Whether in the corridors of power or the halls of justice, we in the legitimate news media know that no storyline is ever quite so simple as that bandied about the proverbial water cooler or spread on social media to provoke outrage. Nuance, details and context matter. Certainly, further explanation is warranted regarding the controversial plea bargain arrangement proposed by McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office for former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Walter Anderson, indicted in 2016 on four counts of sexual assault.

Former President George W. Bush famously remarked that accurate appraisals of one’s political legacy must wait years after a president has left office. His father’s legacy as an American president and patriot isn’t quite so pristine as we’re likely to hear today during his funeral in the National Cathedral. Yet President George H.W. Bush’s policymaking, judgment and sense of decency easily eclipse those of latter-day Republican and Democratic politicians. That’s well worth acknowledging and honoring.

While this newspaper welcomes U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ rebuke of President Trump for dismissing a lower federal court ruling as the handiwork of “an Obama judge,” it comes a little late. Regardless of Trump’s ignorant rant last week, the federal judiciary’s reputation has been crumbling for years, at least since the controversial 2000 presidential election.

Based on bracing experiences gained when George W. Bush, a resident of nearby Crawford, was president of the United States and we were more engaged with the D.C. press corps than now, we’re pretty confident the White House Correspondents’ Association cares little what we think or say. But as the work-a-day press, we believe the association made the right decision in jettisoning comedians from the annual correspondents’ dinner next spring and enlisting instead a serious speaker — Ron Chernow, who has written remarkable biographies of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

Highway analysts dispute the old saw that traffic volume is at its yearly peak the day before Thanksgiving — today, for instance — but many do agree it’s in the annual top 10 and that traffic during this holiday weekend is often at its absolute worst the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. That said, any white-knuckle anxiety in Interstate 35 travel through Waco today may well pale alongside I-35 rigors yet to come.

Critics lost little time attacking U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ newly unveiled regulations mandating college and university protocols involving sexual-assault claims. Some protest may be justified, but those who witnessed the chaos and conflict involving earlier administrative failures at Baylor University in properly addressing sexual assaults should welcome the opportunity to discuss such regulations by light of day. This should mean congressional hearings — and without all the grandstanding and histrionics.

This week’s tempest over a decision by local military veterans to cancel Monday’s Veterans Day Parade amid forecasts of rain, high winds and plummeting temperatures reminds us of the dilemma occasionally faced by school superintendents amid forecasts of snow or ice: If one cancels school and the weather proves temperate, the superintendent appears the fool. If he or she doesn’t cancel and a winter storm strikes, outraged parents howl how the superintendent has imperiled the lives of students and teachers.

The Texas Legislature doesn’t convene till Jan. 8, but this week state legislators began filing bills. Let’s hope Central Texas legislators do nothing to encourage the distracting sideshows we witnessed during the 2017 legislative session, including discriminatory legislation regarding public bathrooms. Let’s demand they add thought and muscle to adequately and equitably fund public schools and reform property-tax appraisals to more accurately reflect our property values.

Tuesday night, after hard-fought statewide victory was finally his, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz considered the narrowness of his re-election — specifically, the fact that 49 percent of Texans voting cast ballots for someone else, primarily Democratic dynamo Beto O’Rourke. And uncharacteristically, the junior senator showed some humility regarding that 49 percent: “I am your senator as well.”

In our travels around the county to gauge political sentiments, we seldom see a display of campaign signs such as the lineup in the yard in Woodway pictured above: Three signs tout the election of Democratic candidates, including Mike Collier for lieutenant governor and Beto O’Rourke for Senate; the fourth, however, expresses the resident’s wish state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, a longtime Republican, be re-elected to the Legislature. And while we immediately guessed the reason — and while we can offer excellent reasons why Katherine Turner-Pearson deserves a shot in this pivotal post over Anderson — we respect the thinking behind this mixed batch of signs off Stony Point Drive.

