Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

Breslin and Berry, Two Originals: RIP

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin ... originals

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin … originals

And so it went … A brief look at a few of the significant stories of the week just past:

  • Jimmy Breslin died. He was 88. And a pioneer. If you’re a New Yorker of a certain age — at least in your 30s, but especially 50-plus — you know the name and you remember the words. The quintessential big city columnist. Bold, brassy, tender, sarcastic, funny, biting, egotistical, fearless and relentless. For decades, his columns in The Herald-Tribune, Daily News and Newsday were the heart and soul and voice for millions of readers. I began reading his sports columns as a teenager with the Trib and followed him to the News and Son of Sam. I carried his philosophy of bringing a sports columnist’s approach to writing about life in general when I left college — where I was a sports editor — and got a job as a police reporter. Don’t focus on the score. Find the real story. Write it like a novel. Breslin had ego and attitude and an uncanny instinct for people. And he could write like hell. He pegged a fellow New Yorker famously known as the Donald as a phony who played the media (“the plural of mediocre,” Breslin wrote) like a fiddle and used other people’s money to con still others out of theirs. “A white Al Sharpton,’’ Breslin once called him. I ran into Sharpton when I was writing editorials in Middletown, N.Y., and he was loudly defending 15-year-old Tawana Brawley against non-existent rapists in Dutchess County, across the Hudson. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. You can look it up. “30,” Jimmy.
  • Chuck Berry died. He was 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll before it became rock, acid rock, punk rock and whatever other kind of rock legions of Berry wannabees dreamed up. He created the beat, the attitude and the philosophy that spoke to 1950s teenagers looking for a music of their own. “Sweet LIttle Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode”  and “Roll Over Beethoven” were upbeat, hard-driving and unlike anything previous generations had claimed as theirs. Irresistible. Plus, you could understand every word he sang and he could play the hell out of the guitar. Another pioneer. Check him out on YouTube, youngsters.
  • Shaquille O’Neal said the Earth is flat. The NBA Hall of Famer is known to be a jokester, but he’s apparently serious about this. He says his proof is that when he
    Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaquille O’Neal

    drives from Florida to California his car does not go up and down 360 degrees. And, sorry, Mr. Einstein, Shaq’s not convinced about that gravity theory either, even though something made his free throws fall far short of the basket. The flat-Earth theory is gaining traction among NBA players, which may be a commentary on so many of its stars coming out of college too early or not even going to college. Or it may simply be a sign that it’s not just fans, but even the players are getting bored with the lack of meaningful games. Maybe if the stars played in all the games when they’re healthy it would prompt more interest — and less resentment — among fans who pay hefty prices to see them sit on the bench. Put a round ball in your hands, dribblers, and stop thinking the sun rises and sets on your command.

  • FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee in a televised hearing that there was no evidence that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped the residence of his successor, despite that successor’s repeated claims to the contrary. Comey also testified that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the current president’s campaign aides and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign with the goal of influencing the outcome in favor of the current president. Republicans in Congress appeared to be most concerned with how this possibly treasonous behavior came to be public knowledge. There was also no indication that the current president would apologize to his predecessor for falsely accusing him of a federal crime. Stay tuned.
  • Breslin would say I buried the lead. Not this week.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The dumb, venal, rotten GOP game plan

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

I think I have the White House game plan figured out. Actually, there are two of them. Make that three:

  1. The NIC (narcissist-in-chief) thrives on chaos. He will keep as many balls in the air — as many ridiculous charges, outrageous statements and out-and-out lies — as possible to keep everyone’s eyes off his efforts to milk the presidency for as much money as possible for his and his family’s business interests. It’s always about the buck with the Donald. The fact that he also happens to be an ignorant, racist, misogynist, bully only helps to camouflage his motivation: Greed.
  2. The Republican Party, which controls Congress, wants to use the NIC as a smokescreen for the fact it has no idea how to actually govern and really wants to only do what it always wants to do — reduce taxes for the rich and reward its corporate contributors, for as long as it can manage to keep the NIC in office.
  3. The Destroy-the-Government Gang. As its name implies, this is the really dangerous one, a  combination of Steve Bannon followers and Tea Party fanatics who have grabbed the Republican Party by the throat and said, “Listen up, we’re in charge now.” It combines dumb and venal, a deadly combination which also exists in game plan Number 2. Plus, it throws in just plain rotten.

Since all three are working together for separate goals, they share a mutual interest in fomenting chaos. The media have to decide daily what to focus on: The Russians? The wiretaps? The Wall? The travel ban? The budget? The conflicts of interest? The Trump/Ryan health care plan?

The only way for the rest of us to maintain sanity is to take it in digestible pieces. or, as is the case here, indigestible pieces. I offer two examples from the past week of what I think are the dumb and venal thinking that drive Republican policy today. One involves the budget, the other health care.

First, the budget. Mike Mulvaney, the NIC’s budget director, in defending his boss’s (Bannon’s) proposed 2017 budget, which mercilessly slashes social spending to further beef up the most powerful military on the planet and close the nation’s borders, defended the elimination of federal funds for the Meals on Wheels program because it “doesn’t work.”

