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A political rivalry for the ages. And then that final salute.



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By Steve Kornacki

The scene inside the Capitol this week was arresting: 95-year-old Bob Dole, confined for years to a wheelchair, rising with assistance to offer one final standing salute to George H.W. Bush.

The history behind it made it even more poignant. Born only 11 months apart, but into dramatically different circumstances, the two men forged one of the preeminent rivalries of modern American politics, fueled by shared ambition and shaped by fateful twists and bitter confrontations, with Bush ultimately capturing the prize that always eluded Dole.

They both came to Washington around the same time, but from very different places.

A son of Dust Bowl Kansas whose family was nearly broken by the Depression, Dole barely escaped death from an exploding artillery shell in World War II, then spent the next three years rehabilitating in an Army hospital. He emerged without the use of his right arm and with shrapnel still in his body, returned to western Kansas and entered politics. In 1960, he won a House seat. Eight years later, he moved up to the Senate. It made him a rising star in Republican politics.

Bush, by contrast, was born into an aristocratic Yankee family and his father, Prescott, was a U.S. senator. Like Dole, Bush defied death in World War II, shot down over the Pacific Ocean but avoiding capture by the Japanese, then set out to make his own name in Texas, first in the oil business and eventually in politics. He lost a Senate race in 1964, but won a House seat two years later. It made him the first Republican ever to represent Houston in Congress — and, just like Dole, a rising Republican star.

Their collision was almost inevitable, and it came in 1972, just weeks after Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection. Dole had been serving as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, an invaluable platform for a would-be national candidate, but his outspokenness had irked the White House.

Nixon wanted to make a change, and he had someone in mind: Bush, who at the White House’s insistence had given up his House seat for another Senate bid in 1970. When he fell short in that race, Bush was named U.N. ambassador by Nixon, and now Nixon wanted him to head the RNC. The switch was announced — and universally portrayed as a blow to Dole and a major boost for Bush.

President George H.W. Bush winks as he ends a session on Oct. 25, 1990, in the White House Rose Garden at Washington, with Republican members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.Charles Tasnadi / AP file

Journalist Martin Schram, detailing the ways the outgoing chairman had alienated himself from the White House, concluded: “There is a lesson for the 48-year-old George Bush in the case of the 49-year-old Bob Dole.”

Nixon’s demise complicated each man’s path. Public disgust over Watergate almost cost Dole his seat when he ran for reelection in 1974 and eked out a one-point victory. Bush, meanwhile, hoped to win an appointment as the new vice president under Gerald Ford, Nixon’ successor, but Ford passed him over in favor of Nelson Rockefeller and Bush settled for the lower-wattage role of ambassador to China.

At the Republican convention in 1976, though, Ford needed a new No. 2. He was running for a full term and Rockefeller was too liberal for the conservative wing of the GOP. Bush was an obvious choice, but there was a problem. At the end of 1975, Ford had nominated him to head the CIA, and the Senate Armed Services Committee had threatened to hold up his confirmation unless Bush was ruled out as a potential V.P. pick. It was, Ford said, an “unfortunate and tragic” situation, but he complied and Bush was confirmed.

For Dole, it was a stroke of fortune as Ford instead turned to him as a running-mate. All at once, Dole regained the stature he’d lost a few years earlier. As the vice presidential nominee, he received a national security briefing just after the convention. It was administered by Bush, the CIA director, who could only wonder if he’d been lapped for good by his rival.

When the Ford-Dole ticket fell inches short in the 1976 election, Dole went to work parlaying his new prominence into a national campaign of his own, for president. Bush, out of a job with Ford’s defeat, decided to run in 1980, too. They were both underdogs against the frontrunner, Ronald Reagan, but it was Bush, not Dole, who found traction and posted a stunning upset win in the Iowa caucuses.

The scene was set for a Reagan-Bush showdown in New Hampshire, but Dole remained in the race. When the two leading candidates scheduled a debate in Nashua, Dole and the other also-rans showed up and walked on stage as it started. Bush didn’t want them there but Reagan did, and he began arguing for their inclusion. The moderator interrupted him and demanded Reagan’s microphone be cut. “I am paying for his microphone, Mr. Green!” Reagan roared.

It brought the crowd to its feet as Bush just sat there, a silent witness to the destruction of his own campaign. According to Richard Ben Cramer’s “What it Takes,” Dole leaned in to Bush as he exited the stage and said, “There’ll be another day, George.” Reagan won New Hampshire, and the nomination, with ease.

Bush caught the big break in ’80. His surprising strength in the primaries convinced Reagan to add him to his ticket, and unlike the Ford-Dole ticket, Reagan-Bush proved a big winner that fall, and again in 1984. Two terms as Reagan’s loyal vice president made Bush a natural candidate for the top job in 1988.

But Dole still wanted it too, and he’d made moves of his own in the Reagan years, ascending to the top Republican leadership post in the Senate. He set out to challenge Bush for the nomination and this time crushed him Iowa, where Bush fared so dismally that he even finished behind televangelist Pat Robertson.

The race moved to New Hampshire and Dole, improbably, had his rival on the ropes. Bush responded with a last-minute barrage of negative ads that accused Dole of being soft on taxes, and gutted out a pivotal victory.

Late that night, after the race had been called, the two men appeared together on NBC. Bush was finishing an interview on set with Tom Brokaw, who then introduced Dole from a remote location. Brokaw asked Bush if he had anything to say to Dole. “No,” he said. “Just wish him well and meet him in the South.” Then Brokaw asked Dole if he had any message for Bush. “Yeah,” he replied, “stop lying about my record.” (Bush smiled on air, but according to Jon Meacham’s biography of him, he referred in his diary to Dole as “a no good son-of-a-bitch.”)

