Posts Tagged ‘president’

Sycophants, Cowards and Steve Bannon

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Steven Bannon. CREDIT: Matt McClain, The Washington Post; Ron Sachs, pool via Bloomberg; Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post

Sean Spicer, KellyAnne Conway and Steve Bannon.
CREDIT: Matt McClain, The Washington Post; Ron Sachs, pool via Bloomberg; Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post

I had a strange thought as I was processing the latest rush of news from the White House: Steve Bannon may be the most honest person in the building. Not likable. Honest.

He doesn’t talk about being honored to be of public service as a top adviser to the president. He doesn’t pretend to like non-whites, poor people or Muslims. He doesn’t even pretend that Jared Kushner has any business being another top adviser to the president. All Bannon does on a daily basis is go about his mission of dismantling the government, agency by agency, presidential decree by presidential decree.

In other words, he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s using the unhinged narcissist-in-chief (NIC) for purely personal political reasons. And he doesn’t show up in front of microphones to justify or try to explain the logic of the NIC’s latest embarrassing breach of protocol, ethics, conduct, law, decent behavior, etc.

There are plenty of others all too willing to do that, including someone I never thought would join the chorus of Trump excusers — National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. When he was appointed to the White House job, I thought, “Well good, Trump finally got one right.” Like most of the rest of the people watching Trump put together a staff, I figured he had finally named someone who knew what he was doing, had solid principles and the guts to stand up for what he thought was right, including saying when the president was wrong.

Apparently I was wrong. After The Washington Post broke the story that the NIC had divulged highly classified intelligence to Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting at which the American press (but not a Russian photographer) was banned, there was McMaster on the White House lawn disputing the story while at the same time seemingly confirming much of it as he tried to find that elusive place for the NIC’s behavior known as “appropriate.”

The next day, of course, Trump tweeted that he did indeed tell the Russians some classified stuff, but so what, he’s the president and he can do so if he chooses. That may well be true, but it doesn’t make it right, or smart. McMaster thus became the latest apologist to be thrown under the bus by a man who demands loyalty but exhibits none of it.

But I have no sympathy for him because he surely knew before taking the job how Trump operates. Similarly, I do not feel sorry for Sean Spicer, KellyAnne Conway or others who took jobs as mouthpieces for a demonstrated pathological liar and have lost any credibility or, indeed, dignity they might have felt they had in doing a job professionally by stepping out every day to repeat Trump’s lies, defend them with air quotes or describe them as “alternate facts.”

If they didn’t realize what they were getting into from the campaign, they surely knew it on day one when Trump bragged about the size of his inauguration crowd. Even though government photos showed it to be small, he still sent Spicer out to say it was huge and, instead of resigning, Spicer did as he was told.

He is now a late-night TV joke, as is Conway. So apparently, like a lot of others, they took the job for the money or some perceived personal gain, but not the “honor” of doing public service because there is no honor in hiding in bushes to get your story straight for the press or arguing that the president’s own tweets don’t say what they say.

Vice President Mike Pence has also shown a casual willingness to defend Trump — as when he said the NIC fired FBI director James Comey on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, not over the FBI probe of Trump-Russia connections only to have the Tweeter contradict him the next day on Rosenstein and the Russians. But Pence, an evangelical Christian who doesn’t have dinner alone with any woman except his wife, long ago sold his soul when he left Indiana to be vice president to a man whose life has been, and continues to be, a textbook case of misogyny. Birds of a feather.

You can also throw Reince Priebus in the stew with all the rest who thought having a White House position was something prestigious and influential and something they would be able to point to with pride on their resume — even though the man they serve is without intellect, integrity or shame and demands that they support his delusions, which they have dutifully done. Sycophants all.

The word is that the NIC may fire some of his White House staff soon. Indeed, he may well have done so before I finished writing this. I do know that a special counsel has been named by Rosenstein to conduct the Trump-Russia connections and that a few Republicans in Congress have apparently decided that the only way to save their jobs is to start investigating Trump and stop defending him.

