Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Connect the Dots: Women’s Time is Now

Monday, January 29th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Women marched across the nation this month.

Women marched across the nation this month.

I’m big on connecting the dots. A plus B plus C … sometimes it adds up to D. Or in this case, W, as in Women. Here they come, politically. And long overdue.

In this case, making the connections wasn’t too difficult, unless you happen to be someone — a Republican, for example — who is genetically incapable of recognizing the gross disparities, unfairness and outright abuse that continue to confront women in America decades after an Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Congress and failed to get the required number of states to approve it.

That’s a dot still to be connected, but there are plenty of others falling into place, suggesting a new era is about to burst the male-dominated political/economic bubble that has encased America for, well, ever.

The dots as I see them, in no particular order:

  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that rocked Hollywood, wrecking careers of powerful men throughout the industry.
  • The #metoo movement that grew out of the scandal as women in all fields, from TV to Silicon Valley to sports, found the courage to tell their stories of sexual exploitation by men in a position of power.
  • Many of those men losing their jobs as a result.
  • The Women’s Marches that began last year to protest the election of the misogynist-in-chief and grew this year as millions of women (and men) marched across the country to demand equality for women in the workplace, in politics, in the board room, in society.
  • Oprah Winfrey delivering a stirring speech as she accepted an award at the Golden Globes Awards, leading to a social media storm urging her to run for president. (Please, no, we’ve tried the really rich person used to giving orders with no government experience thing. But please do support candidates who agree with you, O. Generously.)
  • Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former Fox News anchor who won a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment settlement from the network, being named chair of the Miss America pageant board of directors after the male bosses were shown to be mini-Trumps. Former contestants were also added to the board, which was previously all-male.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urging Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual groping charges, saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down as president because of his sex scandals and urging Donald Trump to resign as president over sexual assault charges from a score of women.
  • Trump attacking Gillibrand with sexual innuendo on Twitter and unleashing a powerful backlash.
  • The doctor for the U.S. Olympics gymnastic team being sentenced, in effect, to the rest of his life in prison for abusing dozens of female athletes under his medical care for years. The athletes were given all the time they wanted in court by the female judge to tell their stories before the sentencing.
  • Women of color turning out en masse at the polls in Alabama to defeat a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who, as a district attorney stalked teen-aged girls at malls. The candidate, Roy Moore, had the support of Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrat won.
  • A record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels.
  • Time Magazine choosing “The SILENCE BREAKERS,” the women who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, launching the #metoo movement, as “Persons of the Year.”
  • Hillary Clinton running for president, getting nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and losing anyway because (1) the Russians interfered with the campaign, (2) Republicans didn’t care and still don’t and (3) she apparently rubbed a lot of women the wrong way.
  • Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Connecticut as leading voices in the Democratic Party and speaking eloquently about economic equality, health care, gun violence, family leave, veterans, the homeless, abortion, immigration, jobs, the drug crisis — all for the most part ignored by Republicans.
  • Steve Wynn, financial chairman of the Republican National Committee, being forced to resign his position over numerous charges of sexual harassment and abuse of women over the years. The wealthy casino magnate is a major financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans.
  • Congress rewriting the rules (such as they were) for dealing with members accused of sexual harassment. Secret non-disclosure agreements are probably not going to be the norm anymore.
  • Female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States. They are also more likely to vote than men.

These are the dots. There are plenty more, but you get the idea. This is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.

You want another dot to connect? How about First Lady Melania Trump canceling out at the last moment on the trip to Davos with Donald? No standing stoically by her man. Someone said she sent him a private tweet: Dear POTUS, not going to Davos. Why don’t you see if Stormy Daniels is free for the weekend? Well, not free, but, you know, affordable.

Connect the dots.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Democrats: Stand By Your Woman

Monday, December 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ... leading the way

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand … leading the way

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned — by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition — to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

— “She’’s done, as far as I’m concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”

— “Never vote for her.”

— “Horsefeathers.”

— “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

— “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

— “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton’s 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar — the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk — like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly — sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin’ things that you don’t understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he’s just a man” … allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles — women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed — have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors — Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues — including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality — seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A One-sided Story: Trump Must Go

Friday, August 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Apparently a lot of people in this country are under the impression that the news media are obliged to present both — indeed, all — sides of a story equally, which is to suggest, fairly, and which is to imply, inevitably, that both (or all) sides have equal legitimacy.

This is nonsense. In the first place, a free and unfettered press as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution is under no obligation to be fair, unbiased or even factual. You just can’t make stuff up with the intent to hurt someone. That’s why there are so many unreliable sources of information in this country making money while posing as responsible journalism. Take Fox News, as Henny Youngman said, please.

The idea of the press being responsible and reliable as a source of useful information has evolved over time with the most responsible sources establishing themselves with readers and listeners through dedication to one thing overall — truth. Not truth as a publisher sees it. Not truth as a big advertiser sees it. Not truth as a politician, even a president, sees it. And not necessarily truth as everyone on all sides of an issue would like it to be seen.

