Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

It’s Time for the Filibuster to Go

Sunday, April 4th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

     “If it’s good enough for The New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

      With those words of wisdom, a newspaper editor gave a willing but wary member of his staff a gentle shove into the world of editorial writing. The staff member was me. The editor was Bill Kennedy. The newspaper was The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The time was late November, 1983. My maiden piece had appeared on Nov. 23,1983, the 20-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Serendipity. JFK and I share a birthday.

       On this day, I was asking Bill about an editorial I was thinking of writing, but which The Times, which circulated in our area, had just voiced an opinion on that morning. It was pretty much the same as what I had in mind and I was a little annoyed that they “beat” me. An ego thing.

      “Do we care?“ I asked.

      “Do our readers care, or even notice?” Bill answered.

      I wrote the editorial. The topic has long since been lost in my memory. But Kennedy’s message remained.

       It came to me in a flash a couple of weeks back as I was having a debate with myself on the wisdom of scrapping the Senate filibuster. I had pretty much decided I was all for it because, honestly, I am up to my eyeballs in Mitch McConnell single-handedly trying to destroy this country for anyone but the super-rich and super-white. With him as Senate majority leader for 10 years, any meaningful piece of social legislation proposed by Democrats had no chance. Now, as minority leader, he threatens to use the filibuster to kill Democrats’ sweeping voter reform law while having the gall to claim that Democrats refused to negotiate on it with Republicans.

         My only hesitation in writing this piece was that even some Democrats were defending the filibuster because of its “ttradition“ in the Senate and its supposed protection against a super majority running roughshod over democracy. Those arguments had pretty much lost out and I also thought about the threat the filibuster would pose to immigration reform, criminal justice reform and anything else President Biden might propose to advance racial and cultural harmony in the nation in the wake of four years of the divisive Trump administration.

         Enough of McConnell, already, I said to myself. Let’s save the country while I’m still alive to appreciate it. And then there was the Times editorial: “For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go.”

        Well, thanks, Bill.

         Of course, I was so upset that I let them beat me on writing the editorial and didn’t want people to think I just copied theirs, that I waited a good two weeks before sitting down to do mine. This is it. The filibuster must go.

         Here’s why.

         Even though it is promoted as a barrier to a majority abusing its power over a minority, its primary application from the beginning has been to allow a minority of senators to exclude minorities in America from enjoying the rewards of democracy. First, it was slavery. More recently, civil rights legislation. Forget Jimmy Stewart in the movies. It is an outdated tool that has been used to preserve and promote bias. And for all it’s “tradition.” the Senate has already written exceptions into the rule.

         A brief description of the filibuster rule is appropriate here. When the Constitution was written, the framers kept it simple. In order for a bill to pass in the 100-member Senate, a simple majority of 51 votes was all that was needed. When Southern members took to long-winded floor speeches (filibusters) to delay or deter votes to abolish slavery, a rule was approved that requires the votes of 60 senators to end a filibuster.

        Modern senators being less fond of doing the actual work of talking for hours on end, in relays if necessary, to defeat a bill, amended the rule so that any senator can delay a vote on, and maybe defeat, any bill, simply by sending an e-mail saying he or she is filibustering it. That’s it. Go to lunch.

       In effect, that means the bill sponsor has to find 60 votes instead of 51. And, of course, there is no real debate on the bill. The Senate has already excluded money-raising bills and the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices from the filibuster, allowing, most recently, Donald Trump to appoint three new justices to the high court.

         Some (including two Democrats) have suggested going back to the talking filibuster so that there is actual effort required to oppose and maybe some debate on the bill. But there has seldom been any debate provided by the filibuster and, even assuming Republicans are willing to argue for hours on end against expanding voting rights, Biden and the Democrats don’t have the time to waste.

          With Georgia leading the way, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are passing laws to make it much more difficult for members of minorities especially to vote. Basically, that’s un-American. More to the point, it’s racist as hell.