Yes, it’s their sworn duty to do so, but the Republican Party has been a shameless enabler and apologist for Trump from the day he got its nomination. Priebus, as Republican National Committee chairman, led the way on that and got his prestigious White House job as a payoff. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have aided and abetted every step of the way in Congress, relishing the added power and accomplishing nothing. If they ever had any semblance of pride in the work they do and gratitude for being allowed to serve their country — the kind of things Republicans always talk about — that has long since been obliterated by their obsequiousness and crass disregard for the people they are supposed to serve. They are cowards, plain and simple.

No, it’s just Bannon. He has never pretended to care about creating jobs or providing healthcare for Americans the way all the rest have. For him, it’s always been about supporting the emperor, uh president, to solidify his power so that he can go about oppressing minorities, deporting immigrants, blowing up the federal government, eliminating individual liberties and making a ton of money.

I hate the SOB. But he’s never once pretended that Trump was smarter than him or stood in front of TV cameras to say that black was white, or vice versa, depending on the Trump Twitter feed of the moment. Bannon hasn’t got a soul to sell and when he lies, it’s not to us, it’s to the NIC.

Somehow, that’s not comforting either.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Sometimes You Have to Say, ‘I’m Sorry’

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Trump ... tweeting.

Trump … tweeting.

Donald Trump and his coterie believe that election is tantamount to gaining unquestioned authority in matters of insult, truth and apology.

You may believe that begging someone’s pardon after intended or unintended insult might make the world a little more civil, maybe even a little safer, but Donald Trump seems to hold no such belief.

“If I win,” he informed Hillary Clinton during the campaign, “I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your [missing email] situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.” This as Trump’s followers gleefully roared “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

So far, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed no special prosecutor, which could indicate that Clinton is not quite as wicked as Trump would have you believe.

So with no special prosecutor in sight, can Trump stand up and say “I went a little too far; I apologize?”

He cannot.

He’s apparently unaware that in America when you charge someone with a crime you’re supposed to have evidence.

Someone else operating from the Trump Handbook of Practical Politics is Jeff Sessions, who stepped into a Ringling Bros. bucket when he declared recently that the state of Hawaii is little more than a banana republic – seven insignificant islands floating out there on the briny.

Apologize? Sessions?

Reacting to an unfavorable ruling by District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, Sessions told an interviewer: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be his statutory and Constitutional power.” Such judicial orders are precisely what make America unique, far different from a lot of countries.

At issue before Watson was Trump’s signing an executive order barring travelers from Muslim dominant countries from entering the United States – the so-called travel ban. Watson didn’t think it passed Constitutional muster.

Sessions was “amazed?”

If so, Americans must be “amazed” to learn that their attorney general is “amazed” at what the judges of a great nation do. That is, they interpret the law.

Sessions attributed the hubbub over his island jest to Americans having a lousy sense of humor. Get it? He was just kidding around with those 1.5 million unappreciative Hawaiians, not to mention the rest of us.

Incidentally, yes Watson was appointed by President Obama.

And yes, the Senate vote to confirm him was 94-0.

And yes, one of those yea votes was cast by Jeff Sessions, a senator at the time.

Here’s a handy guide to a few older incidents that beg for apology but have received no such thing.

— “I watched in Jersey City New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people [Muslims] were cheering as that building [the World Trade Center] was coming down,” Trump said about 9/11. Apparently he was the only person to witness such cheering.

— Trump said he doubted he could get a fair trial in a case to be heard by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel since Trump was calling for a wall to prevent Mexicans from crossing the border to reach the U.S. and Curiel had that Mexican sounding surname. Therefore, Trump’s reasoning went, he could not expect a fair shake from Curiel, except that Curiel is not Mexican but a U.S. citizen born in East Chicago, Indiana, the son of U.S. citizens.

— Trump charged outrageously that President Obama’s people tapped some of Trump’s phones during the campaign for Hillary Clinton’s benefit.

The evidence?

None.

No One Told Me How Hard This Job Was

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

— Donald J. Trump, in an interview with Reuters

Who knew?

Who knew?

Wow, has it really been only 100 days since America started to be great again? Seems like … a heck of a lot more. In fact, it seems like ages since the same Mr. Trump said, “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: [North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing.”