Revising the 14th Amendment: Campaign tactic for the midterms or earnest policy? With this president and his preference for playing to crowds rather than studied governance, who can tell? This much we know: Republicans and conservatives repeatedly howled that President Obama was constitutionally wrong to use a 2012 executive order to delay deportation of certain individuals brought to the United States illegally as children. If that was indeed a lawless undertaking, then by simple logic President Trump’s vow to use another executive order to overturn a constitutional amendment must also be illegal. Or are the president and his supporters guilty of double standards?

Baylor University officials seem upbeat about the Big 12 Conference’s formal blessing of their success in implementing reforms to not only discourage the sexual assault of students but correct administrative indifference regarding assault victims’ welfare. However, the fact the Big 12 slapped Baylor with a $2 million penalty for “reputational damage to the conference and its members” signifies a big change in conference policy, one sliding with uncertainty into the domain of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Last week, a voter stepping warily into the First Assembly of God voting center took one look at the long line coiled around the place and wondered aloud if she should get in queue or try later. To which a voter in line deadpanned: “Depends on how you plan to vote.”

Wanted: Political office-holders in state government who do their jobs without grandstanding, corruption and electioneering on the taxpayer dime. Sterling example: Republican State Comptroller Glenn Hegar. Whether you like his conservative ideology, there’s no question that he sets an exemplary model of what more of us should expect of those who seek our votes .

The urbanization of America has had one serious consequence: Too many city residents fail to grasp the significant challenges facing agriculture, including the devastating impact of drought, floods, water shortages, tariffs, regulations and disease on farming and ranching. This is no place for amateurs — and anyone who claims to be earnest and concerned about agriculture today has no option but to vote to elect Kim Olson as state agriculture commissioner.

Many of us past a certain age turned a bit older on Monday. News of Sears’ bankruptcy filing conjured youthful days of homes where the Sears Roebuck & Company catalog was almost as dependable and faithfully consulted as the family Bible, where Sears appliances washed and dried our clothes and refrigerated our food. Almost everyone knew someone who had lived in a Sears Roebuck house.

Regardless of whether you found Christine Blasey Ford a credible witness in her allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C., surely Republicans and Democrats can agree that victims of crime need our compassion and prompt assistance — and this goes whether crime victims are adults or children, whether they have been sexually assaulted or brutalized by beating.

Hallelujah. After months of fighting, debate and stubbornness beyond the point of all reason and studied deliberation, the decision over whether Bellmead homes and businesses should be protected from fire is now inscribed in all but stone. Two new fire trucks are on the way. Trib staff writer Cassie L. Smith reports that the first is due within the next few months.

There’s a huge difference between tax reform and tax cuts. While this newspaper through three different owners and editorial boards over the years has supported measures to make our federal tax code more equitable and fairer, we last year voiced reservations about the Republican-crafted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It is contrary to what used to be a Republican principle in that it cut taxes while engaging in deficit spending. The Trump-signed measure offers only the sketchiest promise of increased tax revenues to cover what sure looks like runaway spending by a Republican president and a Republican Congress.

The intensely partisan Kavanaugh battle over a vacant Supreme Court seat is over, but many Americans are left to reflect on bad feelings only exacerbated by the Senate confirmation fight, including rampant victim-blaming and wildly unsubstantiated allegations. The midterm election season now shifting into high gear offers a chance for all to readjust moral compasses and pursue the high road going forward. So who among us will take that road — and who will succumb to temptation to once more pour salt on oozing political wounds, just to score one more hateful hit?

Affidavits alleging former Baylor University Board of Regents chairman Richard Willis credited Baylor’s football success to “n----- football players” and “the best blond-haired, blue-eyed p---- in the state of Texas” just a year before Baylor imploded over stunning Title IX failings should be considered with the cool, studied detachment one might have hoped would accompany the national debate over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s legal and moral fitness for the Supreme Court.

Motorists inconvenienced for a year or so by $3.6 million in major repairs reinforcing the State Highway 6 Twin Bridges over Lake Waco, prepare to let out another collective groan: State officials confirm that while the short-term work is complete, the bridges strongly rate overhauling, maybe even replacing. Huh?

