Tag Archives: George W. Bush

For ‘W’ to speak out, you know it’s bad

Two former presidents of the United States have spoken out about the state of contemporary politics.

Both men’s comments were thinly veiled broadsides fired at Donald John Trump, the guy who succeeded one of them. You would expect such criticism of a Republican president to come from Democratic former President Barack H. Obama, who today campaigned on behalf of fellow Democratic candidates.

It’s the criticism that came from a Republican ex-president, George W. Bush, that deserves a brief comment here.

President Bush has been mostly quiet since leaving the White House in January 2009. Today he broke his silence in dramatic fashion.

Speaking at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York, the former president said this, according to the Washington Post:

* “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

* “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”

* “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”

* “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”

* “Bullying and prejudice in our public life … provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”

* “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.”

Read the Post article here.

Can there be any question about whom the former president is referring? Can you possibly mistake the references to anyone other than Donald J. Trump?

President Bush spoke out forcefully during his time in the White House against bigotry and hatred. For example, he sought to declare that our war against international radical Islamic terrorists is not a war against Islam.

That is not the message we’re getting from the current president and the 43rd president of the United States is correct to bring these issues to our attention.

Welcome back to the political stage, Mr. President.

It’s the ‘optics’ that keep bedeviling the president

Donald J. Trump had to know about the damage done by his long-distance feud with San Juan, P.R., Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

The president surely knew it would be better for him to make nice with the mayor who he had criticized for her “poor leadership” after she criticized the federal response to Puerto Rico’s suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s savage beating.

I fear he didn’t act on that when he went to Puerto Rico. He engaged in at least one peculiar public-relations stunt when he was video recorded tossing rolls of paper towels at a crowd of well-wishers. Someone will have to explain to me what that was supposed to tell us about the president’s concern for those U.S. citizens who are suffering from the hurricane’s devastation.

Then he sat in a meeting with local officials — which included Mayor Cruz — and said that Puerto Rico has cost the United States “billions of dollars, but that’s all right.” I heard that and thought, “Huh?”

The president keeps fluffing this part of his job description, the one that labels him “comforter in chief.”  He’s not making the grade.

President Reagan donned that mantle perfectly after the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986; President Clinton did it as well in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; and of course, President Bush stood in the Twin Tower rubble, bullhorn in hand after 9/11, and said “the world will hear all of us soon.”

And can anyone forget the sight of President Obama leading a church congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the memorial for the victims of the Charleston, S.C., massacre?

Trump hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate the capacity he needs to show in these times of intense national grief.

Puerto Ricans are suffering. Yet the president treats his visit there like some sort of performance on his part.

He’ll get another chance on Wednesday when he flies to Las Vegas. He’ll get an opportunity to show Americans he cares about that community’s suffering after the madman opened fire at the hotel and casino, killing 59 people and injuring 500-plus more in a hail of automatic weapon fire.

Do you have faith that the president will become comforter in chief?

Me, neither.

Ex-presidents look so, so relaxed

This picture makes me happy.

It shows the three most immediate past presidents of the United States of America: Barack H. Obama, George W. Bush and William J. Clinton.

Look at those men. Don’t they look happy? Relaxed? Chummy?

They opened the President’s Cup golf tournament today in Jersey City, N.J., the first time three ex-presidents have opened the event that pits American golfers against an international team.

It’s a big deal.

For some time after he left office, I was left pining for former President Obama. I missed him terribly. At one or two levels, I still do. But seeing this picture reminds me of how much he and Presidents Bush and Clinton have earned the right to look so damn relaxed.

The same can be said of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. They weren’t there. President Bush is in poor health. President Carter is likely building a house somewhere for Habitat for Humanity; indeed, President Carter hasn’t stopped working since he left office … in 1981!

And, oh how I wish I could be a fly on the wall as these three former heads of state talk about the guy who holds the office these days.

A-Team steps up to help Harvey victims

These five men belong to an exclusive club, with an exclusivity exceeded only by the former pope’s club.

They are the five men who’ve been elected president of the United States. They have gathered for a joint fundraising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which savaged the Texas coast in late August.

They are collaborating on a One America Appeal website that asks Americans to donate what they can to aid those who are stricken by the pummeling delivered by Harvey.

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have recorded a video that kicks off the fundraising effort. My hunch is that it might be updated as soon as Hurricane Irma finishes delivering more destruction to Florida in the next few days.

But this is bipartisanhip to the max. Two Republicans and three Democrats have locked arms in a call to aid our fellow Americans.

See the video here.

As President Bush 43 noted, “We’ve got more love in Texas than water.”

Considering the amount of rain — 50 inches of it! — that fell on Texas during Harvey’s unwelcome visit, that’s really saying something.

Thank you, Messrs. President.

Another date to mark a war with no end in sight

I refuse to call Sept. 11 an “anniversary.” I reserve that term to commemorate weddings and other happy beginnings.

9/11 is none of that. It’s coming up Monday. Sixteen years ago terrorists commandeered four jetliners; they flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers; one flew into the Pentagon; one crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a titanic struggle between passengers and terrorists.

Roughly 3,000 people died on that terrible day.

Not long after that, President Bush sent young Americans to war against the terrorists. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which had given shelter for the monsters, fell to our forces. The war raged on and on and on.

In March 2003 the war spread to Iraq. We toppled a dictator, who later was captured, tried and hanged. We were told we went into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find any.

