Senators try to punt their way out of trouble and Trump’s line of fire
It may look like a winning strategy today, but the election is still nine months away

OPINION — Don’t you just hate it when someone uses a sports metaphor to teach a life lesson? So do I, usually. But with the Super Bowl not a week in the rearview mirror, it would be impossible to ignore the concept of the punt — getting out of a tough situation by moving the ball as far as possible toward the opponent’s end zone.

If you’re playing against a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs, you’re merely buying some time before the inevitable score. But senators using that tactic in an impeached President Donald Trump’s trial are no doubt hoping any payback comes late, or not at all.

What kind of country do Americans want? Voters definitely have a choice
As Democrats wrestle with complex issues of inclusion, the GOP message is much clearer

OPINION — “This is the diverse party. We are a diverse country. I am from a majority-minority state, California. So as far as I’m concerned, if we aren’t talking about race, dealing with race and actually addressing the problems of America today forthrightly and strongly, we’re not going to get the support of people, and we don’t deserve the support of people.”

That was presidential hopeful Tom Steyer, when I spoke with him recently, during his second stop through North Carolina in two weeks.

Cory Booker bows out, Ben Carson backs off fair housing and issues of race recede in America
Latest Democratic debate was notable for what was not mentioned

OPINION — It doesn’t take a candidate of color on a debate stage to raise issues of justice and inequality. But that has been the way it has worked out, mostly.

For example, it was exhilarating for many when then-candidate Julián Castro said in a Democratic debate, “Police violence is also gun violence,” while naming Atatiana Jefferson, killed in her Fort Worth, Texas, home by a police officer who shot through the window without identifying himself. Castro’s words were an acknowledgment of the lived experiences of many in America. He has since dropped out of the race, as has California Sen. Kamala Harris, who chided her party for taking the support of black women for granted.

When science fiction becomes environmental fact, it might be time to worry
Storylines from ‘The Twilight Zone’ are now playing out in real time

OPINION — How did you spend your holiday? If you’re like me, one guilty pleasure was devouring TV marathons, designed to offer relief from the stresses of the season. Reliable favorites include back-to-back episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and, on Turner Classic Movies, one whole day devoted to science fiction, imaginings both cautionary and consoling of what the future holds for our world.

But usual escapes didn’t quite work this year, not when fact is scarier than anything “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling might have dreamed up, though the serious Serling who introduced each episode of his iconic series, all furrowed brow and cigarette in hand, did signal he suspected what was coming if mankind didn’t shape up.

In a fractious holiday season, are there glimmers of hope?
Amid battles over chicken and Hallmark, solace remembering a hopeless battle 75 years ago

OPINION — In Washington, Santa’s naughty and nice list will be mighty lopsided this year. Donald Trump sealed his fate when he went after Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for her teeth. Then he followed with a six-page letter, a rant that projected many of his transgressions onto those he has labeled his accusers, targeting Pelosi, again, and mentioning the Salem witch trials for good measure.

Perhaps you have to step away from politics for some relief. Well, not this year, as even escapist Hallmark Channel fare has been sucked into arguments over love and family and the true meaning of the holiday.

Voting rights, a partisan issue? Yes, Republicans have fallen that far
‘Party of Lincoln’ seems to believe it can only win by placing as many obstacles to voting as possible

OPINION — Stacey Abrams has it right, for right now. She lost her 2018 race to be the governor of Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state was in charge of the election, a situation that would not pass the sniff test in North Korea.

OK, that comparison is a little far-fetched, but only a little.

Double standards for 2020 Democratic hopefuls? You don’t say
Kamala Harris was tripped up by obstacles her white counterparts haven’t had to face

OPINION — There is a particular line that stuck with me in the just-opened film “Queen & Slim,” about a black couple on the run after an altercation with a white police officer goes awry in the depressing and terrible way you might imagine. During their perilous road trip, in a quieter moment, he (a retail worker) asks her (an attorney) if she is good at her job. “I’m an excellent lawyer,” she replies, to which he answers with a question that’s really a statement: “Why do black people always got to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves?”

Since the pre-mortems were written a bit ago, it’s time for a post-mortem on the presidential campaign of California Sen. Kamala Harris, who never seemed to quite discover who she was or at least convey authenticity and excellence to enough voters or donors to make a difference.

Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and the bunch apologize. Should black voters listen, forgive and vote?
Minority voters have settled on imperfect candidates before, but this time may be different

OPINION — Of course, Michael Bloomberg went there — there being a black church to ask for forgiveness. As he tentatively dips his toe and his billions into the Democratic presidential race, joining a scrum that expands even as it shrinks, Bloomberg, perhaps realizing that the path to the presidency must include the enthusiastic support of black and brown voters, has rethought his enthusiastic support of “stop and frisk.”

“I got something important really wrong,” he told the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”

In her congressional goodbye, Katie Hill worried about letting down young girls. Now that’s a change
When was the last time a man in power apologized for letting down other men and young boys?

OPINION — Katie Hill said, “I’m sorry,” a lot. In a speech that was not quite seven and a half minutes long, that stood out.

With a public impeachment inquiry now underway and a torrent of names and made-for-TV characters moving in and out of the spotlight, few remember that one of the votes approving this step was the last cast by Hill. The freshman congresswoman resigned her seat as she was about to face an ethics investigation after accusations that she was having a sexual relationship with a congressional aide. She denied that, though she admitted to one with a campaign staffer that she said was inappropriate though not rule-breaking.

Pete Buttigieg tries to solve his South Carolina puzzle
As his Iowa poll numbers rise, South Bend mayor is stuck in single digits in Palmetto State

[OPINION] ROCK HILL, S.C. — Why was South Bend, Indiana, mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg in South Carolina over the weekend, with a busy schedule that included tailgating at a historically black college homecoming and delivering remarks at an AME Zion worship service?

“To say that I want to be the president who can pick up the pieces, that we’ve got to be ready not just to defeat this president but to guide the country forward,” he confidently told me. “I have my eyes on that moment and what America’s going to need.”

With ‘lynching’ comment, Trump retreats to his racist comfort zone
Pouring gasoline on the embers of racial resentment has always been his go-to move

OPINION — When Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley sent her 14-year-old son, Emmett, to visit relatives in Mississippi, she never thought he would return in a casket, a victim of a mother’s nightmare and America’s shame. A group of white men kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and murdered him that summer in 1955 for the “crime” of flirting with a white woman, who years later admitted to lying about their supposed interaction.

Mr. President, that’s a lynching.

Elijah Cummings, a man of character and the best of Baltimore
Late Maryland lawmaker leaves an example of moral clarity and courage for others to follow

OPINION — In the summertime, Baltimore can be hot as blazes with humidity to match. Trying to cool off in a public pool would be quite an ordinary outing for an 11-year-old boy. But for young Elijah Cummings in 1962, it turned into a nightmare in the still largely segregated city. White adults and children resisting integration yelled, “Go back to where you came from” — sound familiar? — to children and, over the heads of a police line, threw rocks and bottles, one of which caught young Elijah in the face.

That day taught Cummings he had rights, he later said, and it made him determined to become a lawyer despite teachers who dismissed his dream as impossible. With strong parents and supporters such as his boss at a drug store, who paid his college admission fee, Cummings fulfilled that dream and so much more.

Can church ever be separate from state at a Franklin Graham rally?
Spiritual leader’s message of love and unity isn’t reaching all backers of the president he supports so strongly

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After the Rev. Billy Graham became less a counselor of presidents and more a political player, particularly in the unfortunate case of Richard Nixon, he learned a lesson. The Rev. Franklin Graham, heir to his father’s legacy, has chosen a different path, arguably becoming as well known for his politics as for his role as a spiritual leader.

Considering his remarks as he brought his “Decision America” tour to his hometown this past weekend, it’s a box Graham the younger is not exactly comfortable being placed in. But for the preacher who credited the “God factor,” in part, for Donald Trump’s 2016 win, that narrative is set. Vocal support of the president pre- and post-election exists right alongside his philanthropic and mission outreach — such as recent efforts in the Bahamas — through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.

When celebrity luster gives cover to how America judges its own
Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll remind us of the unfair burden placed on icons of color

OPINION — I am not one of those folks who see celebrities as larger-than-life icons to be worshipped and admired. Usually. But the recent deaths of Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll hit me in the gut because those two amazing women were at once larger than life and so very real. The reactions to their accomplishments also illustrate an American or perhaps universal trait — the ability to compartmentalize, to place certain citizens of color or underrepresented citizens on a pedestal, at once a part of and apart from others of their race or gender or religion or orientation.

