Why is Butler County’s sheriff writing to former presidents? ‘It needs to be two people that are away from the fire’

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is calling for two past U.S. presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to help end the record-long partial government shutdown and return civility to the country.

These two “highly respected” former presidents can help the country “not look like we’re inept to all these other countries in the world,” said the outspoken sheriff. “But it takes two sides to get together.”

Jones wrote on Tuesday to the former presidents that recent reports and events happening “are widely creating civil unrest among the American citizens. The extreme divide between our Democratic and Republican parties needs to be rectified.”

Letter to President Trump: Send federal agents to Butler County

Members of two political parties — and their supporters — have blamed the leaders of the other party as the country continues in its fifth week of a partial government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats have also recently clashed over Trump’s travel ban, the administration’s separation policy, and border security, which is at the crux of this shutdown.

The sheriff, a stanch Trump and border wall supporter, has yet to send a letter to Trump but he said he “may.”

“It needs to be two people that are away from the fire right now and I think it needs to be these two past presidents to help get the people to the table,” Jones said.

Miami University political science professor John Forren said it’s interesting that Jones is asking for consensus in Washington, D.C., and across the country as the sheriff has played significant roles at partisan Trump rallies.

“But here, he’s trying to reach out — clearly beyond partisanship — to address what a lot of us see as a bigger problem about polarization,” Forren said.

Requests for comments have been sent to the press offices of both Obama and Bush.

An auto-response from Bush’s press office read that “he is not participating in many interviews at the present time” as he is “off the stage and out of the limelight.” The message also read, “He has decided to refrain from commenting on politics and current affairs as a former president. And unfortunately his schedule, combined with the volume of requests he receives, prevent him from being able to be involved with every worthy project.”

The leaders of Butler County’s two major political parties said they appreciate Jones’ efforts.

“Politics can be described as the art of compromise. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton teamed up to raise millions of dollars for tsunami victims and other causes. I would be in support of the sheriff’s idea to get Bush and Obama together to restart government while still outlining a real plan to secure our border,” said Butler County GOP Executive Chair Todd Hall.

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chair Brian Hester said only Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, can end the shutdown.

“Democrats have already passed legislation that the Republicans supported just a month ago to reopen the government,” he said. “The only thing Bush and Obama could do is inform Trump that a president shouldn’t use a shutdown and the harm it causes to try to get their way on matters he couldn’t even get a Republican Congress to consider in the past two years.”

Jones has been known to write letters to political leaders, and has sent bills to the Mexican government for housing undocumented immigrants who are Mexican citizens. He wrote to President Trump in March 2018 asking to "please build the wall" and to former President Obama in March 2016. to closing the border. He's also "encouraged" the federal government to raid as many as a dozen Butler County businesses who he knows hire undocumented immigrants.

RELATED: Some Butler County agencies are worried about financing if the government shutdown continues

The partial government shutdown has impacted Butler County as a number of agencies are trying to determine how to handle operations if the shutdown affects their ability to acquire expected federal funding. That could impact local programs, such as food stamps.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has also not received payments for housing federal prisoners, but Jones said he knows “they’re good for it” so it’s not impacting their operations.

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