Posts Tagged ‘obama’

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

 

Breslin and Berry, Two Originals: RIP

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin ... originals

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin … originals

And so it went … A brief look at a few of the significant stories of the week just past:

  • Jimmy Breslin died. He was 88. And a pioneer. If you’re a New Yorker of a certain age — at least in your 30s, but especially 50-plus — you know the name and you remember the words. The quintessential big city columnist. Bold, brassy, tender, sarcastic, funny, biting, egotistical, fearless and relentless. For decades, his columns in The Herald-Tribune, Daily News and Newsday were the heart and soul and voice for millions of readers. I began reading his sports columns as a teenager with the Trib and followed him to the News and Son of Sam. I carried his philosophy of bringing a sports columnist’s approach to writing about life in general when I left college — where I was a sports editor — and got a job as a police reporter. Don’t focus on the score. Find the real story. Write it like a novel. Breslin had ego and attitude and an uncanny instinct for people. And he could write like hell. He pegged a fellow New Yorker famously known as the Donald as a phony who played the media (“the plural of mediocre,” Breslin wrote) like a fiddle and used other people’s money to con still others out of theirs. “A white Al Sharpton,’’ Breslin once called him. I ran into Sharpton when I was writing editorials in Middletown, N.Y., and he was loudly defending 15-year-old Tawana Brawley against non-existent rapists in Dutchess County, across the Hudson. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. You can look it up. “30,” Jimmy.
  • Chuck Berry died. He was 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll before it became rock, acid rock, punk rock and whatever other kind of rock legions of Berry wannabees dreamed up. He created the beat, the attitude and the philosophy that spoke to 1950s teenagers looking for a music of their own. “Sweet LIttle Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode”  and “Roll Over Beethoven” were upbeat, hard-driving and unlike anything previous generations had claimed as theirs. Irresistible. Plus, you could understand every word he sang and he could play the hell out of the guitar. Another pioneer. Check him out on YouTube, youngsters.
  • Shaquille O’Neal said the Earth is flat. The NBA Hall of Famer is known to be a jokester, but he’s apparently serious about this. He says his proof is that when he
    Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaquille O’Neal

    drives from Florida to California his car does not go up and down 360 degrees. And, sorry, Mr. Einstein, Shaq’s not convinced about that gravity theory either, even though something made his free throws fall far short of the basket. The flat-Earth theory is gaining traction among NBA players, which may be a commentary on so many of its stars coming out of college too early or not even going to college. Or it may simply be a sign that it’s not just fans, but even the players are getting bored with the lack of meaningful games. Maybe if the stars played in all the games when they’re healthy it would prompt more interest — and less resentment — among fans who pay hefty prices to see them sit on the bench. Put a round ball in your hands, dribblers, and stop thinking the sun rises and sets on your command.

  • FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee in a televised hearing that there was no evidence that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped the residence of his successor, despite that successor’s repeated claims to the contrary. Comey also testified that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the current president’s campaign aides and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign with the goal of influencing the outcome in favor of the current president. Republicans in Congress appeared to be most concerned with how this possibly treasonous behavior came to be public knowledge. There was also no indication that the current president would apologize to his predecessor for falsely accusing him of a federal crime. Stay tuned.
  • Breslin would say I buried the lead. Not this week.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Couldn’t Lose for WInning

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Who knew?

     Who knew?

Sitting and watching the March blizzard do its thing outside the window — working, working, working to shut everything down — a memory from the 2016 presidential campaign snuck into my consciousness. The post kept popping up on my Facebook feed, but I honestly can’t remember the original source of the news. I’m also not in the mood to go researching for it because I didn’t think it was fake news then and today I am convinced it is the god’s honest truth.

In brief, one of DT’s former aides (of which there are many) wrote an article in which she claimed he never expected to win the Republican nomination and the election. Indeed, she said he did not want to win the election. Rather, she said, he just wanted to get his name out there for whatever profit he could gain from the publicity and maybe help launch a TV network he was planning. Branding.