Just the plain and simple facts of the matter. Here’s what happened. Here’s what people did. Here’s what people said. And yes, here’s what we think based on all those facts.

The United States and its Allies fought a worldwide war to defeat Naziism, anti-semitism and the belief that certain fair-haired, light-skinned people were born superior to others and that millions of those “others” had to be murdered to protect the so-called super race. The U.S. and it Allies won that war, at great cost. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to defeat Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, anti-Semites. Fact.

There is no “other” side. Those who sought to subjugate and slaughter others because of their religion, nationality, or race were rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Those who defended or sought to appease them were rejected. Some were sent to prison.

The United States also fought a bloody Civil War to defeat white supremacists who believed they were born superior to people with dark skin and, thus, could use and treat those “other” people as property, as slaves. Many Americans, including President Abraham Lincoln, disagreed. Some people in the South tried to argue — still do — that the “other,” legitimate, side of the story was that the war was over states’ rights. That’s only if you consider that the “right” the Southern states sought to protect in seceding from the Union and starting a war (treason) was to own and treat people of color as slaves. The South lost. Fact.

Hate was rejected. White supremacy was rejected. Slavery was rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Anti-semites were rejected.  Case closed. We did not agree to disagree. In words the current president of the United States might understand, Americans agreed that bigotry and racism were “bad.” That the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups were “evil.” That there were no “fine people” who support such groups and their hateful messages. That America stands for inclusiveness. That our differences make us stronger. That it is the primary job of the president to spread that message and to make sure it is enforced.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — “alt-right” is a bogus word created to give a veneer of legitimacy to white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and wannabe fascist bullies. These are hate groups parading under the absurd banner that white men have been somehow denied their due because of the color of their skin. To deny this absurdity or to remain silent about it is to give these groups a false standing. It suggests a moral legitimacy that hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to deny.

This is a time of serious unrest in America, stoked by the divisive language and actions of Donald Trump and those who advise and enable him. There is no other side to that story either. He was elected on a campaign built on lies, bigotry and bullying. The Republican Party allowed it. They continue to allow him to shred the fabric of this nation. They own him even though he is not and never has been one of them. That is the price of silence in the face of fascism.

There was never any chance that Trump was going to “grow into the job” of president. He has not grown emotionally in his 71 years. Regressed, more likely. He must be removed from office, by Republicans or Robert Mueller, the special counsel. More likely the latter.

But ultimately every American has a stake in this fight against authoritarianism. Trump has disgraced the Office of the President. He has failed at every opportunity to display moral leadership. Congress, world leaders, his own staff do not respect him. At most, the white supremacists in his circle use him for their own agenda.

This is not a theoretical exercise. It is personal. The question for every American is: Do you support the statements from the president that “both sides” bear responsibility for what happened in Charlottesville, Va.? In sum, do you grant neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Klansmen moral standing to the point that you create words like “anti-Nazi” and “antifa” (anti-fascist) when all that used to be necessary was “them” and the rest of us. Evil. Good.

I have spent more than half a century in journalism, three decades writing editorials about every possible topic. This is simply by way of saying that I am programmed to look for both sides of any story and then write about it. For this, because he is uncomfortable with any straight reporting of the things he says and does — including pointing out inconsistencies and lies as well as insults — the wholly unqualified president has declared me and my colleagues to be an “enemy of the people.” That’s a line used by every fascist in history about the press.

Trump should not be president. Those who voted for him were wrong. Many have had the honesty to admit it. Some, for their own reasons, never will. History will remember those who allowed him to disgrace this nation. It will not be a pretty tale. There’s only one side to this story.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Beyond the Bluster, GOP Sacks America

Friday, February 24th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Ryan, Trump, McConnell ... the unholy alliance

Ryan, Trump, McConnell … the unholy alliance

One of the major problems in living with a narcissist is that everything is about him. He dominates the conversation, the day-to-day business, in sum, everything. It’s easy to forget that there are other things going on in the world other than those revolving around him. He demands constant attention. He seeks constant attention. And if those around him are not aware of what is going on, he gets constant attention, whether he deserves it or not.

When that narcissist occupies the most powerful position in the world, it sometimes seems as if there’s nothing else worth paying attention to or worth writing about other than whatever mean-spirited, idiotic statement or executive order emanates from him. Every headline, every news report, virtually every social media posting involves him. It is a nation taken hostage.

I have shaken my head in bewilderment every morning as I awaken since Nov. 9 and desperately look for something to write about that does not involve him. Let those whose jobs require them to write about him do their jobs and do it well and honestly and courageously. I’m still hung up on what the others in his party of convenience are doing to this country while everyone else is busy watching his Twitter feed.

The Republican Party once upon a time had a conscience, a sense of duty and had enough members with the guts to stand up and call a liar a liar, a bully a bully, a fraud a fraud, a bigot of bigot, and a crook a crook. Even when that crook insisted he wasn’t one.

