Posts Tagged ‘Capitol’

The Death of The Fourth Estate?

Friday, May 10th, 2024

… Or, when I realized that my suspicion that The New York Times was not going to do anything to help save democracy in America was correct.

E9BBCF23-9A7D-4C7A-8ABC-D679F44D1FE4                         

                                ***

“To say that the threats of democracy are so great that the media is going to abandon its central role as a source of impartial information to help people vote — that’s essentially saying that the news media should become a propaganda arm for a single candidate, because we prefer that candidate’s agenda.”

Joe Kahn, editor NY Times,

May 5 in an interview with Semafor

                         ***

  “On this particular day, I looked to see what the great gray lady, The New York Times, had to say about the Trump trial. Its editorial went into great detail, carefully explaining all the nuances of the justice system and why everything was being done the way it was being done, etc. It was not until the end of what the paper itself described as “a seven-minute read,” that the editorial referred to Trump’s “disregard for the rule of law and his willingness to demean American justice when it suits his interests.”

   It continued, “Those actions render him manifestly unfit for office and would pose unique dangers to the United States during a second term. The greatest of those dangers, and the one that Americans should be most attuned to, is the damage that a second Trump presidency would inflict on the rule of law.”

      Well, no you-know-what Sherlock. Did no one at the Times ever explain to the editorial writer that “don’t bury the lead“ applies to editorials as well as news stories. Seven minutes to tell people don’t ever put this lunatic in office again? He’s too dangerous?! “Manifestly unfit!”

    Give me a break! Tell them at the top, tell them why and tell them again at the bottom. Tell them every damn day while you’ve still got a press! Geez, people, this is no time to be gentle.”

Me, April 18, in a column on Substack and zestoforange.com

                         ***

— The time, spring, 2034. The scene: A New York Times editor is watching the news on Government Channel 1 with his 10 year-old daughter.

Daughter: “Daddy, what were you doing when our great Orange Leader, who sadly just died, was saying he had to be made president for life, so that he could save the country from all the evil people trying to sneak into it and send them all back where they came from, and that he had to release all of those people who were wrongly put in jail for trying to kill the vice president, who was actually a traitor, and free the Capitol from a Congress that wasn’t following the Constitution and that he needed to punish all those people who were telling all those lies about him and stop Congress from sending money to Ukraine for weapons to fight Russia because Czar Putin was a good man and that we really needed instead to focus on saving the world from windmills? And he did! Do you remember what you were doing when he was saying all that?”

Daddy: “Well, yes, honey, I was a reporter at The Times and my job was writing about whether Marjorie Taylor Greene, an influential member of Congress at the time and now Secretary of State, thought the plans of our aging president, Joe Biden, for example to make life more affordable for everyone and to let people actually make their own decisions about their own lives, made any sense.

Daughter. Oh. Cool.

— Bob Gaydos




A Quiet Walk Midst an Insurrection

Saturday, January 6th, 2024

(This was written three years ago. The words still stand.)


By Bob Gaydos
   

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

  I took a walk around the pond  Wednesday afternoon, January 6, a little before 4:30. It was cold, but still light out. The sun had just begun to set. As I walked I thought about how lucky — privileged — I was to be able to enjoy such a quiet moment in such a beautiful place in such a shithole country.

    No, friends and family, I haven’t moved. I still live in America, in a particularly scenic part of it, I think. For new readers, that place is upstate New York. It’s a place where a man can be alone to enjoy nature, if the man turns off his electronic devices.

     Two hours of watching live news reports out of Washington, D.C., had made me feel something I had never felt before — a combination of fear, anger, sadness, shame and profound outrage. The calming words and presence of President-elect Joe Biden had finally broken the spell the scenes of chaos had cast on me. It will end, I told myself. It will not succeed. There aren’t enough of them. They are all fury and delusion, taking selfies as they lay waste to the seat of government of the country they profess to love. Ignorance and arrogance, the Trump formula. In the end, it fails, but oh the harm it does. He doesn’t care. They, the rioters, are too dumb to know. That’s the nicest way I can put it. Or they are racists. Or both.

