Posts Tagged ‘freedom caucus’

Umm, About That Decongestant …

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Safe, but useless for stuffy noses.

Safe, but useless for stuffy noses. RJ Photography

   A quick stream through news you may have missed, starting with, of all places, the FDA, a government agency notoriously reluctant to make waves, much less headlines, but which nonetheless issued a statement (1.) informing all Americans with stuffy noses that the pill or liquid they’re taking to relieve the congestion doesn’t work, in fact (2.) probably never has worked, even though it’s been used for 75 years, but don’t worry, it’s still safe to take if, say, you have a headache and can’t figure a cheaper way to deal with that or just hate to throw stuff out, even if it doesn’t work because, after all, (3.) the FDA hasn’t told the drug companies to take it off the shelves because it contains phenylephrine as its decongestant-fighting ingredient and an advisory group formed by the agency voted unanimously that (4.) tests show the stuff doesn’t decongest any noses when in pill or liquid form because it doesn’t reach the affected area, which is actually what another advisory group told the FDA  about phenylephrine in 2007, but the FDA (see notoriously reluctant to make waves) decided to let it remain on the shelves because, well, it’s apparently safe, just not useful as a decongestant, and so now the agency will (5.) solicit public input on the question before deciding whether to pull the products off the shelves and replace them with something that works, but not likely (6.)  pseudoephedrine, which was moved behind pharmacy counters in 2006, by law, because pseudoephedrine (as millions of viewers of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” learned) can be processed into methamphetamine and America was fighting a war on drugs and, yes, (7.) pseudoephedrine is still available without a prescription and meth is somehow still being made, but let’s not confuse the issue with facts because the FDA still has to go through the lengthy process of determining whether to remove these oral decongestants from the market and (8.) wants to know what you think (assuming you don’t want to simply toss the pills and liquids and switch to nasal sprays, which are effective) and so we’ll have to wait and in the meantime (9.) consider a recent deal the Biden administration made with the government of Iran to free five Americans who were being held as spies in exchange for the release by the U.S. of five Iranians (10.) and (follow the bouncing ball here) unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets (oil money) being held in a bank in the Republic of Korea (the good guys) to be transferred to a bank in Qatar (not sure), where it can only be (12.) withdrawn to be used for things like food, medicine and other humanitarian needs Iran has apparently been struggling to provide, but not (13.) for weapons, all of which (14.) prompted Republicans in America to scream about the U. S. not paying ransom money, even though it was technically Iran’s money, but critics argued it could free up other Iranian money to pay for weaponry, etc., although Republicans, and for that matter no one else, has ever offered a better, non-hostile way to free Americans being held in hostile countries, which would seem to be a more serious problem than that which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should face in (15.) fulfilling that body’s duty to provide a budget for the government on time so that it can function, since his party controls the House where the spending bills originate and also since McCarthy had already (16.) reached an agreement with President Biden about a budget bill to avoid a government shutdown, none of which matters to the rowdy kids of the Freedom Caucus in the Republican Party, who don’t seem to care about shutting down the government, affecting millions of Americans, and (17.) are more interested in trying to find any evidence that would justify an impeachment investigation into Biden, rather than presenting any evidence that would justify an investigation, which leaves McCarthy looking again, (18.) like the hapless fool he is, begging and pleading and cajoling a group of spoiled brats to act like grown-ups, not like rowdy teenagers making out in the theater, which is the signal to (19.) cue in Rep. Lauren Bobert, a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus, loudly talking and singing, arguing with other audience members, vaping, groping, being groped by (oops!) the owner of a gay club that offers drag entertainers and ultimately being escorted out of a live performance of “Beetlejuice” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which (20.) had some more responsible members of the GOP (there are one or two) reaching for the Sudafed or DayQuil because at least the acetaminophen in them still works, (21.). Or so the FDA tells us.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Growing Old with Mitt Romney

Saturday, September 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos
                                * * *

Mitt Romney … retiring, from what?

Mitt Romney
… retiring, from what?

“I grow old … I grow old …

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and …”*

     Forever hate the word ‘‘impeach’’?

                                    ***

   With profound apologies to T.S. Eliot and his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the topic here is politicians and age.

   Or is it? 

   If you believe Mitt Romney it is. Looking and sounding fit and capable and considerably younger than his 76 years, the senator from Utah recently announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate next year.

