Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

I began my most recent column lamenting that this all-Trump-all-the-time insanity we are experiencing has sucked much of the joy out of life and made it difficult to write a “normal” column. “This has become personal,” I wrote.

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”
“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Yes, Melania, I Obviously Care a Lot

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

The coat.

          The coat.

This has become personal. This waking up daily with a feeling of incredulity, depression, bewilderment, sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, loathing and profound resentment. This thing, this overwhelming syndrome, this … this suck-the-joy-out-of-life condition called the Donald Trump presidency. It’s real, but it’s not normal. And try as I may to act as if it’s not there, to “get on with life” as it were, I inevitably wind up back at the same place, wishing it weren’t.

It used to be, just a couple of years ago in fact, that writing a blog was, for me, a freeing experience. It was just like writing a newspaper column or daily editorial, except you didn’t get paid for it. On the other hand, you had absolute, unlimited choice of topic, from soup to nuts to … well let’s just stay there for a minute.

There was a time, again, not so long ago, that I relished the  opportunity to craft an entire blog (column) around a throwaway cliche like “soup to nuts.” What’s that all about? It was fun and informative for me and I tried to make it the same for readers. After all, life can’t just be the same, old, umm, rat race.

Then came Trump. All Trump, all the time.

All of a sudden, I found myself arguing with myself:

“No one wants to read about the worst new food idea.”

“Sure they do. They need a break from the dotard just like I do.”

“But can you really get a whole column about the fact that the world isn’t ready for — doesn’t really need — chocolate hummus?”

“Yes. It’s a dumb idea. The question is do I have the energy to spend the time and will it seem trivial? I mean, did they have to add all that sugar? What were they thinking? It could be a health column. People like those.”

“Seriously?”

“Maybe not. So maybe I should also forget about writing about what a dumb idea rectangular coffee cups are?”

“Probably.”

“But honestly, did the geniuses try drinking with the cup before manufacturing it? Try wrapping your lips around that rim, folks. And why would a diner, which arguably owes its existence to providing people with coffee to get them through the day, want to make it harder for them — us … well, me — to do so. And could they at least make it a full-size mug for Pete’s sake? Is everyone looking for a quick buck?”

“No one cares.”

‘Well, I care.”

And so, it seems, I’ve come back to the World of Trump. That coat that the mute Melania wore to cheer up the children from Central America whom her husband had ordered locked in cages after taking them away from their parents who were bringing them to America to escape violence in their homelands and to find hope for better lives. What a cruel, evil, ignorant policy. What a cruel, evil, ignorant man.

“I really don’t care, do u?” was the message on Melania’s coat. Trying to figure out her real message, of course, was just another diversion from what was actually going on, but its inappropriateness again highlighted the ineptitude that co-exists with the callousness of this family, this administration.

And what else was going on at the time? Trump, as usual, was blaming Democrats for his lock-the-kids-up policy, while also waging war against immigrants, documented or otherwise, and holding campaign rallies to energize the like-minded, ill-informed, fear-based supporters of his cult, officially known as the Republican Party.

Conservative columnist George Will, having left the party, now urges all Americans to vote for every Democrat they can to save the country,  because Republicans can’t or won’t. A little late, George, but welcome. Republicans, of course, have lost their courage, morals, principles and all sense of what legislating for the common good means. They want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance because they ballooned the national debt by giving rich people a huge tax break.

Of course, Trumpsters don’t care or don’t care to know about what’s really going on and I’ve written so often about it that, well, Dotard Syndrome. Turn on Fox; turn off brain.

Aside from a trade war with U.S. allies, one other thing was going on while Melania was wearing her stylishly dumb coat — the Trump team, which has been busy shredding laws and regulations that protect Americans from unscrupulous, greedy corporations, was in the process of drawing up a reorganization of the entire government. From soup to nuts, as it were.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that a man who has “reorganized” three casinos, two casino holding companies, a phony college and the Plaza Hotel into bankruptcy, all while milking them for every penny he could get, is planning on reorganizing the entire federal government to make it more efficient — which is to say, less useful and unconcerned with those whose daddy didn’t give them a million bucks to get a head start in the world. He and his cohorts and enablers, of course, will take their profits where they can.

As Melania might say, “Let them eat chocolate hummus.”

Do I care? Obviously, more than I wish I had to.

