Tag Archives: Jimmy Carter

Say it ain’t so, Joe

It pains me to say this, but I must reiterate what I believe remains the case to this day.

Democrats need not look to old warhorses to salvage their political fortunes, which means to me that former Vice President Joe Biden shouldn’t be a candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

I say this despite my affection and respect for the former vice president. I’ve long admired his tenacity, his passionate patriotism and his sense of collegiality and comity. He served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before joining the Democratic Party ticket led in 2008 by his Senate colleague, Barack H. Obama.

I believe still that Democrats need to find a newcomer to the national scene. I believe also that the nation has become afflicted with Clinton Fatigue, which means Hillary Clinton also is out of the presidential political game.

It appears to me that Democrats would do well to look for someone who is as unknown to the public as Jimmy Carter was in 1976. The nation was starved back then for a fresh face and they got one when the former Georgia governor climbed to the top of the party’s primary fight.

Vice President Biden has said publicly that he hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run. He was thought to be a possible candidate in 2016, but at the end had to stand down, given his intense grief over the death of his son Beau and his inability to commit fully to a presidential campaign.

Biden has been openly critical of Donald John Trump. Hmmm. Imagine that. So have many others. The ex-VP has spoken out strongly, much like another former veep — Dick Cheney — did during much of President Obama’s time in office.

But I don’t believe a Biden presidential campaign is going to serve the party well. Democrats would do well to find a fresh face, with fresh ideas to challenge a Republican Party that has been hijacked by a president who came into power knowing not a damn thing about how to govern the greatest nation on Earth.

Imagine seeing Trump with his five living predecessors

Try as hard as I do, I cannot wrap my arms around a certain scenario involving Donald J. Trump and five of the men who preceded him as president of the United States.

History has provided opportunities for the living for presidents to gather along with the current POTUS. They have appeared at ribbon-cuttings, at funerals, at various and sundry public functions.

Try to imagine Trump sharing a stage with Presidents Carter, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama. Imagine these men all setting aside the humiliating insults that Trump has hurled at them collectively and individually. Let’s not forget the insults and name-calling he has hurled at the wife of one of those men, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee as “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

Of all of the former presidents I could imagine possibly showing up at a Trump event I can think only of President Carter taking that leap. I guess it’s because of the former president’s deep Christian faith and the grace he embodies even where it involves those who have sought to humiliate him.

I won’t bet the farm, though, on President Carter doing it.

Still, the current president has demonstrated a seemingly limitless capacity to re-litigate the 2016 election. He keeps seeking to rub in the faces of his political foes the fact that he won an election. C’mon, Mr. President! We get it, dude!

His defamation of President Obama sticks in the craw of millions of Americans. He perpetuated the lie that Obama was born abroad and was somehow unqualified to serve as president.

The idiotic insults he hurled at President George W. Bush and his family members cannot possibly have gone down well with the 43rd president.

Trump’s overblown insults at Bill Clinton — not to mention his wife — have been shameful in the extreme.

The only thing that has kept Trump, in my view, from tossing barbs at Bush 41 has been the former president’s health … although I would put nothing past Trump if he chose to offer a snarky comment about the 90-something former commander in chief.

The presidency occasionally offers these individuals opportunities to gather for ceremonial functions. I encourage you to picture any or all of them agreeing to speak publicly about the clown in chief who occupies this venerated office.

Ex-presidents look so, so relaxed

This picture makes me happy.

It shows the three most immediate past presidents of the United States of America: Barack H. Obama, George W. Bush and William J. Clinton.

Look at those men. Don’t they look happy? Relaxed? Chummy?

They opened the President’s Cup golf tournament today in Jersey City, N.J., the first time three ex-presidents have opened the event that pits American golfers against an international team.

It’s a big deal.

For some time after he left office, I was left pining for former President Obama. I missed him terribly. At one or two levels, I still do. But seeing this picture reminds me of how much he and Presidents Bush and Clinton have earned the right to look so damn relaxed.

