Posts Tagged ‘president’

2024: Neither Trump nor Biden, Please

Friday, November 25th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

  91E29BA5-E946-48C8-A9D2-5FFC851BB1FF  Never again, Donald Trump.

    Thank you for your decades of service to the country, but please not again, President Biden.

    Yes, in large part because of Trump’s constant need for attention, we’re talking about the 2024 presidential election already. 

     The ex-president could barely wait for the final 2022 midterm election results (which were disastrous for the out-of-office Republican Party over much of which he still commands significant influence) before announcing his candidacy for the 2024 presidential campaign.

    I guess he figures it’s either that or answer a subpoena. Or two.

    Unfortunately for Trump, except for diehard MagaLomaniacs, the bloom is off the rose for him with many Republicans, including some currently holding elected office. And, he may have to answer those subpoenas even if he is an official candidate for president.

     Attorney General Merrick Garland tried to clear the air on the subpoena front by appointing a special counsel to investigate Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection, his attempts at election tampering in the 2022 election and the possession of classified documents once out of office at his home in Florida.

   The counsel, a career prosecutor and lifetime registered independent voter, is a way to separate the Biden White House and Democrats from the ongoing investigation into Trump’s activities at a time when he is a declared candidate for president. It’s a welcome step.

     Whether the appointment of the counsel clears the air for the Republican Party is another matter. Having started decades ago down the road to gaining power at any cost, the party is now paying the price for looking the other way and holding its collective nose while registering any bigoted, racist, narrow-minded American who promised to vote for any Republican who fed their fears while doing little to deal with their actual problems.

     Sacrificing policy for scare tactics and voter suppression, the party gained power with Trump’s election in 2016. Never underestimate the American voter’s appetite for shock and awe over substance. But, having no actual platform save for giving wealthy people a tax break and being handcuffed to a self-serving leader who valued loyalty over competence, the party could not sustain its grip on Washington.

    Trump’s utter lack of understanding of the role of president and the failure of most Republicans to criticize him for his pathological lying and inflammatory rhetoric, among other things, finally registered on a significant majority of Americans. He lost to Biden in 2020, a result he refuses to accept, and most of his election-denying sycophants lost in state elections this month. And Democrats held on to the Senate. Some prominent Republicans are finally summoning up the courage to criticize him. Or, to be accurate, to say he may not be good for the future of the party and, thus, their political careers.

      Which leaves us with some potential Republican presidential candidates who want to prove they can out-Trump Trump (notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) and some who apparently hope voters won’t notice their complicity in quietly looking the other way while Trump was in the White House (notably former Vice President Mike Pence).

      It may be a knives-and-daggers battle among Republicans for the nomination, but there’s no way they can offer Trump as their candidate again without giving up their last chance of rescuing their party from the pit of shame into which he has dragged it.

      So what about the Democrats? They have a different problem. Biden will be 82 in 2024. (By the way, Trump will be a not so youthful 78.) Running a country is not an old man’s game except in kingdoms and dictatorships. While Biden has brought competence and dignity back to the office of president and demonstrated that the government can indeed address the needs of all the people, the daily stress of the job could well affect his performance of his duties. Indeed, campaigning for the presidency against a new, younger, bomb-throwing Republican candidate could prove to be challenging.

     More importantly, Democrats need a younger, newer, more forceful face for 2024. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82, made that clear in announcing she would not be a candidate for House Minority Leader in the next Congress.

    The problem is, there aren’t many Democrats around who are well-known by a majority of Americans. Vice President Kamala Harris is an obvious candidate for the nomination, should Biden choose not to run. But she has been remarkably quiet in her two years as next-in-line for the presidency. That’s a contrast with her often outspoken, forceful demeanor in the Senate. A little more of that Harris would serve her and her party well.

     California Gov. Gavin Newsom is said to have his eyes on the White House and he has some national recognition. There’s also Labor Secretary Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who would bring a great deal of energy to a campaign.

     Of course, the best-known and one of the most popular political figures who would make a formidable presidential candidate is Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House Select January 6 committee. But Cheney,  a Republican who has been blunt in her criticism of Trump with regards to his claims about the 2020 election being stolen and for his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, lost her seat in still strongly pro-Trump South Dakota. Right now, she’s a potential candidate without a party.

