Tag Archives: George W. Bush

SCOTUS vote reflects deep national divide

David Brooks and Mark Shields make a fascinating duo on the “PBS NewsHour.” Brooks, the conservative and Shields, the liberal, clash often on the issues of the day.

This week they discussed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and Kavanaugh’s eventual ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The men concluded pretty the same thing about the highest court in the land: It has become the third political branch of government. Moreover, the closeness of the committee vote — and today’s vote in the full U.S. Senate — reflects the deep, dark divide throughout the nation.

It was Brooks who put the matter into amazing perspective. He notes that the Supreme Court once was thought to be independent of political strife. The Kavanaugh debate and the anger expressed by the nominee as well as senators on both ends of the spectrum tell us that the court has become just as political as the executive and legislative branches of government.

There is no way the nation’s founders could have envisioned this happening when they established the three “co-equal branches” of government.

The judicial branch once was thought to be the last bastion of critical analysis devoid of politics. Oh, brother!

Shields took a moment to note how George W. Bush was elected president on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to stop the recount of ballots in Florida after the 2000 presidential election. Five GOP-appointed justices ruled to stop the count; four Democratic-appointed justices dissented. Thus, President Bush took office on the basis of a single justice’s vote. That’s when it began, Shields seems to suggest.

And now we have Justice Brett Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court after the most contentious, bitterly fought and divisive debate of its kind in anyone’s memory.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a changed institution. To my way of thinking, it isn’t for the better.

17 years later, the war goes on and on

It was a Tuesday morning. Jetliners flew into the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Another one plowed into the Pentagon. A fourth jetliner crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field as passengers struggled valiantly against those who hijacked it.

The date was Sept. 11, 2001, now known colloquially as 9/11.

About a month later, President Bush — just months on the job — launched the war against the monsters who did the terrible deed.

And the war continues. It is the most unconventional of conflicts. We cannot declare victory and go home. The terrorists will lurk likely forever, for as long as human beings inhabit Earth.

The president stood on the rubble at Ground Zero, bullhorn in hand. He summoned the nation to unite in this struggle. For a time, we did.

The war will go on. It’s already the longest conflict in our nation’s history. Sure, we killed the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack, Osama bin Laden. We’ve killed many terror leaders and thousands of their minions. Others have emerged to take their place. We knew that would happen.

Our nation will recall the 9/11 tragedy on Tuesday. They’ll read the names of the victims who died when the Twin Towers burst into flames and fell. They’ll read the names of those who died in the Pentagon and in that Pennsylvania field. We’ll remember and honor the heroes who ran into the inferno to save others’ lives.

We also will honor and salute the men and women who have answered the call to duty as President Bush took us to war against a ruthless, cunning and elusive enemy.

None of us knows when this fight will end. We don’t even know if it will end … ever! We hear brave talk about how we’re going to destroy the enemy. However, it is just talk. I remain dubious as to whether we’ll ever rid the planet of every single terrorist or organization intend on sowing the seeds of fear.

I am one who supports the on-going war against terror. Yes, the cost of this war is terrible. However, as the president said when he launched the campaign against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorists in Afghanistan, it is far better to fight them there than to fight them here.

Seventeen years later, the war goes on.

Mixed feelings about Obama’s return to the arena

I must admit to harboring some deeply mixed — and often conflicting — feelings about former President Obama’s return to the public arena.

The ex-president today went to Champaign, Ill., and singled out his successor, Donald J. Trump, by name. He was directly critical of the president, saying that Trump isn’t the “cause” of what ails the nation, but is a “symptom” of it.

Why the mixed feelings?

I have stated already that I support the post-presidency profiles adopted by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. That is, they chose to remain silent while their immediate successors — Bill Clinton and Obama, respectively — assumed the reins of power. It was Bush 41 who said that he had had his time in the spotlight, and it was time to get out of the way.  Bush 43 said essentially the same way when he moved aside after the 2008 election.

However, these are different times. We are now governed by a profoundly different sort of president. Donald Trump has continually blasted the policies of his immediate predecessor and spoken untruths about the impact of Obama’s presidency on the nation he led for eight years.

And as Barack Obama said today, Trump has refused to stand up to (a) Russian hackers who attacked our electoral system in 2016, (b) Nazis and other white supremacists and (c) bullies of any stripe.

So, he’s back in the arena. Obama likely is going to energize to disparate wings of the political spectrum: those who oppose the current president’s policies and those who support them.

I also want to join others who’ve said already that it’s a joy to listen to a former president who can speak to the nation in cogent, declarative sentences. Barack Obama’s eloquence stands in the starkest consequence to the mindless rambling we hear from his immediate successor.

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Here are Obama’s remarks. Spoiler alert: It’s a long video. If you have the time, listen to it.

