Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

Remembering ‘Rhoda’ with Gratitude

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Valerie Harper … living each day to the fullest

By Bob Gaydos

In March of 2013, I wrote a column contrasting two world views — one of hope, one of no hope. The source of hope was actress Valerie Harper, who had just revealed she was suffering from a rare form of brain cancer. The no-hope view came from the Republican Party, more specifically, the Conservative Political Action Caucus..

i went back to read the column after learning of Harper’s death a couple of days ago and was struck by two things:

— How right I was about the hopelesssness permeating the Republican world view.

— How wrong Harper was about the power of her own world view. She said at the time she had been told she probably had three months to live and spread her message of living life to the fullest. She carried on for more than six years. Plucky “Rhoda” to the end.

I’m not patting myself on the back for seeing the Republican Party for what it was six years ago,  but rather, I am depressed that so many of my flag-waving fellow Americans still seem to accept the utter lack of humanity at its core. I chose Valerie Harper’s message of hope six years ago. Still do. Else, what’s the point?

If you’re interested, the March, 2013 column follows. You might recognize some names (Palin, Trump). Either way, keep the faith.

 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Bob Gaydos

I’m standing at the corner of hope and no hope, wondering how people who grow up in the same country wind up on opposite sides of the street.

Let’s start with the no-hope crowd so that I can end on a positive note. The Conservative Political Action Caucus is holding its annual convention this week. The overriding question is: Does it really matter anymore? CPAC used to be the heart and soul of the Republican Party, conservative to the core. Today, CPAC is adamantly conservative to a fault and, in truth, as a party, Republicans have become heartless and bereft of any apparent soul. That may sound harsh, but there hasn’t been a single “moderate” Republican to step up and challenge the view for several years.

Quite simply, hope cannot exist in an atmosphere of anger, hatred, bigotry, religious extremism and plain stupidity that characterizes what passes for the GOP today and which has its origins in the increasingly ultra-restrictive membership of CPAC. The big tent that some Republicans used to like to talk about today is miniscule. It has no room for immigrants, blacks, Latinos, gays, the poor, the young, the middle class or women who insist on being equal citizens. Or of any disagreement with it.

That formula cost Republicans the presidency the last two elections. Does CPAC get it? Apparently not. It’s not even certain that CPAC cares. The speaker’s list for this year’s convention includes prominent and generous time slots for such as Sarah (the irrelevant) Palin, Donald (still waiting for the president’s birth certificate) Trump and former Florida congressman. Alan (hopelessly out-to-lunch) West.

It does not include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, widely regarded (by those outside of CPAC) as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. He made the apparently unforgivable mistake of thanking President Obama for federal aid in helping New Jersey recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Vetoing a marriage equality bill was apparently not enough to restore Christie’s conservative credentials, at least not for CPAC.

Gay Republican groups are barred from official CPAC proceedings, but not members who routinely spout anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant rhetoric. Florida Sen. Mark Rubio, the Great Latino hope of the GOP, gets but a token platform appearance. Thoroughly confusing the issues, more mainstream Republicans such as the failed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney and the next-in-line Bush, former Florida governor, Jeb, are invited, to the chagrin of many CPAC members.

Out of this hodgepodge of negativity, hostility and failure, it is expected that libertarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul will emerge as the winner of CPAC’s straw presidential poll. He will see it as vindication of libertarianism, which it is not. CPAC will probably view it as an anomaly. The thinking public will, one hopes, see it for what it is — the death knell of a once proud, but now hopeless, political party.

Which brings me to Valerie Harper, and hope.

Valerie Harper, the wisecracking Rhoda on the popular “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV, is dying. She has a rare type of terminal brain cancer. Her time is limited, her prognosis poor. Her spirit is indomitable and full of positive messages about living life.

Harper, 73, says she is not sitting home on the couch feeling sorry for herself. She is on a book tour, talking about the wonderful life she has lived, cognizant of the fact that, whatever pain and horrible things may lie ahead, “they’re ahead. They’re not now.”

“Keep your chin up and don’t go to the funeral, mine, or yours or your loved ones, until the day of the funeral, because then you miss the life you have left,” Harper says. The actress, who has also battled lung cancer, may have three months to live, she says, but her focus is on enjoying each day as it comes along, with gratitude for the days she has had. And, she also says she feels she has a “responsibility” to raise awareness for early testing for cancer.

So, with death staring her in the face, Valerie Harper chooses to focus on life, on being a useful, positive member of society. She wants to help people, to build a better community.

Meanwhile, with everything possible in this wonderful country of ours to live for and the potential to do something about improving our collective lot, the members of CPAC, who control the destiny of the Republican Party, choose to focus on who they don’t like, what they don’t want, what they can’t and won’t accept, what they refuse to believe. They see no future for things as they are so they seem intent on destroying what can be, if for no other reason than spite. I can see no hope for such people or their ideas.

For Valerie Harper, though, I feel an abiding love and gratitude christened with tears. She gives me hope.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hillary and a Bunch of GOP Wanna-bes

Friday, June 20th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In recent months, thanks mainly to the Republican Party’s simple-minded policy of anything President Obama does or says we don’t like, I have been lulled into a state of who-gives-a-rat’s-patootie about politics. Really. What’s the point? He says shoot; they say war-monger. He says don’t shoot; they say coward. Hot? Cold. Higher minimum wage? Lower taxes on the rich.

