Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Who would have thought this could happen?

So help me I hadn’t planned on saying anything about the image posted on this blog item … but I just cannot help myself.

Former President Barack Obama and first lady Melania Trump sat next to each other at former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral this weekend.

I am struck — along with millions of other Americans — by the smile on Mrs. Trump’s face as the former president is telling her … something.

Why mention anything about this? Well, Mrs. Trump’s husband, Donald, has been highly critical of his immediate presidential predecessor. He at times has been intensely personal in his criticism. And let us not forget, too, that Trump also has fomented the “birther” lie about former President Obama’s constitutional eligibility into whether he was qualified to hold the office to which he was elected twice. I am compelled to note that Mrs. Trump has contributed to the birther defamation by demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate.

A part of me, therefore, is glad this picture has gone viral on social media. It surely has shown up on the president’s Twitter feed. What’s more, I also am inclined to believe the president might be more than just a tad bit ticked off at his wife for speaking to — let alone smiling broadly — at Barack H. Obama.

If only any of us could be a fly on the wall in the room where the first couple talks about their respective weekend activities.

Funerals put politics in perspective

Funerals that honor public figures — notably those involved in some level in politics — have this way of putting politics in their proper perspective.

I just watched a touching tribute to the late first lady Barbara Bush. It made me swallow hard on several occasions, particularly as I heard commentators tell us how bitter political foes could become the best of friends.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and Clinton.

Indeed, today at the Houston church where the world said goodbye to George H.W. Bush’s beloved “Bar,” one could see first lady Melania Trump sitting next to Barack Obama, who sat with his wife Michelle next to Bill and Hillary Clinton; George W. Bush sat in the family section across the aisle next to his wife, dad, brothers, sister and their huge assemblage of Bushes.

It strikes me today as we digest the vitriol that emanates these days from the halls of power in Washington that it need not be that way. Much of the commentary today about Barbara Bush spoke of her friendships with Democrats as well as with Republicans. Her husband, after all, is the quintessential Republican, as are her two sons — one a former president, the other a former governor.

But we were told today about Mrs. Bush’s kind heart, her compassion, empathy, her generous spirit, good humor, grit, her tough-love approach to caring for her children and, yes, her friends.

Mrs. Bush’s husband promised to create a “kinder, gentler nation” when he was elected president in 1988. The jury still might be out on whether the 41st president of the United States achieved that noble goal. He practiced kindness and gentleness in his personal life, as did his beloved first lady.

The nation said farewell today to someone who embodied a more genteel time in what has become at times a blood sport. The craft and art of politics aren’t what they used to be. That besmirches politics’ current practitioners, not to mention their once-noble pursuit.

Whenever we say goodbye to beloved public figures, some of us — yours truly included — wish that it might signal a return to a time when political foes could actually become friends.

Is this such a moment? Oh, probably not. My hope, though, does spring eternal.

O’Rourke winning money battle against Cruz

Beto O’Rourke appears to be winning one aspect of the upcoming electoral fight against an incumbent U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

It’s the fight for campaign cash.

Will it translate to victory in the bigger, more important battle — the one for actual votes this fall? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that Cruz, the Republican incumbent, is going to declare that he has raised less than half of what O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, has raised in the first quarter of 2018.

I won’t spend a lot of time analyzing the battle for cash. Here, though, is a thought that came to me from a retired journalist friend of ours who offered this tidbit during our recent visit to the Golden Triangle.

O’Rourke’s goal has to be to cut his expected losses in rural Texas while maintaining his expected hefty margins in urban Texas.

The Cruz Missile has already put the warning out to his GOP faithful that the “far left” is energized against him — and against Donald Trump, whom the far left hates with a passion, according to Cruz.

Our friend, who’s watched a lot of election cycles in Texas over the span of many decades, believes that O’Rourke — a congressman from El Paso — needs to continue plowing the rural field in the hunt for votes. That seems to explain why O’Rourke has spent so much time in places such as Pampa, Canyon, Amarillo and throughout the reliably Republican Texas Panhandle.

In a certain fashion, if that is the strategy that O’Rourke is employing in Texas, it seems to mirror the national Democratic strategy that enabled Barack Obama to win two presidential elections and for Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by 3 million ballots while losing the Electoral College to Trump. If you look at the county-by-county breakdown nationally, you see that Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all won vast expanses of rural America; Democrats, though, harvested tremendous numbers of votes in urban America.

One can boil that down to a Texas strategy, too, I reckon, given this state’s huge urban centers in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thus, it becomes imperative for O’Rourke to somehow cut deeply enough into the losses he can expect in the Piney Woods, the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and the Permian Basin to give him some breathing space as he shores up the support he can expect in Big City Texas.

I do hope the young man spends his campaign cash wisely.