Remember that? He was talking to Fox News. That was way back when he tried to fake out Kim by warning him that an aircraft carrier group was steaming towards North Korea when it was really heading in the opposite direction to the Indian Ocean? Kind of like hiring someone to do a job and then not paying them, you know? It always worked in business, so I guess he figured it was worth a try on an unpredictable dictator with a million-man army and a hankering for nuclear missiles.

Although, I’d imagine Mr. Trump must have been somewhat embarrassed when his admirals said they didn’t know anything about any ships steaming to Korea. But heck, they finally worked it out and they’re there now, so good for them, right? And Mr. Trump said not to worry, war-lovers, a “major” conflict with North Korea was still not out of the range of possibility if Kim continued to engage in provocative behavior. Except Mr. Trump doesn’t like to use big words, so he said something like, “If Kim (which one, guys?) keeps doing bad things we might have to attack him.”

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) likes simple declarative sentences. Nothing complex. Direct communication. Look at his tax plan. One page, 200 words. No messing around with details like revenues and deficits. Huge tax cuts for very rich people. I promised it, now do it, staff. That’s a leader. This is what those voters wanted to see and hear.

Not that he’s a dictator, though. He showed how flexible he can be on his campaign promises by not insisting that a budget bill to keep the government operating for another week include $3 billion to start that wall the Mexicans keep refusing to pay for. Well, he did insist at first, but when Congress said no, he showed he could be flexible. He put off the wall for a few months.

He did the same thing with his threat to cut off funds that allow poor people to get health insurance through Obamacare if Congress didn’t get rid of his predecessor’s legacy achievement. Yessir, the NIC said in clear, concise terms that he’d hold up any budget deal and cut off Obamacare Medicaid funds unless Congress made good on his promise of a new health care plan right now. But again, he showed how flexible he could be by saying OK when Congress said “no way” to his threat. Now that’s a good leader, right?

… This is not normal, people.

The only honest thing the NIC has said since being elected is that he thought the job would be easier. He couldn’t bring himself to say it’s way too hard for him, that he’s woefully ill-prepared intellectually, emotionally and spiritually for the most important job on the planet. He did manage to say that measuring a president by his first 100 days in office — a traditional benchmark he promoted strongly while running for the office — was actually an artificial (he probably said “fake”) measure of a president’s accomplishments … although he also said his first 100 days were clearly the best ever.

Well, they did result in the lowest approval rating at that juncture of any president — 41 percent. In fact, according to the YouGOV/Economist poll, “What Americans saw in President Trump as he was inaugurated nearly 100 days ago is more or less the same things they see today: Opinions of his qualities and his presidency have changed little. The public is more negative than positive about his performance, and most continue to find weaknesses in his honesty, empathy and temperament.”

Let that last, subtle sentence sink in.

And yet, 31 percent of the public (mostly Republicans) say he has performed better than they expected, according to the poll. This may suggest that a lot of people had really low expectations of Trump going in, or that they are just as delusional as he is. I offer no Option C.

That poll also reported that, in general, Americans like Barack Obama a lot more than they do Donald Trump. Shocker. To the question, “Regardless of whether you agree with him, do you like Donald Trump as a person?” people responded: Like a lot, 23 percent; like somewhat, 20 percent; dislike 45 percent.

On Obama: Like a lot, 44 percent; like somewhat, 27 percent; dislike, 18 percent.

So most Americans would probably rather play golf with Obama than Trump.

Still, a bit more than 10 percent of the people polled apparently couldn’t decide if they liked or disliked either man, which to me is mind-boggling and also a contributing factor as to how we wound up with a phony, misogynistic, narcissistic, lying, ignorant, immature, rude, bullying, lazy, ill-informed, bigoted con man in the Oval Office.

It’s 100 days. Let’s not beat around the bush anymore folks.

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

Tom Wolfe, LSD, Orange Hair and Me

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

By Bob Gaydoskool-aid-book

I have been in a funk since Nov. 9. That’s the day I woke up with the realization that millions of Americans had lost their minds, if not their souls, and elected a man who is morally, psychologically, intellectually and spiritually unfit to be their president. The dumbest thing that has happened in my lifetime.

I stopped writing.

