Posts Tagged ‘Democrat’

In America, the Rich are Never Wrong

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... I was great, but my mic was lousy

Donald Trump … I was great, but my mic was lousy

Here’s a delayed look at the week that was. (I couldn’t let that televised national embarrassment Monday night go by without somehow acknowledging it. Besides, it ties in neatly with the rest of the menu.)

Monday night, 86 million people turned on their TVs to watch a rich, white man who inherited a fortune bragging about rooting for the collapse of the home mortgage market in 2008 and how “smart” he is to avoid paying taxes. The man also happens to be running for president of the United States as the Republican Party nominee.

During the debate, the nominee also body-shamed a former beauty queen and displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about such things as economics and world affairs. He did sniffle and interrupt his female opponent a lot.

This was white privilege on display in all its arrogance. Donald Trump has got his – well, his daddy gave him a lot to start with – and now he wants to get more of ours. When the debate was over, Trump said if people thought he did lousy it was because somebody turned his microphone sound down too low. Because, in Donald Trump’s world, the rich are never wrong.

Speaking of the rich never being wrong, last week also marked the fifth anniversary of the Occupy Movement in America. It arose seemingly out of nowhere with thousands of Americans of all ages, colors, genders, creeds, etc., setting up camp or just sitting down — and staying — in large numbers in places where people don’t usually set up camp or squat, if you will, for more than a couple of hours at most. Bank doorways. Parks. The middle of Wall Street.

Five years later, the Occupy Movement is, at least physically speaking, a mere memory, a blip in the history of protest movements in the United States. To some, it is a might-have-been movement that missed its moment. To others, it was merely a forbearer of things to come. It was often criticized (by me included) as having no central theme. What was its point?

Today, it’s clear what the point was and remains: America is divided into two groups of people — the haves (like Trump) and the rest.

The haves are the one percent — the individuals and corporations — who control enormous amounts of wealth and want more. The rest, the 99 percent, is us, trying to figure out how things got so out of whack. Wall Street was and still is the symbol of this unfair, obscene distribution of wealth, hence the occupation of the financial district. But as the remaining Occupiers marked their fifth anniversary, it was obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the presidential campaign for the past year that the movement’s message did not disappear in the fog of tear gas, Mace and flash-bang grenades that dispersed many Occupiers in cities across America.

Sen. Bernie Sanders made income disparity the central part of his vigorous campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. It resonated so strongly that, even in defeating Sanders, Hillary Clinton (who is also very wealthy, but not Trump-like) agreed to include it in the party’s platform as she accepted the nomination. Her challenge as president will be to live up to her words and stand up to Wall Street.

If anyone doubted that this is necessary and that the culture of greed still prevails among the one percent, two recent hearings in Congress, of all places, should have put that to rest.

One involved a bank, Wells Fargo, whose employees, under pressure to meet aggressive demands to increase profits, created 2 million phony accounts in customers’ names to collect $2.4 million in unauthorized fees on them.

The other hearing involved a pharmaceutical company, Mylan Inc., which holds 90 percent of the market share on EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector, which reverses deadly allergic reactions. Since 2007, the company has raised the price 15 times. EpiPens went from roughly $50 each for a pack of two to $608. Millions of children rely on EpiPens’ life-saving qualities. Many parents are having trouble affording them.

Banks and pharmaceutical companies have been among the chief miscreants in the “get it any way you can” philosophy that dominates corporate America and Wall Street. Even when corporations are found guilty of egregious, illegal, unethical behavior, the persons responsible for creating the atmosphere of unyielding greed seem to never face any repercussions. The rich are never wrong.

Thousands of Wells Fargo employees were fired, either for setting up the phony accounts or for refusing to set up the accounts.The company was fined $185 million by federal authorities and agreed to pay restitution to its customers, but that won’t break the bank. CEO John Stumpf apologized to Congress, sort of, while ignoring many strong suggestions that he resign and that he should be arrested. But this time, the company’s directors went against common practice by making Stumpf give up $41 million in benefits and forgo salary while an investigation proceeds. They also made the executive responsible for running the scam retire without any severance pay. So maybe the Occupy message is starting to get through.

Meanwhile, the Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, tried to convince Congress that she was doing the world a favor with her blackmail pricing. Showing no apparent understanding of the fears faced by those who rely on her product, she told Congress her company was compassionate and had worked hard to educate the public about the dangers of allergic reactions. Bresch said the company only makes $50 in profit per pen, which is probably a low estimate, but still sounds pretty good, considering it costs only a few bucks to produce.

Bresch was paid $2.4 million in 2007 and $18,931,068 in 2015. She rounded it off to $18 million when asked at a congressional hearing, prompting one congressman to note that it must be easy to ignore $931,068 in annual salary when one reaches a certain level of pay.

And isn’t that the point? It has all been too easy for corporations to boost their bottom lines and top executives’ astronomical pay because no one at the top has been made to pay the price for the pain inflicted upon millions of Americans by illegal, unethical, money-grabbing tactics. Bankers don’t go to jail in this country. Drug company executives don’t go to jail in this country. Insurance executives don’t go to jail in this country. Wall Street brokers don’t go to jail in this country.

In this country, a billionaire who doesn’t pay his employees, stiffs his creditors, brags about not paying taxes, routinely degrades women, espouses racist policies, sets up a phony university, gives voice to hatred and violence, promulgates a fiction that his president wasn’t born in this country, insults military heroes, is ignorant of the Constitution, and lies as naturally as he breathes gets to run for president as the candidate for what is now a sorry excuse for a major political party.

And apparently, to a sizable portion of the 99 percent, this is OK, because he’s rich. And not black. Or a woman. Which may explain why Trump and the rest of his ilk continue to act as if the rich are never wrong.