         The only way Republicans win congressional races in a lot of areas is by gerrymandering voting districts so that their candidate has a majority of Republican voters in the district. Even in Georgia, though, that failed when Democrats managed to put together a major get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans are basically scared to death they will not get elected again.

           Being able to vote should be one of the easiest things to do in this country. It’s almost insulting to have to write a column arguing that point. The fact that Republicans lied about the presidential election being stolen from Trump — and some still do — and make no bones about imposing restrictions on people’s ability to vote suggests that there is no debate to be had on this issue. Republicans just don’t want minorities to vote. They are not concerned with changing their policies to attract the voters, just denying the votes.

          Democrats have the presidency and control of both houses of Congress (but only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate) for two years. Midterm elections often produce changes in the power structure. Democrats can go a long way to repairing the damage done in the last four years by the Trump administration. (Biden has already started.) Democrats can go even further by passing sweeping voters rights legislation that will ensure that Congress is truly representative of the majority of the people rather than in the hands of a tyrannical minority interested only in power, not governing.

         Of course, what I just said is pretty much what The New York Times editorial also said. What can I say, great minds think alike. If it’s good enough for The Times (sorry, a slight edit, Bill), most of the time, it’s also good enough for me.

(Personal note: I wrote editorials for The Record for 23 years until I retired. Thanks, Bill.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

For the GOP, Is the Party Over?

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

 It’s not easy being a Republican these days. First, there’s the question, “What is a Republican?” Second, there’s the problem with numbers. They don’t add up. Third … for now,  go back to Number One: What is a Republican?

      The future of the party has been the subject of debate ever since its candidate, Donald Trump, was soundly defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Not only did Trump, an incumbent, lose, but Democrats also took control of the Senate, giving them control of Congress as well, since they retook the House in the midterm elections of Trump’s four years in office.

       This is not exactly “winning,” which is what Trump’s lap dog Lindsey Graham says is what he’s all about. Yet Graham still supports Trump as the leader of the GOP. And apparently, according to several surveys, so do a lot of other Republicans.

       Which is good news for Democrats.

        It’s the numbers. According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of registered voters identified as Republicans in 2020, while 33 percent identified as Democrats and 34 percent as independent. Since Trump’s loss, his incitement of the riot at The Capitol and the continuing lie that the election was stolen from him, thousands of Republicans have left the party. Even without knowing the exact number of defections, clearly there are fewer Republucans today than just last year.

       But one survey showed 73 percent of Republicans still felt it was important to remain loyal to Trump, while about 70 percent would at least consider joining another party if he started one. Those numbers sound impressive, but they are 73 or 70 percent of a registered voter base that was only 29 percent of the total electorate. A big chunk of a relatively small chunk.

      However, if 30 percent of Republicans can’t abide Trump, his support among registered Republicans then drops to around 20 percent of the electorate. Since many independents also don’t like Trump and more tend to identify with Democrats than Republicans anyway, it’s hard to see where Republicans plan to find the votes.

        One answer is, they don’t. They plan to prevent as many Democrats (especially minorities) from voting as possible. Voter suppression proposals have been presented in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But they will be challenged in court. 

        Another answer is, many Republicans are consumed by the delusion that Trump is their messiah and is destined to lead them to victory and beyond. Case closed. This weird factor grew exponentially with the recent Conservative Political Action Conference convention at which a gold statue of Trump was presented for adulation. Which goes back to the question — what is a Republican? Or a conservative for that matter.

       If Trump were to start a new party (unlikely if Republicans are willing to just give him theirs which is already organized and well-funded), what would it stand for? More of the same? Racism, bigotry, corruption, deceit and incompetence? Losing? Lying? White supremacy? Loyalty to the leader above all else?