   Of course, a lot can happen in two years. But the 2024 presidential campaign simply cannot be a rerun of 2020. America needs to move on.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Republicans have Stockholm Syndrome

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

Patty Hearst, holding up a bank with the Symbionese Liberation Army

Patty Hearst, holding up a bank with the Symbionese Liberation Army

A news report to ponder as the House January 6 Committee prepares to resume its hearings on Donald Trump‘s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results: 61% of Republicans contacted in a recent poll do not believe the aforesaid former president had classified government documents stored at his home at Mar-a-Lago.

     In that same poll, conducted by the Marquette Law School, 65% of independent voters said they believe there were indeed classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago and 93% of Democrats agreed.

    Why the disparity? Stockholm Syndrome. I’m convinced the Republican Party was taken hostage by Donald Trump more than six years ago and, for a variety of reasons, like Patty Hearst, they have fallen in love with their kidnapper. We’ve all been paying the ransom, but few Republicans seem to want to actually be freed.

     Rather, the majority still support, implicitly by their silence or explicitly by their words and actions, Trump’s claim that Joe Biden was not legally elected president in 2020. In the same manner, the majority support Trump’s claims of having nothing to do with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. And, as this new poll indicates, they support Trump and all his outrageous claims about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, including the fact that the FBI planted them.

       Stockholm Syndrome.

       While it is not an officially recognized mental health disorder, studies of the syndrome have found it to be present in victims of kidnapping or abuse. Or, in this case, both.

       In October of 2016, I noted in a column that Trump, as the Republican candidate for president, said he might not accept the results of the 2016 election if he lost. The crowd cheered. Republicans remained silent. He made good on that threat in 2020.

        In the interim, he has kept his followers in line by promising to give them what they want — in large part, assurance that people who don’t look like them (white) or think like them (ultra-conservative Christian) will take away whatever they feel is important to them (an illusion of power). He alternates this con job with threats to punish them if they challenge him. The latter strategy has been especially effective with elected Republicans lacking the courage to speak the truth about Trump lest he campaign against them. Safer to work with him. Stockholm syndrome.

     All the while, Trump has played the victim and raised enormous amounts of money from his sympathetic supporters for bogus campaigns. Over the years, many, probably a majority, of Republicans, have formed a bond with Donald Trump that belies their true relationship. He has made a mockery of everything this political party one said it stood for, repeatedly encouraging the use of violence to achieve his goals, turning the party of law and order into a mob that attacks police at the United States Capitol and threatens to attack the FBI.

      In October, 2016, I wrote: “Republicans, Trump is not one of you. He is Trump. Period. You created him. … He has sullied us all. And he has destroyed you.”

     But those documents he declassified by thinking about them, even though they weren’t actually there and the FBI planted them anyway and he still wants them back, although they really don’t exist. 

     Apparently, they still can’t get enough of it.

     Stockholm syndrome.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Vote Smart America, Save Democracy

Sunday, August 21st, 2022
An American at a polling booth.

An American at a polling booth.

By Bob Gaydos

“Because Americans are stupid,” I said.

And with that harsh assessment of the intellectual capacity of my fellow countrymen and women, we generally shook our heads, finished our coffee and said, “See you next week.”

     For several years, I had a weekly coffee date with a friend whom I considered to be intelligent, well-informed, level-headed and tight-lipped. We talked about life, family and, mostly because of my interest, a little politics. At some point in our rambling conversation, he would inevitably ask, “Why do they do that?”

       And I would inevitably reply, “Because Americans are stupid.” Sometimes, I said “dumb.”

       Harsh. I know. Judgmental. It risks being called elitist. But I submit the last six-plus years of American politics as Exhibit A that many Americans are willfully ignorant, that they don’t know about things they know they should know about or don’t do things for their own benefit because they are too lazy, which also is dumb.

  Participatory democracies don’t do well on dumb and lazy. They wind up being ripe for exploitation by authoritarian thugs who want only to gain power and keep it for their own enrichment. They prey on the dumb and lazy, or the bigoted and misinformed, or the racist and ill-educated, or the fearful and easily manipulated.

     However you choose to say it, this is where America is today: Much of our public debate and government action is driven by fears and falsehoods directed at and repeated by an aggressive, sometimes militant, minority of mostly iIl-informed white Americans who have been sold a bill of goods by power-hungry, wealthy autocrats and their gutless foot soldiers in the Republican Party. Dumb.

     This minority has achieved outsized influence in large part thanks to the capitulation of a considerably larger group of Americans who have lacked the awareness or the will, or both, to participate in the democratic process through the simple step of voting.

