Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Whatever happened to the Republican Party?

Oh, yoo-hoo! Are you out there, somewhere, Republican Party members, folks who once stood for principles that appear to have been vanquished and trampled asunder in this Age of Donald John Trump?

I have been looking for those folks for some time. To no avail, I am afraid to admit. You remember how those good folks. If not, I’ll offer a reminder.

I think of the Republicans of 1980 and those of 1994. They presented candidates and platforms that represented a specific ideology and point of view.

The Grand Old Party in 1980 was led by a former B-movie actor-turned California governor, Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan. Gov. Reagan became the Republican nominee that year. He and his party then proceeded to savage President Jimmy Carter because he had the temerity to stand watch while the federal budget ran a deficit of $43 billion in that election year.

Fort-three billion bucks, man! Why, you’d have thought the nation was heading for bankruptcy to hear the Republicans tell it.

Fast-forward 40 years and the budget deficit this year is going to top $1 trillion. Yes, a Republican is now president of the United States. Where is the outcry? Where are the calls for fiscal restraint?

The sound of crickets you are hearing is the sound of a political party that has tossed aside the principle of fiscal efficiency because its members have become beholden to the man who leads the party, the man who before he ran for president had no discernible connection to the party under whose banner he ran for the only public office he ever has sought.

Amazing, yes? I believe so.

Then the GOP of 1994 came and went. These were the politicians who campaigned for Congress on the Character Matters mantra. The object of their scorn in that election year was a Democratic president who had been elected two years earlier despite allegations of womanizing. Bill Clinton won the 1992 election and then two years later, the GOP — led by a House backbench flamethrower named Newt Gingrich — set about campaigning on the Character Matters platform.

Republicans won control of both congressional houses that year, then sought the impeachment of President Clinton, ostensibly after seeking the goods on a scandal called Whitewater, a real estate deal that caught the GOP’s attention. The probe ended up producing a tawdry relationship between the president and a White House intern. Clinton took an oath to tell the truth to a grand jury, then he lied to jurors. Perjury! Clinton broke the law! Then he got impeached. He stood trial and was acquitted in early 1999.

Well, that version of the Republican Party has vanished, too. Gingrich became speaker of the House after the 1994 congressional takeover, then the GOP lost seats in Congress in the 1998 midterm election, all while Gingrich was being revealed as a philanderer … even as he was bemoaning the president’s crappy conduct.

It’s gotten worse. The GOP these days rallies behind a president who makes all of that seem like schoolyard frolic.

So, I have to ask: What in the world has become of a once-great political party?

How would The Gipper fare in today’s GOP?

A social media post commemorating the election 39 years ago today of Ronald Reagan as our nation’s 40th president prompted me to wonder: How would President Reagan fare in what passes today as the Republican Party?

My hunch? Not well.

I will stipulate that I did not vote for Reagan in 1980 or in 1984. He won both elections in historic landslide proportions.

However, I acknowledge readily that Ronald Reagan was authentic. He adhered to what I believe are traditional GOP principles and policies. He sought to reduce government spending. He sought to reduce taxes. He believed in a strong national defense.

Most of all, though, he detested communism and the governments that promote what he considered to be an “evil” philosophy.

That brings me to the point of this blog: President Reagan would be aghast and appalled at Donald Trump’s flirtation with the direct descendants of the Evil Empire, aka the Soviet Union.

I get that Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and forged a partnership of sorts with him. However, the president never took his eye off the threat that the USSR posed to us militarily.

I also am trying to picture a moment where Ronald Reagan would declare in public that he trusted the word of a Soviet leader over the word of our nation’s intelligence experts. Suppose the CIA had determined that the Soviets had attacked our election in an effort to influence its outcome … and that the intelligence network had blamed the Soviets for its all-out attack on our electoral system. Who do you think Reagan would believe, our spooks or the commies?

You know the answer. Thus, for Donald Trump to pretend to be a Republican who endorses traditional Republican policies regarding our nation’s adversaries is, well, laughable on its face.

Except that no one should be laughing.

Today’s Republican Party bears no resemblance to The Gipper’s GOP. It has been hijacked by a flim-flam artist, a charlatan and a fraud. To that extent, Donald Trump makes me actually miss President Reagan.

