Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

‘Backbencher’ thrusts himself into the limelight

I had never heard of Tim Murphy before today.

He used to be an obscure member of Congress from western Pennsylvania. The Republican lawmaker was known mostly to his constituents and, I presume, his colleagues in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives.

To the rest of this vast nation, he was a stranger.

No … longer.

Many more Americans now know Murphy as a duplicitous politician who got caught doing something he shouldn’t have done. The married pol got involved with an extramarital affair with a much younger woman. That relationship resulted in the woman becoming pregnant.

What did Murphy do at that point? He reportedly asked the woman to obtain an abortion. And why is that a big deal? It’s because Murphy has been an ardent political opponent of abortion. He’s a “pro-life, family values” Republican.

Murphy is going to finish the rest of his term. Then he’ll retire from Congress.

There you have it. An individual who labels himself a certain way behaves at a couple of levels like someone quite different.

He’s not the first politician to fall off the virtue wagon. He won’t be the last one. Politicians of all stripes have said one thing and done another. Former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards used to proclaim his love for his late wife — only to be revealed to have fathered a child with another woman. Ex-GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich wailed aloud about Bill Clinton’s misbehavior with a White House intern while taking a tumble with a female staff member.

The list is endless.

I just have to believe Tim Murphy wishes for a way he could return to the farthest end of the back bench — out of sight and out of mind.

Sorry, Rep. Murphy. You brought this unwanted attention on all by yourself.

It’s the ‘optics’ that keep bedeviling the president

Donald J. Trump had to know about the damage done by his long-distance feud with San Juan, P.R., Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

The president surely knew it would be better for him to make nice with the mayor who he had criticized for her “poor leadership” after she criticized the federal response to Puerto Rico’s suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s savage beating.

I fear he didn’t act on that when he went to Puerto Rico. He engaged in at least one peculiar public-relations stunt when he was video recorded tossing rolls of paper towels at a crowd of well-wishers. Someone will have to explain to me what that was supposed to tell us about the president’s concern for those U.S. citizens who are suffering from the hurricane’s devastation.

Then he sat in a meeting with local officials — which included Mayor Cruz — and said that Puerto Rico has cost the United States “billions of dollars, but that’s all right.” I heard that and thought, “Huh?”

The president keeps fluffing this part of his job description, the one that labels him “comforter in chief.”  He’s not making the grade.

President Reagan donned that mantle perfectly after the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986; President Clinton did it as well in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; and of course, President Bush stood in the Twin Tower rubble, bullhorn in hand after 9/11, and said “the world will hear all of us soon.”

And can anyone forget the sight of President Obama leading a church congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the memorial for the victims of the Charleston, S.C., massacre?

Trump hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate the capacity he needs to show in these times of intense national grief.

Puerto Ricans are suffering. Yet the president treats his visit there like some sort of performance on his part.

He’ll get another chance on Wednesday when he flies to Las Vegas. He’ll get an opportunity to show Americans he cares about that community’s suffering after the madman opened fire at the hotel and casino, killing 59 people and injuring 500-plus more in a hail of automatic weapon fire.

Do you have faith that the president will become comforter in chief?

Me, neither.

Ex-presidents look so, so relaxed

This picture makes me happy.

It shows the three most immediate past presidents of the United States of America: Barack H. Obama, George W. Bush and William J. Clinton.

Look at those men. Don’t they look happy? Relaxed? Chummy?

They opened the President’s Cup golf tournament today in Jersey City, N.J., the first time three ex-presidents have opened the event that pits American golfers against an international team.

It’s a big deal.

For some time after he left office, I was left pining for former President Obama. I missed him terribly. At one or two levels, I still do. But seeing this picture reminds me of how much he and Presidents Bush and Clinton have earned the right to look so damn relaxed.

The same can be said of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. They weren’t there. President Bush is in poor health. President Carter is likely building a house somewhere for Habitat for Humanity; indeed, President Carter hasn’t stopped working since he left office … in 1981!

And, oh how I wish I could be a fly on the wall as these three former heads of state talk about the guy who holds the office these days.

GOP needs to learn how to govern

It’s over. For now. Maybe it’ll be back. Maybe not.

Senate Republicans — along with their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives — had signed in blood (proverbially) their vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they referred to colloquially and derisively as Obamacare.

They failed. Again. For the umpteenth time. The ACA remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future if not longer.

This begs the question for me: Can the Republicans ever govern?

The GOP face-planted on ACA repeal when three senators said “no” to the bill called Graham-Cassidy, named after GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The senators who stuck the shiv into this effort were John McCain, Rand Paul and Susan Collins. They’ve all been in the Senate for a while and were part of the Republican pledge to rid the nation of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation.

This cluster-fudge reminds me a bit of how an earlier Republican insurgency, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stormed Capitol Hill in 1994. They took command of Congress and then had to learn quickly how to govern. They stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way while battling a Democrat in the White House, President Bill Clinton.

