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In 1985, Lee Atwater hired me through an early political action committee to begin organizing conservative support for Vice President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 run for the presidency. My work consisted of meeting with conservatives and setting up meetings for Bush, at which he was superb.

I started making trips with Bush to areas I knew, including upstate New York, where I was from. We planned a trip upstate to help incumbent Republican Rep. George Wortley, a family friend and a really terrific guy.

Flying with the vice president was a hoot, to say the least. No one stood in line, no snarly stewardesses, no invasive magnetometers, no groping pat downs by a sweaty 300 pound TSA flunky and no fighting over overhead bins. You got on, were warmly greeted by a Navy steward with a hot cup of coffee and took your seat. (Or did not take your seat, if you didn’t feel like it.)

Upon taxing and takeoff, there was no “put your seat and tray tables upright and in the full locked position.” People stood in the aisles chatting, gossiping and reading the morning’s Washington Times.

We went to Syracuse via Air Force Two.There at Hancock Airport, a motorcade swept us into town lickety split. My family was there at the event to greet us including my mother, Barbara, my brother, John and my sister-in-law, Ellen.

I introduced them to the vice president and it was like old home week. He could not have been nicer and when I stood off to the side while a photo was being taken he waved me over and said, “Craig, come over here and get in the picture.”

My brother was so impressed that the vice president of the United States knew me by name.

After the event I lingered and dawdled, but I was about to get a lesson in “Bush Time.” There is Eastern Standard Time, and there is Bush Time. I was operating under EST, chatting with my family when, to my horror, the motorcade began to leave — without me!

I’d been assigned to the second car behind the limousine Bush was riding in and I saw Rich Bond, a Bush aide and someone else in the back seat, furiously waving to me to get in as the car began to pull away. It pulled away very quickly. I literally dived into the open door of the passenger side, my feet dragging, Bond laughing and pulling me in, all at the same time. I got in with no bruises, except to my ego.

I went into Syracuse with new wingtips and left with slightly scuffed wingtips — and a much adjusted ego, along with a new respect for Bush Time.

Craig Shirley (@CraigSBPA) is the founder and chairman of public affairs firm Shirley and Bannister. He is the author of four books on Ronald Reagan, the New York Times bestselling “December, 1941” and the critically praised “Citizen Newt,” the only authorized biography of Newt Gingrich. He has just completed Honored Madam, the first definitive biography of Mary Ball Washington.

Inside the Beltway: Trump, ‘master of the medium of his time’

By Jennifer Harper | December 1, 2018

Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS, has a new book out, and the title tells all: “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.”

Indeed, Donald Trump’s actual presidency has been a boneshaker for journalists who were unprepared for a billionaire commander-in-chief who is a canny denizen of the media and entertainment realm, and unafraid to push back.

Mr. Garrett — who has covered the executive branch for 17 years — noticed.

“His goal was to sift through the mountains of distracting tweets and shrieking headlines in order to focus on the most significant moments of Trump’s young presidency, the ones that Garrett believes will have a lasting impact,” explains St. Martin’s Press, the publisher.

The Washington Post calls Mr. Garrett’s book “an early draft of our current history,” while Kirkus Reviews cited the author’s analysis of Mr. Trump’s own “coarsening effect on political dialogue.”

Mr. Garrett also notes the president’s place in it all.

“Whatever you think of Trump as a person or president, he is the most media-savvy president since Ronald Reagan,” the author wrote.

“The media savvy reference was to Trump’s social media skills — the point being Reagan was a master of the medium of his time, network television, and Trump is a master of the medium of his age — Twitter, Facebook and the like,” Mr. Garrett tells Inside the Beltway.

Trump’s Twitter habits have evolved slightly and remain a dominant voice in his presidency — driving news coverage and revealing his state of mind. That remains catchy and compelling. The news media sifts all tweets and treats them as the news events they are but continues to struggle in weighting its coverage of tweets against other long-lasting changes Trump is bringing about, specifically in deregulation, nominations/confirmations to federal courts and administrative changes to Obamacare and immigration,” he says.

“In future years, I predict the news media will conclude it was preoccupied with tweets and less focused on structural Trump-generated changes. That is likely to reinforce my point that Trump was a master of the medium of his time,” the author says.


Fred Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute offered thoughts on the death of George H.W. Bush — deeming him a “true gentleman who embodied the nobility of public service.”

The productive team of Reagan and then-Vice President Bush were in office together eight years.

“They forged a remarkable partnership. As they reignited the U.S. economy, battled tyranny across the globe, and restored America’s pride and purpose, President Reagan relied on his vice president’s calm, strength, loyalty, and wisdom. In all that the administration achieved, President Reagan once remarked, “no one has been closer to my side and has contributed more to our success than George Bush,’” says Mr. Ryan.

“As president, George Bush built on this legacy, steering America through challenging times at home and abroad. Respectful of others, thoroughly devoted to service, and gracious even in defeat, he also solidified his reputation for integrity and decency,” he notes.

