Tag Archives: George HW Bush

Not so strange after all

Media pundits continue to make something of a ruckus over the recent political history involving Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris, that Harris roughed up Biden in a couple of debates before she dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest.

They’re now on the same Democratic ticket. So I am left to wonder: Why the fascination? It’s hardly the first time political rivals have hooked up, buried the hatchet and locked arms in the fight against a common opponent.

In 1960, Sens. Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy fought for the Democratic nomination. They spoke harshly of each other. LBJ pulled out at the end of that primary fight. JFK was looking for someone to help strengthen him in the South. So he turned to Sen. Johnson. They won that race. Fate, though, tragically intervened when JFK died from an assassin’s bullet in November 1963.

In 1980, former Gov. Ronald Reagan and former CIA director/U.N. ambassador/former congressman/former special envoy to China George H.W. Bush butted heads for the Republican nomination. Bush chided Reagan’s fiscal policy as “voodoo economics.” Reagan survived and then selected Bush to be his VP. The two of them served together through two successful terms.

In 2008, for heaven’s sake, Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden fought for their party’s nomination. Biden didn’t last long. He took his shots at Obama, who fired back at his foe. Obama got nominated and had Biden at his side for two terms.

So now it’s Sen. Harris who’s being examined. Is she loyal enough? Does the presumptive nominee trust her to be a team player?

Biden has been through the VP vetting process. He knows what to ask, where to look.

Harris’s selection is historic. Many have made much of that fact, given her racial and ethnic background. Biden’s decision to select her, though, doesn’t look like much of a gamble. LBJ, George H.W. Bush and Biden himself already have blazed recent trails that led them all to the vice presidency.

Let’s worry less about the recent past between these two politicians and concern ourselves more with the policy positions they share and will take to the fight against Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

It’s game on, man!

Trump’s got to change? How?

Chris Christie is a seasoned political hand who purports to know what it takes to win a presidential election.

The former Republican New Jersey governor, though, came up empty in 2016 when he sought the GOP nomination for president, losing that battle to a guy who now is fighting for his political survival. Christie offered some words of advice to Donald Trump:

Change what you’re doing or else you’re going to lose. Period. End of story.

I did chuckle a bit when Christie referred to “President Michael Dukakis” who was leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 18 percentage points about this time during the 1988 campaign. Bush went on to defeat Dukakis handily.

What did the underdog, Bush, do to reverse the tide? He went on the attack. Full bore. Frontal assault. He savaged Dukakis over the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and his furloughing of a murderer who then committed a heinous crime while he was away from prison.

Dukakis never fought back. He let Bush’s team beat him bloody.

That’s how Bush turned the tide.

Does Donald Trump have that kind of weaponry in his arsenal? Hardly. Trump already has established his brand. He won election by waging one of the nastiest campaigns in history. He is going to do the same thing again against Joseph Biden. He is incapable of changing course, changing his methods, doctoring his message.

I also would add that any attempt by Donald Trump to change his approach will look like what it is: a makeover that only makes a candidate look good, but doesn’t change whatever churns inside the candidate’s gut.

Americans now have taken a full measure of what Donald Trump offers to them as president. My hope is that enough Americans have had their fill of what they have seen and will demand change at the top of our governmental chain of command.

Jeb calls for a return to ‘civility’ in political life … yes!

Jeb Bush has been in the fight for a long time. The former two-term Florida governor has had his share of wins and losses.

On Presidents Day, the Republican offered a wish for the country: a return to a more civil tone as politicians argue over policy matters.

Hmm. Yeah. Don’t you wish? I certainly do.

Bush, who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary contest, laments the hostile tone we’re hearing these days from the president and others in the arena.

He noted something interesting about his late father, the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: George H.W. Bush, he said, could have claimed credit when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Instead, he stepped back and let the German people celebrate the accomplishment, he said of his father.

Try for just a moment to imagine how the 45th POTUS would handle such a monumental event. Imagine Donald Trump “stepping back” and letting “the German people celebrate the accomplishment.”

It wouldn’t happen, any more than one can expect a return to political civility for as long as Donald Trump is in the arena.

Still, Jeb Bush’s call is worth noting. It’s also worth wishing it can come true.

R.I.P., Texas GOP trailblazer

I never thought of Clayton Williams as a political trailblazer.

Then comes word today that Claytie — a Midland oil and natural gas tycoon who ran for Texas governor in 1990 — has died at age 88.

I extend my condolences to Williams’ friends and family. I do want to offer a comment on his single, but futile run for public office.

He sought the governorship running against the late Texas Treasurer Ann Richards — who had rocketed to national notoriety with her stellar 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she declared that then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush “can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Richards and Williams, a Republican, faced off two years later. Williams was poised to win. Then he started committing a series of gaffes. He compared inclement weather to rape, urging Texans to “relax and enjoy it”; he refused to shake Richards’ hand at an event, a gesture that rankled many Texans who believe a gentleman shouldn’t act that way toward a woman; then he revealed he didn’t pay federal taxes when the oil industry was collapsing in the 1980s.

