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Saying Good-Bye to President George H.W. Bush – Sunday Political Brunch – December 9, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – There’s a movie that airs this time of year called, “It’s a Wonderful Life!” It could easily describe the life and career of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States. While I have met and interviewed a few of our more recent Presidents, I never got to meet him (though I covered him). But his story and journey fascinated me over the years, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Four More Years, Four More Years” – The first campaign stop after the August 1992 Republican National Convention, was in Gulfport, Mississippi. I was working at WEAR-TV3 in Pensacola, Florida, so I was assigned to cover the joint campaign rally with President Bush and Vice President Quayle in Gulfport. I’ll never forget Air Force One circling the crowd in Jones Park, on a hot, humid day. The people kept chanting, “Four more years, four more years,” as if those on the plane could hear them. It was – I believe – the first time I ever covered a U.S. President in person, and it was quite a thrill. While he eventually lost his reelection bid, being there was one of the highlights of my career as a reporter.

“Baseball Lover” – I was touched this week, when my friend and former Major League Baseball player Mike Stenhouse posted a wonderful picture of himself and then-Vice President Bush on Facebook (photo above). Bush - who played college baseball at Yale, and whose son George was Managing General Partner of the Texas Rangers ball club – just loved “America’s Pastime!” My pal “Sten,” who played college ball at Harvard and whose dad also played in the MLB, later received an autographed photo with the Vice President. It was pretty special, and a simple act of kindness for which Bush was so well-known.

“Broccoli Hater” – To this day one of my favorite stories about “Bush 41” was his absolute disdain for broccoli. It was a vegetable I absolutely hated as a kid, but later developed a likeness for in adulthood. Bush had no such transformation as mine. “I do not like broccoli,” he told reporters. “And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” Bush even had the green vegetable banned from Air Force One. Ever the comic, First Lady Barbara Bush threatened to serve broccoli at a White House State Dinner. “You’re darn right I do. I love broccoli. We’re going to have broccoli soup, broccoli main dish, broccoli salad and broccoli ice cream,” said Mrs. Bush.

“The Loss of a Child” – I don’t think there is anything more heartbreaking in life than having to watch a parent bury a child. Our kids are supposed to outlive us, but it doesn’t always work out that way. In 1949, Robin Bush was born, the younger sibling of brother George W. Bush. Sadly, nearly four years later Robin died of acute Leukemia. Her death had a profound effect on her parents, and her older brother. It may be a cornerstone of why the Bushes were such kind and compassionate people over the years. "It seems funny after almost 50 years since her death how dear Robin is to our hearts," her father said. The Bushes set up a foundation and raised millions in Robin’s name for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America. She is buried at the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act” – One of the hallmarks of the Bush Presidency – and an enduring sign of his compassion – was his signing of the “Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.” It was a true, bipartisan piece of legislation that the President worked on with liberal icons such as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). The law banned discrimination and provided public accommodations to people with a wide range of disabilities. On the day he signed the new law President Bush said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

“Wimp? Really?” – One of the worst headlines in American press history occurred in 1987, when Newsweek Magazine had a cover story on Bush titled, “Fighting the ‘Wimp Factor.’” The essence of it was that Bush was an entitled New England, Ivy League, “blue blood” who was not nearly as tough as his boss President Reagan. Mind you that Bush was a heroic World War II fighter pilot, who was shot down over the Sea of Japan; he was later an accomplished college athlete; and, then presided over the collapse of the Cold War Soviet Union and Berlin Wall as Vice President and President. How does that equate to being a “wimp?” I don’t think Newsweek ever recovered from that colossal embarrassment.

“Classy Concession” – I’ll never forget the 1992 election. It was a tough fight, but Bush lost to Bill Clinton. Instead of being bitter, here’s what the President said: “Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Now, here's the way I see it -- the way we see it, the country should see it, that the people have spoken, and we respect the majesty of the democratic system… I just called Governor Clinton over in Little Rock and offered my congratulations. He did run a strong campaign. I wish him well in the White House.” Oddly enough, the two men became great friends and worked together on a number of projects such as relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Even son and President George W. Bush got in the act, referring to President Bill Clinton as, “my brother from a different mother.”

