Posts Tagged ‘Republican’

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

capital gazette reader

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”
“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Yes, Melania, I Obviously Care a Lot

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

The coat.

          The coat.

This has become personal. This waking up daily with a feeling of incredulity, depression, bewilderment, sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, loathing and profound resentment. This thing, this overwhelming syndrome, this … this suck-the-joy-out-of-life condition called the Donald Trump presidency. It’s real, but it’s not normal. And try as I may to act as if it’s not there, to “get on with life” as it were, I inevitably wind up back at the same place, wishing it weren’t.

It used to be, just a couple of years ago in fact, that writing a blog was, for me, a freeing experience. It was just like writing a newspaper column or daily editorial, except you didn’t get paid for it. On the other hand, you had absolute, unlimited choice of topic, from soup to nuts to … well let’s just stay there for a minute.

There was a time, again, not so long ago, that I relished the  opportunity to craft an entire blog (column) around a throwaway cliche like “soup to nuts.” What’s that all about? It was fun and informative for me and I tried to make it the same for readers. After all, life can’t just be the same, old, umm, rat race.

Then came Trump. All Trump, all the time.

All of a sudden, I found myself arguing with myself:

“No one wants to read about the worst new food idea.”

“Sure they do. They need a break from the dotard just like I do.”

“But can you really get a whole column about the fact that the world isn’t ready for — doesn’t really need — chocolate hummus?”

“Yes. It’s a dumb idea. The question is do I have the energy to spend the time and will it seem trivial? I mean, did they have to add all that sugar? What were they thinking? It could be a health column. People like those.”

“Seriously?”

“Maybe not. So maybe I should also forget about writing about what a dumb idea rectangular coffee cups are?”

“Probably.”

“But honestly, did the geniuses try drinking with the cup before manufacturing it? Try wrapping your lips around that rim, folks. And why would a diner, which arguably owes its existence to providing people with coffee to get them through the day, want to make it harder for them — us … well, me — to do so. And could they at least make it a full-size mug for Pete’s sake? Is everyone looking for a quick buck?”

“No one cares.”

‘Well, I care.”

And so, it seems, I’ve come back to the World of Trump. That coat that the mute Melania wore to cheer up the children from Central America whom her husband had ordered locked in cages after taking them away from their parents who were bringing them to America to escape violence in their homelands and to find hope for better lives. What a cruel, evil, ignorant policy. What a cruel, evil, ignorant man.

“I really don’t care, do u?” was the message on Melania’s coat. Trying to figure out her real message, of course, was just another diversion from what was actually going on, but its inappropriateness again highlighted the ineptitude that co-exists with the callousness of this family, this administration.

And what else was going on at the time? Trump, as usual, was blaming Democrats for his lock-the-kids-up policy, while also waging war against immigrants, documented or otherwise, and holding campaign rallies to energize the like-minded, ill-informed, fear-based supporters of his cult, officially known as the Republican Party.

Conservative columnist George Will, having left the party, now urges all Americans to vote for every Democrat they can to save the country,  because Republicans can’t or won’t. A little late, George, but welcome. Republicans, of course, have lost their courage, morals, principles and all sense of what legislating for the common good means. They want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance because they ballooned the national debt by giving rich people a huge tax break.

Of course, Trumpsters don’t care or don’t care to know about what’s really going on and I’ve written so often about it that, well, Dotard Syndrome. Turn on Fox; turn off brain.

Aside from a trade war with U.S. allies, one other thing was going on while Melania was wearing her stylishly dumb coat — the Trump team, which has been busy shredding laws and regulations that protect Americans from unscrupulous, greedy corporations, was in the process of drawing up a reorganization of the entire government. From soup to nuts, as it were.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that a man who has “reorganized” three casinos, two casino holding companies, a phony college and the Plaza Hotel into bankruptcy, all while milking them for every penny he could get, is planning on reorganizing the entire federal government to make it more efficient — which is to say, less useful and unconcerned with those whose daddy didn’t give them a million bucks to get a head start in the world. He and his cohorts and enablers, of course, will take their profits where they can.

As Melania might say, “Let them eat chocolate hummus.”

Do I care? Obviously, more than I wish I had to.

(Editor’s note: “Soup to nuts” as defined in Wikipedia: ” ‘Soup to nuts’ is an American English idiom that conveys the meaning of “from beginning to end.” It is derived from the description of a full-course dinner, in which courses progress from soup to a dessert of nuts.” But of course, my readers already knew this.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

‘Survey’ Says: It’s the Media’s Fault

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

mainstream-mediaThere I was, minding my own business (sort of), scrolling through my Facebook news feed trying to find a video on the Yankees game sandwiched in among all the posts about ICE agents snatching kids away from their parents at the border, Scott Pruitt using his security detail to fetch him lotion and the trending, new puzzle — “Where’s Melania?” — when the ad grabbed my attention.

Did I want to take the “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey’’?

Huh? The what?

Who the heck is conducting this survey? I blurted to no one in particular.

It didn’t take long to find out. The ad, I was informed by Facebook’s new, better-late-than-never policy of full disclosure, was “Paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee.”

Swell.