‘Welcome back,’ ballooning budget deficits

Ronald Reagan and his fellow Republicans made lots of hay in 1980 about the “spiraling” budget deficit during that presidential election year. It totaled a whopping $40 billion.

The GOP presidential nominee’s campaign ridiculed those big-spending Democrats en route to a smashing landslide election victory over President Jimmy Carter.

Ah, yes. Republicans were the party of “fiscal responsibility.”

Hah! Not any longer. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the current fiscal year will end with an $800 billion budget deficit and will surpass $1 trillion by the next fiscal year.

Hey, what happened? Oh, it’s that tax cut that the Republicans wrote into law — at the insistence of Donald J. Trump, and the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress.

What happened to fiscal restraint? Where are the controls on runaway government spending? Aren’t congressional Republicans — who control the House and the Senate — supposed to rein in free-spending tendencies usually associated with liberal Democrats?

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a balanced budget in the late 1990s with help from congressional Republicans. Then came Republican George W. Bush, who succeeded Clinton in 2001. We went to war at the end of that year, but didn’t increase taxes to pay for it. The deficit soared out of control.

Democrat Barack Obama came aboard in 2009 with the economy in free fall. He pushed a tax hike and a spending boost through Congress. The economy recovered. The deficit was pared by roughly two-thirds annually by the time he left office in 2017.

Now we’re hurtling back to Square One. The deficit is exploding.

And no one in power seems to care about things that used to matter a lot.

Trump telegraphing our next move in Syria?

Wait a second. Didn’t the Republicans in Congress climb all over President Barack Obama for “telegraphing” our withdrawal of fighting troops from Iraq?

Now the next president has declared his intention to remove our small contingent of troops from Syria. What happens after Donald J. Trump’s statement of intent? The Syrians launched a chemical attack against their citizens, prompting one prominent Trump critic, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, to lay blame squarely at the president’s feet for this “crime against humanity.”

McCain asserted that Trump has “emboldened” the Syrians. What’s more, he wants the president to respond as he did the first time the Syrian government gassed its citizenry, with targeted air strikes.

Now, to his credit, Trump is slamming Russia for its continuing support of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.

“The question now is whether he will do anything about it,” Sen. McCain said. “The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

Back to my original point. Why did the president reveal his hand by declaring his intention to get our troops out of that civil war?

It can be argued, I suppose, that Barack Obama opened the door for the Islamic State to ramp up its activities in Iraq by revealing a deadline for our withdrawal from the Iraqi battlefield. It damn sure brought out the GOP critics; I believe Donald Trump was one of them.

As for McCain’s urging an armed response, I believe the president needs to hit Syrian forces … hard!

Obama is relaxed; many of us wish he could return

Barack H. Obama seems to have found his second wind as a private citizen. Same with Michelle Obama.

The two of them hardly ever are photographed without big smiles on their faces. The former president is enjoying his time away from the spotlight, as is the former first lady.

Oh, this fills many of us with wistful thoughts. If only we could get him back. That can’t happen. The U.S. Constitution limits presidents to two elected terms. Barack Obama did his time. Now he’s out among some of us.

Sure, he’s making a ton of scratch making speeches. He is kicking a lot of his post-presidential income back to community projects near and dear to his heart. He is following the course set by many of his predecessors.

George W. Bush has taken up painting, has biked with wounded veterans (including in Palo Duro Canyon) and has opened his presidential library in Dallas; Bill Clinton is hard at work on his Clinton Global Initiative Foundation, also making speeches and getting mixed up in politics from time to time; Jimmy Carter builds houses for Habitat for Humanity and teaches Sunday school in Plains, Ga.; George H.W. Bush is in poor health, but he, too, enjoys retired life.

I suppose it would tempting for Obama to fire back at his successor, Donald Trump, who seems to need a foil; he relishes the notion of dismantling many of his immediate predecessor’s successes and he does so while firing off broadsides via stump speeches and tweets.

Therein lies one of the many differences between Obama and Trump. The current president simply cannot stand being criticized; the former president might not like it, but he maintains his silence … mostly.

As much as I would like to have Barack Obama back in command of the situation, I know — and appreciate — his sense of freedom from the rigors of serving in the nation’s highest public office.

I wish him well. I also hope he doesn’t disappear. Many of his countrymen and women still enjoy listening to his soaring rhetoric far more than the trash talk that pours forth from the guy who succeeded him.

Birtherism making an unwelcome return? No-o-o-o!

I wanted to hurl — well, almost — when I heard this little item out of Arizona.

Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who lost a re-election bid, is now running for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. senator from Arizona. What does this clown say over the weekend?

He said if he’s elected to the Senate he’s going to renew the lie that former President Barack Obama was not qualified to serve — because he was born in Africa and not in Hawaii.

He said this about Barack Obama’s birth certificate: “No doubt about it, we have the evidence, I’m not going to go into all the details, yeah, it’s a phony document,” Arpaio told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Primetime.”