       Those are the facts. And for several hours on a Wednesday afternoon, as our Congress was attempting to perform its constitutional duty of confirming a new president,  these “Make America Great Again” terrorists made it look like one of those “shithole countries“ their leader once referred to with intent to insult. Yep, that’s what it looked like to me. …

                                                              ***.                                     

        … As I resume writing, it is now a week later. Trump has been impeached, again. Incitement to insurrection. Five people died in the attempted coup on The Capitol, including a police officer who was beaten to death by the rioters. White rterrorists carrying a Blue Lives Matter flag killed a Capitol police officer. They spread feces and urine throughout the building. They ransacked offices and went looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. The whole time, the rioters took selfies of themselves. Eventually, they went home or some D.C. bar, apparently thinking that would be the end of it. Just a friendly little failed insurrection in the nation’s capital, broadcast live around the world.

           If you stop to think about it – and apparently the rioters did not — the ignorance is astounding. It is surpassed only by the hypocrisy of the Republican members of Congress who encouraged and invited the assault and who voted against seating Biden as the duly elected president, even after the insurrection had been quelled. They stuck to the lies of the election being stolen from Trump, even though every one of them – except for perhaps a couple of conspiracy lunatics — knows that that is a lie. It was Trump’s biggest and most dangerous lie. In truth, a treasonous lie.

         Since that now infamous Wednesday, much more has been revealed about the attack on the Capitol. It wasn’t as innocent as it first appeared. There was a plan. There may have been inside help from some Republican members of Congress. Maybe even from the Capitol police, who were woefully unprepared for a massive event that was announced well in advance. There was a delay in getting National Guard troops to the scene, perhaps caused by someone in the Defense Department.

          There will be investigations. May they go on for as long as necessary and bring to justice all those who we’re involved in this assault on America. Every last one of them. Homegrown terrorists. White supremacists. Members of Congress. Conspiracy nuts. Nazis. Klansmen. Racists. Pick a name. The list includes police and ex-military members as well. The attackers were virtually all white, which is why they are still alive. Lock them all up. People who bring swastikas and Confederate flags to attack the seat of the government of the United States of America deserve no mercy.

           Trump now stands accused by Congress and convicted by the majority of the American people and the rest of the world of Inciting an attempted overthrow of a duly elected government. But his accomplices in the Republican Party are also guilty. They have ignored his assault on democratic principles for four years, out of fear or for their own gain or because they agreed with him. They deserve what they’re reaping. The party deserves to die. May it be reborn in some semblance of a responsible political party, perhaps including those Republicans who had the courage to speak out publicly and fight against Trumpism.

            America has been put on notice. There are those among us, appearing publicly as patriotic citizens, but operating out of hate and fear that their dream of a white, Christian nation with everyone else second-class citizens, is about to die. And in their foolhardy effort to avoid that fate, they may have actually hastened it. Republicans who remained silent, evangelicals who remained silent as Trump ravaged democracy, all stand indicted. Those who supported him financially along the way and now seek to distance themselves, all stand indicted. Rupert Murdoch and Fox News stand indicted. 

            In a country Trump would call a “shithole,” those seeking to overthrow the government usually try to get the military on their side if they hope to succeed. When they don’t, they don’t. As I watched with Lester Holt on NBC News as the idiots stormed the Capitol, I kept thinking, well, sooner or later troops with weapons and bullets will arrive. Hopefully, with orders to shoot. I also was dumbfounded that people were posting images of themselves on the Internet as they perpetrated this terrorist attack against this nation and gave no thought to the fact that this would make it easy to track them down and arrest them. Ignorance and arrogance.

              Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but the first thing is not to give into Republican pleas of coming together for the good of the country. They spent four years quietly watching Trump tearing the country apart. They must pay the price. I repeat, there are many more of us than them and what is necessary now is for all who know and love and respect what this nation is about to speak out forcefully in defense of it. Bring to justice those responsible. Convict Trump. Convict him again and again on whatever charges may be filed when he leaves office. Teach young people that actions have accountability. When we get around to it, teach young people about civics and government and history in school again. Clearly a lot of Americans slept through those classes. Evangelical Christians are on their own in this one.

           Joe Biden faces a monumental task when he becomes president on January 20, but he will have full control of the Congress to back him up and, I believe, fervent support of a vast majority of Americans as well. That white mob that assaulted the Capitol was an embarrassment to this nation, but maybe a lesson as well. American exceptionalism was put to the lie.

