Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Fox media analyst needs a reality check . . . seriously!

I get that Howard Kurtz, who once worked for the Washington Post, now is a media analyst for a pro-Donald Trump cable news outlet, the Fox News Channel. Thus, he is inclined to speak more kindly of the president and those close to him than others who tend to look more critically at the Trump Era.

But, c’mon, Howard! Get a grip!

He told Laura Ingraham, another Fox News “contributor,” that first lady Melania Trump has gotten the worst media treatment of any first lady in modern times. He said: “Melania is subjected to a particularly brutal kind of treatment and mockery . . . No other modern first lady has been treated like this.” 

Kurtz cannot be serious. Can he? I guess he can — in his own mind.

Let me offer a couple of examples that I submit would contradict his view of Melania Trump’s media treatment: Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I’ll stipulate that first ladies as a rule deserve some cushion from the pounding that the media deliver to their husbands. To that extent, Melania Trump is no different from any of her predecessors.

However, do I really need to remind Kurtz of the hideous racially tinged, defamatory insults that those on the right hurled at Michelle Obama during her eight years as first lady? And, yes, the media reported it. I do not want to restate some of the monstrous epithets she endured. You know what they are. Michelle Obama damn sure does.

As for Hillary Clinton, has Kurtz forgotten how the media reported on the far right’s accusations that Hillary and Bill Clinton were actually living as husband and wife, or that the two of them actually ordered the murder of their political opponents in the years prior to President Clinton’s election in 1992?

Have the media gone that far in their treatment of Melania Trump?

I do not believe that is the case. Thus, Howard Kurtz needs to re-calibrate his media-analyst antennae. Dial it back, Howie, on your criticism of the media as it relates to Donald and Melania Trump.

Impeachment: full of land mines, ready to explode

Our nation’s founders had plenty of flaws. They were damn smart, though, when crafting a governing document that sought to create a “more perfect Union.”

One of their nearly perfect notions was to set the bar for impeaching and removing a president quite high. It’s a two-step process.

The U.S. House of Representatives can impeach a president with a simple majority. Then it gets a lot harder.

The U.S. Senate would put the president on trial, but to convict a president the Senate needs 67 out of 100 votes.

That’s a high bar . . . by design.

Thus, I respect the presumed next House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to argue against impeachment. Why? Because the Senate seems to lack the votes to convict Donald Trump of anything the House would argue. Therefore, Pelosi — as shrewd a vote counter as anyone — isn’t going to put her reputation on the line by stampeding an impeachment proceeding through the House without some assurance that the Senate would follow up with a conviction.

Trump reportedly is telling aides he believes the next House — to be controlled by Democrats — will launch a bum’s rush toward impeachment in 2019. I am not so sure about that.

Pelosi is not going to follow the exhibit shown by another former speaker who whipsawed the House into impeaching a president. Newt Gingrich was speaker in 1998 when the House impeached President Clinton. The Senate acquitted Clinton on all the charges. Gingrich was left looking like a fool.

Nancy Pelosi does not want history to repeat itself.

Trump to attend 41’s funeral . . . won’t offer eulogy

I am tempted sorely to break my pledge to go soft on Donald Trump while the nation mourns the death of a great and good man, former President George H.W. Bush.

I’ll resist the urge.

However, I am compelled to take note that Trump will attend his predecessor’s funeral but won’t be one of the eulogists. It seems only natural that the current president would stand and pay public tribute to a former president. Not this time.

The late president’s family has asked former President George W. Bush, the great man’s son, to deliver one of the eulogies; also slated to talk will be former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican along with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and presidential historian Jon Meacham.

Donald Trump will be in the pew watching and listening.

It’s unusual for the current president to be passed over for such an event. However, I should note that the late Sen. John McCain made it abundantly clear he didn’t want Trump even to attend his funeral. The president stayed away.

There have been instances where political adversaries have honored their opponent. Perhaps one of the more fascinating tributes came in 1994 at the funeral of President Richard Nixon. One of the eulogists was President Bill Clinton, whose wife, Hillary, worked on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee staff as the panel was considering articles of impeachment against President Nixon — who I hasten to add asked President Clinton to speak about him at his funeral.

Trump and the Bush family have — to put it mildly — issues. The president has disparaged Jeb Bush as “low energy Jeb.” He has been harshly critical of Bush 43’s prosecution of the Iraq War. Most stunning of all, he actually mocked Bush 41’s signature “Points of Light” program that encourages voluntarism among citizens to do good work.

