Posts Tagged ‘president’

A 70-year-Old Rookie in the White House

Monday, June 12th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump says it ... Ryan excuses it: "He's new."

Trump says it … Ryan excuses it: “He’s new.”

“Give the kid a break; he’s new on the job.”

Of all the excuses Republicans have come up with for the words and actions of Donald Trump, leave it to feckless Paul Ryan to come up with the dumbest. And Ryan is two heartbeats from the presidency.

Ryan’s excuse (I paraphrased for emphasis) came, of course in response to questions about his reaction to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC’s) pressuring former FBI DIrector James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn, whom Trump had just fired as his national security adviser. “He’s a good guy,” Comey said the NIC told him in a private meeting. Testifying to a Senate committee, Comey said he agreed with Trump. But he also knew Flynn had neglected to mention several meetings with Russian officials while he was part of the Trump transition team. So, no, Comey, said, he could not “let it go.”

More to the point, Comey told the senators he was uncomfortable that the NIC had even asked the then-FBI director — traditionally an independent official — to drop an investigation and, furthermore, asked for a pledge of “loyalty” from him. All in private conversations. Inappropriate in spades. Possibly illegal.

Rookie mistake, as far as Ryan is concerned. To quote him precisely: “He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Is that an appropriate excuse for the president of the United States? Ryan was asked. Perhaps not, he acknowledged, adding, “It’s just my observation.”

FIne. Here’s my observation, Mr. Speaker of the House. I like to know that the person widely regarded as leader of the free world has at least some working familiarity with the rules of the road — the protocols of the office, diplomacy, a sense of history, the basic do’s and don’ts of the job. Also, respect for the law of the land. Stuff like that.

“Let’s Make a Deal’’ was a TV show, not a meeting of NATO countries. “The Godfather” was a novel, then a movie in which Marlon Brando asked a bunch of people for “loyalty,” but they weren’t in an Oval Office darkened by closed blue curtains, which, on other occasions, might afford a wary FBI director a place to try to hide from the NIC.

There are certain times when “he’s new on the job” doesn’t cut it. I recently underwent surgery for fractures of my left knee and right wrist. Same accident. The surgeons said they were going to perform the operations simultaneously, since they were on opposite sides of the body and they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. Only one anesthesia that way, they said.

Sounds good, I said. You guys ever do this before? I asked. Sure, the knee guy reassured me. Is he any good? I asked the nurses. He operates on the Mets’ pitchers, they said. OK, I said. No rookie. Knee and wrist are mending well.

A little more personal history from the other side of the issue. As a new court reporter early in my career I made what could have been a serious rookie mistake. After talking to the local district attorney about his most recent grand jury, I wrote an article about the indictments, including someone who was named in a sealed indictment. Sealed indictments are not made public so the people don’t know they have been charged with a crime. (For example, some reports have suggested the NIC himself has been named in a sealed indictment.)

“I think you may have broken the law,” the DA told me after he read the article in the paper. He was smiling, but I was mortified. My inexperience might have tipped someone off, blown the DA’s case … put me before a grand jury?

I was lucky. The DA had his guy and was understanding. He knew I was “new on the job” and had no malicious intent. Still, I was embarrassed and apologized profusely and paid close attention to the rules of the road from thereon. I did not deny or excuse what I had done. I learned a lesson.

This was in a small town in upstate New York, not in the White House. I was maybe 25 years old, fresh out of college, six months of infantry training and a year as a police reporter. Trump is 70 years old and, to hear him tell it, a successful man of the world. The artist of the deal. A brand name. President of the @#$%# United States!

His response to the Comey meetings? He went to Twitter to accuse Comey simultaneously of being a liar and leaking classified information, meaning the conversations. Apparently he’s not sure which desperate excuse would work. Mea culpa? Trump doesn’t speak Latin. Learn from a mistake? Trump was relentless in stalking Comey for ‘loyalty.”

That whole learning the ropes argument is, of course, just a way for Republicans to avoid admitting the man in the Oval Office is not only frighteningly unqualified for the job, but doesn’t seem to regard learning about it as especially important. And consequences? Not his concern.

The rookie president went to Europe to meet with our NATO allies. He figured he could shame them into spending more for defense. After much debate, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other advisers managed to get a sentence included in Trump’s speech reaffirming the United States’ commitment to mutual defense — the core function of NATO. Trump left it out. On purpose. Out of spite.

Several days later, at a press conference with the president of Romania, which can’t afford to spend any more money on its military, the NIC said the U.S., of course, remains committed to NATO. But he had another surprise for Tillerson.

