Tag Archives: JFK

Guy with no experience to lead Pentagon? Oh … wait!

Donald Trump has decided that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan should get the job on a more permanent basis.

Thus, he is nominating the former Boeing Co. executive to lead the world’s mightiest military apparatus.

Shanahan would seek to fill a huge void created by the resignation in late 2018 of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over differences he had with the president’s defense policy.

OK, the critics are out already regarding Shanahan. They say that his lack of any defense experience does not commend him to this job.

I must say: Whoa! Wait a minute!

In 1961, another president, John F. Kennedy, named a Ford Inc., executive, Robert McNamara, to lead the Pentagon. McNamara had the same zero defense experience that Shanahan would bring to his new job.

Now, it’s a highly debatable point that McNamara did a good job as defense secretary. He did lie to the public about whether the nation was winning the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He kept the truth from us until the mid-1990s, when he wrote in a book that he knew as early as 1963 that Vietnam was essentially a lost cause.

His lack of experience, though, likely didn’t play a part in McNamara’s big-league deception.

Do I wish the president could find someone with the chops that James Mattis brought to the post? Sure. Then again, would another revered general-grade officer — such as Mattis — last any longer than the retired Marine did? Likely not.

Still, let’s not dismiss Patrick Shanahan just because he doesn’t have prior government experience.

LBJ truly loved being ‘of’ Texas

PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK, Texas — Lyndon Baines Johnson wasn’t just from Texas, he was of Texas.

The nation’s 36th president knew from where he came and where he would go after he left public life.

LBJ’s public life ended on Jan. 20, 1969 when Richard Nixon succeeded him as president. Johnson boarded the jet from Washington, which took him and his wife Lady Bird “home” to Texas.

My wife and I are spending a few days in the heart of what can be called “LBJ Country.” I surely do understand – indeed, I have understood it for the 35 years we have lived in this state – why he loved coming back to his beloved Hill Country.

We’re parked in an RV campground at Pedernales Falls State Park. It is a magnificent piece of real estate near Johnson City, Dripping Springs and a bit west of Austin. The bluebonnets and Indian paint brush are in their full spring blossom glory.

President Johnson ascended to the nation’s highest office under the worst circumstance imaginable, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The men’s styles could not have been more different; Kennedy was all Cape Cod, Ivy League and combat heroism, while LBJ was pure Texan, a bit unpolished and a supreme politician with decades of experience legislating in both chambers of Congress.

While he served as president for nearly six years, one often heard Johnson refer to his beloved Pedernales River, the Hill Country. He was known to speed around his sprawling ranch in Stonewall at the wheel of his Cadillac convertible.

He loved this place. He loved coming home. I often got the impression – perhaps burnished a bit in the decades since he left office – that he detested going to work in Washington. He lived in a nice house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But it wasn’t his ranch house in the Hill Country.

The ravages of the office he inherited took their toll on Lyndon Johnson. They aged him far beyond his years. War does that to any man, especially a commander in chief whose duty included sending young Americans into battle against an intense and resourceful enemy. It’s not a stretch to say that the Vietnam War killed Lyndon Johnson.

However, he died where he always intended to die. At his ranch. He suffered a heart attack, notified the Secret Service detail that protected him that “something bad is happening.” That “something bad” killed him on Jan. 22, 1973. He wasn’t yet 65 years of age.

They buried LBJ and later his wife under a grove of trees on his ranch. It is the perfect place to lay this man of Texas to rest.

Trump, Fox News form frightening alliance

Presidents of the United States have enjoyed cordial relationships with the media over the past 200 years of our republic.

John F. Kennedy was pals with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Ronald Reagan and Walter Cronkite were known to be quite friendly. There have been others, too.

Have any of them, though, sought actual policy advice from media pundits the way Donald J. Trump has reportedly done with Fox News Channel anchors and other on-air personalities?

There is a certain strangeness that crosses the line into frightening about the Trump-Fox relationship. It is unseemly, particularly given the “fake news” tag the president plasters on other news organizations, be they print or broadcast.

This peculiar alliance has prompted the Democratic National Committee to ban Fox from hosting any of the planned Democratic primary presidential debates coming up later this year. DNC chairman Tom Perez made it clear: Fox has become entirely too intertwined with the Trump administration to be considered a fair and impartial media organization. So the DNC won’t allow Fox to participate in the party’s series of debates.

When a Fox News talking head, Sean Hannity, takes the microphone at a Trump campaign-style rally, he crosses the line from an ostensible “journalist” to becoming a campaign flack.

There can be little doubt, therefore, about the correctness of the DNC decision to shut Fox News out of the party’s nominating process.

Still waiting for that ‘presidential’ moment

A critic or two of my blog has noted that I continue to resist referring to Donald Trump by placing the term “President” in front of his name. They don’t like it, calling me disrespectful of the man who was duly elected to the nation’s highest office.

