Tag Archives: LBJ

Run, Gov. Weld, run!

Wouldn’t it be just a kick in the backside if William Weld re-creates a Eugene McCarthy moment in the 2020 race for the presidency of the United States?

Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, has formed an exploratory committee to determine whether to mount a primary challenge against Donald Trump. Weld said many other Republicans “exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, identifying with their captor.”

Weld ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. The ticket didn’t do too well, gathering just 4.5 million votes, or about 3 percent of the total.

He wants back into the fight, this time as a Republican.

The McCarthy moment? In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging and Sen. McCarthy, a Minnesota Democrat, mounted a Democratic Party primary challenge against President Lyndon Johnson. McCarthy — a vehement anti-war candidate — took his campaign to the nation’s first primary state, New Hampshire.

He then finished a very strong second to President Johnson, sending shockwaves through the Democratic Party establishment. McCarthy’s strong showing brought Sen. Robert F. Kennedy into the race. Then on March 31, 1968, LBJ spoke to the nation to announce an end to the bombing campaign against North Vietnam — and then said he would not seek or accept the Democratic nomination “for another term as your president.”

History does have a way of repeating itself. If only Gov. Weld can mount any sort of serious challenge to the wack job serving as president of the United States.

One’s hope must spring eternal. Mine does.

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.

Presidential libraries seek to establish legacies

I spent some time this week at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas; it’s the fourth such exhibit I have seen.

I intend to see them all eventually.

However, I have to acknowledge publicly a thought that I harbored privately as I walked through the Bush library/museum. Here goes:

What in the world is the Donald J. Trump library going to look like? How will the eventual former president portray his service? Will he even be able to develop a theme for an exhibit that traditionally is designed to portray some semblance of whatever legacy he leaves behind.

I know that some might view this as a cheap shot, as a stretch, as a way to stick it once more into the president’s eye. However, one’s mind cannot help but go to these places while touring an exhibit that is both somber and joyful simultaneously. The Bush library devotes plenty of text, audio and video to 9/11, the horrendous event that defined George W. Bush’s presidency. It also addresses his work to combat HIV/AIDS, his joyous and boisterous family and the man’s post-presidential work to help with disaster relief and his on-going support for our wounded warriors.

My wife and I have toured the Herbert Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa, the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta and the Lyndon Johnson library in Austin. They all speak to the presidents’ signature moments; the Hoover exhibit tells also of the former president’s humanitarian efforts.

What in the world is the Donald Trump library going to salute? What tone will the tributes take? How does this president manage to highlight the nation he serves without calling attention to himself?

That all assumes, of course, that Donald Trump is able to finish his term in office. There is increasing chatter that he, um, might not finish it. He is becoming entangled and enmeshed in growing legal difficulties. Those legal matters only exacerbate the political troubles that are sure to erupt as a consequence.

I am willing to admit to thinking of these things. If only the president of the United States would learn how to govern, learn how to behave the way his office compels him to behave, would understand the solemn responsibility he has assumed.

Donald Trump’s penchant for publicity — especially when it’s negative — makes it impossible for me to avoid thinking these things even when touring a presidential library and museum worthy of its name.

Bush 41’s death means end of ‘old’ GOP? Let’s hope not

More than a few talking heads have ruminated since the death of former President George H.W. Bush about the future of the Republican Party and whether the party of which Bush was a proud member will return in its former image.

Some have said “no.” I don’t subscribe to that idea.

Today’s Republican Party has been taken over by those loyal to a president who doesn’t define his own ideology — such as it is — by anything resembling traditional GOP values.

The GOP has taken a dramatically different course from where it used to travel. I’ll offer three examples

  • President Bush was a supreme coalition builder. He did that very thing when assessing how to kick Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in the late summer of 1990. He brought together more than 30 nations to (a) provide fighting forces on the field or (b) give money to finance the military initiative that became known as Operation Desert Storm; some nations, of course, did both.
  • The Republican Party of old once touted fiscal responsibility. It loathed a federal budget deficit. It preferred to curb spending and, yes, curb taxes. The current GOP has enacted a tax cut but has done damn little to curb spending. Thus, the deficit is ballooning again.
  • The Party of Lincoln used to be an inclusive outfit. It welcomed people of all races, ethnicities, creeds. It has become another kind of party these days. It is seeking to shut the door on those seeking asylum from tyranny in their homelands. Politicians who belonged the former Republican Party helped a Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, enact the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960s over the objection of many southern Senate Democrats who clung to their segregationist history. Imagine that happening today.

I cannot predict whether the old Republican Party will return, let alone when that might occur. I try like the dickens to avoid cynicism. My hope still springs forth that there will be a better day ahead.

President George H.W. Bush — although he was far from perfect — still in many ways embodied the ideals of a once-great political party. Those ideals have been pushed aside. We’ll bury Bush 41 in a few days. While we’re at it, how about trying to exhume the remains of a Republican Party that he represented?

‘Florida’ becomes new synonym for election incompetence

Move over, Texas. You — I mean “we” — are being replaced as the butt of jokes related to election incompetence and possible corruption.

There once was a time when Texas was known for dead people casting ballots in, say, tiny Duval County in the southern part of the state. It was thought that the cadaver vote vaulted Lyndon Baines Johnson into Congress.

As a transplant who moved to Texas more than three decades ago, I am not proud of the state’s former reputation as a cesspool for political corruption. In that regard, I feel sorry for the conscientious Floridians who now are living with the same level of skepticism.

