It's hard to feel sympathy for President Donald Trump. It seems many of the difficulties he encounters, if not most of them, are self-imposed.
But seeing Trump in the front pew at the late President George H.W. Bush's memorial service in Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, as speaker after speaker lauded the leadership and decency and compassion of America's 41st president, it was hard to avoid feeling a bit sorry for the 45th president.
Trump was the last of the living presidents to be seated at the service, on the same row as his predecessors. He was separated by wife Melania from Democrats Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter in the front pew of the church.
In the front row on the other side, across the center aisle, sat Bush's oldest son, former President George W. Bush and wife Laura, and other Bush family members.
Trump had been invited to the funeral by the elder Bush, reinforced by Bush's family, and assured he would be treated respectfully.
Bush 41's biographer Jon Meacham, son George W., and others delivered eulogies.
They spoke of the late president's compassion, leadership, patience, listening skills, reverence for the American democratic governmental system and its vital role in world leadership, and love for people.
It seemed even more glowing against the backdrop of the White House's current resident. Many of the traits that stand out for Bush are largely missing in Trump. And many of the traits that stand out for Trump, like a tendency to brag on himself, insult others, and have a fickle relationship with the truth, were not part of Bush's make-up.
Maybe, some hoped, Trump would learn something from listening to observations from Bush's family and others who knew him intimately what brought the almost reverent love for the late president.
But, a couple days later, Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said in an interview at a Houston dinner that Trump, who had fired him after 14 months, had grown tired of Tillerson telling him to avoid some actions.
“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way,’” Mr. Tillerson said. “It violates the law.”
That often would frustrate Trump, Tillerson said. So he volunteered to go to Congress and fight to get the law changed if that's what Trump wanted.
After Tillerson's comments became the subject of news stories, Trump, characteristically, responded on Twitter – complimenting Tillerson's replacement as secretary of state, former Congressman Mike Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job," Trump wrote Friday ((9/7)) afternoon. "I am very proud of him.
“His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed," Trump continued. "He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”
So, hold off on feeling sorry for Trump at Bush's funeral, or thinking he learned from it. Seems like old habits die hard.
Good Schools -- and Money to Pay For Them? . . .
The good news is there seems to be fairly wide agreement that Texas badly needs to refurbish its outmoded and insufficient school finance system.
The potential bad news is given the recent history of the Texas Legislature and leadership from top executive officials, they're very goosy about how to come up with a system – and particularly, the money to pay for it.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made limits on local property tax increases a big part of their political campaigns.
But meanwhile, the state depends for much of its share of school spending by local property tax payers having to pay a big chunk of the state's share.
Property taxpayers in Austin send about as much to the state for redistribution to other districts as they spend on their own schools.
Gov. Abbott told the Austin American-Statesman that recent election contests helped lawmakers understand people want school finance and over-dependence on property tax dealt with.
"Everybody who campaigned, everybody who got elected, heard those two themes repeatedly," Abbott said, and are ready to support them.
He acknowledged that they are intertwined.
"They are two separate issues, but they are hinged together," told Statesman political writer Jonathan Tilove, "and we will solve both of them."
Now, the big question is, where will the money come from?