Just 90 minutes earlier, Tillerson had said the United States was willing to help negotiate in the escalating conflict in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several other Arab nations closing borders and setting up blockades on Qatar, accusing their neighbor of supporting terrorist groups. Tensions in the region had become heightened after Trump, who is fond of dealing with the Saudis, also blamed Qatar for supporting terrorists, thereby taking sides, encouraging the Saudis to get more aggressive and, by the way, ignoring the presence of 11,000 American troops in Qatar, which is a major launch site for U.S. military activity in the region.

Tillerson’s comments about negotiating thus were seen as an effort to cool things off. Cover up for the rookie. Yet less than two hours later, Trump was again pointing the finger at Qatar.

I happen to think the Middle East is no place for a president to be learning the ropes. Yes, all new presidents have to learn things, especially in the area of diplomacy where blurting out whatever is on your mind is generally not a good idea. But, again, presidents’ words and actions have wide-reaching consequences. At the very least, someone who was serious about learning the job would seek — and take — advice from those with more experience. It’s a sign of maturity. He would admit misstatements. It’s a sign of humility.

If you’re a reporter, you don’t publish the names of people named in sealed indictments. If you’re a president, you don’t repeatedly ask the FBI director to “let go” of an investigation and ask for a pledge of loyalty and you don’t keep throwing your secretary of state under the bus. At some point, if you’re serious about the job, and especially if you’re a rookie, you study and read and discuss and learn. Maybe you don’t play golf every weekend — unless you’re really more interested in just playing at being the president, rather than doing the work.

Kind of like Paul Ryan playing at being speaker of the House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

How I Came to be Called an ‘Enemy of the American People’

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

The Fake President

The Fake President

In late 1963, I was working a go-nowhere job for an airport shipping firm when I got an important phone call from George Trow, the night managing editor of the New York Post, telling me that the copyboy’s position I’d applied for was available.

Was I still interested, he inquired.

“When should I report,” I asked. Easy answer, my having been raised in a newspaper-reading family and believing that newspaper reporters and editors were important people.

Thus, a career began in those hazy distant days.

And oh yes, Mr. Trow said as he cleared his throat, the shift began at 1 a.m., and the pay was $48 a week. I was getting $65 at the airport. I took the job at the Post. One a.m.? $48? My father was aghast.

This was two months after the JFK assassination. The work at the Post was menial: I re-filled paste pots, I took coffee and sandwich orders from the night staff, I kept the reporters well-supplied with copy paper for their stories and the copy editors well-supplied with sharp pencils to edit stories and write headlines. I ran galley proofs and page proofs back and forth between the composing room and the copy desk.

Menial yes, but, it turned out, the start of a 42-year adventure. I worked for several dailies. At each of them we delivered to readers the information they needed, the scores of the sports events they had bet on, the features they enjoyed, some columnists they admired and others they loathed.

In my newspaper decades I covered some presidential campaigns. I wrote a great deal about transportation. Late in career, I got a general column. I interviewed the great Cesar Chavez. I went to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Once, I found myself sitting across from Ray Charles who was in town to publicize a singing jingle promoting a new game in the New Jersey Lottery. Charles looked miserable and I had no idea what to ask this genius now reduced to singing commercials late in his career. I filed four dull paragraphs; it was enough.

There were thousands of other stories about politics, about people with interesting careers, about crime. I even found the abandoned creamery in the Catskills where Patricia Hearst spent a year in hiding.

Nowadays the voice in the Oval Office refers to what he has determined to be “Fake News,” which, if I understand it, means any news our Fake President doesn’t care for. An example: He really doesn’t like to be reminded that he drew nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in last year’s election.

In addition to slandering the press as a purveyor of “fake news,” Trump maligns the entire news industry by labeling the press “enemies of the American people,” which is a lie.

By attacking American news gathering this way Trump forgets where he gets the right to speak his own fake mind in any newspaper he might someday choose to publish. He seems to forget a lot, such as the fact that the press is one of only two occupations specifically protected in the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, it says in the First Amendment. (The clergy has such protection as well.)

The need for a vibrant First Amendment has become more and more apparent in the months since Trump took office. Perhaps more than ever it has become clear that our democracy’s survival depends on a free and unfettered press.

A lot of people have fought to defend the United States Constitution. The Fake President was not one of them.

Would Trump dismiss Jefferson as a fake revolutionary? After all, it was Jefferson who uttered the familiar line that if forced to choose between government without newspapers or newspapers without a government he would prefer the latter.