Leave it to the Associated Press, apparently committed to the mission of tracking the stuff no one else cares about, to remind me that Americans have another presidential election coming up soon. Well, not really soon. It’s actually nearly two-and-a-half years from now, but, the AP tells me, there’s no time like the present to catch up on the “movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates.”

More than a dozen? I was flabbergasted. I could think of two Democrats:

  • Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, former senator from New York and former first lady is the odds-on favorite this far in advance of the vote to become the nation’s first woman president. She has the money, the machine, the name, etc. Although some people do hate her.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, who may make a token run against Clinton, but is more likely to step aside as, say, president of the University of Delaware or assume an advisory role in a new Clinton administration.

But the AP tells me there are two other Democratic possibilities:

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. No way. First of all, there is a Cuomo family tradition of not running for president. Second of all, Cuomo served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bill Clinton’s presidency and so is unlikely to challenge the Clintons. Plus, he’s got time on his side and is a shoo-in for re-election as governor.
  • Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. O’Malley? Who? Maryland? Get real.

Why not Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who at least have national name recognition and ardent supporters? Next!

It’s on the Republican side, though, that I had real trouble grappling with what the AP tells me is reality. My political sensibilities were shocked into a state of numbness as I read the list of possible GOP presidential candidates. Could this possibly be the best the party of Lincoln had to offer? Would any of these men be competent to carry Ike’s golf clubs? I went through the list:

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The supposed “moderate” Republican. His staff shut down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a Democratic politician who wouldn’t support Christie. Everywhere he goes, he has to defend himself against charges of being a bully. Tries to act like a reasonable politician, until you disagree with him. Two-faced. “I Am Not a Bully” does not resonate the same way as “I Like Ike.”
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s between him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (see below) for dumbest on the list. Renounced his Canadian citizenship to make sure he could run for president, even though he didn’t have to. Canadian citizenship may have been the best thing about him. Led the campaign to shut down the federal government. He doesn’t believe in science or education or government, etc. Thus, a tea party darling. Some Republicans hate him.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Again? Didn’t he demonstrate his intellectual shortcomings in the last campaign? Not big on science, education, health care. He likes to create lots of low-paying (minimum wage or less) jobs to brag about his state’s employment rate and visits other states to poach businesses. What is wrong with Texas?
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Another flameout from last time around. A president named “Bobby?” I don’t think so. Louisianans are among poorest, least educated, unhealthy people in country. He loves the oil industry (hello, Gulf of Mexico residents).
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Actually supported immigration reform until tea party robots attacked him. Now he doesn’t talk about it. Gutsy. Like Jindal, he messed up a big opportunity to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union. Coming up small in big moments is not a desirable trait in a president.
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Again? Another loser from the GOP’s 2012 primary circus. He’s making Christmas movies. He criticized his own party. He’s a religious super-conservative. Why is he even on this list?
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Okay, daddy was a Libertarian and son says he’s not. But he is. Which means there is no consistency. You will love him on some issues, hate him on others. Thinks employers have right to do pretty much anything with employees; opposes use of drones by government. He’s a favorite among tea partiers, for now. Wait until they ask him about penalizing people for smoking marijuana. Plagiarized other people’s words for his newspaper column. Unbending views are not a useful philosophy for governing, especially for the less-fortunate.
  • Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s losing running mate for the GOP in 2012. Authored draconian budget cuts in House of Representatives that hurt, yes, the poorest and least fortunate, but did negotiate compromise deal. A favorite of the Wall Street crowd that wrecked the economy. Sometimes irritates tea partiers, but that doesn’t take much. Presidential timber? Plywood.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Hates unions. Is in midst of a scandal about government staff doing campaign work for him. In the Mitt Romney mode of good-looking and seemingly articulate, but had to survive a recall vote.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He’s a Bush. Two is enough. He believes in a sensible immigration policy, which means most Republicans will hate him. He’s on the list because he’s a Bush. We made that mistake already.

So that’s my take on the list of possible presidents, for now. You’ll notice no women on the Republican side. Some of the GOP names will, one hopes drop by the wayside between now and 2015. My even more fervent hope is that some more credible GOP candidates of substance will appear to challenge Clinton.

Maybe the AP can compile a list of those possibilities instead of following all these losers for two years.

 

 

A Gratitude List for 2012

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

The last few years I’ve practiced the habit of making a gratitude list at the end of the year. Nothing formal. Just a kind of memo to myself about the the good things in my life and even in the world we live in.

Some people might find this corny or even delusional, given the state of much of the world. For me, that’s the reason for doing it. I have learned that if I focus on the positive people and situations in my life, the rest of the nonsense, over which I have little or no control, tends not to bother me, or at least not nearly as much as it used to. And positive stuff tends to follow.

I think this is how I got through the most inane and insane election season in a long time. Yes, I am grateful that Barack Obama was re-elected president. But I never for once took seriously the ship of fools the Republicans offered as possible opponents, including the zombie who eventually survived, Mitt Romney. After his opponents devoured him in the primaries, the man had no brain of his own. But the real saving grace in that scenario for me was that, even if Romney somehow won, he was still smarter than George W. Bush, and we survived eight years of him in the Oval Office. (Note to self: If you live in a country that elects George W. Bush president twice, you really can’t take politics too seriously.)