       Lazy and dumb.

       It’s not considered polite or politically savvy to say such things publicly, but look where that’s got us — the FBI raiding the home of a former U.S. president to recover boxes of classified documents removed from the White House and elected Republican officials encouraging violence against the FBI agents who carried out their duty.

      This is not new. Just look at the data. Most of the states that spend the least on education, public health and childcare are governed by Republicans. It’s not a coincidence; it’s a plan. Rewrite the history taught in schools, tell people that big government is their enemy and that they need to vote for local Republican candidates to preserve the freedoms that elitist, socialist Democrats want to give away … to “those people.” Please donate.

      Here’s another dumb thing: a lot of so-called independent, think-for -themselves voters are fond of saying both parties are the same. Really? Have you been paying attention for the last ten years or so? 

      So as not to belabor what I realize is not an original point, I would encourage every nonaligned voter to ask every Republican candidate he or she encounters one question: is Joe Biden the legitimately elected president of the United States?

     That’s an easy yes or no answer. Voting for anyone who doesn’t say “yes” is dumb. Failing to vote for the other person is worse. The vote is the strongest weapon Americans have against the army of ignorance. We ignore it at our peril.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Liz Cheney for President? Yes, but How?

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney

  Liz Cheney for president.

      What?

      Too soon?

      You got a better candidate?

       Republicans don’t.

       Neither do Democrats.

       Really, it’s a no-brainer.

       All she needs is a party.

       … All she needs is a party.

        Americans claim to like leaders with the courage of their convictions and the guts to speak honestly, regardless of the personal political consequences. Occasionally, such a person actually appears. 

        Liz Cheney. In today’s Republican Party, populated by cowards, racists, liars and hypocrites, Cheney is an outcast. A pariah. As vice chair of the House Jan. 6 Committee, she has been the most eloquent, plain-spoken, messenger of the truth about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to attempt a coup. On live television.

        Cheney’s outspokenness has led to her ouster from the House Republican leadership, a censure by the Republican National Committee and a decision by her home state Wyoming Republican Party to no longer recognize her as a member. It has also earned her millions of fans among Democrats, independent voters and even a few quiet Republicans.

      So, Liz Cheney for president. Why not? She has the political bloodline, for starters. In fact, one doesn’t have to work hard to note the straightforward, assured and occasionally wry manner of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, in her political speech. She’s grown up in politics and has learned a lot along the way, most notably, about the need to preserve democracy and defend it against those, like Trump and his allies, who would pervert it to their own benefit, or simply destroy it.

       Cheney’s opening remarks for the committee’s hearings should be required reading for every American who claims to be a patriot:

       “We cannot leave the violence of January 6th – and its causes – uninvestigated. The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House – every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward. If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system. We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come, and another January 6th every four years.”

          She gets it. In fact, so do thousands of other Republican officials. But she is one of the few who has had the guts to state it publicly, repeatedly, and, in the process, put her political career in jeopardy.

          At least in Wyoming.

          It’s doubtful that she will be re-elected as the state’s lone member of Congress, given the exorcism of her by the state’s Republican Party. Most political analysts doubt that even a hard-hitting campaign ad by her father will help her win the party’s primary next week. Wyoming is solid red Republican, which means do or die with Trump. Dick Cheney’s campaign ad said, in part, “In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.” He called Trump “a coward.”

     You have to admire the Cheneys’ loyalty to each other and to their country. But it’s their political party that has betrayed them and others who once espoused a conservative but genuine loyalty to America’s stated ideals, including that no man or woman is above the law.

      To that point, Cheney has been consistently clear during the hearings. “As our investigation has shown, Donald Trump had access to more detailed and specific information showing that the election was not actually stolen than almost any other American,” Cheney said. “Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices …”

      As to those proclaiming he simply didn’t know any better, she said, “President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”

     Even Cheney’s congressional  re-election committee, while no doubt frustrated by the actions of Wyoming Republican leaders, is aware of the profoundly positive reaction to her courageous stand among millions of Americans who have not swallowed the Trump Kool-Aid.

    As one of her state campaign team members said, “The fringe right and the fringe left all hate her. But you’ve got this overwhelming, massive majority of people in the center who believe that what she’s doing is the right thing. Frankly, it’s the type of person that we need in the White House.”

   Yes it is. 

