president and mrs. bush

I guess it’s time to bring this back.

This illustration was drawn by Yana back in 2008:

And this is a panel from the latest chapter (ch126):

I’m not saying these are the same photo, but it’s good to keep in mind that Yana has had the idea of the “burnt family photo” since 2008 :D

Bush 41: War Hero • President • Patriarch • Patriot

The USS Finback, a 312-foot-long Gato-class submarine surfaced a little before noon on September 2, 1944 in the treacherous waters near Chichi Jima, the site of a Japanese military base on one of the Bonin Islands, approximately 150 miles north of Iwo Jima. The Finback was assigned “lifeguard duty” and was performing search and rescue missions for American airmen who had been shot down in action and might have survived via bail-out or crash landing.

Earlier that morning, four TBM Avenger aircraft had launched from the USS San Jacinto targeting radio installations on Chichi Jima. At around 8:30 AM, one of the Avengers was blasted by Japanese anti-aircraft shells as it made its bombing run over the island. With the plane on fire and losing control, the pilot continued his run, dropping his four 500-pound bombs on the target he had been given that morning on the San Jacinto. Turning back towards the sea, smoke and flames filled the cockpit, choking the crew of three. Working hard to create distance between the island and the failing aircraft, the pilot ordered his crew to bail out by parachute, shouting “Hit the silk!” over the Avenger’s radio.

As the pilot exited the aircraft, his head smashed into the plane’s tail, slicing a thick gash above his eye, tearing panels from his chute, and sending him plummeting towards the sea at a higher rate of speed than he should have been. Still, he splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and another American plane in the vicinity dropped a life raft near him. He was alive. He was alone.

On Chichi Jima, four miles to the southwest, Japanese authorities began to organize a search party to capture any downed American pilots who might have survived. Boats were launched to find them. The pilot, stung by a Portuguese man-o-war, vomiting from ingesting sea water, and dazed from the trauma of the attack and the bleeding head wound, still had the presence of mind to begin paddling away from Chichi Jima. Allied forces never captured Chichi Jima during the war, and reports of atrocities ranging from Japanese soldiers summarily beheading Allied prisoners to cannibalism of POWs by Japanese troops led to the post-war execution of five of Chichi Jima’s leading officers, including the commander, Major Sueo Matoba.

The current was sweeping the Avenger’s pilot towards Chichi Jima and he desperately paddled against it and out into the open sea. Other members of his aerial squadron opened fire to keep away the Japanese boats heading towards him while another American aircraft radioed the downed pilot’s position to the Finback, which steamed towards him.

When the submarine surfaced, it was unclear to the pilot whether he had been rescued or captured. Then five American submariners appeared on the deck. Grainy video footage, now over 70 years old, survives of the Finback’s submariners fishing the gangly, 6'2" pilot from the sea after his three-hour-long ordeal battling injuries and the Pacific Ocean.

Like so many of the soldiers and sailors risking and sacrificing their lives on distant continents and in remote seas, including the men who saved his life on that September 2, 1944, the pilot was very young – just 20 years old.

His name was George Herbert Walker Bush.

•••

Today, George H.W. Bush celebrates his 93rd birthday and is one of the longest-living Presidents in American history. As of today, only two U.S. Presidents have lived longer – Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, both of whom died at the age of 93 (former President Jimmy Carter will turn 93 this year, as well). On October 11th, Bush will have lived longer than Reagan, and he will break Gerald Ford’s record as the longest-living President in American history on November 25th. He was 17 years old and attending the elite Philips Academy boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. As Bush and many of his fellow well-to-do classmates prepared to graduate in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson gave a commencement address urging the patrician prep school grads to go to college first rather than to enlist in the war. Four days after graduating, Bush turned 18 years old and immediately enlisted in the United States Navy.

With the influence of his father, Bush could have found himself in any number of safe, stateside jobs in the service. Instead, he became the Navy’s youngest fighter pilot. Even before being shot down over Chichi Jima, Bush had experienced the rough landings of flight training and ravages of war. During training, he totaled a plane during a crash landing. In June 1944, he was forced to ditch his plane – fully-loaded with bombs – in the sea during a mission, escaped the plane just before it exploded, and had to be rescued by the USS Bronson. By the war’s end, Bush had flown 58 combat missions during 1,228 hours of total flight time. There were 14 pilots who originally formed Bush’s VT-51 torpedo bomber flight squadron; when he was discharged from the service in September 1945, only Bush and three other pilots from that squadron survived.

Yet, it wasn’t what he saw that haunted George H.W. Bush – indeed, what haunts him still today. It was what he didn’t see as he parachuted out of the burning wreckage of his TBM Avenger on September 2, 1944. Or who he didn’t see.