Richards won the governorship. She served a single term before losing in 1994 to the “silver-footed” VP’s son, George W. Bush.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey makes a fascinating point, though, about Williams’ political legacy. He notes that Bill Clements was the lone Republican to win the governorship since the Civil War Reconstruction era. Williams lost in 1990, but well might have paved the way for “W” to win in 1994.

Since then, according to Ramsey, Republicans have clamped a vise grip on the governorship, as well as every statewide office.

The things you can learn …

Rest in peace, Claytie.

Yearning for a return to civility

I am a fan of civil political discourse, and of compromise when it can produce a common good, and of political adversaries remaining friends when the battle of the day has concluded.

Thus, I am yearning for a return — please pardon my borrowing a phrase coined by a former U.S. president — to a “kinder, gentler time” in American political life.

The late George H.W. Bush sought such a return when he took office in 1989. It was there, then it was gone.

It’s gotten much worse since Donald Trump entered political life in the summer of 2015. Indeed, he helped foment some of the intense anger even before then, feeding the Big Lie about President Barack Obama’s citizenship status, becoming the de facto godfather of the “birther” movement.

OK, he’s now the current president. The House of Representatives has impeached him. Trump is now getting ready to stand trial in the  Senate.

I won’t venture off the conventional wisdom trail here. I believe he will survive the trial. He will stay in office. Trump then will run for re-election and he will feed the intense anger that will continue to simmer and boil until Election Day 2020.

It’s my desire for a return to political civility, collegiality and comity that makes me yearn for his defeat next year. Trump has shown an unwillingness to bridge the divide among disparate Americans. Indeed, he seeks to widen it.

Thus, as he campaigns for re-election I fully expect the president to keep reminding us of the impeachment drama that is playing out at this moment. He will continue to hurl epithets at his foes. Trump will attach sophomoric nicknames to them. The president will seek to fuel the rage at the system that got him elected in the first place.

What if he wins? Oh, my! We’ll get four more years of practically everything I have just described. There likely will be a new wrinkle or three thrown in for good measure.

I’ll try to do my part to dial it back by refraining from some of the harsh rhetoric I have spouted in this forum since Trump crashed onto the political scene. Trump is a lead-pipe cinch, though, to test that pledge with what he is likely to say out loud over the course of the next year.

Take note: I haven’t hurled a single epithet at him in this post.

Hey, it’s a start. My hope springs eternal that we’ll be able to return sooner rather than later to a kinder, gentler political era.

AG disputes IG … WTF?

William Barr continues to be a profound disappointment to me as the nation’s attorney general.

He took office after Donald J. Trump fired Jeff Sessions as AG. I had high hopes that Barr, who served as attorney general in President Bush 41’s administration, would bring his Washington experience to the job.

Well, he has turned out to be a toadie for Trump. Get this: The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, reportedly has determined that the FBI did not spy on Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, despite allegations leveled by the president that the FBI spied on him.

Barr’s response? He said he questions the IG’s findings. He continues to believe the specious allegation that Trump has leveled against the FBI, that it sought to launch its investigation into Russian interference in our electoral process after spying on the Trump campaign.

Horowitz’s office operates independently of the attorney general, which means that Barr cannot change the IG’s finding.

Still, the attorney general’s continued shilling for the president is disturbing to many of us, me included.

Horowitz is going to release his finding to the public in a few days. My hope would be for the attorney general to let the report stand on its own. That’s my hope. My fear is that the attorney general will seek to undermine it, quite likely at Donald Trump’s bidding.

Et tu, Fox News Channel?

You can quibble till the paint dries about the quality of Fox News Channel’s political coverage. I do on occasion. The network that calls itself “fair and balance” is neither of those things.

However, news hands at FNC are capable of doing good work. They conduct public opinion polling on occasion that raises an eyebrow or two, such as a recent poll showing how Donald Trump matches up against his Democratic opponents.

The most recent Fox poll shows the president, for instance, trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by a margin well outside the margin of error.

The president’s response? He went after the “friendly” network, suggesting it has gone to the dark side by casting him in a negative light. The poll has him “losing big to Sleepy Joe,” Trump said on Twitter.

Good grief, dude. Take a rest from the Twitter machine. I mean, you’ve got important work to do. You are seeking to make America great again, isn’t that right, Mr. President? These constant Twitter tirades make America laughable.

As for what the polls are saying more than a year away from the next election, I’ll answer with two words: President Dukakis.

In 1988, polling had the Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis about 17 points ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush heading into that year’s election campaign season. The election, um, didn’t turn out that way … you know?

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not want Trump to turn those polls around. If anything, I hope whoever he faces next fall widens the gap and trounces the incumbent badly. He needs to back to … wherever.

So, the president needs to chill out. Get to work. Quit busying yourself with idiotic tweets and assorted blathering about polls with which you disagree.