Less than two months since his inauguration, it’s obvious: Donald Trump likes being president, but he is less than fond of doing president. The title and the glory are great — right up his alley. Put a big, gold “T” on the White House.

But the work? Daily intelligence briefings? Reading reports on the battle against ISIS? Getting up to speed on how complicated health care is? Learning the difference between the debt and the deficit, Medicaid and Medicare, China and Taiwan, Iran and Iraq, legal and unconstitutional? Isn’t that what we have Mike Pence for?

The man has no patience for details, for facts, for differing opinions, for the legal process, for diplomacy, for Cabinet meetings, for, at the very least, hiring people to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs unfilled since he took office. Who knew being president was such a big job?

Well, for one, his predecessor. And, with varying degrees of success, a long line of predecessors before Barack Obama.

Getting back to that aide’s story … Was there ever a campaign for president run with such obvious disregard for facts? WIth such disdain and outright rudeness aimed at other candidates? With such arrogant disregard for the bigotry and violence it encouraged in its followers? With such crudeness towards women, minorities, the physically handicapped? With such an ill-informed, self-obsessed liar as the candidate?

Rhetorical questions.

It was a campaign expressly designed for maximum press coverage, which it got. What went wrong for Trump is that he was up against the worst field of Republican candidates imaginable, few of whom had the guts to match him insult for insult (some of whom now kiss up to him since he’s the titular head of their party) and then ran into the most disliked Democrat in America as his opponent in the general campaign. Even encouraging the Russians to wiretap Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to doom the Trump campaign.

Hard as he tried, most Republican leaders and elected officials couldn’t bring themselves to publicly call him a bully and a liar and a fraud and so their voters — the ones who weren’t outright racists or conspiracy theorists or rightwing extremists, all of whom loved him from the get-go — went for the celebrity candidate who promised them … well, whatever they wanted him to promise them.

I won’t be playing golf every week, he promised. Mexico will pay for the wall, he promised. Social Security and Medicare are safe, he promised, Everyone will have health care, he promised. How could he know that House Speaker Paul Ryan hated Social Security and Medicare and had no clue about how health insurance worked? That would have required understanding all that stuff himself and talking to Ryan about it. Work.

Trump’s bad luck followed him into November. Clinton beat him by three million votes and still lost, thanks to the Electoral College, which is a concept the new president surely still does not understand. Although he swears he had the widest winning margin there in decades. He couldn’t lose for winning, no matter how hard he tried. And now he has to try to convince a bunch of much smarter people who report to him every day that he knows what he’s doing.

Not that they believe him.

Which is our problem, America.

The golf? Jeez, I know I promised I’d be a working president, but this is ridiculous. Anything to get out of that depressing White House every weekend. ISIS this; ISIS that. Merkel this; Merkel that. Warren this; Warren that. What’s wrong with Flynn talking to Russians? Some of my best friends and creditors are Russians. How come nobody told me federal judges were appointed for life? Do I attack North Korea if they launch a missile at us? I can’t believe Ryan is going to try to find money for that stupid wall. Now they’re trying to pin my name on that ridiculous health care plan he came up with. Maybe I can feed that Maddow dame the only legit tax return I have this century to take the heat off the Russia thing. And what the heck is going on with Lindsay Graham and that loser McCain? Is Turkey an ally? Did La La Land win the Oscar or not? Bad dudes in Hollywood. I wonder if Rudy wants his old job back at Justice, or is he ticked I didn’t name him ambassador to Russia? Damn, why does the FBI want to talk to me? Melania!? Melania!? Help! They want me to organize the Easter egg roll! Stop hiding in New York!

Damn, where’d I leave my phone? Maybe I can get Snoop Dog to come down to Mar a Lago for golf this weekend. Hey, Bannon, it’s still Black History Month, isn’t it?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Playing Solitaire in the White House

Friday, March 10th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The trigger card

            The trigger card

You’ll have to pardon me here as I try to catch up on the news. Last I knew, the narcissist-in-chief (NIC) had just shown himself to be presidential by reading a speech (which he did not write) from a teleprompter for about an hour straight without veering off message, insulting any minority group or mentioning the size of his, uh, inauguration crowd.