It allows negative judgment of entire groups to exist alongside denials of any racist or discriminatory intent. There are a lot of problems with that way of thinking. It places an unfair burden on the icons, a need to be less a human being than a flawless symbol. And it uses them as a rebuke to others who never managed to overcome society’s obstacles.

Americans as ‘High Noon’ heroes against lawlessness? Nope
Signs of courage are few and far between, as reactions to Trump impeachment inquiry show

OPINION — Americans like to imagine themselves as Gary Cooper’s Marshal Will Kane in “High Noon,” facing impossible odds, struggling, yet managing to stand up, even if it means standing alone and risking it all. We are all rugged individuals, we think, rushing in while cowards run for cover.

Think again.

Long arc of history guides John Lewis in his call for impeachment inquiry
A man who’s been beaten, bullied and jailed would know a thing or two about justice

OPINION — No one can accuse Rep. John Lewis of lacking patience. The Georgia Democrat showed plenty, as well as steely resolve, as he changed millions of minds — and history — over a life spent working for equal rights for all. So when he speaks, especially about justice, a cause from which he has never wavered, all would do well to listen.

Lewis was not the only voice raised this week, as all sides raced to place a political frame on the narrative of the undisputed fact that a U.S. president asked a foreign leader to work with him and for him to smear a political opponent, perhaps with military aid in the balance. “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” President Donald Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation based on notes. He also wanted to rope in his personal lawyer and the attorney general, who, by the way, works for the American people, not Trump.

By writing off climate change, are Republicans writing off young voters?
Trump’s environmental moves could well be harming the GOP in the long run

OPINION — It makes sense that young people, who will have to live with the consequences of decisions made by their elders, are becoming increasingly passionate about climate change and global warming. Once an afterthought on the list of issues at the top of voters’ concerns, the future of the environment is now the topic of candidate town halls, serious investigative reports and, on Wednesday, a congressional hearing featuring young people offering advice and warnings.

It’s hard to miss the extreme weather patterns that bring 500-year floods way too often. But are politicians missing the boat on an issue that could transform the voting patterns of a generation?

What a close Republican win in a North Carolina House race means (maybe) for 2020
Expect an emboldened Trump to remain the center of attention — just as he likes it

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Though Republicans tried to downplay the importance of an off-year special House election in North Carolina, President Donald Trump certainly thought differently. Why else would he have held an election eve rally alongside Dan Bishop, the GOP nominee in the state’s 9th District? And if that was not enough to belie the seeming lack of official party interest, Vice President Mike Pence also managed a North Carolina campaign trip the same day.

It paid off Tuesday, as Election Day turnout gave Bishop a 2-point win over Democrat Dan McCready. Bishop certainly credited Trump — the president, of course, took all of it — who helped the candidate overcome scandal over the race and his own controversial support of a “bathroom bill” that hurt business in the state. The newly elected congressman portrayed himself as Trump’s “mini-me” on every issue, from guns to abortion rights to immigration.

Biden and Beto are like night and day — except when they’re potato-potahto
Just ask the Carolinas, where one woman says she’d ‘vote for a tree stump’ over Trump

OPINION — It was a difference in styles and generations. In a Carolinas swing, first there was Beto O’Rourke with a town hall at a brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina — more like an informal gathering among many new friends. The next day there was Joe Biden with a large crowd at a historically black college in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

It was a day and a world apart last week, though in both cases, supporters uniformly praised a certain quality in their chosen candidate — authenticity.

Amid foreign policy chaos, remembering what’s important
Maybe you don’t have a loved one deployed to a hot spot. But you should still be paying attention

OPINION — Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez. Those names might not be that familiar to most. But their families, friends and fellow soldiers won’t forget them. The two Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan last week, U.S. officials said, which brings the total killed this year to 14, one more than all of last year.

This is the news that disappears quickly from the headlines, as politicians and pundits try to make sense of just what happened at the G-7 meeting in France, for instance, and the latest chaos at the top. When the Amazon is burning, and the president of the United States skips the climate change meeting, as his buddy Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro takes time to insult the wife of the host country’s leader, it’s more distracting than usual.