Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

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

 

And So It Went … A Review of the Events of the Week

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

Ridicule, lie, insult, lie, mock, lie, bully, lie. Hate.

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

White, white, white, white, white, white, white. Hate.

God bless America. God bless Donald Trump.

She said/she said. She said she said/she said.

Ego, ego, ego. Lies, lies, lies. Fear, fear, fear. fear.

Hate.

For those fortunate enough to miss it, the preceding is my synopsis of the Republican National Convention, which dominated the news last week. This is by way of resuming my contribution to the Internet dialogue with a regular Sunday collection of events that piqued my interest, tickled my fancy or struck me as almost too dumb for words (see above).

For this first installment, I’m going back more than a week because the major media apparently had no time to report on anything but the white supremacist rally in Cleveland. So …

  • Mick Jagger is going to be a father,
    Mick Jagger ... proud papa to be, again

                              Mick Jagger
                 … proud papa to be, again

    for the eighth time. Gathering no moss (sorry), Jagger, who is a great-grandfather, will be 73 when the baby is born next year. Mom-to-be is a 29-year-old former ballerina, who is said to be quite content with her relationship with the Rolling Stones frontman, which includes everything but marriage, living together and Mick changing diapers. Mine not to judge. I was 50 when my first son was born, 52 for the second. But I changed a s***load of diapers. Also, vasectomies are safe.         

  • Interesting footnote that occurred to me as I researched Jagger: He has four children, aged 18 to 32, with his former partner, Jerry Hall, 60. She and Jagger split 17 years ago. Earlier this year, Hall, a former model, married media mogul and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, 85. There’s no talk of additions to their extensive families, but Hall chose a favorite site of her old Rolling Stones days for her honeymoon with Murdoch, who just seemed happy to complete the climb to get there. Draw your own conclusions.
  • The Russian track and field team was disqualified from the 2016 Olympics because of what was described as a state-sponsored comprehensive doping program involving the 2012 Olympics and other competition. (The International Olympic Committee, never known for bold action, decided not to ban the entire Russian team, leaving that decision to the ruling federation of each sport.) The sports world was not shocked at the news, but, responding on social media, Russian fans criticized the author of the report that fingered the Russian testing lab and government officials by saying he was a typically biased American. He was, in fact, a typically neutral Canadian academic. Denial knows no nationality.
  • Pokemon Go. Why didn’t I buy Nintendo stock two weeks ago? I have no idea how the virtual reality game works, but these people should be working for the CIA. Maybe they are. (By the way, there’s a Charmander hidden in this copy, which you can find if you buy the app. Only $1.99. See the e-mail below.)
  • The National Basketball Association moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The principled move was a response to North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, which is a classic example of the fear-based legislation proposed in the Republican platform at that hate-fest in Cleveland. Well-played, NBA.
  • Terry Collins, manager of the New York Mets, had the honor of managing the National League team in this year’s baseball All Star Game. He had two Mets on his roster for this exhibition of the sport’s best. Players consider it an honor to be chosen. They consider it even more of an honor to actually play and when your manager is the All-Star manager, you figure on having a good chance of getting in the game. Go figure. Bartolo Colon, at 43, the oldest all-star and a fan favorite, never got to pitch. Neither did Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ star relief pitcher. They were not happy, but politely kept it to themselves. Collins managed to get players from the 14 other teams in his league in the game, but said his guys were only going to be used in “special” situations that didn’t arise. Terry, Terry, Terry, the whole game was “special” and it didn’t mean anything in the standings. These were your guys. Special treatment would have been letting each pitch to a couple of batters.
  • Roger Ailes was fired as the boss of Fox News, by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News. Ailes was shown the door
    Roger Ailes ... Fox boss no more

                                Roger Ailes
                         … Fox boss no more

    (with a hefty severance check) when Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox anchor, filed a lawsuit  against him claiming sexual harassment. Other females then joined in to say Ailes had behaved the same with them. The move by Murdoch was swift. (It’s good to be the king and a billionaire.*) It was also without much controversy, probably because Ailes is well-known as a thoroughly despicable person. He is, in fact, in large part responsible for creating the orgy of anger and paranoia reported at the top of this   column by molding Fox News into an organ of fear, bigotry, misinformation, disinformation, and hateful, negative, bordering-on-compulsive propaganda directed at Democrats, in particular Barack Obama, the first black American president, and Hillary Clinton, who, if there really is some method to all this madness will soon become the first female American president.