In the process of telling Facebook to never send me another post from the Trump MAGA Committee, I asked Facebook (as it now also allows me to do) how I even got this targeted ad — I’m familiar with targeting Facebook ads — in the first place.

Facebook offered two possibilities:

  1. I shared the views of Trump MAGA. Uh, you could probably know that wasn’t true within 10 seconds of scrolling my wall.
  2. The committee was targeting individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the United States of America. That would be known as a pretty loose target audience, geography wise, but I fit. However, I have aged out of the age parameters, so Facebook messed up anyway. Your algorithms still need work, folks.

At any rate, being a longtime member of said “mainstream media,” I was hooked. I had to check out the “survey.”

George Orwell would have been proud; George Gallup not so much.

Here’s the first question: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No opinion
  • Other, please specify:”

Loaded much? Remember, it’s supposedly targeted to like-minded individuals. As surveys go, this one evidenced the Trump team’s view of the scientific method: Ignore it.

Question number two: “Do you trust the mainstream media to report fairly on our presidency?” Same choices.

Then, in order: “Do you trust (NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) to report fairly on our presidency?” Same options.

If you’re sensing a pattern, you are correct. It’s all in the same vein as Der Leader’s message: These people are really untrustworthy enemies of the people, aren’t they?

Here’s just one more question, to demonstrate what passes for policy in the Trump GOP: “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing President Trump? (Select as many that apply.)”

  • Immigration
  • Economics
  • Radical Islamic Terrorism
  • Pro-life values/social issues
  • Religion
  • Health care
  • Second Amendment rights”

Note — “the worst job” as the operative choice and “as many as apply.” Nothing like piling on, folks.

The questions get more ridiculously slanted as the 25-question “survey” goes on. I fully expect the results to be proudly posted on Facebook and bantered around Fox News, With any luck and if Facebook follows my instructions, I won’t see them. But millions will and, again, those people who buy anything Trump sells will believe it and I’m pretty sure the Mainstream Media isn’t going to come out too well.

In the same week this ad appeared, Trump came late and left early at the G7 meeting of top world economies in Canada, but not before wrongly accusing Canada of burning down the White House in 1812 and threatening to cut off trade with our staunchest ally and largest trading partner while insisting Russia, which was booted out of the group after “annexing” Crimea, should be allowed back in.

Then Drumpf headed to Singapore where he intended to conduct negotiations on nuclear weapons with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un by sizing up his opposite number in the first minute or so via “feel.” It was also reported that Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star and reputed friend of Kim, was heading to Singapore, perhaps to play second fiddle to Kim as he once did for Michael Jordan. Trump had John Bolton as his sidekick. Rodman has the size, but I’d bet anything Bolton uses his elbows under the boards.

What’s the point of all this? Well, maybe that, under Trump, the real, the true, the factual, the serious business of life has become demonized and trivialized to the point that everything is treated as a reality TV show and millions of Americans are — for reasons no one has yet explained to my satisfaction beyond sheer ignorance and bigotry — hooked. Those videos of children being snatched from parents and locked up by ICE? Not true, say Trumpsters. Media lies. Or, if true, then necessary, the attorney general says, because … as if there could be any legitimate “because.”

The Republican Party as a functioning political organization has ceased to exist. Trump makes it up as he goes along and scapegoats anyone who points out his lies, ignorance, pettiness, greed and other overwhelming deficiencies. But the “survey” will come out and it will confirm his claims of bias by the mainstream media and it will be posted on social media and mailed to all white people in America likely to vote for Trump because that country with the strongest economy ever, that country that promises freedom and opportunity to all, that country so many “other” people are willing to risk losing their lives — or their children — in order to live in, needs to be made great again.

Survey says Betsy DeVos can relax. The dumbing-down of America is well under way.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The GOP’s Dying Words … Silence

Friday, May 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain ... not going quietly

John McCain … not going quietly

‘It doesn’t matter; he’s dying anyway.”

The words, relayed to the world via the Internet, were spoken by a White House aide about Sen. John McCain, who is stricken with brain cancer, but they could just as well have been another shovel of dirt on the remains of what once was the Republican Party,

In fact, when McCain, who is not going quietly, does succumb, it could fairly be said that any meaningful remaining link to what once was the Grand Old Party will have been lost. In truth, the party has been brain dead for years.

When I first read the comments attributed to White House special assistant Kelly Sadler I was angered, but not surprised. Not these days, not with this administration. Cruelty is a staple.

The comment was made during a staff meeting about the Dotard-in-chief’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA director. McCain had voiced strong opposition to the choice even as he battled cancer at his home in Arizona. The comment was apparently intended as a joke, which did not go over well, but was quickly swept off the table.

But the telling thing about the comment is what followed from her boss and from members of the Republican Party who have known McCain for decades and who, not insignificantly, made him their presidential nominee in 2008.

Nothing. For days. Nothing. No cries of outrage at the disrespect for a party elder and the blatant lack of humanity in the remark. No thought of the impact on McCain’s family. No calls for Sadler to be fired. No call from the boss saying, “You’re fired.”

We’re told that Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, did chew out the staff, not for the comment, but for someone leaking the comment. Someone leaked the Sanders chewing-out. Now they’re trying to fire the leakers.