(Editor’s note: “Soup to nuts” as defined in Wikipedia: ” ‘Soup to nuts’ is an American English idiom that conveys the meaning of “from beginning to end.” It is derived from the description of a full-course dinner, in which courses progress from soup to a dessert of nuts.” But of course, my readers already knew this.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

‘Survey’ Says: It’s the Media’s Fault

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

mainstream-mediaThere I was, minding my own business (sort of), scrolling through my Facebook news feed trying to find a video on the Yankees game sandwiched in among all the posts about ICE agents snatching kids away from their parents at the border, Scott Pruitt using his security detail to fetch him lotion and the trending, new puzzle — “Where’s Melania?” — when the ad grabbed my attention.

Did I want to take the “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey’’?

Huh? The what?

Who the heck is conducting this survey? I blurted to no one in particular.

It didn’t take long to find out. The ad, I was informed by Facebook’s new, better-late-than-never policy of full disclosure, was “Paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee.”

Swell.

In the process of telling Facebook to never send me another post from the Trump MAGA Committee, I asked Facebook (as it now also allows me to do) how I even got this targeted ad — I’m familiar with targeting Facebook ads — in the first place.

Facebook offered two possibilities:

  1. I shared the views of Trump MAGA. Uh, you could probably know that wasn’t true within 10 seconds of scrolling my wall.
  2. The committee was targeting individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the United States of America. That would be known as a pretty loose target audience, geography wise, but I fit. However, I have aged out of the age parameters, so Facebook messed up anyway. Your algorithms still need work, folks.

At any rate, being a longtime member of said “mainstream media,” I was hooked. I had to check out the “survey.”

George Orwell would have been proud; George Gallup not so much.

Here’s the first question: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No opinion
  • Other, please specify:”

Loaded much? Remember, it’s supposedly targeted to like-minded individuals. As surveys go, this one evidenced the Trump team’s view of the scientific method: Ignore it.

Question number two: “Do you trust the mainstream media to report fairly on our presidency?” Same choices.

Then, in order: “Do you trust (NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) to report fairly on our presidency?” Same options.

If you’re sensing a pattern, you are correct. It’s all in the same vein as Der Leader’s message: These people are really untrustworthy enemies of the people, aren’t they?

Here’s just one more question, to demonstrate what passes for policy in the Trump GOP: “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing President Trump? (Select as many that apply.)”

  • Immigration
  • Economics
  • Radical Islamic Terrorism
  • Pro-life values/social issues
  • Religion
  • Health care
  • Second Amendment rights”

Note — “the worst job” as the operative choice and “as many as apply.” Nothing like piling on, folks.

The questions get more ridiculously slanted as the 25-question “survey” goes on. I fully expect the results to be proudly posted on Facebook and bantered around Fox News, With any luck and if Facebook follows my instructions, I won’t see them. But millions will and, again, those people who buy anything Trump sells will believe it and I’m pretty sure the Mainstream Media isn’t going to come out too well.

In the same week this ad appeared, Trump came late and left early at the G7 meeting of top world economies in Canada, but not before wrongly accusing Canada of burning down the White House in 1812 and threatening to cut off trade with our staunchest ally and largest trading partner while insisting Russia, which was booted out of the group after “annexing” Crimea, should be allowed back in.

Then Drumpf headed to Singapore where he intended to conduct negotiations on nuclear weapons with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un by sizing up his opposite number in the first minute or so via “feel.” It was also reported that Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star and reputed friend of Kim, was heading to Singapore, perhaps to play second fiddle to Kim as he once did for Michael Jordan. Trump had John Bolton as his sidekick. Rodman has the size, but I’d bet anything Bolton uses his elbows under the boards.

What’s the point of all this? Well, maybe that, under Trump, the real, the true, the factual, the serious business of life has become demonized and trivialized to the point that everything is treated as a reality TV show and millions of Americans are — for reasons no one has yet explained to my satisfaction beyond sheer ignorance and bigotry — hooked. Those videos of children being snatched from parents and locked up by ICE? Not true, say Trumpsters. Media lies. Or, if true, then necessary, the attorney general says, because … as if there could be any legitimate “because.”

The Republican Party as a functioning political organization has ceased to exist. Trump makes it up as he goes along and scapegoats anyone who points out his lies, ignorance, pettiness, greed and other overwhelming deficiencies. But the “survey” will come out and it will confirm his claims of bias by the mainstream media and it will be posted on social media and mailed to all white people in America likely to vote for Trump because that country with the strongest economy ever, that country that promises freedom and opportunity to all, that country so many “other” people are willing to risk losing their lives — or their children — in order to live in, needs to be made great again.

