Obama can put Bush era to rest now

The great New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asks a pertinent question.

“Do we dare to hope that the Bush administration is finally at an end?”

That was the lead in her column published in today’s NY Times. The rest of it is attached:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/dowd-can-44-subtract-43-from-the-equation.html?_r=1&

President Obama had to spend a great deal of his first term trying to explain how – in his mind – the nation plunged so deeply into its fiscal mess. He also had to explain why he believed the Iraq War was wrong.

He did so quite deftly by reliving over and over the presidency of George W. Bush, who recently opened a presidential library and museum at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.

But now that he’s been re-elected and is beginning his initial descent toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama finally can finally stop referencing the Bush presidency when it suits his political needs, said Dowd.

I cannot really blame him for the tactics he used to win re-election. Indeed, the Republicans thought they had Obama right where they wanted him: struggling to right an economy that crashed and burned at the end of the Bush administration and which Obama sought to correct with some hasty stimulus measures that drove the national debt and deficit into the next universe.

You know what? The Obama Economic Plan appears to be working.

Thus, there’s no more reason to blame President Bush for failed policies.

Oh yes, there’s the war thing too. The Iraq War has come to something resembling a conclusion, although bombs are still killing civilians in Iraq. The Afghanistan War is drawing closer to an end, but we’ll still have troops there even after our combat role has been taken over completely by Afghan security forces.

So, let’s answer Dowd’s question. Yes, the Bush administration has ended. Now let’s allow historians to determine its place.

Dole speaks of ‘badly bent’ U.S. Senate

Bob Dole is a creature of the U.S. Senate and he knows it well.

The former Kansas Republican lawmaker – and two-time nominee for national political office – says the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is “badly bent” and needs repair.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-live/2013/05/dole-senate-is-bent-pretty-badly-164796.html?hp=l5

Do you think?

Dole spoke on Fox News Sunday today and lamented what’s happened to the body he used to lead as its majority leader. He decries the Republicans’ use – or misuse – of the filibuster, complaining that the Senate now needs 60 votes to pass virtually anything.

Dole once was considered a Republican bad boy, mean-spirited in the extreme. As a vice-presidential nominee on a ticket headed by President Ford in 1976, he once referred to all the deaths that occurred during “Democrat wars.” Twenty years later, as his party’s presidential nominee, Dole had softened his approach a bit, but not much while losing that year’s election in a near-landslide to President Clinton.

Now, though, he’s an elder statesman, part of what the tea party wing of his party calls the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party. He well might become a target for the GOP insurgents who have taken joy in knocking off its partisan elders.

He ought to be taken seriously as one who has served his country with valor in war – and suffered grievous battlefield wounds in the process – and with distinction and honor as a U.S. senator.

Memo to feds: Cut the red tape

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has expressed appropriate concern about her state’s recovery from the tornado that tore through one of its cities.

Too much red tape could slow the recovery effort, said the Republican governor.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/302001-okla-gov-fallin-fears-red-tape-will-slow-tornado-recovery?utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer7f14b

She will need over a period of time to get on the phone and call the man who is coming to Oklahoma today to express his support for the effort to rebuild Moore. I can imagine this conversation occurring sometime in the next, oh, month or two:

Hello? Mr. President? This is Mary Fallin. Look, Mr. President, I need help here.

“You’ve already promised that the federal government will be by our side as we recover from the tornado that hit Moore. Will you please, sir, deliver on that promise by ensuring that FEMA gets the money to us quickly and that we can avoid the bottlenecks that seem at times to stop the funds from getting immediately to those who need help?

“I know you’re busy. But I’m busy, too. I’m trying to get a town rebuilt that is just a few miles south of us here in the state’s capital city. My people are hurting and they’re closer to me than they are to you.

“Please, Mr. President. Cut the red tape.”

For his part, the president needs to listen and act.

What would Bullock do?

Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka wrote a fascinating blog about how Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has squandered the immense power of his office.
http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/regarding-david-dewhurst#.UaE6Kve1C28.twitter
I cannot stop thinking of one of Dewhurst’s predecessors, the late Bob Bullock.
Bullock was the crusty Democratic lieutenant governor who made quite habit out of chewing up governors and legislators whenever the spirit moved him, or when he thought matters weren’t going the right way. Dewhurst, one of the more detail-oriented politicians I’ve ever met, has been steamrolled, according to Burka. I’m trying to imagine Bullock allowing that to happen. I can’t draw that picture in my mind’s eye.
It’s a shame, really. I’ve met few public officials who work as hard as Dewhurst. My most recent conversation with him was right after the start of the 2011 Legislature. We spoke on the phone and he spent nearly 20 minutes – without hardly taking a breath – giving me the nuts-and-bolts details of some piece of legislation on which he was working. My sources in the Legislature have told me he isn’t particularly well-liked by his legislative colleagues – the lieutenant governor, after all, presides over the state Senate – but they at least used to respect his work ethic.
Even that’s changed, or so it seems. Burka, who’s been watching Texas politics for longer than just about anyone, believes Dewhurst has been neutered. “The whole Capitol is scoffing at him,” Burka writes.
Bullock wasn’t wired for scoffing, either to receive it or to give it. He was one tough dude.
I didn’t know Bullock well. He left office in 1999 – the same year as his death – but his reputation as a tough dealmaker was legendary. He also knew how to work with Republicans, such as then-Gov. George W. Bush, with whom he built a marvelous political relationship.
That was a different time. Democrats controlled both legislative chambers. Bush had to find a way to do business with them. Bullock was his go-to guy in the Senate, while Democratic Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center was the Man of the House.
But reading about how Dewhurst has been mauled by the now-minority party in the Senate reminds me of how times and circumstances have changed in the Lone Star State.
As Bullock was fond of saying: God bless Texas.

Now let’s allow the UT-Austin boss to do his job

The Texas Senate has confirmed three new appointments to the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Can we now get back to the business of letting UT-Austin President Bill Powers do his job … without interference/meddling from regents?

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/05/24/texas-senate-confirms-nominees-ut-system-board/

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, noted some mistakes in confirming earlier regents in 2011 – before Seliger became chairman of the committee. A lengthy confirmation hearing elicited pledges from the new folks that they had no intention of seeking Powers’s dismissal, or that they would meddle in administrative matters.

The new regents are Paul Foster of El Paso, Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand of Houston. Their confirmation hearing got a bit testy, which one would expect given the assurances that Seliger’s committee was seeking.

The UT System board has been fraught with fighting and quarreling with Powers for longer than anyone would care to remember. Frankly, it’s been embarrassing to the system that is supposed to pride itself on putting education first. That hasn’t been the case with the UT System’s flagship campus.

Just maybe the board can set aside its meddlesome ways and let Bill Powers do the job for which he was hired.

Enough, already.

‘Dark money’ seeks greater influence

Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a bill that would have forced politically active organizations to be more transparent.

His reason? Perry says the bill would have a chilling effect on people’s right of free speech and political expression.

Oh, brother.

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/05/25/perry-vetoes-dark-money-bill/

“At a time when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation,” Perry said in his veto message.

Senate Bill 346 would have required politically active non-profit groups to disclose the source of their monetary donations. Perry believes that requirement stifles free speech. I suggest it does nothing of the kind. It merely allows the rest of us to know who’s giving money to politically active groups and enables other Texans to determine for themselves whether these groups are worthy of public support.

I must ask: What is so unreasonable about that?

SB 346 pertains to non-profits falling under the 501c(4) tax code, which has been under some examination of late with the controversy involving the Internal Revenue Service probe of such organizations and their political activity. The bill was cobbled together hastily in the House of Representatives and it included an exemption for labor unions. My thought on that is that the bill could have been approved and then tightened in 2015 to bring labor unions under the same umbrella as other non-profits. All other groups – liberal and conservative – are covered under the bill.

Of course, conservative activists say SB 346 targets their groups and causes. I don’t think so. As I understand it, the bill pertains to many liberal-leaning non-profits, so their donors are subject to precisely the same scrutiny as those on the right.

But that doesn’t matter to Gov. Perry, who is trying to protect his political allies.

The cause of political transparency has taken another punch in the gut.

No ordinary bridge collapse

The bridge that collapsed north of Seattle this week signals the start of yet another spirited debate in Washington, D.C.