He said it was “compassionate” to eliminate funds to feed homebound, low-income senior citizens because it wasn’t fair to ask single mothers to pay for something for which there was no proof of success. He also said the same thing about free school lunches and after-school programs for poor children.

This is dumb on steroids because, as reported in The Washington Post, numerous studies show that Meals-on-Wheels programs that feed more than a million homebound seniors every week “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.” It also reduces costs involved with taking care of the elderly in costly nursing homes.

Plus, what kind of country doesn’t want to fund programs that allow volunteers to bring meals to senior citizens with limited income or to feed hungry kids? That’s just rotten.

For the record, Mulvaney is a Tea Party loyalist. His nomination by the NIC was approved by the Senate, 51-49, with Republican John McCain joining all 48 Democrats in voting no. McCain said his vote was based on Mulvaney’s previous votes to cut defense spending. Interesting, now that he’s the NIC’s budget chief and not just another congressman, Mulvaney is OK with pumping up a bloated military budget by adding $54 billion, even if it means poor kids and older citizens go without food. Dumb, venal and rotten personified.

Now, health care. The GOP plan has been almost universally described as a disaster. We’ll save that for a later time. But if you’re looking for the kind of genius that went into writing it, let’s look at an exchange that took place in the House of Representatives in the middle of the night.

As the Energy and Commerce committee discussed the bill, Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) asked Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) what he meant when he said premiums were “skyrocketing” in his state “because of the mandates from Obamacare.” What was he talking about, Doyle wondered. What did he object to? “Certainly not … pre-existing conditions, or caps on benefits or letting your child stay on the policy until 26, so I’m curious what is it we’re mandating?”

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” spoke up Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). “Is that not correct? And should they?”

“There’s no such thing as a la carte insurance, John,” Doyle replied.

“That’s the point,” Shimkus answered. “We want the consumer to be able to go to the insurance market and be able to negotiate on a plan.”

“There’s not a single insurance company in the world that does that,” said Doyle. “You’re talking about something that doesn’t exist.’’

Dumb.

The debate moved on with no one being so rude as to point out that it takes a man as well as a woman to produce the result that triggers the desire for prenatal care. It’s a family benefit. Shimkus happens to be the father of three young men.

One more thing about this sharp tack. Shimkus is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment Subcommittee. In an interview in 2010, discussing climate change in an interview, he said, “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God. And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.’’

Whew! I feel better.

As I said, there’s far too much of this kind of stuff going on with Republicans every day to be able to make sense of all of it. But if we focus really hard and snatch just one of those balls the NIC has in the air, all the rest will come tumbling down.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Couldn’t Lose for WInning

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Who knew?

     Who knew?

Sitting and watching the March blizzard do its thing outside the window — working, working, working to shut everything down — a memory from the 2016 presidential campaign snuck into my consciousness. The post kept popping up on my Facebook feed, but I honestly can’t remember the original source of the news. I’m also not in the mood to go researching for it because I didn’t think it was fake news then and today I am convinced it is the god’s honest truth.

In brief, one of DT’s former aides (of which there are many) wrote an article in which she claimed he never expected to win the Republican nomination and the election. Indeed, she said he did not want to win the election. Rather, she said, he just wanted to get his name out there for whatever profit he could gain from the publicity and maybe help launch a TV network he was planning. Branding.

Less than two months since his inauguration, it’s obvious: Donald Trump likes being president, but he is less than fond of doing president. The title and the glory are great — right up his alley. Put a big, gold “T” on the White House.

But the work? Daily intelligence briefings? Reading reports on the battle against ISIS? Getting up to speed on how complicated health care is? Learning the difference between the debt and the deficit, Medicaid and Medicare, China and Taiwan, Iran and Iraq, legal and unconstitutional? Isn’t that what we have Mike Pence for?

The man has no patience for details, for facts, for differing opinions, for the legal process, for diplomacy, for Cabinet meetings, for, at the very least, hiring people to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs unfilled since he took office. Who knew being president was such a big job?

Well, for one, his predecessor. And, with varying degrees of success, a long line of predecessors before Barack Obama.

Getting back to that aide’s story … Was there ever a campaign for president run with such obvious disregard for facts? WIth such disdain and outright rudeness aimed at other candidates? With such arrogant disregard for the bigotry and violence it encouraged in its followers? With such crudeness towards women, minorities, the physically handicapped? With such an ill-informed, self-obsessed liar as the candidate?

Rhetorical questions.

It was a campaign expressly designed for maximum press coverage, which it got. What went wrong for Trump is that he was up against the worst field of Republican candidates imaginable, few of whom had the guts to match him insult for insult (some of whom now kiss up to him since he’s the titular head of their party) and then ran into the most disliked Democrat in America as his opponent in the general campaign. Even encouraging the Russians to wiretap Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to doom the Trump campaign.

Hard as he tried, most Republican leaders and elected officials couldn’t bring themselves to publicly call him a bully and a liar and a fraud and so their voters — the ones who weren’t outright racists or conspiracy theorists or rightwing extremists, all of whom loved him from the get-go — went for the celebrity candidate who promised them … well, whatever they wanted him to promise them.

I won’t be playing golf every week, he promised. Mexico will pay for the wall, he promised. Social Security and Medicare are safe, he promised, Everyone will have health care, he promised. How could he know that House Speaker Paul Ryan hated Social Security and Medicare and had no clue about how health insurance worked? That would have required understanding all that stuff himself and talking to Ryan about it. Work.