Worse than being too concerned about other people’s absurd political views, of course, is taking one’s own views too seriously. Hello, tea party members, how’d things go in this past election? Not so good, you say? All your extra- terrestrial, misogynist candidates lost? Yeah, I’m really kinda glad about that. I’m not so thrilled with what you’ve done to the Republican Party, but then, their party members chose over and over again to adopt your dumb (there’s no other word) positions on social and economic issues and, whaddya know? Americans rejected them one by one across the country.

For that, I am truly grateful, because I am a big fan of sanity and compassion.

What else? Well, I’m grateful the Mayans were wrong about that end of the world thing and that that mystery planet, Nibiru, didn’t destroy us. (Actually, I just threw those in to placate the folks who believed that stuff.)

That brings me to the personal stuff. I am grateful I have two healthy, smart sons who speak to me, friends who can be counted on (yes, even Facebook, which helped me find new ones), a brain (or is it a mind?) that still functions fairly well and lets me share these thoughts, a blog that lets lots of people read them, if they choose, an abiding sense of curiosity about the world, and a willingness, even in retirement, to accept new people, habits and thoughts into my life.

The latter have to do with a new diet and exercise regimen I have undertaken in the past few months, which I mentioned in a previous blog.

This is easily said, not so easily done. But this is not one of my old New Year’s resolutions that evaporates with the new year. So far, so good. I‘ve lost weight and had to buy new jeans and hoodies, because the XXL sizes are too big on me now. There are actual signs of muscle. Fruits and vegetables are not the enemy. Sugar is a stranger. I haven’t finished reading “Wheat Belly.”

I have profound gratitude for the surprising willingness I discovered to actually make these changes and to trust that this is the right new path for me to take, and for those in my life who make it easier, even enjoyable, to make the journey.

Happy New Year.

bob@zestoforange.com

The Party of Lincoln, Herman Cain, etc.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

By Bob Gaydos

(With a nod to the great Jimmy Cannon.)

It’s none of my business, but …

  • I haven’t seen a movie the likes of “Lincoln” in a long time. A recent 5 p.m. Sunday screening in a crowded theater at The Galleria drew tears and cheers (well, applause), both deserved. It’s a wonderful movie, the kind Hollywood seldom tries to make these days. Yet as I watched Daniel Day-Lewis bring the 16th president to life, with wit, wisdom and a willingness to play dirty for the greater good, I couldn’t prevent the present from worming its way into my thoughts. “Can you imagine,” I thought to myself, “if Mitt Romney had been president during the Civil War? Or George W. Bush? What would have happened to the country? The world?” It got me thinking about … well … fate. They say great events make great presidents, but this country has had a lot of commanders-in-chief who, in my view, might well have seen greatness escape them if faced with the issues confronting Lincoln — a civil war and slavery. Sometimes, I think, it takes the right person coming along at the right time to produce the most beneficial results, in our own lives as well as in history writ large. Of course, we have to recognize that moment, in the same the way the people who voted for Lincoln recognized theirs. Fuel for future blogs.

Meanwhile, it’s none of my business, but …

  • Herman Cain wouldn’t be my choice to lead a third-party movement by disaffected Republicans. The onetime presidential candidate and adulterer said after Obama’s reelection that the GOP no longer represents the interests of conservatives and is unable to change, so a new party is needed. So far, so good, either way you feel about the current GOP. But Cain made his name in business as the man who rescued Godfather’s Pizza by closing 200 pizza stores and eliminating thousands of jobs. A Romneyesque approach to success, wouldn’t you say? Is that what “real” conservatives want?

It’s also none of my business, and maybe no one cares, but …

  • Has anyone figured out why the New York Jets signed Tim Tebow, or how the team’s professional training staff missed his two broken ribs for two weeks? Just asking.
  • Has anyone missed the hockey season? I don’t get how owners and players in a league that has trouble attracting fans can argue over how much money they want to get from games to the point they don’t even play the games so don’t get any money at all. Is it just me, or is that nuts?
  • I also just don’t get the charm of camping out on concrete for two days outside big box stores for the opportunity to spend my money earlier than everyone else.
  • And aren’t people of a certain age who complain about e-mail and texting and Facebook and Twitter and who bemoan the fact that “people don’t talk to each other anymore” at risk of falling into fuddy-duddyism? If they aren’t already there?

It’s probably should be my business, even though I wish it weren’t, but:

  • Don’t Republicans ever get tired of signing pledges to do something or never do something (Remember the abandoned Gingrich-era pledge to serve only two terms?) Are they that unaware that the world we live in changes all the time and governing in an ever-changing world requires flexibility, not blind stubbornness? Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Grover Norquist “I will never vote to raise taxes” pledge that virtually every Republican member of Congress has signed and which is a crucial reason we are being told the nation is heading for a “fiscal cliff.” Large, mandatory spending cuts are due to take effect next year, along with an end to Bush-era tax cuts (a development the GOP typically refers to as a tax increase), unless Congress and President Obama can agree on a spending plan beforehand. If nothing is agreed on, Obama early next year will surely ask for what he has always asked for — a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans. That would be done by giving everyone else a return to Bush-era tax rates, which would of course be described as a tax cut by Democrats. How can Republicans oppose that? To head that scenario off, some Republicans are already talking about flushing their Norquist pledge and looking for revenues (taxes) this year to lessen the need for deep spending cuts. They’re doing this for the “good of the country,” they say, not for political reasons. Also, they lost the election.