            No, this is not a “shithole” country, yet. I can still take a quiet walk around the pond every day. But those who would take the right to feel that safe and at home in this country away from anyone whose skin color or nationality or religion or politics they find fault with must know there can be no healing until the wounds are closed, Not until the guilty are prosecuted and those who aided and abetted admit their guilt. Not until journalists are not casually referred to as “enemies of the people.” Not until children are not put in cages. Not until all lives truly matter.                      

            Enough.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

         

           

            

         

          

Still Fighting Attacks on Democracy

Sunday, September 10th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

     Twenty-two years ago today, like millions of other Americans, I was preparing to go to work. The boys were off to school. It was a sky-blue September day. The news was on the TV, a practice of mine, in case there was something I needed to know about before I got to the paper.

   There was.

   The image on the TV screen froze me and shook the sleep out of my head. Oh, my God!

     What was I seeing? They replayed it.

     I quickly got myself together and headed off to work. But I stopped for a few moments in a nearby park to gather my thoughts and process what I had just witnessed. The radio news informed me that, in addition to the two planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City, a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and another had hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

     September 11.

     After about an hour of processing reports on what had happened, a meeting was held and it was decided that The Times Herald-Record would publish a special edition that afternoon, the first one, I believe, in the morning newspaper’s history.  My job was to write an editorial explaining what had happened. Or at least trying to explain it. About 500 words. “We need it in an hour.”

     I don’t have a copy of that editorial and I’m sure it was mostly emotion. I do remember writing, “America was at war.” 

       The world changed that day. America changed. We the people had been attacked. We were one nation, under the spell of the dynamic leadership of New York’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani. America’s mayor. We grieved together, healed together and called for retribution together, against whoever it was who had attacked us.

          So we started a war against, not the country where the terrorists responsible for the attacks came from (Saudi Arabia): but against a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. We justified it by claiming Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that it could use against someone, maybe us. That was a lie our government told us. We found out later.

           Then we went after the actual attackers in the mountains of Afghanistan. We actually found and killed their leader, then decided to stay in Afghanistan for some 20 years, trying to save it from itself.

            In those ensuing years, Giuliani went from “America’s Mayor” to embarrassingly ridiculous mouthpiece for every lie put forth by Donald Trump, including the lie that he lost his re-election bid to President Joe Biden because the election was rife with vote fraud.

             Also in the ensuing 22 years, the Republican Party has steadily turned itself from a party that espoused defense of all Americans into a party of an aggrieved white minority whose leaders in Congress legislate only in the interests of wealthy donors who contribute to their campaigns. Into a cult that believes and repeats Trump’s lies or, worse, repeats them for political gain or out of fear.

           Whatever galvanized us into one people 22 years ago (a common enemy I suppose) started disintegrating as soon as we started demonizing any group of people, different from us (Muslims) as the enemy. “Us” became more vague.

            The World Trade Center was rebuilt, Trump exposed the fear and bigotry at the center of the Republican Party and gave free rein to the fissures hiding within American society.

             The FBI now says the greatest threat to America is from domestic terrorism. Not Iraq. Or Afghanistan. The threat comes from the white supremacists groups who organized the assault in Washington and still threaten any who reject their cause.

       In 1870, cartoonist Walt Kelly coined a phrase in his Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

       Indeed.

       Not so long ago, on Jan. 6, 2021, I once again stared transfixed at a scene on television. Am I really seeing this? Thousands of virtually all white Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. Some were ready to hang Vice President Mike Pence to prevent him from fulfiling his duties. People died. Republicans refused to accept the election result and many even claimed there was no riot that sent them running for their lives.

          Today, the war to preserve American freedom and democracy is being fought right here at home. Fortunately, millions of Americans stand on the side of what’s right. Many still remember how we felt as a unified nation in the wake of the attacks 22 years ago. Trump and others who supported him in his attempted coup are being called to account in the courts. Many have already been sent to prison for the attack on the Capitol. Many more must follow.

           I’m not sure I”ll be here to mark the 20th anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, but whether I am or not, I pray the U.S. Capitol is still proudly standing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zest-of-orange.com. He was editorial page editor of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.

     

Was It An ‘Invitation’ I Couldn’t Refuse?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The invitation

The invitation

     Sometimes, it’s the mundane, easy to overlook things that give a week it’s meaning.

      For example, I recently bought two medium coffees at a drive-through window for a popular coffee chain. After the male voice inside the screen repeated the order back to us, he said, “That will be 6 oh 3, please drive around.”