    So, how does she get there? Cheney hasn’t talked publicly about a possible presidential run, but she has already raised a sizable war chest, much of which is not being spent on her primary campaign. She reportedly doesn’t spend much time with her Republican colleagues in Washington anymore, some of whom have expressed admiration for her courage, but apparently lack any of their own.

     It’s hard to imagine a Republican Party cleansed of any Trump influence by 2024. Even if Trump is not the candidate, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and other Trump wannabes are already looking to take his place. That makes it harder even to imagine a Cheney presidential campaign as a Republican. Third party candidates historically have been successful only as vote stealers from one of the two major party candidates.

     So that leaves the Democrats. 

     Joe Biden was needed in 2020 to save America from Trump, and deserves thanks for that, but a much more dynamic, younger leader is needed in 2024. Vice President Kamala Harris has made no impact as a leader and there is no obvious top candidate waiting in the wings. Democrats desperately want to win in 2024. America needs them to win to help erase the Trump stain on the republic.

       It seems to me that a Cheney switch to the Democratic Party, despite significant policy differences, is more likely to happen than a sudden change in Republican philosophy. There are conservative Democrats and Cheney did recently support a Democratic gun control bill in the House.

      Does any of this seem politically possible or even realistic? Well, consider that we as a nation have never been in this situation before. History is being written. History also tells us that Americans admire and vote for those seen as decisive in difficult situations. Of the 46 presidents, 12 were generals. They were: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, William H. Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Col. Teddy Roosevelt famously led the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy was admired and decorated for his heroic actions as commander of PT109 in World War II. Men hardened and shaped as patriots by their leadership in battle.

      If Liz Cheney can succeed in her battle to make Trump accountable for attempting to overthrow a legitimate president, to preserve democracy, she will have written her name into history books. She will also have gained the thanks and votes of millions of Americans, political party registration notwithstanding. It will be one hell of a campaign message.

       Let’s hear from Cheney one more time:

       “I have been a conservative Republican since 1984 when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I have disagreed sharply on policy and politics with almost every Democratic member of this committee. But, in the end, we are one nation under God. The Framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics – and they knew that our daily arguments could become so fierce that we might lose track of our most important obligation – to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans. That is why our Framers compelled each of us to swear a solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics.”

      Liz Cheney for president.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Unwrapped over America’s Unraveling

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

   A president of the United States actively sought to overthrow the results of a legitimate presidential election through a variety of lies, fraudulent claims, illegal maneuvers and political pressure, even though some of his closest advisers, including his attorney general, told him there was no basis for challenging the election. That same president, knowing he had no legitimate basis for his efforts to reverse his defeat, then encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the formal certification of the election of the new president and pressured his vice president to invalidate the vote when presiding over the U.S. Senate and went so far as to publicly ridicule that vice president for refusing to do so, further inflaming the angry mob marching on the Capitol. That president then refused for hours to order any kind of police or military support to go the Capitol to help an overwhelmed Capitol police force when the mob stormed into the building, attacking police, sending members of Congress running into hiding, ransacking offices and erecting a gallows to hang the vice president.

    We know all this because (a) we witnessed it live on television when it happened and (b) members of that president’s political party and his own family have now testified so under oath before a congressional hearing.

    A president of the United States of America orchestrated a failed coup attempt. I still can’t wrap my head around that.

      Worse yet, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that millions of Americans, purportedly raised and educated in the land of liberty and justice for all, still defend that president and many at least pretend to still believe that he was denied a legitimate victory and had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 Insurrection.

     Finally, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that many Americans still don’t seem to understand or care about what Donald Trump and his power-hungry Republican sycophants, apologists and army of racist goons tried to do — install a president by force, against the will of the people. 

    Actually, one more thing I can’t wrap my head around: The wife of a Supreme Court Justice was part of the plot to overturn the election and her husband refused to recuse himself from any cases arising from the effort. A lot of Americans don’t seem to grasp the unacceptability of that situation either.

    I don’t know if the current attorney general has the guts and sense of duty to bring charges of treason where they apply. I don’t know if the owners and purveyors of phony information on the Fox TV network will be held accountable for fomenting racial and political tension in America. I don’t know if anyone will again be allowed to teach true American history in Republican-governed states.

   Personally, I hope all three happen, but I can’t wrap my head around the fact that too many Americans still don’t grasp that democracy itself is at stake.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Biden Wields a Sharp Verbal Dagger

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

President Biden, aiming his verbal dagger at Trump and Republicans.