Survey says Betsy DeVos can relax. The dumbing-down of America is well under way.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The GOP’s Dying Words … Silence

Friday, May 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain ... not going quietly

John McCain … not going quietly

‘It doesn’t matter; he’s dying anyway.”

The words, relayed to the world via the Internet, were spoken by a White House aide about Sen. John McCain, who is stricken with brain cancer, but they could just as well have been another shovel of dirt on the remains of what once was the Republican Party,

In fact, when McCain, who is not going quietly, does succumb, it could fairly be said that any meaningful remaining link to what once was the Grand Old Party will have been lost. In truth, the party has been brain dead for years.

When I first read the comments attributed to White House special assistant Kelly Sadler I was angered, but not surprised. Not these days, not with this administration. Cruelty is a staple.

The comment was made during a staff meeting about the Dotard-in-chief’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA director. McCain had voiced strong opposition to the choice even as he battled cancer at his home in Arizona. The comment was apparently intended as a joke, which did not go over well, but was quickly swept off the table.

But the telling thing about the comment is what followed from her boss and from members of the Republican Party who have known McCain for decades and who, not insignificantly, made him their presidential nominee in 2008.

Nothing. For days. Nothing. No cries of outrage at the disrespect for a party elder and the blatant lack of humanity in the remark. No thought of the impact on McCain’s family. No calls for Sadler to be fired. No call from the boss saying, “You’re fired.”

We’re told that Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, did chew out the staff, not for the comment, but for someone leaking the comment. Someone leaked the Sanders chewing-out. Now they’re trying to fire the leakers.

This is the world of Trump, from mocking a reporter with a physical disability — at a campaign rally where it drew cheers — to declaring that McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down, captured and endured years of torture in Vietnam, was “no hero” because he was captured.

This, from the man whose alma mater, New York Military Academy in upstate New York, makes no mention on its web site of the fact that one of its alumni is president of the United States. That would normally be considered a good recruiting tool, but there’s nothing normal — or decent — about this presidency.

Again, this speaks volumes about the Republican Party and so many who identify themselves as Republicans yet have not a word to say publicly about the man who has infused the office he holds with a level of greed, ignorance and callousness that is at times mind-numbing. It’s one thing to make a mistake, to be conned, to exercise bad judgment. It happens to everyone. It’s quite another thing to be unable to admit the mistake, to say I was conned, I was stupid, I was greedy, I was foolish, I was wrong. I’m sorry. I regret my choice.

McCain said it recently, about his fateful and perhaps politically fatal decision in 2008 to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, instead of his good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman. That decision did much to strengthen the wingnut, know-nothing branch of the Republican Party which gives Trump free rein today. Choices have consequences.

Lest I be accused of getting on my high horse, slinging arrows of accusation as if I had never succumbed, let me admit to a choice I unequivocally regret making — writing an editorial endorsing George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. I can try to justify it by saying I had a great deal of respect for Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, and that his presentation to the United Nations claiming Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction was convincing. No matter. The fact that it was a Bush/Cheney/CIA lie did not occur to me and I let myself be convinced even though I had always believed that the United States did not, would not, should not attack another country. I wrote the editorial. I was conned. I was wrong. I regret it.

Trump, vindictive to the core, obviously resents McCain’s dramatic, late-night, thumbs-down vote that doomed the GOP effort to kill Obamacare. It was a good moment for McCain, who has had a less-than-perfect record as a senator. I have not always applauded McCain’s decisions, but in terms of statesmanship, leadership, patriotism and basic decency, he has it all over Trump. And yet, the silence persists from McCain’s Republican colleagues in Congress about a White House aide joking about him dying.

Haspel, who ran a CIA torture facility and destroyed records connected with it, was confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director. Bad decision. McCain, who knew torture first-hand, objected strongly to her nomination. Trump thinks torture, which is illegal, is just fine. In fact, he’d like more of it. He’d probably really like to promote the female aide who joked about McCain dying, but will settle for firing the aide who leaked the comment. Having compassion is a dangerous trait in this White House. In the Republican Party, which can’t bring itself to say Donald Trump was a mistake, compassion has long ago been discarded.

May John McCain live on for days and weeks and months and even years as he valiantly battles his disease. The Republican Party for whom he once was the standard-bearer is dead and gone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A Juice Bar, to Feed Body and Soul

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

IR Photography Cornelius Houston, the smoothies guy

                     IR Photography
Cornelius Houston … the smoothies guy

There’s a new juice bar in my town. This is good news because it means someone thinks the town, Pine Bush, is ready to take that next step from “you’ve got potential” to “Where can I get a blueberry-kale-banana-beets-coconut water-smoothie?”

