Posts Tagged ‘president’

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.

         

For GOP, Lying is Easier Than Governing

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

      “That’s the problem with the media today is they say all Republicans are liars, and everything we say is a lie. There are two sides to every story …”

     I began writing a column about this statement made by Rand Paul, the Republican-sort-of-Libertarian senator from Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, focusing on its fundamental absurdity. That it was, in fact, a lie in itself. The professionally run media never say that stuff.

       As days passed and events unfolded, I kept rewriting the column until it hit me like a bolt. There it was, every day, just waiting for me to hear it or read it. In his feigned outrage at ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos, Paul had inadvertently disclosed the underlying truth about today’s Republican Party: All Republicans are liars and everything they say is a lie.

     And, for Paul’s and other Republicans’ edification, a lie does not qualify as the other side to a story.

     Before I go any further, let me say that I am excluding from this declaration the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who were honest enough to say that Joe Biden was lawfully elected president and the handful who voted to convict Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection. But Trump is right when he says they are Republicans in name only (RINOs), because today’s card-carrying Republican is duty-bound to lie, or perish.

      After four years of daily lying, Trump came up with the Big Lie — the election was stolen from him. Every court and state rejected his lawyers’ pathetic efforts to prove otherwise. Every single one. But, and here’s where Paul and the rest of the gang come in, Republicans throughout Congress and coast-to-coast repeated the lie (and many still do), even though I am certain a good percentage do not believe it, because they feared the wrath of Trump and his more avid followers.

      Also, they discovered it was easier than actually governing and, since Republicans do not like government to begin with, they had no alternative plan. In Trump’s GOP, lying is the party platform. They as much as said so in nominating Trump last year to seek another term. There was nothing else offered. Not even a Wall. We stand by the liar. Period.

      Now, this can get complicated when there are other sources of information than Republicans and a lot of sensible people around who can spot BS when they hear it.

        Following Paul’s TV appearance, 43 Republican senators voted to acquit Trump at his Senate impeachment trial despite having been witnesses, some even accomplices, in inciting the riot at The Capitol. Mitch McConnell tried to refine the art of two sides to every story by arguing, first, that Trump could not be convicted because he was still president (as majority leader, McConnell delayed the trial a week), and then arguing (when demoted to minority leader) that Trump could not be convicted because he was no longer president. McConnell topped this off by saying, after voting to acquit, that Trump was indeed responsible for inciting the insurrection and someone should hold him accountable. That’s three sides, I think.

      So, McConnell lied twice, then sort of told the truth while, in true Republican fashion, passing the buck, basically to try to preserve his leadership role in the GOP without doing any of the dirty work, like maybe voting to convict Trump.

      It’s easier to lie than actually govern — Republicans might want to make that their motto. Now McConnell’s at war with Trump over control of the party. The suspicion is McConnell doesn’t plan to run for re-election in six years so he’s not worried about occasionally flirting with the truth and as a result having to buck a Trump candidate. 

        Which brings me to Texas, where the GOP platform of simply lying has been on display for the world to see. It has not been pretty. Texas, which has been run by Republicans for decades, recently nearly froze to death as an entire state due to the party’s aversion to actually governing. When temperatures plummeted and the snow fell, the lights went out all over the state. No power. No water. No heat. No help from the governor in Austin. Nothing from legislative leaders. Just excuses. Frozen windmills, they said. See, solar doesn’t work, they said. They even blamed the proposed Green Energy Deal, which has never even been voted on. Lies.

       They lied about the cause — the state’s refusal to join a regional energy grid for protection in emergencies and the failure of big energy companies to winterize their equipment because it cost too much and Texas did not require them to do so. Too much government regulation, you know? And while blaming solar and wind energy sources, they ignored the fact that 70 percent of Texas’s power comes from carbon fuels and their providers had lobbied hard against regulation, had donated heavily to Republican governors and had jacked their prices drastically when the deep freeze hit. An investigation is in order.

        This is what happens when lying is easier than governing. People suffer. People die. Yet Texas Republicans and their shills on Fox News kept up the lies. And their senator, Ted Cruz, headed with his family to Mexico where it was warm and there was plenty of water and electricity. When he was caught, he blamed it on his daughters. Said he was just being a good father. That was a lie. Reluctantly, he finally said it was “a mistake” to go on a Cancun vacation while people he ostensibly represented were dying in their beds, were desperate for clean water, were living for days in homes with no heat in temperatures well below freezing.

