Tag Archives: JFK

‘We knew what we were getting’

The person who made the above statement is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for many years. We’ve shared a lot of laughs and even a bit of heartache together.

The knowledge of which he speaks concerns the presidency of Donald John Trump. My friend has said that Trump wasn’t his first choice as president, but given the choice he had in 2016 he felt compelled to vote for him.

Baggage and all.

I think my friend speaks for a lot of Americans who continue to sing the president’s praises. The reasons for those praises likely will escape me for as long as this man is in office, or even perhaps even longer.

My friend is an educated man. He is erudite and sophisticated. I wouldn’t classify him as one of the “deplorables” who — in the infamous words of Hillary Rodham Clinton — back Trump to the hilt come hell or high water.

However, I have trouble understanding whether he actually accepts the idea that a presidential candidate would denigrate a Vietnam War hero by saying he likes “those who aren’t captured” by the enemy, as Sen. John McCain was in 1967. Or that he gives a candidate a pass for mocking the physical disability of a noted journalist. Or that it’s OK for someone to boast to a TV host about grabbing women by their genitals because he’s a “star.”

Then there’s the lying. Yes, I know about politicians’ penchant for exaggeration, or for self-aggrandizement, or how they twist the truth to take on different meanings. Trump lies. Flat out! He says things that are demonstrably false.

What’s more, his lies often border on defamation of others. To wit:

Barack Obama ordered the wiretap of his 2016 campaign office: wrong. Millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016: wrong. Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in President Kennedy’s murder because he was seen talking to Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the tragic event: false. Trump’s investigators had “evidence” that Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, but that he was born in Kenya: false.

I won’t get into the serial philandering and the endless array of failed business enterprises and the thousands of Americans who lost everything investing in these deals.

Trump’s supporters knew all this and still they elected him?

Maybe so. It simply blows my mind.

But there’s good news to report. Our friendship will persevere despite our political differences. For that I am eternally grateful.

Another NASA celebrity astronaut leaves us

There once was a time when astronauts were celebrities. We knew their names. We followed their careers. We got up early to watch them blast off from the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad.

Another such astronaut — and please pardon this intended pun — has left this Earth for keeps. Alan Bean died today at age 86.

He was the fourth man to walk on the moon, aboard Apollo 12 in November 1969. He made the flight to the lunar surface with the late Charles “Pete” Conrad.

Alan Bean didn’t achieve the kind of celebrity status of, say, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the seven men selected to fly in the initial Mercury missions, or most of the Gemini astronauts who came along later.

Bean was among those picked for the third group of space pioneers, the Apollo program. He joined NASA in 1963 after serving as a Navy test pilot.

My years in the Texas Panhandle makes me remind you that Bean hailed from that part of the world. He was a native of Wheeler, a tiny town east of Amarillo.

My most glaring memory of Bean’s time on the moon stems from some innovative measures he took to deploy a camera on the lunar surface. The camera wouldn’t start taking images. What did Bean do? He grabbed a hammer and beat on the device! Then it worked.

NASA doesn’t have a manned space program of its own these days. We’re sending our astronauts into space aboard Russian rockets. I’m trying to imagine how Presidents Kennedy and Johnson would react to that bit of aerospace irony.

Back in the day, though, Alan Bean was among those individuals we prayed for when they rocketed into space. As President Kennedy said about the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and returning them safely, “We don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

Alan Bean and his colleagues just made it look easy. It wasn’t. He needed to beat on a state-of-the-art camera with a hammer to enable the device to record his history-making adventure for the rest of time.

May he now rest eternally.

Presidents should understand value of a free press

Presidents have come and gone over the course of our beloved Republic.

Some tenets, though, remain affixed to our national identity. One of them is a free press and the guarantee that government cannot control it.

The video attached to this blog post offers an example of how one president, John F. Kennedy, understood how a free press is vital to guard against the darkness of secrecy. President Kennedy sought to defend the press as it did its job, even when its reporting cast his administration in a negative light.

The Bay of Pigs is an example of how the president likely wanted the press to look the other way. It didn’t. Nor could the president insist out loud and in public that it do that very thing. The Bay of Pigs was a disaster from the get-go. The military operation in April 1961 sought to overthrow the Fidel Castro government in Cuba. It was poorly planned and poorly executed. As JFK said at he time, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

The press reported the failure … as it should have done.

What a change we are seeing in the present day with one of JFK’s successors, Donald J. Trump, who insists that negative coverage is the product of “fake news,” which is a denigration of the men and women who take their jobs at least as seriously as the president takes his.

Trump doesn’t get what damn near all of his predecessors have understood. The press is vital to hold public officials accountable for their actions. Without the media doing their job, the government can do irreparable harm to our cherished Republic.

Ivanka takes offense? Get over it, young lady

Ivanka Trump is walking the finest of lines.