As for the late president himself, he once said he didn’t like Trump. He called him a “blowhard” and according to one of GHW Bush’s closest aides, the former president voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

So, you can get the picture that Trump and the Bushes are, um, not particularly close. Correct?

However, I am glad that Donald Trump will attend President Bush’s funeral. It’s the least he can do.

Foes can, and do, become friends

I have been listening intently to the testimony of a former foe of the late President George H.W. Bush about how they became friends.

Former President Bill Clinton defeated President Bush in 1992. Bush was seeking re-election, but a faltering economy and a broken campaign pledge to never raise taxes did him in.

Clinton and Bush went nose-to-nose — along with the banty rooster Dallas billionaire Ross Perot. Clinton won with 43 percent of the popular vote, but also with a substantial Electoral College majority.

Bush and Clinton were drawn together in 2004 when President George W. Bush assigned them to raise money for tsunami relief for Southeast Asia. That was when their friendship formed. It grew over time and cemented itself indelibly.

Theirs is not the only friendship formed out of political adversity.

I think also of how two earlier adversaries became BFFs over time. President Gerald Ford lost his bid for election to Jimmy Carter in 1976. That campaign was equally harsh and ferocious. Moments after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 1977, President Carter turned to his predecessor and thanked for “all he did to heal the country” after the Watergate scandal of 1972-74.

The two men forged a close friendship that lasted until President Ford’s death in 2006.

These friendships, I am saddened to say, seem to be too rare of an occurrence.

President George W. Bush isn’t exactly best of pals with Al Gore and John Kerry, the men he defeated in 2000 and 2004. One didn’t see President Carter and President Reagan chumming around after Reagan defeated Carter’s bid for re-election in 1980. President Obama did deliver some touching and heartfelt remarks at Sen. John McCain’s funeral earlier this year, but those 2008 foes didn’t spend a lot of time off the clock with each other; nor do President Obama and Mitt Romney, his defeated 2012 opponent.

I’ll add that George W. Bush and Clinton have become friendly over the years, given Clinton’s professed “love” of Bush 41 and the notion that the elder Bushes “adopted” Clinton as another of their sons; that means “W” and Clinton see themselves as brothers with different mothers.

That brings me to the current president. What kind of relationship can Donald J. Trump ever have with the foe he vanquished in 2016, the woman he calls “Crooked Hillary” Clinton? Indeed, how many political friends has the president cultivated during his time in office and will those relationships last after he leaves the presidency?

Still, I take pleasure in listening to the tales of how political foes can become friends. It’s one of the shining virtues of our nation’s extraordinary political makeup.

Putting politics aside, let’s honor a great life

It won’t surprise those who read this blog carefully to realize that I didn’t vote either time — in 1988 or 1992 — for the late George H.W. Bush when he ran for president of the United States.

However, despite my own partisan leanings and admitted bias, I want to devote the next bit of time to honor this man’s life.

Long before he died last night at the age of 94, I grew to appreciate the profound public service that President Bush gave to the nation he served with such nobility, grace and grit. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate that service back when he was an active politician seeking election and re-election as president. Time, though, enables all of us to view people and instances through a different prism than we do in the moment.

Bush 41’s campaign for the presidency in 1988 was not his shining moment. He brutalized his opponent, Michael Dukakis, with a campaign that called Dukakis soft on crime and soft on love of country. Four years later, the economy was faltering and I felt we needed a change in direction.

OK, that all said, I believe it is important to honor the arc of this man’s life. Good heavens, President Bush led the fullest life one could possibly imagine.

He was born into privilege. He enlisted in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, became the youngest aviator in the Navy during World War II; he was shot down and plucked from the ocean by a submarine crew. He came home, married Barbara Pierce, the love of his life. He finished college and went into business in West Texas. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, lost two races for the Senate. Bush was appointed head of the CIA, special envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, he chaired the Republican National Committee, was elected vice president and finally as president.

He helped shepherd the end of communism in Europe. He watched the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He led an international coalition against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait.

Even after he left office, he remained active and on call when the need arose. He teamed with his old adversary, Bill Clinton, to lead an effort to raise money in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The two men then became the best of friends.

This man’s life is worthy of honor by every American. President Bush devoted so much of his adult life to public service. That’s how I choose to remember this great — and good — man.

The other stuff that troubles us in the moment, the hideousness surrounding the current president? That can wait.

This is President George H.W. Bush’s time.

