Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

He once was known as ‘Rubbers’

One aspect of the late President George H.W. Bush’s extraordinary political career has been getting short shrift by the media.

I refer to a nickname a young member of the U.S. House of Representatives endured while he served there.

George Bush was known to his colleagues as “Rubbers.” How’s that? Well, he was a big-time ally of Planned Parenthood, the organization devoted to family planning, which included the distribution of contraceptives . . . and so forth.

He continued his affinity for Planned Parenthood’s agenda well past his four years in Congress. He spoke to his colleagues in 1968 about Planned Parenthood.

Read it here.

But then he became a national politician in 1980 when Ronald Reagan selected him as his vice presidential running mate. Bush and Reagan had competed against each for the Republican presidential nomination; Bush famously labeled Reagan’s trickle-down fiscal policy “voodoo economics.” That didn’t dissuade The Gipper from tapping Bush as his running mate.

Immediately upon accepting the Republican nominee’s request to join the GOP ticket that year, Bush became a “pro-life” politician.

That immediate transformation from “pro-choice” to “pro-life” always rang hollow to me. Ronald Reagan could not possibly run for the presidency with a running mate who was such a champion for an organization that was total anathema to his political base.

Bush signed on and made a pledge — and I believe it came with a wink and a nod — that he would recite the pro-life mantra when asked to do so.

George Bush never became an outspoken advocate for the pro-life position, which I suppose tells us plenty about his actual devotion to the cause.

But you do what you gotta do . . . I suppose.

A+, Mr. President? I don’t think so

Mr. President, you are entitled to your opinion. As am I, sir.

You give yourself an A+ grade for the first two years of your presidency. I wouldn’t grade your performance anywhere near that high.

I laughed when I heard about Chris Wallace’s question to you, mentioning Presidents Washington and Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan. I also laughed when he asked if you belonged in those men’s company.

Then you gave yourself that A+ grade.

You’re killin’ me, Mr. President.

You keep taking credit for the economy. I applaud the job figures that keep coming in each month while you’ve been in office. Yep, they’re great. But you ought to know — and I wish you did realize it — that presidents can’t take all the credit they think they deserve. I must remind you — yet again! — that you inherited an economy that was in good shape, unlike the economy that your predecessor inherited when he took office in January 2009.

There have been more than the normal number of hiccups along the way. Your key staff keeps turning over regularly. Not to mention the Cabinet posts that keep opening up. You fire folks. They quit under criticism. And yet you keep yammering about the hordes of individuals who are just chomping at the bit waiting to come to work in the White House.

Whatever you say, Mr. President. I just don’t believe it. Nor do others of my ilk, who outnumber those of your ilk by a good bit.

Keep deluding yourself, Mr. President, into thinking you deserve an A+ plus. Others of us believe differently. I won’t assign a grade. I’ll leave that others.

Just know that it ain’t nearly as good as the one you gave yourself.

 

Editorial boards need not reflect the community

A friend of mine challenged a blog item I posted earlier today that called attention to the Dallas Morning News’s endorsement of Beto O’Rourke in this year’s campaign for the U.S. Senate.

My friend noted that “of course DMN” would back the Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Dallas County voted Democratic in 2016, as well as in 2012 and 2008. The paper, my friend noted, was going with the community flow.

I felt compelled to remind him that newspaper editorial boards — at least in my experience — do not necessarily strive to reflect the community’s leaning.

The example I gave him involved my nearly 11 years in Jefferson County, the largest county of the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas.

I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise, serving as editorial page editor. On my watch, the Enterprise endorsed Republican presidential candidates in three elections: 1984, 1988 and 1992, even though Jefferson County voters endorsed by significant majorities the Democratic candidates for president in all three elections. I told my friend the following: So … newspapers do not always reflect the communities’ political leaning. They adhere to their own philosophy or — more to the point — to their ownership’s philosophy.

So it was in 1984 particularly, when the publisher told us point blank that we were going to recommend President Reagan’s re-election. There would be no discussion. A different publisher told us the same thing in 1988 and 1992: We were going to endorse George H.W. Bush for election in ’88 and for re-election in ’92.

That’s how it works. The newspaper and its corporate ownership march to their own cadence, not necessarily the drumbeat of the community it serves. I went to Amarillo in January 1995 and learned the same thing, although the Texas Panhandle is even more solidly Republican than the Golden Triangle was solidly Democratic in the 1980s and early 1990s.

What’s more, Morris Communications, which owned the Amarillo Globe-News until 2017, is far more wedded to conservatives and Republicans than the Hearst Corporation, which still owns the Beaumont Enterprise.

