Category Archives: Commentary

‘imperial presidency’ poIsed on brinK of war

            As the United States considers going to war with Iran, we should re-read “The Imperial Presidency,” a book written by the late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. published in 1973.

            Schlesinger reminded us that Congress controls foreign affairs and that Article VI of the Constitution grants this body the power to declare war.  The president, however, acting as the commander-in-chief, more often has usurped this power and has committed the nation to war as a matter of expediency.

            In other words, presidents are in a more favorable position to take action to protect what is conceived as a threat to national security than a collective group of individuals in Congress who may be less excited — and far less timely — in making such a decision.

            That surely is the case today when the Senate has been reluctant to oppose decisions made by President Donald Trump and when the president often has ignored or opposed congressional action.

            Anyone acquainted with public affairs knows that presidents have usurped legislative power on domestic issues as well as foreign affairs for decades. More recently this action has taken place through what is called the executive order. Schlesinger warned that we have much to fear from this type of practice, one associated with what he called the “Imperial Presidency.”

            Barrack Obama often used the executive order to bypass a Republican Congress. Trump followed suit bypassing a Congress that represented his own party during the first two years of his term and is now divided.

            In his book review Alfred C. Payne writes:

            “A chief problem seems to be that of the unification of the people versus the growing tyranny of the executive. Presidential primacy is needed, not Presidential supremacy. We need a strong, independent President, but not an ‘Imperial’ one.

            “The President, according to Schlesinger, needs to be able to take strong criticism and accept loyal opposition. He needs, too, a sense of humor and, of greatest importance, a respect for the Constitition and broad trust of the people.”

            Unfortunately, our nation is divided on the manner of conducting governmental affairs and whose people are debating — and eventually will decide — on how “imperial” the presidency should be.


            A wall hasn’t shut down the government.

            The great negotiator has failed to “make a deal” in which both sides of the wall controversy benefit from the outcome.

            The Senate refuses to take action on the wall issue under the reluctant leadership of majority leader Mitch McConnell, who claims that he won’t act to pay federal workers if President Donald Trump refuses to sign the IOU without money for a wall.

            McConnell is reluctant to force the issue by prodding the Senate whip into action so that two-thirds of its members agree to pay rather than to hold federal workers hostage over the wall issue.

            You can count on the House passing such legislation by a two-thirds margin.

            Then the president’s signature wouldn’t be required for the legislation to become law.

            McConnell could counter the president’s displeasure by suggesting that the Senate and House begin work on a comprehensive immigration bill that may include a wall.

            It would be a difficult task, but members of what Trump calls “The Swamp” would not risk missing a paycheck while spending a few hours a week dealing with this issue.

            If Congress fails to pay federal employees because of a wall, then King Kong will continue to apply the same tactics in dealing with government that he did as a businessman.

            Meanwhile, if McConnell considers himself a leader, it is time for him to lead, to push the envelope and to gain the respect a member of “The Swamp” deserves.


            Our commander in chief proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is the chief fabricator of news while visiting troops at an air base in Iraq the day after Christmas.

            It was inexcusable for the president of the United States to lie to the troops during what was billed as an expression of the nation’s gratitude for their service but was treated like a political rally.

            Donald Trump, in the event you didn’t know and obviously don’t care, your inaccurate comments about troops not receiving pay raises would have resulted in your firing as a reporter for any newspaper and/or news outlet in the world.

            Yes, and it is our role as journalists to call you out on your fabricating.

            First, you not only defy convention, you defy the law.

             This event should not have been treated by you or by troops in uniform as a campaign event. You should know and should abide by Department of Defense rules about such matters.

            Neither should you have claimed that military personnel haven’t received a pay raise in a decade.

            You told troops, “… you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received … You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years – more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”

            PolitiFact reports that statement is incorrect.

            “Service members have received pay increases every year, as mandated by federal law, for over three decades and the 2019 increase is set at 2.6 percent.

            “Even if Trump meant that members hadn’t received that large of a raise in over a decade, that would also be false. The increase is exceeded by raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010.”

            It is a falsehood Trump has repeated before. The president made similar statements in May to a gathering of military mothers and spouses.

During a speech to Naval Academy graduates a few weeks later, he made a similar false statement.

            The president has made more than 7,500 false or misleading claims in his 700 or so days in office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

            Unfortunately, the leader of the greatest nation on earth continues to ignore the facts and has the gall to accuse journalists of “fabricating news.”

            The greater concern may be that truth no longer matters and that it may be politically correct for citizens to sit in a tub of water on a hot stove and avoid watching the temperature rise.

            You don’t have to be a journalist or a president to know where that may lead.


Lane County replaced this courthouse in 1956. Photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

            Lane County and Eugene should reconsider plans for locating new facilities in downtown Eugene.