R.I.P. GOP. Lincoln rolled over in his grave last week. So did Eisenhower and Reagan. John Boehner cried. Paul Ryan lied. And so it went.

* With a nod to Mel Brooks.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Iowa Caucus Eccentricities: Heads I Win, Bernie, Tails You Lose

Friday, February 5th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Three questions in the wake of whatever it was that just happened in Iowa:

  • Can anyone – preferably a Democrat – tell me what Hillary Clinton stands for? In other words, what is her message?
  • Why do mainstream media assume there’s no way Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, never mind the presidency?
  • Since when does winning an election, or caucus or whatever else you may call it depend on the flip of a coin?

Let’s start with Hillary. As far as I can tell, after 16 years (at least) of running for president, the only message I still hear is that Hillary should be president because she’s been around, she wants it and it’s her turn. She’s been patient through Bill’s years in the White House and she’s been running ever since they had to vacate (penniless, I believe she initially claimed).

Yes, she took time to serve as senator from New York, but that really was necessary to fill out the resume for a presidential run. Being secretary of state was a bittersweet consolation prize for losing the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, who apparently never got the memo that it was Hillary’s turn to run. It certainly topped off her resume.

Yet all I hear is that she’s really smart, has a lot of experience, knows a lot of stuff and will do a good job of running things. Now, that’s clearly more than can be said of pretty much all of the Republican presidential candidates, but she’s not running against any of them yet.

What is she going to do as president? What is she going to change about a system with which Americans of all political persuasions are disenchanted, to say the least? Maybe it’s me, but all I hear is that she’ll do a good job, even a better job, of managing what Obama leaves behind.

 A lot of the major media seem to have bought into this message. That was pretty much the essence of the New York Times editorial endorsing Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa primary. Hillary has the experience to carry on the way we have been carrying on.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the New York Times, and other establishment media that support her candidacy, a lot of Americans don’t seem to want to carry on the way we’ve been carrying on. That’s undoubtedly why a lot of young people, not thrilled with the future being crafted for them, have flocked to the Sanders candidacy

In fact, it seems to be why a lot of people have flocked to a host of Republican candidates who are anything but establishment figures. The fact that virtually all of them aren’t qualified to be president is another matter.

For what it’s worth, I think Obama has done a pretty good job cleaning up the mess left by Bush/Cheney. He’s done this in the face of non-stop resistance from Republicans from his first day in office. There’s no reason to believe that Clinton, no favorite of congressional Republicans, will have any easier time of it in that regard. Furthermore, her ties to the banking industry and corporate America (through Bill and the Clinton Foundation), cast serious doubt on any claim she might make that she is different from Republicans. (Her claim the other night that she is not part of the Democratic Establishment is laughable.)

And, as I recall, she couldn’t get her healthcare plan through a Democratic Congress in Bill’s first term. How does that make her a manager who “gets things done”? It’s a claim that much of major media have apparently accepted as fact because she and her supporters keep saying it: Why Hillary? Because she’s a manager.

Sanders, by contrast, is an “eccentric” senator with “unruly” hair, as he was characterized in an Associated Press story the morning after the Iowa caucus. This was supposedly a straight news story reporting on the outcome of the caucus. There were no adjectives attached to Clinton’s name implying some not-so-subtle judgment. Where were the editors?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but when someone writing in Iowa describes Sanders, with a lifetime in public service, as “eccentric,” I can’t help but wonder if it’s code for 74-year-old Jew who still speaks with the accent of his native Brooklyn. New Yorkers are pretty good at cracking codes.

As for that Iowa vote, what a joke. Clinton claimed victory after edging Sanders by less than three-tenths of a point. Democrats don’t even vote privately in Iowa. They stand in opposite corners and try to convince others to join them. The biggest group gets the delegates from that district. When there’s a tie, they split the delegates — two for you, two for you. But when there’s an odd number of delegate at stake, the odd vote is awarded by flipping a coin. Clinton won six out of six flips — go figure — so she got a couple more delegates than Sanders. Smashing victory.