Bush 41’s legacy contains considerable irony

George Herbert Walker Bush’s presidency was cut short by perhaps one of the more ironic twists of political fate in recent U.S. history.

President Bush, who died Friday at age 94, was elected in 1988 and sought re-election in 1992. He was victimized by the wisdom of a decision to back away from an ill-considered promise delivered from the podium of the Republican National Convention in New Orleans.

“Read my lips,” the then-vice president intoned at the ’88 GOP convention, “no new taxes.” The crowd erupted. They cheered. They whooped and hollered.

But wait! After he took office in 1989, the economy began to slow down. It fell into a fairly deep recession. What was the president going to do about it? He retracted his “no new taxes” pledge and got Congress to do the very thing he said he wouldn’t do . . . ever!

The 1990 deficit reduction act proved to be a fiscally sound — and politically dangerous — policy decision. It created a rebellion among the Republican Party caucus in Congress. As USA Today noted in its editorial, the measure laid the groundwork for the budget surpluses that would follow.

The irony of it is that the economy began sputtering back to life in early 1992. By then the die had been cast, to Bush’s ultimate dismay. The Democrats ran a young governor, Bill Clinton, against him. Then in jumped the Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot to muddy it up some more.

Clinton was elected in 1992. Bush blamed Perot for costing him re-election, but in truth Clinton was likely to win without a third candidate in the contest.

President Bush’s decision to renege on his tax pledge — if only modestly — proved to be his undoing. The voters rendered a harsh, and arguably unfair, decision in 1992. They said a promise made from a convention podium should be as good as gold.

It saddens me as I look back on that time.

It also saddens me that another decision, to end the Persian Gulf War without toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, led to a horrendous decision by one of Bush 41’s successors, his own son, President George W. Bush.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. President Bush declared the aggressive “will not stand.” He went to the United Nations, gathered up an international alliance of nations, directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to craft a strategy to evict the Iraqis from Kuwait. Then we went to war.

It ended quickly. The Iraqis fled from the mighty onslaught led by U.S. forces. Then the commander in chief made the decision to end it. Mission accomplished. The Iraqis had been tossed out. Saddam Hussein remained in power.

But the decision to end the war, to keep faith with the U.N. resolution authorizing it resulted in total containment of Iraq and of Saddam Hussein. There appeared to be a semblance of stability settling in the region.

But then Bush left office. Bill Clinton served two terms and he left office in 2001. We got hit by the terrorists on 9/11, and President Bush 43 sent us to war against the terrorists.

Then, for reasons that still baffle many of us, President Bush decided to topple Saddam Hussein. We invaded Iraq in March 2003. We captured Saddam Hussein, put him on trial and executed him. We were looking for weapons of mass destruction, but didn’t find any.

The question persists to this day: Why did we go to war against Saddam Hussein? Yes, I know international intelligence agencies said the Iraqis possessed WMD. They were tragically wrong.

Oh, the stability that Bush 41 forged with his decision to not invade Iraq? It was gone. The Islamic State emerged from the chaos. We’re still at war.

History has delivered some judgments already on Bush 41’s presidency. I trust historians will take note of the irony that befell this good man’s time as leader of the world’s greatest nation.

‘W,’ Clinton showed us how divided government can work

Since I’ve already noted the arrival in Washington this coming January of a form of “divided government,” I feel the need to offer a two brief examples of how it works.

One party controls one branch of government, the other party controls the other. Such a circumstance doesn’t guarantee gridlock or incessant bickering, bitching and backbiting.

Donald J. Trump is going to report for work in January with Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives; his fellow Republicans will retain control of the Senate. It won’t be a fun time to govern. It doesn’t need to be this way.

I give you two examples, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Before he became president, Bush was governor of Texas. He was elected in 1994. The Republican governor took office with a solidly Democratic Legislature in power. Unlike the man who now is president, he didn’t insult, defame or denigrate legislative Democrats. He learned quickly how to forge alliances — even friendships — with those on the other side.

Two men became his BFFs — before the term became widely accepted. They were the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, the crotchety, curmudgeonly Democrat who controlled the Texas Senate and House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center, the affable Democrat who ran the People’s House.

They formed a trio who respected each other’s skill and who managed to notch some notable legislative victories among them. They sought to give public school teachers a pay raise and increase test scores among students, they dipped into the state’s budget surplus to enact a tax cut, they furthered the push to invest in renewable energy resources.

Two Democrats learned to work with a Republican governor who, after all, had defeated a Democratic incumbent, the late Ann Richards, in a bitter campaign.