So help me, as the Good Lord is my witness, I am waiting for that moment — or perhaps a sequence of moments — when I can feel as if the president of the United States has earned that honor from yours truly.

It hasn’t arrived. I don’t know if it will. I want it to arrive. I feel like the guy waiting for the bus or the train that’s overdue. I keep craning my neck, standing on my tiptoes, looking for all I can for some sign that the vehicle is on its way.

The same is true with Donald Trump.

As a presidential candidate, the man disgraced himself and the office he sought with behavior that is utterly beyond repugnant. The denigration of the late Sen. John McCain’s heroic service to the nation as a prisoner during the Vietnam War; the mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s serious neuro-muscular disability; the insults he hurled at his Republican primary foes; the hideous implication, for example, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was complicit in President Kennedy’s murder.

Also, we had that years-long lie that Trump fomented about President Obama’s eligibility to run for and to serve as president of the United States; Trump was one of the founders of the so-called “Birther Movement.”

He brought all that, and more, into the White House when he won the 2016 election.

Since taking office, he has acted like the carnival barker he became as a candidate. His incessant Twitter messaging, the manner in which he has fired Cabinet officials and assorted high-level federal officers have contributed to the idiocy that he promotes.

There have been moments of lucidity from this president. He pitched a much-needed effort on federal sentencing reform; he struck at Syria when it gassed its citizens.

The rest of it has been not worthy of the office this individual occupies.

I want to be able to string the words “President” and “Trump” together consecutively.  I cannot do it.

Maybe one day. Something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.

‘No president has worked harder’

This isn’t a huge leap, so I feel comfortable in presuming that Donald Trump is angry over the revelations about all that “executive time” he takes in the White House.

That has to explain the Twitter messages he fired off declaring how “no president has worked harder than me” at making America great again and all the myriad tasks associated with being president of the United States.

He bellowed something about the “mess” he inherited in January 2017. How he has restored the military, repaired the Veterans Administration, dealt with “endless wars,” stopped the North Korean nuclear threat . . . and on and on.

No president has worked harder than this guy?

Hmm. Let’s see about that.

I wonder if his work ethic exceeds that of, say, Abraham Lincoln, who served while the country was killing itself during the Civil War; or when Franklin Roosevelt was trying to win World War II after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; or when John F. Kennedy had to face down the Soviet Union’s missile threat in Cuba; or when George W. Bush had to respond to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Donald Trump would have us believe he has worked “harder” than those previous presidents? And what about the results of all those issues Trump has tackled? North Korea is still developing nukes; we’re still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq; the VA work remains undone; the military was just as strong when Trump took office as it is now.

It is typical Trumpian hyperbole, exaggeration and — dare I say it — outright lying.

AOC has joined FDR, LBJ, JFK, MLK and RFK

I once thought references to political and civic leaders’ by their initials denoted a recognition of their greatness, of their longstanding contribution to American discourse, debate and our way of life.

Social media now have cheapened that designation. A 29-year-old freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives, one of 435 members, now has been “elevated” to this iconic status.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now known as AOC.

AOC says this, AOC does that, AOC proclaims such and such, AOC makes her presence felt. 

I keep hearing and reading this kind of reference in mainstream media. I’ll be candid: It annoys me.

I’m an old-school kind of guy. I prefer to require political figures to earn their spurs before they become media darlings. Members of Congress do not always deserve the recognition that has been bestowed to the rookie Democratic lawmaker from New York City. Thus, neither does Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

This is likely to be the last comment I’ll make on this particular irksome notion. So I’ll just get it off my chest now and then be done with it. I won’t tune out what this young woman has to say. I’ll comment from time to time. I am going to resist using the initials while referring to her.

She hasn’t earned her spurs. At least not yet. Maybe she will over time. For the foreseeable future, I’ll refer to her by her full name and remind readers of this blog that she’s an untested freshman lawmaker who — it is becoming evident to me — looks as though she intends to seek higher political offices.

‘AOC’ makes an immediate impression

There once was a time when rookie members of Congress languished in the shadows. They weren’t to be taken seriously by their colleagues. They weren’t to be held up for praise by their friends or condemnation by their critics.

They needed to learn the location of the restrooms on Capitol Hill. Then they could be taken seriously, or so it used to go.

Then came social media. Rookie members of Congress are able to become immediate superstars.

One of them has rocketed to the top of the public relations totem pole. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly minted Democrat from New York City.

She is so famous, in fact, that she now is being referred to as “AOC.” Yep, she’s up there with JFK, RFK, MLK, LBJ, FDR. This young woman, all of 29 years of age, has held public office for less than one whole month.

Here she is. She is the talk of D.C. She is in huge demand on TV and radio talk shows. She is a self-proclaimed socialist. She wants to tax the wealthy, redistribute wealth around the country; she favors Medicare for All and single-payer health insurance.