She is the elder daughter of the president of the United States. She also is an unpaid senior adviser to the Leader of the Free World.

So, when she gets asked by a broadcast journalist about the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against her father/the president, she reveals why it’s important that the president be mindful of the problems nepotism poses in hiring senior advisers.

Ivanka cannot serve in her “official” capacity without facing difficult questions surrounding her “boss,” who also happens to be her father.

She called the question posed by NBC News’s Peter Alexander “inappropriate.” Wait a minute, young lady. He was asking the question of a senior policy adviser, not of a presidential daughter.

This is why nepotism is a bad thing when it involves people at the highest levels of government.

Many decades ago, the federal government implemented an anti-nepotism policy in response to questions surrounding the appointment in 1960 of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy by his brother, President John F. Kennedy. After JFK’s murder in November 1963 and after RFK was elected to the U.S. Senate the following year, the government enacted a policy that prohibited hiring by presidents of “linear” relatives to paid positions.

It didn’t cover the role that Ivanka Trump fulfills in her father’s administration.

There needs to be some tightening of these rules. If it’s not going to happen, then the president needs to send his daughter packing.

Trump stokes the demagoguery machine at CPAC

Donald J. “Demagogue in Chief” Trump has fired ’em up at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He has bellowed that if Democrats take control of Congress this year they are going to “take away your Second Amendment” rights to “keep and bear arms.”

Guns are on the top of people’s minds these days. A shooter went berserk in Parkland, Fla., killing 14 students and three educators in a killing spree that has thrown the nation into grief yet again.

So what does the president do? He goes to CPAC and sows terror in the hearts of the faithful. Democrats are going after the Second Amendment, he said.

I do not think that’s going to happen. History is an important guide here. Think about this for just a moment.

Democrats controlled the White House and Congress in 1964, a year after President Kennedy was murdered with a high-powered rifle in Dallas. Did they yank the Second Amendment away then? No.

Nor did they do so after President Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in 1981.

Democrats controlled Congress and the White House in 2009 and 2010. Congressional Democrats failed to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Thus, Donald Trump is blowing it out his backside when he implies a repeal of the Second Amendment if Democrats take control of Congress. However, he had an audience that gave him lusty cheers when he tossed out that fiery rhetoric.

Are there ways to legislate some solutions to gun violence without taking away the Second Amendment? Yes. It just requires a concerted search for common ground to solve a quintessentially American crisis.

Demagoguery doesn’t cut it.

This is not how to govern, Congress

What a way to govern … not!

Congress is fighting over how to pay for immigration measures. It cannot settle a dispute over whether to pay for construction of a wall along our nation’s southern border or whether to extend protection for those U.S. residents who were brought here when they were children as their parents sneaked into the country illegally.

The consequence of this dispute?

The government might shut down — if only partially — in the next 24 hours.

Republicans who run both congressional chambers are scrambling to find yet another stop-gap solution that will delay the next shutdown threat for a couple of weeks.

Oh, and then we have the president of the United States. Donald J. Trump reportedly is a non-player in the negotiation over how to find a longer-term solution to this problem. Media reports say that Trump is making zero phone calls to congressional leaders, suggesting he’s leaving it exclusively up to lawmakers to find an answer.

Even congressional Republicans are complaining about the lack of a “reliable partner” in the White House.

Trump torpedoes GOP strategy

I’m trying to imagine Lyndon Johnson leaving a matter such as this to Capitol Hill. The late former president came to the presidency after a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. President Kennedy plucked him from his Senate majority leader post to run with him as vice president in 1960. LBJ never lost his congressional connections.

Trump, though, has none of that kind of history. Zero, man!

Effective governance is supposed to comprise a partnership between the legislative and executive branches of government. It’s not happening these days.

Republicans are barely talking to Democrats in Congress, and vice versa. The president, meanwhile, is maintaining a position that I suppose he might say is “above the fray.”

As a result, Congress might stumble and bumble its way to another short-term Band-Aid repair, only to wait for the next deadline to approach before we face yet another government shutdown threat.

How about trying this: Work together for a change in the hunt for common ground. Fund the government, repair the problem — and stop threatening to shut down a government that is supposed to serve all Americans all the time.

Maddening.

Look inward, Mr. President, when talking about libel

Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump Sr. wants to change libel laws.

This president is angry about a book that paints his administration in a negative light. He calls libel laws a “sham” and a “disgrace.”

OK. How does one put this presidential nonsense into some perspective? I’ll try.

This president spent years defaming Barack H. Obama by insisting that the former president wasn’t constitutionally qualified to serve in the office to which he was elected twice. Did the former president sue him? No, although he had grounds.