      We looked at each other in surprise. $6.03? As I scrambled for three pennies to go with the 10-dollar bill, I thought it seemed like just a short while ago that same order was under $4. More recently, a bit more than $5. My friend, a regular customer of the franchise, agreed.

       Inflation? Supply chain issues with Latin America? I think a bit of profit-taking is the more likely explanation. By the way, the coffee chain in question was not Starbucks.

        Not long after this encounter with corporate America, I had occasion to stop by another local establishment for some suet and birdseed. It’s been a good year for cardinals, blue jays, finches, doves, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, starlings, woodpeckers, wrens, squirrels and other hungry feeders.  As I approached the front door, a small sign, recently posted, caught my attention: “Lawful concealed carry permitted on these premises.”


Again, I paused. Hmm. Good to know, I thought, should I ever feel threatened wandering around the bird seed and chicken feed. Although I must admit, I am puzzled at the sudden need for this notice in the first place.

     Back home, while routinely scrolling through my daily emails, I was surprised to find a message that was the highlight of the week: An invitation to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. Wow, I thought, that doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s never happened to me.

    Then I read a little further. It seems I was being invited to take a chance on being invited to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. All I had to do was donate some money to be placed on the list from which one “lucky“ winner, and a guest, would be chosen to have dinner with, of course, Donald Trump, at one of his golf courses.

    That’s not all. The invitation also said, “That’s right – I’lI cover your flight, your accommodations, and your terrific dinner.

And we’ll take a picture together so that you can keep a photograph of this incredible memory forever.”

     Donate now!

     How could I refuse this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? This was a chance to rub elbows, shake hands, drink coffee and have a photo taken with a man just convicted by a jury of sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room of a Fifth Avenue Manhattan department store and publicly calling her a liar and saying all sorts of vile things about her when she accused him of rape, a man that jury said owed the woman $5 million for the harm he caused to her reputation.

      A man, coincidentally, also recently indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for campaign finance fraud in a case involving paying hush money to a porn star he cheated with shortly after his third wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Baron.

       In fact, this was a man also facing possible indictment in Georgia for trying to convince officials to change the results of that state’s vote in the 2020 presidential election, which he lost.

       And, come to think of it, this was a man under investigation for taking hundreds of classified government documents with him when he left office and refusing to return them until the FBI served him with a warrant. Sonofagun if he didn’t even brag about taking those documents on TV the day after the Manhattan jury found him guilty of sexual abuse. Why, he even took that opportunity to insult his victim again.

      Yes, that ex-president. The same one who refused to do anything to stop the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, when the results of the 2020 election were being certified. The one who placed his own vice president’s life in jeopardy with remarks he made on that day, never mind the lives of all members of Congress, police and those working in the Capitol.

     This was the former president who, for good measure, on that same misbegotten TV presentation, would not say who he wanted to win the war between Russia and Ukraine. Coincidentally, while he was president, he said he admired Russian President Vladimir Putin and was impeached (for the second time) for threatening to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless their president came up with some dirt on Joe Biden’s family. Biden, of course, was his opponent in the presidential election in 2020, an election Biden won.

      Well, that very busy ex-president was now offering me the opportunity to have dinner with him. All I had to do was kick in a few bucks for a chance at winning the raffle. I mean, they didn’t say why this supposed billionaire needed the money, although he did say he’s running for president again. So …

      Donate now! Time is running out. I got the same urgent message about three or four days in a row. I guess they wanted to make sure that every loyal American — even registered independent voters — had an opportunity to win this once-in-a-lifetime event.

   I hesitated. I mean, it was quite an opportunity, after all. A chance to maybe speak to a former president of the United States of America. But then I thought, what would I, a mere retired journalist of 40-plus years’ experience, have to say at dinner to this man? Pass the ketchup?

     I decided not to send in a donation and, the cost of coffee being what it is, ordered sushi for dinner. I deleted the email. A new invitation came the next day, but I figured we’d be needing birdseed again soon.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

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

       

The Shame of Being Kevin McCarthy

Sunday, January 8th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Kevin McCarthy (right) asks Matt Gaetz what else he can give him to get his vote after the 14th ballot late Thursday night. He never got it.

Kevin McCarthy (right) asks Matt Gaetz what else he can give him to get his vote after the 14th ballot late Thursday night. He never got it.

If only Kevin McCarthy were smart enough to understand irony.

If only Kevin McCarthy had a backbone.