    Yes, it was a mistake, like his vigorous insistence without proof that the election was stolen from Trump and his equally vigorous opposition to impeaching Trump for inciting an insurrection. The Trump base — much of it anyway — bought those lies. But in Texas, that same base was getting electric bills for thousands of dollars from companies that neglected to prepare their facilities for cold weather and saw the freak storm as “a windfall.” Cruz couldn’t lie his way out it.

       Without demanding some apology from Trump supporters who didn’t vote for him, President Biden declared a state of emergency in the state and sent industrial generators, food, blankets and other supplies to suffering Texans, many of whom had bought the Republican lie that global warming was a hoax and oil and gas was still the future for proudly independent Texas.

       That’s the “other” side to this story. In truth, the only side.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Dear Mr. President, We’re With You

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

    Dear Mr. President, sir, Mr. Biden, Joe … 

 President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

   Wow, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. After four, really almost five, years of writing virtually nothing but columns of anger, fear, shame, bewilderment, outrage or embarrassment, writing a simple note of congratulations and best wishes is proving to be a challenge.

      But it is the necessary and proper thing to do. Already, that’s a change.

      I guess I wanted to start by saying that it’s not every presidential election in this country that is greeted with a huge, “Thank God!” when the final result is announced. Even atheists, maybe especially atheists, had that reaction when you were pronounced the winner last November. Yes, I know and recent days have demonstrated that not everyone was pleased with the result. But I for one have sensed a profound feeling of relief and hope arise in this country, “Joe won!”

       Thank God.

       The final weeks before your inauguration were … frightening I guess is the appropriate word. The assault on the Capitol by racist Trump loyalists shook America and the world. But, as you and others have noted, we survived. Democracy survived. I always felt we would, but then I did not think it would ever come to that horrifying scene of Jan. 6.

       Yet here we are. No subsequent violence, as warned against. Instead, many calls for unity, some certainly motivated by self-preservation. There is, I think, a palpable calm across the country, a result of being rid of the chaos and anger of the last four years.

       I do not envy you your challenges, but I do have faith that you understand them and will not seek to avoid or downplay them. I look forward to a measure of decorum and honesty that had all but disappeared from the White House. I also look forward to an opportunity for another era of growth in America. It is my sense that millions of my fellow citizens, including many who did not vote for you, are grateful to have survived an attempt to dismantle our democratic republic and are more than willing to do what is necessary to fix what we learned was broken.

       To me, this means holding those responsible for assaulting our laws and principles accountable for their actions as well as initiating a comprehensive effort to re-educate many Americans on what Lady Liberty stands for in the New York harbor, what “liberty and justice for all” really means in the Pledge of Allegiance.

        It will not be easy and many will resist at first. But sending the truly traitorous to prison will undoubtedly get the attention of many of the merely ignorant. As always, hope lies with the new generation.

        Mr. President, I know you know all this, but I think it’s important you know how many of us are with you in confronting this challenge. There are actually happy memes on Facebook again. I will undoubtedly disagree with you on some policy or another, but I don’t expect to be slandered on Twitter because of it. For my part, I will try to go back to my professional approach of not using profanity to express my opinion. I will also write a more specific letter in the near future on actions I think need to be considered. (Your executive orders undoing much of the damage of the past four years and your plan for dealing with Covid are a great beginning, by the way.)

      In closing, as someone who is a few months older than you, let me say I hope you get plenty of rest, pay attention to what you eat, exercise regularly and maybe give Kamala Harris more to do than most vice presidents typically get. It couldn’t hurt.

      Again, congratulations and be well.

Bob Gaydos

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Wear a Mask; Don’t be Like Rudy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

   Rudy’s got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

  “Hallelujah!” Scream millions on Facebook and Twitter. Also, “Karma;” “Serves him right;” “He probably spread it over half the country;” “Stupid spreader;” and, “I don’t wish anybody dead, but …”

      How far the mighty have fallen. How sad the daily sight of the onetime “America’s Mayor” making a fool of himself in court and anywhere he can arrange an audience in public in order to symbolically and delusionally prostrate himself at the feet of a man who doesn’t care about him and who will never pay his legal fees.