Even here, major media (NPR even) felt it necessary to weigh in after the fact to educate us that Clinton didn’t win Iowa on coin flips. Rather, they spelled out the entire ridiculously and unnecessarily complicated system by which Iowa Democrats award convention delegates. Seems there’s county delegates and state delegates and who-the-heck cares delegates and formulas for calculating percentage of delegates. It’s a system set up by the establishment to try to control the votes, so that candidates like Bernie Sanders, from Brooklyn via Vermont, can’t win.

But he did. The “virtual tie” was a statement for Sanders against the establishment — Democratic Party and major media.

My humble recommendations:

  • For Clinton: Figure out what you really stand for and tell us. If you think you have to be a shill for banks and corporations in order to be effective as president, tell us why. At least it would be honest.
  • For the major media: Listen and report the facts. Ask questions about real issues. Stop with the horse-race reporting based on polls. Do your job.
  • Iowa Democrats: Have a simple vote, privately, for convention delegates. No coin flips. In case of ties, split the baby, as Solomon said. In this case, it works.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

George Says He Wants to Do It

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

George Pataki ...  presidential candidate

George Pataki … presidential candidate

George Pataki is running for president. For those of you not familiar with the name, Pataki was governor of New York state for 12 years. He is the 285th announced or soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pataki is quiet and unassuming — things most of the other members of the GOP presidential gaggle are not. He also may be delusional, which does put him in good company with the rest of the crowd.

But here’s the funny thing about Pataki: He says he’s a Republican. If that’s so, it’s not any kind of Republican that Americans have been exposed to in the 21st century. The Grand Old Party is surely old, but in 2015, it is hardly grand. It is, sad to say, a party that has lost its mind and sold its soul. The onetime Party of Lincoln today is not even the Party of Ford. It’s the party of Cheney and pick-a-Bush, sponsored by the brothers Koch.

I have resisted jumping into the 2016 presidential “debate” until now, figuring it was too early. Like, a year too early. But as the body count has increased (much more modestly on the Democratic side), I started wondering if my lack of zeal for what I was witnessing would somehow risk me being left behind. Then again, I told myself, so what?

Then George Pataki, all 6 feet, 5 inches of him, pulled me in. Is this guy serious? President? Of the United States? Yeah, he’s an easygoing, likable sort. Bright. Actually grew up on a farm. Once upon a time, I even wrote editorials endorsing him for the New York State Legislature. And he was elected governor of New York three times. That’s no easy trick for  a Republican since it’s a liberal state with a Democratic voting edge. Even more impressive, Pataki beat liberal icon and incumbent governor, Mario Cuomo, the first time out. In getting re-elected twice, Pataki showed that he can work with people of differing political views to get things done.

But … George … Republicans don’t care about that today. In fact, they run away from it. Since you’ve been away from politics for eight years, maybe you haven’t noticed that the word “bipartisan” has been stricken from the party vocabulary. If Democrats like it, Republicans don’t. Period.

The real irony of the Pataki candidacy, though, centers on his positions on the issues. While he is definitely a state’s rights, low-tax, fiscal conservative in the traditional Republican mold, his views on a host of hot-button issues are simply not in sync with today’s Republican Party.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans have fought President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat it at every turn. The GOP-dominated Senate even went so far as to vote that humans are not causing climate change and the Republican governor of Florida has actually banned state employees from using the term, “global warming.” Finally, polls regularly show that a majority of Republicans, who proudly proclaim they are not scientists, do not believe global warming is happening.

Pataki? Unlike many Republican politicians, the Columbia and Yale graduate respects science. Strike one. He believes global warming is real. Strike two. In fact, he co-chaired a 2007 blue-ribbon,  Independent Task Force on Climate Change  organized by the Council on Foreign Relations. The other co-chair was Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa who is President Obama’s agriculture secretary. The panel issued a thick report stating that human-caused climate change represented a world crisis that required immediate attention. Strike three.

How about abortion? Pataki is pro-choice. Enough said.

Immigration? He supports a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. “We can’t send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” he has said.

He believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states, but as governor he signed a law providing rights for gays, including benefits for same-sex couples.

He also pushed through a tough gun-control law banning some assault weapons and requiring ballistic fingerprinting for weapons as well as raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21. And he thinks it should be up to each state to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

For good measure, the former mayor of Peekskill thinks the nation should invest billions into building a first-class rail system.

