Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Who will hug the aisle at the SOTU?

State of the Union speeches always are accompanied by back stories, vignettes that give commentators something on which to, um, comment.

How many ovations will bring both parties to their feet? How long will the president speak? How many programs will he lay at the feet of Congress?

Here’s what I’ll look for tonight: Who will be hugging the aisle when the sergeant at arms announces: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States?

When the president walks down the aisle toward the podium, he usually shakes hands, gets high-fives, slaps a few members of Congress on the back, gets good wishes and does that silly “finger-point” to someone he recognizes.

During the two most recent presidencies — of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama — one could always depend on seeing certain lawmakers getting TV face time hugging or shaking hands with the incoming president. I think, for instance, of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat.

Members of Congress usually wait for hours prior to the speech to get their preferred place along the aisle. You could depend on seeing Rep. Lee greeting Presidents Bush or Obama as they walked toward the speaker’s podium.

There’s a new man in the Oval Office these days. Donald J. Trump’s the guy who’ll deliver the State of the Union speech.

So … the question: Who will we see leaning over the aisle looking to greet the president, and will one of them be Sheila Jackson Lee, the fierce Democratic partisan?

Let’s get real for just a moment. Democratic members of Congress — along with a few Republicans — have been pretty damn vocal in their criticism of the president; they’ve blasted him for his behavior, his rhetoric and, indeed, his policies.

What’s more, this president has been pretty fierce in his response to his congressional critics.

I believe I’ll look tonight to see evidence of grudges.

Memo to CNN: check your anger at the door

Oh, how I hate admitting this, but I feel compelled to do so.

Ari Fleischer — President George W. Bush’s first press secretary — posted a tweet overnight that makes an interesting and quite valid point about CNN’s coverage of all things political.

He said that if you’re an anti-Donald J. Trump (a Democrat) guest, you get all the time in the world to make your case; if you happen to be pro-Trump (a Republican), the CNN anchors will interrupt you constantly. Here’s what he wrote: I’ve been watching CNN’s morning show recently. It seems to have two main topics. 1) What did Trump/GOP do wrong? 2) How bad is the collusion story for Donald Trump. If you’re a Democrat guest , you’re free to speak. If you’re a Republican, you’ll always be interrupted.

I admit to watching it occur in the moment myself. And, oh yes, it annoys me, too.

Let me be clear about something else as well. Fleischer made no mention of the way Fox News on-air personalities treat their pro- and anti-Trump guests. Given that I rarely watch Fox, I am only able to presume that they flip the CNN example on its head, treating the Republicans with fairness and the Democrats with the same level of disdain that CNN shows toward the pro-Trumpers.

I want to hold up an example of how a broadcast or cable news network ought to handle these on-air confrontations: I present ABC News’ “This Week.”

That program, which airs Sunday morning, had former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr on board this past weekend explaining what might drive the investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian 2016 election hackers. He appeared with ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams. Starr — who ran the investigation that led to President Clinton’s impeachment — could be construed as someone favorable to the current president. Abrams has revealed a more critical bias toward the president.

The two men made their points without interruption. The moderator, Martha Raddatz, didn’t barge in on either man’s time. She let them argue their points to the viewers — and occasionally with each other.

This is the kind of give-and-take we rarely see on CNN — the cable network that calls itself the “leader” in cable news presentation.

I am a fairly regular CNN viewer. As one who takes the presentation of news seriously, I want to echo Ari Fleischer’s assessment of the perception that CNN creates, which is that it does not present the news fairly and without bias.

And just think: This critique comes from someone who is inclined to agree with the point of view expressed by CNN’s talking heads.

My plea is simple. Check your bias at the door, CNN “news” staff, and don’t let your anxiety over the state of play in politics and public policy get the better of you.

Why get rid of Electoral College?

The 2016 presidential election produced a doozy of an outcome.

The candidate who won the Electoral College finished nearly 3 million votes short of the candidate who lost the election.

Thus, the result has produced an ongoing debate over whether we should eliminate the Electoral College and elect presidents based solely on the popular vote.

Here’s what I wrote just a few days after the 2016 surprise:

Now … about the Electoral College

I have wrestled with this notion for some time. I have decided that I am unwilling to get rid of the Electoral College.

It’s a difficult system to explain to those abroad who don’t understand how someone who gets fewer votes than the other candidate can “win” a national election. I had the pleasure of trying to explain the 2000 presidential election outcome in Greece while the courts were trying to determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would become the next president.

I guess I come down finally on the notion that the Electoral College was created to give rural states with smaller populations a greater voice in determining the election outcome.

As the system is currently constructed, presidential elections usually are fought in those “battleground states” that could tip either way. That has been the case over the past several presidential election cycles. As it has turned out, states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and occasionally Montana have gotten a greater amount of attention than other larger states.

Absent an Electoral College, my hunch is that candidates wouldn’t venture past the huge population centers: New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area of California, Chicago, the Metroplex.