Finally, it‘s thankfully no longer my business, but:

  • Does anyone, Republicans included, still think Sarah Palin was a good choice to be commander-in-chief in waiting? And, if not, why should we listen to anything the blustery John McCain says today? Coulda, woulda, shoulda named your own secretary of state, Senator.
  •  What the hell happened to the Republican Party between Lincoln and Romney?

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanted: One Soul, One Victory Tour Bus

Monday, November 5th, 2012

President Obama and family, celebrating victory.

By Bob Gaydos

After watching hours of election returns, skipping from channel to channel trying to get the latest results as quickly as possible, I have three lasting impressions:

  • Fox News consistently beat everyone else in calling states for a candidate (usually Barack Obama) and signaling a bad night for Mitt Romney. They called Pennsylvania and Ohio for the president while the other, “more reliable,” networks played it safe.
  • The “expert” talking heads spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the coming debate over the “soul” of the Republican Party. Again, Fox was out front.
  • Obama delivered a victory speech that came close to being classified as a “barn-burner.”

I don’t expect to watch much of Fox again, so I’ll chalk its surprisingly professional performance up to an anomaly and move on to the other observations.

For starters, will someone please define what they mean by the “soul” of the Republican Party? A party whose presidential candidate told Hispanic aliens to “self-deport” and dismissed 47 percent of the country as not his concern? A party that would deny gays and lesbians the rights guaranteed to all Americans? A party committed in its platform to denying women the right to an abortion under any circumstances? A party dominated by aging white men whose favorite pastime seems to be figuring ways to keep other kinds of people from voting? A party focused on maintaining every tax break possible for wealthy Americans, but making it tougher for college students to get loans? A party that treats science as a theory and global warming as a myth? A party that requires its ultimate presidential candidate to lie his way through primary campaigns in order to capture the votes of the whack job far right that dominated those campaigns, then backtrack on all those positions once he enters the general campaign and has to attract normal voters and then re-backtrack to some of the early positions in order to hang on to the Tea Partiers, ultimately leading millions of Americans to conclude he’s a liar?

That party? If there’s a soul in there, it must be in pretty sorry shape. Besides, just who is going to have this debate over the GOP’s soul? No elected Republican or party official said anything during the campaign about the GOP’s glaring position outside the mainstream of American thought on virtually every social issue or the fact that ever-increasing numbers of Latinos, blacks, gays, women and young people identified with Obama and the Democratic Party and that those are constituencies who are voting in ever-increasing numbers while old, white men are just getting older.

Who in the GOP will dare to defy Karl Rove, whose genius has now been trumped twice by Obama? Or Rush Limbaugh and the cadre of media blowhards that riled so many Americans up against Obama with a litany of half-truths and outright lies? Is there a leader in the GOP that dares to say the Tea Party, which cost the GOP several Senate seats as well, has no clothes, or at least no influence with a majority of Americans? The talking heads kept saying this debate was coming, but no one offered a name.

My advice to the Republicans who are fed up with the last two elections is to form a new party starting with all the sensible Republicans who have left the party.

Which brings me to Obama’s rousing 2 a.m. call to action. After the obligatory thank you’s to campaign workers and a promise to meet with leaders of all parties to end the Washington gridlock, and thanking supporters for their votes, he harkened back to a message delivered by another Democratic president 50 years ago.

“But that doesn’t mean your work is done‘” he said. “The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government.”

John F. Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” was more dramatic, but it had already been used. Obama’s message, however, was the same — you, the people need to be more involved. If you don’t like the way things are being done, change it. The election is not the end; it’s the beginning.

A reporter covering Obama said the president did plan to try to work with Republicans, but also intended to take his message directly to the people, to take his show on the road, so to speak.

The talking heads all said it would never work. But they were still convinced Republicans — who lost the election — were going to sit down and have a heart-to-heart over their party’s soul.

I suggest a search party.

bob@zestoforange.com

Beginning of the End for GOP?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Mitt Romney, oft befuddled, for a reason

By Bob Gaydos

Everyone pretty much agrees Mitt Romney has had a rough couple of weeks. He got the whole Libya embassy thing wrong, then repeated it the next day to make sure everyone knew. Then he called half the country lazy victims looking for a government handout and said he didn’t have to worry about them. The only insight he’s given voters into his tax returns is to show the most recent one, in which he paid more than he was required to, apparently so that he could justify his claim he paid at a 12 percent rate. And he apparently wonders (in public) why they can’t open the windows on airplanes when they‘re flying.

Even the Fox News team has struggled to spin some of this into electoral gold.

But I think it’s time to give Mitt a break. It’s not all his fault. After all, he is a product of his environment, acting in ways he feels are best suited to, not only his survival, but his success. It’s a kind of political Darwinism in which a particular species adopts the least favorable traits of its least socially adaptable members and the best of the rest try to prevent the extinction of the entire species.

Of course, we are talking here of the Republican Party. More specifically, the 21st century version of the Republican Party, of which Mitt Romney, by virtue of his name and great wealth (his birth environment), is a leading member, at the moment.

The perfect example of the decline of the party as a viable organism was the field of candidates put forth in the presidential primaries this year. It was far from the best the party had to offer, but it did include the most outlandishly conservative, if not radical, members the party has to offer. Also, some of the dumbest.

Newt Gingrich was easily the smartest. Also the most dangerous. Michelle Bachmann lives on another planet, Rick Perry can’t count to three, Rick Santorum reminded the country why they hated him in Pennsylvania, Ron Paul isn’t really a Republican, and another guy sold pizza. This is who Republicans apparently wanted to hear. How could Romney lose?

