Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

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?

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.