Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Recall the old ways, legislators

As the Texas Legislature prepares to commence its 88th legislative assembly next month, I would like to offer this brief admonition.

It is that Texas state government works best when legislators from both major parties find common ground, work under rules that give the minority party a slice of power and find compromise whenever possible.

I have a nagging feeling that today’s legislative leadership is going to heed the saber-rattling that comes from the Freedom Caucus, the TEA party, the MAGA crowd and assorted right-wing fruitcakes as they prepare to legislate their way through this 140-day session.

It need not be that way.

We once had a Republican governor, George W. Bush, who worked tightly with the likes of Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney. Democrats controlled the Legislature in 1995 when Bush took over as governor after defeating Democratic Gov. Ann Richards. Bush was new then to elective politics, but he turned out to be the quickest study imaginable as he grasped instantly the need to work with the other guys under the Texas state capitol dome.

He would later, of course, be elected president, handing the governorship over to fellow Republican Rick Perry, who didn’t quite grasp the Bush formula for legislative success.

It’s different these days. Republicans control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers. There still is a sizable Democratic minority in both the state House and Senate, some of whose members remember how it used to be in Austin.

House Speaker Dade Phelan appears slated to another term as the Man of the House. If he follows form, he will appoint House Democrats to committee chairs. I don’t have as much faith in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate. But … bipartisan cooperation in one out of two legislative chambers is better than none.

The session will be busy. Legislators need to fix our electrical grid. They keep yapping about reducing property taxes. Our highways need repair.

I just want them all to keep their eyes on the prize and not worry about offending the fire breathers who make up both of their bases.


How would Beto work with GOP?

Let’s suppose for a moment that lightning strikes and Beto O’Rourke is elected Texas governor in the midterm election.

O’Rourke is a Democrat who would have to work with the Republican-controlled Legislature. I have been rolling that notion around and have come up with a conclusion.

Given the obstructionist nature of the current GOP, I only can conclude that O’Rourke would have a huge hurdle to clear. That would be a vast difference from the previous time the state had a governor of one party and the Legislature controlled by the other party.

In January 1995, Republican George W. Bush took over as Texas governor. The Legislature that year was controlled by Democrats. The Senate’s lieutenant governor was the irascible Bob Bullock. The speaker of the House was the more amiable, but still fiercely partisan Democrat Pete Laney.

The two legislative leaders developed a tremendous working relationship with the newly minted, freshly scrubbed GOP governor. They became friends. Partners. Allies at times.

Legislative Democrats in 1995 seemed to have little appetite for fighting, fussing and feuding with Republicans, especially the one who moved into the governor’s office.

I am trying to imagine a Democrat such as Beto O’Rourke developing that kind of relationship with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan. Both of those legislative leaders are wedded to the MAGA world view.

Oh, how I would love to be proven wrong. I fear, though, that a Gov. O’Rourke would not get anything resembling the kind of feel-good introduction to governing that greeted Gov. George W. Bush all those years ago.

Do I believe that will happen? I am afraid not. Then again, there’s always hope.


Deception destroyed our unity

Communities across the land took time over the weekend to honor the heroes who answered the call on 9/11 and some folks spoke about the unity we felt in responding to the terrorists who inflicted so much pain on this great country.

The unity didn’t last, which naturally drew sighs of frustration among many Americans.

I want to remind us of what destroyed our national unity. It was deception from the highest office in the land.

President Bush stood on the rubble at Ground Zero and told the terrorists that they would “hear from all of us soon.” We went to war against the Taliban, drove them out of power in Afghanistan. It was a noble cause, as we had to fight the bad guys directly.

Then we took our eyes off the ball. The president talked about the “axis of evil” that included the government in Baghdad. Then the vice president, Dick Cheney, and the secretary of state, Colin Powell, told us how Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attack, how he possessed terrible “weapons of mass destruction” and would use them against us and our allies.

In March 2003, barely 18 months after 9/11, we went to war against Iraq. With that action, we kissed our national unity goodbye.

Our eternal gratitude for the police officers, firefighters and medical teams remains strong. Their raw courage in fighting the evils of a terrorist act will remain with us for as long as those of us who remember that time will walk this good Earth.

