Donald Rumsfeld Dead, Memories From President George H. W. Bush

The news of the death of Donald Rumsfeld will doubtless bring back a plethora of stories and memories dating back to the time when Richard Nixon was living in the White House. The Republican power broker, highly controversial defense secretary and architect of the failed Iraq War – died Tuesday, days before his 89th birthday.

I am currently on chapter 34 of John Meacham’s terrific read about President George Herbert Walker Bush. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush is one of the books I am juggling this summer, reading topics and subjects as the mood strikes. The death of Rumsfeld today occurs with this book providing an honest appraisal of the man which Bush noted was an “arrogant fellow.”

Speaking of Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense for President George Bush (43), the elder member of the family did not let anyone guess what he truly meant when speaking about Rumsfeld in hours of conversation with Meacham.

“I think he served the president badly,” Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything. I’ve never been that close to him anyway. There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that.”

He was particularly critical of Rumsfeld, which stands out from the usual respectful tone that is practiced with words from Bush. He added that, “Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow and self-assured, swagger.”

From a political perspective, the fractures in their relationship can be summed up this way.

The quick version starts with the years Gerald Ford was president. Rumsfeld was Ford’s chief of staff, and Bush was appointed envoy to China. The resignations of Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew had left the vice presidency open, and Bush was a top candidate for the post.

But then the intrigues gains steam as Rumsfeld went all out to ensure Nelson Rockefeller was named. One of the reasons long associated with the deeds of Rumsfeld was, during the VP selection process news emerging of potential campaign-finance irregularities during Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 Texas campaign for Senate. Most accounts clearly point to Rumsfeld leaking the news in an effort to hurt Bush’s VP chances. The scandal kept popping back up to hurt Bush throughout the rest of his political career.

At times like this, when less than honorable men pass away, the stories and inside accounts of the history they made, or tried to make, allows for a wider understanding of their lives, and the consequences of their actions.

Sizing Up Christian Zealot Roy Moore For Next Tuesday’s Election

This blog has not been shy about calling out Roy Moore for what he is.  He is nothing short of a Christian zealot who needs to read Jon Meacham’s book American Gospel so to understand the relationship religion plays in our pluralistic nation.  I am continually struck by how far from our national republican ideals, which our Founders strove to implement, Moore has strayed.    

Now this man is on his way to the United States Senate in a special election.   Recall that Lyndon Johnson won a special election in 1948 and the nation paid a very dear price in the decades which followed.  Every night this week, like many others we have watched PBS and the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam.  Politics and elections have consequences and this blogger has never shied away from that fact which history continually demonstrates.

One of my favorite sources for deep into the weeds analysis of campaigns and the election models is Larry Sabato.  I have taken a couple of his on-line classes–not for credit but just to learn–and find him an essential go-to person when it comes to these matters.  I fear–and know–he is correct in his views.

On top of the poor electoral history for appointed incumbents in primary runoffs, Strange’s 32.8% primary showing is one of the lowest for any incumbent senator involved in an election that went to a runoff. Only Sen. Charles Culberson (D-TX), in 1916, won after winning a lower percentage in the primary (21.9%) than Strange. Culberson wound up winning his runoff election rather easily: The primary vote was heavily fragmented (four candidates won at least 15%) and supporters of the failed primary candidates rallied to Culberson in the runoff in part because his opponent, ex-Gov. Oscar Colquitt, was at odds with President Woodrow Wilson’s administration. In 2017, Strange finds himself in his party’s president’s camp, but seemingly at odds with many of the supporters of said president. What a curious state of affairs, indeed.

Moore has led every primary runoff poll since he finished first in the Aug. 15 primary, and he appears to be a slight favorite. However, a party primary with unpredictable turnout is an uncertain beast. Strange has far more resources and could surprise Moore in the end. A large share of the vote that went to candidates other than Moore or Strange in the primary is situated in counties that could be friendlier to Strange if demographics are any guide.

But based on the history of incumbent performance in primary runoffs, Strange is not in a great position, and he is definitely playing catchup. Yet there is one other aspect to this race to consider: While President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have struggled to work together and have a strained relationship, they do share one common goal: electing Strange. Could the late push by the president and vice president and the all-out attack ads funded by McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund put Strange over the top next week? We certainly aren’t going to write him off.

Do Businesss Leaders Make Good Presidents?

Thoughtful words from Jon Meacham–a man who garners much respect on this blog.

Do business leaders make good Presidents? Given the most common paths to the White House, history offers us few examples. Trump, after all, is the only American in 228 years not to have served in the military or held political office before becoming President. Unless we count Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Jackson—slave-owning planters—as businessmen, our greatest Presidents have come from the bar (Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR), served as generals (Washington, Jackson, Eisenhower) or even failed in the private sector (Reagan went into politics after he lost his gig as a TV host and corporate spokesman for General Electric; Truman was a disastrous haberdasher in Kansas City, Mo.).

A list of the most significant U.S. Cabinet secretaries through history is CEO-free, from Alexander Hamilton to George Marshall to James A. Baker III to Robert Gates. Trump’s aware of the distinction between government and an ethos governed by the bottom line and brand management. “This was tough he said in his election night speech. “This political stuff is nasty and it’s tough.”

Business leaders often go to Washington thinking a focus on results will produce shareholder value for taxpayers. And just as often they leave disappointed or dissatisfied. The problem, of course, is that government is not a business. The public sphere is far less accountable to market measures than it is to the amorphous but real incentives and vicissitudes of politics. A corporation’s main goal is the maximization of profit. A government’s main goal, in the words of John Locke, is nothing less than “the good of mankind.”

Jon Meacham Makes For Best Comment On Sunday Morning News Shows

This morning lots of authors and thinkers filled the news shows. Among the best was Jon Meacham on Meet The Press.

“Thomas Jefferson was fundamentally a pragmatist. He was a bargainer — a grand bargainer, if you will — and believed fundamentally in the survival and success of the American experiment. He had risked his life for it. … Because of the intensity of that experience, he watched over it for the next 50 years … like a parent over a child, in some ways, and felt so strongly about insuring its survival, short of anything that would kill that experiment, he would cut a deal. And the great example is the Louisiana Purchase, which doubles the size of the country, makes us a continental power, essentially. …

“He left more than 20,000 letters … But I really wanted to be as close to him as possible, and so … I begged … Monticello to let me spend time overnight in his rooms at the house. Because going to Monticello is as close as we’re ever going to get to having a conversation with Jefferson. He always said that he woke up as soon as the rays of light began to make out the hands of the clock over his bed, and I wanted to see if that were true, I wanted to hear the clocks. … [T]hey were kind enough for me to go look at what historians call ‘material culture.’ So I went, slept on the floor, and right before dawn what was so remarkable — and I would not have known this if I hadn’t done this — is that as the sun comes up over the southwestern mountains, the first place a ray of light hits is Jefferson’s bed. And nothing was by accident in Jefferson’s life. So, he was so energetic, he was so excited about living in a time of enlightenment and revolution, that he wanted draw every bit of life he could out of a day, and he started that way. Then at the end of that day, which was in November of last year, I wandered down to the cemetery — at the end of the day, quite by chance. And realized that as the sun was setting, the last place there’s light on the mountain is on his grave.”