No more. Their leaders have sold out to Wall Street, to big corporations, to right-wing fanatics, to white supremacists, to hypocritical evangelicals. To the people who donated millions to fund their election campaigns. And so, while the narcissist in the Oval Office has rained havoc around the world, diverting everyone’s attention, Republicans in Congress have been taking a hatchet to every conceivable program or regulation in place to protect or serve the American public.

They helped coal miners by saying it is now okay for coal companies to dump their waste into the rivers and streams where their employees live. They say we don’t need a law designed to keep mentally incompetent people from getting gun licenses. They say endangered species don’t need protection from man. They say funding for PBS and the arts is unnecessary. They also say funding for Planned Parenthood is unnecessary. And one of their leaders, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, he of the constant smirk, now says he will somehow manage to find $20 billion to pay for a wall between Mexico and the United States. That’s the wall, you will recall, the narcissist said Mexico would pay for. Mexico said no way. That wall will never be built.

Also, and maybe you hadn’t noticed, but congressional Republicans also say there’s no reason for the narcissist-in-chief to show the rest of us taxpayers his tax returns. And that plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — which apparently many Republican voters don’t realize is also known as the Affordable Care Act? It still doesn’t exist, after eight-plus years. Former GOP House speaker John Boehner said the other day, ‘’It’s not going to happen.’’ He ought to know.

And finally, the piece de resistance, that $1 trillion, job-creating, infrastructure plan that the narcissist was going to design with his Republican colleagues in Congress? Haven’t heard a word. Folks, they’re making it up as they go along, stepping on people with little power and running away from questions by citizens who dare to show up at Town Hall meetings.

If you watch the movie, ‘’You’ve Been Trumped,’’ you’ll realize this is all just the same plot over and over again. In place of the Scottish government that rolled over to the narcissist and let him wreak havoc on the Scottish coastal environment, bully people, ignore laws and build an ostentatious golf course, we have congressional Republicans, smiling and nodding and saying in private to other nations, ‘’Don’t pay attention to what he says.’’

Don’t worry, Europe, we’re still on your side. That Russian thing? Overblown. Fake news. You know how reporters are. Besides, we’ve got Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen. When, not if.

I digress. A recent posting on social media suggested that perhaps our narcissist-in-chief would benefit from a dose of LSD. At first glance, I thought this was somewhat bizarre since the aforesaid seems to already have a bizarre sense of reality. But what the heck, I read the article since there’s nothing else on social media. The idea is that LSD strips the ego, lays it bare. Hello? This is me. Now. The article further said that the psychedelic drug was now being used again in legitimate research as a possible treatment for various illnesses. I’m reporting this mostly because I came upon the article just after finishing reading Tom Wolfe’s ‘’The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’’ Yeah, I was late to the party, but synchronicity, you know?

I have my doubts that any drug could shrink that narcissist’s ego, much less induce a sense of reality that inspired love for all people. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were searching in different ways for something universal deep within the human spirit through the use of psychedelics. As far as we know, they didn’t find it. Then the government made it illegal.

But hey, if they’re really doing research with LSD again, I’d just as soon they use Mitch McConnell as a guinea pig. Wouldn’t he be a blast on the bus?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hogan

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Give Me a ‘D’ for Dumb, Pat

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Pat Sajak ... scientist?

Pat Sajak … scientist?

It’s Pat Sajak’s fault.

For the past few years, I’ve been writing one opinion piece a week for a blog. It’s a way to keep doing in retirement what I did for more than 40 years for newspapers.

But I have been unable to form an opinion for three weeks — ever since I read about Sajak tweeting about “global warming alarmists being unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.”

This made no sense to me, starting with why the ever-smiling host of “Wheel of Fortune” had any reason to think his thoughts on global warming were worth sharing on Twitter in the first place.

But as I tried to set aside the Sajak incident, I found myself unable to find anything else that made sense to me. What the heck is wrong with this country? I wondered. What could I write about when what is supposedly the most technologically advanced society in history seems to be paralyzed by a combination of willful ignorance and abject laziness. Sajak Syndrome, if you will.

When did dumb become fashionable?

Pick a topic. Global warming? Pictures of the Arctic ice pack melting? Nearly 100 percent agreement among scientists that humans are destroying the planet’s atmosphere through extravagant, ignorant use of fossil fuels and cutting down of rain forests? That’s nonsense, the pundits on Fox News say. Wasn’t it cold this winter? Didn’t it snow? What the heck do scientists know?

If it were true, the Fox News folks would tell us, the Fox flock say. Really? When they’re being paid to lie? This is abject laziness on the part of the viewers and willful ignorance on the part of the bosses and staff and big money backers at Fox News. And sadly today, most of the Republican Party.

How do you reach people who don’t want to be reached, I wondered, people who are too lazy to question, who are so set in their own prejudices that they eagerly accept the drumbeat message that the man living in the White House is to blame for all that scientific foolishness and everything else that is wrong with this country?

Please, tell me again how racism is dead in America since we elected Barack Obama, a black man, to be president. Tell that to people whose voting rights are being stripped (by Republicans). Tell that to people of color in “Stand Your Ground” states. Check the arrest and imprisonment statistics on drug crimes.