But they managed, eventually, to find their way out of the darkness. The difference between then and now is that the the earlier GOP congressional leadership team worked with a president who knew how to govern, how to compromise, how to cajole the opposition when he needed to do it.

The Republican Party now controls Congress and the White House. Therein we have the difference between then and now.

Republicans fought tooth-and-nail with President Barack Obama over repealing the ACA. They never crafted an acceptable alternative. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress fought them off. Obama then left office in January. Donald Trump said he wanted a bill on his desk when he stepped into the Oval Office. He didn’t find one.

How come? The GOP was too fixated on the “repeal” part of the strategy and not nearly enough on the “replace” part of it. As for the president, he was clueless during the campaign about what it took to assemble a legislative alternative to the ACA — and is just as clueless at this very moment about how to negotiate with disparate members of his party’s congressional caucus to find a solution.

I keep circling back to the notion that the presidency requires knowledge of the complex and sometimes arcane system of governing the United States of America.

Donald Trump doesn’t know it and his ignorance of the details of his office has revealed that the political party to which he ostensibly is a member has yet to find its governing legs.

Impeachment isn’t such a long shot after all

Let’s play out a possible scenario that could emerge from the 2018 midterm election.

Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. They also believe their chances of winning a Senate majority are even greater.

I’m going to pose a question that well might provoke some angry response: Is it possible that we can learn just how much Democrats hate Donald J. Trump if they manage to achieve a majority in the House and Senate? Is impeachment a foregone conclusion if both congressional chambers flip next year?

Special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work collecting information — perhaps even evidence — concerning whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system. If they produce actual evidence and release it to the public, say, in the first quarter of 2018, then the impeachment talk is going to ratchet up to a very loud level. Then again, there might be perjury accusations coming forward, which also is serious enough to impeach a president; just ask Bill Clinton about that one.

The election will occur in November of next year.

Suppose the special counsel produces evidence of collusion. Suppose, too, that Democrats seize control of Congress.

I’ll now offer a brief explanation of presidential impeachment, which is a two-act drama.

It takes only a simple majority of House members to impeach a president. What might the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include? If there’s collusion, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

If the House impeaches the president, it then merely files a formal complaint, an accusation. Then the House hands off to the Senate, which conducts a trial.

To convict a president, though, the bar is set much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators, must vote to convict. President Andrew Johnson came within a single vote of being tossed out of office; President Bill Clinton faced three counts in his Senate trial, and he was acquitted on all three by comfortable margins.

I wouldn’t dare to predict how a Trump trial would conclude. I am not even going to predict that Congress’s controlling majority is going to flip next year.

If it does, however, my sense is that impeachment becomes many times more possible than it is at this moment with Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill.

Hoping that Hillary calls it a career

Hillary Rodham Clinton is beginning to resurface.

Her book is out, the one that “explains” why she lost a presidential election she should have won. I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read “What Happened.” I have every intention of doing so. I’m curious as to what this candidate who should have been elected in 2016 says about her stunning election loss.

I’ll simply fall back to a position I took not long after Donald J. Trump got elected president of the United States.

My hope for the Democratic Party is that they find a fresh face, a novice to the national political stage, a rookie to run against whomever the Republicans nominate for president in 2020.

It shouldn’t be Hillary Clinton. And if the Republican Party honchos were to ask for my opinion, I’d say they shouldn’t renominate the incumbent president. Hey, I just told ’em that very thing. Imagine that!

Hillary will lay a lot of blame on FBI Director James Comey and his strange reopening of the e-mail probe late in the campaign. She’ll blame the Russians for hacking into our electoral system. She will blame the media for the way they covered her campaign. Sure, she also is going to take a lot of the blame herself.

From where I sit out here in Flyover Country, it’s that last element that deserves the bulk of the cause for her stunning loss.

Clinton was a lousy candidate. She spent too much time down the stretch in states she had no prayer of winning and too little time in those battleground states that flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to backing Trump.

Yes, I also believe in that malady called Clinton Fatigue. We had two terms of her husband, President Bill Clinton; and along the way, we got a big dose of first lady Hillary Clinton, too. Do you recall when candidate Bill told us in 1992 if we elect him, we’d get her as well in a sort of two-for-one deal?

She ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 as she and her husband were to leave the White House and she served her new home state of New York with competence and some level of distinction.

She challenged Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and took him to the wire. The new president’s payback was to appoint her secretary of state, a post she held for Obama’s first term.

Clinton won the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination believing the election was hers for the taking. She wasn’t alone. I was among the millions of pseudo-experts who thought she’d win in a record-setting landslide. I’ve been eating crow ever since.

Her time has come and gone. She’s yesterday’s heroine.

I do not want her to run again. She had my support once already. I’m not sure I can back her a second time.