Let us not conflate the poor decisions born of deception with that admiration.


Some traditions matter

Traditions do matter, regardless of how some of those in power might eschew them, cast them aside and act with an air of self-proclaimed unpredictability.

For instance … we have this event that occurs when presidents move into the White House that features the current first couple welcoming the previous first couple to the White House to unveil official portraits.

President and Mrs. Biden are going to welcome back to the White House former President and Mrs. Obama for the unveiling of the Obamas’ portraits.

The Obamas, under tradition, should have been invited back to the house where they lived for eight years by Donald and Melania Trump. That didn’t happen. Donald Trump saw no need to bring back the man whose constitutional credentials he questioned for years, the man he criticized incessantly during his term in office.

So, the Trumps never chose to make nice with the Obamas. Indeed, President and Mrs. Obama oversaw a marvelous White House ceremony to unveil the portraits of President and Mrs. Bush, who preceded the Obamas in the White House.

Now, the current president and first lady will welcome back the 44th president and his wife.

This begs a two-part question: Is there an official portrait being painted of the Trumps and who — in their right mind — would invite them back for an unveiling? This is a wild guess, but it damn sure won’t be Joe and Jill Biden.


Bush’s ‘gaffe’ was no gaffe

George W. Bush spoke an unintended truth the other day that raised eyebrows all across the nation, not to mention in the room at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.

The 43rd president was trying to make the case against Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Then he said this:

“In contrast, Russian elections are rigged. Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process. The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.”

As another former Texas governor, Rick Perry, once said: Oops.

I cannot possibly suggest that President Bush intended to make that statement. However, he did tell the truth. The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was based on “false intelligence,” and that’s being generous. It well might have been that the Bush team knew all along that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

Whatever the case, I suggest the former president draft a statement aimed at telling the loved ones of those who died during the Iraq War that he didn’t really mean what he said this week in Dallas.

Then again, would that be truth?


Political toxicity spreads

Political toxicity can be contagious, in that when one government body becomes infected by it the ailment spreads to other government bodies.

Case in point: The Texas Legislature — in its not-too-distant past — was hailed as a place where Democrats and Republicans found common ground frequently. Our Legislature could craft laws with wide support on both sides of the aisle.

We once had a governor, George W. Bush, who made bipartisanship a sort of political art form. The Republican governor worked hand-in-glove with two key Democratic legislative leaders: Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and House Speaker Pete Laney.

There was little toxicity in the mid- to late 1990s in Austin.

These days? Not so serene, folks. Congress has become a den of vipers, with Democrats and Republicans hating each other’s guts. The Texas Legislature isn’t much of an improvement. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick squabbles with fellow Republicans in the state Senate and House members look for ways to undermine the work of Speaker Dade Phelan.

There isn’t a lot of bipartisan fellowship to be found in Austin any more than we can find it in Washington. The toxic environment we have come to scorn in D.C. has spread, sadly, to the halls of the Texas State Capitol.

It makes me so sad.


Waiting for bipartisan thaw

My patience has its limits, but I am going to give it some more time to bear fruit.

I had hoped that the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States would produce a spirit of bipartisanship we hadn’t seen since, oh, about the time of 9/11. It hasn’t happened.

President Bush handed the office over to President Obama in 2009 and the divisions persisted after the Iraq War dragged on and on. President Obama didn’t make much headway, either, particularly after Sen. Mitch McConnell — the Republican leader — said his No. 1 priority was to make Obama a “one-term president.” President Obama finished his second term in 2017 and handed it off to, umm, the 45th POTUS. It got even worse during the Liar/Numskull/Nitwit/Insurrectionist in Chief’s single term in office.

He vacated the White House earlier this year without so much as a goodbye wave at President Biden’s inaugural. He skulked off without attending his successor’s inauguration.

Biden brought 36 years of U.S. Senate experience and eight years as vice president to the White House. He knows how to play the bipartisan game. He did it with considerable flair during his Senate years.

Alas, all that experience hasn’t played well in the GOP, which has latched onto the Big Lie about phony election theft and vote fraud.