Sen. McCain got the sendoff he deserves

It’s been said over the past few days that the pomp, circumstance and pageantry associated with U.S. Sen. John McCain’s funeral is reserved usually for presidents of the United States.

Well, to my mind, the senator deserved all the tributes — and the accompanying ritual — that he received.

The great man’s six decades of public service all alone was worthy of the salute bestowed to him.

The eulogies delivered in Phoenix by former Vice President Joe Biden and in Washington by former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush spoke volumes about the nature of the ceremony that the late U.S. senator planned for his farewell.

It was Vice President Biden who introduced himself to the crowd assembled by saying, “I’m Joe Biden; I am a Democrat: and I loved John McCain.”

And so it went as the nation poured out its heart to memorialize the iconic Republican lawmaker.

I was glad that the ceremonies didn’t dwell too heavily on the single aspect of McCain’s service to the country — his five-plus years as a Vietnam War prisoner. But it was there. It was impossible to set that part of his sacrifice aside.

The last public figure to get this kind of sendoff was President Ford, who died in 2006. Then it fell to others to deliver such a heartfelt salute to a man who fought a valiant battle against disease.

He already had battled his wartime captors. And he won that fight.

Sen. John McCain was the rare public figure who emerged even bigger after he lost the toughest political battles of his life: his unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000 and his losing bid for the office in the 2008 election against Barack Obama.

With that, the nation has bid farewell to a gallant warrior and a true-blue American hero.

May this sometimes irascible man rest in peace.

As he said of himself, Sen. McCain “lived and died a proud American.”

The country he loved and served with honor and distinction is better because he came along.

The message was clear, as was its intended target

I am quite certain that Donald John Trump is going to be pretty steamed when he catches up with the events of today.

The president was pointedly not invited to the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral. He and McCain had differences that went far beyond policy matters. Trump disparaged McCain’s heroism during the Vietnam War, when he was held captive as a POW for more than five years. When the senator became stricken with the brain cancer that took his life the other day, Trump continued to harangue against the senator’s “no” vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

McCain took it personally.

The senator did invite Trump’s two immediate predecessors: Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. Both men delivered touching eulogies honoring the life and public service career of the senator.

Both men also delivered messages in tribute to Sen. McCain that could not be mistaken for what they were intended to do: to remind us of the pettiness, petulance and small-mindedness that has infected the White House since Donald Trump became president.

President Bush said McCain didn’t tolerate “swaggering despots.” President Obama praised McCain for calling on Americans to be “bigger” than the politics that are based on “fear.”

“So much of our politics, public life, public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast, and insult, and phony controversies, and manufactured outrage,” Obama said at the National Cathedral.

You know who the 44th president had in mind. So does the current president of the United States.

But, hey … if the shoe fits.

McCain’s farewell compares to RFK’s

Someone this week compared the farewell of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain to another such long goodbye that occurred 50 years ago, when the nation bid farewell to the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

I found the comparison an apt one, and one that I believe Sen. McCain would approve of.

On June 5, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan stepped out of a crowd in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen and shot RFK, who died the next day. Bobby Kennedy’s death shocked, stunned and saddened the nation.

There was a moving funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and then the slow and emotional train ride from NYC to Washington, where the tracks were lined by millions of mourners waving goodbye to the slain political icon.

They would bury Bobby Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in a simple grave next to that of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Fifty years later, another political titan is getting the deserved long goodbye. John McCain was saluted in Phoenix by friends and loved ones, including his longtime friend and political foe, former Vice President Joe Biden.

His remains then were flown aboard a government jet to Washington, where they will lie in state under the U.S. Capitol Dome in the Rotunda, an honor given only to 31 prior public officials.

There will be another service, with eulogies given by former Presidents Barack H. Obama and George W. Bush, two one-time presidential campaign rivals, but also men Sen. McCain grew to respect.

Then the senator’s remains will be taken to Annapolis, Md., where they will rest for eternity near where McCain’s long, distinguished and heroic public service career began … as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I like the comparison in the way the nation has saluted these men. I would like to believe Bobby Kennedy and John McCain would as well.

Indeed, I am certain the men’s spirits will find each other in heaven and they will share stories of battles won and lost and of the good they both sought to bring to the nation that bade them long and heartfelt farewells.

White House makes a mess of standard tribute

Let’s call it what it appears to be: a major-league clusterf***.

Someone at the White House — where Donald J. Trump resides with his wife and young son — lowered the flag atop the building to half-staff immediately after U.S. Sen. John McCain’s death this past weekend.

Then the flag went back to the top of the staff.

And then it came down again today. The president issued a “thoughts and prayers” statement to Sen. McCain’s family initially, and then issued a statement saying that despite the two men’s differences over “politics and policy,” the president said “I respect his service” to the country.