This is the world of Trump, from mocking a reporter with a physical disability — at a campaign rally where it drew cheers — to declaring that McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down, captured and endured years of torture in Vietnam, was “no hero” because he was captured.

This, from the man whose alma mater, New York Military Academy in upstate New York, makes no mention on its web site of the fact that one of its alumni is president of the United States. That would normally be considered a good recruiting tool, but there’s nothing normal — or decent — about this presidency.

Again, this speaks volumes about the Republican Party and so many who identify themselves as Republicans yet have not a word to say publicly about the man who has infused the office he holds with a level of greed, ignorance and callousness that is at times mind-numbing. It’s one thing to make a mistake, to be conned, to exercise bad judgment. It happens to everyone. It’s quite another thing to be unable to admit the mistake, to say I was conned, I was stupid, I was greedy, I was foolish, I was wrong. I’m sorry. I regret my choice.

McCain said it recently, about his fateful and perhaps politically fatal decision in 2008 to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, instead of his good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman. That decision did much to strengthen the wingnut, know-nothing branch of the Republican Party which gives Trump free rein today. Choices have consequences.

Lest I be accused of getting on my high horse, slinging arrows of accusation as if I had never succumbed, let me admit to a choice I unequivocally regret making — writing an editorial endorsing George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. I can try to justify it by saying I had a great deal of respect for Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, and that his presentation to the United Nations claiming Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction was convincing. No matter. The fact that it was a Bush/Cheney/CIA lie did not occur to me and I let myself be convinced even though I had always believed that the United States did not, would not, should not attack another country. I wrote the editorial. I was conned. I was wrong. I regret it.

Trump, vindictive to the core, obviously resents McCain’s dramatic, late-night, thumbs-down vote that doomed the GOP effort to kill Obamacare. It was a good moment for McCain, who has had a less-than-perfect record as a senator. I have not always applauded McCain’s decisions, but in terms of statesmanship, leadership, patriotism and basic decency, he has it all over Trump. And yet, the silence persists from McCain’s Republican colleagues in Congress about a White House aide joking about him dying.

Haspel, who ran a CIA torture facility and destroyed records connected with it, was confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director. Bad decision. McCain, who knew torture first-hand, objected strongly to her nomination. Trump thinks torture, which is illegal, is just fine. In fact, he’d like more of it. He’d probably really like to promote the female aide who joked about McCain dying, but will settle for firing the aide who leaked the comment. Having compassion is a dangerous trait in this White House. In the Republican Party, which can’t bring itself to say Donald Trump was a mistake, compassion has long ago been discarded.

May John McCain live on for days and weeks and months and even years as he valiantly battles his disease. The Republican Party for whom he once was the standard-bearer is dead and gone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

For Shame, America, for Shame

Friday, April 20th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

“Slime ball.”

That’s how the man with all the ‘‘best words,” the man who “know(s) words” replied when a man he had once fired called him a liar and compared him to a mob boss.

The man who had been fired, James Comey, also happened to be the former director of the FBI and also happens to have written a book in which he says the man who fired him was overly concerned with proving that he had never been involved in a situation that included Russian prostitutes and people urinating on each other. “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Can you imagine me in such a situation? the former FBI director says his former boss asked him in the Oval Office.

This is where Donald Trump has taken the office of president of the United States. And, just to get it out of the way, yes, I can imagine Trump in such a situation. That’s the problem, America.

Think about it. If it didn’t happen, then there’s no way for someone to prove it did. And in this country, prosecutors — even special prosecutors — have to prove you did something wrong, rather than you proving you didn’t. It’s called the presumption of innocence, a commodity this administration has flushed down the toilet, along with any semblance of dignity.

There is no shame in the White House. We are reminded of this daily, with lies, big and small. Payoffs to cover up extra-marital affairs. Blatant racism, nepotism and corruption. An aversion to the rule of law and an ignorance of the Constitution. An aura of pettiness, shallowness and vindictiveness. Utter disdain for the poor or disadvantaged. And smiling all the time.

So, too, with the Republican Party as it bows at the feet of Trump, a Russian puppet now clearly its leader. There is no shame. No sense of decency. “At long last,” I find myself asking rhetorically of the Republican Party, “have you no sense of decency?

Well … history offers an answer.

Those words were first uttered in 1954 by Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer hired by the Army — the U.S. Army — to defends itself from charges by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, of lax security at a secret Army facility. McCarthy had used his position as chairman of the  Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to intensify his ongoing crusade to weed out what he claimed were hundreds of Communists working in the State Department and other federal agencies as well as in private industry, notably entertainment and the arts. During an endless round of hearings brutally conducted by McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn (remember that name), witnesses were accused, insulted and relentlessly grilled. “Red-baiting.”

Finally, during the three-month-long, televised Army-McCarthy hearings, the senator charged that one of Welch’s young lawyers, who was not working on the case, at one time had ties to a Communist organization. He pressed the issue. Welch had had enough. “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” he said. As McCarthy tried to continue, Welch interrupted:  “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy, finally, was done. Someone had called him a bum to his face. He was eventually censured by the Senate and scorned by his own party. But careers were destroyed, lives ruined, families and friendships broken because of an unfettered campaign of reckless accusation and fear-mongering conducted by a publicity-hungry politician being advised by a ruthless lawyer, Roy Cohn, for whom nothing — facts, lives, careers … decency — mattered.