Can you believe this? Neither can I!

Let’s remember that Arpaio, one of the more notorious lawmen in recent U.S. history, was convicted of defying a federal court order banning him from profiling Hispanics in an attempt to round up illegal immigrants.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He pardons Arpaio, freeing him to run for the Senate in the race to succeed Jeff Flake, the Republican who is retiring at the end of the year.

Sigh …

The task now falls on Arizona Republicans to spare their state the prospect of having to listen to this clown beyond the primary election. Arpaio is one of several GOP candidates running in this race.

Why does this matter to a blogger way over here in Texas, a good distance from Arizona? Because if Arizona Republicans lose their minds and nominate this individual, he then becomes a serious contender for an office that writes federal laws that affect all Americans. That means me. And you. I cannot speak for others, but in no way in hell do I want this guy anywhere near the U.S. Senate.

It boggles my mind that he would consider resurrecting one of the most despicable lies ever told about a U.S. president.

The door keeps revolving in Trump World

Here’s the latest big shakeup inside the Donald J. Trump administration. David Shulkin is out as secretary of veterans affairs. Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, is the new boss at the VA.

Trump pushed out Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration. Admiral Jackson will inherit a department in relatively good shape, if we are to accept the president’s tweet announcing the latest big personnel change. He thanked Shulkin for his service to the country and for the work he did on behalf of our “great veterans.”

I do expect the president to have an unkind word or two to tweet, however, regarding Shulkin’s Obama connection, given that’s Trump’s modus operandi: anything to do with his immediate predecessor is a bad thing.

Shulkin got caught up in a controversy over excessive spending on personal and department travel. I would caution the president to avoid blasting Shulkin just because Barack Obama appointed him; Trump, remember, did keep him on board.

As one of those who receives care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, I do appreciate that the agency has recovered a good bit from the shameful episode it went through with reports of veterans dying while awaiting health care in some hospitals. The shameful chapter cost retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki his job as veterans secretary. Indeed, he needed to go.

Is this the end of the Trump shakeup? Well, I am not holding my breath. I expect some more “bodies” to be thrown over the wall. Then again, that’s almost becoming normal in the world of Trump, who actually has acknowledged how he thrives on chaos.

I do hope Admiral Jackson can keep the VA ship moving forward while continuing to provide care for our nation’s “great veterans.”

Is this ‘leading from behind’?

I cannot resist asking the question: Is the president of the United States “leading from behind” with his decision to join in the expulsion of Russian “diplomats”?

About two dozen nations have joined a sort of class-action expulsion of Russian officials as a way to punish the Russian government over its poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in Great Britain.

The United States joined that effort. Indeed, Donald Trump has ordered the closing of the Russian consulate in Seattle, citing its proximity to the giant Boeing aircraft assembly plant and the big U.S. Navy base in nearby Bremerton, Wash.

Don’t misunderstand this point: I applaud the president for joining this allied effort to punish the Russians. They are bad actors on the world stage.

However, we heard a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans that then-President Barack Obama was “leading from behind” on issues relating to, oh, Syria, Libya and the continuing war against international terror. Critics accused the president of failing to take the lead on diplomatic and military efforts.

So, does that criticism apply here? The president of the world’s most powerful nation has acquired some valuable political cover by joining other nations in this punishment of Russia, which is governed by that former KGB spy, Vladimir Putin.

Doesn’t the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power have an obligation to take the lead, rather than stand among the crowd?

Look out, ‘radical Islam’

President George W. Bush told us in clear and unequivocal terms while the nation grieved over the 9/11 attack: We are not at war with Islam.

President Barack H. Obama followed that message to the letter. On the night he announced the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the president told us that bin Laden was not a “Muslim leader,” but that he was a “mass murderer of Muslims.”

A new president has taken over. Donald J. Trump has just nominated Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state and has appointed John Bolton to be the new national security adviser.

These two men — not to mention the president — seem intent on changing the narrative. They want to take direct aim at “radical Islam,” as if the terrorists with whom we are at war represent a great world religion. They do not. They have perverted Islam to fit some ruthless ideology.

As Politico has reported: Both Bolton and Pompeo will now be working for a president who has alleged, with no evidence, that American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, and who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from U.S. shores. Critics say the personnel moves suggest Trump’s worst instincts on how to approach the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims will find receptive ears among his foreign policy aides.

Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, who will be leaving the State Department and the National Security Council, respectively, were thought to have some sort of moderating influence on Trump. But the president has shoved them aside, elevating two more fiery confidants to help formulate U.S. foreign policy. They are likely to seek to steer the president toward a position that mainstream Muslims might interpret to be more hostile to their religious faith.

That, I suggest, is a dangerous trend.

The killers with whom we have been at war since 9/11 need damn little pretext to recruit new militants to follow their perverted cause.