Indeed, I’ve seen the county-by-county breakdown of several recent elections and I’ve noticed how, for instance, Barack Obama won despite losing the vast bulk of U.S. real estate to John McCain (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012). How did he win? By targeting those “battleground states” and campaigning effectively for those voters’ support. He ended up winning decisive Electoral College and popular vote victories.

I get that progressives are chapped at losing the 2016 election. They want to change the system that generally has worked well.

Is it time to scrap the Electoral College? Sure, but only if smaller states want to surrender their time in the national political spotlight. As that logic applies as well to Texas, which isn’t a battleground now, but it could once again become the political prize that lured presidential candidates from both major parties in search of votes.

Thinking better of ‘W’ these days

You may count me as among those Americans who think better of former President George W. Bush than I did when he left office in January 2009.

A CNN poll shows that more than 60 percent of Americans currently think favorably of President Bush. CNN reports that “W” has turned his unfavorable ratings “upside down.” Bush’s favorable rating is nearly double where it was when he exited the White House.

I want to stipulate a couple of things here.

I didn’t vote for Bush when he ran twice for Texas governor. Nor did I vote for him when he ran for election and re-election as president.

However, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, interviewing him at length and getting to know the man. Thus, I have a certain personal fondness for President Bush.

I met him the first time in the spring of 1995 not long after he took office as Texas governor; I don’t count an elevator encounter I had with him in New Orleans at the 1988 Republican National Presidential Convention.

I found the future president in 1995 to be fully engaged in Texas politics and government, even though he was new to the political game when he upset incumbent Gov. Ann Richards in 1994. He was well-informed, articulate, friendly and quite engaging.

We met in his office at the Texas Capitol Building. The interview was supposed to last for 30 minutes; we ended up chatting for an hour and a half. We would meet again in 1998 as he ran for re-election.

I look back now at his presidency with a certain wistfulness, given the fact that the nation elected a certifiably unfit individual to the office in 2016.

The juxtaposition of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump suggests to me that it would be inevitable that “W”s standing would improve as dramatically as it has done in the past year.

President Bush made plenty of mistakes. The Iraq War was unnecessary, although the president’s leadership in the wake of the 9/11 attacks filled me with pride in the moment. I only wish the president would have kept his eye on the enemy he identified clearly and decisively while we sorted though our national grief.

Compared to the style of leadership we’re getting today? The 43rd president stands tall.

Is there a Liars Anonymous organization?

Donald Trump needs an intervention.

The president of the United States cannot tell the truth. He cannot state simply the reality of any situation he confronts, or that stands in his way.

Trump decided to lie like a rug yet again when he announced his decision to cancel a planned state visit to Great Britain. His excuse? He said former President Barack Obama brokered a bad deal to purchase the site for a new U.S. Embassy in London.

Trump blasted his immediate predecessor for paying too much public money to relocate the embassy.

So, that was his pretext for deciding against visiting the UK?

Two points are worth making here.

One is that his stated reason is as transparently phony as it can possibly get. The president doesn’t need to fabricate a reason to avoid going somewhere. The real reason clearly has to be that Brits cannot stand him. He was going to run straight into the teeth of intense public protests were he to visit Great Britain.

He has insulted British Prime Minister Teresa May; he has hurled ill-founded criticism of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who happens to be a Muslim (and we certainly know how Trump feels about those who practice the Islamic faith).

The second point is this: The deal to purchase the embassy site was brokered under the administration of President George W. Bush. It was finalized in 2008, the year before Barack H. Obama took office.

Donald Trump has a serious grudge against Barack Obama. What fuels it? Is it that the former president exhibited the class and grace that the current president lacks? Is it the former president’s continued high standing among Americans? Is it because of the former president’s racial … oh, you know.

Donald Trump cannot tell the truth. He is a pathological liar.

He needs to enroll in a Liars Anonymous session — if there’s one available … and declare: My name is Donald and I am a liar.

 

Imagine top aides for Obama, ‘W’ turning on the boss

Stephen Bannon’s assertion in a new book that Donald Trump Jr. might have committed an act of “treason” by meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 brings to mind a fascinating observation.

It didn’t come from me originally. I heard it from Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for CNN. Toobin said it would be unconscionable for David Axelrod to turn on Barack Obama or Karl Rove to do the same thing to George W. Bush.

Those two former White House strategists and key political aides were loyal to the boss and remain so to this day. Bannon presents another situation altogether.

He has said that Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian legal eagle constituted potentially “unpatriotic” and “treasonous” activity. They met, according to a book, “Fire and Fury,” written by David Wolff, to discuss dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton. The inference is that Don Jr. might have colluded with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome.

The revelation made public has enraged the president. He says Bannon “lost his mind” when he was fired from his job as chief strategist for Donald Trump. He argues that Bannon had little influence or impact on the White House.

We might be witnessing an unprecedented unraveling of a presidential administration. It does appear to be unusual in the extreme that someone who once had the president’s ear to turn on him in the manner that has occurred.