Her book is likely to produce some interesting reading. That is it. However, the future of her political party, I believe, belongs to someone who’s going to emerge from nowhere.

A-Team steps up to help Harvey victims

These five men belong to an exclusive club, with an exclusivity exceeded only by the former pope’s club.

They are the five men who’ve been elected president of the United States. They have gathered for a joint fundraising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which savaged the Texas coast in late August.

They are collaborating on a One America Appeal website that asks Americans to donate what they can to aid those who are stricken by the pummeling delivered by Harvey.

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have recorded a video that kicks off the fundraising effort. My hunch is that it might be updated as soon as Hurricane Irma finishes delivering more destruction to Florida in the next few days.

But this is bipartisanhip to the max. Two Republicans and three Democrats have locked arms in a call to aid our fellow Americans.

See the video here.

As President Bush 43 noted, “We’ve got more love in Texas than water.”

Considering the amount of rain — 50 inches of it! — that fell on Texas during Harvey’s unwelcome visit, that’s really saying something.

Thank you, Messrs. President.

Stop the excuses for this hideous pardon, already!

I wish my friends on the right would stop diverting attention from Donald Trump’s hideous pardon of “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio.

The former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff had been convicted of flouting a federal judge’s order. It was contempt of court charge. The judge ordered Arpaio to cease rounding up individuals he suspected of being illegal immigrants and then subjecting them to brutal conditions while under detention.

Arpaio thumbed his nose at the judge. He disrespected the rule of law. He said the judge’s order didn’t matter. He’d keep doing what he was ordered to cease doing.

He got convicted. He was awaiting a sentence.

Then the president intervened. He pardoned “Sheriff Joe,” reportedly without clearing it with Justice Department policies. He acted, yet again, on his own — which of course is his right; the Constitution gives the president the power to issue full and unconditional pardons.

The diversion occurs from those on the right who keep looking backward at the pardons issued by he likes of, oh, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. I will concede that those presidents issued controversial pardons, too. They got hammered pretty damn hard for them as well. I just choose not to revisit those actions, preferring instead to focus on the here and now.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio gives aid and comfort to those on the right and the far right who think it’s OK for law enforcement officials to rough up anyone they think is entering this country illegally.

The pardon further divides an already deeply divided nation.

The president said Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job.” That is utterly ridiculous on its face.

He was convicted because he has demonstrated zero acceptance of the rule of law. The president of the United States has just endorsed that dangerous concept.

That’s why this pardon matters.

Leave the boy alone!

If I had a message to deliver today to my friends and former media colleagues, it would be this: Quit sniping at Barron Trump!

A conservative writer decided to chide the first son, who’s 11 years of age, by the way, for the way he was dressed during a recent public appearance.

“The youngest Trump doesn’t have any responsibilities as the president’s son, but the least he could do is dress the part when he steps out in public,” entertainment reporter Ford Springer wrote in the story published Monday by the Daily Caller, a conservative news publication.

In rushed none other than Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Chelsea wrote in a tweet: It’s high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves.

You go, Chelsea!

Clinton’s comment drew a word of thanks from Barron’s mother, first lady Melania Trump, who thanked the former first daughter publicly with a tweet of her own.

Living in the fish bowl known as the White House is tough enough. Indeed, young Barron is going to be hearing a lot of harsh criticism leveled at his dad. Having to endure that criticism of his father is difficult all by itself — even if Dad has it coming!

The same can be said of Barron’s fully grown siblings: Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric. They’re in the public arena, getting involved with policy matters that affect all Americans.

The boy, though, is off limits!

Kenneth Starr: The King of Irony

Leave it to Kenneth Starr to make one of the more ironic declarations about the unfolding investigation into Donald J. Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian election hackers.

Starr has cautioned special counsel Robert Mueller to avoid going onto a “fishing expedition” in his search for the truth behind whether Trump’s presidential campaign had any improper dealings with Russians seeking to meddle in our 2016 election.

Mueller needs to keep his mission focused, Starr said. He shouldn’t allow it to wander onto unplowed ground.

Well now. How does one respond to that?

Let’s try this.

Kenneth Starr became a master judicial fisherman in the 1990s when he was selected as special counsel to investigate a real estate deal called Whitewater involving President and Mrs. Clinton. He came up with nothing there. Then he sauntered off into a sexual harassment charge leveled against the president by Paula Jones. Then he found something else, which was a relationship the president was having with a White House intern.

Real estate deal leads to sexual harassment, which then leads to a sexual relationship. Impeachment followed all of that.

Is the current special counsel headed down the same path? I haven’t a clue.

Kenneth Starr, though, proved to us all that these investigations can hit pay dirt even as they wander hither and yon.

The comic aspect of this whole discussion is that someone such as Starr would issue a word of caution for one of his legal descendants about a “fishing expedition.”