Imagine that. I know. It’s weird.

Happy birthday, Mr. President

James Earl Carter is a force of nature.

He builds houses for poor people; he writes books; he lectures Americans on the value of ethics in politics; he teaches Sunday school at his rural Georgia church; he has monitored elections around the world; he lives modestly with his wife of more than seven decades.

Today he becomes the oldest former president of the United States. He already holds the record for living the longest past the time he left office; he exited the White House in 1981, which means he has lived 38 years past his presidency.

President Carter turns 95.

He has beaten cancer. He ran for president more than four decades ago, defeating a crowded field of Democratic Party primary foes. He ran a tough and bitter race against an embattled incumbent, Gerald R. Ford, and won with 297 electoral votes, which reflected his narrow popular vote majority; he and President Ford would then forge a friendship that lasted until Ford’s death in 2006.

President Carter lost his bid for re-election in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but he didn’t skulk off to pout over his loss. Instead he poured his energy into building the Carter Center in Atlanta and then building houses for Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based organization that does the Lord’s work around the world.

I will not engage in a debate over whether he was a successful president. I will say that he has been the most consequential former president in the past century, or maybe even longer than that.

President Carter is getting lots of good wishes from around the country and the world today. This good and godly man deserves all of them.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

When did GOP surrender its anti-Russia standing?

Those of us who are old enough to remember such things must be wondering: What has become of the Republican Party’s historic animosity toward Russia?

The party of Ike, Nixon and Reagan has become squishier than the Democrats were during those earlier eras. Russia — which once was known as the Soviet Union — attacked our electoral system in 2016. They did with malicious intent to disrupt our process and sow discontent among Americans about the integrity of our voting system.

They have succeeded.

Democrats now are incensed. Republicans? They are silent.

Democrats are pushing for measures in Congress that would strengthen electoral integrity and security. Republican leaders are blocking it.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller III told the nation that Russians not only attacked our 2016 electoral system in “sweeping” and “systematic” fashion, but are in the process of attacking our system at this moment.

The GOP leadership in Congress — and in the White House — are acting as if, “Hey, no big deal!”

History reminds us that in the days of Dwight Eisenhower, we shored up our military to counter the Soviet Union’s aspirations to become he world’s greatest power. Then came Richard Nixon, the noted communist-hater who made no apologies for his hatred and mistrust of the Soviet leadership. After that, the nation heard Ronald Reagan refer to the USSR as the “evil empire” and once joked into an open mic that he had just “outlawed Russia; bombing begins in five minutes.”

These days the equation has been flipped on its ear. Republicans give Russians a pass on the attack they have launched on our electoral system. Democrats have become the hardliners.

I believe this is a manifestation of the Donald Trump Era of national politics. What once was “normal” no longer is normal. Conduct we used to abhor has become part of what we believe is a “new normal.”

Russian attacks on our political system that used to become fodder for Republican politicians’ ire have become reasons for them to zip their lips. They say nothing. Meanwhile, the Democrats have become the hardliners.

What gives?

Trump ends radio addresses … does anyone care?

First, I will make an admission.

I rarely listened to a presidential radio speech as it was being broadcast. I do so maybe twice dating back to the Reagan administration (1981-89).

Presidents dating back to Franklin Roosevelt — who revived the tradition when he took office in 1933 — would record these messages to be broadcast across the country.

President George H.W. Bush didn’t follow up on President Reagan’s consistent delivery of the message. Then came Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama, all of whom were faithful to the habit of talking to Americans directly over the radio airwaves about policy matters.

Donald Trump, though, has tossed the practice aside. Are you surprised? Neither am I.

He relies on Twitter to announce policy decisions, usually with mangled syntax, misspelled words, lots of capitalization and extraneous punctuation.

I find it mildly distressing that Trump would discontinue the weekly radio speechmaking. After all, they have been known to make a bit of news. Media report on what the president says and on occasion they might say something newsworthy enough to make us sit up and pay careful attention.

Trump sees, I’ll presume, as a waste of time. Probably like those daily presidential national security briefings he once told us he didn’t need to hear. He asked, rhetorically, “What’s the point?” He had no need to listen to someone on his national security team tell him something he said he already knew, Trump said.

