Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

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?

Please stay put, Justice Kennedy

I want to join a chorus of those who want U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay right where he is.

He is on the nation’s highest court and is reportedly, allegedly, supposedly considering retiring sometime this year.

I don’t want him to go. I want him to remain as a key “swing vote” on the court, giving it some semblance of balance. The consequences of a Kennedy departure could have — in my humble view — a potentially devastating impact on the way of life for millions of Americans.

The New York Times editorialized over the weekend about its desire that he stay on the court. Read the editorial here.

Yes, I understand that “elections have consequences.” I have taken particular note of that when previous presidents have made critical federal judicial appointments.

This president could shape the high court’s makeup for decades with yet another appointment. Donald Trump already has picked a solid conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. What would another Trump pick do? Hmm. Let’s see.

It could revoke a woman’s right to determine whether she wants to end a pregnancy; it could mean the end of same-sex marriage, which the court has determined was guaranteed under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution; it could roll back civil rights guarantees that previous courts have upheld repeatedly.

President Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy to the court in 1988. The president counted on Kennedy being a reliable “conservative” voice on the court. Kennedy hasn’t filled that bill. He has sided with conservatives and with liberals. He’s a swing vote. Kennedy presence on the court produces a certain drama as the public await key court decisions.

He’s now 81 years of age. It’s been reported that he wants to hang up his robe and spend more time with his grandchildren. I get it. Honest. I do. But why not wait another two years, until after the 2020 election? If Trump gets re-elected, then he could quit if he really wants out. If the president is not re-elected and the nation regains its political sanity and elects someone with a clue about how government works, then he surely can retire from the bench.

Just … not yet, Mr. Justice.

‘Welcome back,’ ballooning budget deficits

Ronald Reagan and his fellow Republicans made lots of hay in 1980 about the “spiraling” budget deficit during that presidential election year. It totaled a whopping $40 billion.

The GOP presidential nominee’s campaign ridiculed those big-spending Democrats en route to a smashing landslide election victory over President Jimmy Carter.

Ah, yes. Republicans were the party of “fiscal responsibility.”

Hah! Not any longer. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the current fiscal year will end with an $800 billion budget deficit and will surpass $1 trillion by the next fiscal year.

Hey, what happened? Oh, it’s that tax cut that the Republicans wrote into law — at the insistence of Donald J. Trump, and the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress.

What happened to fiscal restraint? Where are the controls on runaway government spending? Aren’t congressional Republicans — who control the House and the Senate — supposed to rein in free-spending tendencies usually associated with liberal Democrats?

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a balanced budget in the late 1990s with help from congressional Republicans. Then came Republican George W. Bush, who succeeded Clinton in 2001. We went to war at the end of that year, but didn’t increase taxes to pay for it. The deficit soared out of control.

Democrat Barack Obama came aboard in 2009 with the economy in free fall. He pushed a tax hike and a spending boost through Congress. The economy recovered. The deficit was pared by roughly two-thirds annually by the time he left office in 2017.

Now we’re hurtling back to Square One. The deficit is exploding.

And no one in power seems to care about things that used to matter a lot.

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.

Trump stokes the demagoguery machine at CPAC

Donald J. “Demagogue in Chief” Trump has fired ’em up at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He has bellowed that if Democrats take control of Congress this year they are going to “take away your Second Amendment” rights to “keep and bear arms.”

Guns are on the top of people’s minds these days. A shooter went berserk in Parkland, Fla., killing 14 students and three educators in a killing spree that has thrown the nation into grief yet again.

So what does the president do? He goes to CPAC and sows terror in the hearts of the faithful. Democrats are going after the Second Amendment, he said.

I do not think that’s going to happen. History is an important guide here. Think about this for just a moment.

Democrats controlled the White House and Congress in 1964, a year after President Kennedy was murdered with a high-powered rifle in Dallas. Did they yank the Second Amendment away then? No.

Nor did they do so after President Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in 1981.

Democrats controlled Congress and the White House in 2009 and 2010. Congressional Democrats failed to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Thus, Donald Trump is blowing it out his backside when he implies a repeal of the Second Amendment if Democrats take control of Congress. However, he had an audience that gave him lusty cheers when he tossed out that fiery rhetoric.

Are there ways to legislate some solutions to gun violence without taking away the Second Amendment? Yes. It just requires a concerted search for common ground to solve a quintessentially American crisis.

Demagoguery doesn’t cut it.

Trump needed reminder to show compassion?

Check out the picture. It shows you Donald Trump’s hands clutching some notes he held while he listened to the pleas of those who survived the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre.

I was truly ready to give the president unvarnished props for his listening to those who survived the shooting along with the loved ones of those who perished in the carnage.

Then this picture showed up.

I am struck by the last notation: “I hear you.” Yep. It seems the president needed crib notes to remind him to offer a word of compassion to the grieving survivors and family members.

I almost don’t know how to respond to this.

OK, I won’t beat up the president too savagely over this. I have a reason. He is far from the only politician to rely on notes.

Do you remember how President Reagan would carry 3-by-5 note cards into Cabinet meetings? How he would glance at them to remind him of the talking points he wanted to address?

Get this, too: A man who represented me in Congress used the same technique when he came to visit our editorial board at the Beaumont Enterprise in Southeast Texas.

The late Rep. Jack Brooks was a ferocious Democrat who pretty much detested almost any Republican he encountered. Brooks was not the least bit bashful about denigrating Ronald Reagan’s intelligence. He actually would chide the president over the way he depended on those note cards.