Does that sound like a Republican to you?

Yes, he rips Obamacare and thinks the president hasn’t been militarily aggressive enough with ISIS and shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran on nuclear power. But virtually all the Republican candidates say those things, whether they believe them or not.

The point is, Pataki, who turns 70 this month, offers a bipartisan governing approach and reasonable views on some emotional issues in a party virtually devoid of such. In a general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, that might sway some Democratic voters of a more conservative bent. But first he’s got to get through the Republican primaries and emerge victorious over the likes of : Ted (I will renounce my Canadian citizenship) Cruz; Marco (I’m young, Cuban and have a sugar daddy) Rubio; Rand (every citizen for himself) Paul; Ben (the perfect prescription for the Tea Party) Carson; Carly (I’m as wacky as any of the guys) Fiorina; Mike (the huckster) Huckabee; Rick (one more time) Santorum; Lindsay (I’m the most conservative of them all) Graham; Jeb (it’s my turn) Bush; Scott (fire the unions) Walker; Chris (I didn’t close the bridge) Christie; Rick (I can count to three now) Perry; Bobby (I really messed up Louisiana) Jindal; John (who?) Kasich; and Donald (oh shut up) Trump. Sarah Palin, where are you?

Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, says it’s only going to put 10 candidates on stage for its televised GOP debates. Pataki might have trouble just cracking the starting lineup, which tells you where reasonableness, a respect for science and a willingness to compromise in governing get you today in the GOP.

In reporting on his decision to run for president, the Wall Street Journal described Pataki as a “centrist.” Talk about the kiss of death. They might just as well have called him a socialist, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned. It’s enough to make a guy want to switch parties.

Whaddaya think, George?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hogan

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

‘Boehnerquester,’ Not ‘Obamaquester’!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor pose with members of Congress and 'Obamaquester' props, 10 days before the sequester is scheduled by law to be automatically triggered.

By Emily Theroux

The Wall Street Journal called him “President Armageddon.”

Early in the final fortnight of the Great Sequestration Debate, President Obama compared a frightening cascade of looming federal spending cuts to taking a “meat cleaver approach” to our fragile economic recovery.

Unless an unlikely compromise between Democrats and Republicans can be reached, the first round of a decade’s worth of automatic, across-the-board reductions will kick in on March 1, whacking an immediate $85 billion from military and domestic budgets alike. Countless jobs will be lost, Obama warned, and many more public-sector employees can expect reduced hours or extended furloughs (including teachers, first responders, air traffic controllers, and FBI agents).

But unlike the sojourns of their elected representatives, who just embarked on yet another paid leave, these government “vacations” won’t be taxpayer-funded.

Brutal,” as the president described it, doesn’t fully capture the coming desperation, once funding has been curtailed for everything from submarine deployments to military health care coverage; from nuclear weapons security and foreign aid to FDA meat, poultry, and dairy inspections; from the Head Start program and immunization programs to food assistance for impoverished children.

* * *

For weeks now, House Speaker John Boehner has blithely called the cruel, indiscriminate cutback plan “the Obamaquester.” The Republican talking point has become a Twitter hashtag wildly popular on the right. Liberals have their own terms for it, many of them unprintable. Some call it “the axe”; I call it “the guillotine.” A particularly creative response to Boehner’s taunt — Sequestageddon™ — was posted last night on Twitter by a freelance writer and self-avowed “political junkie” who tweets as @DAbitty.

Like the Debt Ceiling Debacle and the Fiscal Cliff Fiasco before it, the Sequester Stalemate is abstract and unfathomable to many Americans who don’t pay much attention to the “meat-grinding” of the legislative process. What makes these partisan showdowns all the more toxic is the way Boehner, McConnell, and other GOP leaders evade liability — for both plutocratic policy goals and relentless obstruction — by using convoluted language, trafficking in logical fallacies, and fomenting deliberate lies about their opponents.

Ironically, the sequester was intended to be so dire a threat that neither side would consider actually letting it happen. Yet here we stand on the brink of economic disaster with no hint of a compromise in sight, and all the obdurate Republicans will do is try their damnedest to make sure the blame falls squarely on President Obama’s shoulders.