      Is that what a Trump Republican is today? Again, the numbers say it’s a losing hand. Yet Trump loyalists within the party say it would be foolhardy for those party members who reject Trump to either try to assume control of the party or start a new one based on traditional conservative Republican views because the party’s base wouldn’t go for it. The grassroots Republicans would reject such an attempt, it is said, because that’s not who they are.

      Precisely. The “grassroots” Republicans Trump appeals to are all-in on the racism, bigotry, bullying, etc. Forget traditional conservative principles. The GOP Big Tent today is flooded with angry white men and women who go to church and ignore what is preached. They believe what they’re told and have no use for compromise or, indeed, for government. And beware if you oppose them. The old line Republicans who let them in to boost their numbers are scared to death of this base. Literally. Republicans who criticized Trump were actually advised not to attend CPAC for their own safety. But the Golden Trump was there.

        Forget principles and numbers. The only hope I see for Republicans who want to preserve traditional party values and restore its place as a legitimate partner in governing America is to hope that those Democratic prosecutors looking into Trump’s affairs in New York, Georgia and who knows where else are really good at their jobs. Since they weren’t appointed by Trump, odds are they are. Maybe they’ll take Trump out of the picture. Then all the old-school Republicans will have to do is get rid of all the Trump wannabes in their party. That’s problem number three. It may be a bridge too far.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

      

 

The Perils of Covering Chaos 24/7

Saturday, August 15th, 2020
Geraldine Ferraro and Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party's presidential ticket in 1984. She ran for veep.

Geraldine Ferraro and Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket in 1984. She ran for veep, making history, as Maureen Dowd recalls.

By Bob Gaydos

     It gives me no joy to say “I told you so.” Maybe a bit of personal satisfaction, but I’ll deal with that. 

From time to time, in this era of constant chaos known as the Trump Administration, I have lamented that it is virtually impossible for those who comment on the news of the day to write about anything but the Drumpster. The fact that he lies constantly, is monumentally inept and psychologically unfit for the Oval Office only adds to the need for constant — daily — attention. It is exhausting and, ultimately, depressing. And this, I have said, could eventually scramble the brains even of veteran journalists who still do it fulltime for a living.

      Cases in point, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks. One on the left, one on the right. On a recent Sunday, the New York Times played it right down the middle.

     On Aug. 9, I decided to peruse the Views section, once my automatic go to, but for some time now a repository of more of you know what about you know who. The psyche needs a rest. Having had one, I skipped to Dowd in the back, leaving Brooks’ rare front-page splash for later.

       Dowd has been nothing if not devoted to telling us how awful and dumb Drumpf is. She does it well. I enjoy her writing. But on this Sunday she had to write about Democrats and that part of her brain apparently was fried from all the juice emanating from the Republican side.

       She was writing about Joe Biden’s much-anticipated selection of a female vice presidential running mate. She was also waxing nostalgic of her days covering Walter Mondale’s selection of Newburgh native Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate in 1984. She was the first woman to run as a vice presidential candidate on any major party ticket. Dowd recalled that that “fairy tale“ had a “sad ending.“ They lost.

     But then Dowd wrote: “It’s hard to fathom, but it has been 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket. To use Geraldine Ferraro‘s favorite expression, ‘Give me a break!’ “

     I’ll cue in the Jeopardy final question music. Do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do…

     I’ll take it, Alex. Who were Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in 2016?

      Correct, Bob! Hillary Clinton chose Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate in July 2016. And that was the last time a man and a woman ran together on the Democratic Party ticket.

       How soon we forget. Dowd was so focused on the number two pick, she forgot all about Clinton clobbering Trump by several million votes and still losing the presidency a mere four years ago. Dowd wrote about all the biases Ferraro faced as the first female vice presidential candidate and projected that Biden‘s choice would have to be prepared to be portrayed as too bossy, too bitchy, too aggressive, too ambitious, etc.

    Of course, those are all things that were said about Clinton a mere four years ago when she ran, not for vice president, but for president. Real history. She won and she had it stolen from her as I recall.

