Not so fast: Trump may still need Rubio to win.

March 14, 2016

3-14-2016

Anything may happen but as of this moment Donald Trump is headed to victory in Florida tomorrow night and that will go a long way in clinching his position as the Republican nominee for president. It will crush Senator Marco Rubio who will have been beaten in his own home state.

But not so fast. In a curious way it might make both men more dependent on each other than ever before.

There is a general assumption that what Trump has done to win the nomination has diminished his chances of winning the general election. Obviously, Mr. Trump will have to revisit Women, Hispanics, Blacks and any other alienated constituencies. The general consensus is that Trump will need a woman on the ticket, as his vice presidential nominee, or else a whole lot of potential Trump voters will sit at home. And his choice would most likely be South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. But there are some compelling reasons behind a Trump-Rubio ticket as well.

Rubio? Who can’t even carry his home state? The reasons are complicated.

In 1960 the Democratic Party found itself in a similar dilemma. They had started the political season with an army of potential nominees.  One by one they were eliminated. The first to drop out was  Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson, the party elder statesman. He had already run twice and lost. The early front runner, Senator Estes Kefauver, of Tennessee was next to go. And then the so called “Happy Warrior” Minnesota Senator, Hubert Humphrey, who lost the West Virginia Primary to young Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Toward the end of the nominating season the numbers had been reduced to three serious contenders. Senator Kennedy, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri and Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Johnson was considered by many as the most experienced and the most likely to win against a Republican in the general election.

Kennedy won the nomination but the party was deeply fractured.

The Johnson campaign workers were especially bitter toward Kennedy, an upstart, son of a millionaire, who was a Catholic. No Catholic had ever been elected president.

Kennedy wisely divined that he needed Lyndon Johnson as his vice presidential running mate. His own supporters were furious. And Johnson’s supporters were apoplectic. In the end it took the strength of will of both men, individually, to pull it off.

Johnson knew that Kennedy  would not win without him. But Johnson humbled himself and accepted the second spot on the ticket and eventually both Kennedy and Johnson became U.S. presidents. Even politics can be a game of inches.

Notwithstanding Marco Rubio’s failure to win his own state of Florida, it is still very possible that Donald Trump will not win a general election without his support. It is less an issue of region and home state as it is demographics.

Trump has offended Hispanics and Rubio is Hispanic.

Trump is a Presbyterian who needs a Catholic on the ticket. Rubio is Catholic.

Trump has been publicly opposed by Mitt Romney, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are key to carrying the Mountain States, including swing states such as New Mexico and Colorado. Rubio grew up as LDS and is a favorite of Romney.

Trump needs Florida to win. Although Trump is likely to beat Rubio in the Florida GOP primary tomorrow night, Rubio is a native of Florida and might make the difference if it comes down to Florida as it did in 2000.

And Trump needs to unite the Republican Party. No one has taken more abuse from Donald Trump than Marco Rubio. If Rubio can forgive Trump, then Cruz, Romney, Ryan and everybody else will have to fall into line.

Finally, if Senator Marco Rubio losses Florida Tuesday, he will need Donald Trump too. His future political career will depend on helping to heal the Republican Party. A successful nationwide campaign as the GOP vice presidential nominee will restore his relevancy.

In 1964 establishment Republicans badmouthed their own nominee, Barry Goldwater and he went down to defeat. But one GOP public figure stayed true and faithfully supported the nominee of his party. That man, Richard Nixon, won the nomination himself four years later and was elected president that same year.

Will Donald Trump make the offer? And would Senator Marco Rubio accept it if he did? That discussion is still months away. And at this moment it is as unlikely as it was for John F. Kennedy to take on Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate.

(See this dated assessment from one year ago. Who knew that Trump would trump both Bush and Rubio?)

 


George H.W. Bush: The Nicest President in American History

January 2, 2015

Having worked for the man I can tell you that George H.W. Bush is no pushover.  When Manuel Noriega rattled his swords and waged his drug war against the USA, Bush descended on Panama like a thunderstorm, without warning, bringing the villain back in chains.  When Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor, Bush organized the entire world against him.  It was an unprecedented moment. “This shall not stand,” Bush said.  And it didn’t.  Bush, not Reagan, was the man who stood watch over the collapse of the Soviet Union.  And many forget that the Berlin Wall came down when he was in the White House. Even so, what endures from those who know him personally and from those who have studied the presidency, is that George H.W. Bush may be the nicest man to ever sit in the Oval Office.

Presidents, like all leaders, are often known for their ruthlessness.  “A great Prime Minister,” Gladstone once mused, “must be a good butcher.” Bush, not Theodore Roosevelt, was the president who walked softly and carried a big stick.