Forgive me for jumping around here, but, as I said, I can’t figure out what to write about because there is so much insanity going on in this country. The bankers drove this country into a recession through shady deals and didn’t go to jail. Today, people who still can’t find jobs because of the recession are called lazy and Congress — again, led by Republicans — cuts money for food stamps for the poor and refuses to extend unemployment benefits to the unemployed or raise the minimum wage or expand benefits to veterans.

It also refuses to cut college students — the future of this country — a break on the interest rates on their back-breaking loans. The corporations, of course, still get their tax breaks and CEOs who drive companies into the red still get rewarded with lavish golden parachutes. And the boss of McDonald’s tells his employees to get another job to make ends meet because he can’t afford to pay them a living wage. To Fox News, this makes sense.

Did I mention guns? There is a shooting at a school or mall or other public place virtually every day now, but it’s not because guns are too easy to get, the willfully ignorant insist. No, the leaders of the NRA tell us that if we armed teachers and let everyone carry weapons openly there would be fewer shootings. Bring your guns to Chili’s and Target. More guns mean fewer shootings. Oh, and if you don’t feel like paying your share of income tax, hole up on your ranch with an arsenal and defy the federal government. Because you’re a patriot. Fox News will defend your “right.’’ This is insane.

Look at the food we eat. Well, actually, most of us apparently would rather not. Monsanto, a chemical company that controls the food supply, changes the genetic structure of basic foods. This allows companies to sell food cheaper because more crops grow in less space and the “food” lasts longer on shelves. That food is usually full of salt and sugar and chemicals, in addition to having its genetic structure changed.

No one knows the possible effects of genetically modified food, but Congress (Republicans, again) allows it — won’t even require labeling of foods with GMOs — because Monsanto is a very generous donor to political campaigns. Europe has banned GMOs. China, too, and other countries. But Fox closes its eyes and ears and shuts off its brain to the obvious questions — willful ignorance — and its sheep munch away on cheap, addictive food, raising health insurance costs as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight-related illnesses increase. All the while, of course — again at the instigation of Fox — they are criticizing the president for trying to make health insurance more affordable for everyone.

There’s plenty more. We are a nation of immigrants that can’t come up with a reasonable immigration policy. We espouse freedom of religion, but in some areas of America it’s probably not wise to admit being Muslim. There is still some question among some conservatives as to who is responsible when a woman is raped. Evolution is considered by the willfully ignorant and abjectly lazy as a theory to be debated. But Noah and the Flood — an undeniable fact.

The Internet gets blamed for a lot of the misinformation that is spread today. But the Internet is just a tool. People spread ignorance, out of fear, greed, selfishness, prejudice, envy, laziness. I think many of the commentators at Fox News are laughing all the way to the bank. They are getting rich by criticizing the poor. Others are simply willing to say whatever they are told to say to get a paycheck. Some are just nasty and don’t like people who are different from them. I think at times they all say stuff that they have to know can’t be true, but they do it anyway because that’s their job. There is really no excuse for people like this — the willfully ignorant.

Why the Republican Party has allowed itself to be dragged down to this level, kowtowing to the frenzied anti-government, anti-Obama cries of the tea partiers, I don’t know. I suspect it has to do with race (the president’s) and with money — who is providing how much of it to whom. Integrity is clearly not held in high regard in the GOP these days, at least not since it offered Sarah Palin as a person to be trusted a heartbeat away from the presidency.

That leaves the climate-change deniers (who also doubted the president’s birth certificate) who think anything they read on the Internet is true, except if it’s on an actual mainstream news site or one run by liberals. These are the abjectly lazy who wouldn’t check a fact put forth by Fox News even if their life depended on it. And sometimes it does.

So there’s my dilemma. I know what I have described here doesn’t apply to everyone in this country. My belief — indeed, my fervent hope — is that it doesn’t apply to a majority or even large minority of us. But Sajak Syndrome exists. So I will continue to write with that in mind and encourage others of like mind to do so as well. Far too many Americans have bought into the idea that dumb is good, up is down, black is white and what some politician said yesterday doesn’t have to make sense with what he or she says today.

Far too many, in other words, would rather think of renowned scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of “Cosmos” (on Fox TV no less) as a charlatan and liar when he describes the “Big Bang” theory and tells us that global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously and immediately. On this issue, they’d rather trust the judgment of game show host Pat Sajak.

That’s where I came in.

Bob Gaydos can be reached at rjgaydos@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

The Fruits of Obama’s Syria ‘Defeat’

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
President Obama ... his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

President Obama … his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

By Bob Gaydos

In the category of Things Are Never Quite the Way They Appear (especially in international diplomacy), I give you what many “pundits” regard as President Barack Obama’s humiliating defeat in getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to: 1. Admit that his country, contrary to all his previous claims, has a stockpile of outlawed chemical weapons; 2. Agree to promptly provide an inventory of those weapons and 3. Turn the weapons over to a United Nations delegation for the purpose of destroying them all by next year..

