Tag Archives: George W. Bush

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.

SCOTUS chief to get his feet wet at the highest level imaginable

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts is a serious man who takes his responsibility as seriously as is humanly possible. Of that I have not a single, solitary doubt.

However, I heard something tonight that made my jaw drop. It was that Chief Justice Roberts, who today took an oath to preside over a U.S. Senate trial of the Donald John Trump, has never tried a case in court.

Yep, this will be the first trial over which he will preside.

President Bush appointed Roberts to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2003. An appellate court doesn’t hear witness testimony; it doesn’t rule on court objections. It hears lawyers argue their cases. Then the court decides which side wins the argument.

After that, Roberts got the nod in 2005 to become chief justice of the nation’s highest court. He does more of the same thing he did at the lower-court level.

Prior to the D.C. court appointment, Roberts worked in private practice, then went to work for the attorney general’s office during the time William French Smith was AG during the Reagan administration.

Trial court experience? None, man. Now he’s been dragged into the role of presiding judge in the U.S. Senate, where he will be charged with keeping order. He’ll get to rule on whether witnesses will be called, although the Senate can overturn whatever ruling he issues.

Still, it is mind-boggling to think that the chief justice’s first actual trial involves a case involving whether the president of the United States keeps his job.

I am certain the chief justice is up to the challenge that awaits him.

Wow!

A bus ride spurred this call for transparency

I have told you on this blog about how Farmersville, a small city in Collin County, works to avoid the appearance of secret meetings among its City Council. It posts a “notice of potential quorum” when council members plan to gather in the same room … even for a social event!

The notice seeks to forestall any question among residents whether the council is acting in the public interest, or talking about public matters in, um, “secret.”

I happen to think it’s a capital idea that perhaps ought to be written into the Texas Open Meetings Act.

I haven’t told you, until now, how City Attorney Alan Lathrom came up with the idea.

It was in 1995. Lathrom served on the legal staff in Arlington, Texas, in Tarrant County. The Arlington City Council planned to attend the inaugural of newly elected Gov. George W. Bush. So, the council rented a bus, on which all the members would ride from Arlington to Austin to attend Gov. Bush’s inauguration.

Lathrom then had this notion: What if someone questions whether the council is conducting public business on the lengthy bus ride from here to there, and then back again? He told me recently there had been some rumbling and grumbling in Arlington about the council being in the same vehicle for such a lengthy period of time.

He came up with the idea of posting the bus ride as a notice of a “potential quorum” by the City Council. He decided to post it in accordance with the statute that requires a 72-hour notice prior to the “quorum” forming inside the bus.

The trip occurred. The council went to Austin to clap for the new governor. They shook many hands, slapped many backs, had a great time and returned home to Arlington. My guess is that it didn’t pass any ordinances either while traveling to Austin and back.

With that, an idea was born and it lives on today in little ol’ Farmersville, Texas.

Well played, Mr. City Attorney.

How will Trump lay out his next agenda?

As I look ahead to the upcoming presidential campaign, I keep wondering just how Donald J. Trump is going to campaign for a second term.

Will he actually offer an agenda for the next four years? Or will he get into the name-calling game that helped get him elected in the first place?

Texas Gov. Ann Richards sought re-election to a second term in 1994, but got beat by a political newcomer, George W. Bush. Part of Gov. Richards’ undoing was her seeming inability to lay out a second-term agenda as Texas governor. Bush, meanwhile, stayed focused on his own agenda and campaigned relentlessly without veering too far from his talking points.

Richards, meanwhile, got too negative in her effort to derail the up-and-comer. It didn’t work.

So, will the president borrow a page from the failed Ann Richards playbook?

The major issue, from my standpoint, is that Trump’s initial agenda has been buried under the chaos and confusion that has been hallmark of his term in office. How will the Democratic nominee campaign against that first term? I suppose he or she will point correctly — in my view — to the chaotic nature of the president’s (hoped-for only) term.

Trump, meanwhile, likely will be true to form and respond with the blizzard of insults and innuendo that became the centerpiece of his victorious campaign in 2016.

