George Herbert Walker Bush – President 41

I’ve had complicated feelings about George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, for a long time. I don’t remember him as a Congressman from Texas in the 1960s, but I do recall his tenure as ambassador to the United Nations (`1971-1973).

Then he was named the chairman of the Republican National Committee, trying to negotiate a fine line between supporting the party and trying not to be disloyal to Richard Nixon, who was becoming increasingly mired in the Watergate scandal. His loyalty to the President, while consistent with his military training, made me mighty uncomfortable.

George Bush seemed suited to be the U.S. representative to China at a point when Sino-American relations were warming. He was passed over for Vice-President twice by Gerald Ford.

He ran for President in 1980 and was totally correct when he dubbed Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down fiscal plan as “voodoo economics.” Yet Reagan tapped Bush to be his Vice-Presidential candidate, and of course, they won.

I’m not much into conspiracy theories. But I’ve long wondered if the release of 52 Americans held hostage from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, Inauguration Day was more than a coincidence. Some cite Reagan’s tough talk, but I looked more at Bush’s CIA connections, where he was the director for a year, mostly in 1976.

Interestingly, I have few strong recollections of George H. W. Bush’s eight years as Vice-President (1981-1989), other than some odd perception that the man, whose plane was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire during World War II was some sort of patrician “wimp.”

I do recall the nasty 1988 Presidential campaign, first against Republicans such as Senator Bob Dole (KS), Congressman Jack Kemp (NY), former Governor Pete du Pont (DE) and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.

His acceptance speech referred to the “thousand points of light” as a vision of the United States. He picked largely unknown lightweight senator Dan Quayle (IN) as his running mate.

Though Bush found it difficult to articulate what he wanted to accomplish as president — “the vision thing”, he called it – “he handily beat Governor Michael Dukakis (MA) in the general election.” He was helped by some sleazy ads suggesting that his opponent was soft on crime. The media attack was orchestrated by the infamous political strategist Lee Atwater.

As the Los Angeles Times noted:

“During his single term in the White House, the Berlin Wall fell, newly democratic states sprang up across Central and Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union came to an end.” For a time he had an 89% approval rating.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed historic legislation, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990). On the other hand, he nominated to the Supreme Court the very problematic Clarence Thomas (1991), and not just over the sexual harassment allegations.

“But the end of the Cold War also signaled the end of an era of American bipartisanship that the long conflict with the Soviets had fostered. Bush, the product of an earlier era, seemed out of phase with a younger, harder-edged generation of conservatives rising in his party.”

His real undoing was going back on his convention pledge: “Read my lips: no new taxes” in response to “a short, but sharp, recession that took hold in 1990 and raised unemployment…” He lost his bid for re-election in 1992, “receiving less support than any incumbent president in 80 years.”

George H. W. Bush “had been a college athlete, a Navy pilot and war hero, a business success… [Yet] he often seemed out of place when trying to communicate with voters. His… small gaffes — appearing surprised by a supermarket price scanner… — fed an image of a man distant from the lives of average Americans.”

Frankly, his standing with the American public has taken an upturn, in no small part, because of his son George W. Bush’s two terms as the 43rd President. If the first Gulf War was considered successful, I certainly appreciate 41’s restraint in NOT taking over Baghdad, which 43’s administration did a dozen years later.

In his post-presidential life, George H. W. Bush “reemerged in the public eye for his humanitarian work in the wake of the tsunami that devastated southern Asia in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Through those efforts, he became close friends with Bill Clinton, the Democrat who had vanquished him.”

In 2011, President Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In retirement, he became known for skydiving into his 90s. I’d been concerned about his health, especially when Barbara, his wife of 73 years, died on April 17, 2018.

Whatever misgivings I had about George Herbert Walker Bush, I saw him as a basically dignified man who loved his country and his family. As Arthur, who met the man decades ago, said: “He was the last of the Old School Republicans, a type we’ll probably never see again: Kind, decent, respectable, someone with whom one could disagree without it being personal or bitter.”

Billy Graham, at peace with God

When I was nine years old, while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television, I had a “born again” experience. I don’t remember whose house I was at, but it was on Oak Street, between Winding Way and Dickinson Street, across the street and half a block from my church in Binghamton, NY.

It was a specific theology that wasn’t so different, I suppose, from what I learned from Trinity AME Zion, but it resonated so much that, somehow, I got recruited by the secretary at my school, Pat, for Friday Night Bible Club. My sister Leslie soon went as well, and we attended for several years.

I’m fairly sure it was Pat who gave me a copy of Peace with God, Graham’s 1952 classic book about salvation. This codified my budding theology so that I thought, as did others, that I would grow up to be a preacher.

I could quote Scripture pretty darn well in those days. Psalm 119:11 – “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might might not sin against Thee.” Didn’t have to look it up, even after all these years.

By 9th grade, I started carrying around my Bible to school. By 10th grade, my friend Bobby and I would walk two miles to the Primitive Methodist Church in Johnson City every Sunday afternoon for more fundamentalist training, and then usually walk back.

I really became “holier than thou.” Even when some of my friends drank and smoked pot, in my presence, I remained resolute. Until I wasn’t.

When I understood that all those people in India and China who never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, who perhaps never really even heard of him, were supposedly going to go to a literally fiery pit called Hell – which is why why we “needed” so many missionaries – I simply couldn’t accept that.

Fairly soon thereafter, I fell away from this belief system, which I had initially learned from Billy Graham, and it took a long time to find my way back to a theology that made sense to me.

