Tag Archives: Lloyd Bentsen

You want ‘contact’ in politics? Wait for midterm election result

The late great U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas used to call politics a “contact sport,” especially as it was practiced in the Lone Star State.

With the midterm election approaching quickly, it appears as though the political climate in Washington is going to get a good bit more “contact oriented” than it already has become — if that is possible.

I offer this bit of information with extreme caution. The “experts” who suggest that Democrats are looking more likely to take control of at least one congressional chamber, the House of Representatives, also “predicted” Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the 45th president of the United States.

They missed that one.

Suppose, though, that the Democratic Party does take the gavel from the Republicans. What do you suppose will happen?

Let me ponder that.

We must not rule out impeachment of the current president of the United States. Donald Trump is facing a bushel basket of trouble in the months after the midterm election.

What’s more, there well might be a lot of congressional hearings as newly constituted House committees — with Democratic chairs — summoning witness after witness to look into whatever they damn well want to examine.

Yep, payback is a bitch — ain’t it?

Republicans saw fit to examine that matter called “Benghazi” seemingly forever. Then we had that email matter. The Benghazi probe produced nothing incriminating, nor did the email kerfuffle.

So, what might the Democrats do in return?

It’s anyone’s guess. Go ahead and speculate, if you wish.

I’m betting it’s going to get a lot less fun for Republicans once the smoke clears from Midterm Election Day — presuming, of course, that the experts are right … this time!

If they are, get ready for a whole lot of blocking and tackling in the nation’s capital.

GOP is ‘eating its young’

The late state Sen. Teel Bivins once offered a metaphor that, frankly, I never quite understood: He said the Legislature’s once-a-decade exercise in legislative and congressional redistricting offered an opportunity for “Republicans to eat their young.”

If I could speak to him at this moment, I would tell Bivins that we are witnessing actual political cannibalism among Texas Republicans. They are dining on each other right here in the Texas Panhandle, which Bivins represented in the state Senate from 1989 until 2004.

Bivins’s successor, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, is fending off challenges from two fellow Republicans. They are seeking to portray him as something he isn’t. He’s been called a “liberal,” which in the Panhandle is fightin’ words.

Seliger’s response has been a vow to remain positive and to speak about his record, which he touts as “conservative.” Indeed, he is a mainstream conservative, a traditional conservative. The current political climate has forced him to slap the conservative label on his sleeve and proclaim it proudly.

Seliger shouldn’t have to make that declaration.

He is not alone. We’re seeing all across Texas, which is among the most GOP-leaning states in America. We have Republican incumbent legislators and members of Congress campaigning on the margins of their ideology to fend off well-funded challengers.

Contenders and incumbents are spending tons of advertising space and broadcast air time trying to persuade voters that their brand of conservatism is more desirable than the other candidate.

What is being lost in this discussion are statements about precisely what they would do for their constituents if they get elected. How would they govern? What good would electing them bring to their legislative or congressional district?

I’m hearing a lot of name-calling, innuendo, allegations and criticism that — to my ear — borders on defamation. It’s been a disgraceful display of demagoguery.

A famed Texas Democrat, the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, once told me that Texas politics is a “contact sport.” Indeed. Sen. Bentsen served in the Senate when Democrats and Republicans actually sought — and often found — common ground on legislation that benefited the entire state.

I can argue that these days, Texas politics has become a “collision sport,” with a healthy dose of cannibalism, to boot.

If he were around today, my hunch is that Sen. Bivins would rethink his definition of how Republicans feast on each other.

I also believe he would be ashamed of what is happening.

Let’s flip these national tickets

kaine-pence-jpg

In 1988, a Texan was running for vice president on the Democratic ticket led by Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

The Texan was U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. The buzz in the Lone Star State was that many Texans wanted Bentsen to be the top man. They much preferred him to Dukakis. There was some of that feeling around the country, too, especially given Bentsen’s performance at the VP debate with then Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana.