The same can be said of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. They weren’t there. President Bush is in poor health. President Carter is likely building a house somewhere for Habitat for Humanity; indeed, President Carter hasn’t stopped working since he left office … in 1981!

And, oh how I wish I could be a fly on the wall as these three former heads of state talk about the guy who holds the office these days.

Judge Robinson leaves gigantic legacy on Panhandle bench

Donald J. Trump has nominated someone to succeed a living legend among jurists in the Texas Panhandle.

It’s been slow going for the president of the United States as he has sought to make these appointments. I won’t get into the reasons for the snail’s pace in making these appointments. But the president finally made a pick for the U.S. District judgeship here in Amarillo, Texas.

Matthew Kacsmaryk is the president’s choice to become judge of the federal bench in Amarillo. I don’t know much about him, other than I understand he’s a rigid judicial conservative. According to the Texas Observer, he has worked to erode the wall separating government from organized religion.

Read the Observer story here.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson took senior status more than a year ago. She has earned it. She’s 91 years of age. Judge Robinson served on the 7th Texas Court of Appeals and on a Potter County bench before getting the call by — get ready for this one — President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to assume a newly created federal judgeship in Amarillo.

I didn’t get to watch Robinson in action during her years on the bench. I watched her from some distance as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I became quite riveted when she was handed a celebrity trial in 1997 when a group of cattle feeders sued TV talk show superstar Oprah Winfrey because of a remark she blurted out on TV about eating beef. The cattle feeders agreed to let Robinson try the case in Amarillo. Winfrey brought her talk-show crew here and videotaped her talk show at Amarillo Little Theater.

Winfrey beat back the lawsuit. She won. Judge Robinson ruled from the bench against the cattle feeders. Amarillo made the evening news all across the land.

I don’t know Robinson well. We are acquainted, certainly. We both served in the same Rotary Club for a number of years. But she isn’t the most media-friendly person I’ve ever known.

What I want to point out, though, is this: I long ago lost count of the number of county and state judicial candidates who sought the Globe-News editorial board’s endorsement and who said they wanted to pattern their behavior on the bench after Judge Mary Lou Robinson.

Judge Robinson became the gold standard for judges in this part of the world. For 38 years she issued federal court rulings with toughness and fairness. Her total judicial career spans more than 50 years.

Imagine that for a moment. Candidates for a public office that demands supreme confidence defer to one of their own who has set a standard they all want to emulate.

That is a tremendous legacy.

A-Team steps up to help Harvey victims

These five men belong to an exclusive club, with an exclusivity exceeded only by the former pope’s club.

They are the five men who’ve been elected president of the United States. They have gathered for a joint fundraising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which savaged the Texas coast in late August.

They are collaborating on a One America Appeal website that asks Americans to donate what they can to aid those who are stricken by the pummeling delivered by Harvey.

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have recorded a video that kicks off the fundraising effort. My hunch is that it might be updated as soon as Hurricane Irma finishes delivering more destruction to Florida in the next few days.

But this is bipartisanhip to the max. Two Republicans and three Democrats have locked arms in a call to aid our fellow Americans.

See the video here.

As President Bush 43 noted, “We’ve got more love in Texas than water.”

Considering the amount of rain — 50 inches of it! — that fell on Texas during Harvey’s unwelcome visit, that’s really saying something.

Thank you, Messrs. President.

Jimmy Carter: embodiment of public service, humanity

Former President Jimmy Carter is resting tonight in a hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he collapsed doing the Lord’s work.

He was working on a construction site for Habitat for Humanity, an organization with which he has been associated since leaving the presidency in January 1981.

President Carter, who’s 92 years of age, holds an unusual record as the former president who’s lived more years after leaving the White House than any of his predecessors.

My point here, though, is to make two make comments.

One is that this man has done more for humankind since leaving the pinnacle of power than any of the men who preceded him — or succeeded him.