•••

As Bush prepared to bomb Chichi Jima that morning, he was joined by two crew members in his TBM Avenger, tailgunner Ted White and radioman John Delaney. At 26, White was a few years older than Bush, but their fathers had been classmates at Yale, which created an obvious connection between the two young men aboard the San Jacinto. White wasn’t a normal member of Bush’s crew but, that morning, requested that he be allowed to replace Bush’s regular tailgunner, Leo Nadeau, and received permission.

When their plane was hit, Bush did all he could to order his two crew members to bail out of the plane and assist them in doing so, but the black smoke and flames tearing through the aircraft made it impossible for the pilot to see if White and Delaney had indeed exited the plane. Not only had Bush turned the badly-damaged plane out towards the sea, but he dipped the wings to make it easier for the crew members to pop open their door on the left side of the aircraft and bail out. By doing this, Bush cost himself some precious time and made his own exit from the Avenger more difficult – perhaps the reason he slammed against the tail of the aircraft as he parachuted out.

Other American pilots in Bush’s squadron that morning said that they noticed two parachutes deploy from Bush’s Avenger. As Bush plummeted towards the Pacific Ocean, he scanned the sky for the chutes of Delaney and White, but saw neither. As he paddled with one hand in his life raft to get as far away from the coast of Chichi Jima as possible, Bush continued to search the sky and the sea for his crewmates. But it was to no avail. John Delaney and Ted White were never found. If one of the two men did bail out of the plane with Bush and deploy his parachute, he was immediately lost and the same pilots overhead that radioed Bush’s position to the Finback never located him. The other man most likely went down with the crippled TBM Avenger.

Nearly 60 years later, when Bush’s son had also been elected President of the United States, Bush visited the Bonin Islands and spoke to CNN about his ordeal. With all of the experiences of his life – all of the triumphs and tragedies – it was the loss of Ted White and John Delaney which continued to weigh heavily on George H.W. Bush. “I wake up at night and think about it sometimes,” the former President told CNN, “Could I have done something differently? I’m not haunted by anything other than the fact I feel a responsibility for the lives of the two people that were killed. I wonder if I could have done something different? I wonder who got out of the plane? I wonder – wonder why the chute didn’t open for the other guy? Why me? Why am I blessed? Why am I still alive? That has plagued me.”

How much did it plague George H.W. Bush? When the author and historian James Bradley interviewed the former President about his story for Bradley’s 2003 book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage (BOOK | KINDLE), Bush startled Bradley by asking the author if he had any new information about the fates of John Delaney and Ted White.

•••

When the Finback surfaced and fished George Herbert Walker Bush out of the sea, the submariners treated him for his wounds, fed him, gave him new clothes to wear, and he became a part of the Finback crew – an honorary submariner – for the next month, as the submarine continued its mission, patrolling hot spots in the Pacific Theater just in case another downed pilot required rescue.

Everything was still raw when the future President sat down the next day at a typewriter on the Finback and pecked out a letter to his parents back home in Connecticut. It is the testament of a 20-year-old man born with all of the advantages in the world, sharing his story with his parents and letting them know how the war had touched him…and how it could easily touch them:

Dear Mother and Dad,

This will be the first letter you have gotten from me in a good long while. I wish I could tell you that as I write this I am feeling well and happy. Physically I am O.K., but I am troubled inside and with good cause. Here is the whole story at least as much of it as I am allowed to relate right now.

Yesterday was a day which will long stand in my memory. I was on a bombing hop with Delaney as my radioman and Lt. (j.g.) Ted White as my gunner. He did not usually fly, but I asked him if he would like to go with me and he wanted to. We had the usual joking around in the ready room about having to bail out etc. – at that time it all seemed so friendly and innocent but now it seems awful and sinister.

I will have to skip all the details of the attack as they would not pass the censorship, but the fact remains that we got hit. The cockpit filled with smoke and I told the boys in back to get their parachutes on. They didn’t answer at all, but I looked around and couldn’t see Ted in the turret so I assumed he had gone below to get his chute fastened on. I headed the plane out to sea and put on the throttle so as we could get away from the land as much as possible. I am not too clear about the next parts. I told them to bail out, and then I called up the skipper and told him I was bailing out. My crewmen never acknowledged either transmission, and yet the radio gear was working – at least mine was and unless they had been hit back there theirs should have been, as we had talked not long before. I heard the skipper say something but things were happening so fast that I don’t quite remember what it was. I turned the plane up in an attitude so as to take pressure off the back hatch so the boys could get out. After that I straightened up and started to get out myself. At that time I felt certain that they had bailed out. The cockpit was full of smoke and I was choking from it. I glanced at the wings and noticed that they were on fire. I still do not know where we got hit and never will. I am now beginning to think that perhaps some of the fragments may have either killed the two in back, or possibly knocked out their communications.