President Biden, aiming his verbal dagger at Trump and Republicans.

“Wow! I wish I wrote that.”

I doubt I ever said anything close to that after a Joe Biden speech in the past, but then, no Joe Biden speech has ever been anything like that of a few days ago commemorating the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S.. Capitol.

The phrase that caught my attention and drew my envy came near the end of his speech. It was stark and clear and powerful. It summed up, in effect, a new Joe Biden in the White House:

“I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

Again, wow. The fact that Biden was speaking of a former American president, not a potential foreign adversary, made it all the more powerful. No president has ever spoken this way about a former president.

The sentence summed up a paragraph that left no doubt as to where this president stands today: “I did not seek this fight, brought to this Capitol one year from today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation. I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

“Who wrote that?” I wondered. Biden said it and clearly meant it. But all presidents have speech writers who have the unique, not easy, task of putting words into a president’s mouth that are both comfortable to be spoken and sound natural to the ear.

Obviously, presidents have veto power over what is in their speeches. And politicians, including Biden and his predecessor as president, have been known to vary from the speech text, But the “dagger at the throat of democracy” phrase was the perfect partnership of a speech writer and a president delivering an unmistakable message to the world. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

If Biden didn’t write it, he said it (with conviction), so he forever gets credit for it, much like JFK, a gifted public speaker, is credited for some memorable lines written by Ted Sorensen. Sorensen knew well the mind and mood of his boss, who was a pretty good writer himself.

And much like Ronald Reagan, another gifted speaker, is remembered for some lines written by his speech writers.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.“ Ronald Reagan via Peter Robinson, head speech writer at the time and clearly tuned in to his boss’ tone and mood.

Biden’s speech was also notable for its direct, no-nonsense blaming-without-naming of Donald Trump for the attack on the Capitol and the Republican Party for continuing to breathe life into the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Presidents don’t usually attack former presidents or another political party, but Biden rightly identified this as a unique time in history.

The moment called for leadership and Biden and his speech writer delivered it. Daggers? They brought their own to the fight for democracy.
(Note: Vinay Reddy is listed as head of the White House Office of Speechwriting.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Measure of the Man

Monday, November 22nd, 2021
 
John F. Kennedy

(Reprinted from The Retiring Mind… November 22, 2013)

By Bob Gaydos

     The first editorial I wrote for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., appeared on the 20th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I wrote the headline, too: “The measure of the man.” 
Trying to “measure” the meaning of the life of a man who was literally loved and idolized by millions of people is no easy task, especially for a rookie editorial writer’s debut effort. But that’s what newspapers do and, in truth, I took it as a good omen that remembering JFK was my first assignment. He was a hero to me as to many young men my age when he was elected president. It was a combination of things: his youth, his wit, his easy-going style, his intelligence, his words, his sense of justice. Plus, we shared the same birthdate: May 29.
     As fate would have it, JFK would come to be remembered, not on his birthday, but on the anniversary of his death. And not so much for what Americans received for having him as president for 1,000 days, but rather for what we lost by not having him much longer.
     That first editorial said, in essence, that it would take more than 20 years to measure the meaning of the man. It acknowledged the things we had learned about JFK in the years since the shooting in Dallas — the flaws that made him human — as well as what I felt were his positive contributions. Thirty years later, no longer a rookie editorial writer — indeed, now retired after 23 years of writing editorials — with Nov. 22 approaching, I realized I had to write about JFK 50 years after his death (because that’s what old newspaper guys do). Before I started, I asked one of my reliable sounding boards, my son, Zack, what he knew about JFK. Zack is 19 and better informed than a lot of young people his age, so I figured his answer would provide me with a fair sense of what our education system had been telling kids about Kennedy.

   “He was the first Catholic president,” Zack said. Correct. “He had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.” Uh, correct. ‘There’s still some theories that there was more than one shooter.” Right. “Do you think the Kevin Costner movie (“JFK,” directed by Oliver Stone) was true?” Well, the people portrayed were real. “The Bay of Pigs didn’t go too well.” No, it didn’t. I took the opportunity to point out that Cuba was the site, not only of Kennedy’s biggest failure in global affairs, but also his biggest success.