Why, right there on Main Street, fella, smack dab between the vegetarian/vegan restaurant and the health food store.

There was a time not so long ago that one could write about small towns and new businesses — “good news” — without feeling the need to explain that the motivation was at least partially to preserve one’s sanity and to reaffirm the belief that societies can survive even deeply disturbing times, such as ours, when “ordinary’ people do out-of-the-ordinary things because it feels right to them and it might be good for others as well.

Call this a mental health column.

So, smoothies …

I’m not a health food fanatic, but I do recognize and appreciate the benefits of being selective in what I ingest. As I’ve written about previously, my eating and exercise habits changed dramatically five years ago after a long-ignored visit to a doctor. Any doctor. The doctor I went to suggested I lose weight and avoid sugars, salt, red meat and fried or processed foods. The Great American Diet. Get some exercise, too.

She was pretty clear about the benefits of following her “suggestions” and just as clear about the likely consequences of ignoring them. To my credit, I’ve been doing my best to do as the doctor suggested without going to extremes. With the help of a persistent partner, I’ve lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I feel healthier, look better and eat very well, thank you.

This is why the smoothies guy coming to town was good news. It’s tasty food, healthful and a nice complement to the fine Asian, Italian and Mexican food already available.

The smoothies guy has a name, Cornelius Houston. He’s 38 years old, a big, friendly guy who says he got tired of not having a place to get the kind of healthful food he wanted in his town, “So I decided to open one myself.”

His establishment, Healthy Temptations, serves juices (orange, beet, carrot), smoothies (from the menu of fruits and veggies or create your own), salads, wraps and, yes, foodies, avocado toast with toppings and a baked bread that is a true treat.

Houston also grinds out wheatgrass shots for those who are fans of this superfood. It contains potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It even contains some protein. A sign in the juice bar says one wheatgrass shot is the equivalent of 2 1/2 pounds of green salad.

While the science is still officially out on wheatgrass, health claims for it include acting as an antioxidant, fighting infections, managing gastrointestinal processes (it’s gluten-free) and providing energy. A lot of people swear by it. In my case, the jury is also out on taste, so I’m easing into it by taking a sip of my partner’s regular shot. She loves it.

My point here is not to try to convince anyone to like wheatgrass or smoothies or, heaven forbid, maybe to eat more healthful foods. Experience has taught me that, despite the conventional wisdom, you can talk to people about religion and sometimes politics, but don’t even suggest that they skip the cheesecake and try the fruit bowl. Not if you want to remain friends. Americans believe they have a god-given right to eat what they want, whenever they want and as much as they want. It says so in the Constitution, or something like that.

So be it. I’m just impressed to see a man take matters into his own hands and open a business in which he has no experience because he saw a need no one was addressing. That’s how communities grow and prosper.

I’m happy my partner can get her energizing wheatgrass shots whenever she wants and I can mix and match smoothies ingredients to suit my taste and that Houston offers tofu as well as chicken on his salads.

I’m glad Pine Bush now has a juice bar to go with its UFO parade and spectacular view on its list of “cool things.”

I’m pleased that others have noticed Healthy Temptations, which suggests that living healthier may be catching on. That’s encouraging. I think it’s more important than ever to be fit in body, mind and spirit these days and what’s good for the body is good for the soul.

I also think it’s fascinating and not altogether accidental that, in this two-stoplight town, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Stewart’s are located at the light on one end of Main Street and a vegetarian restaurant, health food store and juice bar are blended together at the other end. Synchronicity personified and a very smooth Feng Shui, Pine Bush.

(The writer has no personal connection with Healthy Temptations or its owners. Pine Bush is located in Orange County, New York, about a two-hour drive from New York City. It enjoys a beautiful view of the Shawangunk RIdge and has been known to attract UFOs.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

 

Team Trump: Arrogance as a Virtue

Friday, April 27th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

The first time I had any doubts about Dr./Admiral (Admiral/Dr.?) Ronny Jackson was also the first time I had any idea who he was — the presidential physician. That was in January when Jackson, after what he said was a thorough examination of Donald Trump proclaimed the clearly overweight, often confused Dotard-in-Chief to be in “excellent” health.

Indeed, everything about Trump’s health was seemingly “excellent,” or “very, very good.” “Excellent,” Jackson kept saying over and over.