“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” became one of the signature moments of that campaign as Bentsen skewered Quayle for comparing his Senate experience with what JFK brought to the 1960 presidential campaign.

Well, tonight two more No. 2s are going to square off.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will joust with Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana. They are their parties’ nominees for vice president.

They’re going to make the top-tier candidates — Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton — the issue tonight.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least that we are going to hear a lot of lamenting when it’s all over from those who wish that Sen. Kaine and Gov. Pence were leading their respective tickets in 2016

‘No’ never really means no for VP hopefuls

Rob Portman Pictures12

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said “no” when NBC News asked him if he’d consider running as Donald J. Trump’s vice-presidential nominee this year.

Does that mean he would refuse to run with Trump if he asks him to do so? Does it mean the Republican will have none of it … ever?

Hardly.

It means only that he intends — at this moment — to seek re-election to the Senate.

How many times have these politicians  said “no” only to change their minds when the phone rings? A zillion?

I’m going to flash back for a moment to a conversation my colleagues and I had in Beaumont with the late, great U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.

It was 1988. The Democratic senator was running for re-election. He visited us at the Beaumont Enterprise to talk about that campaign. The presidential primary campaign was winding down. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis was pondering a VP pick. Bentsen’s name was being kicked around.

So … I asked him: Would you run for vice president if Dukakis asked?

I don’t recall precisely how Sen. Bentsen answered, but I do recall he said “no,” or words to that effect. He said he was focused only on his re-election campaign against Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter of Amarillo.

About a week later, his phone rang. It was Gov. Dukakis. The governor asked Bentsen to run with him on the Democratic ticket. His “no” turned to “yes.”

My memory of that conversation makes it difficult for me to accept a “no” at face value when the subject of running for vice president comes up.

In this election cycle, though, it strikes me as plausible that saying “no” to a presidential nominee as weird and unpredictable as Donald Trump actually might carry more weight.

 

Trump is no Reagan

MondaleReagan1984DebateMomentNBCNews_600.jpg.jpg

Donald Trump keeps making bold comparisons between himself and, well, whomever.

Now he says the “revolution” he is leading is bigger than the one led by that one-time actor, turned California governor, turned 40th president of the United States: Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Allow me to differ with that view.

Trump’s contention is false on so many levels.

Ronald Reagan energized disaffected Democrats. They came to be known as “Reagan Democrats” or “Hard Hat Democrats.” They were blue-collar voters who had grown disaffected with their party.

Trump says the current revolutionaries following his campaign have more “intensity” than those who idolized The Gipper.

(Incidentally, I was not among those. But I am guessing you already know that.)

Allow me now to say a word about the nature of Reagan’s message. Yes, it was stern. He took great pleasure and pride in sticking it into the ear of his Democratic rivals. But his call for change had a certain good humor about it. Did that tamp down the intensity of his supporters? Hardly. It made them love him more.

I’m trying to imagine a President Trump (my hands quiver when I type those words) sitting down with political leaders from the opposing party, sharing an adult beverage and a few off-color jokes — as President Reagan often did with House Speaker Tip O’Neill. I can’t get there.

Did Reagan ever call his foes “stupid,” or “incompetent,” or “pathetic”? Did he ever use words like “weak” to describe this country?

He used language much more artfully and with much more nuance. Did that skill weaken the intensity of his supporters? Not even close.

The intensity of the late president’s supporters carried him to two landslide victories — the second of which came within about 2,000 votes of a 50-state Electoral College sweep!

Do you remember that great moment during the second presidential debate in 1984 with Democratic Party nominee Walter Mondale? The first encounter produced several stumbles, bumbles and mumbles from the president. Observers wondered aloud about the president’s mental fitness for the job.

Then came the question during Debate No. 2: Are you up to the job, Mr. President? “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” Reagan said.

You know who laughed the hardest at that line? Walter Mondale.