     Kamala Harris, Biden’s eventual VP pick, will probably be able to handle all those attacks, in part because she’s highly competent, but also because Clinton already handled them, as I said, four years ago. Maybe Dowd can make it up to Hillary in a future column, but I submit that that’s what covering Drumpf 24/7 can do to you

     As for the conservative Brooks, he chose to take on the question of “Where Do Republicans Go From Here?” He’s not sure other than that, however many smart conservatives work on renovating it, Trump’s impact on the party will last for decades. And he puts the party’s future in the hands of four Republican senators in their 40s: Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse.

      Sheesh. All four are supposedly more enlightened populists who don’t always see government as the enemy and feel more must be done to help America’s working class. Rubio and Sasse occasionally try to sound like they disagree with some administration policy that harms regular people, Hawley is hawkish against corporate elites and Cotton is, at heart, a bomb thrower. They all voted not to convict Trump at his impeachment trial and none has shown the courage to consistently speak out directly to contradict the administration. Not much leadership in evidence.

      Brooks, who’s supporting Biden, writes, “The Republican Party looks completely brain-dead at every spot Trump directly touches.” I agree with him on this. And so, how are these four young stalwarts going to reshape their party so that it survives as a major political force? Stick with the working-class philosophy, but without the racism, Brooks suggests. Aha! Therein may lie the rub. How does the GOP unbecome the party of white, racist middle-Americans who hate “coastal elites”?

     Brooks takes us through many inches of well-thought-out rationales and says others are also working on the “brain-dead” issue. But Rubio, Hawley, Cotton and Sasse? They’re “inching” their way to a new GOP, Brook writes, finally ending with: “What are the odds they’ll succeed? They’ve got to be way under 50-50.”

    Swell. That’s what used to be known as burying the lead, David. After all this, you’re saying the best hope for a new GOP lies in the hands of four senators with little hope of shaking off the stench of Trumpism? Please. Give it a rest.

      Anyway, I get it. The point here is purely personal. As I said, it’s crazy-making having to write about Trump every day, like living with an alcoholic. I appreciate the efforts from both of you, but why not forget about you-know-who for a while? Take a week off. Maybe write about the plant-based food craze instead. I myself am a fan of the Impossible Whopper.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Politics in the Age of Pestilence

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

 Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

   The job of the next president of the United States is to restore a sense of competency, decency and dignity to the office. Nothing is more important than that. 

     I actually wrote those words about three weeks ago as I worked on a reaction to developments in the Democratic presidential race and various complaints being voiced about the front runners — too old, too radical, too conservative, too male, etc.

     COVID-19, unfortunately, intervened. It also reinforced my belief in that simple campaign slogan: competency, decency, dignity. Put any Democrat’s name in front of it:

     — Joe Biden, competency, decency, dignity.

     — Bernie Sanders, competency, decency, dignity … uh, scratch that campaign, not the sentiment.

     — Andrew Cuomo, competency, decency, dignity. (I know; it’s Joe, but just hold that thought).

     As swiftly as Covid-19 moved through parts of the population, just as swiftly do political stories change. Sanders dropped out and pledged to support Biden just as I was rewriting for Covid. Cuomo burst on the scene just as abruptly, reminding Americans that it is important to have elected officials who are capable, competent and concerned about people’s welfare. Actually, their lives.

     Cuomo’s father, Mario, also a New York governor, once wrestled with the notion of running for president to the point he was dubbed “Hamlet on the Hudson” — to run or not to run. He decided not to at the last moment. Andrew has insisted repeatedly he is not looking to be president.

     Not yet. He’s also a friend of Biden’s. But Democrats can at least rest assured that if something else unforeseen happens between now and their nominating convention in August, they’ve got Bernie and Andrew in the bullpen. Elizabeth Warren, too.