Trump’s bad luck followed him into November. Clinton beat him by three million votes and still lost, thanks to the Electoral College, which is a concept the new president surely still does not understand. Although he swears he had the widest winning margin there in decades. He couldn’t lose for winning, no matter how hard he tried. And now he has to try to convince a bunch of much smarter people who report to him every day that he knows what he’s doing.

Not that they believe him.

Which is our problem, America.

The golf? Jeez, I know I promised I’d be a working president, but this is ridiculous. Anything to get out of that depressing White House every weekend. ISIS this; ISIS that. Merkel this; Merkel that. Warren this; Warren that. What’s wrong with Flynn talking to Russians? Some of my best friends and creditors are Russians. How come nobody told me federal judges were appointed for life? Do I attack North Korea if they launch a missile at us? I can’t believe Ryan is going to try to find money for that stupid wall. Now they’re trying to pin my name on that ridiculous health care plan he came up with. Maybe I can feed that Maddow dame the only legit tax return I have this century to take the heat off the Russia thing. And what the heck is going on with Lindsay Graham and that loser McCain? Is Turkey an ally? Did La La Land win the Oscar or not? Bad dudes in Hollywood. I wonder if Rudy wants his old job back at Justice, or is he ticked I didn’t name him ambassador to Russia? Damn, why does the FBI want to talk to me? Melania!? Melania!? Help! They want me to organize the Easter egg roll! Stop hiding in New York!

Damn, where’d I leave my phone? Maybe I can get Snoop Dog to come down to Mar a Lago for golf this weekend. Hey, Bannon, it’s still Black History Month, isn’t it?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Playing Solitaire in the White House

Friday, March 10th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The trigger card

            The trigger card

You’ll have to pardon me here as I try to catch up on the news. Last I knew, the narcissist-in-chief (NIC) had just shown himself to be presidential by reading a speech (which he did not write) from a teleprompter for about an hour straight without veering off message, insulting any minority group or mentioning the size of his, uh, inauguration crowd.

A lot of people who call themselves journalists apparently thought this was evidence of a heretofore well-hidden capability to do presidential things.

With that reassurance that all was well with the republic, I busied myself with other, more pressing personal stuff: Reading; having dinner with my sons; wading through a mountain of unopened mail that had been gathering since I was involved in an accident; deciding whether my partner and I should have Chinese or Mexican takeout for dinner; looking for something to add to my Netflix queue while waiting for Denzel’s 2004 version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to become available; being impressed at how well the Sinatra version from 1962 has held up.

Then it got a little spooky. I heard that after his “presidential” reading, the NIC apparently went off message a few days later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve been able to piece together from all those alternative “news” sites on Facebook, some time late Saturday night, the NIC was wandering around the White House in his bathrobe when the phone rang. His cell phone, not THE phone. A voice on the other end that sounded remarkably like Steve Bannon channeling the NIC’s deceased mother suggested that to occupy his time, since Melania preferred to stay in New York, he should play his favorite game — Solitaire.

“Yes, mother,” the NIC obeyed and hung up.

Having stacked the deck with red queens, the trigger card, the voice called back a minute later and said, “Blame Obama.”

Again, “Yes, mother.”

And that’s apparently how we ended up with one president accusing his predecessor (on Twitter) of wiretapping his home phone. At least that’s the best I can piece together from news reports since no one has offered a scintilla of evidence of such a wiretap and the FBI director (the guy who clinched the election for the NIC) says it never happened. The White House ignored that response and a cadre of lawyers reportedly set out to find  proof of what their master had tweeted.

Now, apparently, all those “journalists” who swooned over the State of the Union reading are what one might call non-plussed for having been suckered again by a performance. “Sir, what  proof do you have of  this dastardly deed by Mr. Obama?” they asked the NIC, who had none, of course. Never does.

No one apparently thought to ask, “Sir, since you’re the president and have the power, why don’t you just declassify the documents that prove you were wiretapped?’’

Well, because: (1.) If there really was an illegal wiretap (the president can’t order one), the guilty parties would have left no records.

(2.) If such records did exist, they would prove that a judge thought there was sufficient reason for the FBI to wiretap the NIC even before he took office and how embarrassing would that be?

But probably mostly (3.), because he didn’t know that the president couldn’t order a wiretap or that a president could declassify any document he chooses. Details are not the NIC’s strong point.

As I take it, you-know-who was so angry that no one — even Sean Spicer struggled to keep a straight face — believed him when he said Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped — he kicked Bannon and Reince Priebus, his two top aides, off Air Force One when he flew to Florida for his regular weekend of presidential golfing.

Bannon, however, was smart enough, I gather, to pack a few stacked Solitaire decks in the NIC’s bags. Some time over the weekend, as he wandered the halls of Mar-a-Lago in his bathrobe, the phone rang again.

This time, THE phone, not his cell phone.

“How about a game of Solitaire, son?”

“Yes, mother.” Hang up.

Short pause. Red queen.

Ring!

“Hello, mother.”