      And all without a mask. Everywhere. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, the White House. Rudy’s got it. Jenna Ellis, one of his equally delusional “co-counsels,” has it as well. Where’d they get it? Who knows? Who’d they give it to? No idea. No contact tracing as well as no social distancing.

      And no masks.

      What is it with Americans — especially a lot of Republicans — who won’t wear a mask? It’s the easiest and best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with proper social distancing. If everybody does it, fewer people get it, fewer people die, the sooner we can go back to work and we don’t have to wear masks. That’s not even new math. It’s just common sense and decency.

     We’re approaching 300,000 dead from Covid-19 in this country, a great many of those deaths the result of a total lack of planning and caring by the Trump administration. Criminal negligence writ large. Trump doesn’t care anymore. He’s focused on raising as much money as he can with his phony “the election was rigged” campaign. The one Rudy was in charge of until he got Covid. Inconvenient.

      Also embarrassing: The world found out about Rudy and Covid in a tweet from Trump. It’s a surprise the news didn’t get lost in that Twitter chaos.

      It’s hard to know what happened to Rudy. He took his 9/11 fame and prominence, conducted a half-hearted campaign for president a while back, then apparently decided to be a lackey and legal errand boy for Donald Trump, a job with great visibility and occasional perks, until you cross him. Spread the conspiracy theories. Make up new ones every day. Ukraine today, Philadelphia tomorrow.

       And whatever you do, don’t wear a mask. Not because there is no Covid. We know there’s a virus — Trump even got it — but because we can’t let all those people coming to our rallies know that it’s real. We can’t let them know that we ignored it and let tens of thousands of people die. We don’t wear masks whatever Fauci says. We were robbed! Help us fight it! Give us money! Don’t wear a mask! Only liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists and coastal elites wear masks! Real Americans don’t wear masks!

        Tell them, Rudy.

        So Rudy’s got Covid. I don’t wish him dead, but a little suffering might be good for him.

        Once upon a time I might’ve started this column by writing, “Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, has contracted the COVID-19 virus. The former New York City mayor apparently was exposed to the virus in the midst of his last-minute campaign to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.”

          But I spent four decades writing for tabloid newspapers and when a once-prominent political figure makes a fool of himself on a daily basis, that boils down to, “Rudy got Covid.” In bold type. He’s got the notoriety, but no longer the respect. He didn’t wear a mask.

         Now, I am not a Covid guerilla. In fact, I have even been chastised for occasionally being a little too casual in my own mask-wearing and social distancing. But I am of an age and I don’t like being considered expendable to the rest of the herd. So I learned. I try always to wear my mask properly (over the nose) and insist on social distancing. I even wear gloves. Also, my hands have never been cleaner. I also take vitamin D supplements and have type O blood, both of which have been reported as good things to have to avoid Covid-19. But if I’ve got it without symptoms, I don’t want to pass it on to you and, in return, I don’t want you to pass it on to me. It’s pretty simple. Science and respect. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be like Rudy.

       Wear a mask.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

America Has a Narrow Escape

Friday, November 13th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, irrupt it across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, erupted across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

We got off lucky. Four more years of Trump might have killed the Great American Experiment.

     It has taken me a few days to sort through the feelings I’ve had since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. There was relief, of course. But more. When I read that Biden had finally been projected as the winner, four days after the election, it felt as if a huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted off my shoulders. That’s apparently how worried I was about the future of this country.

     I do not state this lightly: No president in my lifetime, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to damage the basic foundations of this nation than Donald Trump. For point of reference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when I was born.

     Trump has not done it alone, of course. He has had the willing, cowering support of most of the Republican Party, top to bottom, in his assault on decency, democracy.and the rule of law. He has had the fawning, self-serving support of white Evangelical grifters, who convinced their followers to pray for Trump and donate to their always needy churches, to forget the hypocrisy and immorality of it all. He has had the angry, armed support of rejuvenated, suddenly hopeful, groups of white supremacists. The KKK credo (“America First”) and Nazi flags had a rebirth, thanks to Trump. And he had the unwavering support of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans who I’m sure would deny vigorously that they had any racist, bigoted, misogynistic bones in their body or that they were too lazy or too embarrassed to find out if those conspiracy theories, like much of what Trump said, were lies that fed their pre-conditioned biases.