Second-term agenda? Hah! There well might not be a mention of it.

Ambassadorships: political payola

The name of Gordon Sondland is about to become a household name.

He is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He has testified to House Intelligence Committee members that Donald Trump sought a quid pro quo — a political favor — from the government of Ukraine.

I want to mention Sondland because the media keep reporting that the ambassador “earned” his appointment from Trump because of his political friendliness with the president. As if that’s news? It isn’t.

Sondland is among an interminable list of ambassadors who have zero diplomatic experience. The nature of ambassadorial appointments makes them political payoffs. That’s what they have been since the beginning of the republic.

Perhaps there ought to be a monumental reform in the criteria that presidents use in nominating these individuals to the diplomatic posts. I would love to see ambassadorships awarded to career diplomats, individuals who have spent a lifetime in public service, who know something about the country where they would be stationed to operate on behalf of the United States of America.

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

I have known precisely one individual who received a presidential appointment as a U.S. ambassador overseas. The late Teel Bivins of Amarillo got the nod from then-President George W. Bush to become our ambassador to Sweden. Bivins was a state senator from Amarillo.

Did the newly named ambassador have any knowledge of Sweden? No! He had never even set foot in the country. He got the appointment because he had worked diligently on Bush’s winning presidential campaign in 2000. He ventured to early primary states to raise lots of money on Bush’s behalf. Plus, Bivins also was close to President George H.W. Bush, the father of the man who sought the office of president.

Bivins, though, did surround himself with competent staff. He had many career diplomats working for him.

To be sure, presidents of both parties have selected high-profile politicians to serve as envoys to major U.S. allies, such as Great Britain, Japan or China.

My point is that Sondland’s political standing is nothing new or unique as we start to examine his role in the Ukrainian matter that is threatening to result in Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House.

I am hoping the media can let go of this idea that Sondland’s political chops somehow make a big deal out of his EU ambassadorship. They don’t. It’s the norm.

Fix the DACA mess; restore humaneness to our immigration policy

 ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

A Facebook friend, a man I actually know and respect, brought up a point on an earlier blog post that I want to acknowledge here.

He agrees with my belief that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to be repaired, not eliminated, but he cautions about the need to deal with the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals matter as well.

He is correct.

DACA recipients are being punished unjustly only because they were children when their parents sneaked them into the country illegally. The Donald Trump administration wants them deported. The president rescinded an executive order that President Obama signed that gave DACA residents a form of temporary amnesty from deportation.

ICE is under orders to find these folks and detain them.

This isn’t right. It’s cruel and it is inhumane to deport DACA recipients, many of whom have excelled scholastically in the only country they’ve ever known.

I should point out as well two previous Texas governors — George W. Bush and Rick Perry, both Republicans — have all but embraced the idea contained in the DACA executive order that Obama signed. They have supported initiatives, for instances, to grant DACA students in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Texas. Why? Because they recognize the contributions these young students can make if they are allowed to succeed while continuing to reside in Texas.

ICE can do much good for the country as we seek to reform our immigration policy. I also agree with former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s campaigning for president, that the best way to ensure a thorough and lasting repair of ICE is to change presidents. Donald Trump won’t do it.

Indeed, DACA reform must be part of any effort to re-humanize our nation’s immigration policy.

Trump might get to add some drama to World Series … do ya think?

Well now. There will be a Game 5 in the 2019 World Series, thanks to the Houston Astros winning the third game Friday night in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals

Do you know what that means? It means that Donald J. Trump will get to attend Game 5 as he had already announced he would do.

He won’t take the mound to toss out the first pitch, a la President George W. Bush, who in 2001 famously fired a strike at Yankee Stadium. Nor will he toss the pitch from the stands, as many presidents have done dating back nearly to the founding of the Grand Old Game.

It is reported he will arrive after the game starts and will leave before the final out; the president’s intent is to avoid too much disruption for the security.