It is true that Dallas County has tilted Democratic in recent election cycles. It also is true that the Dallas Morning News has endorsed plenty of conservative candidates and stood behind plenty of conservative issues over many years.

The Morning News is not a doctrinaire publication. Although I do not know what transpired when the paper’s editorial board deliberated over whom to endorse in this year’s Senate contest, I know that the published record reflects an editorial board that is far from rigid in its political outlook.

Believe me, I know a rigid media organization when I see one. I’ve worked for them.

Hey, didn’t we win the Cold War?

I always thought the United States and its allies won the Cold War, that we forced the Soviet Union to spend beyond its means on a military machine, bankrupting the country.

The USSR collapsed under its own weight. The Reagan administration sought prior to its demise to negotiate a deal to limit the production of nuclear weapons.

Four presidents came and went, the treaty was kept in place. The United States and Russia whittled their respective nuclear arsenals.

Now comes Donald Trump to assert that the Russians haven’t been faithful to the treaty. So he’s going to trash it. Then he announces a proposed buildup of nuclear weapons. The Russians counter with a threat to rebuild their own nuclear arsenal in response to the U.S. threat.

“Russia has violated the agreement,” Trump said. So he’s taking action.

It’s a dangerous course upon which the president is embarking. Instead of deploying diplomats and weapons inspectors to determine the extent to which Russia “violated” any agreement, Trump wants to flex our nation’s military muscles.

I know this seems to piddle all over the notion that the president is somehow beholden to Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. To the extent that he’s holding Russia accountable for its actions in this context, I applaud the president’s rhetorical aggressiveness; if only he would use the same approach to dealing with Russian attack on our 2016 presidential election.

But are we now going to restart the arms race that produced a policy called Mutually Assured Destruction?

It’s simply a MAD course to follow.

When have we ever discussed presidential fitness?

I’ve been walking along this Earth for a lot of years. I’ve been watching politics for most of my life. For the life of me I cannot remember a national discussion that comes close to mirroring what we’re hearing at this time about the fitness of the man who serves as president of the United States.

We didn’t hear it at this level when President Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal. We didn’t hear it in 1984 when President Reagan stumbled in his first debate with Walter Mondale, only to say at the second debate that he wouldn’t “exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

These days, the discussion has turned to Donald J. Trump’s actual fitness for the job. There’s open discussion about invoking a constitutional amendment that would strip the president of his powers. There is talk among White House aides about the president’s “impulses” and whether this man has the capacity to understand the myriad complexities of his high office.

Am I missing something? I just don’t recall ever having this discussion at any time, at any level with our previous presidents.

And yet, here we are.

The White House is pushing back. Trump allies say the president is fully capable. They say he’s engaged in the nuance of policy. They’re condemning the “gutless coward” who wrote that anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times, the essay that talks about the theft of memos from Trump’s desk and the effort to protect the nation against the president’s more dangerous instincts.

Yes, Trump promised he would be an “unconventional president.”

Boy, howdy! The man has delivered on that promise.

Bigly!

A ‘no’ vote on lifting restrictions on John Hinckley

John Hinckley wants a judge to grant him unconditional release, to lift the restrictions under which he must navigate his way back into society.

You remember Hinckley. He was acquitted on grounds of insanity after he shot Ronald Reagan in March 1981, coming dangerously close to killing the 40th president of the United States.

President Reagan recovered from his wound. White House press secretary James Brady, tragically, did not. He, too, was grievously wounded; he suffered a gunshot wound to his head. He fought valiantly to restore his speech, his ability to walk. He died of complications from his wounds in 2014.

Hinckley had been hospitalized since he tried to kill President Reagan. He was released from the hospital in 2016. According to MSN.com: Hinckley’s release in 2016 required that he work or volunteer at least three days a week, limit his travel, allow law enforcement to track his movements and continue meeting with a psychiatrist, among other conditions.

Hinckley does not deserve to be released from the restrictions. His doctors say his depression and psychosis are “in remission.”

I’m not a doctor, but to me “remission” does not mean “eradication.” Remissions suggests his ailments can return, just as cancer returns after being in remission.

I happened to agree with the late president’s family, who opposed Hinckley’s release from the hospital. Now I’ll weigh in and ask the judge to deny the killer’s request to lift the restrictions he must obey.

Trump trashes Gipper’s 11th commandment

Wherever he is, the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, is an unhappy man.

President Reagan once invoked what he called the 11th commandment, which is that Republicans shouldn’t speak ill of other Republicans.

So, what does Donald Trump do? He endorses candidates within GOP state primaries, and speaks badly of those he opposes.