This humanitarian feat, which will save countless thousands of lives, was accomplished without firing one missile in righteous anger or placing one set of American GI boots on the ground in the midst of Syria’s brutal civil war. Stay out of Syria is what a solid majority of Americans said they wanted ever since Obama broached the subject of a punishing strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people. It is also what most Republicans in Congress insisted they wanted, contrary to their usual position on military intervention, but consistent with their policy of opposing anything Obama proposes. In this case, to the president, Republican motives didn’t matter; end results did.

This is strictly my opinion. I have no special insight into White House strategy, no one leaking me information on the president’s intentions. Rather, I have my own version of common sense and what I believe is a willingness to judge events by outcomes rather than political bias.

One of the things I believe may not necessarily be as it appears — or as many critics would have it be — is the president’s intent. I do not believe Barack Obama is so dumb as to submit a proposal to Congress that he wants passed if he knows it will be defeated. He is a biracial man living in a racist country who earned degrees from two Ivy League schools — Columbia and Harvard Law, where he was editor of the Law Review. He got elected president. Twice. Having made history, he also has guided the country slowly out of a devastating, largely Republican-created recession and got a health care plan for all Americans through a Congress that can barely agree to meet. This is one smart man (although I think his “red line“ on chemical weapons was a tactical mistake).

So, I have serious doubts that the president ever intended to launch a military strike against Syria, precisely because of the opposition he knew existed among average, war-weary Americans, as well as entrenched anti-Obama, rank-and-file Republicans. He signaled that when, after days of threatening a strike, he agreed to ask Congress to debate and vote on the issue, without even asking members to cut short their vacation to do so. That made the proposal DOA, with even many Democrats opposed to U.S. involvement in Syria because of their constituents’ opposition to it.

Ironically, with the disarmament agreement now being finalized with Syria and Russia, Obama’s continued threat to use military force if Syria fails to comply with the agreement gains much more validity and support among Americans than his original threat. Assad has admitted he’s got the weapons. French, British and American experts, as well as Human Rights Watch, say, based on a United Nations report, that there is no doubt it was Assad’s troops, not rebel forces, that used them. The U.S. Navy’s continued presence in the Mediterranean Sea now takes on even greater import to Assad.

Then, of course, there is the disarmament agreement itself. Americans are strongly of two minds on this:

1. One group, that didn’t necessarily want to attack Syria, nonetheless thinks it is embarrassing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting credit for the plan and that he lectured Americans (in the New York Times no less) about thinking they had to act as morality policeman of the world.

2. Another group feels it is high time America stopped acting as morality policeman of the world, focused on domestic issues instead and enlisted other countries’ help in finding diplomatic, rather than military, solutions to international crises.

I don’t think Obama cares that Putin is getting most of the credit for the chemical weapons agreement. I also don’t think the agreement just sprang into Putin’s head in a dream one night. In fact, Russian officials have acknowledged such a plan was discussed months ago with American officials. Just as Obama is no clueless patsy in this, Putin is no hero. He is no champion of human rights and Americans shouldn’t really pay serious attention to what he has to say about life in the U.S.

In fact, Russia has been the main supplier of arms for the Syrian Army, enabling the civil war to drag on and produce more than 100,000 deaths and a flood of millions fleeing their country. But it is precisely for the link with Syria that Putin had to appear to be the primary force behind the non-military plan.

Of course, this helps Putin gain even more political stature at home. As mentioned previously, Obama has been elected president twice. He cannot run again. His place in history is forged and his future as a statesman guaranteed. But Putin has an Olympics coming to his country next year and has stirred worldwide condemnation for Russia’s anti-gay laws. I wouldn’t be surprised if Russian authorities were tolerant of demonstrations supporting gay rights next winter or if Barack Obama were among the world leaders being most vocal about demanding such behavior. And, while he won’t show it, I don’t think Putin will regard his apparent backing down on gay rights as a “humiliating defeat” on the international stage.

Meanwhile, a major store of chemical weapons will be destroyed, a potential threat to Middle Eastern neighbors of Syria will have been removed, rebel forces in Syria will know they don’t have to fear facing such weapons, not one American soldier will have set foot in Syria, not one Syrian citizen will have been listed as collateral damage in a strike by American “smart” missiles, the United States will have shown cynical countries that it really can use diplomacy, rather than military might, to resolve a crisis, Assad will have been shown to be a murderous liar, Putin will have had some of his Lone Ranger image stripped away in international diplomacy, President Obama, counter to his image in some corners as a reluctant warrior, will have appeared to be willing and eager to use U.S. military power, and Republicans will have emerged as a party opposed to war. By the way, the overwhelming majority of Americans support the non-military resolution of the Syrian crisis.

Humiliating defeat my ass..

bob@zestoforange.com

‘Boehnerquester,’ Not ‘Obamaquester’!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor pose with members of Congress and 'Obamaquester' props, 10 days before the sequester is scheduled by law to be automatically triggered.

