Tag Archives: George HW Bush

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.

Does ‘P’ really ‘like’ DJT? Seems doubtful

I didn’t really think of it as a lie when Donald Trump said it. I merely thought of it as, hmm, a serious misrepresentation of reality.

The president came to Texas this week to raise money for his re-election campaign and to stump for himself at a campaign rally. He signed a couple of executive orders.

But at one of his rallies, he called on Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, to join him on the podium. “This is the only Bush who likes me!” Trump bellowed while summoning “George!”

The misstatement? Oh, well, it happens that George P. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the same Jeb Bush who campaigned for president against Donald Trump in 2016.

This also is the same Jeb Bush who Trump labeled as “Low Energy Jeb,” one of the many insults he tossed at Republican primary opponents, not to mention what he hurled at the Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton

It well might be that George P. Bush has smiled publicly in Donald Trump’s presence. I have difficulty believing that that the younger Bush has those same feelings privately.

“The only Bush who likes” Donald Trump quite possibly doesn’t “like” the president.

Not one bit.

Who in the world would blame him for harboring the same hard feelings his beloved “Gampy” and “Gammy” — the late 41st president and the late beloved first lady — felt, not to mention how his own parents are feeling to this very day?

Jimmy Carter: longevity record-setter

Jimmy Carter served a single term as president of the United States. He won the office in a bit of a nail-biter in 1976, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford.

President Carter lost his re-election bid four years later in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

He has lived with a decidedly mixed presidential legacy ever since. However, let it be here as the former president becomes the oldest living former president that his legacy is destined to improve as time continues to march on.

President Carter on Friday will surpass the late President George H.W. Bush as the oldest former president. The 39th president already holds the record for being having lived longer than anyone past the time he left the presidency.

I want to salute this good man because he stands in such a sharp contrast to what we are witnessing these days in the White House.

There was never a scandal to besmirch his administration. He vowed never to “lie” to us and as near as I can tell he kept that pledge. President Carter has lived a life according to the Scripture to which he has been devoted. He left office after a stunning landslide loss and then became arguably the most admired former president in recent history. He has built houses for underprivileged people worldwide for Habitat for Humanity. He founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, using the center as a forum to promote free and fair elections and to be a watchdog on behalf of human rights, one of the hallmark themes of his presidency.

I know the president had a mixed record as our head of state. He did, though, broker a permanent peace deal between Israel and Egypt. Yes, he launched that ill-fated mission to rescue Americans held captive in Iran and struggled for 444 days trying to negotiate those who were taken hostage by Iranian radicals in November 1979.

All of that and a floundering economy contributed to his crushing defeat. He left office as proud as he was when he entered it and has gone on to live a modest life in his beloved Plains, Ga. He is still teaching Sunday school at his church and has battled cancer.

He is a champion worthy of admiration of a nation he led.

Congratulations, Mr. President.

Coulter offers disgusting response

Ann Coulter disgusts me in the extreme.

After the president of the United States caved in on The Wall demand he had said was essential to protect Americans and which forced the partial government shutdown, Coulter — the conservative firebrand — offered a hideous Twitter message.

Coulter offered a form of “congratulations” to the late President George H.W. Bush, who she said is “no longer the biggest wimp” ever to serve as president.

The nation recently honored the 41st president for his courage in service to his country during World War II, for his statesmanship, for his decades of dedicated public service as vice president, CIA director, congressman, U.N. ambassador, special envoy to China and as president.

Then this loudmouth gasbag commentator calls him a “wimp.”

Ann Coulter makes me sick.

Barr faces different Congress in a different era

William Pelham Barr surely knows that he is stepping onto political terrain that is a universe apart from where he once ventured.

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be attorney general in 1991 and he sailed through confirmation, being approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate.

Another president, named Donald Trump, has selected him for the top justice job once again. Will he sail effortlessly to confirmation? Nope. It won’t happen.

This is a different time. We have a different type of man in the Oval Office. The climate in Washington is far more toxic than it was when the AG-designate strode upon the national scene back in the old days.

The government is partially shut down. Questions are swirling all around the president. The previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, got fired because he acted ethically by recusing himself from an investigation into a circumstance in which he was a principal player; he then incurred the president’s wrath for standing up for the rule of law and for DOJ ethics policies.

William Barr is facing tough questioning from Senate committee Democrats. He is handling himself well and I happen to believe he should be confirmed as attorney general, largely because he is now on record as committing himself to ensuring that a key investigation into Trump’s campaign is completed fully and without political pressure or interference.

Yes, there is plenty to concern Americans. I would prefer that Barr commit to letting the public view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report when he issues it. However, he has stated that Mueller — whom he has known for 30 years — is not engaging in a “witch hunt” and has expressed confidence in the integrity of his probe.

