Remembering George H.W. Bush

Like everyone, George H.W. Bush is a complex mix of good and bad. I never liked most of his policies, but I always liked Bush as a person. My biggest beef against Bush was in allowing Lee Atwater run a racist campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988. And in reading some of my friends’ Facebook pages, they remind me that Bush had an abysmal record when it came to LGBTQ issues and dealing with the AIDS epidemic.

On the positive side, Bush was willing to reach across the aisle and find common ground with Democrats on such issues as disability rights and taking a political risk in raising taxes to keep the federal budget from ballooning out of control. What I most admire about Bush was his care for friendships and his willingness to be friends with even those that he disagreed with. He struck up close friendships with Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for instance.

In spite of my disagreements with Bush’s policies, I never had the antipathy towards him that I have towards Republicans like Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. I always thought of Bush as a Republican from a different generation that were willing to compromise and work with Democrats to try to resolve the country’s problems in spite of their political differences.

That seemed to be a time when the Republican Party was healthier and more sane. The party once had moderates and even liberal Republicans like Pete McCloskey and John Anderson. During the 1980s Republican Senator Barry Goldwater opposed Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in their efforts to impose their fundamentalist Christian worldview on the American political scene. Goldwater saw how the Christian Right would have a bad long term effect on the Republican Party. I think that was beginning of the problems with the GOP. That started the evolution of the Republican Party as the more extreme Right began chipping away at the more moderate segments of the GOP: the homophobic campaign of Pat Buchanan in the 1992 Republican primaries; the ideological purity of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican leadership; the Far Right Tea Party; and the nativist and racist 2016 Trump campaign.

I don’t really include Bush to be that kind of Republican. A great article by Frank Bruni of the New York Times titled George Bush and the Obituary Wars summarizes my mixed feelings towards Bush senior. Bruni wrote:

Bush has indelible stains on his record. He also has points of light. At times he failed the responsibilities of leadership. At times he did right by them. He showed folly and he showed wisdom, cowardice and courage, aloofness and kindness.

Accentuating the positive, especially in the hours after his death, didn’t eliminate the negative…

…But too many of us tend to interpret events, political figures and issues in all-or-nothing, allies-or-enemies, black-and-white terms, blind to shades of gray…

…We like our villains without redemption and our heroes without blemish, and we frequently assign those roles in overly strict alignment with our ideology…

…we do seem to be getting worse at complexity. At nuance. At allowing for the degree to which virtue and vice commingle in most people, including our leaders, and at understanding that it’s not a sign of softness to summon some respect for someone with a contrary viewpoint and a history of mistakes.

Here is a video of the friendship of Bill Clinton and George Bush.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush talked about her and President Bush’s relationship with former President Bill Clinton in an exclusive interview with C-SPAN for its First Ladies series.

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Jasper the Cat and His Friend Sue


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Jasper the Cat, Republicans and Immigration

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Two Bipartisan Immigration Bills That Tried to Address Conservative Concerns on Border Security

For several years, I’ve been listening to far Right conservatives complain about the federal government’s inaction on having a more secure border with Mexico. Many of these same conservatives, however, were against two bipartisan immigration bills that specifically tried to address their concerns about border security: the 2006 McCain Kennedy Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act; and the 2013 bipartisan Senate bill the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Both bipartisan bills tried to address concerns of both Democrats and Republicans by combining a gradual pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants with enhanced border security.

The 2006 McCain Kennedy Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act tried to address the concerns of border security by conservatives with a proposal to authorize the Department of Homeland Security to use aerial surveillance to develop a national strategy for border security and establish an advisory committee on border security and enforcement issues consisting of representatives from border states, law enforcement, community officials and tribal authorities.

In exchange, the McCain Kennedy bill would allow undocumented immigrants in the United States on or before May 12, 2005, to register for a temporary visa that would be valid for six years. They would have to pay a $1,000 fine and any back taxes. To obtain permanent status, workers would have to pay a $1,000 application fee, meet English and civics requirements, as well as clear security and background checks. The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a new temporary work visa, known as the H-5A. People entering the United States could at least initially work in industries that are not high skilled or agricultural in nature. The visa would be for three years and could be extended for one additional three-year period.

