Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Presidents make powerful statement, but it needs more

There you go. A powerful statement from the two most recent Republican presidents of the United States, father and son, George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Their reaction to the Charlottesville riot and the tragic death of Heather Heyer speaks volumes about their decency and compassion.

However …

There’s an element missing from this statement. What is missing is a specific condemnation of their successor, Donald John Trump.

It’s the kind of rebuke and denunciation that must come from members of the president’s own party. They must condemn not just the acts of hate that transpired in Charlottesville, but also the president who — in a stunning display of ignorance and arrogance on Tuesday — equated the hate merchants with those who oppose them.

Indeed, the silence from the GOP political high command has been deafening in its own right. House and Senate leaders have spoken eloquently about their loathing of intolerance, bigotry and racism. Good for them!

But the rest of the condemnation also must single out the president of the United States who tossed aside the proverbial “dog whistle” he has used to incite his political base and replaced it with a bullhorn. We all heard what he meant when he said “both sides” are to blame for the tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville.

No, Mr. President. There is no “both sides do it” moral equivalence here. The riot was provoked by the presence of white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis who protested the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. They marched under the lights of tiki torches, which symbolize the terror tactics used by the Klan and, yes, by the Nazis in Europe prior to World War II.

And yet the president drew a moral equivalence between the hate groups and the counter protesters. It was disgraceful in the extreme for Trump to do such a thing.

I’m glad the two former presidents have spoken out. They both have been quiet since leaving the presidency in 1993 and 2009.

I just wish they would have taken the final step and called out Donald Trump by name. Maybe that moment will arrive in due course. Let us hope.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

‘Hoax’ probe of Trump now is getting quite serious

This is a mere hunch.

When a special counsel orders an unannounced search of a home for evidence of possible crimes involving the president of the United States, then I believe we have a serious investigation under way.

Federal agents barged into the home of former Donald J. Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. They collected information and evidence allegedly related to the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president, let us remember, has said all along that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” that it is a “hoax,” that the whole “Russia thing” matter is a creation of Democrats who are still steamed at losing the 2016 presidential election.

The search conducted two weeks at Manafort’s home suggests something quite different. It represents a potentially stunning turn in the probe into whether Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election were done in collusion with the Trump campaign.

Is there an obstruction of justice charge on its way? Might there be an actual violation of the law to be discovered?

Yes, this investigation is still in its infancy. Mueller is known as a meticulous lawyer. He has hired a crack legal team. He is a former FBI director who served under presidents of both major political parties: George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.

Is this man capable of conducting a “hoax” investigation?

Hmmm. I, uh, don’t believe so.

Now that we’re talking about presidential vacations …

Presidential vacations usually aren’t the stuff of water-cooler tittering, unless the president is a blowhard who brags about “never” taking them, only to bail from the White House for 17 days.

Donald John Trump Sr. is spending two-plus weeks away from the office at the “dump” where he and his wife and son reside. He’s playing some golf in Bedminster, N.J. — and doing some presidential duties.

The subject of vacation destinations, though, does become a bit of a media issue from time to time, depending on the destination itself.

Barack H. Obama was fond of vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., during the summer; then he would jet to his hometown of Honolulu for his annual Christmas vacation. The media loved covering the president while he was on vacation.

Bill Clinton also enjoyed Martha’s Vineyard. George H.W. Bush had his family estate on the Atlantic shore in Kennebunkport, Maine. Ronald Reagan spent quality time at his Rancho del Cielo, just outside of Santa Barbara, Calif. Jimmy Carter would go back to Plains, Ga. Gerald Ford had his digs in Palm Springs, Calif. Richard Nixon enjoyed time away at San Clemente, Calif.

I skipped mentioning George W. Bush’s vacation spot for a reason. I want to discuss it briefly here.

President Bush was fond of going to Crawford, Texas, during the heat of the summer. It gets really hot in Central Texas, man! He has a ranch there and he’d venture onto the Back Forty to “clear brush” and perform assorted chores around the place. He found it invigorating and relaxing.

The White House media corps assigned to cover the president routinely reported on the miserable weather conditions in Crawford. One didn’t hear such gripes from the media when they covered presidential getaways at, say, The Vineyard, Waikiki or the rocky Maine coast.

This is worth mentioning, I suppose, in the wake of Donald Trump’s constant yammering about President Obama’s vacations and the now-debunked notion that the current president wouldn’t be taking vacations. He would be too hard at work trying to “make America great again.”

