Tag Archives: George W. Bush

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.

Dick Cheney … where are you?

Of all the public figures who has shown no reluctance to speak out after leaving public office, the one to whom I refer has grown strangely silent.

Former Vice President Richard B. Cheney has gone dark. At least he has remained out of my earshot.

This is the guy who was quick to lambaste President Barack Obama during Obama’s two terms in office. He once referred to Obama as the “worst president in my lifetime.”

This blog took the former veep to task for declining to follow the lead of the man for whom he worked, President George W. Bush, who has remained quiet during his post-presidential time.

But now, with all this discussion swirling around President Obama’s successor, I keep waiting for some pearls of wisdom from Vice President Cheney.

I know he is able to put forward cogent thoughts. I heard recently he spoke at a college commencement. I cannot recall whether he weighed in on some of the issues of the day.

Seriously, the man who exhibited a rhetorical hair-trigger when it involved one president would seem willing to fire away with public comments regarding another one. Isn’t that right?

Hey, I’m no fan of Vice President Cheney. I just believe he has something of value to add to the cacophony of noise that’s pouring out of the halls of power.

Trying to understand non-helmet law in Texas

INTERSTATE 35 NORTH OF AUSTIN, Texas — Normally, the sight of four women on motorcycles speeding past us in heavy traffic wouldn’t be worth a comment on this blog.

But I noticed something about these individuals when they zoomed on past: All of them were wearing helmets.

That elicited a comment to my wife and we drove along in our Prius. “You know, it seems that women motorcyclists appear to be far more likely to wear those helmets than men,” I said. It didn’t draw much of a response from my wife.

Hey, maybe it isn’t worth much of any comment.

However, it does bring to mind a couple of thoughts I want to share.

One is that women motorcyclists — and this is just an anecdotal observation on my part — are much smarter than men when it comes to motor vehicle safety. I’ll have to check some traffic studies to validate that observation. Or, perhaps I’ll just let it stand on its own.

The second thought is that I don’t know why the Texas Legislature decided in 1995 to repeal the motorcycle helmet requirement in the first place.

Legislators did that also while increasing the speed limit on Texas highways from 55 to 70 mph, a move made possible when Congress that year removed the federal mandate, giving states the option of setting their own speed limits. Texas legislators and the governor at the time, George W. Bush, jumped all over it.

I’ve seen the studies about how helmets save lives. They help prevent traumatic head wounds. Yet the state said motorcyclists 21 years of age and older need not wear them. The state would require a $10,000 insurance policy, instead. Do you know how quickly a serious injury would gobble up that amount of money? Just … like … that!

The state requires everyone in automobiles to wear seat restraints. It tells us to fasten our young children into approved safety-seat. Just this past year, the Legislature banned the use of hand held telephones and texting devices while operating a motor vehicle.

Good for them. On all counts.

Motorcyclists, though, are given the freedom to expose themselves to grievous injury or death.

I don’t get it. Nor will I ever understand that bit of so-called “logic.”

Longing for a return of this kind of collegiality

I believe I have shared this video already, but I want you to look at it again.

It speaks to a “kinder, gentler” time in Washington, D.C. A president of one political party welcomed back his immediate predecessor, a president of another party.

They unveiled official White House portraits of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spoke of the “seamless transition” from one administration to another. They spoke of warmth and hospitality, of cooperation and collegiality.

That kind of mood is missing these days. I want it to return. Perhaps one day it will.

Enjoy this video. It tells me that political opponents need not be enemies. That love of country transcends the partisan divide.

Honest. It does.

How will history judge this presidency?

Is it too early to begin thinking about how history is going to judge Donald J. Trump’s term as president?

I think not.

We’re well into the second year of Trump’s time in office. I am beginning to ponder how history might end up categorizing this most unconventional, chaotic, tumult-filled presidency.

Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace during the Watergate scandal; Gerald Ford restored a sense of decency in government; Jimmy Carter was bedeviled by the Iran hostage crisis; Ronald Reagan is remembered for restoring the nation’s sense of confidence; the Cold War ended on George H.W. Bush’s watch; Bill Clinton got impeached and he oversaw tremendous economic growth and the balancing of the federal budget; George W. Bush took us to war against terror after 9/11 and endured a financial collapse that rivaled the Great Depression; Barack Obama helped rescue the economy and ordered the death of the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

Trump’s time in office?

I have begun looking back on it and I keep coming up with a course that hasn’t yet been charted.

He took office in January 2017, delivering a grim and foreboding inaugural speech and then ratcheted up his war against the media. He has described reporters as the “enemy of the American people.”

He uses “fake news” to disparage anyone who reports anything negative about him. He has burned through several Cabinet secretaries and key White House advisers.

Trump awakens  every day and fires off tweets attacking anyone who sits in his crosshairs.

The president is facing a serious shellacking in the midterm election coming up later this year. Democrats might retake the U.S. House; the Senate is within reach, too. Then it might really, really rocky for the president as he sets up a re-election campaign for 2020.

He signed a tax cut into law. He has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He pulled us out of a deal that seeks to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Trump yanked the United States out of a climate accord signed by virtually every other nation on Earth.

Through all of this, the president refuses to acknowledge what intelligence officials have said already, that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election and has declared war against the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What a legacy — so far. I am quite certain we’ll have a whole lot more drama in store as this presidency heads toward the next election.

Stay tuned.

Federal courts: not really politics free

The federal judiciary is supposed to be free of political pressure.

But is it? Really? Oh, I tend to think not.

I find myself looking at federal court rulings a bit differently these days. For instance, the D.C. federal judge who ruled that the Trump administration must keep honoring the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program is an interesting fellow.

Judge John Bates is a President George W. Bush appointee. Thus, I tend to take his decision a bit more seriously than I would if he were appointed by President Barack Obama. Why? Because he upheld an Obama administration decision to create DACA in the first place. DACA, by the way, is the rule that protects U.S. residents who were brought here illegally by their parents; they’re called “Dreamers” because they are pursuing the “American Dream.” Get it?

The founders set up a federal judiciary that was supposed to be free of political pressure. It really isn’t. The judges who get these lifetime appointments are nonetheless examined carefully by people such as me and others who look for political reasons to endorse or condemn whatever ruling they hand down.

That is not to say that they base their decisions according to what others might say about them. Indeed, several Supreme Court justices over the years have veered sharply away from the course the presidents who nominated them hoped they would travel. And they get their share of condemnation from those who want them to adhere to the presidents’ political leanings.

But … they are political appointees. Make no mistake about it.

Funerals put politics in perspective

Funerals that honor public figures — notably those involved in some level in politics — have this way of putting politics in their proper perspective.

I just watched a touching tribute to the late first lady Barbara Bush. It made me swallow hard on several occasions, particularly as I heard commentators tell us how bitter political foes could become the best of friends.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and Clinton.

Indeed, today at the Houston church where the world said goodbye to George H.W. Bush’s beloved “Bar,” one could see first lady Melania Trump sitting next to Barack Obama, who sat with his wife Michelle next to Bill and Hillary Clinton; George W. Bush sat in the family section across the aisle next to his wife, dad, brothers, sister and their huge assemblage of Bushes.

It strikes me today as we digest the vitriol that emanates these days from the halls of power in Washington that it need not be that way. Much of the commentary today about Barbara Bush spoke of her friendships with Democrats as well as with Republicans. Her husband, after all, is the quintessential Republican, as are her two sons — one a former president, the other a former governor.

But we were told today about Mrs. Bush’s kind heart, her compassion, empathy, her generous spirit, good humor, grit, her tough-love approach to caring for her children and, yes, her friends.