       Harsh? I think not. Just look around. It’s still going on. But the thing is, this time the rest of America isn’t buying it. The rest of America voted overwhelmingly for a return to sanity, competence, compassion, truthfulness, and respect for the law in the Oval Office. And state election officials have performed their duties in a professional manner, making Trump’s claims of fraud sound ridiculous and desperate. To be sure, many of his followers still claim “it’s not over,” but thousands of Americans danced in the streets when Trump lost, because they knew they were free of the menace of the man who broke bread with dictators, insulted allies and called American veterans “losers.”

         We got off lucky. Yes, we endured four years of arrogance and paralyzing incompetence in the White House, culminating with Trump’s criminally negligent response to the Covid-19 virus, but we also learned some valuable lessons:

         — Racism is not only alive, but widespread in America. It came out of hiding in full force with the permission and encouragement of Trump. Its presence was announced daily on social media, in police actions and in people’s routine daily activities. The videos are there as evidence. Racism is a tear in the fabric of our society that Trump has widened. To continue to blindly support him is to endorse racism. Period. There is no “nice” way to ignore this. But now we at least know that there is much work to be done. Kamala Harris as vice president is an excellent start.

         — The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense at bipartisan governing. In handing control of the party to government-hating Tea Party members and power-at-any-price opportunists, Republicans have become worse than the Know-Nothings of the 1850s. In their blind obeisance to Trump, they have demonstrated that, not only do they not know, they don’t care. America now knows this. Democrats now know this. Disaffected Republicans now know this. A two-party system should be about cooperative governing, not constant pursuit of absolute power. Can the Republican Party be reclaimed by those who know and care?

           — The Electoral College is obsolete. Whoever gets the most votes should win. Trump played on the fears and resentments of a largely ill-informed minority. He gave them a feeling of power. He lied to them, used them to, mostly, feather his branded nest. The country paid the price.

           — A lot of Americans don’t know a lot about a lot of things. I’ve tried to say that as delicately as possible. Willful ignorance has been a hallmark of the Tea Party from the outset. (Where is Sarah Palin, today?) Somehow, being educated, knowing about history, science, literature, economics, the law, health, the arts, philosophy, math, geography … is seen as a bad thing. Higher education is something to be ridiculed, not admired. (Except of course for wealthy conservatives.) The level of gullibility for much of the nation has been raised over the years by daily radio feedings of bigotry and bull from the likes of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. But Fox News on TV has been the primary purveyor of the “fake news” Trump likes to talk about. An entertainment enterprise masquerading as a news outlet, it has fed on people’s fears and justified their feelings of resentment, all in order to make lots of money for Rupert Murdoch. It has been particularly damaging to the concept of a free press. It has lied shamelessly, with no significant repercussions, and today millions of Americans have no clue about how to verify if something is true or not. If a statement reinforces their bias, that’s good enough for them. However, closed minds are unable to compromise and we need to be able to do this to live together. The challenge to remedy this demonizing of learning falls primarily to our educators. I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, maybe Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas. Also, getting rid of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

          We got off lucky, America. It could have been far worse, as Germans well know. Authoritarianism and blind allegiance to a power-driven, truth-hating leader lead to fascism. But Trump’s incompetence ultimately undid him, as it has always done before. Whatever happens to him and his many enablers, there is much healing to do for America and there will be resistance. But now at least we know what we didn’t know about ourselves and our 244-year-old system of government, though it bent, eventually held up. With some adjustments, beginning with the Biden Administration, hopefully we won’t have to rely on luck to survive in the future.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Why Vote for Biden? Simple: Trump

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

Biden and Trump

Biden and Trump

Strange world.

     Recently, a contributor to a Facebook group to which I belong asked members if they could give some reasons to vote for Joe Biden “without mentioning Trump.”

      My initial reaction (admittedly a bit sarcastic) was to comment: “Why?”

      Upon further thought, I have decided my initial reaction was correct. In my opinion, there is no reason this year to quibble over issues. The only compelling issue in this presidential election is to remove from office the man who has made a mockery of everything Americans used to like to brag this country stands for. Donald Trump.