While reporters from The New York Times, The Hill, and other mainstream publications reproach both political parties for the impasse, the GOP has staunchly refused to counterbalance the sequester’s spending cuts with revenue increases. Emboldened by Bob Woodward’s book The Price of Politics, Republicans almost universally ascribe the resulting gridlock to Obama. (Woodward credited then-Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew with initially proposing the sheer lunacy of including mandatory sequestration in the 2011 debt deal.)

Slate.com’s Dave Weigel, who called the question of which side really dreamed up the sequester “the dumbest debate in Washington,” slyly noted Woodward’s version as the one Republicans “prefer to cite” (while they omit another Woodward observation: the sequester’s package of spending cuts with no tax hikes was what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “demanded”).

* * *

A slide from the final page of Speaker John Boehner's PowerPoint to House Republicans on July 31, 2011, obtained by The Daily Beast.

Boehner’s malevolently quixotic “Obamaquest” (to pin the tail on the Dems’ donkey for any fallout from another GOP stab at tanking the economy) may yet crash and burn. Yesterday, a 2011 email surfaced that included a PowerPoint presentation developed by the House speaker’s office and the Republican Policy Committee. Created to persuade Tea Party House members to support a debt-ceiling deal, the presentation clearly shows that Boehner viewed “automatic across-the-board cuts” (sequestration) as “a ‘cudgel’ to guarantee a reduction in federal spending — the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations,” in the words of John Avlon, whose reporting for The Daily Beast turned up the smoking (digital) gun.

The GOP’s goal was to neutralize the $1.2 trillion debt ceiling increase, by “(ensuring) that any debt limit increase is met with greater spending cuts – IF Joint Committee fails to achieve at least $1.2T in deficit reduction,” the slide pictured above clearly reads.

But Avlon copped out at the last minute and, like his mainstream media colleagues, fell back on the false equivalency of blaming both parties equally for failing to “work together” on what he assumed to be a shared goal. “And now, faced with the pain that both parties voted for but nobody wants, they’re busy pointing fingers and trying to assign political blame,” he concluded.

The only reason we’re stalled in the current blind alley is the GOP’s obstinacy over approving any revenue increase that involves raising taxes or eliminating corporate loopholes – without a binding agreement with Democrats that the resulting revenues will be used to pay down the debt.

The Party of No (no taxes, no regulations, no cuts to corporate welfare, no compromise, no veracity, no accountability) has morphed into the Party of Nobody Here But Us Chickenhawks — willing, as they’ve always been over risking the lives of young Americans in opportunistic wars, to play chicken with the national economy. In their quest to impede Obama at every turn, they’re not above gambling with hundreds of thousands of jobs, hamstringing current military operations, and taking food from the mouths of hungry children if doing so will prevent a single gazillionaire from paying a dime more in federal income tax.

The Republican Party has turned even the most routine votes on fiscal policy into pitched battles that neither party wins in the end. As a result of this calculated political grandstanding, the American people come in dead last virtually every time the GOP stands in unison to block Barack Obama.

GOP ‘Reform’: The Crying Game

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, 113th Congress

By Emily Theroux

By focusing his second inaugural address on equal opportunity, did Barack Obama finally give John Boehner something to cry about?

I certainly hope so.

At the very least, the Weeper of the House still appears to be running scared. After Obama walloped Republican prognosticators in November by depriving Mitt Romney of what they envisioned as certain victory, Boehner appeared shell-shocked during his post-election press briefing.

“We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”

Boehner’s acquiescence was a far cry from his disingenuous “Hell no, you don’t!” eruption in 2010. As columnist Dana Milbank noted, Boehner delivered his 2012 speech in a room named for Speaker Sam Rayburn, who allegedly said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.” (“Boehner sounds as though he’s ready to pick up hammer and nail,” Milbank observed. “But will his fellow Republicans stop kicking?”)

President Barack Obama

That question set the stage for the contentious two-headed behemoth that the Republican Party has devolved into since last fall. Boehner has already changed strategies several times. After the president’s speech, the beleaguered House speaker told the conservative Ripon Society he believes Obama intends to “annihilate the Republican Party, to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

(If Boehner asked me, I’d advise him to guard his right flank. He won a second term as speaker with a record 12 GOP defections — probably revenge for ousting four recalcitrant teabaggers from their committee assignments in December. The refusal of far-right ideologues to support the speaker’s agenda — particularly when it emerges from a bargain with the president — has driven Boehner to assemble a pragmatic yet uncertain coalition of  moderate Republicans and Democrats who have voted so far to thwart the fiscal cliff, pass Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy, allocate Hurricane Sandy aid, and postpone another disastrous debt-ceiling stalemate.)