For all the overdue lessons offered our country by the recently empowered #MeToo movement, spurred by decades of sexual assault and sexual harassment gone neglected, one is astonished that only one conservative Republican on the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee Friday had enough of a conscience to demand an FBI investigation into allegations dogging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The fact other Republicans were ready to pass this nominee along in the process without due diligence is a national disgrace.

Although Wilbert Austin was best-known for mowing the lawns of elderly constituents and his early work fighting for single-member districts to ensure minority representation on the Waco City Council, some of us also remember the late Baptist pastor and councilman’s frustration in efforts to ensure East Waco shared in the development bonanza characterizing not only downtown Waco but much of West and South Waco. So it’s with irony we note some community resistance to his dreams more than a year after his death.

A few weeks ago, a cheerful server at Magnolia Table explained more fully to a Trib editorial board member the idea behind what co-owner Joanna Gaines calls the restaurant’s “community table.” It’s a revival of an American custom in which visitors and locals share the same dining space and, over nourishing sustenance, exchange in civility views and insights from wherever in the world they come.

If one failing further aggravates the sharp political divide we see not only nationwide but here in Central Texas, it’s the fierce refusal by partisans on the far left and far right to acknowledge the nuances in any given situation. And today being Sunday, that means we all have another opportunity to sit in our echo chambers as we risk the possibility of professional football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Can Americans discern all that’s really at play here?

A Facebook and Twitter meme in circulation these days holds that the only thing any American need know about Muslims can be summed up in the 9/11 attacks on our nation. Another asks why, if Islam is a religion of peace, Muslim scholars and clerics don’t loudly condemn extremists who misrepresent it so. Of course, this latter question also begs why more Christians don’t condemn Christian leaders embracing policies and candidates who so obviously subvert Christian principles and make a mockery of Jesus Christ’s teachings.

Ethics appear near-dead in America, invoked selectively as a way to vilify someone in the other guy’s political party. Yet each of us at one time or another gets a chance to say yea or nay in such matters. Take the question now facing Hewitt residents: If an appointed city official blows the whistle on an elected city official for violating state law, is the latter ethically justified in firing the former?

State Board of Education members made clear early into their Tuesday hearing that, no, they would not be removing the adjective “heroic” used to describe Alamo defenders in public school classrooms or returning to sender the teaching of William B. Travis’ rousing “victory-or-death” letter written during the 1836 siege. What’s more, a member of the work-study group that made recommendations at least suggesting such changes vigorously insisted nothing of the sort was intended — and fired off a “fake news” charge to safeguard his flank.

After some of the cultural issues faced by Shawn Oubre as city manager of the Texas coastal city of Orange over the past 13 years, his assumption of duties as Woodway city manager this fall should find him facing considerably fewer battles over such controversies as Confederate monuments and atheist Christmas greetings. The biggest talk of Woodway the past few weeks has been the scourge of rose rosette devastating roses in the city’s 16-acre jewel of a botanical park, Carleen Bright Arboretum.

Americans are entirely justified in wondering if the federal judiciary is in danger of warranting the same lack of respect, even contempt, that Congress and the White House now command. Regardless of how you ideologically view Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States, we never thought we’d witness a day in America when a federal jurist dodged questions such as whether a sitting president can pardon himself.

Polling indicates Americans remain sharply divided on abortion. Yet many Texans also believe the state of Texas struck the right balance involving rights of pregnant women and rights of the unborn through a 2013 law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks gestation. Even some in the pro-choice movement have confided this is a workable compromise (though in whispers). However, when state legislators began exploring an effort to mandate how medical facilities dispose of fetal remains in order to show “dignity” for the unborn, even some pro-life supporters cited it as onerous, unnecessary, even mean-spirited.

Hewitt Mayor Ed Passalugo and City Council member James Vidrine — caught this year exchanging an emailed joke about women’s vaginas — led most of the council in firing the city attorney Tuesday, blaming him for obeying a legally grounded public information request and allowing the public — God forbid, the public — to see how some of Hewitt’s elected leaders spend their time. Anyone with even a pretense of Christian decency, let alone any regard for responsible governance, should be outraged at this worsening city spectacle.