… and so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

It’s Only Fair to Say: It Has to be Hillary

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton ... the only rational choice

Hillary Clinton … the only rational choice

Among the many unpleasant things this presidential campaign has unearthed (festering racism, arrogant ignorance, ugly nativism, cowardly politics …) is the phony fairness theory. Or, the false equivalence doctrine.

It’s the belief that: 1) the news media has an obligation to present information about both major presidential candidates fairly and equitably, without value judgments and 2) anytime anyone writes a critical piece about one candidate, it’s a “hit job” if the opposition is not also criticized in some way.

Obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to Fox News. although its viewers are the loudest in demanding it of others.

Second obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to the hundreds of social media propaganda sites posing as news outlets.

The misguided notion that the press has to be “fair” by being non-judgmental and showing appropriate respect for both candidates is what led to the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While Fox News was skewering Hillary Clinton daily with unproven charges and innuendo, the mainstream media were reporting on those innuendos while treating her opponent as if he were someone who had any clue about how to be president — despite his own statements to the contrary every day.

On and on and on it went, with only a rare few having the guts to say, “That’s racist,” or “That’s stupid,” or “That’s offensive,” or “That’s sexist,” or “That’s a lie.” And so here we are, with Trump still doing the same things day after day and the mainstream media desperately playing catch-up on calling Trump a dangerous bigot and a possible threat to national security.

All except Matt Lauer, of course, who froze up in that NBC-TV debate the other night, letting Trump ramble and lie without calling him out, while grilling Clinton about her e-mails that have dominated Fox News but — to be fair — have resulted in no official charges against her for anything.

I don’t know Lauer, but it sure seemed that he was more comfortable being aggressive with a well-spoken, accomplished, educated woman than with a schoolyard bully. Just saying.

At any rate, back to fairness. The Fairness Doctrine was instituted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required the holders of broadcast licenses (radio and TV stations) to present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable, and balanced manner. The idea was that, since they held licenses to use the airwaves, they had an obligation to fairly inform the public.

It was killed in 1987 In Ronald Reagan’s administration. It never applied to print media. It no longer exists. And it never meant that reporters or editors or columnists were supposed to ignore the truth in the interest of “fairness.” You don’t just get to say anything — true or not — just because we have to be fair. That would not be in the public interest. Challenging candidates to prove their statements is in the public interest.

Interestingly, the notion of fairness keeps coming up with regards to press coverage of Clinton, both ways. She has been called the favorite candidate of the mainstream media, who are supposedly doing all they can to ignore her shortcomings while repeatedly excoriating Trump, so as to get her elected. She has also been called the favorite target of the media, who are said to carry a longstanding resentment against her for treating them as a necessary evil at best. In a way, this could be considered fair and balanced treatment.

I’ve had readers comment on my articles saying that it’s not fair to just criticize Republicans for giving us Trump, when the Democrats gave us Clinton, who allegedly stole the nomination. I must be a Clinton-lover, they say. Be fair.

First off, it’s dangerous to make assumptions off one article, whoever the author. Second, we are way beyond that point, people. It’s two months to Election Day. Just as Republicans will have to figure out what they stand for after this election, Democrats will have their day of reckoning with the Bernie Sanders supporters and others who are not fans of Clinton (including me). That’s all to the good and grist for future columns.

But right now, we need to focus on the issue at hand: Donald Trump, is the most dangerously ill-prepared candidate to ever run for president representing a major party. (Please don’t distract me with third party arguments at this point. Aleppo.) Hillary Clinton is one of the most-qualified persons to ever run for president and she is a woman. I submit those as pertinent facts. I don’t have to like Hillary to vote for her; I just have to accept that she is by far the better choice. In fact, the only rational choice.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Alt-Right: Trumped-up Name for Bigots

Sunday, August 28th, 2016
Hillary Clinton ... delivering a speech linking Donald Trump to bigots and racists

Hillary Clinton … delivering a speech linking Donald Trump to bigots and racists

By Bob Gaydos

It’s not enough that I’ve had to suffer through the most frightening, embarrassing presidential campaign in my lifetime and, perhaps, in the lifetime of this country, but now I’m being asked to grant legitimacy to the very ugliness that has marred this chapter in American history.

“Alt-right”? “Alt-right”? Are you kidding me? How about ugly, racist, bigoted, anti-semitic, hateful, ignorant, white people who want to blame all their perceived grievances on those who are different from them.

These are the people who never wanted the Civil War to end. Who didn’t want schools integrated or teaching evolution. Who would welcome a return to segregated lunch counters. Who hate the day when Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. Who brandish the swastika. Now they want to start another civil war, led by the biggest con artist ever to claim leadership of a major political party, Donald Trump.

Thank you, Republicans.

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton referred to the most avid followers of Trump as the Alt-Right, a term now being used by mainstream media. With capital letters and everything. This is a collection of hate groups that have been festering quietly in the bowels of the Republican Party for years. Quietly, because even most Republicans are aware that these are not people who are interested in being part of an America that is open and welcome and full of opportunity for all people. These are Klansmen and neo-Nazis and Second-Amendment-spouting “patriots” who want the government to take care of their needs, but ignore the “freeloaders.” Hell, to punish them.

And yes, I blame Republicans for letting this happen because they knew full well the kind of people they were cynically courting for votes and the kind of people they were playing to by refusing to cooperate on any initiative proposed by President Barack Obama. Is it a coincidence that he is our country’s first black president and Trump has freed the racists from the Republicans’ basement? I don’t think so.