Fortunately I had fastened all my straps before the dive and also I had left my hatch open, something I hadn’t been doing before. Just the day before I had asked the skipper and he advised leaving it open in a dive. The jump itself wasn’t too bad. I stuck my head out first and the old wind really blew me the rest of the way out. I do remember tugging at my radio cord which I had forgotten to unplug. As I left the plane my head struck the tail. I now have a cut head and bruised eye but it is far from serious. After jumping, I must have pulled the ripcord too soon for when I was floating down, I looked up at the canopy and several of the panels were all ripped out. Just as I got floating down, I saw the plane strike the water. In the meantime, I noticed that there was a liferaft down in the water. Not until later did I discover that it was mine that was supposed to be attached to my lifejacket. I had forgotten to hook it on, and when I left the plane it had come loose and had fallen into the water. Fortunately, the wind didn’t carry me too far away from the raft. The entrance into the water was not too bad. I had unloosened several of my chute straps so that when it came to getting out of the harness I wouldn’t have too many buckles to undo under the water. I went fairly deep when I hit, but not deep enough to notice any pressure or anything. I shook the harness and the wind carried the chute away on the water. The wind was blowing towards shore, so I made every effort to head the other way. The skipper saw me and he saw my raft, so he made a pass over it to point it out to me. I had inflated my mae west [sailors called their inflatable yellow life vests “Mae Wests”] and then started swimming towards the raft. Fortunately, the fall hadn’t injured the boat, so it inflated easily and I struggled into it. I then realized that I had overexerted myself swimming, because suddenly I felt quite tired. I was still afraid that the wind would take me in closer so I began paddling. It was a hell of a job to keep the water out of the raft. In fact I never did get it bailed out completely. At first I was scared that perhaps a boat would put out from shore which was very close by, but I guess our planes made them think twice about that. A few fighter planes stayed nearby the whole time until I was rescued and you can imagine how comfortable that was. One of them came right over me and dropped me some medical supplies which were most welcome, since I had no idea how badly cut up I was. It turned out to be slight, but did use the iodine anyway. I had some dye marker attached to my life jacket and also there was some in the raft so I sprinkled a bit of that on the water so the planes could see me easily. I took inventory of my supplies and discovered that I had no water. The water had broken open when the raft fell from the plane I imagine. I had a mirror and some other equipment, and also was wearing my own gun and knife.

There was no sign of Del or Ted anywhere around. I looked as I floated down and afterwards kept my eye open from the raft, but to no avail. The fact that our planes didn’t seem to be searching anymore showed me pretty clearly that they had not gotten out. I’m afraid I was pretty much of a sissy about it cause I sat in my raft and sobbed for awhile. It bothers me so very much. I did tell them and when I bailed out I felt that they must have gone, and yet now I feel so terribly responsible for their fate, Oh so much right now. Perhaps as the days go by it will all change and I will be able to look upon it in a different light.

I floated around for a couple of hours during which time I was violently sick to my stomach, and then the planes started zooming me, pointing out my position to my rescuers. You can imagine how happy I was when I saw this submarine hove into view. They pulled me out of the raft and took me below where they fixed me up in grand style. As I write this I am aboard the sub – don’t know how long I will be here, or when I will get back to the squadron.

As I said physically I am o.k. The food aboard here is unequaled anywhere I have ever seen. I am getting plenty of sleep and am even standing watches so that I will get the air occasionally. My back ached as did my leg last nite, and also my seat was a bit sore from the chute straps, but the pharmacist mate rubbed me down and today I feel much better. Last nite I rolled and tossed. I kept reliving the whole experience. My heart aches for the families of those two boys with me. Delaney had always been a fine loyal crewman. His devotion to duty was at all times highly commendable and his personality most pleasing. I shall most certainly write to his family after I am sure they have been notified by the Bureau.

As for Ted White, I have spoken of him several times in my letters before. He was the fellow from Yale, one class ahead of Stu Clement [Bush’s first cousin]. He comes from St. Paul Minn. White Bear Lake to be exact. Perhaps Dad, you know the family. If so do not write them until you get the word from me or elsewhere that the family has been officially notified. There is a possibility that they parachuted and I didn’t see them, but I am afraid it is quite remote as we received a message aboard here last nite saying that only one chute opened. All in all it is terribly discouraging and frankly it bothers me a good deal.

