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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: President Bush

Rick Perry's underwhelming debates: Do they matter?

Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney Argue in the Republican debate 9-12-11

The news wasn't so good for the Republican presidential candidate who occupies the governor's office down there in Texas.

With their space-age podiums, cheering (or booing) audiences and their gotcha questions from media folks with their own makeup assistants, debates realistically have nothing to do with anything any president of any party would ever face in the Oval Office.

Debates do, however, have everything to do with how American voters perceive a candidate for president. How informed, well-spoken, straightforward, candid, quick, attentive do they look?

The Texas governor had suffered through two debate performances that could charitably be described as mediocre. He hardly looked presidential on the stage or up to the executive expectations that had pushed him to the front of the pack in polls.

Now came new polling showing his prime competitor surging to the lead in the important first primary state of New Hampshire.George W Bush and Al Gore Debate 10-18-00

Was this the end of his short presidential campaign? Or the end of the beginning in a very long presidential campaign for the White House?

No, this isn't the story of Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign, which turns 45 days old today.

This is a cautionary tale about reading too much into the early debate showings of any party's candidates, no matter how good or bad. Our esteemed and shall we say very veteran colleague Mark Barabak, calls our attention to a news story written almost 12 years ago, by him, as a matter of fact:

After his less-than-commanding performance in two presidential debates, George W. Bush faces a tougher race than expected amid growing signs of Republican discontent--including a new poll that shows major slippage in the key primary state of New Hampshire.

As it turned out, of course, John McCain did stay ahead of Bush in New Hampshire that cycle and whomped him good on primary day by about 15 points. The next morning, with aides vowing to get serious, the Bush campaign moved on to South Carolina, where the Texan won.

And the rest, as they say, is history that Barack Obama reminds us all about every few hours.

These campaigns are long and grueling, as they should be to determine the minds and mettle of the wannabes. John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy on Jan. 3 of that 1960 election year. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama announced in February, 21 months before the election.

Just as the substantial early TV audiences watch and study the 2011 debates, so do the candidates and their advisors. Besides the content, they're advised on how not to look bored, how and when to move a hand, when to point, how one particular expression dangerously resembles a sneer. (Remember Al Gore's infamous sighs from 2000?)

Watch Romney. This is his second rodeo. He's always paying attention to the others, often graciously grants part of their point and then moves to drive his home. Another respected colleague, Robin Abcarian, examined Perry's studied motions apparently mimicking Reaganesque movements.

Who's got a big enough DVR memory? But if anyone compared these early Republican debates to ones coming next winter, they'd see radically improved performances by the surviving candidates.


Fox News debate most-watched of the year

Rick Perry's new video zeroes in on President Zero

A chat with Megyn Kelly on her prep to be debate moderator

 --Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Mike Carlson / Associated Press (Romney and Perry joust in Sept. 12 debate); Tannen Maury / AFP (Bush and Gore debate, Oct. 18, 2000).

Bush on 9/11: 'This is what war was like in the 21st century'

No president knows what will happen one moment after taking the oath of office, and that's especially true of wartime presidents.  

Abraham Lincoln surely never thought he'd be the man to shepherd a divided nation through a bloody Civil War. Franklin D. Roosevelt came into an economic crisis and then, after a fateful December day, wound up managing the United States in a conflict that spanned the globe.

GeorgeWBushThe911Interview_01 George W. Bush intended to be the "education president," continuing with reforms he'd started while governor of Texas.

But while sitting in an elementary-school classroom in Florida on Sept. 11, 2001, listening to a lesson, he was given the news that a second airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan.

The United States, clearly, was under attack.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, two weeks before the 10th anniversary of that day (in other words, today), National Geographic Channel premieres "George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview," a one-hour documentary on the former president recalling the events of that day, and the days afterward, with clips and photos.

"Sept. 11 is a monumental day in our nation's history," he says, "a significant day, and it obviously changed my presidency. I went from being a president that was primarily focused on domestic issues to a wartime president. It's something I never anticipated nor something I ever wanted to be."

Later, aboard Air Force One, with spotty communications and only intermittent access to TV reports, Bush and his staff received conflicting stories about what was happening. But doing nothing was not an option.

"I was experiencing the fog of war," says Bush. "We didn't know....

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Jeb Bush, still not running, denies any family split with surging Rick Perry

Republican former Florida governor Jeb BushSpeaking of Florida, the former Republican governor there, Jeb Bush, says he is still not running for the 2012 GOP nomination and he will, of course, support the party's choice.

However, Bush told Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto this evening, he may be endorsing a candidate before the contest is settled.