“Okay, now listen carefully, son. Last time I called you the damn cell phone dropped the call after I said, ‘Blame Obama’ and you made up some cockamamie story about him tapping your phone. What were you thinking? (Bannon’s voice getting a bit hoarse.) Blame Obama for that botched SEALS raid in Yemen, you ninny.”

“Yes, mother.”

And as far as I can tell, that’s how the NIC came to exploit the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in that raid during his State of the Union address, while at the same time blaming his predecessor and his generals for the failure of the mission. How’s that for presidential?

I can’t wait for Denzel’s “Manchurian Candidate” to arrive in the mail. Hope it’s as good as Sinatra’s.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Going Ape in the Oval Office

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

LIFE cover, Feb. 10, 1961. Ham the Chimpanzee in the space capsule after returning from the Mercury Redstone 2 space flight.

Ham, the chimp … American hero

I started writing a column recently by likening what is happening in the White House these days to a chimpanzee jumping up and down on the furniture and throwing feces at the walls. A group of white men, I said, stood by with thin smiles as if approving of the actions. When the chimp left the room to watch television, the men went about rearranging the furniture and cleaning the walls the best they could. A thankless job, I wrote, but it pays well. That should tell you all you need to know about those men.

I didn’t get very far with the column because I soon realized it was terribly insulting to chimpanzees. They are, after all, our closest cousins, sharing 98 percent of our genes. They are intelligent creatures who enjoy people and know how to behave appropriately in their environment. In the jungle, act like a hunter. In the Oval Office, act presidential. In a space capsule, act like an astronaut.

As fate (and NASA) would have it, 56 years ago on Jan. 31st, a chimpanzee named Ham became the first “American” launched into space, sub-orbital. The historic event was captured nicely in the movie version of “The Right Stuff.’’ As the seven Mercury astronauts compete to be the first, the movie dramatizes the launch and splashdown and reveals America’s first astronaut to be … a chimp.

Ham’s flight from Cape Canaveral to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds. Ham wasn’t just a passenger in the capsule. He pulled the appropriate levers at the appropriate times and performed perfectly. He suffered only a bruised nose for his efforts. His flight paved the way for Alan Shepard’s flight in May later that year. Second American in space. That makes Ham an American hero in my book.

I doubt the current occupant of the White House could be trusted with such a mission as Ham’s. For one thing, it required focus. Also, discipline. Spurred on by Ham’s story, I did a little more research on chimps. It turns out they share a lot of traits once supposedly reserved for humans. They enjoy friendships. They have strong family bonds. They can show empathy. They can make and use tools. They can remember distant events. They’ve been observed showing regret and exercising self-restraint and wouldn’t that be welcome in the White House today.

Some observers say chimps can even understand when other creatures know or don’t know something. That’s another way of saying they have a realistic assessment of whomever they are dealing with. No guesswork. And yes, being almost human, they can be violent. Usually it’s because there are too many alpha males in a group and not enough females. Most violence that occurs is between groups of chimps rather than within a group, although one group recently was said to have killed a  former leader who was described as a tyrant. Maybe a brutal form of justice?

Really, the only negative thing I learned about chimpanzees in my brief research is that they are endangered. Of course. Their population has been eliminated everywhere except central Africa where they are poached for food. Man apparently cannot bear to have other creatures alive on this planet without killing them for sport or commercial gain or, in this case, an exotic source of food. Unfortunately, respect for other living creatures is just one of many positive traits that seem to be lacking in the current White House occupant.

So I apologize humbly to chimpanzees for even considering such a comparison as mentioned at the top of this article in the first place. I further encourage all compassionate human beings to contribute to such organizations as the World Wildlife Federation in their efforts to save these wonderful apes.

As for those clowns in suits in the White House, he’s your wild creature. If you can’t make him behave, you’ve got to get rid of him. After all, the house belongs to the American people. The previous tenant left it in beautiful condition. Clean that crap off the walls and find someone who knows how to act in public.

rjgaydos@gmail.co

If the Grandy Man Shirt Fits, Wear It

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The shirt

The shirt …

I’m wearing my Curtis Granderson shirt today. The Yankee shirt. Number 14. This is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is why the heck a 75-year-old man is wearing a shirt bearing the name of any of today’s professional athletes.

It was a gift. Several years ago, my son, Zack, who has inherited my rooting interest in the Yankees and my mother’s desire to choose the perfect gift for whomever was on the receiving end, gave it to me for my birthday. (If my memory fails and it was Christmas, he will let me know.) It was … almost perfect. One size too small. A nice compliment, but that consigned Grandy to the bottom of the shirt drawer for … well, until now.

Now, I’m wearing it and, obviously, this is another significant reason for mentioning it. I’ve lost weight and gotten in better shape. Wearing the shirt actually makes me feel a little younger and a little stronger and who cares if it’s all in my head. My head can use all the positive vibes it can get these days. As I’ve mentioned before, I often turn to sports when the rest of the world is too much to face first thing in the morning.

… This seems like a good point to let the non- sports fans in on the conversation. Zack gave me the shirt because Granderson was my favorite Yankee at the time, and that was only partially because he’s a heck of a good ballplayer.

The man ...