What’s more, the reaction from the president does have the appearance of near-panic within the White House.

Toobin does pose a fascinating query. Can you imagine Presidents Obama and Bush being torpedoed in this fashion?

I cannot.

Trump continues to demonstrate unfitness for his office

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

What you see here is another demonstration from the president of the United States of his utter tone deafness.

It is a tweet from Donald John Trump Sr.

It also shows many millions of Americans — including yours truly — how totally unfit he is for the office he occupies.

He says Sen. Gillibrand “would do anything for them,” implying that she would do something of a sexual nature to obtain a campaign contribution from Trump.

This man has shown at every level imaginable an absolute lack of decency. An editorial in USA Today provides a profound and stark commentary on the president’s shameful demeanor. What I find remarkable about this editorial is that comes from a publication that does not possess a fiery, partisan editorial policy.

USA Today calls Trump “uniquely awful” and declares that he is not fit to “clean the toilets at Barack Obama’s presidential library or shine George W. Bush’s shoes.”

As the paper notes: “Not to mention calling white supremacists ‘very fine people,’ pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

Read the editorial here.

Yet, despite this serial demonstration of a lack of humanity and common decency, Trump’s supporters stand by their man. They applaud him for “telling it like it is.” They endorse his nativism and tribalism and call it “populism.”

Donald Trump is unfit to be president.

As USA Today’s editorial concludes: The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.

He should resign from the presidency.

Trump’s lawyer did … what?

Donald Trump might need a new lawyer.

The guy he has hired to represent him in this “Russia thing” investigation has done something that, according to an ethics counsel who worked for President George W. Bush, should qualify him for disbarment.

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, allegedly wrote this in a tweet: I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!

What’s in play here? The lawyer supposedly wrote a tweet that contradicts something Trump had said earlier, that he fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the vice president. He made no mention earlier of his lying to the FBI.

Now it’s Richard Painter, who served President Bush as ethics lawyer, who has weighed in. Painter, no friend of Donald Trump, wrote: “A lawyer who writes a tweet like that incriminating a client should be disbarred. He can tell (special counsel Robert) Mueller he wrote it.”

Of course, this all presumes that Dowd actually wrote the tweet. I am just going to state up front that I don’t believe that Dowd wrote it. Painter is likely correct to presume that a lawyer who would actually send something like into universe isn’t smart enough to operate under a law license.

I don’t know the first thing about John Dowd, but I am going to make an assumption that he’s probably alert enough to avoid something so stupid.

What still might need explaining, though — if Dowd didn’t write the tweet — is why he would fall on the grenade in the first place.

Taking the fall for doing something he might not have done is pretty stupid, too.

But if he did … then why in the name of presidential stupidity would Donald Trump allow someone else to use his Twitter account to incriminate him?

No war against Islam, but against religious perverts

Barack H. Obama made a critical point the night in May 2011 when he told the world that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a daring raid in Pakistan.

The president reminded us that “we are not at war against Islam. Osama bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims.”

The al-Qaeda leader is long dead. His legacy continues to spread mayhem, murder and misery. More than 200 Muslim worshipers died today when terrorists detonated a bomb in a Cairo, Egypt mosque. The killers appear to be affiliated with the Islamic State, the monstrous outfit that has supplanted al-Qaeda as this country’s No. 1 international enemy.

And that brings me to my essential point. It is that we are at war with religious perverts, not mainstream Muslims. President Bush made that point abundantly clear just days after 9/11; President Obama echoed his predecessor’s assessment during his two terms in office.

Are we hearing such rhetoric from Donald J. Trump? Well, the president did fire off a tweet today condemning the “extremist ideology that forms the basis for their existence,” referring to the ISIS offshoot that is taking responsibility for this latest barbaric act.

I want the president to state categorically that our struggle is not against Muslims or the faith they worship. It is against the monstrous perverts who kill indiscriminately.

Trump seeks to tighten screws on N. Korea

Donald J. Trump has acted appropriately with regard to North Korea. Instead of blustering about delivering “fire and fury” to the Marxist regime, he has returned North Korea to the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

The president has made the correct call.

He is seeking to isolate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in his effort to build a nuclear weapons arsenal. The aim, according to Trump, is to impose the strictest economic sanctions possible on the rogue nation. It’s also meant to pressure China, North Korea’s chief trading partner, into following suit.

I don’t know about you, but I believe this approach holds far greater potential than threats of military strikes.

The designation — which reverses a decision made by President George W. Bush in 2008 — puts North Korea on a short list of state-sponsored-terrorist nations; the others are Sudan, Iran and Syria.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doubts the designation will have much practical effect, given that the United States already has imposed heavy sanctions on North Korea. But he is talking openly about his “hope for diplomacy” in the effort to persuade North Korea to stand down in its effort to build a nuclear arsenal.

The great Winston Churchill once told us it was better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

The late British prime minister’s wisdom ought to apply to the present-day crisis on the Korean Peninsula.