If only Mitch McConnell had one, too.

If only there were still a mainstream, conservative Republican establishment.

If only Republicans understood the real meaning of these words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Then, Americans would have been spared the worldwide embarrassment of the “people’s house” of Congress being unable to execute the basic task of choosing a leader after four days and 14 votes, even though one party, the Republicans, held a slim, but clear, majority.

The brass ring was eventually awarded to McCarthy shortly after midnight Saturday, January 7, on the 15th vote, when one more member of the wack job fringe of the House GOP agreed to vote for him and others agreed to vote “present,” lowering the number of votes needed for a majority. That agreement followed some tense discussions and avoided a vote to adjourn and a weekend of embarrassing stories about the shameless McCarthy and the rudderless GOP.

Politics often requires a bit of arm-twisting to gain a desired goal when there are differences of opinion. Usually, the leader does the arm-twisting and others make concessions. McCarthy turned this tradition on its head, making countless concessions as the likes of Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert kept twisting McCarthy’s arms while still refusing to vote for him. This does not bode well for a successful two years of McCarthy leadership in the House.

But here’s the thing, while McCarthy’s utter humiliation has come at the hands of a small group of Republicans who have no agenda other than to gain power so as to disrupt normal government routine and prevent all men and women from enjoying those self-evident rights Thomas Jefferson wrote about, the Californian has no one to blame but himself.

Here’s where the irony comes in. The fringe, the so-called Freedom Caucus, refuses to recognize McCarthy as its leader because of the one moment of rational thinking he displayed during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He actually called then-President Donald Trump and urged him to  do something to quell the riot.

McCarthy later said on the House floor: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.”

McCarthy also said, “Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There is absolutely no evidence of that, Conservatives should be the first to say so. …  Let’s be clear, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week because he won the election.”

For one shining moment, McCarthy, as minority leader of the House of Representatives, spoke the truth. He couldn’t handle it. The rank-and-file Trumpers dominating the Republican Party weren’t buying it. They bought the Big Lie. A couple of weeks later, McCarthy was in Mar-a-Lago, kissing Trump’s ring and anything else to get back in his good graces and retain the support of his troops. Most, fearing Trump’s wrath and loss of his support, followed McCarthy. (Mitch McConnell followed the same playbook in the Senate.)

Not the Freedom Caucus. They remembered when McCarthy spoke the truth about Trump, the election, the insurrection and taking responsibility. When it came time to choose a leader, they chose to embarrass McCarthy and twist him for all they could get. He eventually celebrated his election as speaker, a leader held hostage to the whims of those who have no interest in governing. Truth has no purchase in today’s Republican Party. The rabble rule and “leaders” seek their approval out of sheer ego and cowardice.

Not all is lost, thankfully. While McCarthy was being humiliated in The Capitol on the second anniversary of the Insurrection, a more compelling drama was playing out in The White House. President Biden, in an often moving ceremony, awarded Presidential Citizens Medals to Capitol police officers and others who defended democracy on that day and to state election officials who withstood intense pressure and threats of violence from Trump supporters to ratify the results of the 2020 election. The best of America was on display. Courage, honor, respect, empathy, honesty and, yes, patriotism.

If only some of that were evident in today’s Republican Party.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

A Moment of Courage in Trump World

Sunday, December 25th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos  

Cassidy Hutchinson

Cassidy Hutchinson

      Thank you, Cassidy Hutchinson. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your sense of right and wrong. Thank you for your patriotism. Thank you for demonstrating that not every Republican in government service is either a coward or a bagman for Donald Trump. Thank you for the truth.

      America needed it. And, honestly, I really needed it.

      Hutchinson is the former White House aide who testified publicly before the Jan. 6 Congressional Committee about Trump’s unsuccessful struggle with Secret Service agents to join the protesters on the Capitol steps during that fateful day.

       But Hutchinson also testified privately before the committee three times and the committee’s recently released final report details a story of blatant witness tampering with Hutchinson as the target.

      As executive assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, Hutchinson also carried the title of special assistant to the president. That means she heard a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff Trump didn’t want the committee or anyone else to hear about. For example, that he knew he had lost the 2020 presidential election, but wasn’t accepting that outcome.

       Knowing she would be called to testify before the committee, the White House insisted on providing her with a lawyer, Stefan Passantino, who refused to tell her who was paying him (Trump’s PAC). Passantino counseled Hutchinson to testify that she couldn’t recall anything that was discussed concerning January 6.