   But the real need now is for Democrats to present, not just a familiar, comfortable name for president, but a super team, if you will, of potential cabinet members and presidential advisors who will reinforce the need to return competency, decency and dignity in the Oval Office.

      The need for competency has been apparent from the first days of the Trump presidency. The administration’s unconscionably inept response to the Covid-19 virus is the predictable result of three-plus years of looking the other way, justifying and making excuses for Trump, a man with no moral compass or sense of responsibility and who is incredibly dumb to boot. His dismissive attitude to doctors and scientists on the handling of the virus has resulted in chaos, fear, panic, a probable recession and death. There is no excusing this arrogant incompetence.

     In the category of decency and dignity, I include a respect for the truth as well as the Constitution. I also include an understanding of this nation’s once respected role as the leading voice for freedom and democracy on the planet — a nation represented by the Statue of Liberty, not by an egomaniac’s wall and caged migrant children,

    Regarding the nay-sayers among Democrats … Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both 78 years old. I am 78 years old. If you wanted to dig into my past life and drag out every stupid, profane, dumb, selfish, hurtful thing I have ever said or done, a lot of people probably would say, no, I don’t want him to be president.

     Given that, I still say without hesitation and in all humility, that I believe I would make a much better president than Donald Trump has been (as would a lot of you). That’s because I think I have learned, sometimes the hard way and with age, what is important and what is not so important. I don’t think I’m smarter than trained professionals. And I have a respect for the truth as well as the history of this nation. If you want references, I can probably pick some up.

     But I’m not running for president. Joe Biden is and, until recently, Bernie Sanders was. (Cuomo still says he’s out.) While I can agree and disagree with both men on a variety of issues, I have no doubt that either one would honor the tradition of the office and work immediately from day one to remove the stain that has been Donald Trump. I can say that about every one of the Democratic presidential candidates.                  

      For disappointed Sanders supporters, and they are legion and loyal, the victory can be claimed in his demand for Medicare for all. If the virus has shown anything, it is the utter failure of the American health system to deal efficiently and even-handedly with a health crisis. People should not die because they can’t afford to get tested or there are no tests or they have no insurance for treatment or their governor insulted the president. Not in this country. Biden as president may calm Wall Street worriers, but he must also make Sanders’ central issue part of a Democratic plan to restore America’s legacy of competency, decency and dignity. Sanders for Health Secretary? A thought to build on.

      Having been vice president to Barack Obama for eight years (a source of much of his support), Biden knows how this is done. As the presumptive nominee he should choose a younger female vice presidential running mate and assemble a team of one-time rivals for the presidency as potential cabinet members. Unity must be paramount for Democrats. Take back the country first, then fix all that has been broken. Republicans appear ready to stick with Trump right into the sewer. A united, impressive Democratic team behind Biden can defeat that.

      Also key is voter turnout. Republicans will do anything to keep potential Democratic votes from being cast. They have already shown that. A unified Democratic Party behind Joe Biden, with a plan to make America competent, decent and dignified again should get out the vote. It would help if Obama campaigned. It is also crucial to reclaim the Senate.

     And, as he enters the fourth and last year of his term, President Biden, at age 82, can say he does not intend to seek re-election, paving the way for that younger vice president to continue the restoration project. First remove the stain from the presidential seal, then polish it with gusto.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Countdown to Woodstock and 2020

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

 

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

By Bob Gaydos

A look at the news, by the numbers:

  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum of empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner.
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script.
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Buck Never Stops With Trump

Friday, November 9th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

D4EC7881-03DC-40CE-B0DA-02AA50509A49There’s still too much happening, too fast, so I’m sticking with the Jimmy Cannon approach for a while. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble figuring out which is worse: a) claiming you don’t know someone you just appointed to a pretty important job when critics immediately say the appointment is illegal and inappropriate; b) lying about knowing the guy when you just said on national TV less than a month ago that you know him and he’s “a great guy”; or c) thinking that the best way to cover your butt for making what is being described as an “unconstitutional appointment“ of someone who is being widely described as a “crackpot“ to the position of acting attorney general of the United States of America is to say, in effect, “Hey, they told me he was a good guy for the job. I never met him. Don’t blame me.”