He outspent and outlasted the rightwing brigade and changed his opinion every day. He had to to get the votes of enough Republicans to be their presidential nominee. He still changes his opinion regularly, even though he is the nominee. Habits are hard to break.

But look back four years. John McCain, a respected naval hero and well-known as a contrary Republican senator, who voted his conscience, not the party line, on things like immigration and regulation, decided he had to sell his soul and agree with all the ultra-conservative views of the people running his party if he hoped to be their presidential nominee. His tongue-tying, butt-kissing performance (especially in South Carolina) was an embarrassment. Then he picked Sarah Palin, the personification of his party’s embrace of devolution, to be his running mate. Like Mitt picking Paul Ryan, Mr. No Abortion Under Any Circumstances, McCain felt he had no choice. The troglodytes were in power. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Of course, this decline of the Republican Party as a vital organism traces back to 2000 when it chose the affable but clueless George W. Bush to run for president and the Supreme Court stole the election for him. With Karl Rove pulling strings behind the curtain and Dick Cheney at his side, Bush and his Republican Congress created a massive deficit by slashing everyone’s taxes, starting two wars (off budget), creating a Medicare prescription program without paying for it, and bailing out failing banks.

Then the Republicans — all of them — blamed Barack Obama for everything and, since they have no shame, asked President Bush not to come to their convention this year, lest people remember what he did.

There used to be a breed of proud Republicans who were able to work through their differences with Democrats for the good of the country. New York offered Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating, Ben Gilman, George Pataki. There were similar examples across the country. Today, they are virtually extinct. RINOs they’re called by the troglodytes. Republicans in name only, because they believe in science and think government is obligated to help its least fortunate, as well as its wealthiest.

Mitt’s dad, George, who once tried to be president, would fall into that category. He would have a problem with Republicans in the Senate voting unanimously to defeat a jobs bill, that was mostly a Republican creation, just so Obama, the Democrat, couldn’t get credit for creating jobs while he’s running for reelection.

Pick an issue. To avoid the harsh backlash of the ultra-right, a Republican politician today often must discard decency and common sense. You’ve witnessed the Romney campaign. Yes, he made his choice. He could have run as a man of principle. Instead, he chose to run as a man of blind ambition. People without medical insurance can use the emergency room.

There are undoubtedly a variety of ways that a species begins its descent to extinction. For the Republican Party, it appears to have started with the loss of its soul.

bob@zestoforange.com

John Roberts, Unlikely Hero of the Left

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Chief Justice John Roberts

By Bob Gaydos

So, John Roberts, hero of the left wing and savior of Obamacare. Who wuddda thunk it?

Actually, the chief justice’s law school professor, for one. Laurence Tribe, who taught Roberts as well as President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, opined on Tuesday, two days before the historic Supreme Court ruling was revealed, that he felt Roberts would vote to uphold the law, as much to reinforce the image of the court as an apolitical neutral umpire as to rule on the law’s constitutionality.

In an interview on MSNBC, Tribe said, “I think that the chief justice is likely to be concerned about the place of the court in history and is not likely to want the court to continue to be as deeply and politically divided. Doesn’t mean he will depart from his philosophy. You can be deeply conservative and believe the affordable care act is completely consistent with the United States Constitution.”

Which is pretty much what Roberts did, siding with the four so-called liberal justices to preserve the major legislative victory of Obama‘s presidency. Of course, the airwaves and the blogosphere exploded Thursday as anyone with a law degree and an opinion on the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act and a means of transmitting that opinion to a large audience explained why Roberts did what he did. Or, as many Republican politicians did, to call Roberts a traitor to their cause. Safe to say, many of the latter group aren’t too concerned with the nuances of judicial restraint and co-equal sharing of power among three branches of government.

I don’t have a law degree and I don’t belong to any political party, but, hey, I‘ve got a blog, too. And without pretending to read Roberts’ mind, some things seem obvious in the wake of this ruling:

  • Obama got a huge boost in his re-election campaign, since repealing the health care act as unconstitutional was all Republicans have talked about for months. Case closed. It’s constitutional. Spin it any way you want, the president wins this one.
  • Republicans are now going to have to find an actual plan to replace Obama’s if they want to continue their argument. House Speaker John Boehner seems not to care about that. All he keeps talking about is repealing the act, which the Senate will never do. Plus, with so many provisions in it that Americans like (no refusal for pre-existing conditions, kids on parents‘ plan until age 26), that will not be easy for any Congress.
  • Mitt Romney, who actually has talked about replacing the health care act after he repeals it as president, seems to be stuck with offering up his own plan, which he introduced as governor of Massachusetts. That plan, of course, is what Obama’s plan and an initial conservative plan, was modeled on. So Romney continues to talk in circles of fog and disingenuousness.
  • Roberts obviously possesses a chief justice’s concern for the way his court is viewed. He does not, for example, think justices should be offering strong political views on issues that are not contained in the case on which they are ruling. (Justice Antonin Scalia, who acts as if his life term gives him the right to pontificate and criticize — as he recently did on Obama’s order sparing tens of thousands of young immigrants from deportation — obviously doesn’t get the neutral umpire view.) Roberts both criticized the Obama health plan (an overreaching regulation of commerce by requiring insurance) and ruled on its constitutionality — it’s a legitimate tax, even though Democrats didn’t have the guts to call it that.
  • By stressing that the court’s role is not to judge the law, but to decide if it can be upheld and, if so, to do so, Roberts demonstrated control of his court and reassured some Americans who have had an increasingly dim view of it since Bush v. Gore. It falls to Congress the power to pass laws, he reminds us, whether they seem wise or not. This is a definition of judicial restraint.
  • Spinning the 5-4 ruling as a conservative victory for the future because Congress is warned off trying to expand use of the commerce clause to regulate behavior and Republicans will be energized to actually replace the Obama health plan with one of their own doesn’t come close to the overwhelming victory it gives an incumbent president seeking reelection right now. If I’m a politician, I take that trade anytime.