Matthew Soerens wrote a recent article for The Hill titled Honor bipartisan legacy of John McCain with immigration reform that summarized the McCain Kennedy proposal:

First, McCain-Kennedy focused on improving border security and enforcement. Though the details varied between their initial proposal and subsequent incarnations, all insisted that the U.S. government has a sovereign obligation to secure its borders — a responsibility at which, especially during those years, it was miserably failing. The proposal also focused resources on verifying that temporary visitors to our country depart at the appropriate time, as nearly half of immigrants in the U.S. illegally entered legally and overstayed their visa.

Second, McCain-Kennedy focused on facilitating legal immigration. By increasing the number of employer-sponsored visas, both permanent and temporary, the bill would have dramatically reduced the incentives to immigrating illegally while meeting the needs of the U.S. labor market. The bill also proposed expediting the process by which family members abroad are reunited to their U.S. citizen relatives — a process that, under current law, can sometimes literally last decades and often prompts the overstaying of visas.

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, Senators McCain and Kennedy insisted that immigrants in the country unlawfully must make amends for their violation of law through fines and then be given the chance to earn permanent legal status by meeting various requirements, including passing English and civics tests. (This provision did not apply to those with serious criminal infractions, who would face deportation).

The McCain Kennedy bill passed the Senate on May 25, 2006, along a 62-36 vote. The House, however, passed a separate bill with greater focus on border security and enforcement without a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. House Speaker Dennis Hastert refused to have a vote on the Senate bill and never formed a conference committee to iron out the details in the Senate and House bills. The House and the Senate immigration bills expired at the end of the 109th Congress.

The 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act was written by a bipartisan group of eight Senators known as the “Gang of Eight”: Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

The American Immigration Council wrote a special report A Guide to S.744: Understanding the 2013 Senate Immigration Bill that did a good job of summarizing the 2013 Senate bipartisan bill. This is how the bill addressed the concerns of conservatives for border security:

The bill makes enormous investments in border security, including the following: deploying at least 38,405 full-time Border Patrol agents along the southern border (including an additional 19,200 more than currently in place); mandating an electronic exit system at all ports where Customs and Border Protection agents are deployed; constructing at least 700 miles of fencing, including double fencing; increasing mobile surveillance; deploying aircraft and radio communications; constructing additional Border Patrol stations and operating bases; hiring additional prosecutors, judges, and staff; providing additional training to border officers; and increasing prosecutions of illegal border crossings. The bill specifies mandatory area-specific technology and infrastructure that includes watch towers, camera systems, mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, fiber-optic tank inspection scopes, portable contraband detectors, radiation isotope identification devices, mobile automated targeting systems, unmanned aircraft, radar systems, helicopters, and marine vessels, among other minimum requirements. The bill mandates 24-hour surveillance of the border region using mobile, video, and portable systems, as well as unmanned aircraft, and deploys 1,000 distress beacon stations in areas where migrant deaths occur. Interior enforcement against visa overstays is also increased. The Department of Homeland Security is required to initiate removal (deportation) proceedings, confirm that relief from removal is pending or granted, or otherwise close 90 percent of the cases of immigrants who have overstayed their visas by more than 180 days in the last 12 months. A pilot program is created to notify immigrants that their visas are about to expire…

…Spending on border security will reach record levels. The bill creates a fund with $46.3 billion of initial funding to implement the Act. Additional funding will be provided by visa and other user fees, which may be increased as necessary. $30 billion will be dedicated over a 10-year period to hiring and deploying at least 19,200 additional Border Patrol agents. $8 billion will be dedicated to the Southern Border Fencing Strategy, of which $7.5 billion will be for deployment and maintenance of fencing. $750 million will be dedicated to E-Verify implementation and expansion. $4.5 billion will be spent to carry out the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy, and—if necessary—$2 billion will be allocated to implement the recommendations of the Southern Border Security Commission.