The buck never stops at Donald Trump‘s desk. Think about it (you Trump supporters who stumbled in here by mistake can ignore this part), the man who occupies the most powerful position on the planet would rather people think he appointed a political hack to the most powerful law enforcement position in the country without ever talking to the man face-to-face than admit maybe he was a bit too hasty. Coincidentally, of course, at a time when the Justice Department this stranger would head has an active investigation of Trump and the 2016 election.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, with Drumpf, lying is second nature, but being embarrassed is unacceptable. It must be someone else’s fault. The media’s! Yeah, that’s it. I’ll blame CNN.

— Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a member of the White House press corps, I wouldn’t ask a single question at the next press conference if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is at the podium. No one. No questions. She took lying for a living to a new low with the use of a doctored video to revoke Jim Acosta’s White House credentials. The truth is under constant assault by this administration and the Republican Party. The press is the defender of the truth. Sarah must go,

— Maybe it’s just me, but I have issues with voters who prefer a dead pimp, a congressman indicted for insider trading, another one indicted for using thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal affairs and another one who is proudly racist over their opponents just because their opponents are Democrats. Methinks it says some unpleasant things about those voters. The Republican Party of Reagan, never mind Lincoln, no longer exists.

— Maybe it’s just me (and this definitely falls in the category of patting my own back), but those dots (I listed 17 of them) I wrote about back in January got connected on Election Day with a wave of women (mostly Democrats) elected to the House of Representatives. Sparked by the #metoo movement, with “a record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels,” I wrote, and with “female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States … 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.” So I said. It’s nice to be right occasionally, even nicer that the Democrats paid attention.

— Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone heard about anyone being charged with murdering Jamal Khashoggi? Are we still buddies with the Saudis?

— Is that caravan still threatening our southern border?

— Is it petty to criticize by name the members of your political party who didn’t get re-elected because they didn’t beg for your support? Is it typical (see item one) to think you, with your policies and rhetoric, bear no responsibility for their defeat?

— Maybe it’s just me, but Floridians deserve whatever they get for electing Rick Scott governor in the first place and maybe a bonafide racist to replace him. Throw in Marco Rubio, too. Imagine, counting all the votes is cheating.

— And finally, maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed that, unlike Congress, the third leg of government, the courts, have been holding their own against the onslaught of anti-everything coming out of the White House? The latest rulings stalling the Keystone Pipeline and preserving DACA show the value of independent courts. Maybe it’s just me, so why is Chuck Schumer being so soft on Mitch McConnell?

#voxpopuli

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

GOP: A Party Without a Head or a Heart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) got snookered. The self-proclaimed master “deal-maker” let himself get sucked in to putting his reputation and the power of the office he holds behind a deal — a Republican “health care” plan — that stunk so bad he couldn’t get it passed even though his party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency.

This is where ego and ignorance can take you. An unholy combination that, in this case, resulted in the NIC thinking the sheer magic of his name and the unlimited power of his position were enough to get politicians to vote against their own self-interests.

Turns out the magic was myth and, surprise, there are limits on the power of the presidency. Business and politics are not the same. Opposites, in fact. The failure of the Republicans to get their much ballyhooed replacement for Obamacare through the House of Representatives tells you all you need to know about today’s Republican Party. It is, for starters, a gaggle of angry constituencies — a party of convenience for various factions who know nothing about governing, but want to use the government to advance their own (pick one or two) narrow, selfish, greedy, racist, sexist, privileged, bigoted, ignorant, holier-than-thou view of the world.

