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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 6/3/20

Good morning,

A news report last week suggested that it is unlikely President Trump will host the unveiling of the official portrait of President Obama. This breaks with a tradition that has gone on since when Jimmy Carter unveiled the portrait of President Ford (technically one can argue it began earlier, when President Nixon invited Jacqueline Kennedy to a private unveiling of JFK’s portrait).

It’s been a tradition ever since and has served as a symbol for the American people that, despite policy differences, there is no enmity harbored toward one’s predecessor. This is just one of the many traditions and protocols that seem of little concern to our current President.

Obamas unveiling Bush portrait

After the repeated malignant comments by our present President about our former Presidents, I am reminded of quaint old days when Presidents of both parties honored their predecessors. There once was a time when we shared values but disagreed on tactics…



Most of us are familiar with how Bill Clinton and both Bushes worked together on charitable ventures around the world after their presidencies. But there also were circumstances when presidents called upon their rivals for help. The most famous example of co-opting the strengths and support of rivals was described in Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, when Lincoln employed his major rivals for the Republican nomination in his cabinet. But other examples exist.

During World War II, FDR called upon people he defeated for the presidency to help him, no doubt garnering support for “reaching across the aisle.” First, he asked Wendell Wilkie, whom he defeated in 1940, to travel to Great Britain to assess the situation and report back on Britain’s readiness. Toward the war’s end, Roosevelt supported appointing former president Herbert Hoover to coordinate relief for Poland, Finland and Belgium. Later, with Europe in desperate straits after the war, Harry Truman appointed Hoover to head the Food Supply for World Famine. Hoover previously headed the American Relief Agency to coordinate efforts to feed Europe after World War I. Truman also called upon Hoover to tour Germany after the war and comment on the occupation of Germany.

Rather than seeking unity, today our President attacks those who preceded him. If only he could exhibit the humility to recognize that there is no harm in seeking advice, no vice in trying to establish consensus, no shame in creating a sense of national unity and purpose.



When the Hoovers wanted to speak privately in the White House and not have guests or the staff know what they were saying, what did they do?

The last quiz on the former Soviet Republics is best to think of in groups:

1. Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), 3

2. Caucuses (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia), 3

3. European (Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine), 3

4. Russia, 1

5. The Stans (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan), 5 (I always forget one)

J.D. Crouch, who served in the State and Defense Departments, reminds us that Mongolia was not a Republic but subject to special status.



This is a great connection to several art institutions in Los Angeles, provided by Ron Cappello, all the way in New York:

The Getty has an exhibit on the Bauhaus School, worth a little stroll around (the link can be accessed from the above article). I’ve always appreciated Bauhaus, angular and simple, without being brutalist. Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius, is all over Germany and, curiously, Tel Aviv, which boasts over 4,000 examples of Bauhaus architecture. Tel Aviv has earned the moniker “the white city” by virtue of this predominant architectural style, which lends itself to inexpensive materials and the Mediterranean environment. Why this connection between Berlin and Tel Aviv? Because Bauhaus came to prominence in Weimar Germany. When the Nazis were on the rise, the Jews, many of whom were of the Bauhaus School, found their way to Palestine.

Here’s an excellent article from Architectural Digest about Bauhaus Tel Aviv:



Breakfast with Lucian, by Geordie Grieg. Scrap Marshall says, “Anything written by fan boy journalist and Editor of the UK Daily Mail should normally be avoided like the plague (or Covid19… topical). However, this book compiled from a number of interactions with arguably one of the greatest painters of the 20th Century is, as Tom Wolfe notes on the blurb on the back of the book, ‘a portrait of about as messy a life as was ever lived. ’ The life of painter, gambler, philanderer and contrarian is laid bare and the visceral and extreme relationships he had with whom he painted are told in an odd mix of reportage and oral history.

Happy day,


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