As well as provide tighter border security, the bill gave illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, a concern of liberals. The report summarized this part of the bill:

The bill will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status if they have been in the U.S. since December 31, 2011, have not been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors, pay their assessed taxes, pass background checks, and pay application fees and a $1,000 penalty (which may be paid in installments), among other requirements. Applicants must also be admissible under current law, which excludes individuals who have committed certain offenses, participated in terrorist acts, or belong to other excluded categories. Spouses and children of RPIs would also be eligible. RPIs will not be eligible for federal means-tested public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and benefits under the Affordable Care Act, and in general will not receive social security credit for previous unauthorized employment (except in the case of those who received a Social Security number prior to 2004)…

…The initial grant of RPI status is good for six years. RPI status may be renewed for six years if the immigrant has remained regularly employed, which allows for gaps of up to 60 days between employment periods. If the immigrant cannot show continuous employment, he or she must demonstrate income or resources not less than 100 percent of the poverty level. Note that the 2013 federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,550 per year. There are exemptions to the employment requirement for full-time enrollment in school, maternity leave, medical leave, physical or mental disabilities, children under 21, and extreme hardship. Applicants for RPI renewal must also undergo another background check, pay taxes, and pay any remaining balance of the $1,000 RPI penalty, among other requirements…

…Registered Provisional Immigrants will be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence (a “green card”), but they must go to the “back of the line” and have been in RPI status for at least 10 years. They will receive permanent residency only after all other applications submitted before the enactment of the bill have been processed. Like the RPI requirements, the requirements for permanent residence will include maintaining regular employment, which allows for gaps of up to 60 days at a time. In the alternative, if an applicant cannot show regular employment he or she would have to show an average income or resources of 125 percent of the poverty line during the RPI period. Exceptions are made for full-time students, children under 21, physical or mental disability, and showings of extreme hardship. Applicants would also have to show that they have maintained RPI status, paid taxes, meet English proficiency requirements (or be pursuing a course of study in English), pass an additional background check, and pay application fees and an additional $1,000 penalty…

…Registered Provisional Immigrants who have been lawfully present for 10 years before becoming permanent residents will be able to apply for U.S. citizenship after maintaining permanent resident status for 3 years. Therefore, undocumented immigrants who legalize via the RPI track will have to wait at least 13 years to become citizens.

The bipartisan bill passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27, 2013. Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to allow a vote on the Senate bill because of the informal Hastert Rule. The Hastert Rule is an informal rule that Republican Speakers of the House of Representatives have invoked since the mid 1990s. The Hastert Rule says that the Speaker will not schedule a floor vote on any bill that does not have majority support within his or her party — even if the majority of the members of the House would vote to pass it. The rule keeps the minority party from passing bills with the assistance of a minority of majority party members.

Speaker Boehner would not allow a vote on the Senate bill because the Freedom Caucus members of the House were against any bill that would allow a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants and wanted a bill that focused only on more stringent border security. The Freedom Caucus never offered any alternative immigration bill that addressed their concerns however. The Senate immigration bill expired at the end of the Congress.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy addresses an immigration rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2006 to garner support of the McCain Kennedy immigration bill

In January 28, 2013, Senator McCain talked to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the new bipartisan immigration plan, which included stronger border security and a pathway to citizenship

On January 2018, bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled an immigration reform plan that would offer citizenship to 11 million immigrants as well as tougher border security. In this PBS NewsHour episode, Judy Woodruff talks with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Gwen Ifill talks to Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., about how the politics of this new effort will play on Capitol Hill.

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A Liberal’s Defense of Republican Senator Jeff Flake

Over the past two years, one of the Senators whom I’ve grown to respect is Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake. I don’t agree with his conservative politics, but he’s actually been one of the few Republicans to speak out against Trump and try to pass legislation (without much success) to curb the Trump policies he disagrees with. He tried to get a DACA bill, a bill to fight against cuts in legal immigration, fights against tariffs, a resolution against Russian interference in our elections. All of those efforts were undermined by McConnell and the Republican leadership.

The challenge that Jeff Flake has is that the issues where he has the most disagreement with President Trump are in areas where Trump has used his executive orders to get his way. A lone Senator cannot do much to stop executive orders unless the Senator has the cooperation of the Republican leadership. Mitch McConnell has a devil’s bargain with Trump, though, where McConnell would get the conservative legislation that he wants passed in exchange for giving President Trump a pass for saying the worst things against minority groups, the press and our foreign allies.

Many progressives have been angry that Senator Flake has voted for most of Donald Trump’s legislative agenda. I would argue, though, that the legislation that has passed through Congress is not really Donald Trump’s, but the legislation that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and congressional conservatives have been fighting for decades. Trump really didn’t have any detailed legislative proposals coming into office, so Ryan, McConnell and the Republican leadership were happy to fill the void. I am opposed to most of the conservative legislation that has passed through this Congress. Senator Flake is a conservative, and I don’t expect a conservative like Flake to vote against conservative legislation like tax cuts or deregulation.