And the two-term governor denies any split between his family and the Rick Perry wing of the Texas GOP:

I’ve never heard anyone in my family say anything but good things about Rick Perry. Not with my brother, my dad, not with me at all. I admire him and I think Texas has got a great story and he can legitimately talk about that story as a candidate for president.

Now the longest-serving governor in Lone Star State history, the 61-year-old Perry as lieutenant governor inherited the top office when George W. Bush resigned in December 2001 to become president.

Cavuto asked Bush to evaluate President Obama's job performance, which has been sagging in recent polls:

I think the president was dealt a tough hand. He didn’t have the experience on how to deal with it. He made a mistake of outsourcing big policy decisions to Congress to Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team and that was a disaster. He’s made a situation that was bad worse. He is deserving of criticism for that.

He’s not deserving of criticism of everything, the common cold all the way up the chain.

And Bush suggested some Obama opponents err when they ascribe bad motives to the Democrat. People want solutions, not personal attacks, he said.

Bush then brought the conversation back to the nation's top economic issue: jobs.

I am neutral in the presidential race, but I am an admirer of Gov. Romney’s and I’m excited that he’s laying out a jobs agenda to set the agenda a little bit because the conversation needs to get to how do we grow so we can create jobs over a long period of time, not just short term.

Every one of these things in Washington that’s been tried, Cash for Clunkers, home incentives and stuff like that, the net result is it gets a little burst and then it creates a worse problem. My guess is Gov. Romney will have a proposal that will be longer term and create sustained growth and the election ought to be about that so I’m excited that in September he’s launching that.


National debt under Obama now growing $3 million each minute

31 months in, Obama says he expects to have his jobs plan in a month or so

Obama bus tour meme: Washington (not him) screwed up and we should spend more

-- Andrew Malcolm

Keep track of this administration's spending; follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: John Raoux / Associated Press (Jeb Bush).

Hmm. Jeb Bush doesn't 'anticipate' becoming a Republican candidate in 2012

Republican former Florida Governor Jeb BushWith the Republican presidential field still not coalescing around a dominant front-runner, despite the incumbent Democrat's obvious weakness, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he does not "anticipate" running for the White House in 2012.


Yeh, that's what we thought too.

With Bushes having occupied the Oval Office for 12 of the last 22 years (and the last one leaving with notably low approvals), we figured if Jeb was going to take a turn at the nation's top political prize, it would be 2016.

At only 58, the family's likable and most natural politician still has plenty of time, and that timetable would let the fading animus toward older brother George W. fade even further.

But there was Jeb tonight on the Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity show saying, "You never say never."

He's still saying, no, no, I'm not running. And it is getting late for 2012 presidential planning. Ask Rick Perry, the man who's been Texas governor ever since George W. left the Austin mansion across the street from the Capitol. Perry will likely be jumping into the crowded but lackluster GOP field in early August.

Here's how the two-term, bilingual governor of the crucial Sunshine State described a possible candidacy:

I don’t anticipate that. You never say never. This is a standard answer that I’ve kind of learned how to give which is -- you never say never, but I never rule out being on Dancing with the Stars either … there are a lot of ways you can make a difference.

Who, btw, said he had to make a difference? He did.

On President Obama's repetitive criticism of brother George W.: "That’s a personal thing for me, Sean. I get tired of it. I think most people do."

On the chance that anyone in the current GOP could politically knock off an incumbent Democrat expecting to spend a billion dollars to extend his White House lease:

If you recall, my dad in 1992 had an approval rating that was double what President Obama has right now and he was running against the seven dwarfs I think. … And one of those dwarfs became president … dwarf, you know President Clinton, so the notion that somehow these aren’t folks that are capable of winning I just think is ridiculous. These are good people.

Good people, perhaps. But any with the heft and charisma to excite Americans enough and win?

They’re capable. They’ve made the all-in commitment and this yearning for something else is very flattering for someone if you’re that someone else. But in reality I think this race, we have qualified candidates and as it gets closer to the primaries to the caucuses and primaries, I think people will begin to see the mettle of the men and women that are running.

And if they don't?

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: John Raoux / Associated Press

Obama job approval mired below 50% for 6th straight quarter

Great news for President Obama's never-ending, billion-dollar reelection campaign: His job approval rating didn't get any worse last quarter.

Of course, they're still not all that great -- they've averaged below 50% for most of his 912-day-old presidency.Obama in the white house, file

In the quarter between April 20 and July 19, Gallup reports this morning, the Democrat averaged a 46.8% job approval.

It could be worse; Obama's seventh quarter average was only 44.7%.

But he's a long way from what now seems like the halcyon days of 63% approval after his first quarter, back in 2009 when Obama's term was so full of promise, like closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, holding unemployment below 8% and bringing partisan Washington back together.