What are we going do to repair our crumbling infrastructure?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/us/washington-state-bridge-collapse-highlights-infrastructure-needs.html?ref=us&_r=0

Part of the Interstate 5 bridge fell into the Skagit River. No one died in the incident, even though several vehicles plunged into the drink. We can give thanks that no one was lost.

However, the government is in serious budget-cutting mode. The mandatory sequestration of funds – some of which might go toward highway and bridge maintenance – could potentially hinder this important work.

Is the Seattle-area bridge collapse a harbinger of similar occurrences in the future? Many civil engineering experts think it is. Since I’m not a civil engineer, I’ll take their word for it. Indeed, I’m not hearing any others say that the nation’s roads and bridges are in just wonderful condition … thank you very much.

We remain a highly mobile society. We like to drive our vehicles long distances, which is especially true in the Texas Panhandle – which requires those who live here to drive a while just to get anywhere.

Are our bridges safe?

The economy is saving POTUS’s standing

The economy is shoring up President Obama’s poll numbers.

Who knew?

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/is-the-economy-saving-obamas-approval-ratings/

Nate Silver, the math whiz whose Five Thirty-Eight blog, published by the New York Times, called the 2012 election almost exactly, thinks the economy might be the president’s ace in the face of the other matters that seem to be dragging his poll numbers down.

I’m trying to process that one. I’ve noted already that the economy is turning into a net plus for the president. It boggles my mind to think that the one issue Republicans thought in 2012 would sink Obama is now turning out to be keeping him afloat.

Joblessness is down. Hiring is up. The deficit is shrinking.

As with all things political, the president’s foes aren’t giving him any credit for that trend – although they’d be pulling the trigger immediately if the numbers were going the other way.

Politics ain’t for the faint-hearted … you know?

Generation gap emerges

I don’t know if I’m feeling old or if my colleagues’ youth has me perplexed.

I went to work this week carrying a book to read during some down time. It’s Douglas Brinkley’s biography, “Cronkite.” A young colleague sitting next to me who, I guess is perhaps in her late 20s, looked at the book and asked, “What are you reading?”

“Cronkite,” I said. “Oh,” she answered. “Who’s he?”

“Um, he would be Walter Cronkite,” I said, adding that he was a renowned news anchor and broadcast journalist.

“Oh, I see,” she said. “Is the book good?” she asked. Well, yes, I answered.

In fairness to my young colleague, Cronkite retired from CBS News in 1981, more than likely before she was born. He kept a fairly low profile in the years since his retirement, although he did produce some news and science specials for CBS until his death in 2009.

The brief exchange just reminded of me of how quickly this ol’ world has changed – and continues to change.

I’m trying to stay current. Honest.

At times it’s tough to let go of what – and who – got us to where we are today. Walter Cronkite, once called the “most trusted man in America,” was one of those who led us to this point.

When to salute … or not salute

President Obama’s critics are going to seize on this one, bet on it.

http://thehill.com/video/administration/301833-obama-fails-to-return-marines-salute

The president boarded Marine One at the White House on Friday and did not return the salute snapped by the Marine on duty at the foot of the stairs entering the helicopter. Obama came back out of the chopper, walked back down the stairs and shook the Marine’s hand while – I would imagine – offering an apology for his lapse in military courtesy.

Here, though, is the question: Was the president required to return the salute? No.

Indeed, not all presidents salute the military personnel who stand guard. Ronald Reagan was the first president in my memory to return the salute. In fact, his salute wasn’t all that military-like in its execution. President Reagan’s salute looked more, um, Hollywood than military. Those who have saluted superior officers while they wore the uniform know what I’m talking about.

No president going back to Dwight Eisenhower, if my memory is correct, returned the salute. Interesting, too, that Ike – a retired general of the Army – wouldn’t salute the military guards. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter – all of whom were veterans – didn’t return the salute. Then came Reagan. George H.W. Bush – another veteran – didn’t salute the guard.

Bill Clinton – who, famously, was not a veteran – returned the salute as did George W. Bush, another veteran. Now, it’s non-veteran Barack Obama in the commander in chief’s chair and he has decided to salute the military personnel.

But protocol doesn’t require the civilian commander in chief to return that salute. It’s the president’s call exclusively.

None of that will matter to the legions of right-wingers who’ll find yet another bogus reason to criticize this president.

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