I’m glad Clinton spelled out in detail publicly what Trump and his followers represent. She should do more of it, while also spelling out her own alternatives to his fearful message. I hesitate to say that he stands for anything but himself because I think he makes it up as he goes along. He is a pathological liar, a bigot, a misogynist and has a sociopathic need to stir up fear and hatred among the “Alt-Rights” to hear their applause. He gave a scripted speech on how blacks — whose lives in America are a never-ending hell in his view — would be better off voting for him. He gave the speech to a group of white farmers in Iowa. Naturally, they applauded.

It is a sick relationship, enabled by cowardly leaders in the Republican Party who feared losing power and prestige by telling the “Alt-Rights”: You know what folks, in this country we don’t do things that way. We’ve come a long way from those days when skin color, gender, religion, nationality, sexual preference determined whether one was accepted as an American. And, by the way, we’re not going to sacrifice our party’s principles for the sake of a few votes based on hatred and ignorance. So, go find another place to hide.

But no Republican leader said that to them. Instead, they put Sarah Palin on a pedestal and questioned whether their commander-in-chief was really an American..

Alt-Right is not a political philosophy. Rather, it is a fear-based  agenda of white supremacy that is being spread via social media. Their memes offer a message of lies and hate and almost a proud ignorance. Facts and science are irrelevant. It is definitely not conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican. It is fear and hate and white is right and Trump has given it a voice, thanks in large part to the shameless orchestration of Fox News and the cluelessness of all the other news media until it was almost too late.

Trump stole the Republican nomination through bullying, outrageous statements, headline-grabbing and the timidness of many of his opponents, Republican leaders and media commentators. No one had the guts to say he was nuts. Since many of them have belatedly caught on to him, Trump is unlikely to steal the election. In fact, he seems almost intent on losing because he knows he can’t handle the job. It would be a major blow to his ego if he had to demonstrate his ineptitude publicly.

But he has given the cave-dwellers and hate-mongers hope and that is the real tragedy of this insult of an election. They now think they can spread their venom in public without repercussion because, after all, they’ve got a guy running for president of the United States of America for Pete’s sake. If that’s not legit, what is? And now, the media want to give them a legit name like all those other made-up ones — Neo-Con, Neo-Liberal, Far Right, Far Left.

Forget about Alt-Right. Call them what they are: racists and bigots. I say again, any Republican who hears what Trump and his most ardent followers say and sees how they behave and who still says he or she (really, woman?) supports his candidacy is no better than Trump. You are what you say you are. Presidents do not get to issue threats, insults and idiotic statements and change their minds every day.

Clinton has some serious issues to address, but they pale in comparison to what Trump represents. If you support Trump, know this: Your candidate is a fraud, a bigot, a callous, clueless, compassionless, misogynistic, self-aggrandizing bully who belittle veterans who died or were captured in battle and who mocks citizens with physical disabilities.

This is not all right in my America. This kind of “alternative” is unacceptable and does not deserve any special, pseudo-sounding, political movement name so that reporters, editors and columnists can have a shorthand way of saying bigots.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

And So it Went: ‘2nd Amendment people’, ‘ISIS’ … more Trump ‘do-overs’

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... shooting off his mouth again

Donald Trump
… shooting off his mouth again

It was The Week of the Do-Overs: Actually, for Donald Trump and Republicans, it has been nothing but one do-over after another as the disintegration of their party continues in the guise of a presidential campaign.

Most recently, the man “who tells it like it is” and “says what he means” has been going around saying that President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were the founders of ISIS. That is so absurd on the face of it that only a rabid Trump supporter would believe it. But Trump said it often enough that his spokespersons (the most hapless lot of sycophants in history I have to believe) defended it all over TV. Then Trump did what he always does — a do-over. I didn’t mean it, he said. It was “sarcasm,” he said. His lackies moved on.

Trump also said that if Clinton won the presidency there would be no way to stop her from appointing Supreme Court judges who would not be amenable to conservative points of view. Then he added that maybe the “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. When even Republicans said this was a possibly treasonous call for assassination of his opponent, Trump eventually said, well, he meant that politically they might do it. A do-over.

But there are no do-overs when you suggest that killing your opponent would be an acceptable political act. Not in this country where innocent people are murdered for no reason by deranged men with guns every day and the NRA buys congressional support to defeat any reasonable efforts at gun control. Not when all it takes is for one of those unstable Trump followers to get a gun and follow his leader’s suggestion. Some of them don’t even know what sarcasm is.

Trump is a threat, an insult, a slur, a lie, a boast, an absurdity waiting to happen anytime he speaks. Life to him is one, big do-over. He doesn’t tell it like it is; most of the time he doesn’t know what it’s like. He makes it up. Then, because he’s Trump, he expects to be able to say, “That’s not what I meant” or “the media misinterpreted it” and have everything be OK. He never even suggests an apology for any possible harm his words might cause.

For example, he recently said he “always wanted to get a Purple Heart,” one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard. Trump said it in the midst of insulting a father whose son earned the medal in losing his life in combat saving many of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. Because the man is a Muslim and used the platform of the Democratic Convention to attack Trump’s targeting of Muslims, Trump belittled the man by suggesting he was possibly an ISIS agent. Then, Trump showed how small he is himself (not just his hands) by saying he “always wanted” a Purple Heart and being given one by a veteran was “easier.” Ha ha. Joke.

Thousands of men and women who earned Purple Hearts by being wounded in combat were not amused. They would take no do-overs on this slur. If Trump wants to learn more about these wounded veterans, he can visit the Purple Heart Museum in New WIndsor, N.Y.. It’s not far from where he did his only “military duty” at the New York Military Academy.