Just as media coverage of G.W. Bush’s vacations centered heavily on the Central Texas heat and the misery of reporters assigned to cover the president, I reckon the current president’s vacation coverage will center on just how much actual work is being done while he’s relaxing with his golf buddies.

Mr. VP? Bush won, you lost in 2000

Al Gore has returned to the public arena in a big way.

He’s pitching a documentary film, a sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth.” The former vice president also has suggested something quite provocative about the 2000 election, which he lost by the narrowest margin possible to George W. Bush.

“I think I carried Florida,” Gore told Bill Maher on Maher’s TV show the other night.

Yep, Gore thinks he won the state that decided the election.

Bush won, Gore lost.

Actually, Mr. Vice President, you didn’t win it. Bush did. The former Texas governor won Florida by 537 votes, giving him enough Electoral College votes to be elected. The final electoral vote total was Bush 271, Gore 266; Bush needed 270 electoral votes to win. Game over.

Yes, we know the story about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision that stopped the recount of ballots in Florida. The five Republican-appointed justices voted to end the count; the four Democratic appointees wanted it to continue.

Moreover, a Knight-Ridder/Miami Herald study suggested later that Bush would have won Florida by an even wider margin had the recount continued.

I’ll stipulate here that I wanted Gore to be elected president in 2000. I was dismayed that the court ruled as it did.

However, the system worked precisely as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution. Although I wanted a different outcome, I never have challenged the legitimacy of President Bush’s election.

Neither should the man he defeated.

Stand tall, proceed Special Counsel Mueller

Robert Mueller doesn’t need an encouraging word from little ol’ me out here in Flyover Country, far from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

I’ll give him a few of them anyway.

Mueller is up to his eyeballs in probing “the Russia thing” that cost James Comey his job as FBI director … when Donald John Trump Sr. fired him. Mueller now owns the title of special counsel and he has assembled a team of crack lawyers to probe whether Trump’s campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our nation’s electoral process.

Trump, of course, is calling it all a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” an “excuse” for Democrats who are angry about losing the 2016 election to Trump.

It is none of the above, largely because of Mueller.

The special counsel once ran the FBI himself. President George W. Bush appointed him to the FBI post in 2001– one week before 9/11! He served his 10-year term and then was asked by President Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, to stay on for additional two years. Think about that. He gets selected by a Republican president and then is asked to stay on by a Democrat.

He left office and then went into private practice. Then came a new presidential administration. The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, decided to recuse himself from anything having to do with Russia. A deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, then appointed Mueller to be the special counsel, to take charge of this investigation.

His appointment was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who all sang in perfect unison about Mueller’s integrity, his knowledge of the law, his professionalism and his honesty.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans now are lining up against any attempt Trump might mount to remove Mueller. They want him on the job. They want him to ferret out the truth. They want this guy to finish the task he has been given.

The only people who are disparaging Mueller happen to be the president of the United States and his closest White House advisers — some of whom happen to be members of the president’s family.

I’ve said before that if the president believes Mueller is marching down a blind alley, that he shouldn’t have a thing to worry about. Let the investigation proceed and then breathe a heavy sigh if it produces zero criminality. Might that be a reasonable posture for the president and his team to take?

Instead, they are seeking to undermine the man’s work and his reputation. Accordingly, Donald Trump disgraces himself and his high office every time he opens his trap.

Robert Mueller needs to complete his investigation. This American patriot — yours truly — has complete faith in his ability to do the job he has been assigned.

Remembering a great Texas Republican

MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas –– Wherever my wife and I travel these days, I cannot help but think of individuals I’ve either met while working in journalism or those about whom I have some knowledge.

We came to this northeast Texas community in search of a grocery store to buy some, um, groceries. I told my wife that this is the hometown of one of the great all-time Texas politicians.

Bill Ratliff was a state senator from Titus County. He was a Republican lawmaker who was held in the highest esteem possible by all 31 of his Senate colleagues. Democrats respected him as much as his fellow Republicans.

Sen. Ratliff was what I have called a “reasonable Republican” who knew how to work across the aisle. Both parties have become so polarized these days that bipartisanship has become a four-letter word.

In 2001, though, the rarest of events occurred in the Texas Senate.

Gov. George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. Because of that vote-counting matter in Florida, Texas Gov. Bush’s election was not a foregone conclusion until a month or so after Election Day. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the ballot recount in Florida, Bush was leading at the time by 537 votes, Florida’s electoral votes went to Bush — and he was elected president.

Then Bush quit the Texas governorship, elevating Lt. Gov. Rick Perry to the Big Office. That meant the state needed a lieutenant governor to preside over the Texas Senate. To whom did the Senate turn? For the first time in state history, senators elevated Bill Ratliff to the lieutenant governor’s office, a post he held while at the same time serving as state senator during the 2001 Texas Legislature.