Roy Cohn, it turns out, was a younger Donald Trump’s lawyer, confidante and social secretary for many years in New York City. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent, you get Roy,” Trump once said.

The student learned from his mentor. Trump testified as a character witness at Cohn’s disbarment hearing in the ‘80s (they got him), but eventually dropped him as his lawyer on discovering Cohn was dying of AIDS. People are dispensable.

More history. In 1972, Sen. Edmund Muskie, one of the most-decent people to ever run for president, had the misfortune to weep during a speech in snowy New Hampshire in which he was defending himself and his wife from accusations from William Loeb, conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. An editorial accused Muskie, a Democrat, of using an ethnic slur against French-Americans, a large voting bloc in the state. The charge was based on a letter from a Florida man that was later shown to be a hoax planted by the dirty tricks division of the Nixon White House, another time when Republican shame took a holiday. Loeb also made a not-so-subtle suggestion that Muskie’s wife enjoyed drinking too much.

In defending her, Muskie spoke during a snowstorm, calling Loeb a “gutless coward.” But the senator’s voice broke and tears appeared to roll down his face. His aides later said it was snow because, apparently, decency in a presidential candidate was unacceptable. Voters agreed. Muskie eventually dropped out.

One more lesson on Republicans and shamelessness from history: Swiftboating.

The phrase was born during John Kerry’s run for the presidency in 2004. The Democratic senator from Pennsylvania was subjected to a relentless campaign in TV ads and even a book questioning his claimed military service and the circumstances of his combat medals.

A Navy veteran, he was commander of a swift boat, used to patrol the waters in Vietnam. A group calling itself Swift Vets and POWS for Truth attacked Kerry’s record as false and his medals as undeserved. The well-funded campaign dealt a serious blow to his campaign, leading to the re-election of George W. Bush. The Swift Vets claims were eventually determined to be unfounded, with virtually none of the veterans in the group having served on a boat that Kerry commanded.

“Red-baiting,” “dirty tricks, “swiftboating.” The terms live on today as examples of lying in politics and shameless disregard for the impact on people’s lives. All by Republicans in the pursuit or defense of power. It wasn’t always so with the party, but now it is. Trump, the proud ignoramus, gets a free ride from a shameless Republican Congress that has abandoned all pretense of decency. We’ve got ours, they smile.

Well, I for one am ashamed, America. At long last, I wish more of you were, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Let the Games (and Diplomacy) Begin

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

South  Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 WInter Olympics.

South Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thank Zeus for the Olympics. Every two years they offer an opportunity for a world gone mad to take a breather and at least pretend to pay homage to the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yes, Russia is barred from participating officially in the 2018 Winter Games, which began this weekend, because it tried to steal the 2014 Games in Sochi by pumping its athletes full of steroids. But Russians who did not cheat will compete, albeit without the flag or anthem of Mother Russia.

More significantly, with the Games taking place in South Korea, North Korean athletes are participating. Better yet, athletes from North and South Korea marched in together under one symbolic flag and the women’s hockey team includes members from both nations. There were no 38th Parallel issues for people who have been sharing a divided peninsula since the end of World War II and for nearly 65 years have endured a tense truce that halted the Korean War. And. thankfully, there was no tweeting about whose nuclear button was bigger and badder.

A lot of so-called experts are calling the Olympic dance by the two Koreas mere window dressing or a charm offensive by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, charming is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Kim.

But the overture to come “take part” was made by South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who pledged to work for better relationships with fellow Koreans in the north when he ran for president last year. One could consider this an example of a leader making good on his promise — and a politically risky one at that — rather than looking for excuses or people to blame for not following through.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence, his tight-lipped, see-no-evil shadow, to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies. There was no acknowledgement of President Moon’s diplomatic initiative, but again, at least no saber-rattling on Twitter.

Supposedly — again, this is the experts talking — Kim has gone along with this brief softening of tensions and shared Olympic spirit in the hopes of having economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea reduced. OK, so what? Who can blame him for that?

But who can blame Moon for thinking that maybe even a small thing like a shared women’s hockey team team is better for all Koreans than constant talk about missiles and nuclear weapons? Diplomacy takes many forms and, yes, sometimes it is imperative to be forceful and consistent when dealing with a difficult foe. It is also true that sometimes the simplest gesture can have unexpected results.

When nuclear warfare is apparently being discussed seriously and frequently in the Oval Office it is reassuring to know that the heads of the two nations that live face-to-face with the threat of war every day can agree to break bread and march together and, who knows, maybe agree to stay in touch when the skating and skiing is done.