     I was a little older than Zack is now when the world stood at the brink of a nuclear war over the presence of Soviet missile-launching sites in Cuba, aimed at the United States. I was a senior in college and knew full well, as did all my classmates, than no 2-S deferment was going to exempt me from what might happen if the Soviets did not — as Kennedy demanded — remove their missiles. Kennedy ordered the U.S. Navy to blockade Cuba to prevent the shipment of Soviet missiles and equipment. Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet president, who had initially denied the existence of the missile sites, sent a naval fleet to Cuba, loaded with supplies and armed for battle. As the world watched and waited and prayed, Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged messages. Kennedy prevailed. The Soviet fleet stopped short of Cuba and turned around. I lived to write this remembrance. Kennedy was dead not long after.

     So here I am 50 years later, still looking to take the measure of the man and still wondering how that is possible. Kennedy had the gift of engagement. He appeared to be comfortable with whomever he was speaking. He had tremendous appeal to young people, being so different from the older, stodgier presidents who preceded him. He created the Peace Corps — a legacy that continues to this day with not enough fanfare. He made many Americans — and this is not a small thing — truly proud to be Americans. Not in an arrogant, flag-waving, we-know-better-than-you way. Just proud. And he cheated on his wife and kept his serious health problems a secret from us and sometimes needed to be prodded by his brother, Bobby (another tragic loss) to take the proper (courageous) stand on issues.

     So the question I still ask myself is, what might JFK have done, what might he have meant to America and the world, if he had lived longer? What did we lose at Dealey Plaza? Certainly, whatever innocence we still possessed. The wind was sucked from our sails as a nation and our domestic politics have slowly and steadily deteriorated into such partisanship that is virtually impossible for any president to speak to the minds and hearts of a majority of Americans the way Kennedy did. Maybe it would have happened even if Kennedy had lived a longer life and gone on to be an ambassador to the world of what America stands for. Or maybe not.

     It dawns on me in writing this that it is an ultimately frustrating task to try to take the measure of another man or woman. I know what JFK meant to me personally. I know a lot of others feel similarly and others do not. I know what history has recorded (he was also the youngest man to be elected president) and what the tabloids have told us. I have a sense of what I would like to think Kennedy would ultimately have meant had he not died so young. But it’s only speculation.

     The only man I can truly take the measure of is myself. It is 50 years since that morning when I was waiting at home to go to Fort Dix, N.J., to begin six months of active duty training. How do I measure up today? That’s a question I work on every day. It wasn’t always thus, but the years have a way of insisting on perspective. Maybe the answer will appear in some other writing. I have neither the space nor the inclination to do so here. I will say that, on balance, I’ll probably give myself a passing grade, but there’s still some stuff I’m learning. For now, I’m through trying to take the measure of JFK, as man or president. Let the historians have at it. I’m going to try to take his advice and ask not what life can do for me, but what I can contribute to life. And I’m also going to remember to honor him not on the date he died, but on the date we both were born. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

     

The Cuomos: A Disappointing Dynasty

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

    Some thoughts on the demise of the Cuomo dynasty:

  • Yes, I believe the 11 women who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment and related behavior.
  • Yes, I think he needed to resign as governor of New York.
  • Yes, I think all the prominent Democratic elected officials, starting with President Biden and including every elected Democratic member of Congress from New York was right to urge him to resign
  • No, I don’t think any Republican should have one word to say about this so long as no Republican has had one word of criticism regarding the 23 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assaults, never mind the behaviors of Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan.
  • Yes, I find it disappointing, even sad, that what could have been a wonderful family legacy has to end in such a tawdry manner.

                                                                 ***

     Let’s start with Cuomo the elder, Mario, the late governor who might have been president. It’s good that he’s not around to witness what his son has wrought.

      Mario, of course, was the source of one of Democrats’ greatest disappointments when he decided, in dramatic fashion, not to run for president in 1992. In his third term as governor at the time, he was easily the most popular choice among Democrats to challenge the Republican incumbent, George H.W. Bush.

         Cuomo had put himself in that position with his progressive policies as governor and a stirring keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention in which he turned Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill“ into a “tale of two cities,“ one thriving, one not, with the kind of speech that often kicks off presidential campaigns for politicians without a broad national reputation. It did so for Barack Obama. It was also there for Cuomo, a skilled orator.         