A lot of people who call themselves journalists apparently thought this was evidence of a heretofore well-hidden capability to do presidential things.

With that reassurance that all was well with the republic, I busied myself with other, more pressing personal stuff: Reading; having dinner with my sons; wading through a mountain of unopened mail that had been gathering since I was involved in an accident; deciding whether my partner and I should have Chinese or Mexican takeout for dinner; looking for something to add to my Netflix queue while waiting for Denzel’s 2004 version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to become available; being impressed at how well the Sinatra version from 1962 has held up.

Then it got a little spooky. I heard that after his “presidential” reading, the NIC apparently went off message a few days later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve been able to piece together from all those alternative “news” sites on Facebook, some time late Saturday night, the NIC was wandering around the White House in his bathrobe when the phone rang. His cell phone, not THE phone. A voice on the other end that sounded remarkably like Steve Bannon channeling the NIC’s deceased mother suggested that to occupy his time, since Melania preferred to stay in New York, he should play his favorite game — Solitaire.

“Yes, mother,” the NIC obeyed and hung up.

Having stacked the deck with red queens, the trigger card, the voice called back a minute later and said, “Blame Obama.”

Again, “Yes, mother.”

And that’s apparently how we ended up with one president accusing his predecessor (on Twitter) of wiretapping his home phone. At least that’s the best I can piece together from news reports since no one has offered a scintilla of evidence of such a wiretap and the FBI director (the guy who clinched the election for the NIC) says it never happened. The White House ignored that response and a cadre of lawyers reportedly set out to find  proof of what their master had tweeted.

Now, apparently, all those “journalists” who swooned over the State of the Union reading are what one might call non-plussed for having been suckered again by a performance. “Sir, what  proof do you have of  this dastardly deed by Mr. Obama?” they asked the NIC, who had none, of course. Never does.

No one apparently thought to ask, “Sir, since you’re the president and have the power, why don’t you just declassify the documents that prove you were wiretapped?’’

Well, because: (1.) If there really was an illegal wiretap (the president can’t order one), the guilty parties would have left no records.

(2.) If such records did exist, they would prove that a judge thought there was sufficient reason for the FBI to wiretap the NIC even before he took office and how embarrassing would that be?

But probably mostly (3.), because he didn’t know that the president couldn’t order a wiretap or that a president could declassify any document he chooses. Details are not the NIC’s strong point.

As I take it, you-know-who was so angry that no one — even Sean Spicer struggled to keep a straight face — believed him when he said Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped — he kicked Bannon and Reince Priebus, his two top aides, off Air Force One when he flew to Florida for his regular weekend of presidential golfing.

Bannon, however, was smart enough, I gather, to pack a few stacked Solitaire decks in the NIC’s bags. Some time over the weekend, as he wandered the halls of Mar-a-Lago in his bathrobe, the phone rang again.

This time, THE phone, not his cell phone.

“How about a game of Solitaire, son?”

“Yes, mother.” Hang up.

Short pause. Red queen.

Ring!

“Hello, mother.”

“Okay, now listen carefully, son. Last time I called you the damn cell phone dropped the call after I said, ‘Blame Obama’ and you made up some cockamamie story about him tapping your phone. What were you thinking? (Bannon’s voice getting a bit hoarse.) Blame Obama for that botched SEALS raid in Yemen, you ninny.”

“Yes, mother.”

And as far as I can tell, that’s how the NIC came to exploit the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in that raid during his State of the Union address, while at the same time blaming his predecessor and his generals for the failure of the mission. How’s that for presidential?

I can’t wait for Denzel’s “Manchurian Candidate” to arrive in the mail. Hope it’s as good as Sinatra’s.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Press Gets Another Chance at Trump

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydostrump:constitution

Okay, number one: When Sean Spicer told reporters for The New York Times, the LA Times, CNN, and Politico they were not welcome at his press gaggle (whatever that is), representatives of every other legitimate news organization in that room should have stood up and walked out with their colleagues. Let the lying apologist shoot the breeze with the right-wing, nut job ‘’journalists’’ his boss invited to hear his latest pronouncement. Besides, those pronouncements are usually contradicted by key administration officials shortly after they hear what their boss just said.