As time goes by I shall add bits to this letter and will mail it at my earliest possible convenience. I shall do the same by Bar, but shall not go into detail like this over my experience so please read her the parts of the letter which might interest her. It’s a funny thing how much I thought about Bar during the whole experience. What I wouldn’t give to be with her right now. Just to see that lovely face and those beautiful eyes and to know she was by my side. Right now I long to be with you so much. To be with you both and to be with Bar is my main desire – at least it won’t be too long, the time is going by quite rapidly.

Please excuse all my misspellings – they are caused not from ignorance but from carelessness in operating this machine.

much much love to you all,
your ever devoted and loving son,
Pop

•••
As he celebrates his 93rd birthday, George Herbert Walker Bush has been many things to many people, and has done so much for so many more.

During the Vietnam War, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Fortunate Son” sang: “It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no Senator’s son/It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no.”

Not too long after World War II, George H.W. Bush was a Senator’s son – his father Prescott was elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. Later, George Bush blazed his own trail. Oilman. U.S. Representative from Texas. An unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas (famously encouraged by the Texas Democrat and President Lyndon B. Johnson that the difference between the House and the Senate was the difference between “chicken shit and chicken salad”). U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Chief U.S. Liaison in China. CIA Director. Vice President of the United States under Ronald Reagan. President of the United States (“41”). Father of one Governor and President (“43”) and another Governor who was once considered a top candidate to become “45″.

But before everything – George Herbert Walker Bush was a war hero. And he was a war hero because of his love, honor, and duty to his country.

Just don’t ask George Bush if he was a war hero.

“It was just part of my duty. People say ‘war hero’. How come a guy who gets his airplane shot down is a hero and a guy who’s good enough that he doesn’t get shot down is not? Ask [John F.] Kennedy about it, why are you a hero? ‘They sank my boat.’ Why am I a hero? They shot down my airplane.”

9

Two of the people above were demonized by the media as “disrespectful thugs” for taking pictures with their middle fingers up, somehow these photos were used against the two to discredit their character and insinuate they deserved to be shot dead in the street by racist men. Can you guess which of the following two I speak of?

Trayvon Martin,
Michael Brown,
Former President George W. Bush,
Jennifer Lawrence,
Lady Gaga,
Joan Rivers,
Justin Timberlake,
Johnny Cash,
Mr. Rogers.

“Wearing the traditional white Tibetan scarves presented to them upon his greeting, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush walk with the Dalai Lama through the Center Hall of the Private Residence at the White House. “  10/16/2007

Series: Photographs Related to the George W. Bush Administration, 1/20/2001 - 1/20/2009Collection: Records of the White House Photo Office (George W. Bush Administration), 1/20/2001 - 1/20/2009

The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s 118-day-old presidency.


The decision, by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for Mr. Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the subsequent disclosure that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.


Mr. Rosenstein, who wrote a memo that the White House initially cited as the rationale for Mr. Comey’s dismissal, had been under escalating pressure from Democrats, and even some Republicans, to appoint a special counsel.


By appointing Mr. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation who once stood up to President George W. Bush on the legality of his domestic wiretapping program, Mr. Rosenstein could alleviate questions about the government’s capacity to investigate the swirl of questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians.

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+ The architects for the Bay of Pigs were Vice President Richard Nixon and CIA director Allen Dulles. JFK inherited the plan from the Eisenhower administration. Nixon lost the race for the presidency to JFK and Dulles was fired by JFK for the failure of the Bay of Pigs. Yet Dulles is appointed by president Johnson as a Warren Commission member to “investigate” JFK’s murder. The proof for Bush’s lie about his CIA past can be found in a document, declassified in 1988.It’s a memorandum of FBI director J Edgar Hoover to the State department, dated 29 November 1963. It describes a meeting, one day after JFK’s murder, between FBI and CIA officials talking about the reaction of the Cuban exile community to the Kennedy Assassination. The last paragraph states that the “the substance of the foregoing information was orally furnished to us and George Bush of the Central Intelligence agency”. Here we have the name of George Bush mentioned as a CIA official in direct connection to the Kennedy assassination. When asked by journalists, he initially stated “It’s not me, must be another Bush!” This was checked and found to be NOT true. When asked again, a spokesperson for Bush declined to comment any further. The obvious question is: Why does Bush need to lie about it? I’ll tell you why… because there is overwhelming evidence pointing to George Bush giving the kill order on JFK.  During the preparations of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, pressure is applied to Texan Bill Lord not to testify for the committee. Bill Lord was a fellow marine and roommate of Lee Harvey Oswald on a ship voyage to France. Lord expresses his concern in a letter to president Carter. He writes that Oswald was connected to the FBI and CIA and concludes that the CIA and the FBI are complicit in JFK’s death and the coup d'etat that occurred on 11/22/1963. He also states that one of the Midland, TX politicians applying pressure to him, was Mr. George W. Bush junior . This letter to President Carter was declassified some years ago. #4biddenKnowledge Song is False Flaggin by @donnyarcade