Finally, in desperation for inspiration, I turned to sports and that great philosopher, Reggie Miller (older Knicks fans can boo now.) For younger fans of the National Basketball Association, think Steph Curry. Shooters. Scorers. What do great shooters do when they are in a shooting funk, when everything seems to clang off the back rim or fall inches short of the basket? They keep shooting. They don’t pass the ball to someone else. They shoot themselves out of the funk.

Swish!

Now, I am not saying I am in the same class as a writer as Reggie and Steph are as shooters, but I have been writing for a long time and I think I have some skills so I figured the instincts would kick in once I started.

So instead of writing, I started reading. Tom Wolfe. Purely happenstance. I picked up some used books at the library because my son, Max, was looking for reading material. Short stories. He wasn’t interested in Wolfe’s “Hooking Up” and I had never read it, but had really enjoyed his “Bonfire of the Vanities.” So I ventured in. I quickly remembered why I liked him.

Then happenstance melded into serendipity. My partner and I watched “The Right Stuff,” the movie based on Wolfe’s book. Enjoyed it. There’s more. The last essay in “Hooking Up” detailed Wolfe’s assignment, with Jimmy Breslin, as the first writers/reporters for the Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine, New York.

My favorite newspaper as a teenager and my favorite magazine. I grew up reading Breslin and, as it turns out, Wolfe. After a brief, there’s-no-way-in-the-world-I-want-to-do-this-the-rest-of-my-life flirtation with engineering, I started writing. In more than 50 years, I have only stopped for brief intervals. Going with the universal flow, I went back to the library and picked up a couple more used Wolfe books, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and “A Man in Full.”

By the way, this is by way of answering those sympathetic friends who have asked me what I’ve been doing since The Dumb Event. For one thing, I’m trying to do things that make me feel better, things I can control.

… But let me digress.

To all those who pooh-pooh the Russian election connection, who doubt the Kremlin hacked into Democrats’ e-mails and released them in an organized effort to elect You Know Who and who further doubt that Vladimir Putin had anything to do with it, I turn again to sports and the biggest story that got lost in the election — Russia’s decades-long government-sponsored program to cover up the use of performance-enhancing drugs by virtually all its Olympic athletes.

A report recently released by a Canadian lawyer, Richard H. McClaren, who works for the World Anti-Doping Agency, confirmed it all. McClaren and his team made short shrift of Russian denials. Medals were repossessed. Athletes were banned. A Russian official involved in the program said the direction came from the top. In Russia, there is only one top. This is the Russian way, or at least the Putin way. Of course he knew about the steroids. Of course he knew about the hacking. No Russian would dare do either without his approval. Not if he didn’t want to wind up with poison in his vodka.

… So where was I? Right, reading.

I’m learning much more about Ken Kesey and the acid/pot/speed hippie freaks of the ‘60s than I ever intended to. The meaning of life on LSD.  It’s a good read. I found it especially interesting how Kesey came to write “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Nothing like first-hand experience. I just started the book, so there will likely be more on this later.

What else? I started looking for local issues I might be able to help out with since I believe change starts close to home. I’ve also recommitted to my off-and-on interest in photography. Living in an especially scenic area of the Hudson Valley, it works well with my inclination to report on what’s going on around me. On my travels the other day, a farmer walked his cow across the road right in front of me, casual as could be. Nonchalantly, I missed the shot. But I know where he lives. Gotta keep shooting.

… Speaking of nukes, Putin recently said he wanted to beef up Russia’s nuclear weapons capability. Our soon-to-be Twitter-in-chief knee-jerkedly responded that he planned to do the same with the United States’ nuclear armaments and that no one would be able to keep up with the U.S. in a nuclear arms race. Be still my patriotic, tax-paying heart. Robert Reich, a voice of sanity on social media, reported the above and asked, “What do you think?”