I mean, he did tell us he knew “more about ISIS than the generals.” Isn’t that what he said?

Being something of a presidential traditionalist, I would prefer a return to the weekly radio speeches, rather than the Twitter tirades that are replete with misspellings, assorted nonsensical rants and, oh yeah, a total absence of credibility.

Trump met Reagan, but Reagan never said this

Donald Trump’s lying is becoming more expected all the time, if not quite acceptable.

For instance, Trump today retweeted a message that contained this statement, supposedly from President Ronald Reagan:

“When I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president.” 

Except that President Reagan didn’t say it. There is no quote attributed to the late 40th president making such a statement about the young real estate investor he met in the late 1980s. The Reagan Library says the statement is false. Politifact calls the statement a “Pants on Fire” lie.

Oh, but here’s the deal: Donald Trump’s glossary of Pants on Fire lies has grown to unfathomable proportions. Trump tells these lies and they seem to roll off our collective backs.

Trump tells a whopper? Hey, it’s no longer a big deal. He defames individuals with scurrilous gossip and innuendo? No sweat, man. Trump mischaracterizes historical events with more lies? Pfftt! Who cares?

Well, I care. So should you. So should any American who believes truth-telling ought to be an essential requirement in the individual who takes an oath to defend and protect us against our enemies and to honor the Constitution of the United States.

Telling the truth is not part of this president’s DNA. He cannot speak the truth. He dredges up fabrications, such as what he did today with that ridiculous lie about President Reagan. I am forced to ask: To what end? For what purpose? Why does this man insist on lying when he need not do so?

So help me, this man makes me sick.

Harris scores big, but now faces some blowback

Kamala Harris pounded Joe Biden with some serious body blows at that debate this past week. The U.S. senator and former California attorney general caught the former senator and former vice president flat footed when she questioned him about his senatorial relationships with avowed segregationists.

Oh, my. Then came the initial response. Harris now is on the front rank of Democratic challengers to Donald Trump. Her fans think better of her, if that’s possible. Biden’s fans initially were somewhat dismayed.

Now, though, the senator is getting a bit of push back, some resistance from those who think she might have let her ambition get the better of her. She shouldn’t have gone low with that attack against the ex-VP, some are saying.

Let’s play this out for a moment.

Suppose Biden remains the favorite among Democrats. Suppose, too, he gets the party’s presidential nomination in the summer of 2020. Who would he choose as his running mate. One Biden anonymous supporter said, “That sh** ain’t happening.”

Really? Let’s see. George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy “voodoo economics” when the two of them ran for the Republican nomination in 1980. Reagan then selected Bush to run with him; they served as a team for two terms and Bush got elected president in 1988.

Oh, then we had Biden running against Barack Obama in 2008. They fought hard for as long as Biden was in the hunt. Then the Delaware U.S. senator dropped out. Democrats nominated Sen. Obama — who then chose Biden to run with him. You know the rest of it.

Moral of the story? If Biden gets nominated, do not count out Sen. Kamala Harris as a potential running mate.

Biden stumbles, but he didn’t knock himself out

Well, there you go. Former Vice President Joe Biden had to know one of his presidential campaign foes would come after him for his vote on busing and his tepid acknowledgement of working with segregationist senators back in the day.

Still, he seemed flummoxed when Sen. Kamala Harris challenged him directly during last night’s Democratic presidential debate on the busing matter. Biden’s response was that he voted against the busing measure in the Senate only because it was being dictated by the Department of Education.

Still, Harris came off as the winner of that exchange. Biden, the clear frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, came up short.

Is this the end of Biden’s bid? Hardly.

Leave it to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican no less, to put it in perspective, which he did this morning.

Christie noted that in 1984, President Reagan suffered through a terrible debate performance against former VP Walter Mondale while campaigning for re-election; Reagan stumbled, bumbled and mumbled his way through forgetful efforts to answer questions. He also noted that President Obama had a horrible debate showing against Mitt Romney in 2012 when he was running for re-election.

They both came back, Christie said, with Reagan winning re-election in a 49-state landslide and Obama winning a second term with a surprisingly comfortable margin.

The message? One stumble does not doom a presidential candidacy. It’s still early and Joe Biden will have plenty of opportunity to regain his footing.

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.