Tag Archives: George W. Bush

No ‘retribution,’ Mr. President; it’s not possible

How many times does one have to tell you, Mr. President, that you are not a monarch, or a dictator? You cannot bring “retribution” against a comedy show made famous by its parodies of powerful people.

But there you go again, threatening “Saturday Night Live” because it decided to spoof you yet again.

“SNL” trotted Alec Baldwin out to do that hilarious send-up of you and you just cannot stand being ridiculed. C’mon, Mr. President! Get a grip.

The comedy show has been doing this to presidents since 1975, when Chevy Chase poked fun at President Ford. It hasn’t stopped. They’ve all gotten the treatment. Not a single predecessor of yours has threatened “SNL” with any kind of political or legal payback.

And do I need to remind you once more, Mr. President, about that First Amendment matter? You truly need to read it, try to understand what it protects. It guarantees the right to worship as we please; it protects the press from government intervention; it says we can protest the government. It also says we can criticize the government without facing “retribution” from the government we are criticizing.

Your tweet about “SNL” was typically idiotic. As a reminder, you wrote:

Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

Total Republican hit jobs? They “get away” with it the way “SNL” poked fun at Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. Those Democrats didn’t bitch constantly about “SNL.” For that matter, neither did the Republican presidents who had to take the heat, too.

I am tiring of repeating myself, Mr. President. Still, it bears repeating that you need to understand that positions of power invite this kind of treatment from the entertainment industry and the media. You are the most powerful man in the country, Mr. President.

You can act like it simply by stopping these mindless, brainless and feckless threats against a TV comedy show.

‘No president has worked harder’

This isn’t a huge leap, so I feel comfortable in presuming that Donald Trump is angry over the revelations about all that “executive time” he takes in the White House.

That has to explain the Twitter messages he fired off declaring how “no president has worked harder than me” at making America great again and all the myriad tasks associated with being president of the United States.

He bellowed something about the “mess” he inherited in January 2017. How he has restored the military, repaired the Veterans Administration, dealt with “endless wars,” stopped the North Korean nuclear threat . . . and on and on.

No president has worked harder than this guy?

Hmm. Let’s see about that.

I wonder if his work ethic exceeds that of, say, Abraham Lincoln, who served while the country was killing itself during the Civil War; or when Franklin Roosevelt was trying to win World War II after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; or when John F. Kennedy had to face down the Soviet Union’s missile threat in Cuba; or when George W. Bush had to respond to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Donald Trump would have us believe he has worked “harder” than those previous presidents? And what about the results of all those issues Trump has tackled? North Korea is still developing nukes; we’re still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq; the VA work remains undone; the military was just as strong when Trump took office as it is now.

It is typical Trumpian hyperbole, exaggeration and — dare I say it — outright lying.

Time of My Life, Part 15: Name-dropping

You’ve known a name-dropper, right? He or she is the individual who isn’t bashful about mentioning the names of individuals who cross their path.

For 37 years — or so — as a print journalist I was able to meet some mighty big names. I usually resist the urge to drop their names in casual conversation. I will succumb to that urge for the purposes of writing this blog post.

I cannot possibly list all the names of big hitters my career allowed me to meet along the way. I’ll mention a tiny handful of them just to give you a smattering of the good times that I enjoyed while reporting on and commenting on issues of the day and the people who influenced them. It was during an era when politicians and other public figures wanted to be seen talking to newspaper journalists.

George W. Bush was governor of Texas from 1995 until 2000. A higher office took him out of the governor’s office, but in the spring of his first term as governor, I was able to meet him and interview him at some length in his office in the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

He had summoned editorial page editors from around the state earlier that year. Bad weather in Amarillo prevented me from attending that meeting; I called to let the governor’s staff know of my predicament, but asked that they call me if he chooses to have another one of those meetings.

A few weeks later, they called. The governor wanted to meet me. I asked, “Who else will be there?” They said “Just you.” So, I made arrangements, flew to Austin and spent more than 90 minutes quizzing the future president of the United States about this and that issue.

It was a wonderful experience and I learned a great deal about the governor.

Phil Gramm served in Congress first as a Democrat and then as a Republican. He was a friend and ally of President Reagan, the nation’s top Republican. He was so friendly that the House Democratic caucus ousted him from key budget and tax committees because he reportedly was leaking Democrats’ strategies to GOP members.