These ideologically driven groups don’t necessarily like or agree with each other, but they have nowhere else to go. Where politics is concerned, the Republican tent is big enough to accommodate anyone who thinks Democrat is a four-letter word and the mission of Republicans is to oppose anything Democrats propose, even if it might actually help some people. Certainly their playbook over the past eight years says Republicans ought never try to work with Democrats to reach a compromise that gives everybody something. You know, governing.

So, there was the NIC, huffing and puffing at this smirky, young upstart Paul Ryan last week, telling him never mind you don’t have the votes to pass the bill, you go back to the House and you tell them I said vote yes on this health bill tomorrow or you’re stuck with Obamacare. Ryan, who sold the NIC on the bill but hasn’t a clue about how health care works, does as he is told. For good measure, Steve Bannon, the White House destroyer-in-chief, tells the rebellious troops — the Freedom Caucus (pseudonym for tea party we-hate-government types) — they have to vote for this bill. It’s an order.

Well, this gang can out-Bannon Bannon. They think the bill, which would toss 24 million Americans off health insurance, is too generous. They want to raise the cost and cut out a bunch of benefits. Say, maternity care, coverage for mental illness, including addiction. And they have the Koch brothers telling them that, if they vote no, they will get donations to their reelection campaigns so they can continue to swindle the voters back home and funnel more money to the wealthy and big corporations. This gang tells Bannon to stick it.

Since a few Republicans (and all Democrats) actually object to the bill as, well, stupid, Ryan still hasn’t got the votes to pass it and he begs the NIC to let him postpone the vote again. Humiliating as it may be, the NIC says OK, makes a pledge to himself to get rid of Ryan, blames the Democrats for not voting for a bill which they were not asked to help write (and which he never bothered to read), denies ever promising to repeal Obamacare “immediately” upon taking office, and sets out to destroy the only health care plan millions of Americans have in place. A party incapable of following the leader has a leader in name only.

The next day, Ryan says, “This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”  A slip of the lip reveals the heartless truth.

Without Obama to blame for everything, Other than more tax breaks for the rich, Republicans have no message. Instead, they destroy. Blame. Make up excuses. Lie. But never govern.

The NIC is true only to himself and his delusions. His usefulness as a tool for the Republicans is about used up with all the executive orders he issued getting rid of regulations that protect our water, our air, our investments, our parks, immigrants, wildlife, the arts, community groups and anything else Bannon puts on his desk. But actually passing bills? Republicans had seven years to come up with a new health plan or work with Democrats to fix what needed fixing in Obamacare. Instead, they kept passing meaningless bills to kill it and then rushed through a tax-break plan masquerading as a health plan in two months. Their own members found it to be either too generous or too cruel to defend to constituents. Too stupid to know (or care) how politics works, the NIC said take it or leave it; I’ve got a wall to build and a tax code to rewrite next week.

Good luck with that.

Never mind that there is no leader and no compassion, there is not even a sense of awareness in the Republican Party. When the White House was still trying to woo the Freedom Caucus on the health care bill, it convened a meeting led by Vice President Mike Pence, he of the grim (when do I get the job?) smile. Much of the talk was about whether there should be coverage for maternity care and mammograms. A photo of the meeting showed about two dozen white men, and no women, seated around a table supposedly making sense of the situation. There was even a crude joke about mammograms.

That’s today’s Republican Party — headless, heartless and clueless.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

And So It Went: Hillary Makes History in Philly, a Farewell to Art in Pine Bush

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

        Undaunted by the oppressive heat and the inability of the Mets and Yankees to hit with runners in scoring position, I press on with the second installment of “And So it Went,” my take on the week that was:

  • Philadelphia. Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, the general, Khizr Khan,
    hillary in philly

    Hillary Clinton

    Barack Obama. Etc. Etc. Etc. Emotion, drama, unity, inclusiveness, humor, compassion, wit, hope, soaring rhetoric, applause, standing ovations. Wow, we’re so much better than they are. … Debbie does e-mails. Putin does e-mails. Who cares about e-mails? The first black president — a Democrat — hands the baton to the first woman-president-to-be — also a Democrat. Huzzah! Hillary! Hillary! C’mon, Bernie fans, cheer! … At least she’s better than Trump.