The president did so again in Kansas, backing secretary of state Chris Kobach. What’s worse is that Trump threw the incumbent governor, Jeff Colyer, under the proverbial bus.

This is totally outside the political norm. Presidents usually don’t get involved in primary battles. They hold their political fire for the general election. They back whoever their party — Republican or Democrat — nominates and then campaign against whoever they face in on Election Day.

Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is stronger than ever. He is demonstrating it now with his primary endorsement of Chris Kobach.

Wasn’t there a time when President Reagan was the GOP’s most beloved figure? If so, those days appear to be gone. I hope, for the party’s sake, they won’t be gone forever.

I’ll concede this final point: I didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 or 1984 … but damn, I do miss him.

Once upon a time, Republicans mistrusted the Russians

There once was a time, not that long ago, when Republican Party politicians bristled at the notion of cozying up to Russia, the direct descendants of what President Reagan once called The Evil Empire.

They would rant and roar at the prospect of Democrats talking nice to the Russians. They would argue that the Russians weren’t to be trusted as far as we could throw them.

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called Russia the world’s greatest geopolitical adversary of this nation. Democrats laughed at Mitt. I admit to being one of the critics who dismissed Mitt’s view; I regret what I said then.

These days the one-time Party of Reagan has been captured and co-opted by Donald J. Trump. The current president is unlike any human being who’s ever been elected to the high office.

He talks nice to the Russians. Get this: He now disparages and disrespects our allies. He scolds our North Atlantic Treaty Organization friends for failing to pay enough to defend themselves. The president’s NATO diatribe plays directly into the hands of Russia.

I’m trying to imagine what the Republican Party hierarchy would do if, say, Barack H. Obama had done any of the things that his immediate successor has done. They would collapse into spasms of apoplexy. They would call for the president’s head on a platter. They would impeach him in a New York nano-second.

This is a strange new world, dear reader. It’s making me nervous.

The president of the United States is supposed to be a source of wisdom, stability and dignity. Instead, we have someone at the top of our governmental chain of command who has turned everything on its head.

What’s more, the political party with which he is affiliated is buying into it. The Russians are the good guys now? We are scolding our allies and giving comfort to our No. 1 adversary?

Wow!

It’s only a beginning, however …

Well, so far so good. Maybe. Possibly. We can hold our breath now.

Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un — the leaders of two enemy nations — have met, shaken hands and have signed an agreement that commits North Korea to reaching a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula.

That means eventual “denuclearization.” It means an end to “war games” with U.S. and South Korean forces practicing ways they can fend off a potential attack from the North; the president called the exercises “provocative.”

Where in the name of world peace to we go from here?

Perhaps the bigger question is whether we can trust the North Korean dictator — who’s killed dissenters by the thousands and ordered the murder of members of his own family — to keep his word.

The president, in an extraordinary — and frankly, incredulous — about-face, has called Kim an “honorable” man. He said his people “love” him. Really, Mr. President? They love this guy?

President Reagan used to invoke a Russian saying that translated loosely means “trust, but verify.” I am waiting for signs that our side has instituted any verification mechanisms to validate the pledges that Kim has made to Donald Trump.

Maybe they’re in there, somewhere, hidden from public view.

Then again, maybe the president of the United States has been taken for a ride.

Still, this first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean despot holds enormous promise.

Or … it might all explode.

Now we wait.

Self-pardoning: prescription for disaster

Why in the name of political hyperbole did Donald J. Trump broach the subject of “self-pardoning”?

He did. The president has declared that he has the authority to pardon himself, but then said immediately afterward that there’s no reason to do so. Why? He’s done “nothing wrong,” he said.

OK, then. I get that, Mr. President.

But I ask again: Why in the hell did he say such a thing in the first place?

Trump is no lawyer. He’s got a team of legal eagles supposedly helping him wade through the morass that keeps slowing him down. I’m wondering if the legal team is able to shut this guy up, to persuade him to stop yapping gratuitously on matters of which he has no understanding.

The president has triggered yet another national discussion about his potential criminality. Why? For what purpose? I don’t understand where this discussion is going and whether Trump is trying to instigate a potential constitutional crisis.

The talk around the nation now includes whether the president actually believe he is “above the law.” Oh, man. He isn’t. He ought to know that. His lawyers damn sure ought to know it.

This idiocy about self-pardoning has to presume he has done something wrong.

You know, presidents have been known to take subordinates to the “woodshed,” as President Reagan famously did with then-budget director David Stockman back in the early 1980s. I don’t expect it to happen, but is there anyone close to the current presidential clown who’s able to take the boss out back to slap some sense into his coiffed skull?