What the 9/11 date will remind me on Monday is that we very well may never — at least not in my lifetime — be able to end this war against international terrorism.

President Bush handed the struggle off to Barack Obama in 2009. The fight went on.

In May 2011, President Obama announced “to the nation and the world” that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. We cheered the news. Crowds gathered outside the White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!” We got the main bad guy.

What happened after that? The war went on.

The Islamic State surfaced during this time. ISIS has continued to bring havoc and horror. There have been beheadings and bombings.

The war rages on, despite the arrest of and deaths of several key ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders.

Our enemy is cunning. He is smart. He knows how to hit “soft targets.” His victims primarily are other Muslims, which puts the lie to the notion that we are “at war with Islam.” As President Obama said while announcing bin Laden’s death, our enemy comprises a cabal of murderers who have declared war on Muslims as well as they have on Christians and Jews.

This year, President Obama handed it off to Donald Trump. The new president campaigned foolishly on the pledge to wipe out ISIS and al-Qaeda. He boasted that he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” He doesn’t.

No matter the level of presidential boastfulness, the fight will rage on. We’ll keep killing terrorist leaders. Others will slither out and take the place of those we eliminate.

How do we prevent more “soft target” incidents? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” from driving a motor vehicle into crowds? Or how do we stop those from igniting bombs at sporting events or other places where large crowds of victims gather?

9/11 is no anniversary. It’s not a date to celebrate. It’s a date that should serve to remind us of the threat that has lurked among us for far longer than we ever imagined.

And it lurks to this very day.

The war will rage on.

Trump seeks to spend political capital he doesn’t have

The nation is full of Republicans who identify closely with the Grand Old Party — and who don’t identify with the nation’s top Republican.

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has done his level best to strip the bark off the hides of leading GOP politicians. To what end remains one of the major questions of the moment.

Matthew Dowd is a true-blue Republican. He’s a Texan with close ties to former President George W. Bush. He’s also a Never Trump kind of Republican. Dowd is a seasoned political operative who knows his way around the Republican Party pea patch.

He said something quite instructive about how these two Republican presidents — Bush and Trump — sought to get their terms in office off and running.

Dowd, speaking Sunday on “ABC This Week,” talked of how President Bush was elected under shaky circumstances. He lost the popular vote in 2000 to Albert Gore Jr. and earned enough Electoral College votes through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

What did the president do, knowing he lacked political capital? Dowd recalled how Bush reached across the aisle to work with Democrats on key legislation. He cited President Bush’s partnership with the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy on education reform. He sought out Democrats to craft an immigration reform package as well.

As Dowd noted, that’s how presidents lacking in capital seek to build on their shaky political base.

How has Trump responded? Quite the opposite. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. He won the Electoral College majority by a total of 80,000 votes in three key swing states that voted twice for Barack Obama.

Trump’s strategy has been to thumb his nose at congressional Democrats. He has sought a Republican-only legislative agenda, except that he cannot manage to bring all the members of his own party — given the wide diversity of ideology within the GOP — under the same roof.

Therein lies a critical difference between Bush and Trump.

President Bush was able to work with Democrats who ran the Texas Legislature during the years he served as Texas governor from 1995 to 2000. He knew how to legislate and he took that government experience with him to the White House in January 2001.

Donald Trump has none of that experience. Zeeero! He ran on his record as business mogul and said he would govern the country the way he ran his business empire. No … can … do, Mr. President.

Nor can the president govern a nation with a population that voted for his opponent by appealing exclusively to his core supporters.

Will the president ever learn that lesson? Uhh, probably not.

How many more ‘worst weeks’ can POTUS endure?

It’s been said over the past couple of days that Donald J. Trump’s list of “worst weeks of his presidency” has become too numerous to count. Suffice to say that the week just past likely qualifies as his last “worst week.”

They rioted in Charlottesville, Va., over a Confederate statue. A young woman — someone who was there to protest the neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacists who objected to the removal of the statue — was run over in what has been called an act of “domestic terrorism.” The president first blamed “many sides” for the violence; then he blamed the KKK and neo-Nazis for it; then he blamed “both sides” and accused the “alt-left” of provoking an angry response from the Nazis/KKK.

It got real crappy for the president.

A new week is about to convene for the commander in chief and he’s got a chance — or so it appears — to do something right. He’s going to speak to the nation at 8 p.m. (CDT) Monday to announce a new “strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.”

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, the longest stretch of open warfare in the nation’s history. The 9/11 terrorists declared war on the United States and President Bush responded quickly. The war continued through his two terms and through two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency.

What is the current president going to tell us? Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis would reveal it. He chose wisely to leave it to the president to make his own announcement.

What should Trump do? My sincere hope was that we could end the contest in Afghanistan. That won’t happen. The war we’ve fought there hasn’t produced the ironclad strength in the government we installed when we threw the Taliban out of power in 2001.

The nation will wait to hear from the president about how he intends to continue prosecuting this war. That’s his call.

I’ll just ask one favor: Please, Mr. President, stick to the issue at hand and spare us yet another boasting of how smart you are, how rich you are, how many “really smart people” surround you, and how you won the presidency against all odds.

We’ve got young Americans in harm’s way, Mr. President, and now is the time to present yourself as a commander in chief who knows what the hell he’s doing.

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.