Tag Archives: reagan

Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

Mother Jones

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Since leaving office, Barack Obama has made a few veiled criticisms of Donald Trump. Conservatives are pretty unhappy about this. It’s tradition for ex-presidents to maintain a dignified silence about their successors, after all.

This is mostly true, but when did it become a tradition? It certainly hasn’t been one forever. Herbert Hoover was a constant presence on the radio blasting FDR during the Depression, and Harry Truman remained a gadfly after he left office.

Eisenhower changed things up. After beating Hitler and serving two terms as president, he decided to adopt the elder statesman role. Then Kennedy died before leaving office, LBJ slunk back to Texas a broken man, and Nixon resigned in disgrace. By hook or by crook, the “tradition” of ex-presidential silence was two decades old by the time Reagan became president. It’s mostly held ever since.

Is there a good reason for this? The pretense seems kind of precious to me. Why treat sitting presidents like china dolls who can’t take some heat from their predecessors? Ex-presidents are among the greatest politicians alive, and usually the effective leaders of their party, at least for a while. They typically command a throng of admirers. The most natural thing in the world would be for them to maintain a robust political presence if they want to. Why shouldn’t they?

Ditto for losing presidential candidates. This is usually less of an issue, since most people don’t really want to listen to losers. But not always. Hillary Clinton should never run for office again—and she’s said she won’t—but why shouldn’t she stay loudly involved in politics if she can help lead the loyal opposition until Democrats coalesce around a new party leader?

Does anyone know the answer about this tradition? Is it really just an Eisenhower thing that somehow congealed into conventional wisdom? Do other countries have anything similar?

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

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The Dead Pool – 9 April 2017

Mother Jones

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K.T. McFarland has always been one of President Trump’s odder choices for a senior position on his national security team. She last served in the government during the Reagan administration, and for the past 30 years has done precisely nothing that would make her qualified for even a junior position. Except for one thing: she spent several years as a Fox News commentator, where she regularly savaged Barack Obama and became pals with Eric Trump and Don Jr. Presumably Trump thought that was great experience. Steve Bannon signed on because he doesn’t care about anything except whether someone agrees with him, and former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is such a loony tune that there’s no telling why he accepted her as his #2.

But then Flynn got fired, and Trump’s first choice to replace him turned down the job when he was told that McFarland had to stay. H.R. McMaster, however, plays a longer game, and took the NSA job even though McFarland came with it. He slowly sidelined her, and now she’s being reassigned to the exciting post of ambassador to Singapore. McMaster has been on the job for six weeks, and in that time he’s gotten Steve Bannon off the National Security Council; exiled McFarland to Singapore; and masterminded the bombing of Syria, which got Trump a ton of fawning coverage. Not bad for a guy who a few years ago was having trouble even getting the Army to promote him to general.

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The Dead Pool – 9 April 2017

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Is Trump’s Popularity Sinking? Here’s the Poll to Look At.

Mother Jones

This Gallup poll has been making the rounds today:

I’ve deleted the rest of this post. It was a comparison of job approval ratings of Republican presidents among Republicans. But I screwed it up. There’s actually nothing interesting to report on that score. Trump’s job approval ratings are about the same as Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr.

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Is Trump’s Popularity Sinking? Here’s the Poll to Look At.

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My Job Just Got a Lot Easier

Mother Jones

Donald Trump held a remarkable press conference today—about which more later—but first I have to thank him. Here’s an exchange with NBC’s Peter Alexander:

ALEXANDER: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, 304, 306 electoral votes. But President Obama had 365….

TRUMP: Well, I’m talking about Republicans.

ALEXANDER: George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust you?

TRUMP: Well no, I was given that information. I don’t know, I was just given—we had a very, very big margin.

ALEXANDER: I guess my question is why Americans should trust you when you use information…

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given—I actually, I’ve seen that information around.

This is great! I mean, I write for a magazine, and let’s face it: fact checking is a pain. I know my fellow writers will back me up here. I suppose it’s good for readers, who want accurate information, but it’s a huge time sink for us content creators. Next time, my conversation will go like this:

FACT CHECKER: You say in your article that hippos are the largest mammals. Are you sure?

ME: I don’t know, I was given that information. They’re really big.

FACT CHECKER: And mice are the smallest?

ME: I’ve seen that information around.

This is going to make my job a lot easier. Thanks, Mr. President!

Continued:

My Job Just Got a Lot Easier

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

Mother Jones

Over at National Review, Jay Nordlinger comments on racism:

The 2016 election cycle made me much wiser, in addition to sadder….All my life, I had heard about racists, anti-Semites, and other such types on the right. Maybe I was sheltered, but I almost never encountered any of them. I thought they were essentially bogeymen, conjured by the lyin’ Left. The people I met were good Reagan conservatives — the salt of the earth.

Then came 2016, in partnership with the social media. The rock was overturned. In a way, I wish the rock had stayed put.

I hope National Review decides to take this institutionally more seriously, instead of commenting on race only when someone is outraged about some perceived excess of the social justice warriors on the left.

Throughout American history, there have been periodic opportunities to make real headway against racism if only both parties had provided a united front. But that’s never happened. One party or the other has always found the votes of white racists too alluring to ignore.

As the number of white racists declines, it should be easier to reject them, but instead just the opposite has happened. In our 50-50 nation, even a smallish bloc is far too large to actively repudiate. Trump may be the last gasp of white racial anxiety in America, or he might represent the start of a global white nationalist movement. I hope for the former and fear for the latter. Either way, it would be nice if both parties recognized the danger.

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

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