But really, this is all the same, week after week. He knows Putin; he doesn’t know Putin. He’s not so sure about supporting NATO allies. What’s a Crimea? What’s the big deal about using nukes? Trump doesn’t tell it like it is. Rather, to use the overworn phrase, he is what he is. A phony, in so far over his head that he is trying desperately to find a way out. The debates are supposedly rigged, he says, so maybe he won’t take on Clinton. The elections are also rigged, he says, so he can’t possibly win.

The ones who really want a do-over are Republican “leaders” who allowed this racist bully to claim their prized possession — candidate for president of the United States. A man with no morals, no compassion, no intellect, no regard for anyone but himself. A man who mocks people with disabilities. A man who says he wanted to punch all those Democrats saying nasty things about him. This, to him, is reasonable discourse for someone wanting to be president of the United States. For shame.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is supposedly OK with Trump avoiding the debates and is his chief apologist. Well, Priebus, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can go on denouncing Trump’s statements and supporting his candidacy at the same time, but it only makes them look like spineless fools. The know-nothings to whom Trump appeals will stick with them. That’s not enough to save the party of Lincoln. Their day of reckoning is looming.

It seems to me that any Republican with a shred of decency and self-respect, not to mention common sense, should have abandoned Trump and the GOP apologists by now. Any Republican male with a wife or daughters, or both, should have written him off months ago for his comments about women. Any veteran, any Hispanic, any Muslim, any black, any gay, any parent, any woman, any man who respects this country and has hopes for its future needs to look in the mirror and ask, “How can I live with myself if I vote for Donald Trump?”

Evangelicals will have to reckon with their maker.

Some mistakes have no do-overs.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

And So it Went: Two dysfunctional political families trying to survive

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

 

Hillary and Donald ... heads of the families

    Hillary and Donald
  … heads of the families

By Bob Gaydos

The week began with Donald Trump making inane remarks about always wanting a Purple Heart and arguing with a crying baby. It ended with the Olympics opening to a samba beat in corruption-plagued Brazil. But something else has been rattling around in my brain and I finally figured it out.

For the past decade, the two subjects I have written about more than any others are politics and addiction. While each has its own niche and relevance in the world, I always knew there would come a time when the two merged seamlessly into one. I just didn’t think it would take the most tawdry, depressing, insulting, downright embarrassing presidential campaign in my lifetime for it to happen.

But here we are, my fellow Americans, three months away from having to choose between two of the most disliked candidates in our nation’s history to be the most powerful person on the planet. In 12-step program language: We have become powerless over our political process and our lives are becoming increasingly unmanageable.

At first, I thought this was just a problem for Republicans, many of whom are faced with trying to figure out how to detach from their utterly unmanageable presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Al-Anon, a 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics, talks of trying to detach from the alcoholic or addict with love. Love the addict, hate the disease, is the rationale.

However, the group’s members also acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary — for self-preservation — to “detach with an ax.” A few members of the Republican family have done so with Trump and more are in the process of getting up the courage to do so.

More on this in a bit.

What finally alerted me to the dual dysfunction of our presidential campaign — my moment of political clarity, if you will — was the FBI deciding not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, for her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

But they cleared her, you say.  Yes, they did. No crime was committed, they say. But they also said she and her staff were incredibly careless and she showed poor judgment in creating this system, which could have compromised classified information. The FBI and State Department both said it did not, but what struck me was Clinton’s need to ignore established — secure — protocol and install a system over which she, at least theoretically, had total control.

This, I recalled, was not new behavior for Clinton. Her political campaigns — for the U.S. Senate in New York and for president — are famous for her efforts to strictly control and limit all interactions with the news media as well as to carefully manage her public appearances. Not too much mingling.

It’s almost as if, when she feels she is in total control of the situation, she feels comfortable, but if she is not, well, who knows what might happen? There is no trust

Why would any intelligent, capable, successful woman have trust issues?

How about a husband who was a serial philanderer? A successful, charming husband who cheated and lied and paid no serious consequences for his actions, no less. This could prompt some controlling, seemingly arrogant, behavior in anyone who opted not to detach, with love or an ax.

Hillary stayed with Bill and today she is the center of attention. He remains visible and is still respected by many, but obviously is no longer a threat to her peace of mind. He may simply have aged out of the erratic behavior. That happens a lot in dysfunctional families. The “non-problem” spouse no longer has to devote all her energies to making things appear to be normal at home; she really is running things.

So when the “kids” in the Democratic family – the Bernie Sanders progressives — started demanding that things have to change at home, she was able to at least listen. Whether she is able, or willing, to make those changes, however, remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen if she can let down those protective walls and show voters a more human side. To continue the arms-length behavior only breeds distrust among people she’s also asking to like her well enough to give her their vote. It’s foolishly self-defeating behavior for a politician.

If Hillary can recognize that shortcoming and if she can grasp that, as head of the family now, she can let up on some of those reins of control and trust others to help her make decisions, and if she can learn to trust herself in non-choreographed situations, life in the Democratic household will be much more serene. Her life will be more serene.

If she cannot, Bill will still be around, but those Sanders kids are likely to leave home, even if it’s a beautiful, white mansion in Washington, D.C.

For Republicans, the situation is starkly different. Daddy Donald has gone off the rails. He listens to no one, says whatever comes into his mind, insults his allies and attacks anyone who isn’t nice (deferential?) to him. His addiction is the constant need for praise. Where is the next applause line coming from? His erratic behavior is not confined to the home either, but rather is out there for the whole world to see. His buddies in the bar love his one-liners. They think he’s a genius. “Hey, Donnie, you oughta go into politics.”

For the family back at home, it is beyond embarrassing.

As  Al-Anon teaches, those who stay with the addicted individual too long can wind up even sicker than the addict. Today’s Republican Party offers ample evidence of that as party leaders on the one hand condemn whatever bigoted, misogynistic, hateful, utterly stupid thing Trump has said that day and on the other hand continue to support him as head of the family. Shhh, don’t make daddy mad.