By Emily Theroux

The Wall Street Journal called him “President Armageddon.”

Early in the final fortnight of the Great Sequestration Debate, President Obama compared a frightening cascade of looming federal spending cuts to taking a “meat cleaver approach” to our fragile economic recovery.

Unless an unlikely compromise between Democrats and Republicans can be reached, the first round of a decade’s worth of automatic, across-the-board reductions will kick in on March 1, whacking an immediate $85 billion from military and domestic budgets alike. Countless jobs will be lost, Obama warned, and many more public-sector employees can expect reduced hours or extended furloughs (including teachers, first responders, air traffic controllers, and FBI agents).

But unlike the sojourns of their elected representatives, who just embarked on yet another paid leave, these government “vacations” won’t be taxpayer-funded.

Brutal,” as the president described it, doesn’t fully capture the coming desperation, once funding has been curtailed for everything from submarine deployments to military health care coverage; from nuclear weapons security and foreign aid to FDA meat, poultry, and dairy inspections; from the Head Start program and immunization programs to food assistance for impoverished children.

* * *

For weeks now, House Speaker John Boehner has blithely called the cruel, indiscriminate cutback plan “the Obamaquester.” The Republican talking point has become a Twitter hashtag wildly popular on the right. Liberals have their own terms for it, many of them unprintable. Some call it “the axe”; I call it “the guillotine.” A particularly creative response to Boehner’s taunt — Sequestageddon™ — was posted last night on Twitter by a freelance writer and self-avowed “political junkie” who tweets as @DAbitty.

Like the Debt Ceiling Debacle and the Fiscal Cliff Fiasco before it, the Sequester Stalemate is abstract and unfathomable to many Americans who don’t pay much attention to the “meat-grinding” of the legislative process. What makes these partisan showdowns all the more toxic is the way Boehner, McConnell, and other GOP leaders evade liability — for both plutocratic policy goals and relentless obstruction — by using convoluted language, trafficking in logical fallacies, and fomenting deliberate lies about their opponents.

Ironically, the sequester was intended to be so dire a threat that neither side would consider actually letting it happen. Yet here we stand on the brink of economic disaster with no hint of a compromise in sight, and all the obdurate Republicans will do is try their damnedest to make sure the blame falls squarely on President Obama’s shoulders.

While reporters from The New York Times, The Hill, and other mainstream publications reproach both political parties for the impasse, the GOP has staunchly refused to counterbalance the sequester’s spending cuts with revenue increases. Emboldened by Bob Woodward’s book The Price of Politics, Republicans almost universally ascribe the resulting gridlock to Obama. (Woodward credited then-Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew with initially proposing the sheer lunacy of including mandatory sequestration in the 2011 debt deal.)

Slate.com’s Dave Weigel, who called the question of which side really dreamed up the sequester “the dumbest debate in Washington,” slyly noted Woodward’s version as the one Republicans “prefer to cite” (while they omit another Woodward observation: the sequester’s package of spending cuts with no tax hikes was what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “demanded”).

* * *

A slide from the final page of Speaker John Boehner's PowerPoint to House Republicans on July 31, 2011, obtained by The Daily Beast.

Boehner’s malevolently quixotic “Obamaquest” (to pin the tail on the Dems’ donkey for any fallout from another GOP stab at tanking the economy) may yet crash and burn. Yesterday, a 2011 email surfaced that included a PowerPoint presentation developed by the House speaker’s office and the Republican Policy Committee. Created to persuade Tea Party House members to support a debt-ceiling deal, the presentation clearly shows that Boehner viewed “automatic across-the-board cuts” (sequestration) as “a ‘cudgel’ to guarantee a reduction in federal spending — the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations,” in the words of John Avlon, whose reporting for The Daily Beast turned up the smoking (digital) gun.

The GOP’s goal was to neutralize the $1.2 trillion debt ceiling increase, by “(ensuring) that any debt limit increase is met with greater spending cuts – IF Joint Committee fails to achieve at least $1.2T in deficit reduction,” the slide pictured above clearly reads.

But Avlon copped out at the last minute and, like his mainstream media colleagues, fell back on the false equivalency of blaming both parties equally for failing to “work together” on what he assumed to be a shared goal. “And now, faced with the pain that both parties voted for but nobody wants, they’re busy pointing fingers and trying to assign political blame,” he concluded.

The only reason we’re stalled in the current blind alley is the GOP’s obstinacy over approving any revenue increase that involves raising taxes or eliminating corporate loopholes – without a binding agreement with Democrats that the resulting revenues will be used to pay down the debt.

The Party of No (no taxes, no regulations, no cuts to corporate welfare, no compromise, no veracity, no accountability) has morphed into the Party of Nobody Here But Us Chickenhawks — willing, as they’ve always been over risking the lives of young Americans in opportunistic wars, to play chicken with the national economy. In their quest to impede Obama at every turn, they’re not above gambling with hundreds of thousands of jobs, hamstringing current military operations, and taking food from the mouths of hungry children if doing so will prevent a single gazillionaire from paying a dime more in federal income tax.