For crying out loud, we cannot even cross the partisan divide on the best way to rid us of a killer virus that has cost us more than 600,000 lives! Biden and his fellow Democrats sing the virtues of masks and vaccines while Republicans and assorted conspiracy lunatics denigrate mask-wearing and question the value of getting vaccinated. Sheesh!

I am going to wish that President Biden can find a way to cross the partisan divide. My hope and my expectation, though, are growing farther apart.


President Bush speaks blunt truth

Former President George W. Bush told the world a blunt truth while honoring the heroes who confronted foreign terrorists on 9/11.

He said this:

“We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come, not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within,” Bush said in a speech Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” he said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.”

“And it is our continuing duty to confront them,” Bush added.

Yes, Mr. President. It certainly is our duty.

Sadly, tragically and to his everlasting shame, one of President Bush’s successors not only has failed to “confront” the enemy within, he has encouraged them to act. I refer, of course, to the 45th POTUS — the dipsh** who shall remain nameless in this blog.

I understand that President Bush’s remarks have been hailed by Democrats and irked supporters of the 45th POTUS. Hmm. Imagine that, if you dare.

I cannot help but wonder why in the name of all that is holy does anyone object to the words of a former wartime president on whose watch we sought to confront international terrorists. Of course he is correct about the threat of domestic terrorists. He echoed the words spoken two years ago by FBI director Christopher Wray — appointed by POTUS 45 — who said the same thing about the domestic terrorism.

I will stand with President Bush on this one.


9/11 reminds me why I am glad we left

The commemorations we have witnessed today as the nation marks the 20th year since the 9/11 attacks have taken us — in my mind at least — on a dual-track remembrance.

I am reminded of how unified we were immediately after the attacks. President Bush called us to arms to fight the terrorist network that launched the attack. We stood behind the wartime president … for a time.

Then he took us into Iraq. The Iraq War was launched on false pretenses. We invaded a sovereign nation, removed a hated dictator and then got bogged down in another conflict with no clear motive for engaging the Iraqis in the first place.

We took our eyes off the key enemy: the Afghan terrorists.

President Bush infamously said at one point during his time in office he didn’t think much about Osama bin Laden. His successor, President Obama, made it the nation’s mission to bring justice to the mass murderer. Our special forces did so in May 2011.

Yet the war in Afghanistan dragged on.

And on and on …

Which brings me to the second track. President Biden ended that war. I am more glad today than ever that he acted when he did. It is true the withdrawal could have been executed more cleanly. But our troops are off the battlefield.

We have removed the world of thousands of terrorists. No, they aren’t exterminated. Others have stepped up to replace them. Indeed, the Afghan War had turned into a never-ending struggle against an enemy that cannot possibly be wiped off the face of the planet.

However, we retain — throughout unsurpassed military and intelligence capability — the ability to search out and destroy anyone who intends to do us harm the way Osama bin Laden did on 9/11.

May always remember the attacks of that horrific day. May we also always remain alert to the danger that lurks.

However, let us also avoid the kind of quagmire — and that’s what it became in Afghanistan — that always exacts too heavy a price.


Unity: Is it impossible to find?

Political unity shouldn’t be this hard to find; it shouldn’t be this elusive.

It most certainly is, however.

The nation is honoring the sacrifice we endured on 9/11. Part of the honor has been to salute the unity we felt when President Bush called on us to fight the terrorists who hit us hard, who killed all those Americans.

We answered the terrorists with one clear and forceful voice.

That was then. The unity we felt in the moment didn’t last long. Bush eventually decided to expand our war against terror by invading Iraq in March 2003. The president lied to us. He told us the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction; they didn’t. He also sought to tell us that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks; he didn’t.

We’ve been divided ever since.

Two decades later we are now fighting an even more insidious enemy. It’s a pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans, far more than who died in the 9/11 attacks.

President Biden is seeking to unify us against the pandemic. He can’t find the formula. Our divisions have been cast along partisan lines. Democrats push for vaccine and mask mandates; Republicans resist them both. Think of this for a moment. Our entire nation is being struck by a virus, yet the president can’t unify us.

Surely we don’t require an attack from a foreign enemy to bring us together. Or do we?