The good news for the aging Obama, who starts his 51st year early next month, is that both Presidents Reagan and Clinton also averaged below majority approval in their 10th quarters and still went on to a second term.

The bad news is that Jimmy Carter did the same in 1980 and went on to defeat. Also, both Reagan and Clinton showed significant approval improvement between their ninth and tenth quarters.

Obama did not.

This is the sixth straight quarter out of 10 that Obama's approval hasn't reached 50%. He last saw that mark after his first full year in office, well before his party lost control of the House of Representatives and even before the Libyan war.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Do your part to combat political gridlock. Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle.Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Pete Souza / White House

George W. Bush teams up with Topps for 9/11-era baseball card

George W. Bush teams up with Topps for 9/11 era baseball card

George W. Bush and baseball card giant Topps have teamed up to create limited-edition autographed cards of the former president tossing out the first pitch at a World Series game in 2001.

“Our 2011 Allen & Ginter product will continue Topps’ historic tradition of chronicling heroes both on and off the playing field,” Topps Vice President Mark Sapir said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to announce that this year’s set will include limited-edition autographs of our country’s 43rd president, George W. Bush.”

George W. Bush teams up with Topps for 9/11 era baseball card The 200 autographed Bush cards will be randomly inserted into various sets of the 440-card Allen & Ginter sets.

Although Topps has previously released cards honoring Barack Obama, Bush's would be the first baseball card that a former U.S. president has provided an official signature. 

Some critics have already complained that the card is in bad taste because the image comes from Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium, an emotional moment just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks.

In a post titled "9/11 Hero George W. Bush Shilling Autographed 9/11 Baseball Cards," Wonkette blogger Kirsten Boyd Johnson writes, "It is good to see that in these hard economic times, it is still possible to make a '9/11 memories' buck."

Bush's appearance at the game was to some a courageous act because many people feared further attacks.

"I think the president being here put his money where his mouth is," then-Yankee manager Joe Torre told reporters after the game. "He wanted us right from the get-go to do what we need to do, to live as normal a life as we can. And with everything ... that's been going on, he showed a lot of courage and a lot of class."

Then-New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sat with Sen. John McCain in a box next to the dugout that night and later said Bush's attendance "shows we're not afraid, we're undeterred and that life is moving on the way it should."

About 1,200 police were at the game, and even Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had to go through a metal detector.


George W. Bush: 'I miss being pampered'

George W. Bush in foul-up at Rangers game

George W. Bush's reaction to Obama telling him of Bin Laden's death: 'Good call'

Osama bin Laden dead: George W. Bush and Tony Blair congratulate President Obama

 -- Tony Pierce

Top photo: Three examples of George W. Bush-autographed Topps cards. Credit: Topps

Second photo: George W. Bush at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 30, 2001. Credit: Associated Press

No recession for Obama's 454 White House aides: They'll make $37,121,463 this year

Democrat president Barack Obama addresses his staff in the Oval Office-file

In his numerous fund-raising and policy speeches around the country these days, President Obama often bemoans the difficult economic times and uncertainties afflicting millions of Americans, including the nearly 14 million still seeking work unsuccessfully.

The Democrat argues that his administration needs more time to straighten out the economic mess left by somebody else, who's been gone almost 900 days now.

But good news this morning: The challenging Obama era and 9.1% national unemployment rate do not include the 454 people now helping President Obama do presidential things.

This crowd is being paid a total of $37,121,463 this year. That's up seven staff members and nearly $4 million from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Fully 141 Obama aides -- or nearly one-in-three -- earn more than $100,000 a year. That's also up from the 130 with that scale salary in Bush's last year.

Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar $172,200.

The staff names and salaries report, required annually by Congress, was released on Friday by the White House. The timing, however, was probably an accident because last Friday most Americans were not watching the news closely and were thinking of not working for a three-day holiday weekend.the Obamas wave to White House partygoers 7-4-11

Because Americans would no doubt be pleased to know of the Obama staff's economic success amid the bleak national scene for so many others, we saved the information for today, when most Americans who are still employed are back at their own jobs and can share the joy.

The 2011 White House salary report does not include mention of the 41 unidentified Obama staff members who owe the Internal Revenue Service $831,000 in back taxes. That report came out last fall (Scroll down for the link.)

The report comes as Republicans and Democrats, led from behind by Obama, appear stalemated in closed-door negotiations over a package deal to raise the national debt limit by Aug. 2 and begin spending cuts to tame the $14.2-trillion national debt, up 35% since Obama's inauguration. Obama maintains a deal must include new revenues to cover the rising costs of government.