Presidential historian and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley also recalls the legacy of George H.W. Bush.

“When I think of him, I am reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Every step of his life was well-lived, was a new adventure, was a new challenge. He never shirked or turned down a difficult assignment but met them all, faced them all and made the most of them, always with grace and courage. George Herbert Walker Bush was a hero for our time and for all time,” said Mr. Shirley.


Rows of numbers reflecting TV ratings can get tedious. Sometimes, headlines are more revealing. Consider just a few for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”:

“‘Saturday Night Live’ Ratings Slip With Host Claire Foy” (Deadline Hollywood, Dec. 2)

“Weekend Update: Why ‘Saturday Night Live’ has lost its Trump-bump glory” (USA Today, Nov. 30)

“‘Saturday Night Live’ ticks down” (TV By the Numbers, Oct. 14)

“How ‘Saturday Night Live’ Became a Grim Joke” (New York Magazine, Oct. 1)

“‘SNL’ Struggles to Find Its Identity in the Era of Trump Fatigue” (Vanity Fair, May 17)

Rob Schneider Says Alec Baldwin’s Trump is Hurting ‘SNL’” (Hollywood Reporter, April 27)


“For eight nights, Jewish families and friends will come together to engage in the lighting of the menorah. This special tradition started more than 2,000 years ago during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which followed a trying period when Jews were persecuted for practicing their faith,” President Trump says in his message for Hanukkah, which began Sunday.

“Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred, and bigotry around the globe. We remember all those from the Tree of Life — or L’Simcha Congregation — whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October. As one Nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families, and the community, and we pray that the victims’ families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season. Over the coming days, may the warming glow of each candle on the menorah help fill homes and hearts with love and happiness. Together, we reaffirm the truth that light will always break through the darkness. We send our very best wishes for a blessed and happy Hanukkah,” Mr. Trump says.


56 percent of U.S. voters say building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border should be a priority for Congress; 77 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent say building a border wall is not an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 34 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent say building a wall is an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 49 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

15 percent are undecided about a shutdown; 17 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,957 registered U.S. voters conducted Nov. 15-18.

• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

Statement by Reagan biographer Craig Shirley on the passing of President George H.W. Bush

Craig Shirley today said, “George HW Bush’s stately ship of state has now sailed into a new life, there to be met by his devoted soulmate Barbara and daughter Robin and his ever loving Lord.”

“When I think of him, I am reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Every step of his life was well lived, was a new adventure, was a new challenge. He never shirked or turned down a difficult assignment but met them all, faced them all and made the most of them, always with grace and courage.”

“George Herbert Walker Bush was a hero for our time and for all time.”


Statement from Reagan biographer and presidential historian Craig Shirley on the freeing of attempted presidential assassin John Hinckley

Craig Shirley today said, “District Judge Paul Friedman should be immediately investigated for releasing Murderer and attempted murderer John Hinckley. His actions are outrageous and could be actionable. Is he aiding and abetting a murderer?”

“Today millions of nonviolent offenders are serving life sentences for victimless crimes. John Hinckley is the murderer of Reagan press secretary Jim Brady as ruled by a Medical Examiner.  Hinkley attempted to murder the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, and severely wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty. Jim Brady was maimed in the attempted assassination and lived with debilitating pain and severe handicaps until his death in 2014.

If John Hinckley is sane enough to return home, that he is sane enough to serve the life sentence he deserves for the agony he inflicted on Jim Brady, his family, Ronald Reagan, the Reagan family, and everyone else affected by that day.

“Judge Paul Friedman, an odious and revolting Clinton appointee, deserves to be investigated and possibly brought up on charges for his shameful and potentially illegal handling  of Hinckley, who is guilty of capital crimes.”

“This ruling is so disgusting and dishonorable that there needs to be an immediate investigation into why District Judge Paul Friedman would even consider it. If he can’t provide good cause, he should be removed from his position and disbarment should be considered.”


Paul Laxalt, Reagan’s ‘First Friend,’ Dead at 96 || Lifezette

Paul Laxalt, Reagan’s ‘First Friend,’ Dead at 96

Former Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt died Monday at the impressive age of 96 at a health care facility in Virginia. Through his near-century of life, Laxalt always championed American causes and conservatism, while embodying what it means to be an American and believing in underdogs when others didn’t.

I remember interning on Capitol Hill in the summer of 1977 and, as I was walking down the hall of the Russell Senate Building one day, another intern nudged me, pointing to Laxalt walking toward us and said, “there is the nicest guy in the Senate.” He was right.

On that sweltering day, Laxalt was the picture of cool, wearing a seersucker suit and black cowboy boots. In later years, we became friends and he took a deep and abiding interest in my books about President Ronald Reagan and was always helpful.

Laxalt first became acquainted with the future president when the two men were neighboring governors Laxalt in Nevada, Reagan in California. There, they hit it off and formed what became an alliance and friendship that endured as long as both lived.