  • Touching moments. Philadelphia: Bernie Sanders wiping away tears as his brother, also wiping away tears, places the senator’s name in nomination as a Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Cleveland: Ivanka Trump, champion of equal pay, introducing her father as Republican candidate for president; Donald patting his daughter’s behind. (Do we really need to say more?)
  • Meanwhile, back in Pine Bush. This small hamlet in Orange County somehow manages to have two groups promoting local artists, but not enough support to keep
    Tom Bolger

      Tom Bolger

     one, top-notch art gallery in business. Tom Bolger, owner of the Crawford Fine Art Gallery, held a farewell reception last week at which all his favorites artists came to drink some wine, nibble on hors d’oeuvres, commiserate about his closing the gallery and take their works home. Bolger said he was disappointed, but kind of relieved to finally be able to move on. He’s opening a new gallery in nearby Cragsmoor, where he lives. Everyone said that sounded great and wished him luck. If any arts group is looking for a good location for a gallery, there’s one available on Main Street. If you need a landmark, it’s next door to where the barbershop used to be. 

  • Zephyr Teachout. That’s the name of, I hope, my next representative in Congress. Zephyr Teachout. I love just saying it. Someone put a sign up on my road with her name on it. It’s not far from a couple of Trump signs to give you an idea of the neighborhood. A progressive Democrat in the Sanders mold, Teachout was more Zephyr Overreach in 2014 when she challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary. Running for an open seat in Congress is much more realistic and doable. Reach out for Teachout. She can use that slogan if she wants.
  • The Corpse Flower (gag!) blooms in the Bronx. The  Amorphophallus titanum, is described by the New York Botanical Garden as “a horticultural jewel 10 years in the making. Each day of careful tending and feeding has led up to this moment: a brief yet glorious window in which the enormous plant (up to eight feet high) will unfurl, displaying the striking red interior and uncanny scent to which it owes its name.” That “uncanny” scent is universally described as the smell of death. The Botanical Garden held special hours over the weekend for anyone wishing to experience the short-lived bloom first-hand. Thanks anyway, folks, but up here in Pine Bush we have guys who call themselves farmers who spread something that smells like death on their land a lot more regularly than every 10 years. Smell all you want, and it’s free.
  • “Where to Invade Next,” Michael Moore’s latest movie features the writer/actor/director “invading” various countries to claim their best ideas and bring them back to the United States. From Germany, he expropriated the idea of requiring every student to get an hour instruction each day on the history of their country’s actions in World War II. The knowledge of the mass extermination of Jews, gypsies, gays and others in “work camps” is never to be forgotten by young Germans so as not to be repeated, or denied. As fate would have it last week, Pope Francis visited one of the most notorious of those camps, Auschwitz, also to remind the world of what man has done to his fellow man. … It made me think that all Americans would benefit from requiring even a little bit of this kind of regular, honest education in American schools about how Native Americans were (and still are) treated and the unvarnished truth about slavery.
  • Which brings me to Bill O’Reilly. The chief buffoon at Fox News replied to First Lady Michelle Obama’s moving speech at the Democratic Convention, which included her waking up in a house that slaves helped to build, by saying that, while “slavery is an abomination,’’ the slaves who helped build the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings.” He defended these statements by saying they were factual. Yes, but the vital factual point, Bill, is that they were slaves and had no choice. They were property, to be maintained like any machine so as to be in good working order. Kind of like those well-dressed, well-fed, well-paid blondes working at Fox News who had to say Yassa to Massa Roger if they wanted to keep their jobs.
  • Trump is entitled to intelligence briefings. Isn’t that an oxymoron? She’s way better than Trump.

… And so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com