom bill” restricting what public restrooms transgender individuals can and cannot use. It divides those of us who recognize conservatism as a set of liberty-oriented principles primarily economic in nature and those intent on turning our republic into a Bible-thumping, Leviticus-quoting, fire-and-brimstone theocracy. And the Founders — studied representatives of the Age of Enlightenment — sure never meant for this to be a theocracy.

To those who champion politicians strictly by party, Mark White defies easy categorization, which is why he goes down as arguably Texas’ finest governor in generations. Even though he was a Democrat, he didn’t hesitate to provoke many in his own party and powerful teacher groups in his concerted effort to reform public education. That included putting a strong emphasis on retaining only truly skilled teachers — and reducing the heavy emphasis on school sports at the expense of academics.

Again taking a cue from Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to call out those state legislators who defy his agenda during the Texas Legislature’s ongoing special session, we call out legislators who supposedly represent our area but are more intent on undermining local control. That means calling out Sen. Brian Birdwell for complying with Abbott’s demand that the state uproot local tree ordinances — a matter ideally left to town councils and the neighborhood folks who elect them. By contrast, Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson and Kyle Kacal support a more thoughtful approach respectful of local control.

Taking a cue from Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to call out state legislators who defy his agenda during the Texas Legislature’s ongoing special session, we today begin calling out state legislators who supposedly represent our area but are more intent on undermining local control. And that means calling out state Sen. Brian Birdwell regarding the Texas Senate’s bid to scrap local ordinances that, when enforced, can save cherished lives from distracted driving.

U.S. Sen. John McCain’s return to Capitol Hill last week after learning that he suffers from brain cancer should inspire all red-blooded Americans to emulate his courage, duty and honor — qualities rare in the halls of power in Washington. Yet his speech pressing fellow lawmakers — including Republican brethren who control the Senate — to scrap the crass partisanship that renders government increasingly dysfunctional and to instead build consensus among all political comers might as well have fallen on deaf ears.

Those pressing for better relations between police and citizenry across the United States can view the local situation with great optimism. Not only are Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt and city leaders moving ahead on the employment of body cameras for Waco police officers, they give every indication of doing so in a thoughtful and deliberative way.

For nearly an hour Tuesday night, students, parents and educators pressed the Waco City Council to nix a proposal ending funding for Project Promise, a transformative summer program that not only bolsters academic resolve in low-income gifted and talented students but expands their potential in college, careers, cultural appreciation and business. All who spoke were eloquent in their pleas to continue the funding, students past and present especially. They were concise, articulate, smart and, rare for this day, civil. No surprise there. One of the Project Promise classes offered to its 60 students this summer: citizenship.

If Republicans’ example of reforming health insurance is any indication of how they plan to run this country the next few years, we’re all in trouble. For several years during the much-hated Obama administration, Republican lawmakers whipped constituents back home into frenzied delight with their vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something more comprehensive and market-driven.

No matter how you happen to feel about President Trump’s policies and pronouncements, even his most avid supporters concede his scathing tweets and unguarded condemnations have aggravated the national dialogue. While one might hope or expect a U.S. president to rally constituents on at least some issues — if only for the sake of his legacy — the Age of Trump has instead left Americans more polarized. We all seem meaner, angrier, less tolerant of one another.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

Neither Bears for Leadership Reform nor anyone else concerned should be outfoxed by initial reform ideas crafted for Baylor University’s embattled Board of Regents. While we’re glad some regents are earnestly discussing useful ways to improve board transparency and accountability in the wake of a sexual-assault scandal that has tarnished administrators, coaches, players and especially regents, no one should assume mere publishing of board minutes and agendas will halt protest, including some very angry and vocal donors.