He served in that capacity until 2003, when David Dewhurst was elected lieutenant governor.

Ratliff had a nickname among his Senate colleagues, who called him Obi-Wan Kenobi, the wise being from “Star Wars.” Indeed, Ratliff once said of his own Republican views: “I am a Republican because I agree with the Republicans at least 51 percent of the time.”

He was unafraid, therefore, to agree with Democrats when the time — and the cause — was right.

Sen./Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff is now 80. I wish he was still serving his beloved Texas.

No, Mr. President; Obama did react to Russian hacking

Donald J. Trump keeps harping on a canard, which is that Barack Obama “did nothing” when he learned in the summer of 2016 about Russian efforts to hack into our electoral process.

Wrong, Mr. President.

Trump keeps dodging the question about whether he believes the Russians sought to influence the 2016 presidential election. Today, he once again gave the Russians some political cover by saying that “other countries” are hacking us, too.

My point here, though, is that President Obama did react to reports of Russian hacking.

He imposed economic sanctions against individuals; he tossed Russian diplomats out of the United States; he closed two Russian diplomatic compounds — all of this in reaction to reports of Russian hacking.

Trump is having none of it. He wants to divert attention from the questions and suspicion that continues to swirl around him regarding the Russians and whatever — if any — relationship they had with the Trump presidential campaign.

I get that presidents have blamed their immediate predecessors for real and imagined problems. Obama laid a lot of blame at the feet of his predecessor, George W. Bush — although he did give the Bush administration plenty of credit for the work it had done in helping locate Osama bin Laden prior to the May 2011 commando raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader.

Is there ever going to be a moment when the current president would offer a good word to his immediate predecessor? Don’t hold your breath. I won’t.

As for Trump’s insistence that Obama did “nothing” to respond to Russian hackers, that’s just another lie.

Ba-rack, Ba-rack, Ba-rack!

I know this won’t surprise you, but I’ll say it anyway.

I am one of millions of Americans who wishes Barack Hussein Obama was still president of the United States of America. My desire to see him back in the saddle intensifies every time I witness the current president stumble and bumble his way through the office he occupies.

Donald Trump’s tweet tirades annoy me. His constant bald-faced lies enrage me. His dissembling and poorly executed verbal dodges are outrageous on their face.

I grow weary of the constant state of chaos, confusion, controversy and contentiousness that surrounds this man.

I would want Barack Obama back on the job.

Then I stop. I consider something we all ought to ponder. He had eight years as president. Obama lived under the intense glare of public scrutiny, the likes of which take their toll on even the strongest of individuals.

About the time I get carried away with my desire for Barack Obama to have remained president, I have to ask myself: Does the 44th president really want more of what he got during his two terms in office? Does he really want to endure the constant battles he had to fight with Republicans and, oh yes, with the media?

The Constitution limits the number of terms someone can serve as president. Barack Obama had his time. His immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, wisely stepped completely out of the limelight when he left office in January 2009.

Occasionally, I try to put myself in former presidents’ shoes. Then I realize that their return to semi-normal lives as (more or less) ordinary American citizens is the perfect tonic for them.

I’m left only to wish it were different. I know. It’s so selfish of me.

Still cannot connect two words directly to each other

I am in the midst of a deepening dilemma.

Donald J. Trump has been president of the United States for 150-plus days and I still cannot connect the words “President” and “Trump” consecutively when I refer to this individual.

It troubles me a little bit. A part of me wants to do it. A bigger part of me refuses to allow it.

I’ve written already that I accept that Trump won the 2016 presidential election. He pulled in the requisite number of Electoral College votes to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won just a shade less than 3 million more popular votes than the guy who beat her.

The electoral disparity isn’t what keeps me from total recognition of Trump as president. Heck, if that had been the driver, then I wouldn’t have referred to George W. Bush as “President Bush” during his two terms in the White House. The difference is that President Bush stepped into the role to which he was elected. The 9/11 attacks barely nine months into his presidency defined him and he rose to the challenge.

Trump is different. Trump continues to demonstrate — through all sorts of actions and utterances — that he remains unfit for the office. His Twitter tirades provide more than ample evidence of his unfitness.

I’ve been scolded by critics of this blog for declining to attach the president’s title directly to his name. They’re entitled to their view. I am entitled to mine.

With that, I’ll continue to resist giving the president his full measure of respect until he can demonstrate — to my satisfaction — that he has earned it.