The man …

Let’s get the ballplayer part out of the way first. Granderson, who now plays centerfield for the New York Mets (the Yankees should have never let him go), is a three-time All-Star. He has power and speed, being the rare major leaguer to have 20 home runs, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same year. He can bat leadoff or third, depending on the team’s need. He’s an excellent outfielder. A streaky hitter, he is also a clutch hitter and can carry a team when he’s on a hot streak, as he did for both the Yankees and Mets. He is a quiet leader in the clubhouse. He also strikes out a lot, but today that doesn’t seem to matter in baseball. It also makes him human.

None of that is why I have a Curtis Granderson shirt. Nor is it because I liked to hear Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling sing, “Oh, the Grandy Man can” after every Granderson home run. If I wanted speed and power I could have gone for Mickey Mantle, who was at least in my age group. The truth is, as good as Granderson has been on the field, he has been spectacular off it. Indeed, his biography on Wikipedia talks as much about his community and charitable work as about his baseball exploits. You don’t find many athletes who come close to what he has done and continues to do out of uniform.

And who, by the way, are as well-spoken as he is. In fact, his ability to express himself served him well as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International, traveling  to England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan to promote baseball.

There’s more. With a noticeable decline in the number of black athletes choosing baseball, he has worked with the African-American community to discuss the reasons. When signed to endorse products for Nike, Louisville Slugger and Rawlings, he asked them to donate money to his foundation or equipment to inner-city baseball programs rather than pay him. That foundation raises money for the education of inner-city children and Granderson has also written a children’s book, ‘’All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!,’’ which is illustrated by New York City public school students.

Too good to be true, right? Other players, counting their home runs and their Twitter followers, must resent this guy, right? Well, in 2009, the players chose him baseball’s man of the year for his community work and, in 2011, he was voted one of the friendliest players in the Major Leagues, according to a poll Sports Illustrated conducted of 290 players. One more thing. He.wears his socks high, the old-fashioned way (which I really like), to honor players from the Negro leagues.

And so what? you say.

And so, I say, in my ever more persistent effort to be aware of synchronicity in my life, that I was given my Granderson shirt to wear today because it would inevitably lead me to a place of positive thoughts, a place of hope and a bit of serenity.

There are, after all, Curtis Grandersons in all walks of life, accomplished, intelligent, articulate, modest, compassionate, generous and willing to lead the way. Some of them are even rich. (Granderson’s getting paid $15 million this year by the Mets.) I’d venture to say that any one of them who happened to magically appear behind a big desk in the Oval Office tomorrow would have the common sense to say, “Get Steve Bannon the hell out of here right now or you’re all fired!”

That’s what. They’re out there. We just have to dig their shirts out of the bottom of the drawer and start wearing them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Why Won’t McCain Take on Trump?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain and Donald Trump ... no love lost

John McCain and Donald Trump … no love lost

What will it take for John McCain to finally go after Donald Trump?

Clearly, there can be no love lost between the Arizona senator and the befuddled president. Nor is it likely there is any mutual respect.

During the presidential campaign Trump insulted McCain as ‘’no hero’’ for his service as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. Trump, who did not serve in the military, said he didn’t regard people who were taken prisoner as heroes. McCain’s plane was shot down over Vietnam. He was held prisoner for five-and-a-half years and was tortured by the North Vietnamese.

More recently, McCain called Trump up short by insisting that the United States does not torture prisoners, despite the president’s comments to the contrary. McCain also went out of his way to call the prime minister of Australia to let him know that the United States still regards his country as a close ally, despite Trump’s rude phone call with him. In response to this, Trump called McCain, who was the Republican candidate for president in 2008, a ‘’loser.’’

McCain also questioned the wisdom and success of the recent U.S. raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with several civilians, including children. In response, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said anyone who questioned the success of the raid was doing a disservice to the memory of the SEAL. Another shot at McCain.

McCain responded: “Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs. Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.”

There are a lot of things Spicer should know, but there are many more important things that his boss should know and doesn’t. And McCain surely knows that. Trump’s bumbling through foreign affairs would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so serious. But the mysteriously tangled relationship between Trump and Russia dwarfs all of Trump’s miscues thus far in its potential for serious damage.

McCain, as a senior member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, is well-position to demand an independent inquiry into Trump’s Russian ties. Another Republican veteran in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has also been critical of Trump and often stands with McCain on issues. The two men have standing within their party and on the other side of the aisle for their long years of service as well as their willingness to occasionally tell the truth as they see it, rather than as their party leaders would have us see it

The question is how long McCain can stand by, apparently in the name of party loyalty, and offer occasional criticism while Trump makes a mockery of the Constitution, tarnishes the presidency, and erodes America’s credibility as a world leader. As a former presidential candidate for his party, McCain should be livid with Republicans’ current representative in the White House. Maybe he is.

The senator shows more and more signs of losing his patience with Trump. In a speech McCain gave recently at a security conference in Munich, he basically shredded Trump’s foreign policy, his position on immigrants, his critical statements about NATO and his penchant for making things up. As for Trump seeing no difference between Russian and American behavior, McCain had this to say: “ I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries. I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it, for if we do not, who will?’’

Strong words, and he never mentioned Trump by name. Still, by not challenging Trump with actions as well as words, McCain leaves himself open to criticism that, while he may be prone to occasional flashes of anger, he’s not willing to risk losing whatever standing, power, and influence he may have within his party by engaging in an all-out fight with the president based on principle.