Robert, I think Putin is playing his puppet for the fool he knows him to be. I think all the Republican officials who applaud every time their “king” says something insane are shameless toadies. I think Putin is setting Orange Hair up to act like a big hero at a summit conference in which Russia and the U.S. decide to stop the war of nuclear words and de-escalate, rather than escalate, the nuclear arms race. In exchange, of course, for U.S. concessions. Drop those sanctions for grabbing Crimea. Hold back support for NATO countries that don’t pull their own weight. Let Russia handle things in Syria. Buy some Russian goods (whatever that might be). Don’t retaliate for Russia’s hacking. Stop criticizing Putin’s treatment of dissidents. Give him the respect, he deserves. “Da da, you understand that, my presidential friend, I’m sure.”

I think Putin wants to increase Russian influence over the world, not destroy it. He knows he can do that by pushing buttons and pulling strings.

I also think it would be beneficial to Americans if Ivanka revoked Daddy’s Twitter privileges and read some history to him every day and tested him on it the next day.

And finally, I think maybe I’m feeling a tad better, but the funk is not defunct. Sorry, Reggie, I may have scored a couple of points, but I think I have to keep on shooting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

  

 

The Kremlin and the Death of the GOP

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

People walk past a mural on a restaurant wall depicting Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting each other with an passionate kiss in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP - Getty Images

People walk past a mural on a restaurant wall depicting Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting each other with a passionate kiss in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP – Getty Images

That’s all. I’ve had it. I am through with writing about what a sick, repugnant human being Donald Trump is and then watching him reach a new low. Those who know about recovery from addiction, a subject on which I write regularly, say that every bottom has a trapdoor. Trump is living proof of that. Yet, with each new bottom, every poll seems to find 40 percent of those surveyed favoring him for president.

A few days ago, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to give people a reason to vote for Hillary Clinton, rather than against Trump. I stopped writing in mid-column because it seemed to be a waste of time. Who was I going to convince?

Here’s as far as I got …

There I was, having breakfast and rummaging around in my mind to find an angle for this presidential campaign other than don’t vote for Donald Trump because he’s an ignorant, racist, bigoted, misogynistic, cruel, vindictive, vile, narcissistic, xenophobic, quick-tempered, undisciplined, untrustworthy, uninformed, unspeakably crude sexual pervert and birther, who lies as naturally as he breathes.

Somehow, writing that message week after week (me and plenty of others) still hadn’t convinced a lot of people that the only vote that makes sense on Nov. 8 is one for Hillary Clinton. You don’t have to like her, folks, just know that that the future of this nation may well depend on voting for her.

Deaf ears. “Yeah, Trump may be all those things,” comes the unconvincing shrug, “but I can’t vote for her.” I have given up asking for reasons why. You know, reasons based on actual facts that would outweigh the choice at hand.

I set aside a newspaper article about how Trump had managed to actually make insulting comments about Clinton’s body as part of his defense against multiple charges that he is a sexual predator. Instead, I tried to focus on my egg white omelette (Swiss cheese and tomatoes). Then, as fate (or my excellent hearing) would have it, the angle was delivered to me from a nearby table. A reason to vote for Hillary … not that it was presented that way.

“DId you hear that Putin said if Clinton is elected, be prepared for war?”

The point the gentleman was making to his friend was that voting for Clinton would be dangerous because it could mean getting into a war with Russia. This was delivered in all seriousness because Vladimir Putin had said so and, as we know, he always speaks the truth and never has any nefarious plot in mind because that’s the way former heads of the KGB comport themselves when they get elected president of Russia.

The further point would be that voting for Trump would be smart because Putin says nice things about him. And Trump says he’d like to work with Putin.

So there you have it, America, the Republican candidate for president of the United States is now being touted as the better choice because the president of Russia doesn’t like the other candidate. Does this seem backwards to anyone else? When did being pals with Putin all of a sudden become more important than standing up to the Kremlin? When Trump launched his campaign based on lies and fear, that’s when.

Trump, of course, has said that he has met Putin. He has also said that he has not met Putin. You can be sure that Clinton and Putin know each other well. And he apparently does hate her guts. (I’m liking this reason for voting for her even more now.) That’s because, as secretary of state, she publicly called him out on stealing his election, something which Trump has accused Clinton of trying to do. She stood up to Putin. Meanwhile, Trump wants to do business with the man who grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and whose political opponents have a way of ending up dead.