Rehab is out of the question. Trump listens to no one. The only healthy way out is to remove the addict from the house, or, as appears to be the situation here, to leave him and set up a new house.

That takes courage and, so far, few Republican leaders — indeed few of the rank-and-file — have shown any willingness to do this. Denial is a killer. Inevitably, the detachment must happen if the family is to survive. How much more suffering the Republican family must endure is up to them.

… And so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

In a Fog of Fiction, Sanders Offers Truth

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Thank god for Bernie Sanders.

You can make that an uppercase God if you prefer. Or keep it lowercase. You can take that sentiment ecumenically, evangelically, spiritually, atheistically, or any manner of religiously. But know this, wherever you place your faith, you must take that sentiment seriously.

Bernie Sanders is the saving grace in what has to be the most embarrassing, humiliating, disheartening and frightening presidential campaign, possibly in our nation’s history.

Quite simply, Sanders is the only candidate in either party who is genuine. When he speaks, I believe him. Millions believe him, because he has no hidden agenda, he is beholden to no one, he has a long history of caring and working for people to whom life has not been kind and for challenging those who have always wanted more than their fair share. A mensch.

In comparison, the Republican campaign has featured a collection of liars, misfits, religious zealots, bigots, charlatans, incompetents and people who cannot spell, much less demonstrate, compassion. It has culminated in Donald Trump, one of the most dangerous, embarrassing figures to emerge in American politics. He is a fascist, racist, misogynist, bully, lawyer, buffoon, and con man. A reality TV show star with no idea how government works, but plenty of experience in driving businesses into bankruptcy. He is probably a certifiable narcissist. And apparently, there is no one in his life who has the guts to say any of this to his face.

His candidacy has allowed all the ugly elements in American society, many of whom reside in the Republican Party, to feel free to voice their hate publicly, to assault and threaten those they fear or those who disagree with them, and, incredibly, to believe that their candidate has any respect for them and their needs. Trump, who makes it up as he goes along, has admitted his supporters come from the least-informed element of society. His campaign, in fact, represents the culmination of decades of cynical posturing by and catering to this element, and now appears to be the demise of, the Republican Party as a responsible political party. It is long overdue.

Not one of the Republican candidates — still standing or fallen by the wayside — can hold a candle to Sanders and not one of them deserves a vote to be president of the United States of America. They are, in toto, a disgrace.

However, the real challenge to Sanders comes not from the Republicans, but from within his own party. The Democratic establishment long ago decided that Hillary Clinton should be its candidate for president this time and has done everything within its power to try to make that happen. This includes setting up a ridiculously limited and unattainable schedule of debates and lining up hundreds of superdelegates to announce their support for her even before a primary was held. This was undoubtedly done to try to overcome Clinton’s well-known handicaps: 1) The fact that she is a lousy campaigner; 2) The reality that a lot of people don’t trust her; and 3) The Clinton history of being very cozy with the people responsible for nearly ruining the nation’s economy.

Forget that, her supporters say. She gets things done. What it is she’s gotten done is never mentioned.

Still, the fact is she leads Sanders in delegates won in the primaries so far and, even with her faults, she is still head and shoulders above any of the Republicans in the race.  This means, however much I respect and prefer Sanders as a presidential candidate, if Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee, I personally have to vote for her against any Republican. It also means I cannot write in a vote for Sanders or anyone else as a protest, because I honestly fear that taking votes away from a Democratic candidate could lead to something as disastrous as a Trump presidency or a Ted Cruz presidency or anyone-else-the-Republican-Party-settles-on presidency. I fear what will happen to this country if a Republican wins the presidency this year and I think the only way to get that message across to a party that has been in denial for decades is to thoroughly defeat it in November. Then let it figure out where to go from there.

It’s not a total sellout. Mitigating my vote for Clinton would be the fact that she actually knows how government works and, as president, she would have a working, viable, responsible political party behind her, a party still on working terms with compassion and science and equality and still dedicated to governing, not merely winning. And that party would have a Bernie Sanders and an Elizabeth Warren and plenty of others in Congress reminding a President Clinton of the promises she made during her campaign to convince all those young, disaffected voters that she could deliver what Bernie Sanders was promising.

Thankfully, though, this campaign is far from over. There are many primaries in northern and western and big states where Sanders has considerable support and could easily win enough delegates to capture the nomination. Bill Clinton did it. Barack Obama did it. Bernie Sanders can do it.

But he’s got another major challenge to overcome in addition to that from within his own party. That is the disrespect shown him by much of the major news media. Despite the tens of thousands who have attended his rallies and donated to his no-Pacs campaign, many news organizations have treated him as an afterthought and a Clinton campaign for president as a foregone conclusion.

That same media also gave Trump free rein to spew his vile hatred and nonsense for months before finally wising up to him. (And it’s not just Fox News that was guilty of this.) The media will have some soul-searching to do after this campaign as well.

So, I look forward to Sanders winning some big states (Hello, California!). And I expect Trump to continue to behave as Frank Bruni put it in the New York Times recently — like an addict who only wants more and more and more attention and will do or say anything to get it. That was my impression of Trump a while back, but Bruni beat me to it in putting it in writing. I agree wholeheartedly with him.

Indeed, I think of Trump as the guy sitting next to you in a bar who turns to you and says, “Hold my beer. Watch this.” He then proceeds to wreck the joint and bloody every person in the place. He exits with a triumphant grin, claiming it was the other guy’s fault.

Clinton, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar, much less drinking beer. She would be found sipping wine or martinis in an Upper East Side penthouse with some Wall Street types who are funding her campaign. They’re talking about how to get the vote of the common folk.