          But progressive Democrats’ hopes and Mario Cuomo‘s presidential campaign never took off. Literally. On Dec. 20, 1991, the filing deadline for the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, Cuomo was in the midst of budget negotiations with the Republican-led State Senate and the Democrat-led State Assembly. Candidates have to file the nominating petitions in person in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary in the country, a place for candidates to grab an early lead. Cuomo had a plane idling on the runway in Albany waiting to fly him to New Hampshire. He previously had said he would file if he had finalized a budget with the legislators. With no agreement in Albany, Cuomo opted not to fly to New Hampshire and then come back to work on the budget. He said that would break his pledge to New Yorkers. A lot of New Yorkers and Democrats elsewhere would have forgiven this transgression. But Cuomo stayed home, Bill Clinton eventually captured the Democratic nomination and won the presidential election. Cuomo was defeated in his bid for a fourth term by Republican George Pataki, the mayor of Peekskill, a small upstate city. Cuomo left politics, eventually joining a law firm in New York City.

   Andrew Cuomo got his start in politics managing his father’s gubernatorial campaign. His work founding a housing non-profit in New York City and as chair of the New York City Homeless Commission led to positions of Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development and then Secretary of HUD in the Clinton administration. Cuomo returned to New York and was eventually elected attorney general and then governor.

      Like his father, he was elected to three terms.    Unlike his father, however, Andrew always had the aura of the hard-nosed politician about him. Some called him a bully. Some of his closest aides did not understand the governmental policy of transparency. Both men were responsible for a number of progressive changes in the state. Mario eliminated the death penalty. Andrew instituted the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Both men had outsized personalities and egos, not uncommon in politics. But whereas his father could  hold his ego in check most of the time, Andrew tended to wear his for all to see.

        Ego led to his downfall. While receiving nationwide praise for his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic in New York, his staff also hid devastating numbers of deaths that resulted from his decision to transfer seriously ill patients from hospitals to nursing homes. That lack of transparency — lying — made it impossible for anyone to believe his claims of innocence when women started accusing him of sexual harassment. That, and the fact the women had nothing to gain by lying.

         The sense of service Andrew Cuomo inherited from his father became overshadowed by a sense of survival and entitlement. He was the boss.

         No more. New Yorkers will soon have their first woman governor, Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor. Like his father, Cuomo chose a little known politician from western New York state to be his running mate. Mario hat Stan Lundine; Andrew had Hochul.

          If she’s interested in running for governor on her own next year, she’ll have a tough challenge letting New Yorkers know who she is. Plus, she’s from Buffalo, the Midwest. It would seem to make the field wide-open. However, if New Yorkers are interested in having a woman governor and if Democrats are looking for someone with name recognition, I have two words: Hillary Clinton. She’s experienced and local, but like Mario Cuomo once upon a time, may not be available. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

         Ultimately, Mario Cuomo’s hemming and hawing about running for president led to him being called Hamlet on the Hudson. A brilliant disappointment. Still, that’s much better than Groper in the Governor’s Office. A sad end to a dynasty, to be sure.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

           

 

A Birthday Tribute to the Life of JFK

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

JFK ... at a press conference

JFK … at a press conference

 Eight years ago, I wrote a column about what I see as the synchronistic connection between myself and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, beginning with the fact we share the same birth date, May 29. The key point in the column, at least to me, was my pledge “to remember to honor him not on the date he died, but on the date we both were born.”

      It’s a pledge that’s even more important today, I think, when there is such a dearth of public figures who inspire the kind of hope and pride in America that JFK did for me and millions of others. Hope and pride are two elements in short supply in today’s political debate. They’ve been replaced by deceit and anger, which only begets more deceit and anger. A path to ruin. So today, on what would be JFK’s 104th birthday, I choose hope.

       My connection with Kennedy began to take shape in my college years. His handling of the Cuban missile crisis allowed me to graduate on time. But as I was home waiting to report to Fort Dix, N.J., for basic training, JFK was assassinated, on Nov. 22, 1963, postponing my duty for a month. And 20 years later, as fate would have it, the first editorial I was asked to write as the new editorial page editor for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., was to mark the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Headline: “The Measure of the Man.”

     Four years ago, I wrote: “Much of it still applies. The legend of JFK — Camelot (Jackie, John-John and Caroline), PT-109, Navy and Marine Corps Medals, the Purple Heart, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “Ask not …”, the challenge to put a man on the moon, the Peace Corps, the New Frontier, a limited nuclear test ban treaty — still far outweighs his failings, including extramarital affairs, hiding illnesses from us, escalation of the American troop presence in Vietnam and a reluctance to take a firm stance in the growing battle over segregation in America.