The mainstream media doesn’t need to be reporting on every utterance of the Narcissist-in-Chief. He talks only to his base of delusional followers anyway because they actually believe him, or wish and pray hard for the willingness to keep believing him. That blind faith doesn’t appear to be likely to change a lot in the near future, so let them talk to each other. The real reporters in the room can get the news by doing their jobs the way they were trained to do them. And the way this White House is leaking like a sieve, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Which brings me to number two: If the legitimate mainstream media had been doing its job all along during the presidential campaign last year it probably wouldn’t be dealing with a super-sensitive, press-wary occupant in the White House. Well, maybe it would have, but at least it would have been an occupant who wasn’t predictably angry, petulant, and vindictive and one who actually understood how government works. Someone who would never kick the press out because she generally avoided meeting them in the first place.

But woulda-coulda-shoulda and if pigs could fly, the unpredictable dunce won and those reporters for the mainstream media played a big part in letting it happen, particularly TV news outlets.

While Trump was using insult and intimidation to lay waste to the joke of a field of presidential candidates the Republican Party fielded, most of the mainstream media busied itself filling air time and pages with one outrageous quote of his after another, often ignoring statements by other candidates and usually ignoring any mention of an actual issue.

It was all Trump this, Trump that. Seldom were questions about policy put to him and seldom was there any serious follow up on his many outrageous claims. It was all shock value as a way to attract viewers or readers. Only as the campaign wore on and the other candidates fell by the wayside one by one, did some of those news organizations begin to realize what was happening. Trump was lying, bullying and treating the campaign like a reality TV show. His name was everywhere and good or bad, he didn’t care. He was winning.

And, he didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. So what did the mainstream media do? It reported the heck out of Hillary Clinton’s non-existent email scandal. Day after day. E-mail this, e-mail that. (The FBI was no help.) No one bothered chasing the source of the leaks about those emails. No one bothered finding out the truth about Trump’s connections with Russia.

Meanwhile, the phony baloney news media — the ones who were allowed to stay in Spicer’s gaggle — were busy making up fake news every day — about Clinton, about Bernie Sanders, about Mexicans, about Muslims, about crime, about the economy, about President Obama. Trump even grudgingly admitted that all his bellowing about Obama not being a citizen was bull and he pretty much got a pass on it for admitting it.

And by time the mainstream media realized what a sexist pig Trump was, it was too late. His hardcore base of racists, bigots and other sexist pigs were strongly behind him now and a lot of other angry white Americans latched on to those fake news reports and said why don’t we shake up Washington by voting for a terrific businessman who’s going to provide jobs for us and who’s not going to hobnob with billionaires like Hillary does.

Right.

So here we are, my fellow Americans, with a man in the White House who doesn’t recognize the First Amendment, describes the press as the enemy, and who excludes news media from press conferences because they dared to report stories that did not portray him in the most positive light. Actually, they’re all digging into his connections with Russia.

It should be mentioned here that reporters from the Associated Press, TIME and USA Today joined their colleagues from the excluded media in walking out of the gaggle. Good for them. But what about the rest? Reporters from ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox TV networks stayed with Spicer and the phony baloneys.

It’s not all bad. In a strange way, Trump has pulled the reverse on the old he giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. During the campaign he made a mockery of the press. In office he has continued to insult and assault the media because they are finally recognizing him for what he is. Much of the mainstream media has started doing its job again. Reporting the truth. Digging behind the scenes and the press conferences for the real story. Holding politicians’ feet to the fire — and calling a lie a lie. In throwing down the gauntlet so brazenly, the man who knows so little about the Constitution has reminded much of the Fourth Estate that they hold a prominent place in that document.

Authoritarians, despots, would-be dictators go after the press first for one reason: It is the direct link to the people. In this country its job is to report the truth regardless of who is in power, whose career may be hurt. Trump’s words and actions regarding his Russian connection are reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s words and actions during the Watergate scandal. Attack, deny, blame  the press.