So, Chief Justice John Roberts, intentionally or not, hero of the left wing.

 bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

 

Good Policy Can Also be Good Politics

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Barack Obama: A humane move on immigration.

By Bob Gaydos

Maybe Barack Obama is finally figuring it out. You can only negotiate, compromise and reason with people who are willing to negotiate, compromise and reason. In other words, apparently no one with the authority to speak for the Republican Party.

Having committed itself on Day One of his presidency to a priority goal of denying Obama a second term as president, the GOP, led by the no’s of Tea Party conservatives, has opposed every idea, proposal, act of the Obama administration, including those with Republican origins. Even when the act is obviously a good thing — a moral thing — to do.

For example, Obama’s executive order immediately removing the fear of deportation from some 800,000 young people who were brought into this country as children by their immigrant parents. Make no mistake, these young people are Americans in every way but documentation. They have grown up in the United States, gone to our schools, our colleges, served in the military. They work in our businesses. And yet, with the fervor of the GOP anti-immigration campaign growing every day, these young people who call America home lived in fear of being sent back to a “home” they never knew.

Not any longer, thanks to Obama. In a quintessentially American act, the president gave these young people legal status. If they were brought here before age 16, have been here at least five years, are under 30 years old, are in school, have a high school or GED diploma or served in the armed forces, and have no criminal record, they can stay and even apply for work permits.

What was the Republican response to this humanitarian act?

They accused Obama of playing politics.

Really? That’s all of you’ve got? Politics? From a politician? Gosh, guys, you make it sound like a bad word. Just because you’ve been bashing Latinos for two years now during your presidential balloon fight of a primary race, anything positive a Democrat does on immigration is “politics”?

Face it, the GOP has surrendered any right it might have had to a Latino vote with its harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. So Obama, or any Democrat, would be a fool not to appeal to Latinos. If that be politics, so be it — but this also happens to be good policy and good politicians can marry policy and politics for success.

The pitiful GOP response included a failure by presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to answer a simple question — although asked three times on “Face the Nation.” If he disagrees with Obama’s order welcoming these immigrants, would Romney, if elected president, issue an order nullifying it? Yes or no? He never replied. Best he offered is that “events” might supersede the president’s well-motivated move as the Romney administration sought a comprehensive answer to the immigration situation.

Yeah, like Republicans have sought for the past ten years. They have blown up the Dream Act, which was a bipartisan immigration effort, in favor of urging deportation and pretty much nothing else. The thing is, Obama has been deporting illegal immigrants at a record pace. But he has just made nearly a million young people — who did nothing illegal — immune from that threat.

Look, Republicans for the most part are simply ticked off that they have been trumped, politically. They have shown no real interest in a humane immigration policy for this nation of immigrants. They may rail about drug trafficking from Mexico, but for years they had no plan for the thousands of immigrants who streamed in from Mexico just to seek work — often work most Americans didn’t want to do.

Worse, Republicans have become unable or unwilling to simply respond to acts or events for what they are. For example, to say in this case: The president did a good thing here. We applaud him.

Even Marco Rubio, the Florida senator with vice presidential aspirations and an obvious stake in the Latino vote, could not simply praise Obama for his humane gesture without suggesting it would have been better to get Congress involved.

Really, Mario? You know full well that Republicans in Congress scared George W. Bush away from humane immigration reform, which his instincts told him was the right thing to do and which could have been a major accomplishment in his otherwise disastrous presidency. Some Republican wing nuts in Congress are threatening to sue over Obama’s order, behaving as if the president does not have considerable powers of his own, including the power to grant amnesty and immunity from laws, including those on deportation.

Nothing drives a rigid, intolerant, uncompassionate, fearful, selfish person crazier than someone exhibiting a flexible, tolerant, compassionate, hopeful, generous attitude toward the object of their fear. Call it politics if you wish. Others call it basic human decency.

* * *

PS: I like that ending, but I have to add something for any Republicans who might have read this and feel upset or insulted or angry or whatever because they don’t necessarily agree with their party’s response to the president’s decision in this matter. It’s not my problem. If you are a Republican today, for better or worse, you are identified with these views. As I see it, you have three choices: (1) Accept the statements and views of your avowed leaders as they are, in silence; (2) work to bring your party back to a more traditional conservatism, one that still has a heart; or (3) get the heck out. The choice is yours, and that, too, is politics.

 bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

 

Mitt and the Truth

Monday, June 4th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

“There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.”