Mrs. Bush’s husband promised to create a “kinder, gentler nation” when he was elected president in 1988. The jury still might be out on whether the 41st president of the United States achieved that noble goal. He practiced kindness and gentleness in his personal life, as did his beloved first lady.

The nation said farewell today to someone who embodied a more genteel time in what has become at times a blood sport. The craft and art of politics aren’t what they used to be. That besmirches politics’ current practitioners, not to mention their once-noble pursuit.

Whenever we say goodbye to beloved public figures, some of us — yours truly included — wish that it might signal a return to a time when political foes could actually become friends.

Is this such a moment? Oh, probably not. My hope, though, does spring eternal.

Trump offers valid reason for staying away

This just in …

“First lady Melania Trump will attend the memorial service for Barbara Bush this Saturday on behalf of the First Family,” a White House spokesperson confirmed Friday. “To avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service, President Trump will not attend.”

OK, there you have it. I accept that reason for the president not attending the late Barbara Bush’s memorial service Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, this would go unnoticed. No one would raise so much as an eyebrow over this declaration.

These aren’t normal times. We do not have a “normal” president in office. Donald Trump took office after a contentious, often bitter presidential campaign. He said some amazingly harsh things about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary — and the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. The two men’s mother, the former first lady, took serious umbrage at what Trump said about her beloved sons, as did her husband, the 41st president, George H.W. Bush.

Custom usually dictates that first ladies attend the funerals or memorial services of their predecessors. So, Melania Trump will represent her husband at Mrs. Bush’s memorial service.

As for the president’s absence, I’ll accept that he doesn’t want to disrupt the event.

After all, this event is going to be all about the former first lady, who was as unique an individual as any who have been granted the opportunity to serve in that capacity.

Barbara Bush has earned a glowing and love-filled sendoff. May this Bush family stalwart rest in the eternal peace she so richly deserves.

RIP, ‘The Enforcer’

What does one say only moments after learning that one of America’s most beloved public figures has left this good Earth?

Barbara Pierce Bush has died at the age of 92. It was no surprise. She was in “failing health,” surrounded by her family. She had ordered an end to preventative health care, focusing instead on “comfort care.”

The wife of the nation’s 41st president made no pretense about the fake pearls she wore around her neck. She said they were intended to cover up her wrinkles. But everything else about her was so very real. She was known to her kids and grandkids as “The Enforcer.” She set the rules and she made them stick.

And the nation fell madly in love with this woman, a proud first lady — but more importantly a proud wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She promoted literacy. She became an advocate for research on HIV/AIDS.

She also was unafraid to disagree with her husband, President George H.W. Bush, or her son, President George W. Bush.

The nation will grieve. The president will order flags to fly at half-staff at the nation’s federal buildings. We’ll all remember Barbara Bush as the matriarch of one of the nation’s most iconic political families.

She was a great American.

Mrs. Bush embodies class and grace

I don’t know about anyone else, but I do have difficulty watching admired public figures struggling as they fall into “failing health.”

So it is with former first lady Barbara Bush, who lived in the White House with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, from 1989 until 1993.

She is now at home in Houston. Mrs. Bush has declined any further medical treatment. She has requested “comfort care.” Her family has gathered around her.

Yes, it looks as though the end is near. More than likely.

My difficulty deals with watching this marvelous woman struggle to remain among us. The love story that unfolded in January 1945 when she and the young Navy aviator married. They now hold the presidential record for marital longevity.

Mrs. Bush always acquitted herself with class as well as with candor. Her children and grandchildren call her The Enforcer. No one put anything past this marvelous individual.

She made literacy her hallmark while serving as first lady. She read to children. She sought to imbue in our kids a love of literature. Mrs. Bush created a foundation to continue that work after her time as first lady had expired.

The world has joined in offering love and support for this iconic American political family that has been led by a matriarch who stood tall next to her husband — and her oldest son, George W.¬† Bush, who also ascended to the presidency.

Still, it is damn hard to watch this story unfold.