Republicans are terrified by Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda of passing progressive legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, gay rights,  and climate change. They’re dismayed that the president has converted his campaign machinery into a nonprofit group, to promote his initiatives and oppose GOP intractability. They’re also rattled because Obama is bypassing them, as he did during the campaign, and speaking to Americans directly — and Americans appear to be listening.)

 

Will Republicans ever stop kicking?

In the three months since the president’s reelection threw them for a loop, Republicans have advanced and retreated; pissed and moaned; stamped their feet and squealed like stuck pigs. On occasion, they’ve done a 180 and meekly fallen in line to vote with Democrats. Here are a few highlights of the GOP’s baffling recent machinations on matters of policy, posturing, and the subterfuge known as “messaging”:

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

1) The ‘stupid party’: Immediately after Gov. Willard “Mitt” Romney lost the 2012 election, Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the son of Punjabi immigrants (and Louisiana’s first non-white governor since African-American newspaper publisher P.B.S. Pinchback served for 35 days during Reconstruction), began angling to position himself as the multicultural face of the “new” GOP. “We’ve got to stop being the ‘stupid party’,” Jindal railed. Unfortunately, his harsh, regressive policy proposals (drastically cutting Medicaid benefits for nursing homes and the poor, and replacing state income and corporate taxes with a sales tax increase targeting the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents) tarnish any claim he might eventually stake to the 2016 nomination.

 2) Rekindling the ‘war on women’: Jindal and other Republicans have called out failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for making “offensive and bizarre” remarks about rape. For awhile, the GOP appeared to have shifted its frenzied campaign against women’s reproductive rights to the back burner. Then John Boehner inexplicably dialed up the misogyny by throwing red meat to the culture warriors at the “March for Life”, an annual D.C. anti-abortion protest. Boehner vowed “to make abortion a relic of the past” and a fundamental Republican goal.  (Translation:  to criminalize safe, legal abortion, returning us to an era of butchery that all too frequently terminated the woman along with the pregnancy.)

3) ‘And build the danged fence’: After Romney lost the Latino vote by 40 points, pols and pundits proclaimed that the GOP needed to retire its blatant aversion to immigrants. What Republican policy-makers fail to realize is that even if they eventually climb aboard Obama’s bandwagon and support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it may do little to thwart the repercussions from decades of right-wing ethnic prejudice against Latinos. (Right now, green cards look like a distant prospect. The president’s immigration proposal is meeting determined resistance from GOP hardliners who would rather shine the president on than cooperate, strutting their belligerent “border security” stuff  all the way from Laredo to San Diego.)

 

Summit attendees oddly complacent

What does the Republican Party need to do to recoup?” asked MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. “They need to get back to a message of hope, instead of a message of rejection.”

The problem with the “evolving” GOP is that it many of its members seem to have reached a premature verdict (especially in light of the strange complacency on display at last weekend’s National Review post-election summit): The party’s problem resides not in its core precepts, but in its candidates, its tactics, its “messaging.” These folks have decided they don’t need to change what they’re saying; just rejiggering the words they’re using, and the people who are saying them, should suffice. They’re probably too deeply invested in Machiavellian chicanery (which masquerades, for them, as “principle”) to truly change.

The Republican Party has become a figment of its own delusions, the same ones it devised to foist on unwary simpletons. It has no moral center, and Americans know it.

Faced with the enormity of the GOP’s decline into selfishness, avarice, and intolerance, Professor David Schultz pronounced its aging white constituency “the real takers.” Columnist David Brooks advised throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “In this reinvention process, Republicans seem to have spent no time talking to people who didn’t already vote for them,” Brooks observed, adding that the GOP conundrum of battling government is incompatible with actual governance. His conclusion: “It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party” that can compete outside the South and rural West.

Do any of the cagey, conflicted partisans in the current GOP dare call their recent experimentation with “messaging” and theatrics “Republican Party reform”? Don’t believe it until you see the whites of their eyes — and then be sure to look for any trace of genuine tears.