I am under no delusion that the Orange Dotard (a name charmingly assigned by Kim) understands diplomacy, the perils of nuclear war or the importance of allowing subtle forces to influence the course of events. It is all bombast and buffoonery all the time. Just look back at some recent news stories emanating from the White House:

  • The State of the Union speech. A joke.
  • The Republican FBI memo. A bust and maybe illegal.
  • The opioid crisis team: Run by a PR specialist and a 23-year-old former campaign worker (since resigned).
  • The infrastructure plan … uh, sorry, wrong list. There still isn’t one.
  • The sanctions against Russia. Dotard won’t do what Congress said.
  • The Mueller investigation: Trump’s lawyers don’t trust him to testify in person.
  • The federal government. Shut down a second time. Trump actually rooted for this one.
  • The Wall: Build it or no deal for the Dreamers. Too many lies to keep up with in this saga. Naked bigotry.
  • The parade. THE PARADE. A flippin’ no-holds-barred military parade a la every dictator you ever heard of. He wants one; the military doesn’t. No one does. But as Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,’’ it’s what weak leaders do to appear strong.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher also wrote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

And: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Like maybe starting with South and North Korean women playing a little hockey together against women from other nations. Change the dynamics.

Trump and Kim are always ready and eager to hurl insults and threats. And maybe missiles. South Korea’s President Moon is trying to ease the tension and maybe open the door to more civilized dialogue. In the spirit of the Olympics, it’s an effort well worth making and supporting.

Meanwhile, maybe one of his aides — a general, perhaps — can read Sun Tzu to you know who.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Real GOP Mavericks: Murkowski, Collins

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

If you’re looking for a maverick, you don’t go to Arizona where they brag about the “dry heat” and almost everybody is a retired something or other from somewhere else looking to be left alone while they head for the air-conditioning. The state motto in Latin is Ditat Deus, which means “God enriches.” Whether one is a believer or not, that certainly doesn’t suggest an attitude of going out and stirring the pot to make things happen. It’s more like, “Well, OK, let’s chill and if it doesn’t work out, it’ll work out.”

No, if you’re looking for a maverick, by which I mean in this case, an independent-minded person, you go where it’s cold a lot of the time and winters are rough and people don’t have time for pettiness and pettifoggery. “Get on with it! What are you talking about? That’s nonsense; don’t waste my time.”

You go to Maine or, better yet, Alaska. If you’re lucky, both.

The Maine state motto is, “I direct,” or “I lead.” Alaska’s is “North to the Future.”

Action words. Follow me. I know the way.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate early Friday morning, John McCain, the Arizona senator whose reputation as a maverick disappeared in a puff of “Holy smoke!” at Liberty University when he was running for president in 2008, staged a dramatic moment in which he cast a “no” vote — complete with a theatrical thumb-down — on the Republicans’ last-gasp effort at repealing Obamacare.

Boom! The bill was dead. Gasps from Republicans. Applause from Democrats and millions of Americans. The maverick — fresh from surgery for brain cancer at a Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix — was back.

Not really.

Yes, McCain’s was the deciding 51st “no” vote, which killed the bill. But without the preceding “no” votes from Republican senators from Maine and Alaska, McCain’s would have been meaningless and those two senators had been in the forefront of opposing their party’s hypocritical efforts at “health care reform” from the outset.

In the matter of saving Americans from the cruel reality of the disastrous GOP effort to kill Obamacare (as opposed to passing its own health care measure), the real mavericks were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Both women endured insults and threats from male (Republican) colleagues in Congress — and the president — as they stood firmly opposed throughout the sham process conducted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. No last-minute theatrics for them. They let McConnell and the president know where they stood from the outset — on the side of truth and reasonableness, no petty politics.

For doing their job, voting their consciences and what was best for their constituents, rather than toeing the strict party line, Murkowski and Collins were referred to as “witches” and “bitches” online by the Trump troll patrol. Rep. Blake Farenthold, another sad excuse for a legislator from Texas, said that he would challenge them to a duel if they were men. He’d never survive.

The narcissist-in-chief tweeted his displeasure with Murkowski and suggested, in true Kremlin style, that her state might face retribution by the administration. In fact, Senate Democrats said they would ask for an investigation into calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Murkowski and fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, in which Zinke threatened projects important to their state if Murkowski persisted in voting no. That was merely more thuggery from an administration that has no respect for laws or rules of conduct, much less respect for differing opinions.

Collins displayed no patience for McConnell’s nonsense from the beginning of the latest Republican effort to squash Obamacare, pointing to the lack of information and debate on the measure, as well as its negative impact on millions of Americans — the things most other Republican senators were fully aware of but chose to neglect in voting yes.

Collins and Murkowski, of course, were not among the dozen white male Republican senators appointed by McConnell to try to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare. No women were on that special panel.

This is today’s Republican Party. A misogynist, or worse, in the Oval Office and a bunch of dumb white men trying to tell women to mind their place.

McConnell, of course, famously shut off the microphone of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate, only to listen as she persisted. Clearly, he has similar feelings about Republican women, senators or not.

But Murkowski, who vowed to defend funding for Planned Parenthood (eliminated in the GOP health plan), was elected as a write-in candidate over a Tea Party opponent who beat her in a GOP primary. She doesn’t scare off.

After the big GOP health care flop, she said, “My vote yesterday was from my heart for the people that I represent. And I’m going to continue working hard for Alaskans and just focus on that. I have to focus on my job. I have to focus on what I came here to do.” She had earlier said that it would be nice if some “governing” actually went on in Washington, rather than constant campaigning.