Trump ends radio addresses … does anyone care?

First, I will make an admission.

I rarely listened to a presidential radio speech as it was being broadcast. I do so maybe twice dating back to the Reagan administration (1981-89).

Presidents dating back to Franklin Roosevelt — who revived the tradition when he took office in 1933 — would record these messages to be broadcast across the country.

President George H.W. Bush didn’t follow up on President Reagan’s consistent delivery of the message. Then came Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama, all of whom were faithful to the habit of talking to Americans directly over the radio airwaves about policy matters.

Donald Trump, though, has tossed the practice aside. Are you surprised? Neither am I.

He relies on Twitter to announce policy decisions, usually with mangled syntax, misspelled words, lots of capitalization and extraneous punctuation.

I find it mildly distressing that Trump would discontinue the weekly radio speechmaking. After all, they have been known to make a bit of news. Media report on what the president says and on occasion they might say something newsworthy enough to make us sit up and pay careful attention.

Trump sees, I’ll presume, as a waste of time. Probably like those daily presidential national security briefings he once told us he didn’t need to hear. He asked, rhetorically, “What’s the point?” He had no need to listen to someone on his national security team tell him something he said he already knew, Trump said.

I mean, he did tell us he knew “more about ISIS than the generals.” Isn’t that what he said?

Being something of a presidential traditionalist, I would prefer a return to the weekly radio speeches, rather than the Twitter tirades that are replete with misspellings, assorted nonsensical rants and, oh yeah, a total absence of credibility.

Ross Perot: This man stood tall

My journalism career enabled me to cross paths with a lot of interesting, provocative and even great people over the length of its time. I want to include Ross Perot as being among the great individuals I had the pleasure to meet.

Perot died today of leukemia. He was 89 years of age. He died peacefully in Dallas, where he built his fortune and lived most of his adult life.

He wouldn’t have remembered me had anyone thought to ask. But I surely remember the time I had the pleasure of meeting him and visiting with him about one of his pet issues in that moment: the quality of public education.

He had mouthed off about how Texas was more interested in producing blue-chip athletes than blue-chip students. The Texas governor at the time, the late Mark White, challenged Perot to craft a better education system for Texas. Perot took up the challenge and led the Perot Commission to create a system that set certain achievement standards for all Texas public school students.

He then launched a statewide barnstorming tour to pitch his findings to business leaders, politicians, civic leaders and, yes, media representatives; I was among the media types Perot met.

He came to Beaumont and delivered a stemwinder of a speech to a roomful of the city’s movers and shakers.

As an editorial writer and editor for the Beaumont Enterprise, I had the high honor of meeting later with Perot along with other media reps at Lamar University.

That was in 1984. Little did we know at the time he would become a political force of nature as well, running for president twice in 1992 and 1996. At one time prior to the 1992 fall election, Perot actually led public opinion polling that included President George H.W. Bush and a young Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton.

He finished third that year. Clinton got elected. Bush served his single term and disliked Perot for the rest of his life, blaming him for losing the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. President Bush is gone now, but my own view is that Perot — contrary to popular notions — did not deprive a chance at re-election. He took roughly the same number of votes from both Bush and Clinton, meaning that Bill Clinton was going to win the election anyway.

Still, Ross Perot was a player, although he was prone at times to acting a little squirrely. He also was a patriot who loved his country and gave back many millions of dollars of his immense personal wealth to make his community and country better.

I am grateful beyond measure that his path crossed mine if only for a brief moment in time. Take my word for it, this man made a serious impression on those he met along the way.

Harris scores big, but now faces some blowback

Kamala Harris pounded Joe Biden with some serious body blows at that debate this past week. The U.S. senator and former California attorney general caught the former senator and former vice president flat footed when she questioned him about his senatorial relationships with avowed segregationists.

Oh, my. Then came the initial response. Harris now is on the front rank of Democratic challengers to Donald Trump. Her fans think better of her, if that’s possible. Biden’s fans initially were somewhat dismayed.

Now, though, the senator is getting a bit of push back, some resistance from those who think she might have let her ambition get the better of her. She shouldn’t have gone low with that attack against the ex-VP, some are saying.

Let’s play this out for a moment.

Suppose Biden remains the favorite among Democrats. Suppose, too, he gets the party’s presidential nomination in the summer of 2020. Who would he choose as his running mate. One Biden anonymous supporter said, “That sh** ain’t happening.”

Really? Let’s see. George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy “voodoo economics” when the two of them ran for the Republican nomination in 1980. Reagan then selected Bush to run with him; they served as a team for two terms and Bush got elected president in 1988.

Oh, then we had Biden running against Barack Obama in 2008. They fought hard for as long as Biden was in the hunt. Then the Delaware U.S. senator dropped out. Democrats nominated Sen. Obama — who then chose Biden to run with him. You know the rest of it.

Moral of the story? If Biden gets nominated, do not count out Sen. Kamala Harris as a potential running mate.