Trump has embarrassed the press, but then, in usual Trump fashion, he overplays his hand. He overestimates his intelligence, his power, and his eventual support. The ugly part of his base will stick with him. He is their Messiah. But if the press now does what it knows how to do a lot of those other Trump voters will come to realize they were conned, just like the media was, and they will insist that the press do its job.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press, print and electronic, should all boycott future White House press conferences until there is a sincere apology issued from the Oval Office. Not from Spicer, the errand boy. Skip the White House Correspondents Dinner, too, while you’re at it. Oh wait, Trump just said he’s skipping the dinner. No guts. Well then go and enjoy yourselves. Maybe see if Alec Baldwin is free to stand in.

Trump’s only enemy — and it’s a powerful one — is the truth.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Who Stands with Standing Rock?

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Face off at Standing Rock.

Face off at Standing Rock.

Last Monday morning, virtual reality became real reality, if you will, in an encouraging way.

My usual morning routine includes a casual scroll through my Facebook feed to see if I missed anything of vital interest overnight. Usually it’s more of the same. But Monday, a post stopped me short and prompted a silent, “Really?”

It seems a young Facebook friend had traveled to North Dakota overnight and “checked in” at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in solidarity with the Sioux tribe protesting construction of an oil pipeline there. We both live in upstate New York, so this is no easy overnight jaunt. I was impressed with the young man’s commitment to a cause, until I scrolled a little more and discovered that another local friend, a middle-aged woman, had also checked in at Standing Rock. I could believe that she, too, would support the cause, but I was now skeptical about the travel.

A short while later, my partner said, “My Facebook friend checked in at Standing Rock.”

“Not really, I said,” having finally figured out what was going on. “I think there’s a movement on Facebook to show support for the protesters by checking in, virtually, at Standing Rock. It’s a really cool idea.”

Indeed there was and indeed it was. Cool. About a million Facebook users stood in real and virtual solidarity with the Sioux Tribe and thousands of others who have joined them in North Dakota to protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

While the check-ins apparently started as a response to a request from activists at the site, who said police were using the Facebook feature to find out who was at Standing Rock in order to target them, police denied doing so. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, as the massive show of online support sent a message far beyond North Dakota.

For one thing, it brought to focus an actual issue — really several issues — that were being played out in a part of the country far removed from the drudgery and dirty laundry of the presidential campaign. The standoff at Standing Rock had been going on for some time with major media outlets managing to ignore it while obsessing on emails and sexual predation.

I can imagine the newsroom discussion. Editor: “North Dakota? An oil pipeline? Indians? That’s a long way. Can’t we pick up some info from a local reporter?”

Assistant editor: “I don’t know, chief, there’s a bunch of tribes there and now hundreds of others supporting them and they are unarmed and the police and hired security forces are using tear gas and Mace and batons and rubber bullets — they shot some reporter and some horses — to force them off the land. The Sioux say it’s ancient tribal land where their ancestors are buried. Also, the pipeline threatens their water source. The protesters say the private security force even used attack dogs on them. A lot of people were arrested, including what’s-her-name, from NPR. It’s getting ugly. Mark Rufalo was there. Bernie Sanders asked Obama to do something.”

Do something.

The Sioux are still waiting.

A little background for those, like myself, overwhelmed with political “news.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe see the pipeline as a threat to their water supply and their culture. They say its route crosses lands — not part of the reservation — where members of their tribe once hunted and were buried. They also worry about damage if the pipeline were to break where it crosses under the Missouri River, their sole source of water.

Energy Transfer, the company building the pipeline — a $3.7 billion project —  says it will pour millions of dollars into local economies and create thousands of construction jobs. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from western North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline was moved from its original path, closer to Bismarck, the state capital, because officials feared it could damage the city water supply. Apparently, no such concern was felt for the drinking water of the Sioux.

So, back to do something.

The two candidates for president did nothing.

Donald Trump loves oil and doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t white and Christian. North Dakota’s three Electoral College votes are his anyway.