I am left to wonder, which I’ll do right here: Will the public address announcer reveal the president’s attendance at the game? If that occurs, what then do you suppose will be the fans’ reaction to hearing that Donald Trump is among them?

It is well-known how divided this country has been for years preceding the presidency of Donald Trump, whose rhetoric only has widened that divide.

We might have gotten a hint of that divide when Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner has said that the president “has every right” to attend a World Series game.

Doesn’t that go, um, without saying?

Stand firm, Ellen, in your friendship with ‘W’

I hereby endorse Ellen DeGeneres in her declaration that she is friends with former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.

The comedian is taking flak because she happened to attend a Dallas Cowboys football game at AT&T Stadium, where she sat next to the former first couple, had a few laughs and enjoyed each other’s company.

DeGeneres noted out loud the other day that it does strange for a “gay liberal” such as herself to be friends with a “conservative” such as President Bush. Which makes me respond: So what? 

Ellen is taking heat from some in the entertainment industry. Actor Mark Ruffalo commented via Twitter that Bush’s policies are anathema to the “kindness” that DeGeneres mentioned in her comments about her friendship with “W.”

Look, I get it. I am not “friends” with the former president, although I have had the pleasure of meeting him three times over the years. The first time was on an elevator at the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans; the second time was in 1995, when I interviewed the then-new Texas governor at his office at the State Capitol; the third time was in Amarillo in 1998 when he was running for re-election as governor.

My impression of President Bush is clear: He is the kind of guy I would love to have a beer with … except that he no longer drinks alcohol. He is affable, jovial, personable, humble and all-round good guy. His politics stink, but as Mitt Romney once said during the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in 2012 when he appeared on the same dais as President Barack Obama against whom he was running, “There is more to life than politics.”

So it is with Ellen DeGeneres and President Bush.

Stand firm, Ellen.

There you go, Mr. POTUS, thinking of yourself

When an iconic figure in journalism passes on, it usually is expected that men and women in high places say something gracious and laudatory about the legacy of that iconic individual.

Legendary broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts died Tuesday of complications from breast cancer. She fought the disease hard and with maximum courage for many years. Her 75-year-old body gave out.

Barack Obama and George W. Bush offered high praise for her work. Obama referred to her blazing trails for fellow female journalists; Bush called her reporting “tough” but “fair.”

Donald Trump’s response? “She never treated me nicely,” he said, adding that she was a “professional” and he said he wanted to “wish her family well.”

So, there you go. The president thought of himself before offering a tepid platitude.

That’s always how it goes with this guy.

9/11 still seared into our memory

Many millions of Americans are recalling a terrible day that dawned 18 years ago today. It didn’t start out that way, but it got dark in a major hurry.

They’re remembering where they were when they heard the news. Me? I was at work at the Amarillo Globe-News.

My colleague walked into the office and stuck his head in the door: “Did you hear the news. Someone flew an airplane into the World Trade Center.”

I asked two questions: How big was the airplane? How was the weather? I don’t recall my colleague knowing it was a jetliner. He did say the weather in New York City was beautiful.

“What kind of moron would fly into a building?” I asked with all the appropriate derision.

I turned on a small TV I had in my office. I watched one of the towers burning. Then — in real and horrifying time — the world watched the second jet liner crash into the other tower.

In that moment, we knew what we had: an act of war!

The Pentagon was hit by a third jetliner. Then we heard about the Shanksville, Pa., crash involving a fourth hijacked airplane.

We would go to war in Afghanistan. We would toss the Taliban out of power in that remote land and then launch the hunt for al-Qaida terrorist leaders who masterminded the hideous attack.

I will admit to being frightened in the moment. Anger? Absolutely!

I wanted the nation to fill with resolve to defeat the bastards who committed this horrific deed. Sadly, I fear our nation has lost some of its collective resolve. We’ve been torn asunder by a war that President Bush launched against Iraq, telling us that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “something” to do with the terrorist attack … when he didn’t.

To be honest, I remain puzzled on how we “declare victory” in this war. Or if we can ever actually make that victory declaration.

However, the fight goes on. It must go on.