For eight long months now, the Trib has dutifully published letters and columns by individuals extolling the virtues of 2017 tax-cut legislation as well as pro-business initiatives in the Republican-led Congress and White House. These include sharp reduction of the corporate tax rate and expansion of the standard income-tax deduction for everyday taxpayers. Business regulations have been greatly thinned. And last week Republicans reveled in revised figures showing the U.S. economy grew at 4.2 percent in the second quarter — better than even projected.

Trib staffer Lauren Dodd’s Sunday Page One drought story included this zinger: Minus rainfall, Waco is experiencing its driest year in recorded history. Our city has received only 9.61 inches of rain since January, beating out the previous year-to-date dry record of 9.64 inches in 1954, set amidst a famous seven-year drought which some of us old-timers endured.

Many Americans this week will reflect on and honor late war hero, senator and presidential contender John McCain, a naval aviator who as a prisoner of war tortured by the North Vietnamese refused to abandon fellow POWs with less military pedigree when he had the chance, a Republican statesman who defines the word “maverick” for resisting radical rabble and party hacks infecting America and the Republican Party. This week also allows Americans — at least those with a sense of history, duty and honor — to reflect on how far we’ve plummeted as a nation.

Whether in public schools, charter schools or universities private and public, last week’s start of classes represents more than the end of summer. The return of students to studies represents another opportunity for educators and, to a degree, society to ensure the next generation turns out a little better than ours. Given the often hostile, increasingly resourceful and downright competitive world students will face, our most critical duty in life is preparing them as best we can.

Three local stories in Sunday’s Trib highlight both the excitement behind Waco’s growth in residents and business as well as mounting anxiety over state and federal officials’ leaving our stretch of Central Texas less than prepared to fully accommodate such growth. Somewhere amidst all this must come rallying cries from local leaders, especially those championing pro-business policies — and these cries must resound with clarity among those presuming to represent us in the Texas Legislature and elsewhere.

Ordinarily, we’d say it’s time to celebrate last week’s good news about four long-troubled Waco Independent School District campuses’ making sufficient academic progress to forestall threat of state-mandated closure. But Waco ISD Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson is right: The time for celebrating is short with students returning to classes this week — and whatever mix of solution and resolution so wonderfully worked for these campuses and neighborhoods must now be refined (and bottled if possible) as the new school year ensues.

We’ll cede to others any debate over whether Gov. Greg Abbott’s press conference in Waco last week was well-timed electioneering or genuine executive branch business. We agree with his push for statewide bail reform to better protect local and state law enforcement officials. But that’s not enough. Any bail reform undertaken by the Texas Legislature must go further than even Abbott’s outlines and ensure protections for all Texans, including low-income defendants with no history of violent crime.

Amidst the muscular turnout of hundreds of Axtell area residents protesting the July 31 Waco City Council vote to purchase land near Axtell for a possible city-run regional landfill, an Axtell resident asked a Trib editorial board member present why more Waco residents weren’t also outraged over the issue. Our answer may have been discouraging but was at least honest: Many of us in political life simply don’t concern ourselves with such issues till they actually land in our backyard or impact our pocketbook.

Two conflicting arguments exist concerning the new state law requiring letter-grading of public school districts and individual campuses: One holds this more blatant, in-your-face labeling will better shake into awareness and resolve neighborhoods, parents and school boards in ways we haven’t always seen when schools struggle academically. School administrators, however, argue that labeling schools A through F greatly oversimplifies educational complexities and can unfairly malign neighborhoods often hindered by poverty.

Through the latter years of the Obama administration and early Trump years, the American public has collectively questioned how, in the wake of deadly shooting rampages, perpetrators displaying mental and emotional instability approaching derangement nonetheless maintained ready access to firearms. States ranging from largely liberal California to strongly conservative Indiana (home of Vice President Mike Pence) have passed “red-flag laws,” complete with significant due-process protections, providing for court hearings to curtail gun access for anyone displaying physical hostility to others.

At a time when many Americans fear the worst for our environment because of the much-debated scrapping of regulations designed to protect it, one must thank someone at the Environmental Protection Agency and Baylor University for demonstrating otherwise. As Trib staff writer Lauren Dodd reports, local educators have been learning — at times in torrid summer heat — the critical importance of water quality in a week-long program, “Immersed in the Wetlands: An Environmental Academy for Educators.” To which we raise a cool glass of water and cheer.