Gramm then resigned his House seat, changed parties and then got elected to the House again as a member of the Republican Party. I thought that was a courageous step to take. It surely was a highly principled step.

My favorite quip from Gramm, who was elected to the Senate in 1984, came during a visit he paid to us at the Amarillo Globe-News. My colleague and I interviewed him at length. Gramm was fond of quoting his “Grandma” along with the guy from Mexia named Dickie Flatt. He would mimic Grandma in an affected Deep South drawl.

My colleague mentioned a criticism that came from the late liberal columnist Molly Ivins about something that Gramm had said. His response was classic.

“Molly Ivins likely cried when the Berlin Wall came down,” he quipped. It wasn’t very professional of me . . . but I laughed out loud.

One final name . . .

Georgie Packwood once was married to former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, an Oregon Republican. Sen. Packwood was running for re-election in 1980. Georgie Packwood campaigned on her husband’s behalf and along the way she managed to visit us at the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, where I served as editor.

Mrs. Packwood was a smart, erudite and articulate public policy advocate for her husband. We visited for more than an hour, covering all the issues important to Sen. Packwood. We finished, I bid her goodbye and went back to doing whatever it was I had to do.

Several days later, I received a note from Georgie Packwood. It was a brief “thank you” to me for taking the time to meet with her.

Then she offered a specific word of thanks for “not asking about my favorite color.”

Ah, yes. Those were the days.

Intelligence chiefs do it again: they’re contradicting Trump

Those pesky intelligence professionals are at it once more.

Donald Trump says “ISIS is defeated.” The intelligence community says “not so fast.” The Islamic State is still planning terror attacks. They’re still recruiting members. Their ranks still number in the thousands.

Yet the president would have us believe that ISIS in Syria has been dealt a mortal blow. They’re gone. Destroyed. Wiped out.

ISIS isn’t defeated

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told members of Congress today that they are not willing to buy into the commander in chief’s seat-of-the-pants “assessment” that ISIS is done for as a national security threat.

Who do we believe? I’ll stick with the intelligence pros any day of the week. Trump, as I’ve noted before on this blog, doesn’t know what he’s doing, what he’s talking, nor does he know to whom he is talking. He thinks the nation comprises hundreds of millions of rubes who buy into every single lie that flies out of his mouth.

Haspel and Coats did say today that ISIS has been “weakened” by sustained U.S. and allied attacks. For that I am grateful. The organization isn’t defeated, they said. ISIS is still capable of inflicting serious damage, causing significant misery. ISIS keeps taking responsibility for terror attacks against Muslims, which of course belies the notion that our war against terror is in fact a war against Islam; as Presidents Bush and Obama have declared, it is no such thing, that the terrorists aren’t “religious leaders,” but merely are religious perverts.

I am now wondering how the president is going to react to this contradictory testimony. Might there be more firings in store?

Where is the Texas Senate’s wise man?

I don’t know where he is at this very moment, but I cannot stop thinking about Bill Ratliff as I read about the tension building between two key players in the Texas Senate.

Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the early 2000s. He was elevated to that post by his fellow state senators after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved into the governor’s office after the 2000 election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, was generally a revered political figure in the Texas Capitol. He enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support. Why is that? Because he didn’t govern with a heavy hand.

Ratliff must be grinding his teeth as he follows this stuff.

Oh, man. The mood in Austin is a whole lot different these days. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only has pi**** off his Democratic colleagues, he’s managing to antagonize his fellow Republicans. One of them is a fellow I’ve known quite well for more than two decades, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Patrick is telling the rest of the GOP Senate caucus the following messages: Do it my way . . . or else! The “or else” in Seliger’s case arrived when Patrick took away the chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee and removed Seliger from the Education and Finance committees. Patrick then threw Seliger a bone when he named him chair of the newly formed Agriculture Committee, a post that Seliger reportedly didn’t thrill him.

A Patrick aide said that if Seliger believed the Ag post was “beneath him” he could ask to be withdrawn and Patrick could appoint someone else. Seliger then told a Lubbock radio host — in so many words — that the aide could kiss his “rear end.”

Patrick then responded to that by yanking Seliger out of the Agriculture panel’s chairmanship post.