Trump even did “exceedingly well” on his cognitive test, the doctor said. “I have absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability,” Jackson said at the time, making a point that Trump scored 30 out of 30 on a cognitive assessment test. Funny, I mused at the time, I don’t remember ever hearing a presidential physician feel the need to provide such detail on his patient’s cognitive abilities. Maybe it’s just me, I thought. Maybe I just never paid that much attention before. But Jackson did make sure to note that Trump is “very sharp, and he’s very articulate. .?.?. Very, very sharp, very intact,” Jackson insisted. The admiral/doctor said he “found no reason whatsoever to think that the President has any issues whatsoever with his thought process.”

Really? How could this stirring physical and mental report be true, I wondered, knowing as we do Trump‘s regular diet of fried chicken, Big Macs, red meat, Diet Coke and ice cream, his lack of any physical activity other than swinging a golf club and tweeting, the fact he is borderline obese and takes medication to lower his cholesterol, his habit of routinely contradicting himself and his resistance to reading or to facts or to anything that conflicts with what he prefers to believe?

“Good genes” was the doctor’s diagnosis. In fact, “incredible genes.”

Kissing the boss’s butt was my conclusion.

It gives me no pleasure to say it appears that I was right. As the admiral prepared to go before Congress this week to answer questions about his qualifications to head the Department of Veterans Affairs it became immediately obvious that he had none, except for saying a lot of nice things in public about Trump, having a cool military title and looking good in uniform. That’s a trifecta for promotion to Cabinet status in the Trump White House, a disaster in real life.

Unfortunately for Trump and the doctor, but fortunately for millions of veterans, others took the job of vetting a potential Cabinet member more seriously than did the White House. The main question: Can this guy manage the second largest department in the federal government even though he has no experience in that area? But before he even got to face a congressional committee to answer that question, Jackson withdrew his name from consideration amid stories of him drinking on duty, indiscriminately dispensing pills and overseeing a hostile work environment that curried favor with people in power and had staff members operating in fear of retribution.

Another one of “the best.”

I started running through the names of Trump’s Cabinet members trying to decide which one troubled/angered/disgusted me the most and was stunned when I realized Rick Perry wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list. I mean, the guy wanted to get rid of the Energy Department when he was running for president, then took the Cabinet post from Trump without realizing it regulated nuclear arms and energy.

But the former Texas governor has some stiff competition in what surely is the worst Cabinet and sub-Cabinet in modern U.S. history, perhaps all time. For sheer arrogance — strutting about acting as if they know what they are doing, living large on public tax dollars, ignoring the missions of the agencies they are supposed to lead and destroying the foundations on which this nation was built — the group cannot be beat. It is a perfect reflection of Trump, all con, all greed and incredibly cruel to boot.

I’ll spare you the whole, pitiful list. But briefly …

  • Rex Tillerson, as ill-suited as he was for the post of secretary of state was at least smart enough to note that Trump was “a moron.” That got Rex fired and gave us Trump super-fan and former congressman Mike Pompeo, moving from the CIA to State, neither of which he has the background or understanding of world tensions to direct. He prefers weapons to diplomacy. I-know-what-I’m-doing arrogant.
  • Steve Mnuchin, treasury secretary, was a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager — perfect qualifications for “draining the swamp,” as Trump promised, right? A Trump loyalist who lobbied for the job and loves to let everyone know he’s the money guy. Snobbishly arrogant.
  • Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, is a very rich woman who hates public schools, indeed doesn’t even know how schools run. Phony, arrogant and entitled, like Trump
  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general, is a racist who also wants to do battle with marijuana and immigrants. A Trump punching bag of late, but still arrogant in denying this country’s history.
  • Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, is a brain surgeon-savant. The real world is a mystery to Carson. He wants to raise the rents on public housing tenants and spent $30,000 in public funds on a dining room set. Loyal to Trump. Doesn’t even know he’s arrogant.
  • Ryan Zinke, interior secretary, rode into office on a horse and should go out the same way. Selling off public lands and spending a fortune on travel are his hallmarks. An ex-military guy. As stated, Trump loves that. Defiantly arrogant.
  • Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator is being grilled by Congress for his expensive travel and security arrangements. Trump likes that Pruitt denies climate change and favors undoing all environmental protection regulations for air, water, autos, etc. Proudly arrogant.
  • Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, was so good at being mean — meals on wheels and free lunches for poor kids are not justifiable expenses, he feels — Trump made him interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well. Mulvaney has systematically dismantled the bureau since getting the assignment. The Tea Party darling told bankers that if they wanted to be heard in this White House, they needed to give money and the more they gave the louder their voice would be. He loves his job. Trump loves him. A truly despicable human being. Beyond arrogant. Guess he’s my number one.