A willingness to set aside his principles in a search for power was evident in McCain’s presidential campaign when he sold his soul to the religious right at Liberty University and followed that up by losing his mind and picking Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Queen, as his running mate. He will never live that decision down, but he can make up for it.

Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan show no sign they are willing to do their jobs and hold the president accountable. Their behavior is beyond cowardly. It’s an insult to the concept of leadership. McCain can fill this vacuum. In fact, it’s almost made for him. And it’s not as if he has anything to lose at this point in his career. He’s 80-years-old and was just elected to another six-year term In the Senate. This could well be his last rodeo, so why not make it a worthwhile ride and break a bull who’s been turned loose in the White House?

 

Press Gets Another Chance at Trump

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydostrump:constitution

Okay, number one: When Sean Spicer told reporters for The New York Times, the LA Times, CNN, and Politico they were not welcome at his press gaggle (whatever that is), representatives of every other legitimate news organization in that room should have stood up and walked out with their colleagues. Let the lying apologist shoot the breeze with the right-wing, nut job ‘’journalists’’ his boss invited to hear his latest pronouncement. Besides, those pronouncements are usually contradicted by key administration officials shortly after they hear what their boss just said.

The mainstream media doesn’t need to be reporting on every utterance of the Narcissist-in-Chief. He talks only to his base of delusional followers anyway because they actually believe him, or wish and pray hard for the willingness to keep believing him. That blind faith doesn’t appear to be likely to change a lot in the near future, so let them talk to each other. The real reporters in the room can get the news by doing their jobs the way they were trained to do them. And the way this White House is leaking like a sieve, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Which brings me to number two: If the legitimate mainstream media had been doing its job all along during the presidential campaign last year it probably wouldn’t be dealing with a super-sensitive, press-wary occupant in the White House. Well, maybe it would have, but at least it would have been an occupant who wasn’t predictably angry, petulant, and vindictive and one who actually understood how government works. Someone who would never kick the press out because she generally avoided meeting them in the first place.

But woulda-coulda-shoulda and if pigs could fly, the unpredictable dunce won and those reporters for the mainstream media played a big part in letting it happen, particularly TV news outlets.

While Trump was using insult and intimidation to lay waste to the joke of a field of presidential candidates the Republican Party fielded, most of the mainstream media busied itself filling air time and pages with one outrageous quote of his after another, often ignoring statements by other candidates and usually ignoring any mention of an actual issue.

It was all Trump this, Trump that. Seldom were questions about policy put to him and seldom was there any serious follow up on his many outrageous claims. It was all shock value as a way to attract viewers or readers. Only as the campaign wore on and the other candidates fell by the wayside one by one, did some of those news organizations begin to realize what was happening. Trump was lying, bullying and treating the campaign like a reality TV show. His name was everywhere and good or bad, he didn’t care. He was winning.

And, he didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. So what did the mainstream media do? It reported the heck out of Hillary Clinton’s non-existent email scandal. Day after day. E-mail this, e-mail that. (The FBI was no help.) No one bothered chasing the source of the leaks about those emails. No one bothered finding out the truth about Trump’s connections with Russia.

Meanwhile, the phony baloney news media — the ones who were allowed to stay in Spicer’s gaggle — were busy making up fake news every day — about Clinton, about Bernie Sanders, about Mexicans, about Muslims, about crime, about the economy, about President Obama. Trump even grudgingly admitted that all his bellowing about Obama not being a citizen was bull and he pretty much got a pass on it for admitting it.

And by time the mainstream media realized what a sexist pig Trump was, it was too late. His hardcore base of racists, bigots and other sexist pigs were strongly behind him now and a lot of other angry white Americans latched on to those fake news reports and said why don’t we shake up Washington by voting for a terrific businessman who’s going to provide jobs for us and who’s not going to hobnob with billionaires like Hillary does.

Right.

So here we are, my fellow Americans, with a man in the White House who doesn’t recognize the First Amendment, describes the press as the enemy, and who excludes news media from press conferences because they dared to report stories that did not portray him in the most positive light. Actually, they’re all digging into his connections with Russia.

It should be mentioned here that reporters from the Associated Press, TIME and USA Today joined their colleagues from the excluded media in walking out of the gaggle. Good for them. But what about the rest? Reporters from ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox TV networks stayed with Spicer and the phony baloneys.

It’s not all bad. In a strange way, Trump has pulled the reverse on the old he giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. During the campaign he made a mockery of the press. In office he has continued to insult and assault the media because they are finally recognizing him for what he is. Much of the mainstream media has started doing its job again. Reporting the truth. Digging behind the scenes and the press conferences for the real story. Holding politicians’ feet to the fire — and calling a lie a lie. In throwing down the gauntlet so brazenly, the man who knows so little about the Constitution has reminded much of the Fourth Estate that they hold a prominent place in that document.

Authoritarians, despots, would-be dictators go after the press first for one reason: It is the direct link to the people. In this country its job is to report the truth regardless of who is in power, whose career may be hurt. Trump’s words and actions regarding his Russian connection are reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s words and actions during the Watergate scandal. Attack, deny, blame  the press.

