Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Dole reminded us of a kinder past

Robert Dole’s death has thrown me into the realm of recalling what another great American politician once referred to as a “kinder, gentler” time, when politics and politicians weren’t stained by hatred.

Dole died this past weekend at age 98. His death wasn’t a shock. We all knew it was coming soon. I mean, the man was nearly a century old and as they say, none of us gets out of here alive. He also had been ill with cancer, and I knew that, too.

Still, his passing reminds me of how politicians formerly conducted their business. They fought hard for their policies and their philosophy. Yet they managed somehow to maintain personal relationships with those with whom they fought while they were on the clock.

That seems to sum up the late Sen. Dole’s professional life.

One of the remarkable pieces of video I have seen since Dole’s death was of his accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the man who just a few weeks earlier had defeated him in the 1996 presidential election. President Clinton draped the medal around Dole’s neck and the beaten Republican nominee stood for a moment, then said, “I, Robert J. Dole … do solemnly swear.” He brought the house down. Then he said, “Oops. Wrong speech.” He also told the still-laughing crowd that he expected President Clinton to “give me something” when he arrived at the White House, but that he had hoped it would be “the keys to the front door.”

Can you imagine (a) Joe Biden ever awarding the man he defeated for the presidency the nation’s highest civilian medal and (b) Donald Trump accepting it with the kind of class that Bob Dole did in receiving it from the man who defeated him for the office he coveted?

The Donald Trump Era in presidential politics ushered in a new age of extreme animus. Indeed, Sen. Dole exemplified the quality of men and women who once led this country. They did so with class and dignity, which drew praise from their foes, even as they continued to disagree over basic policy matters.

I am going to hold out hope — being the eternal optimist I am — that we can find our way back to the way it was. Meanwhile, I will offer a word of thanks to Sen. Dole for reminding us of the lessons he taught us about graciousness and class.


Another hero has departed

A former U.S. senator, presidential and vice-presidential candidate, and World War II hero has left us and the world he leaves behind should mourn its loss forever.

I refer to Robert Dole, the one-time senator from Kansas.

Oh, my. He was a Republican tough guy who emerged from the crucible of world conflict to become eventually a statesman and a man who built solid relationships and friendships across the vast span of the political spectrum.

To be candid about Dole, he leaves behind a complicated legacy.

He was wounded grievously near the end of World War II. He lost the use of his right arm. He rehabilitated himself after the war ended. Dole would run eventually for Congress, ending up in the Senate.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford selected him to run as vice president as Ford sought election to the presidency. During a vice-presidential debate with his friend Sen. Walter Mondale, Dole blurted out a remark about how the nation had suffered during “Democrat wars,” saying that Democratic presidents were on the watch when World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War all broke out. It was an unfortunate analogy to make.

He snarled at Vice President George H.W. Bush on national TV — against whom he was competing for the 1988 GOP nomination for president — telling Bush to “stop lying about my record.”

Over time, though, Dole’s image softened. He morphed into an elder statesman, an individual to whom other politicians — of both parties — turned for advice and counsel. His good humor replaced the occasionally tart tenor of his comments.

He ran for president in 1996 as the GOP nominee, challenging President Clinton’s re-election effort. I did not vote for Dole. However, I want to stipulate in the strongest terms possible that I never lost my abiding respect for the service and sacrifice he gave to the country we all love.

His brand of politician, I hate saying, is vanishing before our eyes.

May this good and heroic man rest in eternal peace.


Character still matters

Do you remember a time when Republican politicians recited the mantra that “character matters”?

I do. It became vogue when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton sought to become president in 1992. Republicans got wind of some alleged indiscretions involving the young governor. They whipped it all into a frenzied rally cry that sought to undermine the candidate’s presidential aspirations.

Well, character still matters. Except that Republicans have gone deaf and blind on what the rest of us have seen about a prominent GOP politician. That would be … umm, Donald J. Trump.

The former POTUS is an admitted sexual assailant; an admitted philanderer; he has denigrated prisoners of war, calling them “suckers” and “losers.”

Character, anyone? Yeah, it still matters now just as it did in the early 1990s when Republicans sought to make character an issue in another presidential campaign.

Except that these days the GOP is turning away while one of its own flouts the very institutions he once vowed to preserve and protect. His lack of character also revealed itself when he disparaged a great American, Colin Powell, only hours after the great man’s death.


What will we say when it happens?

My mind does have this way of wandering into strange places on occasion, which I think is a consequence of being retired; too much time on my hands and too much time for my noggin to venture where it doesn’t usually go.

For example, I have been thinking about the day Donald J. Trump departs this good Earth. Hey, it’s gonna happen!