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cnn.com
George H.W. Bush hospitalized, treated for pneumonia
A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush said the 92-year-old politician was re-admitted to a Houston hospital Friday over what turned out to be pneumonia.
By Eli Watkins, CNN

Hang in there, Mr. President. If you make it to November 24th, you’ll break Gerald Ford’s record as the longest-living President in American history.

2

I would never want to be president. I don’t envy his position. But I do want discussion and dissent. Dissent is like my favorite word right now. The thing is, I love this country, I love living here, I love being an American. But I also love seeing different places and different cultures. I just think the beauty is in being able to talk about stuff. We’re human beings — we’re given the gift of speech and the power to help other species. So let’s just talk about it. You don’t have to agree with me on anything. But let’s talk about it, let’s try. What’s the harm? We can shop later. Stores are open till 7.” P!nk - not dead, not stupid 

nytimes.com
Trump Tops Obama, Bush and Clinton in Golfing and Private Getaways So Far
After years of criticizing former President Barack Obama for playing golf and going on private getaways, President Trump has already done more of both in his first 81 days.
By Karen Yourish and K.K. Rebecca Lai

After years of criticizing former President Barack Obama for playing golf and going on private getaways, President Trump has already done more of both in his first 81 days than Mr. Obama, as well as former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Mr. Trump played golf again this past weekend, on Saturday and Sunday.

Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States

by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer

This week, the President will visit South Dakota, marking the 50th state he has visited during his administration (as such, it’s also my 50th state with him). To mark the occasion, I chose one photograph from each state that we’ve visited. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. With help from photo editor Phaedra Singelis, I tried to depict a variety of situations. Some are more lighthearted; some are sad, and some are poignant. Some are with the Vice President; some are with the First Lady, and a couple are with the entire family. A selection of photos are centered on policy, and others on politics. Some focus on the President as Commander-in-Chief – others on his role as consoler for the nation.

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned – we’ll be adding a photograph from South Dakota following his visit there on Friday.

Alabama, 2015

Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Alaska, 2009

Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, 2009

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arkansas, 2014

Arkansas. May 7, 2014. Touring tornado damage in Vilonia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

California, 2014

California, July 23, 2014. Viewing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Colorado, 2014

Colorado, July 8, 2014. Playing pool with Gov. John Hickenlooper in Denver. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Connecticut, 2012

Connecticut, Dec. 16, 2012. Making last-minute edits to his speech in Newtown, before a vigil for those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Delaware, 2009

Delaware, Oct. 29, 2009. Honoring fallen soldiers from Afghanistan at Dover Air Force Base. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Florida, 2015

Florida, April 22, 2015. Keeping his distance from a baby alligator on Earth Day at Everglades National Park. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Georgia, 2013

Georgia, May 19, 2013. Graduates cheering the President during a heavy downpour at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Keep reading

The diversity visa program cited by Mr. Trump was created in 1990 by a bill supported by Mr. Schumer, passed by bipartisan votes and signed into law by a Republican president, George Bush.

Mr. Schumer supported getting rid of the program as part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws crafted by eight lawmakers and passed by the Senate in 2013. But the plan was blocked in the House by Republicans who objected to other elements of the plan that they considered too permissive.

Source: Trump Blames Schumer and Immigration Policies Hours After New York Terrorist Attack
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/us/politics/trump-new-york-attack-schumer-visa.html

“I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere”: George W. Bush’s surprise first visit to American soldiers in Iraq

It was Thanksgiving in the United States, but it was November 27, 2003 near the coast of England, where the Pilgrims had set off for religious freedom centuries earlier.  Darkness was not as good of a cover as the passengers on a 747 flying east had hoped.  A British Airways pilot looked out his window and saw something that puzzled him.  “Is that Air Force One?” wondered the pilot.

“No, it’s a Gulfstream 5,” said Colonel Mark Tillman of the United States Air Force.  He was lying.  It was Air Force One, and the official aircraft of the President of the United States was in the middle of one of the most secretive flights in history.

