Will Tensions with Iran Lead to a Military Conflict?

CHARLOTTE, NC — The Trump administration has announced it is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Persian Gulf to discuss a response to an attack on Saudi oil facilities. The president campaigned on not involving the U.S. in wars across the globe, but this crisis has escalated tensions in the region. Though rebels in Yemen claimed credit for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, intelligence services say Iran is the culprit; after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the president has been looking for a way to re-start talks with the country’s leaders.

Amid foreign policy chaos, remembering what’s important

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.

But it is still astonishing how little attention the 18-year American engagement in Afghanistan seems to attract in the country’s consciousness and conversation.

A Controversial Fourth of July Celebration

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even an all-American holiday doesn’t mean a break from political polarization. The annual WashingtonD.C., party and fireworks celebration this year will also feature an exhibit of military might, with tanks, flyovers and a speech by the president. With the Republican National Committee handing out VIP tickets, is the event more campaign rally or public salute to the country? Depends on what side you’re on.

This Is Not Your Father’s Bible Belt. Can Dems Make It Theirs?

OPINION — There’s a series of striking images in a televised ad for Dan McCready, who is seeking to represent North Carolina’s reliably conservative 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. It puts the candidate’s military record and faith front and center — not entirely surprising for someone vying for voters in a swath of the state that includes an affluent section of Charlotte, as well as parts of rural counties all the way to the Fayetteville area, with its strong military presence.

In the ad, McCready stands with his troops as an announcer states that after 9/11, he “was called to serve his country.” Then the scene shifts, and the narrative continues to describe the Marine Corps veteran as finding another calling when he was baptized “in the waters of the Euphrates River.”

He is the Democrat in the race.

Opinion: When the Price Is Too High to Be an American

If I had been in that briefing room when White House Chief of Staff and retired Gen. John Kelly stated that only journalists who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier were allowed to ask a question, I could have raised my hand. But that would have cheapened the memory of a Marine, my beloved nephew, treating his life and death as currency in an unholy transaction.

I get what Kelly was trying to pointedly point out — the disconnect between the folks in the room who may have been untouched by the costs of military service and the families who live with them every day. In truth, though, that gulf could have extended to the street and into most American homes — including the White House, whose occupant has the actual power to send men and women into war.

But to have used that ticket I wish I did not possess for advantage would have betrayed the values of the America my nephew served. That America is one where a journalist or any citizen is certainly allowed, even encouraged, to question a government official who is beholden to the U.S. Constitution — not the man sitting in the Oval Office.

Opinion: Trump’s Ratings Hold Steady, but Is He Losing Key Groups He Needs to Stay on Top?

“You’re fired!” was the reality show refrain of the now president of the United States, Donald Trump. So when, on the campaign trail, candidate Trump said, “I alone can fix it,” with “it” meaning whatever was ailing the country and each one of its citizens, it was easy to for someone looking for answers to transfer his my-way-or-the-highway TV decisiveness to Oval Office success.

Could “The Apprentice” boss have bought into his own hype on the way to the White House, forgetting the behind-the-scenes writers and producers, and the reality of life after the director yells, “Cut”?

VA problems a political issue in military-rich North Carolina

Very few issues can bring contentious Democrats and Republicans in the North Carolina general assembly together. But this week, marking national military appreciation month, a joint resolution expressing gratitude and appreciation for “the men and women of the United States armed forces” won unanimous support.

Those men and women and their families are important constituents and the military ranks as a major economic driver in a state with, as the resolution mentioned, six major military bases, nearly 800,000 veterans, and the third largest military force in the country, with close to 120,000 active duty personnel and another 12,000 members of the North Carolina National Guard.

So the current investigation of allegations of slow wait times and false record-keeping at the VA that is being closely watched all over is of special interest in North Carolina. In the midst of a tight U.S. Senate race, it’s inevitable politics as well as concern would be part of the reaction.