Cal Thomas

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President Trump and I have something in common. We were both invited to last Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner and we declined. The president wasn't interested in hearing himself mocked by an industry that holds him to a different standard than his predecessor and I wasn't interested in hearing the predictable jokes denigrating all things Republican, conservative and Fox News.



The headline in the March 5, 1929 edition of the Chicago Tribune read, "Plain Citizen Coolidge Shuts Desk and Quietly Goes Home." Calvin Coolidge would write a newspaper column from Northampton, Massachusetts, for which he presumably was paid a pittance, but other than that he refused to exploit his notoriety or accomplishments as president for money.



President Trump did something Monday I have long advocated. He met with a small group of conservative journalists, pundits and radio talk show hosts. I was among them. After ticking off a list of what he said were his accomplishments leading up to the arbitrary 100-day marker of his presidency, we asked him questions.



As is almost always the case, signs of trouble preceded the latest shooting in Paris, which left one police officer dead and wounded two bystanders before police killed the gunman, later identified as French national Karim Cheurfi, a known criminal with a long, violent record. ISIS claimed to be behind the attack. According to police, a note praising ISIS fell out of Cheurfi's pocket when he fell.



There was a moment at Press Secretary Sean Spicer's White House briefing Monday that was significant. Asked by a reporter about North Korea's missile launch last weekend, Spicer said the administration was aware of the launch and that "it failed." End of story. Next question, please.

 



Thanks to the beneficence of the federal government (and the calendar), we Americans have until midnight on April 18 to file our income taxes. It's too bad filing taxes wasn't an easier process. President Trump has pledged to reform our tax code, which, to most people, currently reads like a foreign language.



In Greek mythology, sirens were beautiful creatures that lured sailors to their doom with their hypnotic voices. In Homer's epic, "The Odyssey," ships came to ruin on jagged reefs, following siren song, the pull of the beautiful voices so strong that the hero Odysseus, in order not to succumb, commanded that his crew lash him to the mast of his ship, and not untie him, until they were in safe waters. That's a lesson American presidents might have learned.

 



In the aftermath of the debacle over the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump can learn a valuable lesson that will serve him well in the next battle over tax reform and other issues. The president was elected largely on the force of his strong personality and vague promises to fix things that are a "disaster," a favorite word of his.



Readers of a certain age may recall ads for Ivory Soap, which claimed to be 99 and 44/100ths percent pure. If the soap could have reached 100 percent purity, the company would likely have made the claim. Purity, apparently, is what some conservative Republicans are demanding in a health insurance bill, which likely will be voted on this week, unless it is held back because Speaker Paul Ryan doesn't think it has enough votes to pass. 



Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend $1.4 billion of New York's resources to solve the persistent problem of poverty in central Brooklyn. If he wins legislative approval, Cuomo, a Democrat, intends to spend the money on affordable housing, job training, anti-violence programs, recreational space, even obesity. Some cynics suggest the proposal is targeted at boosting Cuomo's presidential prospects in 2020, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and take his proposals seriously.



Here are two scenarios. One: you are a retiree who in recent years has been concerned about the value of your stock portfolio. Suddenly, the value of your stocks and stock-based mutual funds surges, the Dow rising 1,000 points to record highs within weeks. You examine the monthly report your broker sends and you are pleasantly surprised at how much your investments have earned since Donald Trump took office.



Before becoming a newspaper columnist I was a broadcast news reporter for local TV stations and occasionally appeared on the NBC radio and television networks. I have some experience at being on the receiving end of hostilities directed at the media. At a pro-Nixon, pro-Vietnam war rally I covered in the early '70s, a demonstrator looked at the NBC logo on my microphone and called me a "communist." We had never met. He knew nothing about my politics or the quality of my reporting. He assumed that because I was covering the event for NBC I must be a left-wing radical.



The traditional media have decided not to take President Trump's insults lying down. After what may be the strongest -- and to his supporters -- most thrilling takedown of journalists by any president, Editor and Publisher magazine featured this headline: "Newspapers Aim to Ride 'Trump Bump' to Reach Readers, Advertisers."

 



American public school students fall well behind students around the world in math and science proficiency. This is not debatable. According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, both cited in The New York Times in 2012, "Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth-graders are closer to the top performers in reading."



My wife of 51 years passed away last Saturday after a long battle against multiple health issues. On the day of her passing, I posted this thought on my Facebook page: “Men, love your wives. Don’t wait until they are about to be taken from you before you realize what they have contributed to your life. Love them now so you have no regrets at the end."



Since Donald Trump's election, major media have been trying to figure out what it did wrong, given its fawning coverage of Hillary Clinton and anti-Trump stories. Didn't it help twice elect Barack Obama? Why didn't the formula work this time?

Mostly the media blames voters, talk radio and Fox News, never itself. One might say it is in denial, a condition with a medical definition.



At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Trump promised to "totally destroy" the so-called "Johnson Amendment," a law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.



Republican members of Congress met in Philadelphia last weekend for what was called a retreat. It might have been more accurately labeled an advance. Perhaps not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt's first term has so much been done by so few that will potentially impact so many (to paraphrase Winston Churchill in a completely different context).



President Donald Trump's inaugural address may not have risen to the rhetorical level of John F. Kennedy ("The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans" and "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"), or Ronald Reagan's critique of government ("Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem"), or even Barack Obama's in 2009 ("On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord"), but the speech set out large goals, many details of which are yet to be revealed.

 



During his Senate confirmation hearing, Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate, told a story. He said his mother was a domestic who cleaned beautiful homes. One day she asked him if he would rather live in those nice houses or the house in which he and his brother lived in Detroit. She told him that only he could decide the type of home he would eventually live in by how much he studied in school and the choices he made for his life.