      Truthfully, any of the candidates who sought the Democratic nomination for president would be acceptable to me over Trump. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is more than qualified, having served as a vice president to Barack Obama for eight years and in the U.S. Senate before that. What Biden’s views are on Medicare-for-all or global warming or income disparity do not matter to me in the sense that he actually understands those issues and knows how to work with people to achieve a consensus while the one-who-shall-not-be-mentioned has encouraged people to take bleach to fight off COVID-19, then announced he was taking an unproven and occasionally lethal drug for the same purpose, counter to the medical advice of virtually every doctor in the world. His personal doctor came up with some Mickey Mouse reason just to keep his job.

       So, really? What do I like about Biden? For starters, he won’t tell me to drink bleach. 

       And here’s another thing — if Democrats learn to stick together for the future of the country, they will in all likelihood also regain control of the Senate, removing Mitch McConnell from the majority leader post he has used to enrich himself and other Republican senators and donors while allowing the unnamed one to do the same while escaping any consequences for a long list of illegal, unconstitutional, immoral and just plain stupid actions.

     Indeed, McConnell has been the worst actor in this horror show of a government because he could have stopped it at any time but hasn’t. Republicans, having lost their minds in 2016 (along with a lot of non-Republicans) with their presidential choice, have now lost their souls and any claim to being a respectable political party.

     What is astonishing to me is how deep the hold of the fear of retribution from national Republican leaders goes on a local level. The silence from local Republicans regarding the bleach-pushing, woman-hating, racist, narcissistic con man in the White House is beyond deafening. Private complaining doesn’t count if you’re a public official.

    Why Biden, you ask? How about this — evangelical preachers don’t like him. They love the other guy. At least they say they do. I say they deserve each other. Everything about them is false and self-serving. They prey upon the desperate and gullible.

     Case in point —  Norma McCorvey. Until a couple of days ago, few people knew that name. But millions knew her as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision. As it happens, I recently wrote about her in a column about “famous” people I have met. She was perhaps the most unknown famous person in my experience. She visited the newspaper I was working for in her campaign to undo the court ruling which gives a woman the right to control her own body and choose to have an abortion.

      McCorvey, who died in 2017, was going around the country in the mid-90s saying she had changed her mind, had become a Christian, had unbecome a lesbian and was now opposed to abortion. I don’t remember being particularly impressed with her professed change of heart and mind and sexual preference. Well, it turns out she was lying. In what she called a “deathbed confession” in a recently released movie, “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey says she was paid by conservative evangelical preachers to say she had changed her mind and was no longer pro-choice. Paid nearly half a million dollars to say so. She said, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.”

       McCorvey’s life had been a series of being used and abused. She was homeless and too poor to afford an abortion back in the ‘70s when she became the symbol of the pro-choice movement. In the ‘90s, she was still needy, but more media savvy. The money looked good to her. Evangelicals followed their script: If you don’t have right and decency on your side, lie. Lie to raise money. Raise money to lie. Lie to raise more money, etc.

       Evangelicals say they love Trump. It’s a lie of convenience. He knows it and accepts the benefits he can reap from it. Their “deal” is pathetic and transparent, yet it has swindled millions of dollars from gullible believers

       So, why Biden? Because I’m not gullible. Because Trump and his Republican and evangelical enablers are out to destroy this country and have made a lot of headway. Because I’m about to turn 79 years old and spent more than half a century proudly describing myself as a journalist and Trump has labeled me an “enemy of the people.“ You bet it’s personal. Because, let me be clear, the future of America is at stake and the threat is named Trump. There, I said it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

        

Politics in the Age of Pestilence

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

 Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

   The job of the next president of the United States is to restore a sense of competency, decency and dignity to the office. Nothing is more important than that. 

     I actually wrote those words about three weeks ago as I worked on a reaction to developments in the Democratic presidential race and various complaints being voiced about the front runners — too old, too radical, too conservative, too male, etc.

     COVID-19, unfortunately, intervened. It also reinforced my belief in that simple campaign slogan: competency, decency, dignity. Put any Democrat’s name in front of it:

     — Joe Biden, competency, decency, dignity.

     — Bernie Sanders, competency, decency, dignity … uh, scratch that campaign, not the sentiment.

     — Andrew Cuomo, competency, decency, dignity. (I know; it’s Joe, but just hold that thought).

