W’s Return

Yesterday former President George W. Bush returned, briefly, to the national stage.  He was campaigning for his brother, Jeb Bush, who is hanging on for dear life and hoping to make a good showing in the South Carolina Republican primary.

According to press reports, the former President gave a short speech that endorsed his brother and described some of the qualities, like integrity and judgment and character, that he believes are needed in a good President — implicitly drawing a contrast with the blustery bombast of Donald Trump, without mentioning Trump or any other Republican candidate by name.   “W” also recounted some memories from his former campaigns in South Carolina and added some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush Campaigns With Brother George W. BushIt was a bit jarring to see news reports of George W. Bush at the podium.  I hadn’t seen him for a while, and of course he looked older, and thinner.  Since he left office seven years ago, former President Bush has consciously avoided the public eye and maintained a pretty consistent non-partisan, apolitical tone.  His speech yesterday sounds like more of what we’ve come to expect from him in his post-presidential years.  He was there to support and help his brother, but he did it without attacking other candidates by name or, for that matter, mentioning President Obama or criticizing the Obama administration.

George W. Bush remains a figure to be mocked and reviled among some on the left side of the political spectrum; seven years later, he’s still blamed by many, inside the Obama administration and out, for virtually all of our current problems.  Now Donald Trump has joined in, by repeating the debunked conspiratorial theories that the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to maneuver us into an unnecessary war and ignored clear intelligence that America would be attacked on 9/11.

Through it all, former President Bush has publicly remained above the fray, no doubt believing that, having served in the nation’s highest office, former Presidents shouldn’t engage in rancorous partisan politics or bash their successor on talk shows.  It’s an old school approach that speaks of personal humility and properly recognizes the dignity of the presidency.  His ego obviously doesn’t compel him to stay in the media spotlight.  Instead, he’s taken to painting, he’s written a book about his Dad, former President George H.W. Bush, and he’s focused on charitable and humanitarian efforts.

Yesterday, George W. Bush listed some of the qualities we want in our President.  I think the former President’s personal conduct since he left office illustrates those qualities — and draws a pretty sharp contrast with the vulgar, egotistical, limelight-loving loudmouth who currently is leading in the polls.

 

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An Unfortunate Air Of Plausibility

In Cincinnati, and elsewhere, another identity-theft scam is making the works.  Only this time the bogus offer is not to help a Nigerian diplomat, it’s to get money from a phony program supposedly put in place by President Obama.

The emails offer people the opportunity to participate in a program where the federal government will supposedly pay your summer electric bills.  All you need to do is provide your Social Security number and bank routing number, and your bill supposedly will be paid.  Of course, there is no such federal program, and once you provide your Social Security number and bank account information the scammers will empty your account and take you for all you’re worth.

What’s sad about this isn’t that crooks are preying on innocent saps — that’s been happening since the dawn of mankind — but that people are being duped by the ploy because it has the air of plausibility.  With all of the stimulus programs and bailouts over the last four years, wide swathes of people evidently find it entirely believable that the federal government will pay your utility bills, just like it bailed out banks and GM and made stupid loans to companies like Solyndra.

Don’t you find it troubling that rational people could believe that such a program might actually exist?  We’re rapidly becoming a nation of greedy suckers.

“Lucky Leroy” Redefines Greed

Occasionally you will see a story that just makes you shake your head in dismay about what it says about the human condition.

For me, at least, so it is with a story about a guy in Michigan who won $2 million in the state lottery TV show called “Make Me Rich,” but nevertheless remains eligible for food stamps — and continues to use his food stamp card to buy his food.  The man in question, Leroy Fick, says he doesn’t feel bad about still using taxpayer money to buy his food.  Fick’s $2 million lottery winnings don’t disqualify him from a program that is supposed to help the poor because, under current law, food stamp eligibility is based on gross income and lottery winnings are considered liquid assets.  As a result, a guy who has more money in the bank than the vast majority of taxpayers is happy to have those taxpayers pay for his groceries.  What a greedy jerk!

I recognize that this is an extreme case, and obviously the “liquid assets” loophole needs to be fixed.  But what it really sad about this story is that a guy who has had a stroke of incredible good fortune has absolutely no regrets about taking advantage of that loophole, and thereby taking advantage of his fellow citizens.  Why doesn’t “Lucky Leroy” Fick have a conscience that causes him to realize that using his food stamp card under these circumstances is just wrong?