Hillary Clinton, often criticized as overly cautious, missed a chance to show real leadership. With no votes to pick up in the state, she could have stood for the rights of indigenous peoples, for protection of the environment, for the First Amendment right to free assembly, and for the responsibility of corporations, who like being considered citizens when giving money to politicians, to also act like responsible citizens when it comes to the public good. She could also have stood against military style force by police against unarmed citizens. Some Clinton doubters in other states (Nevada, Colorado, Arizona) might have been impressed.

Even President Obama waffled. He said, in an effort to accommodate sacred land of Native Americans, “the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way. So we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Well, maybe that’s not so bad if the police and paid enforcers aren’t shooting rubber bullets at you and dousing you with hoses, Mr. President. How about telling them to stand down while the Army Corps does its job?

In one day, a million Americans stood in virtual solidarity with the Sioux. Is it too much to ask their president and would-be presidents to demonstrate the real thing?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

This Clown is Armed and Dangerous

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... clown-in-chief

Donald Trump … clown-in-chief

“Was the clown armed?

The simple question, which raised a host of other questions, rang as pure and clear as a bell in the otherwise silent newsroom.

It may be the most work-stopping question I’ve ever heard in a half-century of over-hearing reporters’ telephone interviews in newsrooms. And it was asked as matter-of-factly as if the reporter had said, “How do you spell that?”

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Indeed she did.

Clowns, reports of clowns, real clowns, imaginary clowns, old clowns, young clowns, scary clowns, armed clowns had been terrorizing upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and who-knows-where-else for days, the outbreak being spread via social media, which at once made it seem larger and scarier than it actually was. Not that it was a laughing matter.

That’s why the reporter was asking the police whether a clown reportedly seen in a local school was armed. It wasn’t. No one’s even sure there was a clown. Which is good. But some people are frightened of clowns and some clown is likely to dress up as a clown and carry a fake gun and wind up being shot buy a real cop with a real gun. That’s scary.

So what does this have to do with politics?

Everything. In my opinion, the eruption of scary clowns across America this fall is the inevitable culmination of a horrifying presidential campaign that began with the Republican Party’s infamous clown car of candidates and has devolved into a daily episode of a self-aggrandizing TV showman with bright, orange hair saying scary stuff about what he will do if he is elected president of the United States.

This is not the silent Clarabell on Howdy Doody. This is Donald Trump, in person and on tape everywhere he goes, telling us just how frighteningly ill-suited and unprepared he is for the presidency and, more importantly, how hypocritical, cowardly, and self-serving are the people largely responsible for him being the Republican Party’s candidate for president. That would be all — and I mean all — the elected Republican officials in America who, over the past several decades, have courted, coddled, tolerated, and ultimately ignored a constituency consisting of mostly white persons, angry at what they perceive as being shoved aside and forgotten while persons of other colors, creeds, religions, nationalities, sexual preferences, politics — you name it — got ahead of them in line.

Their fears were realized when the nation elected its first black president. Apparently, the only way Republicans in Congress could think of to serve their constituency was to reject every proposal Barack Obama put forth. For eight years. Yet he is a man of such intelligence and grace that he managed to improve the lot of virtually every American in some way in his two terms in office, notably rescuing the nation from the economic morass in which his predecessor left it.

The response of elected Republican officials — from Congress to state houses to local city halls — to Obama’s success was to deny it. To lie about it. To shut down the government. To say global warming is a myth. To deny and to lie, but never to once offer any proposal to better the lives of their constituents, which, of course, would have required working with their black president.

And so when all those would-be presidents showed up months ago on the same stage with Donald Trump, the TV guy with his name on everything, they had nothing to show for the last eight years except to say they would be different than Obama. And maybe hint that they weren’t so fond of gays. Or abortion.

Trump didn’t hint. He knew who was living in the Republican basement all these years. They watched his TV shows. They could eat tacos and hate Mexicans. Muslims? An easy target. And blacks, of course. Demonize and victimize them at the same time. But why stop there? People with physical disabilities were to be mocked for their ability to abuse the system. Women? In the kitchen, in the bedroom, slim and silent. Just tell them you’ll be great for women. You love women. All women. Every man’s woman. Your daughter even.