That was how Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson put it, as politely as he could manage in a genuine mainstream media outlet. All political campaigns exaggerate, “dissemble” (a courteous word, by all accounts), and boast, Robinson added, but voters generally tend to put up with it “as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere. Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit. ”

As early as last December, liberal blogger Greg Sargent of The Plum Line astutely noted that, while Beltway reporters were predicting that Romney’s $10,000 bet offer to Rick Perry might warrant a national media narrative, something more disturbing about the Mittster seemed more indicative of Romney’s character: the candidate’s “serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win.”

Liberal bloggers (and even one conservative one) began to pipe up about Romney “making things up out of thin air,” imparting “highly embellished anecdotes,” blabbing “one massive lie after another,” and finally, the straight dope: “telling bald-faced lies” that “could be easily disproven by an enterprising reporter.” Jack Jodell of The Saturday Afternoon Post said Romney “thoroughly lacks moral character and is completely unstable and untrustworthy.” But Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter blog probably summed it up best when he called Romney “the most lie-based candidate for president ever.”

“The degree to which Mr. Romney lies, all the time, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn’t seem to care when he gets caught, is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign,” said Rachel Maddow. Blogger Steve Benen, who writes for The MaddowBlog, just published the 20th installment of his weekly tabulation of Romney’s whoppers, “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity,” which presented a list of 18 “big lies” that Mitt had told in the previous week alone. Benen debunked every single sham, simulation, or slander as he moved down the line.

Why does Romney lie, so frequently and easily?
He lies because he has to, says J.M. Ashby of The Daily Banter blog. “Running on the record as it stands isn’t an option.”

I’m not convinced, however. I think it’s worse than that. I sometimes speculate that Romney lies because because he CAN – although my suspicion is purely conjecture. No news outlets or pundits that the moderate swing-state electorate pays attention to are making “Mythomaniac” Mitt’s deceit a central campaign theme. “When do reporters start calling Mitt Romney a liar?” asked Paul Waldman of The American Prospect. “And I use the word ‘lie’ very purposefully,” Waldman added. “There are lots of things Romney says about Obama that are distortions, just plain ridiculous, or unfalsifiable but obviously false, as when he often climbs into Obama’s head to tell you what Obama really desires …. But there are other occasions … where Romney simply lies, plainly and obviously.”

When Newt Gingrich admitted on CBS News’ Early Show in January that he was intentionally calling Romney a liar, both Norah O’Donnell and Bob Schieffer appeared to almost swoon from shock. (I consulted the thesaurus: There’s no other word or expression used to describe someone who routinely utters falsehoods that’s quite as powerful as “liar” – unless you call them a “damned liar” or employ an even more profane moderator.) The mainstream media haven’t been holding Romney to account thus far because, in part, it’s simply not something that most reporters would feel comfortable saying on the public record or on camera about a presidential candidate. If confronted, they often temporize, saying “both sides do it,” campaigns “exaggerate” or “misspeak,” candidates are “phony” or use party talking points to represent their views.

The ‘Mitt-thology’ of Mittens meets ‘Bend Sinister’
It has also occurred to me that the reason Mitt may “make stuff up” about his business career, his political record, and even inconsequential things like his given name, is because he is perhaps compelled to. Mitt Romney is not like other politicians; his lying is compulsive, constant, and extreme – and may even be pathological. The chronic nature and frequency of the behavior are hallmarks of this mental disorder, according to Dr. Charles C. Dyke, writing in Psychiatric Times. Pathological liars usually have sound judgment about other matters, although the lies themselves often appear to be rash, risky, random, illogical, purposeless, and easily discoverable.” One surefire verbal sign of atrocious lying is stammering – which The Daily Kos pointed out after Mitt “stumble-tongued his way” into the “blunderful … word salad” he uttered last week:

“Uh, I’m actually going to, I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to, uh, I’ll go back and take at what was said there.”

“Mitt, you dunce, you have to remember your lies,” the article’s headline blared. “For someone with his assets, you would think he would have hired himself a better coach of effective lying,” the writer mused. The first rule, he added, is, “Don’t deviate too far from the truth when lying. Because doing so will make it hard to follow the second rule, which is: Remember your lies.”

Many pathological liars are narcissists and extreme attention seekers, and some are even capable of criminal behavior, including a prominent California judge, said Dyke. “Why such a successful individual would repeatedly tell lies that could damage his credibility and put him in trouble with the law or other administrative bodies is baffling. Was his lying behavior completely within his control, or was there something different about his pattern of lies?” The crimes committed by some pathological liars include theft, swindling, forgery, and plagiarism. “It is worth noting, however, that some pathological liars are successful professionals without any public record of crime.”

“Welcome to post-truth politics,” wrote Paul Krugman. “Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe.

Greg Sargent sees a common theme to Mitt’s calumnies: falsely portraying Obama as a bogeyman who doesn’t share American values. “But won’t there be some blowback?” Krugman wondered. “Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I’m afraid he may be right.”

And why not, when the watchdog website Politifact, purportedly established to enforce truth in politics, proclaimed Democratic “claims” that Republicans voted to end Medicare its “Lie of the Year”? The deceptive voucher system for which the GOP did indeed vote would cost each retiree thousands of dollars more out of pocket each year.

I found only two comments posted under one liberal blog disparaging one of Mitt’s most dastardly prevarications. “Despicable,” wrote the first. “I’m pretty sure that by November, every American voter will know what a hollow liar he is.”

The second commenter, however, disagreed, blaming the usual suspects. “Maybe not,” she warned. “It seems like 90 percent of the supposedly ‘credible’ media is carrying water for Willard. It’s so disgraceful.”

