When Donald Trump ran for president, he brushed off concerns about his lack of governing experience by repeatedly promising to hire “only with the best and most serious people,” adding: “We want top-of-the-line professionals.” When asked just weeks before Election Day 2016 what his criteria would be for choosing senior staff, he answered: “Track record. Great competence, love of what they’re doing, how they’re getting along with people, references.” He added a bit later, “you need people that are truly, truly capable.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed major changes to federal enforcement of Title IX, the statute that deals with gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct in schools. The changes would restore due process protections for students accused of sexual assault and thus have earned the ire of victims’ advocacy groups, Democratic politicians and even the American Civil Liberties Union, which usually takes positions favoring due process.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment — the work of more than 350 scientists, including myself — is clear: Earth is warming faster than at any time in human history, and we’re the ones causing it. Climate change is already affecting people, and the more carbon we produce, the more dangerous the impacts. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe and propagate some misleading myths. Here are the five I hear most frequently.

AGRINIO, Greece — There is no dark cloud hanging over Europe. There are a bunch of them. Taken together they account for a sense of foreboding, not quite despair, but a definite feeling that things are unraveling and, worse, that there is no leadership — second-raters at all the national helms.

It was a last-minute, serendipitous side trip — a change of plans like so many in retired life as I drive down from Arkansas to Texas to attend Baylor University events in Waco or visit kids strewn across the widest part of the state from Houston to El Paso. I had lingered in North Texas for Christmas music. Monday it was Handel’s “Messiah” at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Thanks to a Baylor friend with a spare ticket, Wednesday’s fare was Wynton Marsalis’ yuletide jazz at the Meyerson in Dallas.

Like the semi-mythical Christmas truce between the British and the Germans on the front lines during World War I, Wednesday’s state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush showed two Washingtons and two Republican parties — in one sense, two Americas — taking a momentary step back from the bonfire that is now our national politics. The day, unlike almost anything involving President Donald Trump, was subdued and respectful.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wants to make prescription-drug pricing more transparent. We agree, but his well-intentioned plan will only confuse and mislead consumers. What’s the good of listing drug prices in advertising if almost no one pays that “list price?” When patients say, “My drugs are too expensive,” they’re not talking about the list price — they’re talking about their co-pays at the pharmacy.

Americans have an irrational fear of artificial intelligence, or AI, and this is compromising our ability to lead the direction this revolutionary technology takes in the future. Precipitated by Hollywood’s fondness for movies that show machines taking over the world, this irrational fear of AI is allowing the competition — mainly China, which does not share this type of fear — to charge ahead in converting new breakthroughs into thousands of useful and commercially viable products.

Now that we’re in that spirited Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period of holiday spending, this might be a good time to remember lessons learned from a financial discussion a few weeks ago. That’s when a panel of financial and economic experts offered five key words of advice to the black community: “Handle your money with care.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has had quite the year. Just months ago, he was swanning from capital to capital, feted by politicians, celebrities and business bigwigs. He and his advisers boasted about their plans for reform and innovation. Prominent commentators in the West even believed the youthful royal could usher in a new liberalism in the Middle East.

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced the aim of a broader “Ownership Society” so more Americans could benefit from owning a home, retirement accounts and other financial assets. “If you own something,” he declared, “you have a vital stake in the future of our country. The more ownership there is in America, the more vitality there is in America.”

In 1953, Charles Wilson, then president of General Motors, famously told a congressional committee that “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” A version of that soft industrial nationalism has been Donald Trump’s core political philosophy. Though with a codicil: “What’s good for both is also very good for one Donald J. Trump.”

There’s an old tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmastime. Consider one of the most popular Christmas tales: Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Henry James’ gothic fiction, ghost story novella “The Turn of the Screw” opens on Christmas Eve. With each passing year, the period stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve feels like an especially haunted time — haunted by memories of occasions long gone, of people who’ve died.

When Elvis Presley was included among President Trump’s honorees for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, my first thought was, “It’s about time,” followed by the recognition that it would reignite the popular revisionist claim that Presley “appropriated” black culture and music, an allegation that wasn’t shared by most of the black artists of the 1950s.

This holiday season, Santa’s little helpers might come with a battery. While retailers across the country are beefing up seasonal hires to prepare for the holiday shopping apocalypse, Amazon is taking a different tack — hiring 20,000 fewer seasonal hires from previous years and increasing workplace automation.

Recently the New York Times published an article about the Lutheran Church in Sweden. In an attempt to appeal to younger generations, the church began to include popular songs in their worship services. It was an important article for such is the anxiety of the church: How shall we appeal to the current generation of people? And like most anxiety it leads us down the wrong road.

Of all the roles of the presidency, commander in chief was perhaps the one that candidate Donald Trump most relished. His take-charge style, his hat and slogan, his command presence on the stage, his early experience at New York Military Academy and his boasting that “I know more about ISIS than the generals do” demonstrated his inclinations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter to District Judge Ralph Strother regarding a deal recommended by McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office giving deferred probation to Jacob Anderson, 23, of Garland. Anderson, a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, is free on bail after his Oct. 15 no-contest plea to a third-degree felony charge of unlawful restraint. As part of the bargain, prosecutor Hilary LaBorde agreed to dismiss four counts of sexual assault against Anderson, who agreed to get counseling and pay a $400 fine. The plea offer would not require him to register as a sex offender. Strother will sentence Anderson on Dec. 10.

The anniversary of the end of the Great War — despite President Donald Trump visiting pan-European ceremonies in France — passed almost unnoticed in the United States. This is noteworthy because 4 million Americans were mobilized for the war and about 2 million shipped to Europe where 50,585 were killed in combat and another 200,000 suffered wounds. Another 100,000 American military personnel died from complications involving wounds and influenza. American combat deaths in World War I rank third only behind the American Civil War and the Second World War.

When French President Emmanuel Macron denounced populist nationalism this week and called on world leaders to support institutions such as the United Nations that defend “the common good of the world,” liberal elites cheered. The speech was seen as a rebuke of President Trump, whose opposition to “globalism” and embrace of “nationalism” are held up as signs of the decay of American conservatism and U.S. global leadership.

With more races being decided by ever-slimmer margins, such as in Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate elections, increasing attention is being paid to who can and cannot vote, and how difficult the voting process has become for certain Americans. This midterm election was decided in part by widespread voter suppression and it’s time for Americans to acknowledge how much partisan maneuvering is to blame.

The past couple of weeks have been unusual for me, to say the least. After a year of hard campaigning for Congress in Texas and gradually entering the public sphere, I was hit by a sudden, blinding spotlight. But I have no complaints — it wasn’t as bad as some other challenges I’ve faced, like a sudden, blinding IED explosion. (See what I did there? “Saturday Night Live” has created a comedic monster!)

In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt visited the canal being constructed in Panama, becoming the first U.S. president to leave the country while in office. William Howard Taft also visited Panama and Mexico. But it was not till Woodrow Wilson went to Paris in November 1918 — a hundred years ago this month — to attend the postwar peace conference that attending international meetings with foreign heads of state became an accepted, indeed integral part, of the president’s job.

The just-completed midterm election could be called the “Cafeteria Midterms” because there was something here for everyone. Democrats won the House and more governorships and state legislative chambers. Republicans increased their Senate majority, defeated progressive “stars” and held on to a large majority of state legislatures. Encouragement and warnings loom in the results for both Democrats and Republicans for 2020. Here are a few snap judgments on the results of this fascinating election season.


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