Collins was heard on an open microphone saying Trump’s handling of the budget was “completely irresponsible.” She opposed the Republican health process from the beginning, including the vote to even allow debate. McCain described that tactic as irresponsible, before voting for it. Then he actually voted for a GOP health plan offered later. Collins, Murkowski and several other Republicans voted “no,” (as did all Democrats on every vote). McCain saved his “maverick” vote for the end.

Some called it statesmanship. It was political theater — the deus ex machina coming in way too late. We’re glad you did it, senator, make no mistake, but where have you been all this time, through all this arrant nonsense from McConnell and Trump?

It brings to mind another “mavericky” theatrical moment in the McCain biography, one that also involved an outspoken woman politician from Alaska. Sarah Palin, senator. Remember her? What were you thinking? Were you that desperate for votes in 2008 that you had to sell out to the loony fringe now running your party? Don’t bother answering. Thanks for this decision; it’s a big one. But it doesn’t come close to making up for that earlier one.

No, if you’re looking for statesmanship and courage in this story, look to Senators Collins and Murkowski. If the Republican Party hopes to reclaim its soul, it needs more mavericks like them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Republican Party: Mean to the Bone

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of Alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

In much the same way that a broken clock is correct twice a day, so did our narcissist-in-chief (NIC) stumble into a truism the other day when he described a “health-care” bill approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives as “mean.”

Why did our clueless leader suddenly think a bill he had only recently pushed for and extravagantly celebrated at the White House was “mean”? Surely not because almost everyone who knew anything about it except for Tea Party Republicans thought it was mean. That’s never bothered him before.

I suspect it had more to do with the fact that he needed the Senate, also run by Republicans, to also pass a health-care bill so he could brag about it again and he just happened to be in the room, sitting there like a broken clock, when someone said if there was any hope of getting a bill through the Senate it had to be different from the House bill, which was, as he subsequently repeated, “too mean.”

Those are the kind of simple words the NIC understands. Big. Great. Best. Bad. Fat. Lousy, Mean. He likes to use them. A lot. Mean is not good. It’s bad. People don’t like mean things. How is the bill “mean”? Nuance is another matter.

Well, the bill that was presented to the Senate by a 13-member, all-white, all-male, Republican-only task force was apparently only a tad less mean than the GOP House bill, which means most of the country still thinks it’s awful policy, as do a handful of Senate Republicans. Actually, a lot of Senate Republicans think it’s not mean enough. In fact, not enough Republicans like it for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to a vote that would carry, so he put it off to allow for arm-twisting and bribing.

As he apparently demonstrated at a ballyhooed arm-twisting meeting with all the Senate Republicans at the White House, the NIC doesn’t know — or even care — how the bill works. He’s apparently confused about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, stuff like that. No matter. Mean or not, he just wants a health care bill passed so he can have another Rose Garden celebration and thumb his nose at Barack Obama. That’s pretty much the entire Trump policy.

McConnell, for his part, resorted to his favorite weapon — bribery — to try to get 50 Republicans to buy in to the bill. That comes in the form of billions of dollars in local projects for Republican senators who might face difficult reelection if they vote for the still-mean health care bill.

Tell me that’s not an awfully mean way to conduct public policy. And to no purpose other than to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans so they will continue to fund campaigns and vote for Republican candidates who promise to cut taxes even more, to eliminate pesky regulations that force businesses to be accountable for any harm they do, and to remove all those “deadbeats” Rush Limbaugh rails about from the Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and welfare rolls.

In other words, Republicans have totally lost the concept of governing for the public good. They have been against everything for so long they don’t know how — or seem to even care to try — to work with Democrats on creating useful legislation. I’ve been trying to figure out when “mean” became the Republican go-to word in policy. Maybe it was Ronald Reagan’s phony trickle-down spiel. The middle class and poor are still waiting for the first nourishing drops. A lot of them — many Trump supporters — are those supposed “deadbeats” of Limbaugh’s. Of course, they did have to suffer through a major economic disaster brought on by those rich individuals and corporations, who apparently didn’t have enough stashed away from the tax breaks so they had to simply cheat people out of their money. And they got away with it.

By the way, Republicans just voted to do away with an Obama regulation that required people dealing with other people’s money — brokers — to tell their clients what was in their best financial interests, not the brokers’. Bad idea, according to Republicans. Mean, I say.

Mean is slashing hundreds of millions from Medicaid, which pays for health care for 20 percent of Americans, including seniors in nursing homes, simply to cut taxes for those who don’t need it — the one percent. The very wealthiest Americans. Mean is cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and food stamps. Mean is promising coal workers that their dying industry will be revived while creating no jobs for them, but allowing coal companies to dump their waste into streams from which the workers get their drinking water. Mean is putting the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects Americans from such things as water pollution, under the direction of someone who wants to eliminate the agency.

Mean is looking to do away with hundreds of regulations that protect people from health and safety risks posed by unscrupulous cost-cutting minded corporations looking to improve their standing with shareholders. If Republicans want to take an object lesson about such short-sighted governing, they need only to look at the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 79 people.