And . . . he has told senators that he won’t allow the president to bully him the way he did Jeff Sessions.

This confirmation process is going to be a lot tougher for William Barr than it was the first time. It’s merely a symptom of the era into which we entered upon the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Get ready for the thundering herd . . . of candidates

Lawrence O’Donnell, a noted MSNBC commentator, believes the upcoming campaign for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination is going to be a very crowded affair.

He believes the number of candidates will “start with the number two,” meaning that he expects more than 20 politicians to seek the nomination in hopes of running against Donald J. Trump.

On almost any level, this is an astounding story if it develops as O’Donnell believes it will. We might have an incumbent seeking re-election. Incumbency is supposed to build in a lot of advantages: platform, visibility, name ID, the perks of power.

Incumbent presidents often seek re-election miles ahead of any challenger.

Not this time. Not this president.

In 2016, we had 17 Republicans declare for their party’s nomination at the start of the primary season. Trump knocked them one by one over the course of the GOP primary campaign. He won the nomination on the first ballot and then, well, the rest is history. Meanwhile, Democrats fielded four candidates at the start of their season. Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the nominee. Again, you know it turned out for her.

That number seemed high at the time, although we had no incumbent running in 2016. President Obama had to bow out, according to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The expected massive field of Democrats well might not even be the biggest story of the 2020 campaign. I am wondering — although not predicting — whether the president is going to receive a primary challenge from, oh, as many as two or three Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee might be in the mix. Same for Ohio Gov. John Kasich — my favorite Republican from the 2016 campaign. Then there might be Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

History shows that incumbents who receive primary challenges often do not fare well when the smoke clears and they have to run against the other party’s nominee in the fall. Just consider what happened to President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush when they ran and lost in 1976, 1980 and 1992 respectively.

So, the new year begins with two Democrats already getting set to launch their campaigns. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro are planning to form exploratory committees as precursors to their candidacies. There will be many more to come.

Oh, and then we have the Robert Mueller investigation and whether his final report might inflict more political damage to an already wounded incumbent.

I am so looking forward to this new year.

Time of My Life, Part 5: Conventions bring serious tasks

Every now and then journalists get to see the most serious tasks imaginable in a totally new context, especially when you’re thrust into a front-row seat.

I had a couple of those experiences while working for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. I want to share them with you briefly here.

In 1988 and again in 1992 I was privileged to attend two Republican National Committee presidential nominating conventions. Beaumont lies between two major cities — New Orleans to the east and Houston to the west. The GOP nominated Vice President George H.W. Bush as president in 1988 in New Orleans; then the party nominated him again for re-election in 1992 in Houston.

I got to witness all of the hubbub, the whoopin’ and hollerin’ up close both times.

The 1988 convention placed me behind the speaker’s podium inside the Superdome in New Orleans, where I witnessed President Reagan deliver a stirring speech to the faithful crowd. After the president finished his speech — and as the crowd cheered the Gipper — he and his wife, Nancy, turned and walked off the stage and so help me as God is my witness, he looked straight at me as we made eye contact. I have to say that was quite a thrill.

I worked in the same media room with some fine reporters and columnists. One of them is Chris Matthews, who at both conventions was a “mere” columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, which was owned by the same Hearst Corporation that owns the Beaumont Enterprise. I got to know Matthews, I like to say, “before he became ‘Chris Matthews,'” the current star of prime-time cable TV coverage on MSBNC. He and I enjoyed a cup of coffee at the Houston convention, chatted for a few minutes. He wouldn’t remember it, but it happened.

The 1992 gathering in the Houston Astrodome was notable as well for a couple of speeches. Conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan sought to wrest the GOP nomination from President Bush and delivered the frightening speech in which he implored the delegates to “take our country back” from some nefarious evil forces Buchanan thought had hijacked the nation. I also got to hear former President Reagan bring down the house when he mentioned the Democrats’ nominee, Bill Clinton, who Reagan said fancied himself to be another Thomas Jefferson. He responded, “Let me tell you, governor. I knew Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.”

The former president’s timing was picture perfect, owing to his well-known skill as a film and TV actor.

The biggest takeaway from both conventions was the sight of serious men and women doing the most serious work imaginable — nominating candidates for president and vice president of the United States — while wearing goofy elephant hats, with vests festooned with buttons and labels and generally carrying on like children at a birthday party.

I simply had to suspend my disbelief as I watched these individuals performing this most serious of tasks.

Yes, it was representative democracy in its raw form. It was a joy to watch and to cover it for the newspaper that employed me.