I started re-examining the preacher. His close ties with Presidents, when I had been younger, I saw as a good thing in spreading the Word.

His friendship with Richard Nixon, in particular, became problematic for me, as I believed even by my freshman year in college that Graham was co-opted by the power elite, rather than speaking truth to that power.

To his credit, Graham eventually came to that same conclusion himself. He actively discouraged Jerry Falwell, a founder of the Moral Majority, from mixing religion and politics.

“Evangelicals can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left,” Graham said in 1981, according to Time magazine. “I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for Billy Graham, despite his significant shortcomings, as accurately laid out by Arthur. Not so for his dreadful son Franklin, whose appearance in Albany in 2016 I protested.

August Rambling: Deep dark secrets

WD40
The Hook-Up Culture Is Getting 20-Somethings Nowhere. On the other hand, Casual Love.

How we get through life every day.
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Robin Williams has died. SHAZBOT!

public domain

public domain

I had heard that Robin Williams had passed away while I was hanging out with some Times Union bloggers Monday night, Chuck Miller and Don Rittner and David Kalish. My first thought that maybe it was a hoax, which says a lot about the news these days. But it wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that he had apparently committed suicide.

The FIRST person I thought of Continue reading

July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk

clock.numbers
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell. To that end, Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations and Congratulations: It’s a corporation.

An answer to the child immigrant problem at the US-Mexican border? I note that the Biblical Jesus was a refugee, his parents fleeing Herod’s wrath. Yet so many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ “are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.”

In the non-surprise category: Stand Your Ground Laws Lead To More Homicides, Don’t Deter Crime.

Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda.

Yiddish Professor Miriam Isaacs has dug in a previously unknown treasure of over a thousand unknowns Yiddish songs recorded of Holocaust survivors; text is in Swedish, but can be translated. Miriam was my old racquetball buddy decades ago.

The Creation Myth of 20th Century Fundamentalism by Jeff Sharlet, who I also knew long ago.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe came out as gay. Arthur explains why it STILL matters. Also: I Can Be Christian, and Gay, and Live in Alabama.

Portraits of people in 7 days’ worth of their own garbage.
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Fair and balanced news

NewsMusing on what passes for news these days, I was taken by this story: The distorting reality of ‘false balance’ in the media. It’s saying, essentially, that if you have two people on the news debating whether the Earth is round or flat, you unnecessarily elevate the flat earth argument to be equivalent.

I haven’t written much about either the awful shootdown of Malaysian flight or the Israel-Gaza war, other than I found it depressing as all get out. (What does “depressing as all get out” mean? Continue reading

Soccer, a.k.a. football; and lies on the Internet

The first time I ever even had a passing interest in soccer was watching some eight-year olds play in the early 1980s. Now my daughter has participated the last couple years, so I’ve become vaguely informed about the nuances. The Daughter wants one of those new soccer balls, called a brazuca, but I hear it costs $160; not happening.

Not that I would dis anyone who didn’t like the sport because they thought it was boring; I used to think so myself. But I figuratively rolled my eyes at certain Americans with their observations. Continue reading

June Rambling: Hal Holbrook; Marimba Queens

pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)

pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) voted for marriage equality at its General Assembly this month. “Ministers will be allowed to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal.”

On the other hand, Freedom and Faith Coalition’s Road to Majority conference had an Obama figurine in the urinal.

CBS News Sunday Morning did a piece, Born this way: Stories of young transgender children. The ever-interesting Dustbury on Gender Confirmation Surgery.

Writer Jay Lake worked closely with Lynne Thomas, an Illinois-based librarian… to ensure that all his blog posts and essays would be saved for posterity. “Though this is a relatively uncomplicated task for his blog content, which he unambiguously owned, it gets problematic when you wade into the legal rights of preserving your social media presence. ‘You can’t just download Facebook content into an archive.’”

A cartoon from 2008, and still apt: A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The United States.

Mark Evanier on O.J. Simpson trial nostalgia.
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Teevee; remembering Dee, Gwynn, Kasem, Noll

televisionI was watching JEOPARDY! per usual. But this was strange: in the six days between June 6 and June 13, inclusive, none of the contestants got the Final correct in five of them, whereas I KNEW four of them, and guessed correctly on the fifth. The one question I got wrong, two of them got right.

These are the six final answers:

20th CENTURY AMERICANS: In 1911 Glenn Curtiss received this document Number 1.
THE MEDITERRANEAN: It’s the only U.N. member country in the Mediterranean where English is an official national language.
SCIENTISTS: As a humorous tribute, an astronomical term equivalent to at least 4 billion has been named for him.
CAPITAL CITY WORDPLAY: Ending in the same 2 letters, these 2 are capitals of a nation that covers a continent & of a nation reaching onto 2 continents.
CURRENT TELEVISION: George Romero declined to direct a few episodes of this series, calling it “basically…just a soap opera”
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: William Sullivan retired from the Foreign Service in 1979; he was the last U.S. Ambassador to this country.

Which one did I get wrong? Continue reading

D-Day; Maya Angelou

dday.kn17825As D-Day approaches, all I can think about are 90-year-old men who saw awful things, but sucked it up to get through the events, and then stoically never talked about them. That is until 50 or 60 or 70 years later – goaded by family members or in recognition of their own mortality, as at least 600 WWII vets die EVERY DAY in the US – they start telling their stories. And while unique, they are the same story Continue reading