The Republican Party has turned even the most routine votes on fiscal policy into pitched battles that neither party wins in the end. As a result of this calculated political grandstanding, the American people come in dead last virtually every time the GOP stands in unison to block Barack Obama.

GOP ‘Reform’: The Crying Game

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, 113th Congress

By Emily Theroux

By focusing his second inaugural address on equal opportunity, did Barack Obama finally give John Boehner something to cry about?

I certainly hope so.

At the very least, the Weeper of the House still appears to be running scared. After Obama walloped Republican prognosticators in November by depriving Mitt Romney of what they envisioned as certain victory, Boehner appeared shell-shocked during his post-election press briefing.

“We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”

Boehner’s acquiescence was a far cry from his disingenuous “Hell no, you don’t!” eruption in 2010. As columnist Dana Milbank noted, Boehner delivered his 2012 speech in a room named for Speaker Sam Rayburn, who allegedly said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.” (“Boehner sounds as though he’s ready to pick up hammer and nail,” Milbank observed. “But will his fellow Republicans stop kicking?”)

President Barack Obama

That question set the stage for the contentious two-headed behemoth that the Republican Party has devolved into since last fall. Boehner has already changed strategies several times. After the president’s speech, the beleaguered House speaker told the conservative Ripon Society he believes Obama intends to “annihilate the Republican Party, to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

(If Boehner asked me, I’d advise him to guard his right flank. He won a second term as speaker with a record 12 GOP defections — probably revenge for ousting four recalcitrant teabaggers from their committee assignments in December. The refusal of far-right ideologues to support the speaker’s agenda — particularly when it emerges from a bargain with the president — has driven Boehner to assemble a pragmatic yet uncertain coalition of  moderate Republicans and Democrats who have voted so far to thwart the fiscal cliff, pass Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy, allocate Hurricane Sandy aid, and postpone another disastrous debt-ceiling stalemate.)

Republicans are terrified by Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda of passing progressive legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, gay rights,  and climate change. They’re dismayed that the president has converted his campaign machinery into a nonprofit group, to promote his initiatives and oppose GOP intractability. They’re also rattled because Obama is bypassing them, as he did during the campaign, and speaking to Americans directly — and Americans appear to be listening.)

 

Will Republicans ever stop kicking?

In the three months since the president’s reelection threw them for a loop, Republicans have advanced and retreated; pissed and moaned; stamped their feet and squealed like stuck pigs. On occasion, they’ve done a 180 and meekly fallen in line to vote with Democrats. Here are a few highlights of the GOP’s baffling recent machinations on matters of policy, posturing, and the subterfuge known as “messaging”:

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

1) The ‘stupid party’: Immediately after Gov. Willard “Mitt” Romney lost the 2012 election, Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the son of Punjabi immigrants (and Louisiana’s first non-white governor since African-American newspaper publisher P.B.S. Pinchback served for 35 days during Reconstruction), began angling to position himself as the multicultural face of the “new” GOP. “We’ve got to stop being the ‘stupid party’,” Jindal railed. Unfortunately, his harsh, regressive policy proposals (drastically cutting Medicaid benefits for nursing homes and the poor, and replacing state income and corporate taxes with a sales tax increase targeting the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents) tarnish any claim he might eventually stake to the 2016 nomination.

 2) Rekindling the ‘war on women’: Jindal and other Republicans have called out failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for making “offensive and bizarre” remarks about rape. For awhile, the GOP appeared to have shifted its frenzied campaign against women’s reproductive rights to the back burner. Then John Boehner inexplicably dialed up the misogyny by throwing red meat to the culture warriors at the “March for Life”, an annual D.C. anti-abortion protest. Boehner vowed “to make abortion a relic of the past” and a fundamental Republican goal.  (Translation:  to criminalize safe, legal abortion, returning us to an era of butchery that all too frequently terminated the woman along with the pregnancy.)

3) ‘And build the danged fence’: After Romney lost the Latino vote by 40 points, pols and pundits proclaimed that the GOP needed to retire its blatant aversion to immigrants. What Republican policy-makers fail to realize is that even if they eventually climb aboard Obama’s bandwagon and support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it may do little to thwart the repercussions from decades of right-wing ethnic prejudice against Latinos. (Right now, green cards look like a distant prospect. The president’s immigration proposal is meeting determined resistance from GOP hardliners who would rather shine the president on than cooperate, strutting their belligerent “border security” stuff  all the way from Laredo to San Diego.)

 

Summit attendees oddly complacent

What does the Republican Party need to do to recoup?” asked MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. “They need to get back to a message of hope, instead of a message of rejection.”

The problem with the “evolving” GOP is that it many of its members seem to have reached a premature verdict (especially in light of the strange complacency on display at last weekend’s National Review post-election summit): The party’s problem resides not in its core precepts, but in its candidates, its tactics, its “messaging.” These folks have decided they don’t need to change what they’re saying; just rejiggering the words they’re using, and the people who are saying them, should suffice. They’re probably too deeply invested in Machiavellian chicanery (which masquerades, for them, as “principle”) to truly change.