      In doing so, he also criticized President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, both older than Romney, and called for them to “stand aside” for a “new generation of leaders” in Washington.

     Romney, also a former governor of Massachusetts and the defeated Republican candidate for president in 2012, said neither Democrat Biden, 80, nor Republican Trump, 77, is effectively leading his party in addressing the important issues of the day, which is a typically safe and even-handed Romney style comment. A pox on both their houses.

   To be fair, Romney was the only Republican senator with the courage to vote guilty on Trump’s two impeachments and he did have some frank, unflattering words to say specifically about his party.

     “There’s no question that the Republican Party today is in the shadow of Donald Trump,”  he said, adding that the MAGA wing that has commandeered the party is less concerned with governing and more enamored with “resentment and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.”

       Those are unusually harsh and honest  — and rare — words for an elected Republican official to state publicly about his party today.

    Oh, did I mention that a biography of Romney is soon to be released and that excerpts of the book have appeared in an article in the recent edition of The Atlantic Magazine?

      And did I mention that the author of the biography, who had full access to all Romney’s notes, files, tapes, musings, etc., has apparently painted a candid picture of the cowardice and hypocrisy rampant in the Republican Party today? A picture that, obviously, is created with Romney’s words.

     A picture that, for example, has former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell envying Romney for being able to criticize Trump publicly and to vote to convict him on the impeachment — for “saying things the rest of us can’t say.”

     A picture that also has Republican senators sitting attentively in a room with an obviously clueless President Trump discussing foreign affairs and laughing hysterically the minute their “leader” leaves the room.

    It’s apparently the kind of “I’m out of here now” tell-all book that others in the Trump orbit have also written, telling millions of Americans what we already knew about the four-time indicted ex-president. It’s a dollar short and a day late. A book written only when there is no longer any fear of having to run for reelection in what would likely be a brutal primary against a Trump-backed opponent.

      In other words: I’m retiring from the Senate. It was fun while it lasted, but my party is now a cult of hypocrites, sycophants and liars and, besides, I don’t need the job.

        Now, Romney did say, “While I’m not running for reelection, I’m not retiring from the fight. I’ll be your United States senator until January of 2025.” But he didn’t elaborate. Too bad, because there are things a retiring, respected senator can do to improve things in Washington, but framing it as a generational thing is misleading and disingenuous.

          Yes, a majority of Americans (me included) would prefer a different presidential contest next year than Biden/Trump. But Biden, for all the complaints about his age, has been an effective president and still represents the safest protection against Trump for millions of Americans.

    His backup, Vice President Kamala Harris, is often dismissed by “political experts,” but she is intelligent, experienced, articulate, female and of a different generation. She is also a woman of color. These days, for many voters, these are all positive political attributes and, besides, what vice president has ever gotten glowing reviews from the public? It goes with the job description.

   Democrats also have a good back bench of younger leaders in Congress and state houses who know how to actually govern, not just air grievances.

     But Republicans are a different story. Trump may be convicted, in court, in Russia or who knows where next year and, in any scenario, his followers apparently are planning on being there to the end, whatever happens.

      There’s Romney’s “fight.” The problem is, he’s never shown much interest in waging it, in getting his hands dirty. As a former party standard bearer and recognized public figure, he could have been doing something about the MAGAs hijacking the GOP back in 2012, when he ran for president, or better, in 2008, when John McCain inexplicably ran with Sarah Palin as his clueless co-pilot. Romney could also have been much more vocal than he has been in the Senate about Mitch McConnell’s obstructionism and Trump’s criminal presidency.

     However, Romney, who has called the Senate an “old men’s club,” has burnished an image of himself as an old-time, conservative (wealthy) Republican who can work with Democrats to accomplish things for the public good: Gun legislation. Global warming. The Electoral Count. Sure, he’ll work with Democrats to craft legislation, but always quietly, always in the background.

      Romney’s probably right about age with McConnell, 80, who has had two mysterious “freezing” incidents when talking to the media. As a leader, his days should be over. Maybe Mitt can talk to Mitch about retiring. And while he’s at it, maybe Romney can talk senator-to-senator to Republican Tommy Turberville of Alabama about single-handedly holding up all senior military promotions, creating confusion and resentment in the Pentagon.