Tradition and custom usually mean that when political figures check out, politicians of all stripes gather to say generous things about the newly departed. When President Nixon died, the current president, Bill Clinton — obviously no fan of the deceased POTUS — gave a stirring eulogy at his funeral in California. President Obama did the same when he spoke at the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral in 2018.

Then again, how does one muster up the good will to speak charitably about a president who has spent his entire political career trashing, denigrating, defaming others? Most of his victims have been fellow pols.

I am not really wishing it to happen any sooner than it inevitably will. I simply am thinking out loud about the prospects when the opportunity presents itself.


‘Compartmentalize,’ Mr. POTUS-elect

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Part of President Clinton’s success in the White House involved his ability to “compartmentalize” his relationships with political foes, including the politicians who sought his removal from office via impeachment after he messed around with a White House intern.

Clinton was able to set whatever personal animus he had for those individuals and work constructively with them to, oh, balance the federal budget and keep the economy steaming merrily along.

President Biden might encounter a similar challenge when he takes office in 16 days. At this moment, 11 Republican senators and 140 House members want to challenge his duly constituted election as president of the United States. They are dancing to the tune being called by the Seditionist in Chief, Donald Trump, who continues to rouse the rabbles by insisting there was voter fraud … where there wasn’t. Not even a little bit!

I am appalled to say that the Senate GOP ringleader appears to be the Cruz Missile, Texas’s junior senator Ted Cruz, who has managed to make me detest him more now than when he first entered the Senate.

Joe Biden has built a lengthy list of professional relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the great divide. He served for 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president. The man knows the players, he knows what makes ’em tick, can find their hot buttons without even trying.

He also will have to deal forthrightly with their insurgency, with the aim of subverting a legal, free and fair election. They want an “audit” of the results in several states before certifying the Electoral College vote this week. They won’t get the audit, but those 151 members of Congress will be on the record insisting on getting it.

How will the new president work with them? He must be able to compartmentalize those relationships the way President Clinton was able to do during his two successful terms in office.

If he can do that and give Americans the kind of leadership and governance that’s been missing for the past four years, President Biden will be able to craft a highly successful tenure in the nation’s highest office.

Here is hoping for President Biden’s success right out of the chute.

Let’s look closely at alleged treason, OK?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Social media memes have this way of occasionally telling us startling truths about issues of the day.

For instance, a meme showed up on my Facebook news feed this morning that offered some advice to the nation looking at possible crimes committed by Donald Trump, the outgoing president of the United States.

It says we should examine “possible treason as thoroughly” as the nation investigated whether a previous president was, um, pleasured by a White House intern.

President Clinton got impeached for his dalliance with a young woman, but not until a special prosecutor revealed his findings while examining other alleged misdeeds involving the president.

Fast-forward to the present day. Donald Trump is being investigated for a wide variety of alleged crimes. The probe is occurring in state jurisdictions. The allegations go far more deeply than what Bill Clinton did more than two decades ago. They involve possible treason and betrayal of the nation’s security … by the president!

Is that worth the time, the effort and, yes, the expense of a thorough investigation?

Yes. I believe it is.

Character should matter

It was several lifetimes ago when Republicans would declare that “character matters” when electing a president of the United States.

Do you remember those days? Bill Clinton was campaigning for president. He got elected in 1992. He ran for re-election in 1996. In both campaigns, GOP officials said Clinton’s checkered personal history should disqualify him for election and re-election.

GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996 once shouted indignantly, “Where is the outrage?” 

That was then. These days a Republican president is running for re-election. Donald Trump’s character doesn’t appear to be an issue with Republicans. They ignore the jaw-dropping deficiencies in this incumbent’s character. They remain deafeningly silent when issues arise about Trump’s lying, his treatment of allies, his mistreatment of women, his astounding boorishness.

None of it matters to many among this generation of Republicans.

Now, I say that knowing full well that a number of prominent GOP public figures have signed on with Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign. They are the likes of former GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, former congresswoman Susan Molinari and a host of longstanding Republican political operatives, such as Mitt Romney ally Stuart Stevens, Weekly Standard founder William Kristol and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will.

So many rank-and-file Republicans, though, remain hitched to the wagon being pulled by Donald Trump.

Trump’s lying continues to rankle me beyond my ability to express my outrage. It is the incessant lying that has drawn the attention of Joe Biden, who vows to restore “the soul” of the nation.

We need a president who can tell us the truth even when the truth hurts. Trump lies about the pandemic, he ignores the immense cost it has levied against us in terms of illness and death. Trump cannot tell us the truth about the misery that so many Americans are enduring.