With that, I’ll paraphrase a line made famous by another great American politician, U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the Texas Democrat who ran for vice president in 1988.

Mr. Trump, you’re no Ronald Reagan.

 

Rubio steps in it with Senate speech

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., presides over Senate Foreign Relations Committee, subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women's Issues hearing on overview of U.S. policy towards Haiti prior to the elections, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I’ve been all over the pea patch on this one, but I’ve decided to give U.S. senators seeking higher office a break … most of the time.

Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who’s running for president of the United States, has become the object of some criticism because of his lousy attendance record in the Senate. He’s been busy seeking the presidency and doesn’t have time to the job to which he was elected.

Hey, a guy can be only in one place at a time, right?

Rubio’s been absent a lot

I do not begrudge Rubio’s ambition to become commander in chief, leader of the Free World, the Man with the Veto Pen. Other senators are spending a lot of time on the road running for the White House: Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham. A couple of governors have gotten into some hot water back home for spending too much time away from the statehouse; Chris Christie and Scott Walker (before he dropped out of the race) come immediately to mind.

They all have the right to pursue the big prize.

Texas has had its share of senators aspiring to higher office. In addition to Cruz, we’ve had the likes of Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen taking their fair share of time away from the job.

So, I’d say give Rubio a break. Leave him alone.

Except for this: Rubio took to the Senate floor to say, “All we’re saying here is if you work at the (Veterans Affairs Department) and aren’t doing your job, they get to fire you. This should actually be the rule in the entire government – if you aren’t not doing your job you should be fired.”

Ohhhh, Marco.

Dadgummit, young man. You shouldn’t have said such a thing.

 

Take this vow from Patrick with much salt

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he’ll never run for governor against Greg Abbott.

Not only that, he says he’s not going to run for governor ever.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/01/patrick-im-not-running-against-abbott-2018/

Do I believe him? Is this the final word on the subject?

I remain a bit dubious about this disavowal of any further political ambition. As for the finality, do not bet anything, not a nickel, that we’ve heard the last of it.

As lieutenant governor, Patrick presides over the Texas Senate. As governor, Abbott is the state’s chief executive. Patrick’s conservative agenda is well-known. So is his rather meteoric temperament. Abbott’s conservative credentials also are beyond question. However, there are times when he doesn’t seem as fervently conservative as Patrick.

I hear what Patrick says today about his political ambition. However, these things can and do change.

There’s just something about Patrick that makes me wonder whether he’s telling us the whole truth.

The late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen once told me he wouldn’t accept a vice-presidential spot on the Democratic Party ticket in 1988. Then he did.

The late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy said he wouldn’t seek the presidency in 1968. Then he did.

I believe Dan Patrick is capable of changing his mind.

 

Listen to one of your own, GOP, on 'Obamacare'

Brent Budowsky is singing Karl Rove’s praises.

And why not? Budowsky is an economist of some repute and is a former aide to the late, great U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas. He thinks Rove — aka “Bush’s Brain” — is spot on in telling his fellow Republicans to give their futile effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a loser. Any remote chance the GOP has of tossing the ACA aside is going to cost them dearly, especially when — in Budowsky’s eyes — the first person dies because he or she is denied affordable health insurance because Republicans have won their fight to repeal the ACA.

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/241457-karl-rove-surrenders-to-obamacare

And why should the GOP high command listen to Rove?

Easy. The man’s a brilliant political strategist.

He helped engineer George W. Bush’s winning campaigns for Texas governor (in 1994) and two successful races for the presidency (in 2000 and 2004). The governor’s race should have been in the bag for the incumbent, the late Democrat Ann Richards. Rove came up with a strategy that held Bush to a tightly scripted line of specific issues and reforms he would enact if elected governor. He never veered off the script as he went on to defeat Richards.

The man knows a winning political cause and a losing cause as well as anyone.