Trump has embarrassed the press, but then, in usual Trump fashion, he overplays his hand. He overestimates his intelligence, his power, and his eventual support. The ugly part of his base will stick with him. He is their Messiah. But if the press now does what it knows how to do a lot of those other Trump voters will come to realize they were conned, just like the media was, and they will insist that the press do its job.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press, print and electronic, should all boycott future White House press conferences until there is a sincere apology issued from the Oval Office. Not from Spicer, the errand boy. Skip the White House Correspondents Dinner, too, while you’re at it. Oh wait, Trump just said he’s skipping the dinner. No guts. Well then go and enjoy yourselves. Maybe see if Alec Baldwin is free to stand in.

Trump’s only enemy — and it’s a powerful one — is the truth.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Beyond the Bluster, GOP Sacks America

Friday, February 24th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Ryan, Trump, McConnell ... the unholy alliance

Ryan, Trump, McConnell … the unholy alliance

One of the major problems in living with a narcissist is that everything is about him. He dominates the conversation, the day-to-day business, in sum, everything. It’s easy to forget that there are other things going on in the world other than those revolving around him. He demands constant attention. He seeks constant attention. And if those around him are not aware of what is going on, he gets constant attention, whether he deserves it or not.

When that narcissist occupies the most powerful position in the world, it sometimes seems as if there’s nothing else worth paying attention to or worth writing about other than whatever mean-spirited, idiotic statement or executive order emanates from him. Every headline, every news report, virtually every social media posting involves him. It is a nation taken hostage.

I have shaken my head in bewilderment every morning as I awaken since Nov. 9 and desperately look for something to write about that does not involve him. Let those whose jobs require them to write about him do their jobs and do it well and honestly and courageously. I’m still hung up on what the others in his party of convenience are doing to this country while everyone else is busy watching his Twitter feed.

The Republican Party once upon a time had a conscience, a sense of duty and had enough members with the guts to stand up and call a liar a liar, a bully a bully, a fraud a fraud, a bigot of bigot, and a crook a crook. Even when that crook insisted he wasn’t one.

No more. Their leaders have sold out to Wall Street, to big corporations, to right-wing fanatics, to white supremacists, to hypocritical evangelicals. To the people who donated millions to fund their election campaigns. And so, while the narcissist in the Oval Office has rained havoc around the world, diverting everyone’s attention, Republicans in Congress have been taking a hatchet to every conceivable program or regulation in place to protect or serve the American public.

They helped coal miners by saying it is now okay for coal companies to dump their waste into the rivers and streams where their employees live. They say we don’t need a law designed to keep mentally incompetent people from getting gun licenses. They say endangered species don’t need protection from man. They say funding for PBS and the arts is unnecessary. They also say funding for Planned Parenthood is unnecessary. And one of their leaders, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, he of the constant smirk, now says he will somehow manage to find $20 billion to pay for a wall between Mexico and the United States. That’s the wall, you will recall, the narcissist said Mexico would pay for. Mexico said no way. That wall will never be built.

Also, and maybe you hadn’t noticed, but congressional Republicans also say there’s no reason for the narcissist-in-chief to show the rest of us taxpayers his tax returns. And that plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — which apparently many Republican voters don’t realize is also known as the Affordable Care Act? It still doesn’t exist, after eight-plus years. Former GOP House speaker John Boehner said the other day, ‘’It’s not going to happen.’’ He ought to know.

And finally, the piece de resistance, that $1 trillion, job-creating, infrastructure plan that the narcissist was going to design with his Republican colleagues in Congress? Haven’t heard a word. Folks, they’re making it up as they go along, stepping on people with little power and running away from questions by citizens who dare to show up at Town Hall meetings.

If you watch the movie, ‘’You’ve Been Trumped,’’ you’ll realize this is all just the same plot over and over again. In place of the Scottish government that rolled over to the narcissist and let him wreak havoc on the Scottish coastal environment, bully people, ignore laws and build an ostentatious golf course, we have congressional Republicans, smiling and nodding and saying in private to other nations, ‘’Don’t pay attention to what he says.’’

Don’t worry, Europe, we’re still on your side. That Russian thing? Overblown. Fake news. You know how reporters are. Besides, we’ve got Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen. When, not if.

I digress. A recent posting on social media suggested that perhaps our narcissist-in-chief would benefit from a dose of LSD. At first glance, I thought this was somewhat bizarre since the aforesaid seems to already have a bizarre sense of reality. But what the heck, I read the article since there’s nothing else on social media. The idea is that LSD strips the ego, lays it bare. Hello? This is me. Now. The article further said that the psychedelic drug was now being used again in legitimate research as a possible treatment for various illnesses. I’m reporting this mostly because I came upon the article just after finishing reading Tom Wolfe’s ‘’The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’’ Yeah, I was late to the party, but synchronicity, you know?

I have my doubts that any drug could shrink that narcissist’s ego, much less induce a sense of reality that inspired love for all people. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were searching in different ways for something universal deep within the human spirit through the use of psychedelics. As far as we know, they didn’t find it. Then the government made it illegal.

But hey, if they’re really doing research with LSD again, I’d just as soon they use Mitch McConnell as a guinea pig. Wouldn’t he be a blast on the bus?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Tom Wolfe, LSD, Orange Hair and Me

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

By Bob Gaydoskool-aid-book

I have been in a funk since Nov. 9. That’s the day I woke up with the realization that millions of Americans had lost their minds, if not their souls, and elected a man who is morally, psychologically, intellectually and spiritually unfit to be their president. The dumbest thing that has happened in my lifetime.