On board the plane was a skeleton crew of Secret Service agents, White House aides, a handful of reporters and photographers, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the President, George W. Bush.  Most Americans – even members of the press and Secret Service – thought that the President was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at his ranch near Crawford, Texas.  As Thanksgiving dinner was served at Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch – a dinner that deputy Press Secretary Clair Buchan said would consist of “free range turkey, turkey cornbread dressing, chipotle sweet potatoes, mash potatoes, asparagus, Texas grapefruit, toasted walnuts, and green salad – that’s all one item – pumpkin pie, and Prairie Chapel pecan pie made with pecans from the President’s ranch” – the President was conspicuously absent from the dinner table.  The First Lady, Laura Bush, was aware of the secret trip but Bush’s parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, had no idea why their son was missing from the dinner table.

Earlier that day, the President had slipped on a windbreaker and put on a baseball cap as he and the Secretary of State hopped into a red SUV with tinted windows.  A Presidential trip into Crawford while he was staying at the ranch usually required several dozen Secret Service agents and a long motorcade.  Not only was this a downsized version of that, but the agents at the gates of Bush’s ranch didn’t even realize that the President was in the vehicle as they waved it through.  Bush and Rice, with just a few Secret Service agents, headed to an airstrip in Waco.  On Interstate 35 during his 45-minute trip to Waco, the President even got stuck in traffic – something he hadn’t experienced since before he was elected Governor of Texas. 

As Bush and Rice made their way to the airstrip in Waco, several of Bush’s aides rounded up a few members of the press, including the Washington Post’s Mike Allen, Bloomberg’s Richard Keil, and five press photographers.  When Dan Bartlett (the White House Communications Director), Blake Gottesman (the President’s personal aide), and Joe Hagin (the Deputy Chief of Staff who had been in charge of planning the top secret trip) informed the reporters that Bush was going to Baghdad, they thought it was a joke.  The Iraq War was only 8 months old; Saddam Hussein was still a free man.  Just a week earlier, a DHL cargo plane had been hit by a surface-to-air missile after taking off from Baghdad International Airport.  Now, the President was heading to that very airport in the most recognizable aircraft in the world – a plane that literally has the President’s logo on the side of it.  The press was sworn to secrecy as the President’s aides told them where to meet so that they could travel together to Waco to board Air Force One.

Air Force One was nearly empty as it flew across the United States and landed at its home base, Andrews Air Force Base, outside of Washington, D.C.  The plane stopped in Washington to pick up a few more journalists and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.  The journalists in Washington had all of their electronic equipment, from cameras to cell phones to pagers, confiscated so that they could not leak the news about the trip.  They also were being taken to one of the most secretive places in the nation – the massive hangar at Andrews where Air Force One and its twin is kept.  There are actually two 747s that are identical to one another, and the backup plane was completely fueled and ready-to-go when its twin arrived from Texas.

The engines on Air Force One were running when President Bush switched planes and the reporters caught their first glimpse of him.  According to the Washington Post’s Mike Allen, the President cautioned the press about the trip’s secrecy:  “The sound in the hangar was so loud that (the President) could not be heard, but he held his thumb and pinkie apart, and raised them to his ear, in the symbol of someone using a phone, and mouthed, ‘No calls, got it?'  He emphasized the point by crossing his arms back and forth in front of him.  He made the 'cut’ sign to his throat and mouthed again, 'No calls.’”

Ten minutes later, Air Force One was in the air and the President was asleep almost before the plane started crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  En route, reporters were given bulletproof vests and helmets as the plane raced across the Atlantic.  After they were spotted by the British Airways pilot, Colonel Tillman headed into the cabin to notify Hagin, the trip director, who worriedly exclaimed, “Oh shit!"  As Air Force One made its way towards Iraq, Hagin waited anxiously to hear if word leaked.  A duty officer in the White House Situation Room was monitoring all news outlets worldwide; if the trip leaked before they reached Iraq, Hagin was going to turn the plane right back around.

On the ground at Baghdad International Airport, a detail of U.S. Army Special Forces waited on the tarmac for what they were told was the impending arrival of a "VIP”.  They were not there for ceremonial reasons; merely protective ones.  Baghdad International was a dangerous place and insurgents and terrorists needed no special reason to attempt to blow a plane out of the sky.  The Special Forces soldiers hoped that the plane would land safely and they could get their “VIP” to the Green Zone as quickly and safely as possible.

Around 5:00 AM, Baghdad time, the lights inside of Air Force One were turned off and all of the shades on the plane’s windows were drawn.  Colonel Tillman monitored Air Force One’s top-secret safety features – hoping not to use the evasive maneuvers and missile redirection flares that the plane is rumored to have.  As the President’s plane touched down in Baghdad, the Special Forces soldiers on the tarmac were stunned – their VIP was the POTUS. 