But “W” didn’t denigrate his legislative foes. He worked with them, understanding the need to cooperate when possible. To their credit, Bullock and Laney  understood precisely the same thing.

Bill Clinton watched the Democrats lose control of Congress in 1994, two years after his election to his first term as president. Newt Gingrich became the speaker of the House, Bob Dole rose to majority leader in the Senate.

Did the president let that loss of congressional power dissuade him? Hardly. He, Gingrich and Dole managed over time to work together to accomplish a budgetary miracle: a balanced federal budget, the first one of them in about 30 years.

They understood each other, just as “W” understood his legislative partners in Austin.

What lies ahead for the next Congress and the president as they embark on the second half of the president’s term? The indications are that it’s going to be a rough and rocky ride. It doesn’t help that Donald Trump doesn’t have the political chops needed to navigate and manage a political agenda with discipline and finesse. Nor does it help that he has bruised and battered so many congressmen and women with his insults and nasty pronouncements on Twitter.

Oh, and he’s that got that “Russia thing” hanging over his head.

I wish it were different. I fear we’re headed down the slipperiest of slopes. It need not be this way.

Pay attention to me, Gov. Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich still wants to be president of the United States and says he is considering taking another run at the nation’s highest office in 2020.

I’m usually not in the mood to offer campaign advice to Republicans, but I believe Gov. Kasich, whose time in office ends in December, is an impressive fellow. I wanted him to win the GOP nomination in 2016. I well might have voted for him had the choice been Kasich or Hillary Clinton.

OK, now for the advice.

If he’s going to challenge Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, he needs to avoid the trap of being lured too far to the right. One of the more undersold aspects of Kasich’s 2016 candidacy was his role as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee in forging a balanced federal budget in the late 1990s.

How did he do that? He worked with the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, in crafting a balanced budget that actually built surpluses during the final three years of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Yes, Kasich was a key player in achieving a stellar budgetary accomplishment. He chose not to tout that aspect of his public service career because it would have revealed his bipartisan tendencies. That ability to reach across the aisle is anathema to the hard-core, right-wing loony birds who call the shots these days in the Republican Party.

Are they going to keep calling the shots in 2020? I haven’t a clue at this moment in time. I hope not. Even if they do, though, I want to encourage John Kasich to shout it loudly and clearly: He believes in good government, which requires compromise and cooperation with everyone regardless of party affiliation.

I want this man to run yet again for president. He was one of the few GOP grownups running in 2016.

POTUS undermines, denigrates our electoral system

They’re still counting ballots in Florida, where election controversy seems endemic in a system that needs fixing.

But sitting on the sidelines is a guy named Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, who is heckling state and local officials, accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” an election, suggesting widespread “fraud” where none exists and in general exacerbating an already-tense and contentious election.

Trump is doing a supreme disservice to the cause of free and fair elections, which are a hallmark of the nation he was elected to lead.

How about comparing this president’s conduct with another president who, as he was preparing to leave office, stood by silently while officials in the same state of Florida grappled with another — even more significant — electoral controversy.

Vice President Al Gore wanted to succeed President Clinton in 2000. He and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush fought hammer-and-tong for the presidency. It came down to Florida. The race was razor thin. Whoever won the state’s electoral votes would be elected president.

They launched a recount. Bush’s margin of victory narrowed to 537 votes out of more than 5 million ballots cast. Then the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. It ordered the count stopped. Bush won the state’s electoral votes. He took the oath of office in January 2001.

President Clinton stayed quiet through it all. When he was asked about the controversy, the president said he preferred not to get involved. The U.S. Constitution did its job without presidential hectoring, haranguing and harassment.

Yep, there’s a lesson to be learned about a previous president’s conduct during a seriously contentious time. The lesson will be lost on Donald John Trump.

Sad.

Calling the Obamas and Clintons? ‘We’ll pass’

I want to hand Donald J. Trump a most left-handed compliment.

The president at least had the stones to acknowledge that he won’t do the decent thing as it regards two of his presidential predecessors.

Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Florida by the FBI in connection with a series of pipe bombs sent to various Democratic political figures and to CNN. Two of the intended victims of the domestic terrorists were former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

A reporter asked Trump this week if he intended to call his predecessors presumably to assure them that they are safe and that the administration will do all it can to ensure their safety and that of all Americans.

Trump said, “We’ll pass.”

There you have it. The decent thing to do would be to … oh, you know what that is.

Disgraceful.