As Budowsky writes in The Hill: “Rove’s surrender to ObamaCare, advising Republicans against pretending they would repeal ObamaCare, is politically very wise. Rove’s fear about what happens to Republicans if the court does overturn ObamaCare provisions and the world witnesses horror stories of Americans being hurt because of Republican anti-ObamaCare politics — without any Republican policy to undo the damage — is politically brilliant.

“Imagine daily stories on television about very ill Americans being stripped of healthcare, about children losing their insurance because they would no longer be covered by their parent’s policies, about Americans with preexisting conditions being thrown to the insurance wolves without ObamaCare, and about huge insurance premium increases that would punish many millions of Americans because of the Republican war against ObamaCare.”

Budowsky also predicts that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the ACA when it rules on its constitutionality before the end of the court’s current term.

Pay attention. Karl Rove might not be every American’s favorite operative/pundit/talking head. Howeve, he is wise to counsel his fellow Republicans to give up a fight they’re certain to lose.

 

Paul does the Texas thing: two races at once

Kentucky’s Rand Paul is seeking to do something that Texas politicians have done for years.

He wants the ability to run for his U.S. Senate seat and the presidency of the United States at the same time.

Go for it, Sen. Paul.

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/234975-rand-paul-gets-initial-green-light-to-run-for-both-white-house-and-senate

Paul is expected to get approval by the Kentucky Republican Party soon, enabling him to file for re-election and seek the GOP nomination for the presidency in 2016.

What’s the big deal?

The two most famous Texans to do the same thing were the late Democratic U.S. Sens. Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen. LBJ was elected vice president in 1960 and was re-elected to the Senate the same year; the state held a special election in 1961 and Republican John Tower finished first in a huge field for the Senate seat. Then, in 1988, Sen. Bentsen was running for re-election when he was picked to run as vice president on a Democratic ticket led by Michael Dukakis; the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket didn’t win the White House, but Bentsen was re-elected handily over Amarillo Congressman Beau Boulter.

I’ve never had a particular problem with this electoral “loophole.” As for Rand Paul’s political future, the Kentucky GOP holds the key to allowing him to seek re-election to the Senate.

Let him to do it. If he’s as popular in Kentucky as he appears to be, there won’t be much need to campaign actively for that seat while he seeks the GOP presidential nomination.

And hey, if Paul gets drummed out of the Republican presidential race, he’s got plenty of campaign time left to make the case for his Senate seat.

 

Mitt falls far short of saying 'no' to 2016 run

Don’t believe Mitt Romney’s non-denial about whether he wants to run for president one more time.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace that “I am not running. I have no plans to run.”

OK, Mitt. That ain’t one of those Shermanesque statements, you know, where you’re supposed to say “If nominated I won’t run; if elected, I won’t serve.”

http://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-live/2014/09/romney-195006.html?hp=r6

Mitt says he’d be a better president than Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats’ presumed frontrunner for the 2016 nomination. He also says he’d do better than the man who beat him in ’12, President Barack Obama.

Mitt told Wallace that his time had “come and gone.”

Hey, doggone it, he still hasn’t said he won’t run under any circumstances.

These non-statements about political futures are so frustrating. Politicians keep saying they “have no plans” to do something, then turn around and do what they said they have no plans to do.

The problem with that non-statement is the verb “have.” It’s a present-tense verb that doesn’t rule anything out, say, for tomorrow. Or the next day, or the day after that.

I remember in 1988 I asked the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen if he would consider running as Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis’s running mate on the Democratic Party presidential ticket. Sen. Bentsen said his plate was full serving as Texas’s senior U.S. senator. He never actually answered directly: yes or no. Turned out he was dodging. Dukakis selected him to run with him for the White House.

Bentsen had an out. He was able to run successfully for re-election to the Senate that year.

Is Mitt Romney really and truly not going to run for president in two years?

I’ve heard nothing from him that says “not just no, but hell no.”