    “He is regularly rated as one of this country’s greatest presidents, a testament I believe to his ability to inspire hope, faith and courage in Americans, especially young Americans like me, at a time of grave danger. Much of that owes to his youth (he was 43 when elected president, the youngest ever) and his ability to eloquently deliver the words written for him by Ted Sorensen, a synchronistic match if there ever was one. But Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, was no slouch at writing either, having won a Pulitzer Prize for biography with “Profiles in Courage.”

    “,,, Kennedy’s (message) was unfailingly one of hope. We can do this. We are up to the challenge. We care. His average approval rating as president was 70 percent. He also ranked third, behind Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century, according to Wikipedia.”

   The question I still ask myself is, what might JFK have done, what might he have meant to America and the world, if he had lived longer?

    In that column four years ago, to my ever-lasting embarrassment on the Internet, I also said that I shared a birthday with another great communicator, Bob Dylan. I was off by three days. Belated happy birthday to the Nobel poet laureate anyway.

     On a positive note, I subsequently discovered that May 29 is also the birthday of Harry G. Frankfurt. The professor emeritus at Princeton University authored a 67-page essay entitled “On Bullshit.“ It was a New York Times best seller in 2005. And it also explained to me how a person like Donald Trump could say the things he said, flying in the face of other things he had recently said, none of which had any basis in reality, and keep doing it. It’s not lying, Frankfurt explains, it’s bullshit. The liar has to remember what he said. The bullshitter does not. He doesn’t care.

     Professor Frankfurt is apparently alive and well and celebrating his 92nd birthday today. Happy birthday, to you, too, professor. A day for hope and truth

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

    

America Finally Has a President Again

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

    I tuned in a week ago for the first time in four years to listen to a president’s speech. I got more than I bargained for. The president’s speech was, in fact, a presidential speech. Thank you, President Biden.

     Why presidential? Because it was honest. Because it addressed seemingly every need and problem facing the nation, detailing what he wanted to do, challenging Congress to get busy with him doing it, and proposing to pay for the sweeping programs in a way with which the great majority of Americans could not possibly disagree. Help America win the 21st-century, Biden said. Restore it to its position of global leadership. Repair its tattered reputation.

      Only the congressional Republicans in attendance, sitting on their hands, dour-faced, had a problem with the speech. That’s because they knew Biden was speaking truth and hope to Americans and all Republicans had to offer — still — was lies.

      They couldn’t even claim that Biden was weak or stumbling or unsure of himself In delivering his speech, because he wasn’t. Because he was clear and direct as he laid out a detailed program of what needs to be done to bring America back from four years of incompetence and treachery in the White House. That’s presidential. It was long overdue and much-needed.

      Over and over, Biden referred to the economy, to making and buying American goods (“There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.”) To helping families with young children. To paying fair (livable) wages and providing broader educational opportunities. To repairing roads, replacing ancient water systems. To building a network of charging stations for electric vehicles. To negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. To getting everyone vaccinated so the country can open up and get back to work. And to jobs, jobs, jobs. As I listened, I thought of the old Democratic campaign motto, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

      And, he said we could pay for it by taxing only the wealthiest of Americans. Make corporations pay their fair share, he said. It was a message aimed right at middle America and, as polls have demonstrated in the following days, middle America heard and liked it.

       Republicans responded by having their only black senator declare that America is not a racist nation. Fine, but Biden never said it was. He said there was institutional racism, which there is. He said he would attack the threat of white supremacist terrorists within our borders, which the FBI has described as our greatest internal threat. He called for sensible gun reform in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings. And again, polls show that the large majority of Americans support this. And he said he was bringing our troops home from Afghanistan where they have been fighting since accomplishing their mission of killing Osama bin Laden 10 years ago. Again, most Americans are not in favor of endless wars with no clear mission.

        There was a lot more in Biden speech, but all of it was aimed at one goal: restoring America’s dignity. Let us work together, care for each other and show the world that our actions match our words, the president, a Democrat, said. The other party pouted. He stole the election, they lied, insulting state election officials of their own party in the process. He’s not uniting us, as he promised, they said, after years of ignoring all Democratic proposals. They voted against his programs and then took credit for the ones that benefitted them politically. They passed state laws making it harder for people to vote. And they lied constantly.

        America has a president who knows how government works, who knows about international diplomacy, who cares about more than his own selfish interests and who actually does his job. Joe Biden wants to heal America and he asked the “loyal” opposition to help. They sat on their hands. They have nothing, but we, at last, have a president again.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.