The President never left the airport.  After riding to a mess hall with General Rick Sanchez, Bush entered the building through a back door and was greeted by the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer who, somewhat prematurely, said “Welcome to free Iraq, Mr. President”, as Bush wrapped him in a big bear hug.  Bush changed into a First Armored Division windbreaker, which was the division that was awaiting a USO show and Thanksgiving dinner inside the mess hall.  General Sanchez greeted the soldiers and asked Bremer to read the President’s traditional Thanksgiving declaration prior to serving food.

Bremer stepped to the microphone in the mess hall in front of approximately 600 American soldiers and said, “Thank you, General.  But by tradition, the most senior U.S. government representative present should read it.  Is there a representative more senior than me in the room?”

At this point, the soldiers began to stir.  Around the mess hall were some unfamiliar faces – civilian security wearing the same camouflage uniforms as the soldiers, but people that the soldiers had not previously recognized.  After Bremer asked if there was someone above his rank in the building, President Bush walked on to the stage and the soldiers erupted in cheers.  Bush’s eyes were filled with tears, as were those of his aides and many of the soldiers.  Soldiers who were present later said that the building was actually shaking due to the roar of the crowd, and the cheering continued for several minutes.



The tearful President took in the cheers before saying, “I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere." 

Bush continued:

Thank you for inviting me to dinner.  General Sanchez, thank you, sir, for your kind invitation and your strong leadership.  Ambassador Bremer, thank you for your steadfast belief in freedom and peace.  I want to thank the members of the Governing Council who are here, pleased you are joining us on our nation’s great holiday, it’s a chance to give thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings we receive.

I’m particularly proud to be with the First Armored Division, the Second ACR, the 82nd Airborne.  I can’t think of a finer group of folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all.  We’re proud of you.  Today, Americans are gathering with their loved ones to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.  And this year we are especially thankful for the courage and the sacrifice of those who defend us, the men and women of the United States military.

I bring a message on behalf of America:  We thank you for your service, we’re proud of you, and America stands solidly behind you.  Together, you and I have taken an oath to defend our country.  You’re honoring that oath.  The United States military is doing a fantastic job.  You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq, so that we don’t have to face them in our own country.  You’re defeating Saddam’s henchmen, so that the people of Iraq can live in peace and freedom.

By helping the Iraqi people become free, you’re helping change a troubled and violent part of the world.  By helping to build a peaceful and democratic country in the heart of the Middle East, you are defending the American people from danger and we are grateful.

You’re engaged in a difficult mission.  Those who attack our coalition forces and kill innocent Iraqis are testing our will.  They hope we will run. We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.

We will prevail.  We will win because our cause is just.  We will win because we will stay on the offensive.  And we will win because you’re part of the finest military ever assembled. And we will prevail because the Iraqis want their freedom. 

Every day you see firsthand the commitment to sacrifice that the Iraqi people are making to secure their own freedom.  I have a message for the Iraqi people:  You have an opportunity to seize the moment and rebuild your great country, based on human dignity and freedom.  The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever.

The United States and our coalition will help you, help you build a peaceful country so that your children can have a bright future.  We’ll help you find and bring to justice the people who terrorized you for years and are still killing innocent Iraqis.  We will stay until the job is done. I’m confident we will succeed, because you, the Iraqi people, will show the world that you’re not only courageous, but that you can govern yourself wisely and justly.

On this Thanksgiving, our nation remembers the men and women of our military, your friends and comrades who paid the ultimate price for our security and freedom.  We ask for God’s blessings on their families, their loved ones and their friends, and we pray for your safety and your strength, as you continue to defend America and to spread freedom.  Each one of you has answered a great call, participating in an historic moment in world history.  You live by a code of honor, of service to your nation, with the safety and the security of your fellow citizens.  Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the earth.  I’m proud to be your commander in chief.  I bring greetings from America.  May God bless you all.


After his speech, President Bush was directed towards a table where he was supposed to eat with a few selected member of the Armed Forces.  Instead, the President called an audible.  "I want to serve these guys,” the President said.  As he plunged into the crowd of American forces, Bush shook hands and took pictures with every soldier who requested one.  He served the soldiers their dinner.  For over 90 minutes, Bush visited with the men who he had sent into war.  Bush didn’t even eat dinner.



The President was on the ground for just two-and-a-half hours.  Following his meeting with the troops, Bush met privately with several leaders from the Iraqi Governing Council.  The President boarded Air Force One, exhilarated from his visit with the troops, and headed back to Washington after less than three hours in Iraq.  Reporters were finally allowed to contact the rest of the world and tell the story of the trip after the plane lifted off from Baghdad.