Writer Emily Theroux worked as magazine editor for The Times Herald-Record. Illustrator Lance Theroux was assistant managing editor of The Times Herald-Record before becoming a staff editorial artist for The Record in North Jersey.

The GOP Campaign, in Black and White

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Why does this man scare so many Republicans? Hint: It may not be his economic policies.

By Bob Gaydos

Stay with me here. I’m going to try to connect the dots between the Supreme Court’s absurd decision on Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and the on-the-face-of-it foolish view of many poor to middle-class white Americans that the Republican Party represents the best hope for their future and the future of America, which is why they intend to vote for Mitt Romney.

The journey will visit the wild frontier of the birthers, the loony world of Jeremiah Wright, the penthouses of the billionaire super PACS, the righteous kingdom of Rick Santorum, the go-back-where-you-came-from land of Mitt Romney, W’s fantasy factory, the Civil War, Montana, the Occupy Movement and “welfare queens.”

Yes, racism is bound to come up.

Citizens United, of course, is the 5-4 ruling that gave corporations the same rights as individuals in donating to political action committees. They can give as much as they want and the super PACs created by this free-flowing stream of wealth can mount massive media campaigns, not so much to promote their candidate as to steamroller the opponents. This was evident in the street fight that recently passed for a Republican presidential primary. It amounted to dueling super PAC campaigns in various states. Romney won because he had the most money, not because more Republican voters liked him. They still can’t stand him. They just fear Barack Obama more.

Which is Dot Number One. This was made clear when the first thing conservative Republicans in Congress said upon Obama’s election was that they would dedicate the next four years to making sure he served only one term. Instead of, you know, we’ll try to work with him in governing the country so that maybe he’ll understand where we differ, etc.

So we have had a string of “no” votes on anything Obama proposed, public officials (and the ridiculous Donald Trump) questioning whether the president was really born in the United States even after being shown a copy of his birth certificate, innuendo that he was a Muslim (because of his name) and, just recently again, efforts to link him with his freaky former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The Wright red herring was eliminated, or so we thought, four years ago, but one of those super-rich PACs recently tried to launch a TV campaign making the false link again. This time the behind-the-scenes directors were going to hire a well-spoken conservative black conservative to attack Obama, a well-spoken black non-conservative. You know, to prove that it was not a racially motivated effort. Romney got shamed into sort of denouncing this plan.

The Trump birther campaign was dug up in Arizona, naturally, when the secretary of state of that forlorn place said he might keep the president off the ballot this year if he did not get proof he was born in this country. The fact that he’s been running it for three-and-a-half years apparently didn’t matter, not when you can stir up resentments among some white voters.

Make no mistake, fear and resentment are at the crux of much of the Republican campaign against Obama. As much as they may argue that the campaign is about the economy and even though working class whites reportedly favor Romney over Obama by nearly two to one when asked who would be best for their financial interests, common sense says that many of those people understand that lowering taxes on the rich, making college loans more expensive and making affordable health care harder to get is not a plan that helps their interests.

So something else is influencing their vote.

It was not a fluke that Rick Santorum’s campaign gathered momentum when he started speaking out against gay marriage, against women’s contraceptive rights, against welfare for blacks. That’s right. Of course, this was only done in safely white enclaves, like Sioux City, Iowa. As reported in The Guardian, Santorum told a mostly white campaign rally there: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” He got cheers.

Now, the population of Sioux City is 2.9 percent black. Food stamp use in the area is up more than 25 percent in the last five years, with white recipients outnumbering blacks nine to one. So, what was his message, hope or resentment?

Romney, of course, has tried to portray Obama as responsible for encouraging a free flow of undocumented people across the border with Mexico. But Obama has supported strong enforcement along the border and deportation of undesirable illegals. He does support a plan to allow millions already in this country and contributing to the community to follow a path to citizenship, but so did George W. Bush. He just never had the guts to stick with his instincts in this matter.

This kind of color-coded campaigning began for Republicans in the South under President Richard Nixon and has steadily drawn older, white, poor and middle class voters away from Democrats, who have tended to disparage and dismiss the defectors rather than acknowledging their religious and cultural differences and trying to come to some agreement on economic issues. In the end, that might well be a losing effort. More to the point, it may be an unnecessary one.

Republicans, who came to power in this country leading the fight to end slavery, appear to have come down on the wrong side of history in several areas in their simple-minded effort to regain control of the government and the rewards that entails. Gay marriage is an obvious one example. In the near future, the whole white vs. black scare strategy will also be outdated. Latest census figures revealed that, for the first time in U.S. history, nonwhite babies outnumbered white babies. If the minorities abide by the conservatives’ pro-life, no-contraceptives philosophy so ardently espoused by Romney, Santorum et al, minorities will soon be a majority in America. Mixed race marriages will join same-gender marriages as routine. Immigrants of every stripe will continue to become part of the fabric of America and gain more positions of influence. Younger voters — like those leading the Occupy movement — will recognize what the super PACs and super banks have tried to do by throwing tons of money at politicians who will spread whatever message they want, whether it makes sense or not, as long as it keeps government out of their affairs.

And, oh yes, the Montana Supreme Court recently rejected the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, saying that longstanding Montana law supersedes it. Other states are joining the legal fight. Even some conservative Republicans are beginning to doubt the wisdom of giving all that power to unregulated rich people. Which sort of describes Mitt Romney.

bob@zestoforange.com