That’s enough. Just to return to the admiral for a minute. The depths of his self-serving smarminess should have been evident when he “examined” Trump and declared, “I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even the remainder of another term if he is elected.”

Sycophancy, as Team Trump demonstrates, can be contagious. It can also be dangerous to careers. The doctor should have known.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

For Shame, America, for Shame

Friday, April 20th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

“Slime ball.”

That’s how the man with all the ‘‘best words,” the man who “know(s) words” replied when a man he had once fired called him a liar and compared him to a mob boss.

The man who had been fired, James Comey, also happened to be the former director of the FBI and also happens to have written a book in which he says the man who fired him was overly concerned with proving that he had never been involved in a situation that included Russian prostitutes and people urinating on each other. “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Can you imagine me in such a situation? the former FBI director says his former boss asked him in the Oval Office.

This is where Donald Trump has taken the office of president of the United States. And, just to get it out of the way, yes, I can imagine Trump in such a situation. That’s the problem, America.

Think about it. If it didn’t happen, then there’s no way for someone to prove it did. And in this country, prosecutors — even special prosecutors — have to prove you did something wrong, rather than you proving you didn’t. It’s called the presumption of innocence, a commodity this administration has flushed down the toilet, along with any semblance of dignity.

There is no shame in the White House. We are reminded of this daily, with lies, big and small. Payoffs to cover up extra-marital affairs. Blatant racism, nepotism and corruption. An aversion to the rule of law and an ignorance of the Constitution. An aura of pettiness, shallowness and vindictiveness. Utter disdain for the poor or disadvantaged. And smiling all the time.

So, too, with the Republican Party as it bows at the feet of Trump, a Russian puppet now clearly its leader. There is no shame. No sense of decency. “At long last,” I find myself asking rhetorically of the Republican Party, “have you no sense of decency?

Well … history offers an answer.

Those words were first uttered in 1954 by Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer hired by the Army — the U.S. Army — to defends itself from charges by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, of lax security at a secret Army facility. McCarthy had used his position as chairman of the  Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to intensify his ongoing crusade to weed out what he claimed were hundreds of Communists working in the State Department and other federal agencies as well as in private industry, notably entertainment and the arts. During an endless round of hearings brutally conducted by McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn (remember that name), witnesses were accused, insulted and relentlessly grilled. “Red-baiting.”

Finally, during the three-month-long, televised Army-McCarthy hearings, the senator charged that one of Welch’s young lawyers, who was not working on the case, at one time had ties to a Communist organization. He pressed the issue. Welch had had enough. “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” he said. As McCarthy tried to continue, Welch interrupted:  “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy, finally, was done. Someone had called him a bum to his face. He was eventually censured by the Senate and scorned by his own party. But careers were destroyed, lives ruined, families and friendships broken because of an unfettered campaign of reckless accusation and fear-mongering conducted by a publicity-hungry politician being advised by a ruthless lawyer, Roy Cohn, for whom nothing — facts, lives, careers … decency — mattered.

Roy Cohn, it turns out, was a younger Donald Trump’s lawyer, confidante and social secretary for many years in New York City. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent, you get Roy,” Trump once said.

The student learned from his mentor. Trump testified as a character witness at Cohn’s disbarment hearing in the ‘80s (they got him), but eventually dropped him as his lawyer on discovering Cohn was dying of AIDS. People are dispensable.

More history. In 1972, Sen. Edmund Muskie, one of the most-decent people to ever run for president, had the misfortune to weep during a speech in snowy New Hampshire in which he was defending himself and his wife from accusations from William Loeb, conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. An editorial accused Muskie, a Democrat, of using an ethnic slur against French-Americans, a large voting bloc in the state. The charge was based on a letter from a Florida man that was later shown to be a hoax planted by the dirty tricks division of the Nixon White House, another time when Republican shame took a holiday. Loeb also made a not-so-subtle suggestion that Muskie’s wife enjoyed drinking too much.

In defending her, Muskie spoke during a snowstorm, calling Loeb a “gutless coward.” But the senator’s voice broke and tears appeared to roll down his face. His aides later said it was snow because, apparently, decency in a presidential candidate was unacceptable. Voters agreed. Muskie eventually dropped out.

One more lesson on Republicans and shamelessness from history: Swiftboating.