Gosh. Overwhelming, yes? Well … no. It isn’t. But you know that already.

Read CNN.com’s report here.

Actually, the president has yet to make any kind of statement saluting the late senator’s enormous contributions to his nation, his 60 years of public service — including his more than five years as a Vietnam War prisoner as a captive of North Vietnam. Trump denigrated McCain’s war service and the heroism he displayed while being held captive. And as McCain fought the cancer that killed him, Trump continued to blast the senator over his “no” vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, McCain issued a directive that the president shouldn’t attend his funeral. Instead, the senator asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to deliver eulogies in his honor. And, yes, Vice President Mike Pence — a former congressional colleague of Sen. McCain — will represent the Trump administration.

Dear reader, we are witnessing yet again the clumsiness and ineptitude of the Donald J. Trump administration over a ceremonial duty that should be second nature.

Shameful.

Where are the wind turbines?

CASPER, Wyo. — We drove 275 or so miles today from suburban Denver to this central Wyoming community and didn’t see something I thought I’d see during our entire journey here.

Wind turbines. They were, um, nowhere man!

The terrain was perfect for them. Rolling hills. The atmosphere was, too. We ran into occasionally stiff wind almost throughout our drive.

But … we saw not a single turbine spinning in the wind during our lengthy drive, producing electricity to be shipped elsewhere or to be consumed by the locals.

I want to offer this only for observational purposes. I have no particular answer as to why much of northern Colorado or western or central Wyoming haven’t seemed to have invested in this form of alternative energy.

Now, you may spare me the notion that Wyoming digs a lot of coal out of the ground or pumps oil and natural gas. Texas also has a lot of fossil fuel, albeit no coal. Still, Texas extracts plenty of petroleum and natural gas out of the ground. It also has invested heavily in wind energy, dating back to the George W. Bush and Rick Perry governorships.

I don’t know whether local politics keeps the wind farms from springing up along this vast landscape. I will concede as well that the Colorado-Wyoming countryside is quite gorgeous.

Still, Wyoming is as politically conservative as the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains of Texas. Maybe more so.

Texas is full of these clean-energy devices. Why not Wyoming? Or Colorado?

‘Deep State’ emerges as villain

I was waiting for this to occur.

A member of Congress, a Republican and a founder of something called the Freedom Caucus, has now accused the “Deep State” of conspiring to get him tossed out of Congress.

Several former Ohio State University wrestlers say they were sexually abused by a team doctor and that Jim Jordan — an assistant coach at the time — looked the other way. They say he did nothing to stop it.

Gordon says the Deep State is working to conspire against him.

Who or what is the Deep State? I understand it is supposed to mean those in power who are immune from voters’ wishes. Wikipedia describes it thusly: It is a term used “within political science to describe influential decision-making bodies believed to be within government who are relatively permanent and whose policies and long-term plans are unaffected by changing administrations.”

So, it’s the Deep State at work against Jordan, a champion of the little guy. Right along with Donald J. Trump, the billionaire who became president after spending his entire professional life engaged exclusively in self-enrichment, self-glorification, self-aggrandizement and self-adoration.

The Deep State has now become a throwaway term. It’s right up there with the “mainstream media” and the “Washington elite.”

Deep State is fairly new to the American political vernacular, even to those who spend a good bit of time studying politics and the people who practice it.

However, like most conspiracy theories, any Deep State notion presumes that its members — whoever the hell they are — are able to concoct some plot, execute it and then keep it all secret.

This notion is as nutty as the conspiracies that linger over the murder of President Kennedy, that President Bush masterminded the 9/11 attack or that President Obama was born in Africa.

Deep State? It’s fake news, man!

Saluting is back in the news

Whether to salute is back in the news.

Donald Trump was recorded saluting a North Korean general in what appears to be an awkward, unscripted moment. The president extended his hand, the general saluted him, the president then returned the salute.

It looked clumsy.

This mini-kerfuffle does bring to mind a discussion that emerges from time to time: Does a president return salutes from military personnel? Should he do so?

Recent presidents have done so. It’s appropriate, given their role as commander in chief. Presidents Obama, Bush (43) and Clinton all did it; so did President Reagan. Bill Clinton, as I recall, needed some schooling on how to salute, given that his initial efforts looked a bit, well, clumsy as well. Active-duty military personnel and veterans picked up on it right away.

Donald Trump’s return of these salutes look just fine to me. He snaps it properly. Perhaps he learned how to salute during his years in military school prior to heading off to college.

I like watching presidents return these salutes, as long as they know what they’re doing when they snap them back at military personnel who initiate them.

As for the current president’s clumsy moment in Singapore, it’s no big deal.