Brooks, though, did precisely the same thing when he sat down with us to talk about the issues of the day. Actually, Brooks often would launch lengthy soliloquies using the notes he held in front of him.

That all said, I get that Donald Trump is employing a tactic that others have done.

I’ll just add a final thought. The only reason I mention this at all is because the president has insisted many times since running for office that he is “like, a really smart person” who knows “the best words” and who attended “the best schools.”

Does an intelligent, well-spoken, well-educated man really need note cards to remind himself to say “I hear you”?

I guess this one does.

Deficit hawks have turned chicken

What has happened to the deficit hawks who used to dominate the Republican Party?

They have become chicken hawks, or just plain chicken.

Congressional Republicans used to rant, rail and express rage over budget deficits. Ronald Reagan derived a lot political advantage in 1980 by ridiculing the $40 billion budget deficit run up annually during the Carter administration.

Fast-forward to the present day.

Republicans are going to enact a tax cut that will blow up the deficit. It will add $1 trillion — or so — to the deficit over the next decade. That’s $100 billion annually.

But here’s the ironic aspect of this deficit business.

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a budget that produced a surplus by the end of his presidency. He had help from Republicans in Congress, but the point is that the president and the GOP congressional leadership managed to cooperate and work together for a common good.

Another Democrat, Barack Obama, also managed to take huge bites out of a trillion-dollar-plus annual budget deficit. By the time President Obama left office, the budget deficit had been slashed by about two-thirds annually.

There were tax increases along with targeted budget cuts.

Did the GOP members of Congress give the president any credit? Nope. Didn’t happen. They instead changed the subject by targeting the Affordable Care Act, concocting reports of “dismal failure.”

But here we are today. A new president has taken over. He has sought desperately to achieve some kind of legislative “victory.” Republicans in both congressional chambers are poised to give it to him.

At what cost? Oh, yes. The deficit is set to grow once again. The one-time Party of Fiscal Responsibility has changed it stripes.

A serious political maverick has passed from the scene

John McCain likes wearing the “maverick” label.

In truth, U.S. Sen. McCain is a novice in the league of mavericks compared to one who has just died.

I refer to former U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson, the one-time Illinois arch-conservative Republican-turned civil rights activist. Anderson died Monday at the age of 95.

He is best known as an independent presidential candidate who, after losing the GOP nomination to Ronald Reagan, ran for president on his own. He didn’t win any electoral votes in 1980. He did, however, post the seventh-best independent candidate’s finish in the history of presidential elections.

I became smitten by the thought of this candidate actually winning the presidency. President Carter was under heavy criticism for (a) his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis and (b) the national economy. I couldn’t vote for Ronald Reagan. So I began to look at Anderson’s candidacy.

I knew about his beginning as a staunch conservative Republican congressman and his early opposition to the Civil Rights Act. I also witnessed his transformation from his former self to what he became.

He was a maverick’s maverick.

I was editor of the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier during the 1980 campaign. I consulted with the No. 2 man in the newsroom and we concluded that Anderson was the best of the three men running for president. With that, I drafted an editorial endorsement of Rep. Anderson. I turned it in to the publisher.

It took my boss no time at all to kick it back to me. “No can do,” he said. “We’re going with Reagan,” he informed me. So … we did.

But I gave it my best shot.

During that campaign, Anderson delivered a speech in which he said, in part: “The credit belongs to the man (who knows) the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause, who if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

John Anderson the maverick was neither “cold” or “timid.” He delivered his policy statements in a booming voice.

And to this day, I still believe he was the best choice in 1980.

Ronald Reagan would be aghast at GOP’s internal strife

I wasn’t a fan of President Ronald Reagan. I voted against him twice, in 1980 and 1984.

As the years have gone on and as I look back at the late president’s legacy, I am struck by one element of the manner in which he governed. He governed with a measure of good will toward his foes.

Yes, he could blister liberal Democrats with the best of ’em. He did so with a touch of humor. You’ve heard as well about his personal friendship with the late Democratic U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.

President Reagan also crafted what he called the “11th Commandment,” which was that “Republicans shall not speak ill of other Republicans.”

That “commandment” has been tossed into the crapper, onto the scrap heap, burned, torn to shreds. You name it, today’s Republican Party has abandoned the 11th Commandment with a vengeance.

Don’t misunderstand: I don’t have a particular interest in seeing Republicans lock arms, hug each other’s necks, sing from the same hymnal page. I’m just amazed as I watch GOP officials lambaste each other how irrelevant their idol’s admonition has become in today’s climate.

The most glaring and daring example of Republican cannibalism involves Roy Moore, the Alabama candidate for the U.S. Senate. He is accused of making improper advances on underage girls. Congressional GOP leaders want nothing to do with this guy. Moore in return as all but declared political war on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; other senators are backing McConnell, with many — if not most — of them withdrawing their endorsement of Moore. They believe the accusers’ account of what Moore allegedly did.

What might the former president think of all this? What might President Reagan say to his fellow Republicans? Indeed, would the president stand with the Alabama candidate or would he choose to believe the man’s accusers?

This isn’t The Gipper’s Republican Party. Of that I am certain. Indeed, my strong hunch is that President Reagan’s affection for the likes of Speaker O’Neill might subject this once-beloved political figure to much of the intraparty condemnation he once banned.