Our fight as progressives is to regain political power in the national and state scene and to fight for progressive causes. That’s not Flake’s fight. Flake is fighting for a decent and honorable conservatism that is untainted by racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and white supremacist thought. Progressives and Senator Flake are fighting very different fights. But these two fights share a common foe: President Trump.

I think there are two different and important fights in this nation right now. Progressives need to fight for political power and figure out some way to bridge the divide between the working class white communities that supported Trump and the minority communities that feel threatened by Trump. Moderates and sane conservatives need to fight the Alt Right and regain control of the Republican Party. I think both fights are important for the health of our democratic republic.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor on March 6, 2018 in an attempt to secure immediate passage of his bipartisan bill to provide a temporary solution for the thousands of DACA recipients facing potential deportation. The “three-for-three” proposal, introduced with U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Feb. 27, would extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protections for three years and provide $7.6 billion to fully fund the first three years of the administration’s border security proposal. While Flake’s effort was blocked through an objection, he stated his intention to return to the floor frequently until the Senate reaches a DACA deal.

On March 8, 2018 U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) spoke on the Senate floor to introduce legislation to nullify tariffs on steel and aluminum announced by the White House.

On July 19, 2018, Senator Jeff Flake teamed up with Democratic Senator Chris Coons to push for a bipartisan resolution backing the intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and must be held accountable

On September 13, 2018, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called on the Republican Leadership to speak out against President’s attempts to politicize the Department of Justice

On June 7, 2018, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today on the Senate floor in support of free trade and American global leadership. With the administration’s recent decision to impose steep tariffs on our trading partners, Flake encouraged Congress to take action and rein in protectionist policies that pose a threat to our nation’s prosperity.

On October 11, 2018, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered remarks on the Senate floor in defense of the free press. With the disappearance and apparent brutal murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Flake again cautioned against the use of language that empowers authoritarian governments and oppressive regimes.

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Jasper in the Trump Era

I haven’t done a Jasper the Cat cartoon in a long while. So I did this cartoon to describe some of the struggles that I’ve had in the past two years with friends and family members who have supported Donald Trump. It’s been tough at time, trying to have a dialogue with someone whom there is no common set of facts that we both agree on. I still love and care for those friends and family members, even though sometimes I think they’re crazy.

They probably think the same of me.

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The Ford/Kavanaugh Hearings Part 2

I got some unexpected reactions to yesterday’s blog I wrote about the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings. I though I’d write this follow up to clarify what I thought.

I believe that Thursday’s hearings were set up where two individuals are talking and there are no witnesses or no sort of investigations to back up what either Ford or Kavanaugh are saying. So the Senate hearing was set up by the commission to be a he said/she said situation. That is unfair to both Ford and Kavanaugh.

I thought Kavanaugh was being defensive in his testimony. I think he was playing to a conservative audience in his testimony. That may show that he has a bias that may raise legitimate questions about his impartiality on certain issues that may come up on the Supreme Court. That doesn’t necessarily show he is guilty or innocent though of sexual assault.

I don’t agree with Kavanaugh’s politics and I don’t want him in the Supreme Court. But I also don’t want his personal life destroyed or his reputation ruined without first investigating the accusations. I don’t like Kavanaugh’s politics, but I don’t know what he’s like on a personal level. In a similar way, I don’t want Christine Blasey Ford to come under personal attacks and have threats on her family for having the courage to speak out. Ford’s sexual assault accusations should be taken seriously and investigated.

I personally think, for the sake of both Ford and Kavanaugh, we should continue the investigation into the accusations. And those investigations should be done by a nonpartisan body, not the Senate, where both the Republicans and the Democrats have a vested interest in how the investigation would turn out.

Ford requested an FBI investigation and I think that is a good idea. Talk to the people who were in the party that Ford talked about. Question Mark Judge. Find out whether Kavanaugh had other incidents of heavy drinking and belligerent behavior during his high school and college years. Test the credibility of the individuals making the accusations. And give Kavanaugh a chance to defend himself.

If that means extending the length of the investigation past a week, then so be it. If the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, then we should take the time necessary in the moment to investigate this and be sure about Kavanaugh.

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