Sanders? He walks into a bar and says, “Hey, let me buy you a beer. Let’s sit down. What can I do for you?”

If I were a drinking man, that’s the guy I would want in the White House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hillary, Beware the Cloak of Inevitability

Friday, June 12th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton, why does she want to be president?

Hillary Clinton … why does she want to be president?

Having been dragged into the 2016 presidential debate a year early by the unexpected candidacy of George Pataki, I feel obliged to acknowledge the presidential ambitions of another “New Yorker,” Hillary Clinton.

Unlike Pataki, a Republican who carries the baggage of a man looking for a political party to support his aspirations, Clinton has long worn the cloak of inevitability as the Democrats’ likely candidate in 2016.

She may not want to get too comfortable with this bit of political apparel.

History suggests why. In 2008, the so-called conventional wisdom made Clinton a heavy favorite to capture her party’s nomination. All she had to do, it was suggested, was relax and let nature takes its course. After all, she had a well-respected Bill by her side in a reversal of roles, all the money they had amassed since he left the White House, a long list of wealthy Democratic donors and she had even won an election to become New York’s junior senator.

What more did she need?

As it turned out, a few things: 1.) a populist message with which voters could identify; 2.) a campaign persona that projected sincerity, clarity, energy and the possibility of real change; 3.) a little warmth; and 4.) a way to defeat Barack Obama, who, it turns out, had plenty of the first three.

In 2008, the inevitable was overcome by the unexpected.

Enter Bernie Sanders, 2015. The conventional wisdom — and even major news media, who should know better — are writing him off as an eccentric, under-funded, liberal — socialist even — senator from a small, New England state.

All of which is true, except for the eccentric part.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Unlike most of the Republican presidential candidates, he is no crackpot. He has a dedicated — and rapidly growing — constituency, fueled by the most synergistic form of communication yet created by man — social media.

In 2008, Barack Obama had it. In 2015, Bernie Sanders has it in spades. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites offer a non-stop, 24/7 recitation of Sanders’ positions on issues that resonate with so-called average Americans:

Protect Social Security and Medicare. Don’t raise the retirement age. Raise the minimum wage. Decrease the wealth gap by taxing the rich more. Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows the super-rich to control elections. Fight global warming. Make college affordable, not a road to lifelong debt. Rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Furthermore, Sanders recently introduced legislation that strikes at the heart of Republicans’ so-called dedication to family values. His Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act would guarantee 10 paid days of vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least a year. Sanders is also co-sponsoring, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, The FAMILY Act, which allows 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave. This could be used to take care of a newborn, a seriously ill family member or to deal with serious medical conditions. Republicans are nowhere on this.

Sanders has also publicly criticized Clinton for not taking any position on President Obama’s TPP trade act, which Sanders has strongly opposed for its lack of transparency and a provision sidestepping congressional approval of new agreements.

This is not the agenda of a crackpot.

One of the knocks on Clinton has always been that she seems to feel entitled, that she should get people’s votes just because she is Hillary. That she should be New York’s senator just because. That she should be the first woman president of the United States just because.

Perhaps prompted by Sanders’ energetic campaign, which is drawing crowds and money to his cause, Clinton has called for universal voter registration — a knock at the numerous Republican efforts to limit voting rights in the name of fighting voter fraud, a phony issue. It’s a populist issue, but not one on the front burner.

Mostly, her campaign seems to be focusing on setting up a coast-to-coast organization to recruit workers and attract votes and money for the campaign against whoever the Republican candidate may be. That’s because the Clinton team doesn’t expect much of a challenge from Sanders or former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

O’Malley is also no dunderhead. He would shine among the GOP field of dreamers. Like Sanders, he has an air of believability. Sure, it takes a lot of ego to run for president, but beyond the ego — even the sense of entitlement — many voters like to feel the person who gets their vote really means what he or she says and will work like hell to make it happen.

Then-Sen. Obama projected that in 2008. Young voters, women and minorities especially rallied to his side. In 2012, he had a record that was strong enough to validate that commitment one more time.

So the question is, what would a second president Clinton stand for? Would Hillary be a second coming of Bill? In some ways, that might not be bad, given his management of the economy. But Hillary is no Bill, at least when it comes to campaigning. She can’t realistically change her personality, but she can articulate some views that demonstrate an awareness of the issues of concern to many Americans. Sanders has spoken on some, but women’s issues appear to be there for Clinton to claim. Also bias. Immigration. And she needs to challenge Sanders on the others if she disagrees with him.

Like any Democratic candidate, she enjoys the luxury of not having to appease the ignorati of the right, who distrust science, detest non-Christians, deny evolution and dismiss the poor. She is free to say what she really believes and, if it is in line with Democratic Party principles, she can do so without fear of losing primary votes. But she’ll need to take that comfortable cloak of entitlement off and show that she’s interested in more than wooing major campaign donors and renovating the family quarters in the White House.

Why does she want to be president?

Clinton has said, much to her regret, that she and Bill were broke when they left the White House. No one believed her, but, good for them, that’s apparently not a problem anymore. Her problem appears to be that every time she sets her sights on the Oval Office, some man gets in the way. First Bill, then Barack … now Bernie? B-ware, Hillary.

 

 

Hillary and a Bunch of GOP Wanna-bes

Friday, June 20th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In recent months, thanks mainly to the Republican Party’s simple-minded policy of anything President Obama does or says we don’t like, I have been lulled into a state of who-gives-a-rat’s-patootie about politics. Really. What’s the point? He says shoot; they say war-monger. He says don’t shoot; they say coward. Hot? Cold. Higher minimum wage? Lower taxes on the rich.