Imagine any of this occurring with Bill Ratliff as the Man of the Senate. I cannot wrap my head around that.

To be clear, I do not know Ratliff. I only know of him. Just as I don’t know Patrick, either, but I certainly know of this guy.

Patrick is playing hardball. He is using his considerable power to punish one of the Senate’s more senior members because the two of them don’t view the world through the same ideological prism.

Here is how the Texas Tribune sees this saga.

The Texas Senate used to have a tradition of bipartisanship. The lieutenant governor used to govern with an eye toward enlisting support from the minority party’s senators. To think that a lieutenant governor — whether Democrat or Republican — would punish a member of his own caucus has been a heretofore unthinkable occurrence.

I wish we could find another Bill Ratliff out there somewhere. They didn’t call him “Obi-Wan Kenobie,” the wise man from “Star Wars,” for nothing.

Lt. Gov. Patrick in line for a job with Trump? Oh, let’s hope so

What little I know about Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune — and it’s really not all that much — I am inclined to believe he doesn’t toss rumors out there just to make a spectacle of himself.

So, when he wrote this in an analysis published by the Tribune, I kind of sat up a little straighter in my chair:

“(Lt. Gov. Dan) Patrick’s visit to Washington sparked a rumor that he might be in line for a post in the Trump administration — a rumor that prompted speculation about how the legislative session would go with senators choosing his replacement from among their own ranks. That hasn’t happened since George W. Bush became president and then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry succeeded him as governor. Senators made Bill Ratliff the lieutenant governor until the next election.”

Then Ramsey offered this: “Scratch all that.”

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

Patrick met the president in McAllen earlier this week and offered to help him build The Wall along our border with Mexico. He said Texas could pony some of the $5.7 billion that Trump wants to spend.

So, what would that mean if Patrick gets whisked off to D.C. to serve in the Trump administration? That would allow senators to select a new lieutenant governor. I know one of those 31 senators pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who I believe would make an outstanding lieutenant governor.

He calls himself a “conservative,” but he sounds more, shall we say, moderate than some of the righties who populate the Texas Senate. That is fine with me. For instance, I cannot imagine a Lt. Gov. Seliger pushing a “Bathroom Bill” through the Senate to make some sort of statement to appease cultural conservatives within the Texas GOP Senate caucus.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly 25 years. He and I have developed a good relationship. I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and he was Amarillo mayor when we first met in early 1995. He then left City Hall and was elected to the Senate in 2004 after the late Teel Bivins received an ambassadorial post from President Bush.

I have long supported Seliger’s work as a state senator.

Would he make a good lieutenant governor? Of course he would! I realize I am getting way ahead of myself. Lt. Gov. Patrick likely isn’t going anywhere.

Then again . . . my hope springs eternal.

Former POTUSes deny supporting The Wall

There he goes again: lying when he simply could remain silent, let alone tell the truth.

Donald Trump has said that every living former president supports his desire to build The Wall along our border with Mexico.

Oops! Except that they don’t.

Three of the four former presidents have declared that Trump hasn’t discussed the issue with him. Jimmy Carter has just joined Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in denying that they support building The Wall; Barack Obama has been quiet on this particular matter, but his views on The Wall already are well known.

“I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump, and do not support him on the issue,” President Carter said in a statement issued by the Carter Center in Atlanta.

So, I’ll ask the question once again: Why in the name of truth-telling does Donald Trump insist on tossing out these gratuitous lies?

Good grief! The guy can just keep his trap shut. He could simply that “others” support his goofy notion. But oh, no! He’s got to say that the former presidents of the United States have joined him in this idiocy. Except that all of them are of sound mind and are able to speak for themselves, and what do you know . . . they have disputed categorically what Trump has declared.

This is what I mean when I suggest that Donald Trump is so very indelicate and imprudent in his lying. He is a bad liar. He cannot control his impulse to lie when he doesn’t need to lie.

His lawyers all have questioned whether he should agree to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller about “The Russia Thing,” fearing that he could get caught in a “perjury trap.”

The president’s lying about the ex-presidents’ alleged “support” for The Wall now seems to affirm his counsels’ fear about the president committing perjury.

Trump misses chance to buck up wounded vets

Think for a moment about an opportunity that Donald Trump let slip past him.