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Puerto Rican officials warn against diverting recovery funds for a wall



By Patricia Guadalupe

WASHINGTON — María Meléndez, the mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, came to Washington this week on a mission to ensure that federal aid already allocated for hurricane recovery is finally delivered to her city and others on the island.

Meléndez’s visit to talk about local governance during natural disasters and crisis management came a day before Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall that he dangled as a presidential campaign promise.

After multiple reports surfaced saying that funds allocated for recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria could be used to finance the wall, Trump’s action has heightened concerns among Puerto Rican officials who have vowed to fight such a move.

“If the president intends to use his emergency powers to take funds from Puerto Rico and other states, I’ll see him in court,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said on Twitter early Friday morning. “Our island urgently needs the disbursement of the money allocated to direct and reconstruction.”

Hours later, a senior administration official said that taking any disaster relief funds away from Puerto Rico and Texas was not part of the plan, adding that the $8 billion they currently plan to use for the wall should be sufficient.

While much attention has been paid to the capital city of San Juan and its recuperation efforts, other island cities and towns have been often overlooked and have the added burden of lacking the resources and personnel to help in a recovery.

More than 400 buildings in Ponce were damaged during Hurricane Maria in 2017, damage is estimated at more than $500 million, and the cost of reconstruction is estimated to be at least $200 million.

“We are used to hurricanes, but nothing like what happened with Hurricane Maria. It was total devastation and we still need to reconstruct the island. It is a long recovery. We need those funds,” Meléndez, known as Mayita, told NBC News after participating in a forum Thursday at New York University’s Washington Center.

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Brexit warning: No-deal vegetable tariffs could cause 12,400 EXTRA deaths – shock study



A STUDY has claimed 12,400 people could die as a result of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal.

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You won’t believe what Trump just said: 6 eye-popping moments



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By Dareh Gregorian

He praised China for executing drug dealers, called his administration’s crime statistics lies and broke out into a near rap while predicting he’d be sued over his declaring a national emergency to get his border wall built.

Here are some of the most eye-opening moments from President Donald Trump’s teleprompter-free emergency declaration announcement-turned-Rose Garden press conference:


After declaring that he was using his national emergency powers to build his wall on the southern border, Trump broke out into a sing-songy rap about what he expected to happen next, which would include appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against his travel ban in 2017.

“We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there and we’ll possibly get a bad ruling and then we’ll get another bad ruling and then we’ll end up the Supreme Court, and then hopefully we’ll get a fair shake we’ll and we’ll win in the supreme court, just like the ban. They sued us in the Ninth Circuit and then we lost . . .”


The president expressed his admiration for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s approach on drug crimes. He recounted a conversation with Xi, where he said, “You have 1.4 billion people. What do you mean you have no drug problem. Why?” He then did an impression of Xi saying, “Death penalty. We give death penalty to people who sell drugs. End of problem.”

“What do we do? We set up blue-ribbon committees, lovely men and women they sit around a table, eat they dine, and they waste a lot of time,” Trump said.

“They’re criminal list, a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty. Our criminal list a drug dealer gets a thing called how about a fine,” he complained. In December, Trump signed a criminal justice reform act that reduced mandatory penalties for some drug offenses.

He said Xi was adding fentanyl to his country’s “criminal list” thanks to ongoing trade negotiations. The “penalty is death. That’s frankly one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal,” Trump said.


The president said the wall was necessary to stop the flow of illegal drugs from the Mexico, saying “the big drug loads don’t go through ports of entry.”

He was asked later about the claim, which contradicts statistics from his own administration. A 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment by the DEA, Mexican drug cartels “transport the bulk of their drugs over the Southwest border through ports of entry (POEs) using passenger vehicles or tractor trailers.”

“I get my numbers from a lot of sources, like Homeland Security, primarily. And the numbers that I have from Homeland Security are a disaster,” he said.


Trump said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize for getting North Korea to stop flying “rocket ships” over Japan.

“In fact, I think I can say this, Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize. He said I have nominated you, respectfully, on behalf of Japan. I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize. I said, ‘Thank you,'” he said.

“We do a lot of good work. This administration does a tremendous job and we don’t get credit for it. So Prime Minister Abe gave me – I mean it’s the most beautiful five page letter, Nobel Prize, he sent it to them. You know why? Because he had rocket ships and he had missiles flying over Japan, and they had alarms going off — you know that. Now all of the sudden they feel good, they feel safe. I did that.”


On the benefits of the wall, Trump said, “One of the things we’d save tremendous, just a tremendous amount on, would be sending the military. If we had a wall we don’t need the military, because we’d have a wall! So I’m gonna be signing a national emergency, and it’s been signed many times before.”


Trump insisted conservative commentators don’t decide policy for him, pushing back against reports that he shut down the government at their behest. But he went on to praise several of his favorites.

“Sean Hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do, not of me,” Trump said of the Fox News personality he reportedly speaks to often. “If I changed my views, he wouldn’t be with me,” the president insisted.

Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity, left, interviews President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Sept. 20, 2018.Ethan Miller / Getty Images file

“Rush Limbaugh, I think he is a great guy,” he said. “He can speak for three hours without a phone call. Try doing that sometime. . .I mean this guy is unbelievable.” He also singled out Fox personalities Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, before talking about Ann Coulter.

Coulter wrote a book called “In Trump We Trust” before turning on him for his failure to build the wall.

“Probably, if I did speak to her, she would be very nice, but I just don’t have time to speak to her,” he said. But for now, said the president who’s come under fire for making Native American cracks about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Coulter “is off the reservation.”

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