Why do you suppose she commands all the attention? Forgive me for mentioning this, but AOC is, shall we say, quite “telegenic,” which is a politically correct way of alluding to her physical attractiveness. Yes, she is well-educated and speaks well, too.

I am inclined — given my own political leaning — to listen to what she has to say. However, I am in serious head-scratching mode about AOC. How in the name of political seniority does a rookie member of Congress such as this one command everyone’s attention?

She has angered not just Republicans but also “establishment” Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is thought to be miffed that she occasionally challenges the elders within the Democratic Party.

Her faces shows up as a social media meme. I get these posts on my Facebook news feed from conservative friends who delight in ridiculing her occasional misstatements.

She is one of 435 members of the House of Representatives. I don’t believe she represents a serious threat to establishment politicians of both parties . . . at least not yet. She needs some serious seasoning. AOC needs to get a firmer grasp on how the system works on Capitol Hill.

I am just puzzled at how this young politician has thrust herself onto the center of a large and crowded political stage.

Still miss the wisdom that RFK brought

I cannot help but feel wistful — and sad to this day — when I watch videos of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Indeed, it is the coarseness of today’s debate that makes wish we had another RFK on the horizon, waiting to grab our attention, speak to our better angels, prod us to think beyond our own self-interest.

This video comes from a 1967 interview that Bobby Kennedy had with “Face the Nation” questioners. His answers were full, complete and yes, a bit wordy at times. He spoke about the Vietnam War, which was Topic No. 1 on all the TV news talk shows in that era.

RFK waffled during this interview about whether he would be a candidate for president in 1968. He straddled the fence until the moment in the New Hampshire Democratic primary when Sen. Eugene McCarthy came shockingly close to upsetting President Johnson.

In came Bobby Kennedy. His campaign launched and in March 1968, LBJ shocked the nation by declaring he would “not seek” nor would he “accept my party’s nomination for another term as your president.”

I want to hear RFK’s wisdom again. Today’s political debate has devolved into insults, innuendo and an utter lack of compassion, particularly when it comes from the White House. I always have thought we are better than that. We deserve better than what we’re hearing in this era.

Then I look back at 1968, a terrible year for this country. The Vietnam War was killing hundreds of Americans each week. RFK sought an end to a conflict in which he — as attorney general during his brother’s administration — was a key architect.

RFK spoke to us at a level we haven’t heard since his death in June 1968 at the hands of an assassin. He told us stark, brutal truth about the bitterness and division that tore at our nation.

RFK had the “it” factor that is difficult to define. It is missing throughout the ranks of those who might seek to become the next president. It most certainly is nowhere to be found anywhere near the individual who currently holds that office.

It’s been more than 50 years since Robert Kennedy left this good Earth. I miss him every day. I miss him especially when I have to swallow today’s toxic mess that comprises political debate.

‘The buck stops with everybody’?

John F. Kennedy once said that “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

Harry Truman once had a sign on his desk that declared “The buck stops here.”

Ronald Reagan once admitted that he was mistaken when he said he never traded arms for hostages.

Donald Trump now says that “the buck stops with everybody.”

Which of those statements connotes a weak leader? Which of them suggests the person who abides by it doesn’t want to take responsibility?

If you said the fourth one, we are on the same page. Donald Trump won’t accept responsibility for the dispute that has closed part of the federal government and has thrown hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work, causing them varying degrees of financial hardship — all over whether to build The Wall along our southern border.

Trump’s equivocation speaks volumes about his lack of leadership. He is illustrating once more how he won’t accept what most of the rest of us believe already, that he cannot stand by what he said, that he would be willing to take the heat for shutting down the government.

Now he’s done it. Federal employees are hurting.

Own it, Mr. President.

Reaction to Trump tweet brings back other memories

Donald Trump’s tweet about who he believes deserves blame for the deaths of two children on the southern border who happened to be in U.S. custody has brought its share of scorn from critics.

He wrote: Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!” 

The critics suggest that Trump’s cowardly tendencies compel him to blame others for his own failures.

I am reminded of another president, the late George H.W. Bush.

The 41st president didn’t like taking credit for his successes. He was unafraid to accept responsibility for the times he fell short, such as when he lost his bid for re-election in 1992. He said the blame for his loss fell solely and wholly on his shoulders.

I recall a statement he made during a TV interview with his granddaughter, Jenna Hager. She asked him about his “legacy.” He demurred. The former president said he didn’t want to comment on any legacy. He preferred to let others talk about “our success” and when “I fell short.”

Please take note of how he used the “we” when discussing the good things, and the “I” when referencing the other stuff.

That is the mark of a leader. Or, as President Kennedy reminded us after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, when the CIA-led incursion into Cuba failed in its effort to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime: “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”