     As swiftly as Covid-19 moved through parts of the population, just as swiftly do political stories change. Sanders dropped out and pledged to support Biden just as I was rewriting for Covid. Cuomo burst on the scene just as abruptly, reminding Americans that it is important to have elected officials who are capable, competent and concerned about people’s welfare. Actually, their lives.

     Cuomo’s father, Mario, also a New York governor, once wrestled with the notion of running for president to the point he was dubbed “Hamlet on the Hudson” — to run or not to run. He decided not to at the last moment. Andrew has insisted repeatedly he is not looking to be president.

     Not yet. He’s also a friend of Biden’s. But Democrats can at least rest assured that if something else unforeseen happens between now and their nominating convention in August, they’ve got Bernie and Andrew in the bullpen. Elizabeth Warren, too.

   But the real need now is for Democrats to present, not just a familiar, comfortable name for president, but a super team, if you will, of potential cabinet members and presidential advisors who will reinforce the need to return competency, decency and dignity in the Oval Office.

      The need for competency has been apparent from the first days of the Trump presidency. The administration’s unconscionably inept response to the Covid-19 virus is the predictable result of three-plus years of looking the other way, justifying and making excuses for Trump, a man with no moral compass or sense of responsibility and who is incredibly dumb to boot. His dismissive attitude to doctors and scientists on the handling of the virus has resulted in chaos, fear, panic, a probable recession and death. There is no excusing this arrogant incompetence.

     In the category of decency and dignity, I include a respect for the truth as well as the Constitution. I also include an understanding of this nation’s once respected role as the leading voice for freedom and democracy on the planet — a nation represented by the Statue of Liberty, not by an egomaniac’s wall and caged migrant children,

    Regarding the nay-sayers among Democrats … Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both 78 years old. I am 78 years old. If you wanted to dig into my past life and drag out every stupid, profane, dumb, selfish, hurtful thing I have ever said or done, a lot of people probably would say, no, I don’t want him to be president.

     Given that, I still say without hesitation and in all humility, that I believe I would make a much better president than Donald Trump has been (as would a lot of you). That’s because I think I have learned, sometimes the hard way and with age, what is important and what is not so important. I don’t think I’m smarter than trained professionals. And I have a respect for the truth as well as the history of this nation. If you want references, I can probably pick some up.

     But I’m not running for president. Joe Biden is and, until recently, Bernie Sanders was. (Cuomo still says he’s out.) While I can agree and disagree with both men on a variety of issues, I have no doubt that either one would honor the tradition of the office and work immediately from day one to remove the stain that has been Donald Trump. I can say that about every one of the Democratic presidential candidates.                  

      For disappointed Sanders supporters, and they are legion and loyal, the victory can be claimed in his demand for Medicare for all. If the virus has shown anything, it is the utter failure of the American health system to deal efficiently and even-handedly with a health crisis. People should not die because they can’t afford to get tested or there are no tests or they have no insurance for treatment or their governor insulted the president. Not in this country. Biden as president may calm Wall Street worriers, but he must also make Sanders’ central issue part of a Democratic plan to restore America’s legacy of competency, decency and dignity. Sanders for Health Secretary? A thought to build on.

      Having been vice president to Barack Obama for eight years (a source of much of his support), Biden knows how this is done. As the presumptive nominee he should choose a younger female vice presidential running mate and assemble a team of one-time rivals for the presidency as potential cabinet members. Unity must be paramount for Democrats. Take back the country first, then fix all that has been broken. Republicans appear ready to stick with Trump right into the sewer. A united, impressive Democratic team behind Biden can defeat that.

      Also key is voter turnout. Republicans will do anything to keep potential Democratic votes from being cast. They have already shown that. A unified Democratic Party behind Joe Biden, with a plan to make America competent, decent and dignified again should get out the vote. It would help if Obama campaigned. It is also crucial to reclaim the Senate.

     And, as he enters the fourth and last year of his term, President Biden, at age 82, can say he does not intend to seek re-election, paving the way for that younger vice president to continue the restoration project. First remove the stain from the presidential seal, then polish it with gusto.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Countdown to Woodstock and 2020

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

 

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

By Bob Gaydos

A look at the news, by the numbers:

  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum of empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner.
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script.
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com