The Republican Party has become a figment of its own delusions, the same ones it devised to foist on unwary simpletons. It has no moral center, and Americans know it.

Faced with the enormity of the GOP’s decline into selfishness, avarice, and intolerance, Professor David Schultz pronounced its aging white constituency “the real takers.” Columnist David Brooks advised throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “In this reinvention process, Republicans seem to have spent no time talking to people who didn’t already vote for them,” Brooks observed, adding that the GOP conundrum of battling government is incompatible with actual governance. His conclusion: “It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party” that can compete outside the South and rural West.

Do any of the cagey, conflicted partisans in the current GOP dare call their recent experimentation with “messaging” and theatrics “Republican Party reform”? Don’t believe it until you see the whites of their eyes — and then be sure to look for any trace of genuine tears.

The GOP Dives Over the Cliff

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

John Boehner ... the face of hapless GOP leadership

By Bob Gaydos

Wow! That was some drop off the fiscal cliff, wasn’t it? What’d we go, the equivalent of 10 feet before congressional Republicans caved and pulled the rip cord for 99-plus percent of Americans? Of course, in the process, they also slit their own wrists, showing themselves to be flaming hypocrites and tragically inept politicians. Many Americans already recognized this, witness the recent elections, but now even conservative commentators are throwing bricks, rotten tomatoes and anything else they can wrap their narrow minds around at the people who led the once Grand Old Party so far astray.

But there’s a problem even with this belated awakening. Whom do you blame? What leaders are we talking about? Even the hapless John Boehner tried to get a compromise bill through his House, to avoid the specter of going over that imaginary cliff into tax hikes and drastic budget cuts at midnight this year. He couldn’t get enough votes in the Republican-controlled House to pass the bill. This is leadership? Boehner gets a C for trying and an F in math. He also flunks Politics 101 (along with most leading Republicans) for allowing the angry, fearful, selfish politics of tea party conservatives to take over a party that once boasted of compassionate conservatism.

I defy anyone to find something compassionate in the GOP agenda today. It is a party well-known for what it opposes — even hates — not what it favors. For example, “big government.” This is stupid on the face of it because a world power like the United States could not have a “small government.’’ And even if you just mean a smaller government, Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush all presided over an increase in government spending, with help from Republican Congresses.

Tax increases? None. Ever. For anyone. That’s been the GOP mantra for decades, even though Reagan and senior Bush raised them. That ironclad position led the country to the phony fiscal cliff, with President Obama pushing for an increase in taxes for the richest Americans, to help reduce the deficit, while maintaining soon-to-expire George W. Bush-era tax rates for everyone else.

Nope, the GOP had to protect its rich benefactors, with not one of them apparently recognizing that, once over the cliff, Obama would propose the same thing, with it now amounting to a tax break for everyone but the richest Americans, who would get a tax hike, according to the GOP’s own logic. How could they oppose cutting taxes for 99 percent of the country, especially with a fragile economy and having just gotten beaten up in the last election?

Only the most adamant of conservatives in the House voted against this, with Obama winning a victory that Boehner could not manage in his own party. Will Republicans raise taxes ever? Apparently yes.

What else? In direct contradiction with a majority of Americans, Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform with a provision for citizenship. (Where’d the Latino vote go, fellas?) They are also homophobic, and some of them unbelievably sexist. They would gut Social Security and Medicare, eliminate loan programs that make it easier for young people to go to college, think health insurance should be some kind of earned privilege (they lost this fight, too), have no use for federal involvement in education (please don’t raise your kids in Texas, Mississippi or West Virginia, folks), never saw a bill giving women a pay raise or control of their own bodies that they didn’t oppose.

They also don’t like to help people in need, voting to defeat a bill extending provisions of a disabilities act to other nations, even with once-revered GOP leader Bob Dole making a pitch for it from a wheel chair. And, of course, they voted down a bill providing aid to New Jersey and New York, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, even though GOP members in those states asked for it. Bitter and selfish come to mind.

But hang on. I just thought of a couple of things the 21st century GOP likes, even loves. Guns. Lots of guns, Any kind, in anyone’s hands. At the school house door, preferably. And rich, old white men, which is primarily what it comprises these days. And that’s now a minority.

And yes, I saved the most obvious for last. Republicans today — the old guard and all the tea partiers — hate Barack Obama. Hate that he’s president … again. They say he should sit down with them, preferably in the White House, and kiss their rings, or whatever, if he wants their votes. But they also shout at him from the floor of Congress during a presidential address and doubt his citizenship, showing no respect for the man or the office.

The president may well sit down with some of these “political leaders,” but don’t think he won’t know what he’s dealing with. He’s half-white and half-black and worked to organize communities in inner-city Chicago. There’s a kind of hatred he’s faced his whole life. Still, he is the most powerful person on the planet today, which suggests the haters are finally losing this fight.

bob@zestoforange.com