I stopped writing.

Finally, in desperation for inspiration, I turned to sports and that great philosopher, Reggie Miller (older Knicks fans can boo now.) For younger fans of the National Basketball Association, think Steph Curry. Shooters. Scorers. What do great shooters do when they are in a shooting funk, when everything seems to clang off the back rim or fall inches short of the basket? They keep shooting. They don’t pass the ball to someone else. They shoot themselves out of the funk.

Swish!

Now, I am not saying I am in the same class as a writer as Reggie and Steph are as shooters, but I have been writing for a long time and I think I have some skills so I figured the instincts would kick in once I started.

So instead of writing, I started reading. Tom Wolfe. Purely happenstance. I picked up some used books at the library because my son, Max, was looking for reading material. Short stories. He wasn’t interested in Wolfe’s “Hooking Up” and I had never read it, but had really enjoyed his “Bonfire of the Vanities.” So I ventured in. I quickly remembered why I liked him.

Then happenstance melded into serendipity. My partner and I watched “The Right Stuff,” the movie based on Wolfe’s book. Enjoyed it. There’s more. The last essay in “Hooking Up” detailed Wolfe’s assignment, with Jimmy Breslin, as the first writers/reporters for the Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine, New York.

My favorite newspaper as a teenager and my favorite magazine. I grew up reading Breslin and, as it turns out, Wolfe. After a brief, there’s-no-way-in-the-world-I-want-to-do-this-the-rest-of-my-life flirtation with engineering, I started writing. In more than 50 years, I have only stopped for brief intervals. Going with the universal flow, I went back to the library and picked up a couple more used Wolfe books, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and “A Man in Full.”

By the way, this is by way of answering those sympathetic friends who have asked me what I’ve been doing since The Dumb Event. For one thing, I’m trying to do things that make me feel better, things I can control.

… But let me digress.

To all those who pooh-pooh the Russian election connection, who doubt the Kremlin hacked into Democrats’ e-mails and released them in an organized effort to elect You Know Who and who further doubt that Vladimir Putin had anything to do with it, I turn again to sports and the biggest story that got lost in the election — Russia’s decades-long government-sponsored program to cover up the use of performance-enhancing drugs by virtually all its Olympic athletes.

A report recently released by a Canadian lawyer, Richard H. McClaren, who works for the World Anti-Doping Agency, confirmed it all. McClaren and his team made short shrift of Russian denials. Medals were repossessed. Athletes were banned. A Russian official involved in the program said the direction came from the top. In Russia, there is only one top. This is the Russian way, or at least the Putin way. Of course he knew about the steroids. Of course he knew about the hacking. No Russian would dare do either without his approval. Not if he didn’t want to wind up with poison in his vodka.

… So where was I? Right, reading.

I’m learning much more about Ken Kesey and the acid/pot/speed hippie freaks of the ‘60s than I ever intended to. The meaning of life on LSD.  It’s a good read. I found it especially interesting how Kesey came to write “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Nothing like first-hand experience. I just started the book, so there will likely be more on this later.

What else? I started looking for local issues I might be able to help out with since I believe change starts close to home. I’ve also recommitted to my off-and-on interest in photography. Living in an especially scenic area of the Hudson Valley, it works well with my inclination to report on what’s going on around me. On my travels the other day, a farmer walked his cow across the road right in front of me, casual as could be. Nonchalantly, I missed the shot. But I know where he lives. Gotta keep shooting.

… Speaking of nukes, Putin recently said he wanted to beef up Russia’s nuclear weapons capability. Our soon-to-be Twitter-in-chief knee-jerkedly responded that he planned to do the same with the United States’ nuclear armaments and that no one would be able to keep up with the U.S. in a nuclear arms race. Be still my patriotic, tax-paying heart. Robert Reich, a voice of sanity on social media, reported the above and asked, “What do you think?”

Robert, I think Putin is playing his puppet for the fool he knows him to be. I think all the Republican officials who applaud every time their “king” says something insane are shameless toadies. I think Putin is setting Orange Hair up to act like a big hero at a summit conference in which Russia and the U.S. decide to stop the war of nuclear words and de-escalate, rather than escalate, the nuclear arms race. In exchange, of course, for U.S. concessions. Drop those sanctions for grabbing Crimea. Hold back support for NATO countries that don’t pull their own weight. Let Russia handle things in Syria. Buy some Russian goods (whatever that might be). Don’t retaliate for Russia’s hacking. Stop criticizing Putin’s treatment of dissidents. Give him the respect, he deserves. “Da da, you understand that, my presidential friend, I’m sure.”

I think Putin wants to increase Russian influence over the world, not destroy it. He knows he can do that by pushing buttons and pulling strings.

I also think it would be beneficial to Americans if Ivanka revoked Daddy’s Twitter privileges and read some history to him every day and tested him on it the next day.

And finally, I think maybe I’m feeling a tad better, but the funk is not defunct. Sorry, Reggie, I may have scored a couple of points, but I think I have to keep on shooting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com