My second point is to scold those who continue to hold Jimmy Carter up as some sort of model of fecklessness. He deserves nothing of that kind of treatment.

His defeat for re-election was stunning in its scope. Ronald Reagan swept him out of office by winning 44 states in a landslide of historic proportions. How was that possible? Because The Gipper and his campaign team managed to lay all of the nation’s troubles at Carter’s feet.

The Iranian hostage crisis dragged on for 444 days, beginning in November 1979. President Carter’s team worked tirelessly during that entire time to negotiate the release of the individuals held captive by those radicals who passed themselves off as “students.” Yes, we experienced that tragic failed rescue attempt in April 1980 that ended with planes crashing in the desert and eight Air Force Special Forces troops dying in the inferno. Was that the president’s fault? Did he err in attempting such a daring rescue? That debate will continue for as long as human beings are alive to debate it.

The blame is a consequence of failure, fair or not.

The president, though, did manage to broker a Middle East peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. The treaty stands to this day, thanks to the tireless work done at Camp David by Jimmy Carter, who browbeat, cajoled and persuaded Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign the deal — and then shake hands in 1978 in that epic White House photo op.

That handshake, though, had its consequences. President Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic extremists who hated him for seeking peace with Israel. Indeed, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would be killed in 1995 by a Zionist extremist who loathed the warrior Rabin for the handshake he had at the White House with PLO leader Yasser Arafat after another deal brokered by President Bill Clinton.

Jimmy Carter, I submit, does not deserve to be scorned the way he has been by Republicans and assorted Democrats over the years.

I’ll concede he won’t be ranked as the greatest of the great U.S. presidents. He had his flaws — as all human beings have them.

However, the humanity this great man has demonstrated over many decades gives him a special place in my own heart.

President Carter has preached to his fellow Habitat for Humanity workers to stay hydrated. He collapsed from, get this, dehydration.

Listen to yourself, Mr. President. And get better. This dangerous and hostile world still needs you.

Golden Rule, Mr. President?

One of the aspects of this latest feud that’s erupted between Donald J. Trump and the media involves its timing.

The president decided to go after MSBNC morning talk-show host Mika Brzezinski with a hideous tweet about her supposedly “bleeding from a face lift” while she and fiancé and fellow co-host Joe Scarborough sought to visit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The president is angry over “negative coverage” delivered by the MSNBC hosts. So he decided to make it personal.

Let’s consider a fairly underreported aspect of this spate uncivility. It comes just after the death of Brzezinski’s father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Carter from 1977 until 1981. The elder Brzezinski, who died on May 26,  was an avid anti-communist; he fled his native Poland, which would be taken over by the communist government that followed orders set down by the Soviet Union. Zbig, as he was known to his friends, became a naturalized American and then became one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Soviet Union. He was a great man who, quite obviously was revered by his family, including his daughter Mika.

Why couldn’t the president have honored Mika Brzezinski’s grief? Why did he feel compelled to launch that Twitter tirade while she is still hurting?

Oh, I almost forgot. That would require a sense of human decency, which the president seems to lack.

I am reminded of a New Testament passage. It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, referring to the Golden Rule. The New Living Translation instructs us as Jesus Christ taught: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

How might the president have felt had someone attacked him so directly — and so personally — so soon after the death of a loved one?

I’m guessing he’d get real angry … real fast.

LBJ must be laughing loudly

Lyndon Baines Johnson, wherever he is, must be enjoying the spectacle that’s unfolding down here, in Washington, D.C.

One of his successors as president of the United States is now trying to do something that LBJ was expert at doing: persuade U.S. senators to vote for a bill the president wants to see become law.

Donald Trump is facing a grim political reality. He is backing a Senate Republican health care overhaul bill. He says it would replace the Affordable Care Act. There’s this problem: public opinion polling suggests that it is highly unpopular with Americans; meanwhile, senators — who must answer to those Americans — are getting queasy about the bill.