It used to be that Republicans automatically voted for the candidate who was tough on Russia. They wanted someone the Kremlin would have to talk to and would do so with respect. Someone experienced in  diplomacy whose word could be counted on by friend and foe alike. That would be Hillary, not Donald. Donald, who doesn’t know Crimea from Korea, wants to sell out NATO and maybe get a hotel deal in the bargain. Putin has played him — and his followers — perfectly, from the hacked Clinton e-mails to the threat of war. Trump’s entire campaign is based on fear. That’s no way for America to negotiate with Putin, or any other world leader. …

I stopped there, wondering whether to go on. Then Trump said in the last debate that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the results of the election if he lost. That’s when I threw in the towel. For a man who has promoted violence at his rallies and some of whose supporters have openly espoused rebelling against any defeat, this is as unacceptable, unpatriotic, indefensible, possibly treasonous a statement as a candidate for president can make.

But that’s Trump — a new bottom every day. His fans cheered. I do not blame him for being who he is; I simply detest him. In truth, I’m sick of him. I do, however, blame the Republican Party for infecting American society (not just politics) with this utterly degrading election campaign. I mean every elected Republican official, from Speaker Paul Ryan to every governor, senator, congressperson, state legislator, county executive, county legislator, mayor, supervisor, councilman who has stood silently by and let Trump make a mockery of our democratic system and lay waste to any sense of decency or decorum in selection of the most powerful political leader on the planet.

A lot of these people went to Cleveland to vote for Trump. Then they stayed mute for months as he … okay, I said I’m not doing that anymore. The world knows what he has done. If you know all that and can still support him, words actually fail me. The same goes for those who say Hillary is just as bad. Not even close. You people need to get serious.

Republicans, Trump is not one of you. He is Trump. Period. You created him. Your hypocrisy and cowardice have emboldened him and his ilk. He has sullied us all. And he has destroyed you.

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

Donald and the Boys Plot to Beat Hillary

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

(A scene from “Just One of the Boys,” a show previewing Off-Broadway. The characters: Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, all wealthy, overweight, white men in their 70s. Plus a narrator, off-stage.

***

A bunch of the “boys” were sitting around the GOP clubhouse having a few drinks the other day. It was too rainy to play golf and they were way too out of shape to care anyway.

The talk inevitably came around to women. Women they had known. Women they could have known. Women they should have known. Women they wished they had known. Women they still wished they could know. If you know what I mean.

RUdy Giulianai and New Gingrich

Rudy Giuliani and New Gingrich

It was an exercise in fantasy, braggadocio, misogyny and out-and-out lies. Also, a lot of wishful thinking since, in addition to being out of shape, they were all of that age — 70 and up — where most of the women they had in mind would likely respond with, “Are you out of your mind?”

What the boys — Donald, Rudy, Newt and Roger — were doing, in addition to trying to top each other’s tales of “conquest”  — was trying to develop a strategy for Donald to “put that witch, Hillary, in her place,” as Roger explained. Only he didn’t say witch.

So far, all the bullying, shaming, yelling, interrupting and lying by Donald hadn’t worked as well as they all thought it would. For some reason, a majority of women and, to the boys, a surprisingly large number of men, seemed to feel that Hillary had much better experience and a more suitable temperament to be president of the United States than did Donald.

A woman, for Pete’s sake! And not a babe either! She doesn’t even look presidential, they agreed. “And she’s been really mean in the things she’s saying about me,” Donald chimed in.

“Yeah,” agreed Rudy.

“You should say mean stuff about her,” said Roger.

“Well, you know I could have at the last debate, but I decided not to,” Donald said. “I was nice, but she attacked me for saying Miss Universe got fat and Rosie O’Donnell was a pig. I mean, it’s true, so how could it be mean?”

“You’re right, Donald,” Newt pitched in. ‘‘They are fat. You should go after her on Bill.”

Rudy and Roger nodded in agreement. “Do it, Donald,” urged Roger. “What kind of woman puts up with her husband fooling around with all sorts of other women, stays married to him for 40 years and has a successful career in politics?”

“She must be stupid,” said Rudy. Newt nodded in agreement.