Presidential power within a family sometimes reaches tragic proportions. Accustomed to fawning subordinates at work, the presidents often expect the family to likewise cater to their egos at home.  John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, told his namesake and son, John Adams II, that he would not attend his Harvard graduation unless the boy worked his way into the top five graduating students.  When the son prevailed the father moved the goal posts.  If the boy was not number one, he said, he still wouldn’t come.  The son, John Adams II, got drunk and was expelled from Harvard.

Abraham Lincoln had a mean, stubborn streak that left him estranged from both his father and his first born son.  He refused to attend his father’s funeral.  Lincoln oversaw the massive slaughter of a generation of young men.  More Americans died in the Civil War than in all other modern wars combined.

Theodore Roosevelt invaded Columbia and invented Panama.  It was an illegal, arguably immoral war, but it got us the Panama Canal.  Roosevelt once said, “Every generation of young manhood should experience a war.”  It Hitler were to say such a thing we would rightly rebuke it.  Theodore Roosevelt only makes us chuckle.

Franklin D. Roosevelt interned thousands of Japanese families living in the USA during World War Two.  And he too could be quite tough on his own family.  When son, Jimmy Roosevelt, complained to his mother that he could never talk to his father she suggested he get an appointment. “That’s what I do,” she said.

Lyndon Johnson could be cruel to staffers and rivals alike, even physically intimidating them. Richard Nixon had his blacklist.  New audiotapes show John Kennedy viciously excoriating subordinates.

Sexual abuse seems to be a rite of passage for men of power.  Again, FDR comes to mind. Missy LeHand faithfully served him for years, living with him alone when he was forgotten, even crawling in the mud on the beaches of Florida with him as he tried to affect a quack homeopathic cure for his polio. Some of the president’s sons remember her, wearing a nightgown, sitting on his lap, in the private quarters of the White House.  But when she, herself, had a stroke and developed a paralysis, he threw her out and took a new “friend.”  John Kennedy’s sexual abuse of staff and friends has become legendary.

Sadly, there is no better understanding of the leadership skill of George H.W. Bush than a comparison of the two Gulf Wars.  George H.W. Bush defeated Saddam Hussein but left him in place.  His son, Bush the younger, conquered Iraq and stayed until both Saddam Hussein and his two sons were killed.

In the first Gulf War many people often asked, “Why didn’t the president finish it off?  Why didn’t he take Baghdad?”  It is not very often that we can see what would have happened if things had been done differently.  But now we can.  If Bush, Sr. had taken complete control of Iraq and deposed or killed Saddam Hussein, the whole Sunni-Shia balance of power in the Middle East would have collapsed.  The region would have erupted into bloodshed. Terrorism would have proliferated.  Radical Islam would have toppled established governments.  Christian communities, who trace their lineage back to the time of the Apostles would have been butchered, their centuries old churches burnt to the ground.   We know it would have happened because it is exactly what happened when his son, President George W. Bush, decided to give it a try.

Now, we know the genius and the patient calculation of George H. W. Bush and the gifts he brought to the presidency.  He is nice.  But it has a purpose.


Presidents and their mothers

May 11, 2014

“All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother, God bless her.”

– Abraham Lincoln

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to confirm that most of America’s presidents are “mama’s boys.”

It must make Sigmund Freud smile for one of his most enduring discoveries was how the perceived favorite child of a mother is empowered for life.  Consider the overwhelming evidence that mothers play a key role.  Many recent presidents were literally named after their mothers but none of their many siblings.

Ronald Wilson Reagan named after his mother Nelle Wilson.

Richard Milhous Nixon named after his mother Hannah Nixon.

Lyndon Baines Johnson named after his mother Rebecca Baines.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy named after his mother Rose Fitzgerald.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt named after his mother Sarah Delano.

Woodrow Wilson named after his mother Janet Woodrow.

And on and on it goes back into history. Rutherford Birchard Hayes named after his mother Sophia Birchard.  Of course it is not a perfect formula or Marvin Pierce Bush would have been elected president, not his older brother, George W. Bush, but it is common enough to defy any odds.

“You are a Delano,” FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano used to tell him, “not a Roosevelt.”

“I was a mama’s boy,” said Woodrow Wilson, “no question about it, but the best of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.”

“God bless my mother,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to his law partner William Herndon,” all I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

Keep in mind, the above famous quote, attributed to Lincoln’s law partner, may never have really been uttered.  Yes, it is featured prominently in almost every biography of Lincoln and appears in the first pages of Pulitzer Prize Award winning books but recent research shows that  the time and place named by Herndon  just couldn’t have happened and so, now even the quote is suspect.  But there is no denying that Lincoln loved his mother and perhaps, even more, his stepmother, who gave him the gift of books.