       If he really wanted to engage in a fight, Romney could encourage fellow Republican senators to support a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. 

    And, good luck here, Romney can suggest that fellow Republican, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, certainly not an old man, start acting like a leader, not a sniveling coward, bending to every outrageous demand  of his mostly young, not terribly bright and mostly incorrigible Freedom Caucus.

     This is, after all, the “new generation” of Republicans and, for the most part, they are the reason “traditional” (“older”) Republicans like Romney are looking for an exit. This is where the real fight is, senator. Ready to get your hands dirty?

                                       ***

“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”*

*From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

By T.S. Eliot

 

The Shame of Being Kevin McCarthy

Sunday, January 8th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Kevin McCarthy (right) asks Matt Gaetz what else he can give him to get his vote after the 14th ballot late Thursday night. He never got it.

Kevin McCarthy (right) asks Matt Gaetz what else he can give him to get his vote after the 14th ballot late Thursday night. He never got it.

If only Kevin McCarthy were smart enough to understand irony.

If only Kevin McCarthy had a backbone.

If only Mitch McConnell had one, too.

If only there were still a mainstream, conservative Republican establishment.

If only Republicans understood the real meaning of these words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Then, Americans would have been spared the worldwide embarrassment of the “people’s house” of Congress being unable to execute the basic task of choosing a leader after four days and 14 votes, even though one party, the Republicans, held a slim, but clear, majority.

The brass ring was eventually awarded to McCarthy shortly after midnight Saturday, January 7, on the 15th vote, when one more member of the wack job fringe of the House GOP agreed to vote for him and others agreed to vote “present,” lowering the number of votes needed for a majority. That agreement followed some tense discussions and avoided a vote to adjourn and a weekend of embarrassing stories about the shameless McCarthy and the rudderless GOP.

Politics often requires a bit of arm-twisting to gain a desired goal when there are differences of opinion. Usually, the leader does the arm-twisting and others make concessions. McCarthy turned this tradition on its head, making countless concessions as the likes of Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert kept twisting McCarthy’s arms while still refusing to vote for him. This does not bode well for a successful two years of McCarthy leadership in the House.

But here’s the thing, while McCarthy’s utter humiliation has come at the hands of a small group of Republicans who have no agenda other than to gain power so as to disrupt normal government routine and prevent all men and women from enjoying those self-evident rights Thomas Jefferson wrote about, the Californian has no one to blame but himself.

Here’s where the irony comes in. The fringe, the so-called Freedom Caucus, refuses to recognize McCarthy as its leader because of the one moment of rational thinking he displayed during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He actually called then-President Donald Trump and urged him to  do something to quell the riot.

McCarthy later said on the House floor: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.”

McCarthy also said, “Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There is absolutely no evidence of that, Conservatives should be the first to say so. …  Let’s be clear, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week because he won the election.”

For one shining moment, McCarthy, as minority leader of the House of Representatives, spoke the truth. He couldn’t handle it. The rank-and-file Trumpers dominating the Republican Party weren’t buying it. They bought the Big Lie. A couple of weeks later, McCarthy was in Mar-a-Lago, kissing Trump’s ring and anything else to get back in his good graces and retain the support of his troops. Most, fearing Trump’s wrath and loss of his support, followed McCarthy. (Mitch McConnell followed the same playbook in the Senate.)

Not the Freedom Caucus. They remembered when McCarthy spoke the truth about Trump, the election, the insurrection and taking responsibility. When it came time to choose a leader, they chose to embarrass McCarthy and twist him for all they could get. He eventually celebrated his election as speaker, a leader held hostage to the whims of those who have no interest in governing. Truth has no purchase in today’s Republican Party. The rabble rule and “leaders” seek their approval out of sheer ego and cowardice.

Not all is lost, thankfully. While McCarthy was being humiliated in The Capitol on the second anniversary of the Insurrection, a more compelling drama was playing out in The White House. President Biden, in an often moving ceremony, awarded Presidential Citizens Medals to Capitol police officers and others who defended democracy on that day and to state election officials who withstood intense pressure and threats of violence from Trump supporters to ratify the results of the 2020 election. The best of America was on display. Courage, honor, respect, empathy, honesty and, yes, patriotism.

If only some of that were evident in today’s Republican Party.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.