The fire is believed to have been started by a faulty refrigerator and spread rapidly up the high-rise, fueled by a highly flammable exterior wrapping, called cladding, that is banned for use on high-rises in the United States, but which its maker is allowed to sell in places where regulations aren’t as stringent. In the aftermath of the deadly blaze, Arconic — formerly Alcoa — said it would no longer sell the cladding, which has a polyethylene core, for high rise projects anywhere in the world. The company makes a more-expensive, fire-resistant cladding. Grenfell is a public housing project whose residents had complained for years that there were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no safety tests and only one stairwell.

Public housing. No safety features. Total disregard for safety regulations. Cheaper construction material. Years of complaining with no response from British politicians more concerned with helping businesses save money rather than protecting people’s lives. Mean.

Since Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they have eagerly worked to erase safety regulations issued late in the Obama administration, including rules to keep coal companies from dumping waste in streams and denying federal contracts to dangerous companies. And it’s not just people who are the target of Republican callousness. The NIC recently signed a bill to allow the shooting of bears and wolves — including cubs — as they hibernate. Heartless.

This list could go on and on and undoubtedly will so long as Republicans, once the proud party of Lincoln, now seemingly a collection of mean-spirited individuals lacking in compassion and tolerance, have access to power. Trump is not really even a Republican, but party leaders have been cynical enough to try to use him to advance their cruel agenda.

It is an utterly depressing state of affairs that calls for new Republican leadership or a new party entirely. If you’re a Republican and are offended by any of this, that’s your problem. The rest of us are appalled. It’s your party. You are responsible for what is being promulgated and promoted in the seats of power in Washington. Your silence is tacit approval.

Like the clueless one said, “Mean.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Ah, What Cadet Trump Could’ve Learned

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Cadet Donald Trump ... at NYMA

Cadet Donald Trump … NYMA, Class of ’64

A few days ago, in response to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC) third-grade dissertation on the Civil War, I posted a sarcastic comment on Facebook: “Educators at the New York Military Academy, Fordham and Penn must be so proud.”

At the time, I thought I was being clever. On further consideration, I decided that it is likely that none of the educational institutions that offered an education to Donald Trump is proud of how it is being displayed by the NIC. Also, that it was not their fault.

I’m particularly sorry that I cast what might have been aspersions on the New York Military Academy, which is located in Cornwall, not far from my home in upstate New York. We’re neighbors and I was a tad unneighborly and so I want to apologize to NYMA (Fordham and Penn can take care of themselves), especially since the school has gone through some rocky financial times in recent years, including bankruptcy, a threatened closing and a serious decline in attendance.

But I also was curious as to whether NYMA really was proud of our president and their alumnus, so I checked its website. Lukewarm is my impression. Trump is listed among notable alumni (“45th president of the United States”) and also appears on a list of the school’s published authors. The NYMA band did march in the Inaugural Parade, but I figure that was a tough one to turn down as it gave a bunch of teens an opportunity to participate in a moment in history. They certainly won’t forget it.

However, there is no special tribute to Trump at nyma.org., no special page or biography or look back at his years at NYMA. No bragging about the man who recently said, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Why indeed.

While apparently still stuck on the Civil War, he said a few days later of Abraham Lincoln, “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

He said this at a Republican Party fund-raiser where a lot of people undoubtedly did know that. Then again, along with the current president, a lot of members of what has long been called The Party of Lincoln, seem to have forgotten what that means.

At any rate, having piqued my own curiosity about NYMA and Cadet Trump, I checked out the website to see what the new owners of the 128-year-old institution were offering. It sounds pretty much like what one would expect from a military academy located just up the Hudson River from West Point.

Let’s start with the academy’s statement that “at NYMA celebrating diversity is a way of life.” Hmm.

NYMA also says, “Developing good citizens requires cultivating the essential traits of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring and fairness.” Hmmm.

And there’s the cadet code, the same as West Point’s: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.” I get the feeling Cadet Trump was snoozing through some of his classes at NYMA. Still, he did graduate and his five years at the academy represent his only military experience.

While perusing the website I further wondered, knowing how much the NIC likes adulation and weekend jaunts away from the White House, whether he would be participating in NYMA’s Alumni Weekend. Wouldn’t that be a kick-and-a-half for Cornwall?

The alums are gathering at an open alumni muster May 19 at a local dining establishment to kick off a weekend of activities and reminiscing. It’s the kind of thing where everyone notices how old the others look and compares resumes. The NIC could show up with maps of his Electoral College win and Melania on his arm and go into his familiar grin. “I won.”

But what if, say, Francis Ford Coppola, who won a music scholarship (tuba) to NYMA (did not graduate) decided to show up with his multiple Academy Awards (The Godfather I and II), or Johnny Mandel, a 1944 band graduate of NYMA and an Oscar-and Grammy-winning composer who wrote the theme from M*A*S*H and worked with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Barbra Streisand. They’d have some bragging rights.