Senate Republicans knew it and decided this week to postpone a vote on the bill until after the Fourth of July recess. The GOP has a slim Senate majority. Republicans can afford only two defections; any more than that then the health care overhaul effort is toast. Eight GOP senators have said they oppose the draft bill.

How does Trump persuade them to vote for the bill? This is something that Trump does not understand. Lyndon Johnson understood it better than arguably any president of the past century.

Before he became vice president in 1961 and later president in 1963, Johnson was the Senate majority leader. The Texan had vast experience as a legislator. He had many friends in the Senate; Republicans as well as Democrats were his pals. He could count on them when the going got tough. Sen. Johnson had an amazing capacity to persuade senators to vote his way. He took that skill with him to the Oval Office.

LBJ was unafraid to use the power of the presidency to, um, bully senators and House members. Somehow, though, it worked.

The current president has zero experience at governing anything. He had never sought a public office until June 2015, when he announced his presidential candidacy. Trump had no direct knowledge of Congress, or any understanding of how it works. He never developed any relationships with those who run the legislative branch of government, which is something that even relatively inexperienced presidents before him had acquired.

President Reagan was chided for being a film actor. He also served two terms as California governor. President Carter took D.C. by storm, but he, too, had governmental executive experience as a single-term governor of Georgia.

Donald Trump has none of that kind of experience. None!

President Johnson set the gold standard, though, for presidents knowing how to legislate, how to persuade lawmakers, how to push legislation through both chambers of Congress.

I suspect the former president is laughing out loud.

Remember when deficits mattered to GOP?

Donald J. Trump’s tax “reform” plan appears to be a prescription for doing something that used to be anathema to Republicans.

It will blow apart the national budget deficit.

I recall a day when deficits actually mattered to Republicans. The GOP spent a lot of political energy and capital during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency to lambaste the president for expanding the national debt, even though the annual budget deficit was cut by two-thirds during Obama’s two terms.

Flashing back to 1980, I want to recall how Ronald Reagan managed to be elected president. He and his fellow Republicans tore congressional Democrats — and President Carter — to pieces because they were running deficits that exceeded $40 billion annually.

Forty billion dollars!

Don’t you wish that were the case today?

Well, deficits no longer seem to matter. Republicans have joined their Democratic colleagues as political spendthrifts. Trump is going to cut taxes for his fellow wealthy Americans; his administration calls it the greatest tax cut in history. The spending will go on. The deficits are likely to soar. Won’t that pile more money onto our national debt?

Where is the outrage over that?

Clintons to attend Trump inaugural … who’da thunk it?

Bygones won’t necessarily be bygones come Jan. 20 for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But they’re going to attend the inauguration of the fellow who pulled off arguably the most stunning presidential election upset of the past century … and it involved one of the Clintons.

The Clintons are going to attend Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as president — even though Hillary Clinton fell victim to that shocking upset at Trump’s hands.

Words nearly escape me as I seek to describe the nature of the Trump-Clinton campaign for the presidency. “Rough,” “brutal,” “angry” seem far too timid of descriptive terms.

I’ll leave it to others to attach the appropriate adjective.

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/312542-clintons-to-attend-trumps-inauguration

I am glad, though, to know that the Clintons will attend this event and pay their respects to the office that Bill Clinton once occupied and that Hillary Clinton thought she would assume. Their individual and collective respect for the 45th president, though, likely remains a topic of some speculation.

The only living former president who won’t attend will be George H.W. Bush; he cites health concerns that will keep him away. Former Presidents Carter and George W. Bush will attend, along with Bill Clinton.

A lot of eyes, of course, will be focused on Hillary Clinton. In a normal election year, the spotlight would be on her. As we all learned — many of us to our dismay — this was far from a normal presidential campaign.

Suffice to say that Hillary Clinton’s decision to join her husband at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration speaks loudly and clearly to her own character and grace.