They bought it. In truth, the GOP offered nothing else to buy except stale bread and promises that couldn’t be kept. So the angry constituency voted for Trump and he got more votes than the rest of the clowns in the car. And he kept saying more outrageous and actually stupid things and those elected Republican officials all said, “Well, that’s just Donald. It’s a show. He’ll change when he’s actually running for president.”

Well, Donald being Donald, he actually got worse, emboldened by his success and support from the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, anti-Semitic groups, crowds of angry white men and silent Republican officials.

His lies and offensive remarks were dismissed by Republican officials as they criticized him, but continued to support him as their party’s nominee. His utter lack of experience and knowledge of what it takes to be president was also ignored. He’ll put smart people around him, the elected officials said of the man who lives in bankruptcy court and lost a billion dollars in one year on a casino (which is rigged to make a profit), then bragged about not paying taxes because he’s so “smart.”

A billionaire not paying taxes! That’s “smart” to Republicans because after all, we can finance the government on …  well, on the backs of all those middle-class Republican voters in the basement, not that we’ll tell them that. If they ever figure it out, we’re in trouble.

And so it went, until a few days ago when a TV show released a tape of Trump being Trump, talking in lewd terms about making unwanted sexual advances on women he finds attractive. The kind that a prosecutor would define as assault. Suddenly, dozens of elected Republican officials — virtually all male and white, of course — had had enough. How dare he talk that way about women!? Why, we have wives, daughters, mothers, sisters! Yes, and they all gave their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers a piece of their mind about that clown running for president as a Republican (which he really isn’t).

Suddenly, the officials were called upon to do something they hadn’t had to do for some time as Republicans — make an individual moral judgment. (C’mon, McCain, say something!) If they had responded to the wishes of the Trump base of support, they would have just tsk-tsked him again. Almost as if he didn’t say what they just heard him say. His supporters, as usual, excused him because they still blame Mexicans, blacks and Muslims for their problems. And the Trump women? I haven’t figured that out.

Nonetheless, if sex is the tipping point for Republicans — not surprising, actually —  then perhaps it will remind elected officials that they have a sworn duty to all the people they serve, to the greater good, and not just to to the bigots in the basement because they happened to vote for them.

In fact, If Republicans want some historic perspective on this matter, Edmund Burke, often referred to as the “Father of Conservatism,” gave a famous speech in 1774 in the British House of Commons, in which he acknowledged the duty of an elected representative to his constituents: “It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own. But his unbased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. … Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Paste that on the Big Orange Elephant in the middle of the room.

The betrayal Burke spoke of arises out of self-serving fear. “If I don’t deny global warming, the thinking goes, they won’t vote for me. If I support gay marriage, they won’t vote for me. If I respect all religions, they won’t vote for me. If I welcome immigrants, they won’t vote for me. If I reject Trump, they won’t vote for me. But I think global warming is a real threat. I think gays deserve the same rights as straights. I respect the First Amendment on religion. I believe immigrants built America. And I think Trump is a narcissistic, scary clown. What do I do?”

Donald the Groper just did them a favor.

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

16 years … Still Waiting for Hillary

Monday, April 18th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Back in 2000, I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, a daily newspaper based in Middletown, N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan was getting ready to retire from an illustrious career in the United States Senate and Hillary Clinton was packing her bags to move out of the White House.

My activity was part of a well-established routine. Moynihan’s was the logical culmination of a long career in public service to the state of New York. Clinton’s, in a way, was both. Her bag-packing was part of a well-established career plan and the culmination of eight adventurous  years as First Lady. And, the story goes, it had nothing to do with any questionable behavior on her husband’s part.

It turned out the Clintons, in looking for a place to live when Bill’s final term as president ended, had found a cozy, little 11-room château in Westchester County, in New York. It was perfect for the ex-prez and the soon-to-be-junior senator from the state of New York. That was the next step in the well-established plan. Fulfilling the residency requirement.