Leave it to the Associated Press, apparently committed to the mission of tracking the stuff no one else cares about, to remind me that Americans have another presidential election coming up soon. Well, not really soon. It’s actually nearly two-and-a-half years from now, but, the AP tells me, there’s no time like the present to catch up on the “movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates.”

More than a dozen? I was flabbergasted. I could think of two Democrats:

  • Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, former senator from New York and former first lady is the odds-on favorite this far in advance of the vote to become the nation’s first woman president. She has the money, the machine, the name, etc. Although some people do hate her.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, who may make a token run against Clinton, but is more likely to step aside as, say, president of the University of Delaware or assume an advisory role in a new Clinton administration.

But the AP tells me there are two other Democratic possibilities:

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. No way. First of all, there is a Cuomo family tradition of not running for president. Second of all, Cuomo served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bill Clinton’s presidency and so is unlikely to challenge the Clintons. Plus, he’s got time on his side and is a shoo-in for re-election as governor.
  • Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. O’Malley? Who? Maryland? Get real.

Why not Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who at least have national name recognition and ardent supporters? Next!

It’s on the Republican side, though, that I had real trouble grappling with what the AP tells me is reality. My political sensibilities were shocked into a state of numbness as I read the list of possible GOP presidential candidates. Could this possibly be the best the party of Lincoln had to offer? Would any of these men be competent to carry Ike’s golf clubs? I went through the list:

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The supposed “moderate” Republican. His staff shut down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a Democratic politician who wouldn’t support Christie. Everywhere he goes, he has to defend himself against charges of being a bully. Tries to act like a reasonable politician, until you disagree with him. Two-faced. “I Am Not a Bully” does not resonate the same way as “I Like Ike.”
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s between him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (see below) for dumbest on the list. Renounced his Canadian citizenship to make sure he could run for president, even though he didn’t have to. Canadian citizenship may have been the best thing about him. Led the campaign to shut down the federal government. He doesn’t believe in science or education or government, etc. Thus, a tea party darling. Some Republicans hate him.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Again? Didn’t he demonstrate his intellectual shortcomings in the last campaign? Not big on science, education, health care. He likes to create lots of low-paying (minimum wage or less) jobs to brag about his state’s employment rate and visits other states to poach businesses. What is wrong with Texas?
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Another flameout from last time around. A president named “Bobby?” I don’t think so. Louisianans are among poorest, least educated, unhealthy people in country. He loves the oil industry (hello, Gulf of Mexico residents).
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Actually supported immigration reform until tea party robots attacked him. Now he doesn’t talk about it. Gutsy. Like Jindal, he messed up a big opportunity to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union. Coming up small in big moments is not a desirable trait in a president.
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Again? Another loser from the GOP’s 2012 primary circus. He’s making Christmas movies. He criticized his own party. He’s a religious super-conservative. Why is he even on this list?
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Okay, daddy was a Libertarian and son says he’s not. But he is. Which means there is no consistency. You will love him on some issues, hate him on others. Thinks employers have right to do pretty much anything with employees; opposes use of drones by government. He’s a favorite among tea partiers, for now. Wait until they ask him about penalizing people for smoking marijuana. Plagiarized other people’s words for his newspaper column. Unbending views are not a useful philosophy for governing, especially for the less-fortunate.
  • Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s losing running mate for the GOP in 2012. Authored draconian budget cuts in House of Representatives that hurt, yes, the poorest and least fortunate, but did negotiate compromise deal. A favorite of the Wall Street crowd that wrecked the economy. Sometimes irritates tea partiers, but that doesn’t take much. Presidential timber? Plywood.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Hates unions. Is in midst of a scandal about government staff doing campaign work for him. In the Mitt Romney mode of good-looking and seemingly articulate, but had to survive a recall vote.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He’s a Bush. Two is enough. He believes in a sensible immigration policy, which means most Republicans will hate him. He’s on the list because he’s a Bush. We made that mistake already.

So that’s my take on the list of possible presidents, for now. You’ll notice no women on the Republican side. Some of the GOP names will, one hopes drop by the wayside between now and 2015. My even more fervent hope is that some more credible GOP candidates of substance will appear to challenge Clinton.

Maybe the AP can compile a list of those possibilities instead of following all these losers for two years.

 

 

R.I.P., F.R.L.

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Frank Lautenberg could be devastating if he thought he or his friends were being unfairly attacked. So in 2004, with John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam being torn apart by the Bush forces, it was the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey who was recognized on the floor of the Senate for remarks.

In that short talk, Lautenberg gave as good as Kerry was getting, and once again proved that if Democrats were smart, they’d search for some more pugnacious candidates like himself and stop being so damned polite.

Lautenberg referred to “chicken hawks,” a species he described as having an appetite for war but only if they could find someone else to fight it for them. Lautenberg was never one to speak quickly and then break for lunch. So he went on to identify Dick Cheney as “the lead chicken hawk.”

He continued: “We know who the chicken hawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage.” His outrage extended to the shameless GOP trashing of Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a triple amputee from Vietnam, as somehow not strong enough on defense matters.

Calling the vice president of the United States a coward was a variation on the old Democrats-are-soft-on-defense drivel the Republicans had been spewing for years. Now it was in their faces. And they yelped that it was unfair.  

Lautenberg had the standing to make the case. He had spent four years in the Army during World War II while Cheney spent about the same amount of time getting his five deferments during Vietnam and while George W. Bush was finding himself a cozy place in the Texas Air National Guard.