During their gubernatorial tenures in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they worked together to create the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to protect the beautiful Lake Tahoe. Though the agency’s results were “mixed,” according to biographer Lou Cannon, “Reagan and Laxalt gave it a chance.” Typical. They were both eternal optimists.

While Reagan retired from politics after declining to seek a third term as governor, Laxalt went national; he was elected in 1974 to the Senate as his state’s junior senator by fewer than a thousand votes, defeating then-Lt. Gov. Harry Reid in 1974.

Laxalt won that race despite disgraced President Richard Nixon’s scandals draped around the Republican Party. Laxalt’s victory was almost a miracle, with Watergate and Republican corruption and incompetence hanging over the heads of every candidate the party fielded. Paul was re-elected again in 1980 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

<p style=”text-align: left; padding-left: 30px;”>Paul Laxalt is both Reagan’s closest friend and most trusted adviser</p>

Laxalt’s friendship with Reagan never faltered. Even as president, when Reagan sent  Laxalt a letter, he always signed it “Ron.” And Reagan made many, many references to their friendship in his speeches, diaries and other writings.

“Paul Laxalt is both his closest friend and most trusted advisor,” said one aide. Indeed, Laxalt unabashedly supported Reagan in his 1976, 1980, and 1984 presidential runs, and regularly took on causes close to Reagan’s heart.

Laxalt provided the essential first push that conservatives needed to mount a counter-offensive to the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, the single most important issue for America in that year. Reagan, again, was by his side.

Though the treaty was approved by one vote in the Senate, Laxalt and Reagan mounted an impressive grassroots-inspired campaign that hit at every American’s hearts. Laxalt was the linchpin for it all.

Throughout Reagan’s three presidential runs (1976 being a loss by the slimmest of margins, beaten at the GOP convention by the unelected chief executive, Gerald Ford), Laxalt, who served as national chairman of all three campaigns, was constantly by Reagan’s side, giving much-needed and often-heeded advice.

It was an unbreakable bond; there’s a reason why his nickname was “The First Friend.” When President Jimmy Carter halted dozens of federal water projects in the Western states, which were designed to bring water into arid farming land, Laxalt quickly went to the phone, dialed Reagan, and with prescience, said, “I just met a one-term president.”

How close were the two men? At the 1980 GOP convention in Detroit, both Reagan and his wife Nancy wanted Laxalt for the vice presidential slot. They both detested the idea of picking George H. W. Bush (the obvious and best choice) and fought tooth and nail  with aides for Laxalt. Only at the end did the Reagans reluctantly settle on Bush.

When Reagan defeated Carter in that November 1980 landslide victory, no small part of the credit went to Laxalt’s friendship and sage advice. Laxalt admitted that, because of their closeness, he could criticize and advise “Ron,” as he still called the chief executive – in ways that others in politics could not.

Sometimes, he personally delivered bad news, instead of other aides who feared presidential anger. And sometimes their friendship almost got Reagan into permissible misfortune.

According to the Washington Post in early March of 1982, “Laxalt is President Reagan’s closet elected friend, and Reagan thinks so highly of him that during the transition the president wanted to institutionalize the friendship by giving Laxalt a separate office and staff in the Executive Office Building. That ran up against the constitutional dictum on the separation of powers so, instead, Laxalt has become Reagan’s Ambassador-Without-Portfolio to the Senate.”

When there was a brief boomlet to draft Laxalt for president in 1987, I was proud to have been involved in the planning and execution. I never, ever remember anyone bad-mouthing Laxalt, something many had by then come to think impossible in post-Watergate Washington.

Laxalt was proud of his daughter, Michelle, his long-time confidant, Tom Loranger, his grandson, Adam, (a graduate of the Navy Academy and now a candidate for governor of Nevada) and, of course, his lovely wife Carol. Their home was always open to strangers and they held a big Christmas Party each year to gather gifts for “Toys for Tots” with the US Marine Corps.

Throughout his life, Laxalt remained loyal to conservatives, even in the face of disappointment. When Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona ran unsuccessfully in 1964 for president against the popular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, he faced a withering barrage of Democratic accusations of war-mongering, nuclear-warfare, and racism.

Nevertheless, Laxalt stood fast with Goldwater to the end, insisting when the Arizonan passed away in 1998 that “[Goldwater was] one of the giants of 20th century American politics. Goldwater blazed the trail for the type of conservatism that has dominated government for the better part of three decades.”

So, too, was Laxalt. Although he typically remained behind the scenes, Laxalt helped form, pitch, and win many championships for the GOP. I’ve lost a good friend and America has lost a war hero, a veteran of World War II, and a great national leader.

Paul Laxalt, RIP.

Craig Shirley is a New York Times best-selling author and presidential historian. He has written four books on President Ronald Reagan, along with his latest book, “Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative,” about the early career of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and is the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College in Illinois, the 40th president’s alma mater. He also wrote the critically acclaimed“December 1941.”