The fact that neither Clinton had ever lived in New York was never a major problem in Hillary’s senate campaign since New Yorkers had famously welcomed that carpetbagger Bobby Kennedy when he decided he would like to be United States senator from New York before running for president. Now, I saw and heard Bobby Kennedy and trust me, Hillary Clinton never was and never will be a Bobby Kennedy. Nevertheless, the Clintons were warmly welcomed in New York and Hillary was accepted as a candidate for the United States Senate. Her credentials as soon-to-be-former First Lady were enough.

Funny, in many ways that hasn’t changed in 16 years. Her campaign for president today relies to a large extent on a hurry-up resume that sounds a whole lot better than it really is. It’s not for nothing that the words “entitled” and “inevitability” are frequently attached to Clinton’s name.

In any event, there I was, pounding out editorials on a daily basis, there went Pat, as he was called, holding farewell audiences with newspaper editorial boards, and here came Hillary. Except that she never came. If you think elephants have long memories, beware of editorial writers who feel snubbed.

As part of her introduction to New York, Clinton conducted what was called a listening tour. She would travel across the state, she said, to find out what was important to people in the state she knew next-to-nothing about, but which she longed to represent in the United States Senate.

A routine element of most political campaigns is meeting with editorial boards of newspapers, to hear what’s on their minds, to get out the candidate’s message and maybe get an endorsement. In 2000, I had numerous telephone conversations with a woman in Clinton’s campaign who politely assured me, every single time, that “Mrs. Clinton definitely wants to meet with The Record. We’re just figuring out the scheduling.” Or words to that effect.

They’re apparently still figuring it out.

In a major break from the paper’s liberal tradition, The Record wound up endorsing Clinton’s Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, whom she soundly trounced in the election. (Lazio replaced Rudy Giuliani, who withdrew because of marital problems and prostate cancer.) The editorial board’s thinking was that: 1.) Lazio took the time show up; 2.) he answered all our questions apparently as honestly as possible and; 3.) as a member of Congress already, he knew he state’s issues and was capable of handling the job.

Then there was 4.) If Hillary was too important to meet with The Record, how could we be sure she would have the best interests of the residents of the Hudson Valley and Catskills in her consciousness. After all, we were the largest circulation newspaper in the region.

I can already hear the cries of “sour grapes” and that’s OK, because this is not about 2000. It’s about 2016 and the still overwhelming impression in much of the news media that Hillary Clinton regards having to answer questions and explain herself as a major insult, never mind inconvenience. You can be sure her meeting with our editorial board, had it occurred, would have been respectful, but not fawning. Indeed, if her crack staff was as good as advertised in doing its homework, I would not be surprised if they discovered a piece in the New York Post in 1990, in which a former gubernatorial candidate, Pierre Rinfret, called us the “most rude, obnoxious” group he had ever encountered. Or words to that effect.

That’s because Rinfret had no idea what he was talking about and was constantly asked to explain or clarify his remarks.

Hillary Clinton, in my experience, does not like being asked to explain herself. She appears to want to be accepted as is simply because she is. Has she changed sides on an issue? Don’t ask.

A major talking point among her supporters in this presidential campaign is that she knows how to get things done. (The implication being that Bernie Sanders, with a lifetime in government and public service, does not.)

Well, as First Lady, she totally blew Bill’s attempt at universal health care. She supported his tough anti-crime bill, which she now take pains to point out was signed by him, not her. Welfare reform? Same thing. As secretary of state, she helped Barack Obama make Libya a mess, but again, he made the decisions, she reminds us, not she. That Pacific trade bill, Madame Secretary? Barack’s baby.

Which brings me back to New York state, where I still live and write, though not on a daily basis any more. Hillary Clinton served one six-year-term as senator and two years of a second term. Then she quit to run for president because, well, there was a timetable to honor. (Obama messed it up. Now Bernie’s trying to do the same.) But, unless I was in a blackout for eight years, I cannot think of a single major “thing” she “got done” for New Yorkers in that time.

And to this date, I’m not aware that she has ever set foot in Middletown.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com