When I wrote The Raising of President I blind copied some of the above information to five psychologists, asking them to each give me their opinion.  I was especially intrigued why so many of the children who were namesakes of their mother went on to become presidents.

All five answered back with the same conclusion. When the mother took that infant to her breast she felt a special bond with the child who would bare her name for life and the infant could feel it.

I am only a layman who doesn’t pretend to understand such things but if it is true, if a baby can “feel” favoritism then just imagine the power and the impact for good or bad a mother, or a father’s words have on their children?   I was reminded of the experiments conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society.  If the human voice can empower a plant, then it must surely cause powerful reactions for good or bad on a human being.

There is a very predictable family formula for strong leaders, good and bad.  They have an attachment to the mother and an absent father.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedung all fit the pattern as neatly as Washington and Jefferson.

Andrew Jackson’s father died before the future president was even born.  His mother died when he was 14 years old.   Even when alive, she was often gone .  As a nurse she tended the wounded during the Revolutionary War.

When Andrew Jackson died as an old man, many years later, his body was full of bullets, including one lodged near his heart and too dangerous to remove.  They were the result of a life of action, including duels and wars.  It was as if he wanted to be worthy, the equal of those Revolutionary War soldiers who took his mother away from him as a boy.

In a sense, Andrew Jackson’s life was one long  journey back into the arms of his mother.

Start reading The Raising of a President right now on Kindle.  Order it for your mother.


Obama meets Arizona Governor tomorrow.

June 2, 2010

The national news media is quite impressed with tomorrow’s White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Arizona governor, Jan Brewer.  A reporter called to ask me about the history of such meetings and if Brewer will be intimidated by the visit, bullied, as Alabama Governor George Wallace had been by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

But there is a big difference.  Sun Tzu taught that in any war, the moral advantage is the key.  The people have to see themselves as morally right in order to win.  It is a maxim that applies to politics as well.  When Johnson met Wallace, the issue was integration and civil rights.  The year before Lyndon Johnson had won election in a landslide, with one of the biggest voter plurality in American history.  His opponent, Barry Goldwater, appealing to States Righter’s, had carried only six states.  Democratic Governor, George Wallace, knew he was politically safe in his own state but a pariah in the rest of the country and the national media.  Advantage?  Johnson.

When Obama meets Brewer it will be much more balanced.  Obama will have the national media arguing that he is morally right, that illegal immigrants, (presumably Hispanic, Democrat voting immigrants,) should be welcomed as citizens and any enforcement of immigration laws is racist.

80% of the American people disagree.   Advantage? Brewer.

There has been a growing contempt for the corruption in the INS and the arbitrary enforcement of our immigration laws.  My French born wife and I have been married for 21 years.  We had three children.  But it took 13 years to get her citizenship.

And the horror stories get worse.  My French sister-in-law, in her twenties, seeking to come to the United States for medical treatment, with medical papers in hand and telephone numbers of her doctors and receipts showing that the work had been paid, was sent home on the next plane.  She had all of the right documentation and had never violated a stay in the country.  But the officers decided she had made too many trips to the USA.  She died in France a few months later.

Nor will the system even approve legitimate Hispanics if they are legally in the pipeline.  I guess they are too likely to vote Republican.  I have a personal friend, Mexican, who graduated with a CPA from a prestigious university.  He is doing charitable work that no one else can do in a difficult situation.  By all of the government’s own rules he is a perfect candidate for citizenship.  But no, the only citizens that the administration and the national media approve are those who have cheated to get here.  People who play by the rules and get in line are suckers.

We now know from the Lyndon Johnson tapes that the greatest fear leading up to the meeting with George Wallace was how the governor would spin the event.  Johnson the master politician won.  And today the Intergovernmental Office in the White House is working overtime to make sure that Obama wins the spin on this meeting too.  But Brewer will not be intimidated.

Remember, it is not what happens in the Oval Office that is significant.  Neither politician will change their views.  It is how each person interprets what happens in the meeting that matters.  And it is what each says to the nation after the meeting that will be shown on the news.

Obama is the president and beloved by 80% of the national media.  He will get the platform to say what he wants.   And Brewer will only have “fair and balanced,” Fox News on hand to give her an unedited minute or two.

But when Governor Jan Brewer walks out of the White House to the microphones at the media stake out, just outside the West Wing Lobby, she will have an advantage that very few governors have ever had in a meeting at the White House.  80% of the American people are behind her.  No sir, she will not be intimidated by Barack Obama and the demeaning security waits to see the president.  But Barack Obama should indeed be intimidated by those gigantic numbers.