            The county announced plans this week to build a $252 million courthouse on Eugene’s former city hall site while the city relocates on a postage stamp “butterfly” lot owned by the county.

            Before that deal is completed, both public agencies should reconsider locating a new courthouse on the site of the former city hall and acquiring the former EWEB headquarters as a city hall.

            The result: The county moves a few hundred yards east of its present site, and the city anchors a developing downtown district fronting on the picturesque Willamette River.

            Argue if you wish, but the EWEB property is located in downtown Eugene and has space for city council meetings and places for visitors to park. And such a move reportedly would be less expensive than in building a new city hall.

            In case you haven’t heard, the county needs $158 million in local funding just to get the courthouse project off the ground. The city apparently is as undecided as ever about what a new hall would cost.

            Frankly, I was unhappy when the county upgraded its headquarters at Eighth and Oak Street in 1956 with the “futuristic beamed façade” structure that stands there today.

            While the county needed more courtroom space, I was upset when it destroyed the horseshoe pits, the horse hitching posts and the checker game tables in the courtyard, which eventually became the Saturday Market site.

            The city didn’t fare so well by building a city hall immediately east of the courthouse. That structure turned out to be an unsafe place to be in the event of an earthquake, which we’re told may occur sometime soon — if not later.

            So, the city tore down its flimsie hall and scattered departments all over town in rented quarters.  Now the city is swapping its site east of the courthouse for a county “butterfly” parking lot.

            Which means that residents soon will be invited to finance new homes for Eugene and Lane County. In case you’re new to Oregon, this would increase taxes on your property, the cost of your rental and/or the cost of doing business. Let’s keep in mind that these public agencies come knocking every 50 years or so for money to upgrade their homes.

            I’ll bet that Eugene Skinner never envisioned how complicated life would become in Lane County when he took out a land claim at the foot of Skinner Butte in 1846.  


During a Wednesday televised press conference, Donald Trump once again exhibited many of the traits present in someone suffering a personality disorder.

That became apparent when he responded to a question by CNN reporter Jim trumpAcosta, who persisted in asking the president about the Russia investigation into interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“I tell you what,” the president eventually responded. “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person.”

After his tirade against Acosta, Trump called on NBC News reporter Peter Alexander, who tried to come to Acosta’s defense as a “diligent reporter.”

Trump turned on Alexander.

“Well, I’m not a big fan of yours either,” he said. “You aren’t the best.”

At another point during the news conference, Trump accused PBS Newshour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, a black, of asking a “racist question” when she asked him a legitimate question about his embracing of the term “nationalist.”

Trump has had several combative news conferences since he declared he was running for president in 2015, and he has consistently attacked media outlets for any coverage he considers unflattering, which he characterizes as unfair.

Now, let’s return to information I quoted from Mayo Clinic in my blog three years ago about how a person suffering from a personality disorder might be expected to behave: Continue reading PRESIDENTIAL CONFERENCE DEMONSTRATES DISORDER



Research often spells the difference between a mediocre and a noteworthy performance as a writer.

At least that is my evaluation based on books written by two former journalism students of mine.

Bob Welch, a Register-Guard columnist and author of more than 20 non-fiction books, will be signing copies of “The Wizard of Foz: Dick Fosbury’s One-Man High-Jump Revolution” on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Oakway’s Heritage Courtyard, Eugene. Party with Bob between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Patricia Lee, a Eugene faith-book author, will sign copies of “A Kite on the Wind,” the third in the “Mended Heart” series, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Barnes and Nobel, 1163 Valley River Drive.

These books will hold your interest starting with Fosbury’s attempt to fit into the high school athletic culture where he worked on a new method of flying over the high jump bar, set an Olympic record in 1968 and cleared a series of personal obstacles.

Pat introduces us to a woman who is left waiting at the altar and carves out a future as a teacher on the Oregon Coast. How Montgomery Chandler fits into the story is the puzzle that readers must discover. Continue reading RESEARCH A VITAL ELEMENT IN WORK OF LOCAL AUTHORS


bureau photo

Change is inevitable, 51 correspondents were reminded in a letter notifying them that they were being replaced by full-time reporters when the Eugene Register-Guard switched to the bureau system in August 1962.

These reporters lived in and covered news in communities from ski level to sea level in what was then referred to as the Emerald Empire. Those bureaus eventually closed. Today, only major stories are “cherry picked” by reporters working out of the Eugene office.

Meanwhile, change is anticipated with some trepidation because the publishing firm has been sold by the Baker family, which has served the community for more than three generations.

Frankly, I miss hearing the Linotype and Intertype machines clacking away, setting slugs of “hot” type that printers assembled in page forms.

I miss hearing Mary Holmer greeting everyone with a unique “hello” at the switchboard just inside the High Street entrance to the newspaper. Continue reading MEDIA CHANGES DRIVING TYPE LICE INTO HELL BOX