“So you think I should do it, guys?” asked Donald. “I mean, I made a point of telling the press after the debate that I was going to bring up Bill and his women in the debate, but didn’t, so that the press could tell people that I was being nice when I didn’t have to be — and I can be very nice, if you know what I mean. I mean, I’m the nicest guy you ever met. But I didn’t have to be and I wanted people to know that and, since I didn’t bring it up, how could they know? Know what I mean?”

“Uh huh,” all replied.

‘‘But the time for being nice is over, Donald,” said Roger. “All the legitimate polls — not the ones they quote on my old Fox stomping grounds — show her comfortably ahead of you. We’ve got to give your core supporters — the ones who don’t read — more red meat to consume. Bill’s affairs. That’s the ticket. Make them forget about your tax-dodging — and your draft-dodging, too, for that matter.”

“Hey, Roger, low blow,” said Donald. “Nobody in this room served in uniform. But my sexual escapades years ago put to shame all the groping and leering you did at Fox. By the way, Who was hotter, Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly? You get anything from either one? I hear Fox paid Gretchen $20 million to go away and drop her lawsuit. How are things with you and your wife over in Garrison?”

“I’m living in New Jersey now.”

‘’Bummer, right Rudy?” said Donald. “Didn’t you marry your cousin once? And remember when you had your girlfriend march with you in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, instead of your wife, Donna? That would have been great reality TV. Especially letting Donna know you guys were splitting by announcing it at a press conference. Great ratings. Plus the fooling around with your young press aide. Being mayor was good, huh?”

“Yeah, but what about Newt?” asked Rudy. “Being speaker of the House had its perks, too, right Newt? After all, you were sleeping with your young press aide in Congress while you were married to your second wife, who you were cheating with on your first wife while she was fighting cancer. And didn’t you ask your second wife for an open marriage — sort of what I wanted from Donna?”

“Yeah,’’ said Newt. “She said ‘no.’ No imagination. She even told the press I didn’t have the moral character to be president when I was thinking of running. Imagine that. So I divorced her and married Callista. We’re still together.”

“Like me and Melania,” puffed Donald.

“Yeah, how’d you manage that?” asked Rudy. “I remember your first wife, Ivana. Gorgeous. And a terrific businesswoman, but, what, you had three kids and she just wanted to raise them after a while?”

“Yeah. And her foreign accent sounded too weird for a potential First Lady. See, guys, I was thinking about running for president way back then.”

“Really? So I can see why Marla Maples, was attractive to you,” said Rudy. “Young. Model. Actress. Well-spoken.”

“But she wouldn’t pose nude for Playboy,’’ said Donald. “Boring.”

“Yeah, but not always,” said Rudy, a former prosecutor. “I hear you took the Fifth Amendment 96 times in your deposition on the divorce from Ivana when they asked about whether you were sexually involved with other women. That’s impressive.’’

“Actually, it was 97 times, Rudy, but who’s counting?”

“Yeah, you’re the man, Donald. So, now you’re with Melania. How’s that going, old man?

“Yeah, how’d you pull that off?” asked Newt. “I mean, she’s a young babe, too, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“No, I don’t mind. It’s true. You’ve probably seen her nude photos. My daughter, Ivanka, is beautiful, too.”

“”Absolutely,” agreed Roger. “If I still had a TV network, I’d offer her a job.”

“Well, I may my have own network soon,” said Donald. “She can run it for me, but I wouldn’t let you within 10 miles of her. No commentator gigs for you, either, Rudy or Newt. … Let’s have another round. What were we talking about?’’

Roger, the brains of the outfit,  reminded the Donald and the rest: “We’re coming up with a strategy whereby you criticize Hillary because her husband, Bill, who happened to have been an effective president in many ways, if I have to admit, was also a serial philanderer, having affairs with a variety of women, young and not so young, in and out of the White House, yet she has stayed with him for 40 years, having somehow reconciled their difficulties and salvaged her ambition, career and their marriage to the point where he is a respected ex-president and she is now a viable and, some say, likely successful candidate for president. We just can’t allow that.”

“Cool,’’ said Donald. “We ought to invite Bill to these gatherings some time. You know, we used to be friends. I admire his style.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com