Trump, Turmeric and Taoism

Friday, May 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Fit ... or fatigued?

Fit … or fatigued?

So, turmeric.

C’mon, admit it. You’ve jumped on the bandwagon for the latest health “super food.” Well, super spice.

If you haven’t yet discovered it, turmeric is a major ingredient in curry. It also makes mustard yellow. It also is believed to have benefits in fighting several chronic debilitating diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even cancer. It’s also supposed to be a mood enhancer. Side effects appear to be minimal. It can be ingested in tea, via tablet supplements, cream and, of course, in Indian food.

I added it to my daily regimen of B’s, D, aspirin and cod fish oil a couple of weeks ago. That regimen, along with a health-conscious diet and exercise, I can honestly say has helped keep me in relatively good health, especially for a guy who has recently been banged up in an auto accident. (Not my fault and I’m doing fine.) I do believe the diet and supplements are a main reason for my (usually) not looking, feeling or acting my age, which is several years older than the man who likes to remind us that he’s the president and we are not.

Volumes have already been written about the emotional health of Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief (NIC), and many more are sure to come. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. Everything about him is not normal and I refuse to normalize it. But I do wonder about his physical health.

How does someone with great wealth and access, literally, to any food, treatment, fitness coach or exercise regimen that would keep him fit and healthy for many years to come and allow him to continue to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains well into his nineties — a man also obviously obsessed with his appearance — how does he allow himself to become a belly-hanging, fried-chicken-eating, two-scoops-of-ice-cream guy who had to excuse himself from an event on his diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia because of “exhaustion”?

Makes me wonder if maybe all those short speeches and quick, in-and-out visits to museums and sites of special interest aren’t only because of a short attention span. Maybe he gets tired quickly. Not that we’d ever know. In fact, we know remarkably little about the health of the man who, at 70, was the oldest ever first-time elected president.

The most recent “update,” as it were, from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who says he has been Trump’s personal doctor for 36 years, came in an interview with the New York Times in February. He told The Times that Trump undergoes regular physical checkups, gets all the important tests and takes a statin to keep his cholesterol and lipid levels at a healthy rate.

Bornstein, who could fairly be called a character, said Trump is healthy, while alternating between telling The Times that Trump’s health is “none of your business” (which is not true, since he is the president) and volunteering that he takes a prostate drug that promotes hair growth. Well, at least we know what’s important healthwise to the NIC.

Bornstein caused a stir during the presidential campaign when asked if he was concerned about Trump’s health, given his age and the fact he was running for the presidency. The doctor replied, “If something happens to him, then it happens to him.’’

Nice to know the doctor is in touch with his Taoist side. But really, who’s looking after Trump’s health on a daily basis? If he’s like most men in their 70’s (I’m going to generalize here) he’s inclined to skip doing some healthy stuff and do some not-so-healthy stuff instead. I don’t think it’s sexist to suggest that a lot of older men sometimes depend on someone else, usually a woman, to remind them about taking vitamins, or medicine or exercising or going easy on the dessert or getting enough sleep, etc. I’m speaking from my own experience here, not lecturing.

What we do know about Trump is that, while he’s at the White House, his wife, Melania, spends the week in New York City with their young son. Also, she doesn’t like to hold hands with him when they’re together. We know he watches a lot of TV and gets up early in the morning to tweet angrily about whatever bothers him — and apparently it’s a lot. Does he go to bed early? Don’t know. We know he likes chocolate cake and Big Macs and french fries and well-done steak with ketchup on the side. Exercise? Well, there is that golf every weekend.

Let me say here that, like a lot of other Americans, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about the good health of the NIC. Rather, I’m curious about who is and wondering why the man himself doesn’t seem to care much. Maybe he thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. Or maybe no one dares to mention that he could use to lose a few pounds and maybe even take some turmeric to improve his mood. Skip all that TV and read a book before bed.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” One out of three is good only in baseball, Mr. NIC.  We know, because you told us, that you were surprised to discover how hard the job of being president is. It can be emotionally and physically demanding. Everyone wants something from you and no matter what you do, someone is unhappy. It could be exhausting even for someone who’s not going to be 71 in two weeks, as you are.

Look, it’s up to you, but I think I speak for a lot of Americans in saying if the demands of the job are taking a toll on you physically, no one would think less of you if you said you were stepping down for the good of the country to spend more time with your young son and young wife. Actually, it’s a very patriotic thing to do. Ask John Boehner.

Me, I’m going to stick with the turmeric and hope it improves my mood.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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