The phrase was born during John Kerry’s run for the presidency in 2004. The Democratic senator from Pennsylvania was subjected to a relentless campaign in TV ads and even a book questioning his claimed military service and the circumstances of his combat medals.

A Navy veteran, he was commander of a swift boat, used to patrol the waters in Vietnam. A group calling itself Swift Vets and POWS for Truth attacked Kerry’s record as false and his medals as undeserved. The well-funded campaign dealt a serious blow to his campaign, leading to the re-election of George W. Bush. The Swift Vets claims were eventually determined to be unfounded, with virtually none of the veterans in the group having served on a boat that Kerry commanded.

“Red-baiting,” “dirty tricks, “swiftboating.” The terms live on today as examples of lying in politics and shameless disregard for the impact on people’s lives. All by Republicans in the pursuit or defense of power. It wasn’t always so with the party, but now it is. Trump, the proud ignoramus, gets a free ride from a shameless Republican Congress that has abandoned all pretense of decency. We’ve got ours, they smile.

Well, I for one am ashamed, America. At long last, I wish more of you were, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Let the Games (and Diplomacy) Begin

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

South  Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 WInter Olympics.

South Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thank Zeus for the Olympics. Every two years they offer an opportunity for a world gone mad to take a breather and at least pretend to pay homage to the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yes, Russia is barred from participating officially in the 2018 Winter Games, which began this weekend, because it tried to steal the 2014 Games in Sochi by pumping its athletes full of steroids. But Russians who did not cheat will compete, albeit without the flag or anthem of Mother Russia.

More significantly, with the Games taking place in South Korea, North Korean athletes are participating. Better yet, athletes from North and South Korea marched in together under one symbolic flag and the women’s hockey team includes members from both nations. There were no 38th Parallel issues for people who have been sharing a divided peninsula since the end of World War II and for nearly 65 years have endured a tense truce that halted the Korean War. And. thankfully, there was no tweeting about whose nuclear button was bigger and badder.

A lot of so-called experts are calling the Olympic dance by the two Koreas mere window dressing or a charm offensive by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, charming is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Kim.

But the overture to come “take part” was made by South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who pledged to work for better relationships with fellow Koreans in the north when he ran for president last year. One could consider this an example of a leader making good on his promise — and a politically risky one at that — rather than looking for excuses or people to blame for not following through.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence, his tight-lipped, see-no-evil shadow, to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies. There was no acknowledgement of President Moon’s diplomatic initiative, but again, at least no saber-rattling on Twitter.

Supposedly — again, this is the experts talking — Kim has gone along with this brief softening of tensions and shared Olympic spirit in the hopes of having economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea reduced. OK, so what? Who can blame him for that?

But who can blame Moon for thinking that maybe even a small thing like a shared women’s hockey team team is better for all Koreans than constant talk about missiles and nuclear weapons? Diplomacy takes many forms and, yes, sometimes it is imperative to be forceful and consistent when dealing with a difficult foe. It is also true that sometimes the simplest gesture can have unexpected results.

When nuclear warfare is apparently being discussed seriously and frequently in the Oval Office it is reassuring to know that the heads of the two nations that live face-to-face with the threat of war every day can agree to break bread and march together and, who knows, maybe agree to stay in touch when the skating and skiing is done.

I am under no delusion that the Orange Dotard (a name charmingly assigned by Kim) understands diplomacy, the perils of nuclear war or the importance of allowing subtle forces to influence the course of events. It is all bombast and buffoonery all the time. Just look back at some recent news stories emanating from the White House:

  • The State of the Union speech. A joke.
  • The Republican FBI memo. A bust and maybe illegal.
  • The opioid crisis team: Run by a PR specialist and a 23-year-old former campaign worker (since resigned).
  • The infrastructure plan … uh, sorry, wrong list. There still isn’t one.
  • The sanctions against Russia. Dotard won’t do what Congress said.
  • The Mueller investigation: Trump’s lawyers don’t trust him to testify in person.
  • The federal government. Shut down a second time. Trump actually rooted for this one.
  • The Wall: Build it or no deal for the Dreamers. Too many lies to keep up with in this saga. Naked bigotry.
  • The parade. THE PARADE. A flippin’ no-holds-barred military parade a la every dictator you ever heard of. He wants one; the military doesn’t. No one does. But as Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,’’ it’s what weak leaders do to appear strong.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher also wrote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

And: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Like maybe starting with South and North Korean women playing a little hockey together against women from other nations. Change the dynamics.