No matter what your political beliefs are, this was a courageous and morale-boosting trip by the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military to the troops that he had sent into battle.  Sixteen days after Bush’s visit, Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces.  President Bush would visit Iraq three more times, including an emotional farewell visit in December 2008, one month before he left office.

4

Muhammad Ali, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion & Civil Rights Activist, 1/17/1942 - 6/03/2016

nytimes.com
Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.

One week after Mr. Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power.  That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.

Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired.  Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.

The dismissals followed the abrupt firing on Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.  Mr. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people like Mr. Rogers who had ties with Mr. Christie.  As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Christie had sent Mr. Kushner’s father to jail.

Prominent American allies were in the meantime scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Mr. Trump.  At times, they have been patched through to him in his luxury office tower with little warning, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt was the first to reach Mr. Trump for such a call last Wednesday, followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel not long afterward.  But that was about 24 hours before Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain got through — a striking break from diplomatic practice given the close alliance between the United States and Britain.

Despite the haphazard nature of Mr. Trump’s early calls with world leaders, his advisers said the transition team was not suffering unusual setbacks.   They argued that they were hard at work behind the scenes dealing with the same troubles that incoming presidents have faced for decades.

And Mr. Trump himself fired back at critics with a Twitter message he sent about 10 p.m.  “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions,” he wrote.  “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

The process is “completely normal,” said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, who emerged on Tuesday as the leading contender to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.  “It happened in the Reagan transition.  Clinton had delays in hiring people.”

Mr. Giuliani, who made his comments in a telephone interview, added: “This is a hard thing to do.  Transitions always have glitches.  This is an enormously complex process.”

There were some reports within the transition of score-settling.

One member of the transition team said that at least one reason Mr. Rogers had fallen out of favor among Mr. Trump’s advisers was that, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he had overseen a report about the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which concluded that the Obama administration had not intentionally misled the public about the events there.  That report echoed the findings of numerous other government investigations into the episode.

The report’s conclusions were at odds with the campaign position of Mr. Trump, who repeatedly blamed Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent and the secretary of state during the attacks, for the resulting deaths of four Americans.

Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official who had criticized Mr. Trump during the campaign but said after his election that he would keep an open mind about advising him, said Tuesday on Twitter that he had changed his opinion.  After speaking to the transition team, he wrote, he had “changed my recommendation: stay away.”

He added: “They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.”

Mr. Cohen, a conservative Republican who served under President George W. Bush, said Trump transition officials had excoriated him after he offered some names of people who might serve in the new administration, but only if they felt departments were led by credible people.

“They think of these jobs as lollipops,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, weighed in as well.  On Tuesday, he issued a blunt warning to Mr. Trump and his emerging foreign policy team not to be taken in by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom Mr. Trump praised during the campaign.

“The Obama administration’s last attempt at resetting relations with Russia culminated in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and military intervention in the Middle East,” Mr. McCain said.

Some of the early transition difficulties may reflect the fact that Mr. Trump, who has no governing experience or Washington network and campaigned as an agent of change, does not have a long list of establishment figures from the Bush era to tap.  His allies suggested that might ultimately prove positive for Mr. Trump if he was able to assemble a functioning team that would bring new perspectives to his administration.

For advice on building Mr. Trump’s national security team, his inner circle has been relying on three hawkish current and former American officials: Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Peter Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman and former chairman of the Intelligence Committee; and Frank Gaffney, a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration and a founder of the Center for Security Policy.

Mr. Gaffney has long advanced baseless conspiracy theories, including that President Obama might be a closet Muslim.  The Southern Poverty Law Center described him as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.”

Prominent donors to Mr. Trump were also having little success in recruiting people for rank-and-file posts in his administration.

Rebekah Mercer, the scion of a powerful family of conservative donors and a member of Mr. Trump’s executive transition committee, has said in conversations with Republican operatives and previous administration officials that she was having trouble finding takers for posts at the under secretary level and below, according to a person familiar with her outreach efforts.  She told them that the transition team was more than a month behind schedule and on a tight timeline.

In another delay, Mr. Pence did not sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with Mr. Obama’s aides until Tuesday evening, a transition spokesman said.  Mr. Christie on Election Day signed a memorandum of understanding to put the process into motion as soon as the outcome was determined, but once he was ousted from the job, Mr. Pence had to sign a new agreement.

The paperwork serves as a nondisclosure agreement for both sides, ensuring that members of the president-elect’s team do not divulge information about the inner workings of the government.

Teams throughout the federal government that have prepared briefing materials and reports for the incoming president’s team are on standby, waiting to begin passing the information to counterparts on Mr. Trump’s staff.

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials at key agencies including the Justice and Defense Departments said they had received no contact from the president-elect’s team.

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