“1924 Was a Very Good Year!” – My mom was born in April 1924, two months before George H.W. Bush. My dad was born in December 1924, just six months after Bush. President Jimmy Carter was also born in 1924. Bush and Carter, like my dad, also served in the U.S. Navy. The Bushes had six kids; my parents seven. Like me, their daughter Doro Bush was born in 1959. I felt a certain kinship in the similarities of our families who had parents from, “The Greatest Generation.” God rest his soul.

What are your favorite memories of President George H.W. Bush? Just click the comment button here or the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five neighboring states.

Photo courtesy: Mike Stenhouse

Good Bye Election 2018, Hello Campaign 2020 - Sunday Political Brunch - December 2, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Let’s wrap up the 2018 election and put a bow on it! At the same time, let’s say ‘good morning’ to the first days of the 2020 campaign. Yes, it never ends, but that’s the reality of how I make my living. In this heated political climate, it’s job security for political analysts like me. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Mississippi” – Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) defeated former Agriculture Secretary and Rep. Mike Espy (D-MS) in the final race for a U.S. Senate seat. That leaves the GOP with a 53 to 47 margin over Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress. Hyde-Smith, who had to defend (or apologize) for some racially-tinged remarks, wound up in a much closer race than it should have been. She beat Espy 54 to 46 percent, in one of the most “red” states in the country.

“Final House” – Right now it is 234 Democrats to 200 Republicans. The only race left is in the 21st District of California, where the Democrat holds a slight lead over the Republican. No matter how it ends up, Democrats have solid control of the House for the first time in eight years. But a mere swing of 18 votes in 2020 could give it back to Republicans. In this volatile political climate, all bets are off.

“Pelosi Returns” – It appears Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be returning as Speaker of the House, after an eight-year absence. But at age 78, some of her fellow Democrats believe it’s time for Pelosi to move on and hand the mantle of leadership to the next generation. Before anyone accuses me of ageism, I remind you that former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA) served until he was 75. Pelosi did not help her cause by saying in October that she would be a “transitional” leader. Some younger Democrats want her to be specific and set a date for a transition of power. Pelosi does not want to do that, because declaring an exact end-date to her reign would make her a “lame duck” Speaker (and greatly reduce her power and leverage from the get-go). It will be hard for Pelosi to be President Trump’s critic-in-chief if she’s on the way out anyway.

“New Hampshire on My Mind” – My headline was not a joke. The race for the White House in 2020 is already underway. Just look at the list of potential candidates visiting the home of the “First in the Nation Primary” in October and November 2018: Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Jon Delaney (D-MD), former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY), Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former Secretary of State Jason Kander (D-MO), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), former Rep. Julian Castro (D-TX), Sen. Jeff Markley (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Folks, Campaign 2020 is on! I’m not kidding!

“Democrats Turn at Clown Car!” – There were lots of laughs in 2016, with 17 Republicans seeking the party’s presidential nomination. People said it was like the proverbial clown-car at the circus with an endless number of clowns exiting a Volkswagen Beetle. Well, 2020 could be a similar gaggle for the Democrats. Here’s a list of potential candidates for the blue, donkey party: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX), his twin Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former First Lady Michelle Obama, and the already-declared State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-WV). But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned!

“Government Shutdown, Again?” – Okay, here we go again! If a temporary government spending bill is not approved soon, there will be a partial federal government shutdown on December 7. This never favors the party in power in Congress. During the last four government shutdowns, Republicans were in control of Congress. On three of those occasions there was a Democrat in the White House, and on one the president was a Republican. So why does Congress always get blamed? Well the public is a lot more sympathetic to one person sitting in the Oval Office, compared to the chaos of 535 people down the street in Congress. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it’s a reflection of human nature.

“Tears for Tear Gas” – There was a lot of outrage this week when U.S. Immigration and Customs agents lobbed tear gas at immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexico border. The anger at the Trump administration seemed to dissipate when video surfaced of similar tear gas launches during the Obama administration. Anger over illegal immigration is probably the main reason President Trump was elected. He promised to be tough against violations, and he promised to build a wall. As distasteful as some people may find the use of tear gas, it’s been done before and will likely be done again, regardless of who lives in the White House. I know people think I’m crazy, but I predict the divided Congress will pass some (but not all) immigrations reforms and President Trump will sign them before the 2020 election.

What big issues are on your radar screen for 2019 and 2020? Just click the comment button on this page or the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states.

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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