Having Chicago connections appears to be useful for obtaining the maximum $172,200 salary from the Illinois ex-state senator Obama, who is paid $400,000 a year, almost twice the amount paid to Joe Biden for doing whatever he does. But he's only from Delaware.

The top paychecks include:

Chief of Staff William Daley, who is the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who just retired and left the top Democratic-machine job there to Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama's chief of staff and before that held the Chicago House seat of Rod Blagojevich, who had given it up to become governor of Illinois, which he no longer is due to impeachment and, now, conviction on 17 counts of fraud.

The Daleys' father, Richard J. Daley, was also a longtime Chicago mayor whose operatives provided Illinois' crucial electoral votes to elect John F. Kennedy president back in 1960 before Obama was born.

Valerie Jarrett has a White House title as long as Chicago's winters (senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement). Before this, she was a chief of staff for the most recent Mayor Daley and hired an assistant named Michelle Robinson, who went on, of course, to become Mrs. Barack Obama, whose chief of staff also earns the top $172G paycheck.

This year, the one before Obama's attempted reelection, he reduced his staff by 15 people and $1.7 million.

Some White House aides have already returned to Chicago as campaign employees, including political strategist David Axelrod, who helped elect the most recent Mayor Daley, as well as, briefly, Sen. Obama and then President Obama. Axelrod also made the top salary when he had to live in Washington.


41 Obama aides owe the IRS $831,000 in back taxes

Complete list of 2011 White House staff and their current salaries

861 days and $787 billion in, Obama pleads for more time on creating jobs

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama addresses his staff, file); Kevin Dietsch / EPA (the Obamas greet guests at another White House party, July 4) .

Sarah Palin in Iowa for premiere of 'The Undefeated,' a new chapter in the politics of documentaries


Sarah Palin heads to Iowa on Tuesday, but whether or not electoral politics are involved is in the eye of the beholder.

Palin has to face jury duty in July in Alaska, but, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the former Alaska governor and her husband, Todd Palin, are first going to Pella, Iowa, for the June 28 premiere of "The Undefeated."

Filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon's documentary portrait of Palin and her political record goes into limited distribution by ARC Entertainment in AMC Theatres the week of July 15 (locally, it will be in the City of Orange, in Orange County).

Interestingly -- likely coincidentally -- President Obama will also be in Iowa on Tuesday, promoting manufacturing jobs in Bettendorf. No word whether the two have a date to split corn dogs, but we doubt it.

Approached by Palin's camp to produce short films for SarahPAC, Bannon decided instead....

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You know how Sarah Palin said Paul Revere warned the British? Well, he did. Now, who looks stupid?

Sarah Palin

You may have heard recently something about that Sarah Palin telling a reporter that Paul Revere warned the British on his famous rousing revolutionary ride.

Now, that so many Americans have wallowed in their smug confirmation that Palin is an idiot unqualified for anything but Paul Revere thinks about something paulreverefactsdotcomrepeating sixth-grade history, how far, wide and fast do you think the contradictory news will spread that the former governor of Alaska was indeed correct?

That the Republican non-candidate, in fact, knew more about the actual facts of Revere's midnight ride than all those idiots unknowingly revealing their own ignorance by laughing at her faux faux pas? How secretly embarrassing this must be, to be forced to face that you're dumber than the reputed dummy.

As it happens, though, such phenomena are regular occurrences in American politics, reminding consumers of news to be wary when some fresh story seems to fit contemporary assumptions so absolutely perfectly.

The well-known fable is Revere's late-night ride to warn fellow revolutionaries that....

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Breaking Urgent Flash Really Rush: Mitt Romney is running for president, again, still

Republican Mitt Romney Announce his presidential candidacy in Stratham NH 6-2-11

Mitt Romney announced today what most sentient Americans have known since August of 2008, the former Massachusetts governor is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

This became quickly obvious long ago when John McCain's Hail Sarah pass was ruined by McCain's own backbiting staff and then completely blown up by the Wall Street meltdown, not to mention eight years of accumulating anger over George W. Bush policies and his lazy decision to keep Dick Cheney as political partner, instead of grooming a young heir apparent for four years.

So, with no Hillary Clinton pantsuits to mock, the country was doomed by its own self-proclaimed progressive news media to focus on the credentials of the female GOP candidate -- the important stuff, you know, her frameless glasses, alleged wardrobe desires, whether her hair was up or down on any given day, and, of course, red shoes or not. What deleterious impacts her political ambitions had on her poor, oddly-named children. And the possible divorce there rumored by no one trustworthy.

Instead of superficial campaign stuff like the Real Good Talker's blank resume, absence of reform credentials, bald ambition and Chicago machine heritage.

According to Republican tradition, next year's nomination should go to....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
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