President Obama would be in a much stronger position these days if he had a few more Lautenbergs to call on when his party, his supporters and himself are slimed by the Right. When Congressional Neanderthals play dirty, Democrats often seem quick to shrug their shoulders, look sincere, and announce to anyone who’s listening that they’re ready to work with the other side. They’ve yet to figure out that the other side has no interest whatever in working with them. Democrats ought to listen to tapes of Lautenberg when he was angry and stop being so characteristically courteous.

It isn’t just Lautenberg’s partisan mouth that will be missed. He was a passionate national politician.

–He led the struggle for a national drinking age of 21. For years, New Jersey teenagers drove across the state line to New York to drink. The Jersey drinking age was 21; New York’s was 18. There were comparable situations elsewhere. Using the possible loss of federal highway funds as a club, Lautenberg persuaded all the states to adopt that higher age.

–Lautenberg was an advocate of a national blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. If your BAC is higher, the law presumes you’re drunk and incapable of driving safely. Again, no state could be forced to adopt the lower BAC. But neither are the feds required to write highway-aid checks to states that refuse to comply. Today, 50 states subscribe to the 0.08 level.

–He was a strong supporter of the Secaucus railroad station, a $500 million project in the Jersey Meadows that was designed to allow NJ Transit rail commuters to switch trains and ride into midtown Manhattan or to Newark instead of traveling to Hoboken and the PATH trains.

–Just two things about Secaucus. There was an early proposal to spend $200,000 on a statue of Lautenberg for the station, an idea thankfully laid to rest by then-Governor Jim McGreevey, a fellow Democrat. I checked the clips to be certain and could find no story suggesting that Lautenberg opposed the idea of a statue of himself. I think he kind of liked the idea. Anyway, he got the next best thing; the station’s official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station, but most people just call it “the transfer,” and wonder why it’s such a confusing place.

–It was Lautenberg who led the fight to outlaw smoking on most domestic passenger flights. Remember what it was like when smoke drifted from the smoking section to the nonsmoking section? Remember the headaches? Remember thinking how much you’d pay for a breath of fresh air? Remember the smell of your clothes?

He had other issues: One of his environmental measures requires manufacturers to inform local officials of the chemicals they have on hand and use. He supported gun control. His intervention sped up federal assistance to survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

Lautenberg was one of the wealthiest members of Congress but he fought the people’s fights. The party and the people need a few more like him.

Wanted: One Soul, One Victory Tour Bus

Monday, November 5th, 2012

President Obama and family, celebrating victory.

By Bob Gaydos

After watching hours of election returns, skipping from channel to channel trying to get the latest results as quickly as possible, I have three lasting impressions:

  • Fox News consistently beat everyone else in calling states for a candidate (usually Barack Obama) and signaling a bad night for Mitt Romney. They called Pennsylvania and Ohio for the president while the other, “more reliable,” networks played it safe.
  • The “expert” talking heads spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the coming debate over the “soul” of the Republican Party. Again, Fox was out front.
  • Obama delivered a victory speech that came close to being classified as a “barn-burner.”

I don’t expect to watch much of Fox again, so I’ll chalk its surprisingly professional performance up to an anomaly and move on to the other observations.

For starters, will someone please define what they mean by the “soul” of the Republican Party? A party whose presidential candidate told Hispanic aliens to “self-deport” and dismissed 47 percent of the country as not his concern? A party that would deny gays and lesbians the rights guaranteed to all Americans? A party committed in its platform to denying women the right to an abortion under any circumstances? A party dominated by aging white men whose favorite pastime seems to be figuring ways to keep other kinds of people from voting? A party focused on maintaining every tax break possible for wealthy Americans, but making it tougher for college students to get loans? A party that treats science as a theory and global warming as a myth? A party that requires its ultimate presidential candidate to lie his way through primary campaigns in order to capture the votes of the whack job far right that dominated those campaigns, then backtrack on all those positions once he enters the general campaign and has to attract normal voters and then re-backtrack to some of the early positions in order to hang on to the Tea Partiers, ultimately leading millions of Americans to conclude he’s a liar?

That party? If there’s a soul in there, it must be in pretty sorry shape. Besides, just who is going to have this debate over the GOP’s soul? No elected Republican or party official said anything during the campaign about the GOP’s glaring position outside the mainstream of American thought on virtually every social issue or the fact that ever-increasing numbers of Latinos, blacks, gays, women and young people identified with Obama and the Democratic Party and that those are constituencies who are voting in ever-increasing numbers while old, white men are just getting older.

Who in the GOP will dare to defy Karl Rove, whose genius has now been trumped twice by Obama? Or Rush Limbaugh and the cadre of media blowhards that riled so many Americans up against Obama with a litany of half-truths and outright lies? Is there a leader in the GOP that dares to say the Tea Party, which cost the GOP several Senate seats as well, has no clothes, or at least no influence with a majority of Americans? The talking heads kept saying this debate was coming, but no one offered a name.

My advice to the Republicans who are fed up with the last two elections is to form a new party starting with all the sensible Republicans who have left the party.

Which brings me to Obama’s rousing 2 a.m. call to action. After the obligatory thank you’s to campaign workers and a promise to meet with leaders of all parties to end the Washington gridlock, and thanking supporters for their votes, he harkened back to a message delivered by another Democratic president 50 years ago.

“But that doesn’t mean your work is done‘” he said. “The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government.”

John F. Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” was more dramatic, but it had already been used. Obama’s message, however, was the same — you, the people need to be more involved. If you don’t like the way things are being done, change it. The election is not the end; it’s the beginning.

A reporter covering Obama said the president did plan to try to work with Republicans, but also intended to take his message directly to the people, to take his show on the road, so to speak.

The talking heads all said it would never work. But they were still convinced Republicans — who lost the election — were going to sit down and have a heart-to-heart over their party’s soul.

I suggest a search party.

bob@zestoforange.com