Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Take your MAGA … and shove it!

You have to hand it to Donald J. Trump. He has produced a slogan that has morphed into an all-purpose acronym that one can use in more than one fashion.

I refer to “Make America Great Again,” which has become MAGA to those of us who comment frequently about the president’s campaign mantra.

Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 while vowing to MAGA.

He uses it all the time to remind his adoring throngs that he is MAGA — or “making America great again.”

I have found the acronym to be a rather creative item to toss around.

I prefer using MAGA as a verb. You know, kind of like this: Hey, let’s MAGA, you and me. We can do this!

MAGA as a noun is a bit more problematic, but it’s not without its uses. Try this on: I am proud to be a MAGA.

Or, how about as an adjective? We MAGA supporters are going to keep the White House when the president is re-elected. Surely, too, you’ve seen the “MAGA hats” sitting atop people’s heads or the “MAGA shirts” that cover their torsos.

I must acknowledge something about MAGA: Trump isn’t the first recent presidential candidate to make such a vow. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton declared during their 1980 and 1992 campaigns to win the White House to “make America great again.” The slogan didn’t morph into acronym form, though, when they said it.

OK, that all said, the president’s re-election slogan presumes he already has MAGA. So now he’s going to run on his vow to “Keep America Great.”

KAG, though, just doesn’t have the same ring.

‘I, alone’ is turning out to be a prophetic boast

I believe successful governing is a team sport.

At the highest level of U.S. government, it involves two of three branches working hand in glove to find common ground. The executive branch and the legislative branch develop relationships at the top of their respective chains of command.

Presidents become friendly with the speaker of the House and the Senate leadership. They need not become friends, but friendliness does not require actual friendship. When they belong to competing parties, that relationship becomes even more critical.

However, that’s changing. It changed when Donald J. Trump took the presidential oath in January 2017. Now he is competing with a House of Reps that is run by the competing party. Trump and the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, do not get along.

Sigh . . .

I long for the way it used to be when President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill would savage each other publicly, then slip into the House cloak room for an adult beverage after hours. They reportedly would laugh about the language they used on each other. They understood how to govern. O’Neill was the crusty Democratic pol with decades of experience in Washington. Reagan was new to D.C., but had eight years of governmental executive experience as governor of California.

Oh, man, it’s all different now. The speaker has decades of experience legislating. Pelosi is tough, shrewd, steely. Donald Trump also is new to Washington, but he doesn’t have a clue about governing and how to negotiate with the other side. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, also expresses extreme distaste for Trump as president.

Trump told the Republican convention in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair what ails the nation. No, he cannot. However, he’s trying like hell to make that boast come true.

It will not work. It cannot possibly work. Donald Trump is not a team player. A man with not a single moment of public service experience before becoming president of the United States cannot possibly do what needs to be done all by himself.

The nation is going to suffer for as long as this individual remains in its highest elected political office.

How might Joe Biden channel The Gipper? Here’s how

Joe Biden is the political star of the moment.

Democrats are waiting with bated breath for the former vice president to declare his expected candidacy for the presidency of the United States. He’s dropping hints all over the place that he’s decided to make one final run for the top job.

Oh, and then we have former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke who’s playing a similar cat-and-mouse game with Democrats and the media. He, too, is sounding and looking like a candidate in the making.

Here’s my thought about all of that.

Biden is in his late 70s; Beto is in his mid-40s. I harken back to 1976 when former California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged President Ford for the Republican presidential nomination.

Gov. Reagan shook things up a good bit by naming Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Richard Schweiker as his running mate prior to the GOP nominating convention in Kansas City, Mo.

Is there an avenue for Biden to select O’Rourke as his VP running mate and the two of them could run as a ticket for the Democratic Party’s nomination next year?

Oh, probably not. If they both run for POTUS, they’re going to run against each other. Then one of them will drop out. Maybe they both will, which of course makes this whole notion a moot point.

But suppose Biden’s support among rank-and-file Democratic voters holds up and he secures the nomination next year in Milwaukee. I could see him declare that he would serve just one term and then he could select someone such as Beto as his running mate.

Biden would be the candidate who could clear out the Trump wreckage. Beto would be the candidate of the future who could carry Biden’s message past the president’s single term.

This is not a prediction. It’s merely a scenario that has played out before. Granted, Ronald Reagan didn’t get the GOP nomination in 1976. He laid the groundwork, though, for his 1980 campaign and subsequent landslide victory over President Carter.

I believe that if Biden runs, this will be it. If so, then he could have a ready-made successor waiting in the wings.

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.

‘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.

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!