Then, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Republican candidate defamed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s father by implying that he might have had a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Trump said Rafael Cruz had met with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination, suggesting some — dare I say it? — “collusion” between the elder Cruz and the man who actually killed the president. I believe there might be grounds for a lawsuit there, too.

For this president now to get his skivvies in a knot over some negative coverage — and to insist on changes in libel law — is on its face laughable.

It’s also disgusting and disgraceful.

Look inward, Mr. President … if you dare.

U.S. needs to get back into manned space exploration

I grew up waiting for and watching space launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla. They thrilled me to the max and I still miss waiting for those launches.

Accordingly, I was heartened to hear Donald Trump call for a return to manned space flight. The president’s signature this week on a directive for NASA to develop a return of human explorers to the moon and to launch missions to Mars won’t guarantee it will get done, but my hope springs eternal that the space agency will kick start its effort to return to American-made space travel.

The space shuttle program got grounded before Trump took office nearly a year ago. The three remaining flight-ready spacecraft — Atlantis, Endeavor and Discovery — were sent to boneyards around the country under an order signed by President George W. Bush. We’re still sending astronauts into space, where they’re doing important scientific research.

NASA praises Trump

But they’re flying aboard Russian rockets. I’m trying to imagine how Presidents Kennedy and Johnson would react to knowing that tidbit.

Donald Trump said his directive aims to return the United States to its leadership role in space travel. I do hope it comes to pass.

NASA already is developing a new launch vehicle it hopes will be ready for deployment on missions to the moon and beyond. There’s launch date set yet. Indeed, test flights are still beyond the foreseeable future.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

Of course it does. It should.

President Kennedy declared in 1961 that the United States would send humans to the moon “and return (them) safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. “We don’t do these because they are easy,” he said. “We do them because they are hard.”

He energized the nation, which was caught flat-footed when the then-Soviet Union was first to launch a satellite and then was first to send a human into space. JFK was having no part of playing second fiddle to the Soviets.

We aren’t engaged in a Cold War these days, although that’s becoming more debatable in light of the current geopolitical climate.

Still, my hope is that the president’s directive lights a fire under NASA’s engineers and scientists as they continue their work to restore our country to its place as the world’s premier space trailblazer.

How do you keep this event a secret?

I just took part in one of those goofy online “polls” that asked: Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President Kennedy?

I hit “yes.” Most of the respondents, more than 60 percent of them, said “no.”

This stuff makes me cringe. It makes me want to scream.

The conspiracy debate has been fired up yet again with the president’s decision to release nearly 3,000 pages of documents relating to the 20th century’s most heinous single crime. I keep circling back to a couple of key notions regarding the conspiracy idea that someone helped Oswald kill the 35th president of the United States.

One, how does one keep such a monumental event secret?

I have grappled with that one for decades. I am utterly baffled by the notion that someone or a group of people could hide their role in such a crime from anyone. These nutty ideas that they’ve all been killed just don’t add up. Why? Because someone did the killing. Who? How? Where?

Two, does anyone actually believe that a sharp-eyed journalist couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal to the world who did such a thing?

C’mon, folks! Those ding dongs who broke into the Watergate office complex in June 1972 were revealed in fairly short order to be working for a presidential re-election committee. We found a direct line to the truth in pretty quick order.

I’ll stipulate once again that I believe from the depths of my gut that Lee Harvey Oswald acted all by himself. No one saw this guy coming. JFK’s trip to Dallas in November 1963 had alarmed folks who were worried about an attack from the far right — the John Birchers, for instance — who were so highly critical of the president.  Oswald was a Marxist. He snuck in under everyone’s radar. Such things are possible, you know?

Dare I mention, oh, the attacks of 9/11? There, I just did.

I would ask that we cease and desist with this JFK conspiracy nonsense. Except that it won’t end. Not ever.

By all means, release those JFK files

Donald Trump plans — at this moment — to allow the release of files relating to one of the 20th century’s most hideous crimes: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I hope the president does it. He left himself an out, though, suggesting he might not do so if intelligence agencies determine that it’s too sensitive to national security to release them at this time.

Why do I want the files released? I hope — but don’t necessarily expect — the files to put to rest the ridiculous conspiracy theories that have kicked around since that terrible day in November 1963.

I happen to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I do not believe there was a second gunman; nor do I believe that anyone conspired with Oswald to kill the nation’s president.

Release those files

Will the release of those files kill forever those theories? Oh, probably not. We might be listening to cockamamie theories/baloney for as long as we exist as a nation. As Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia, noted today, we’re still debating the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, who was killed at Ford Theater in April 1865.

It’s been 54 years since Oswald killed the president and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally. Thousands of pages of valuable information has been kept under lock and key. They’re supposed to be opened to the public next week.

I hope the president follows through, with the expectation that we can push this terrible event a little farther toward the rear of the shelf.