The president who’s entangled in a showdown over The Wall, shutting down part of the federal government, could have gone to Walter Reed Army Hospital, or to a nearby military installation to visit our troops.

He could have told them in person that despite the standoff and the government shutdown, the commander in chief was standing with them. Their government would not turn its back on the men and women in uniform.

Trump didn’t do that. No, he became the first president to not visit troops at Christmas time since 2002. President Bush didn’t visit American service personnel in 2001 or in 2002; 9/11 had just occurred in 2001 and the president was in the midst of preparing to launch the Iraq War the following year.

He visited every Christmas holiday for the remainder of his presidency. As did President Obama, who would visit with Marines in Hawaii during his annual Christmas vacation from 2009 until 2016.

Donald Trump had time on his hands. The government is shut down. He spent Christmas Day reportedly moping around the White House, firing off Twitter messages bitching about those nasty Democrats and his failure to obtain money to build The Wall along our southern border.

The president missed a chance to tell the troops that he supports them, that he’s got their back, that the government won’t let them down.

Oh, well, Maybe next year? Hmm, Mr. President?

Presidential libraries seek to establish legacies

I spent some time this week at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas; it’s the fourth such exhibit I have seen.

I intend to see them all eventually.

However, I have to acknowledge publicly a thought that I harbored privately as I walked through the Bush library/museum. Here goes:

What in the world is the Donald J. Trump library going to look like? How will the eventual former president portray his service? Will he even be able to develop a theme for an exhibit that traditionally is designed to portray some semblance of whatever legacy he leaves behind.

I know that some might view this as a cheap shot, as a stretch, as a way to stick it once more into the president’s eye. However, one’s mind cannot help but go to these places while touring an exhibit that is both somber and joyful simultaneously. The Bush library devotes plenty of text, audio and video to 9/11, the horrendous event that defined George W. Bush’s presidency. It also addresses his work to combat HIV/AIDS, his joyous and boisterous family and the man’s post-presidential work to help with disaster relief and his on-going support for our wounded warriors.

My wife and I have toured the Herbert Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa, the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta and the Lyndon Johnson library in Austin. They all speak to the presidents’ signature moments; the Hoover exhibit tells also of the former president’s humanitarian efforts.

What in the world is the Donald Trump library going to salute? What tone will the tributes take? How does this president manage to highlight the nation he serves without calling attention to himself?

That all assumes, of course, that Donald Trump is able to finish his term in office. There is increasing chatter that he, um, might not finish it. He is becoming entangled and enmeshed in growing legal difficulties. Those legal matters only exacerbate the political troubles that are sure to erupt as a consequence.

I am willing to admit to thinking of these things. If only the president of the United States would learn how to govern, learn how to behave the way his office compels him to behave, would understand the solemn responsibility he has assumed.

Donald Trump’s penchant for publicity — especially when it’s negative — makes it impossible for me to avoid thinking these things even when touring a presidential library and museum worthy of its name.

The cascade continues

I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Brett McGurk . . . until today.

That’s when I learned that our nation’s leading envoy in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State has decided to quit early. He is angry with Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, to abandon the fight against ISIS in that country. It was a decision that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to quit.

Now it’s McGurk who’s hitting the road.

This is a big deal, too.

McGurk had planned to leave in February, but decided to submit his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McGurk joined the George W. Bush administration and stayed on through the Obama administration, where he was appointed to his current post.

Two years into the Trump administration, McGurk seems to have had enough.

As NBC News reported: Trump’s decision left McGurk flat-footed, unable to explain to U.S. allies who have been fighting ISIS with the United States why they were neither consulted nor informed in advance. Nor have senior Trump administration officials been able to tell allies and Kurdish forces whether U.S. air strikes will continue in Syria to support the mission against ISIS.

Mattis was quite clear in his resignation letter that part of where he differed with Trump is in the treatment of our allies. They cannot trust us to be faithful to our pledges and commitments.

Neither can key administration operatives who are charged with doing the most serious work possible. In McGurk’s case, it is the task of working with allies in the fight to defeat the monstrous terrorists known as the Islamic State.

The chaos is showing signs of taking a terrible toll on U.S. influence in a world that has grown accustomed to what we once touted as our national indispensability.

No longer can we make that make assertion.