Trump cannot speak the truth about suffering. His character, or lack of character, won’t allow him to even acknowledge out loud that “Black Lives Matter.” And do not misconstrue what I am saying here. I am not suggesting that “black lives matter” more than anyone else’s lives. Nor does the movement suggest as much, either.

Trump won’t go there. Why? His version of character doesn’t allow it. Meanwhile, the Republican Party faithful are OK with that.

Doesn’t character matter any longer?

Trump’s absence: the ‘new normal’?

As I have sought to process the day’s big event, the funeral of civil rights hero/icon/legend John Lewis, I pondered the absence of one individual who one could have presumed should have been there.

Donald J. Trump was not in Atlanta today to pay tribute to John Lewis, the former congressman and human rights activist who died at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. Oh, no. Trump was in Washington, tweeting messages seeking to undermine the voting rights gains for which Lewis fought, and bled.

It’s becoming something of a “new normal” in this Age of Trump as president of the United States. He was disinvited to the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain. Trump attended the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, but we didn’t hear a word from him. Now, the Lewis funeral. Trump declared he had no intention of honoring Lewis while he lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

I thought about past funerals of high-profile political figures. I recalled the presence of President Lyndon Johnson at the funeral of a man he hated beyond measure, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. I remembered the funeral of President Richard Nixon and recalled one of the tributes paid to him by President Bill Clinton, who told us that we must not judge his predecessor’s public life by just one episode, but by its entire history. I remember, too, when former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower patched up their bitter differences while attending the funeral of their successor, President John F. Kennedy. The two old war horses realized in that moment that life was too short and too precious for them to continue hating each other.

Donald Trump clearly would not have been welcomed at John Lewis’s funeral. He once chided Lewis for supposedly being “all talk and no action.” Trump ignored the beatings that Lewis endured while seeking to guarantee the rights of black Americans to vote in free and fair elections.

So it fell to three of Trump’s predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to speak of their friend and a man who will be remembered as a legend in his own time … and beyond. 

Donald Trump? He was left to sulk in the background.

Trump reaps what he has sown

I had to laugh out loud when right-wing media began criticizing former President Obama’s discreetly worded criticism of the way Donald Trump has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why, the right-wing pundits just couldn’t understand how a former president would dare criticize a sitting president, particularly as he is up to his armpits (supposedly) fighting the pandemic.

Indeed, Obama has been quiet about Trump until only recently, when he took a couple of verbal pot shots at Trump during two virtual graduation commencement speeches he delivered via television to a national audience.

The three other living presidential predecessors — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — have remained quiet.

But here’s the deal. Donald Trump has expended more verbal energy, not to mention Twitter characters, vilifying the efforts of Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton.

If it’s fair to criticize President Obama for talking trash about Donald Trump, it’s also fair to criticize Trump for the profound disrespect he has shown to the men who preceded him in the nation’s highest office.

Did Barack Obama ever criticize George W. Bush specifically, by name, with epithets while he struggled to rebuild an economy in free fall right after he took over as president? Yes, he has talked about the economic peril he inherited, but he also has thanked President Bush for his many years of service to the nation.

Did George W. Bush ever say a word publicly about Bill Clinton, who he succeeded in 2001?

And did Bill Clinton ever criticize his immediate predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, after taking over from him in 1993? Indeed, the two of them became dear friends, with Clinton declaring that he became a sort of “wayward son” to George and Barbara Bush.

Instead, with the current president, we hear a constant drumbeat of profound disrespect and denigration of the effort his predecessors all devoted to the oath they took to defend and protect Americans.

So what, then, if Barack Obama had offered some veiled criticism of Donald Trump? He had it coming.

This is how you reflect on national crisis

Twenty-five years ago a madman ignited a bomb at a federal courthouse in Oklahoma City.

The blast killed 167 men, women … and children. It tore at the nation’s soul. It broke our hearts. The madman would be arrested soon afterward. He was put on trial, convicted and then executed for his crime against humanity.

I want to share this video of President Bill Clinton, who went to OKC five years ago to mark the 20th year since that horrifying event. I ask you to take a few moments to listen to the former president’s remarks.

I also want to call your attention to a story he told of a former Oklahoma governor, on whose watch this tragedy occurred. The governor is a Republican; the former president is a Democrat. They are dear friends who made each other’s acquaintance in college many years ago.

They had a partisan political beef that lasted until, as President Clinton said, “Oklahoma City” occurred. Then their differences disappeared, Clinton said, amid the heartbreak, leaving all Americans to deal only with each other’s “humanity.”

There’s a profound lesson to be learned from these remarks.