Broward County, Fla., is in the news again. It isn’t good.

Trouble looms for 2020

They’re trying to determine the winner of two red-hot races in Florida: the campaign for governor and for U.S. Senate. The attention focuses on Broward County, home to around 2 million residents. Thus, they cast a lot of votes in that south Florida county.

They can’t seem to get ’em counted. There might be an automatic recount. Or maybe it’ll be a manual recount.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott holds a narrow lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — at the moment! GOP U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is barely ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Scott and DeSantis have (more or less) declared victory. Nelson and Gillum aren’t conceding. They’re waiting … and waiting … and waiting for all the ballots to be counted.

Of course, this is far from the first time Florida has been at the epicenter of questionable electoral issues. You remember the 2000 presidential election, yes? It came down to an aborted recount of the contest between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Albert Gore Jr. The winner would rake in the state’s Electoral College votes and win the presidency. The U.S. Supreme Court ended up ordering the vote count stopped and when it did, Gov. Bush had 537 more votes — out of more than 5.8 million ballots cast — than Vice President Gore. The court ruling came on a 5-4 vote; the five GOP appointed justices voted to stop the count, with the four Democratic appointed justices dissenting.

Well, the rest — as they say — is history.

This resident of Texas is glad to have my state kicked off the (alleged) voter fraud pedestal.

As a patriotic American, though, I do hope that our fellow Americans in Florida can cure what ails that state’s electoral process. Our political process needs to be free of this kind of turmoil.

I just pray the Russians aren’t involved.

Trump admits to preferring ‘Democrat Party’ epithet

Donald J. Trump flew off the rails on one of those impromptu campaign-rally riffs in West Virginia … and proceeded to acknowledge what many of us have known all along.

Republicans like referring to their political foes as members of the “Democrat Party,” even though the party to which they refer is the Democratic Party.

Trump said he likes using the term “Democrat” as an adjective because it grates on Democrats and because their party — according to Trump and other Republicans — isn’t too democratic these days.

It’s an idiotic and feeble attempt to stick it in the eye of those who oppose GOP doctrine and the rants of the Republican (In Name Only) in chief, Donald Trump.

And that brings me to what’s so damn funny about Trump’s association with the once-great Republican Party. He’s the classic RINO, the very personification of the term that hard-core Republicans used to describe the more moderate members of their political party.

Trump had zero political grounding prior to announcing his candidacy for the presidency. He wasn’t involved in partisan politics. His entire adult life was dedicated to one thing only: Trump’s personal enrichment.

So now that he has hijacked the Republican Party, he claims to be a political purist, the standard-bearer of a party that once stood for inclusion and that once joined hands with a Democratic president — Lyndon Baines Johnson — in advancing the cause of civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans.

Listening to Trump proclaim his desire to refer to those on the other side of the aisle as belonging to the “Democrat Party” tells me only one thing: He is pandering to that shrinking, but still vocal, political base that hangs on this carnival barker’s every word.

When does POTUS become too much of a ‘distraction’?

You hear it all the time from public officials who get embroiled in public controversy or scandal, if you wish to call it that.

“I don’t want to become a distraction,” they say. “Being such a distraction makes it impossible for me to do my job. Therefore, I resign from this office to make way for public policy to continue without these other side issues swirling around.”

With that, I believe it’s fair to ask: When does a president of the United States of America himself become too much of a “distraction” for his agenda?

Let me say this straight up and straight out: I do not believe Donald J. Trump is going to resign. Nor do I believe he should quit … at least not yet.

A man nominated to join the U.S. Supreme Court testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s a huge deal, yes? Then, kaboom! The New York Times publishes an anonymously written op-ed from a senior White House official saying that he or she is part of a team effort to protect the United States from the president’s more dangerous impulses.

This essay comes directly on the heels of a preview of a book, “Fear,” written by The Washington Post legendary Bob Woodward, that speaks to the interminable chaos, confusion and, yes, “fear” within the White House.

How does the president govern with all these, um, “distractions” threatening to swallow him whole.

President Johnson said on March 31, 1968 that he could not put his own political future ahead of the issues troubling the nation; he told the nation that “I will not seek, and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Six years later, President Nixon spoke of distraction, too, as he tendered his resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. He couldn’t govern. He couldn’t move any legislative priorities forward.

What is the threshold? Where does it rest? When do these “distractions” become too much even for a president who calls himself a “stable genius” and a self-proclaimed expert on every issue known to the presidency?

These are questions that well might begin to boil to the top of the public discourse over what we’re witnessing in real time.

If LBJ could attend RFK’s funeral …

What makes the Donald Trump exclusion from John McCain’s funeral so very bizarre is that their hatred for each other barely rivals the open hostility felt between two other political giants that didn’t interfere one of them from paying tribute to the other.

President Lyndon Johnson hated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The feeling was quite mutual. Yet when RFK was gunned down in Los Angeles in June 1968, LBJ found time to deliver a televised statement saluting Sen. Kennedy’s service to the country.

Then he took the time to attend RFK’s funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Sen. McCain made it clear he didn’t want the president to attend his funeral. It would be in the president’s best interests to heed the late, great American war hero’s desire.

The LBJ-RFK rift, though, and the fact that the president paid his respects to the late senator makes this latest statement of mistrust and disrespect so darn strange.