Trump and Kim are always ready and eager to hurl insults and threats. And maybe missiles. South Korea’s President Moon is trying to ease the tension and maybe open the door to more civilized dialogue. In the spirit of the Olympics, it’s an effort well worth making and supporting.

Meanwhile, maybe one of his aides — a general, perhaps — can read Sun Tzu to you know who.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Connect the Dots: Women’s Time is Now

Monday, January 29th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Women marched across the nation this month.

Women marched across the nation this month.

I’m big on connecting the dots. A plus B plus C … sometimes it adds up to D. Or in this case, W, as in Women. Here they come, politically. And long overdue.

In this case, making the connections wasn’t too difficult, unless you happen to be someone — a Republican, for example — who is genetically incapable of recognizing the gross disparities, unfairness and outright abuse that continue to confront women in America decades after an Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Congress and failed to get the required number of states to approve it.

That’s a dot still to be connected, but there are plenty of others falling into place, suggesting a new era is about to burst the male-dominated political/economic bubble that has encased America for, well, ever.

The dots as I see them, in no particular order:

  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that rocked Hollywood, wrecking careers of powerful men throughout the industry.
  • The #metoo movement that grew out of the scandal as women in all fields, from TV to Silicon Valley to sports, found the courage to tell their stories of sexual exploitation by men in a position of power.
  • Many of those men losing their jobs as a result.
  • The Women’s Marches that began last year to protest the election of the misogynist-in-chief and grew this year as millions of women (and men) marched across the country to demand equality for women in the workplace, in politics, in the board room, in society.
  • Oprah Winfrey delivering a stirring speech as she accepted an award at the Golden Globes Awards, leading to a social media storm urging her to run for president. (Please, no, we’ve tried the really rich person used to giving orders with no government experience thing. But please do support candidates who agree with you, O. Generously.)
  • Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former Fox News anchor who won a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment settlement from the network, being named chair of the Miss America pageant board of directors after the male bosses were shown to be mini-Trumps. Former contestants were also added to the board, which was previously all-male.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urging Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual groping charges, saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down as president because of his sex scandals and urging Donald Trump to resign as president over sexual assault charges from a score of women.
  • Trump attacking Gillibrand with sexual innuendo on Twitter and unleashing a powerful backlash.
  • The doctor for the U.S. Olympics gymnastic team being sentenced, in effect, to the rest of his life in prison for abusing dozens of female athletes under his medical care for years. The athletes were given all the time they wanted in court by the female judge to tell their stories before the sentencing.
  • Women of color turning out en masse at the polls in Alabama to defeat a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who, as a district attorney stalked teen-aged girls at malls. The candidate, Roy Moore, had the support of Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrat won.
  • A record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels.
  • Time Magazine choosing “The SILENCE BREAKERS,” the women who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, launching the #metoo movement, as “Persons of the Year.”
  • Hillary Clinton running for president, getting nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and losing anyway because (1) the Russians interfered with the campaign, (2) Republicans didn’t care and still don’t and (3) she apparently rubbed a lot of women the wrong way.
  • Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Connecticut as leading voices in the Democratic Party and speaking eloquently about economic equality, health care, gun violence, family leave, veterans, the homeless, abortion, immigration, jobs, the drug crisis — all for the most part ignored by Republicans.
  • Steve Wynn, financial chairman of the Republican National Committee, being forced to resign his position over numerous charges of sexual harassment and abuse of women over the years. The wealthy casino magnate is a major financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans.
  • Congress rewriting the rules (such as they were) for dealing with members accused of sexual harassment. Secret non-disclosure agreements are probably not going to be the norm anymore.
  • Female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States. They are also more likely to vote than men.

These are the dots. There are plenty more, but you get the idea. This is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.

You want another dot to connect? How about First Lady Melania Trump canceling out at the last moment on the trip to Davos with Donald? No standing stoically by her man. Someone said she sent him a private tweet: Dear POTUS, not going to Davos. Why don’t you see if Stormy Daniels is free for the weekend? Well, not free, but, you know, affordable.

Connect the dots.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Democrats: Stand By Your Woman

Monday, December 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ... leading the way

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand … leading the way

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned — by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition — to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

— “She’’s done, as far as I’m concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”

— “Never vote for her.”

— “Horsefeathers.”

— “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

— “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

— “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton’s 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar — the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk — like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly — sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin’ things that you don’t understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he’s just a man” … allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles — women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed — have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors — Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues — including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality — seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com