Maybe, just for kicks, John “Junior” Gotti, class of ‘83 (did not graduate) shows up. He and the NIC could probably swap yarns about life in Queens and Junior could take Trump aside and remind him, “Hey Donny, you know it’s the god’s honest truth that I lied to the feds, right? You can’t trust what the FBI says. There ain’t no Mafia. You know that. But they got my father and tried to get me four times. Four mistrials. Sweet, huh? That’s why they call me Teflon Jr. So you think you might have a job for me at Justice? Just askin’, you know?”

Or, for sheer bragging rights, composer Stephen Sondheim, class of 1946 (also did not graduate), could show up with his Oscar, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer),  including a Special Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award, eight Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story,” which is resume-topper enough for me.

But what might really annoy the NIC is Sondheim’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by Barack Obama in 2015. That’s a tough award to top, in the Electoral College or anywhere else. In fact, if he knew about it, Trump might just try to undo it by executive order.

Maybe he should just send Kellyanne Conway with an autographed photo of him and go play golf again that weekend.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

GOP: A Party Without a Head or a Heart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) got snookered. The self-proclaimed master “deal-maker” let himself get sucked in to putting his reputation and the power of the office he holds behind a deal — a Republican “health care” plan — that stunk so bad he couldn’t get it passed even though his party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency.

This is where ego and ignorance can take you. An unholy combination that, in this case, resulted in the NIC thinking the sheer magic of his name and the unlimited power of his position were enough to get politicians to vote against their own self-interests.

Turns out the magic was myth and, surprise, there are limits on the power of the presidency. Business and politics are not the same. Opposites, in fact. The failure of the Republicans to get their much ballyhooed replacement for Obamacare through the House of Representatives tells you all you need to know about today’s Republican Party. It is, for starters, a gaggle of angry constituencies — a party of convenience for various factions who know nothing about governing, but want to use the government to advance their own (pick one or two) narrow, selfish, greedy, racist, sexist, privileged, bigoted, ignorant, holier-than-thou view of the world.

These ideologically driven groups don’t necessarily like or agree with each other, but they have nowhere else to go. Where politics is concerned, the Republican tent is big enough to accommodate anyone who thinks Democrat is a four-letter word and the mission of Republicans is to oppose anything Democrats propose, even if it might actually help some people. Certainly their playbook over the past eight years says Republicans ought never try to work with Democrats to reach a compromise that gives everybody something. You know, governing.

So, there was the NIC, huffing and puffing at this smirky, young upstart Paul Ryan last week, telling him never mind you don’t have the votes to pass the bill, you go back to the House and you tell them I said vote yes on this health bill tomorrow or you’re stuck with Obamacare. Ryan, who sold the NIC on the bill but hasn’t a clue about how health care works, does as he is told. For good measure, Steve Bannon, the White House destroyer-in-chief, tells the rebellious troops — the Freedom Caucus (pseudonym for tea party we-hate-government types) — they have to vote for this bill. It’s an order.

Well, this gang can out-Bannon Bannon. They think the bill, which would toss 24 million Americans off health insurance, is too generous. They want to raise the cost and cut out a bunch of benefits. Say, maternity care, coverage for mental illness, including addiction. And they have the Koch brothers telling them that, if they vote no, they will get donations to their reelection campaigns so they can continue to swindle the voters back home and funnel more money to the wealthy and big corporations. This gang tells Bannon to stick it.

Since a few Republicans (and all Democrats) actually object to the bill as, well, stupid, Ryan still hasn’t got the votes to pass it and he begs the NIC to let him postpone the vote again. Humiliating as it may be, the NIC says OK, makes a pledge to himself to get rid of Ryan, blames the Democrats for not voting for a bill which they were not asked to help write (and which he never bothered to read), denies ever promising to repeal Obamacare “immediately” upon taking office, and sets out to destroy the only health care plan millions of Americans have in place. A party incapable of following the leader has a leader in name only.

The next day, Ryan says, “This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”  A slip of the lip reveals the heartless truth.

Without Obama to blame for everything, Other than more tax breaks for the rich, Republicans have no message. Instead, they destroy. Blame. Make up excuses. Lie. But never govern.

The NIC is true only to himself and his delusions. His usefulness as a tool for the Republicans is about used up with all the executive orders he issued getting rid of regulations that protect our water, our air, our investments, our parks, immigrants, wildlife, the arts, community groups and anything else Bannon puts on his desk. But actually passing bills? Republicans had seven years to come up with a new health plan or work with Democrats to fix what needed fixing in Obamacare. Instead, they kept passing meaningless bills to kill it and then rushed through a tax-break plan masquerading as a health plan in two months. Their own members found it to be either too generous or too cruel to defend to constituents. Too stupid to know (or care) how politics works, the NIC said take it or leave it; I’ve got a wall to build and a tax code to rewrite next week.

Good luck with that.

Never mind that there is no leader and no compassion, there is not even a sense of awareness in the Republican Party. When the White House was still trying to woo the Freedom Caucus on the health care bill, it convened a meeting led by Vice President Mike Pence, he of the grim (when do I get the job?) smile. Much of the talk was about whether there should be coverage for maternity care and mammograms. A photo of the meeting showed about two dozen white men, and no women, seated around a table supposedly making sense of the situation. There was even a crude joke about mammograms.

That’s today’s Republican Party — headless, heartless and clueless.

rjgaydos@gmail.com