Psst. Bellmead City Council members, you really shouldn’t have to hold a town-hall meeting just to determine whether your constituents want to hike taxes by two cents to fund reliable fire department service. You were duly elected to demonstrate leadership and make decisions such as this. Given that state law requires yet other, more formal public hearings on the tax rate this very month, you’ll know soon enough if you’re on the right course with your electorate.

By all accounts, tax-cut-o-mania has seized America. The Trump administration is contemplating $100 billion in capital-gains tax cuts, primarily for the very wealthiest — and without congressional approval. Congress is talking about Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2.0 to make permanent some middle-class tax cuts initially set to expire in several years. Republicans have quit complaining about our spiraling national debt or annual deficits. They’re obviously saving that talk till Democrats regain control.

Trying to be philosophical about a hike of nearly 9 percent in average home values in McLennan County might seem weak medicine indeed for what riles us. Still, after fuming a little over what this jolt might or might not mean in individual property-tax bills, it helps to remember that all of us gain in at least one respect when our property gains in value. That’s one reason we keep watering the lawn. Like much else, we also might experience some pain along the way.

If hardworking farmers and their advocates are any indication, the Trump administration’s $12 billion relief package for farmers imperiled by the president’s devastating, ill-advised trade wars is kindly appreciated but doesn’t negate the fact that, more than anything, American farmers want stable, practical international trade policies — not more government subsidies. After all, one man’s government subsidy is another man’s socialist bailout, an example of government again picking winners and losers and redistributing taxpayer cash.

Whether in the corridors of power or the halls of justice, we in the legitimate news media know that no storyline is ever quite so simple as that bandied about the proverbial water cooler or spread on social media to provoke outrage. Nuance, details and context matter. Certainly, further explanation is warranted regarding the controversial plea bargain arrangement proposed by McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office for former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Walter Anderson, indicted in 2016 on four counts of sexual assault.

Our nation paused this past week to bid an emotional farewell to its last president drawn from the Greatest Generation, a generation that, by God’s grace and undaunted courage, helped save Western Civilization. Tributes cascaded from the pulpits of both the National Cathedral in Washington and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. That generation’s enduring virtues of guts and sacrifice were celebrated by renowned statesmen such as his closest friend, former Secretary of State James Baker; insightful chroniclers such as Bush’s biographer, Jon Meacham; and by family members likewise drawn to public service — a son, President George W. Bush 43, and a grandson, George P. Bush.

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.

Flashback

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

In his typically thoughtful, insightful way, local philanthropist and former ambassador Lyndon Olson Jr. added to our understanding of Doris Miller during the unveiling of a statue honoring the hometown hero’s action under fire in the 1941 attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. Olson told of his widowed grandmother, Lillie McLaughlin, living on a Speegleville farm during the Great Depression and how Miller’s father, Conery, without being asked, showed up to help plant cotton for the devastated family. This story of kindness takes on special significance when one remembers racial tensions marking our area during much of the turbulent 20th century. The men who came to the house to help were black. The McLaughlin clan was white.

Ouch. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September the Trump administration would rescind temporary protections for immigrants brought to our country illegally as children, we looked to Congress to do the right thing. We expected lawmakers to ensure that protections for immigrants who grew up knowing only America as their home country were properly enshrined in federal law. Unfortunately, such efforts now seems imperiled.

Given the challenges facing several academically struggling Waco Independent School District campuses, the best news school board members could’ve gotten came last week when Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson revealed that, in the wake of community meetings, the district has seen a spike in volunteers willing to help. To our thinking, this should not only impress others to do likewise but further encourage the partnership Waco ISD has developed with the Texas Education Agency.

During a lively panel discussion on imperiled norms and ethics in the Trump era during the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival, longtime Republican Richard Painter, the no-nonsense ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush White House, was asked if long-established presidential norms and traditions should be codified into law to prevent conflicts of interest, nepotism and other ethical concerns in future presidencies. He practically exploded.