      Her problem was that she recalled very well everything that had been said, but she also knew that in “Trump World,” as she referred to the White House, loyalty is demanded and those who buck the boss are often made to pay dearly. They could destroy her career.

       So in her first private interview with the committee, she followed her lawyer’s suggestion. She couldn’t recall much. But she also had a conscience. She knew right from wrong. She knew what she had heard and she knew what she had told the committee was a lie. A lie for which she could be arrested.

   The 26-year-old former intern to Senator Ted Cruz decided to get herself another lawyer, made a back channel connection to let the committee know she wanted to come back and testify again, and subsequently told the truth: They had told her to lie, that it would be OK, that she would be taken care of. Don’t worry.

    What Passantino told her, in her own words: “Look, the goal with you is to get you in and out. Keep your answers short, sweet, and simple, seven words or less. The less the committee thinks you know, the better, the quicker it’s going to go. It’s going to be painless. And then you’re going to be taken care of.

     “We just want to focus on protecting the President. We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world. You don’t need to apply to other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”

      Hutchinson told the committee that family member Meadows also sent her a message telling her “the boss” knew she was testifying and knew that she was “loyal.” Straight out of the “Godfather“ playbook.

      Despite her fear and intimate knowledge of how “Trump World” dealt with what it saw as disloyalty, Hutchinson was true to her beliefs. She told the committee: “I did feel like it was my obligation and my duty to share (what she knew), because I think that if you’re given a position of public power, it’s also your job, your civic responsibility, to allow the people to make decisions for themselves. And if no one’s going to do that, like, somebody has to do it.”

      Indeed. Thank you, Cassidy Hutchinson, for being that somebody.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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


Hate Groups Found a Home in the GOP

Saturday, July 9th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos  

Oath Keepers at the Capitol.

Oath Keepers at the Capitol.

   “They’re not here to hurt me.“

     The essence of Donald Trump. The not-so-secret weapon of the Republican Party.

      Hate is a powerful political motivator, especially when combined with fear and ignorance. It may also be the most dangerous threat to the American experiment in democracy.

      Trump uttered those confident words when aides and Secret Service agents informed him that some of the people marching to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were armed. Trump wanted to join the march and watch the violent overthrow of a presidential election up close and personal. After all, he knew that these were his people and if weapons were going to be used they wouldn’t be used against him, but rather, against those certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and those protecting them.

      No sweat, Trump said, “I’m the effin’ president.”

      The Secret Service wasn’t buying it.

      The marchers Trump wanted to join were motivated by hate, a hate for non-whites, Jews, other non-Christians, gays and them damn socialist libtards, who think they’re so smart just because they got a college education.

    It’s a hate nurtured, inflamed and exploited by Trump in his campaign for the presidency, in his four years in office and in his desperate effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

       The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups in the United States since 1999. In its annual census, released in March, the Center identified 733 active hate groups in 2021. The Alabama-based civil rights group noted that the number of hate groups had fallen for the third straight year, after reaching a high of 1,020 in 2018, two years into the Trump presidency. The number of anti-government extremist groups had also fallen in 2021, from 566 to 488, the SPLC reported.

       At first glance, that sounds like good news, but there’s another, less positive, interpretation of the numbers. According to the SPLC, “Rather than demonstrating a decline in the power of the radical right, the numbers suggest that the extremist ideas that mobilize them now operate more openly in the political mainstream.”

      In fact, they are part of everyday discourse from Republican elected officials, including members of Congress, and on right wing media outlets, notably Fox, as well as numerous social media sites.

       Trump made it OK to spew this bigotry openly. No need to hide anymore. Put your sheets in mothballs. Republicans, traditionally trailing Democrats in numbers nationwide, welcomed the ill-tempered, ill-informed and angry white-is-right mob of haters into their club. Hey, more votes are more important than an actual governing program, right? Power is the goal.

       The haters had found a home, someplace where they could air their worst fears publicly and be taken seriously.

        Today, they have co-opted the Republican Party. The few party members with the moral principles and guts to speak the truth about Trump and his acolytes publicly are subject to daily threats. The assault on the Capitol and violent demonstrations elsewhere lend more weight to the threats.

     Trump, or an imitator, can call up an army of goons willing to violently defend his lies. They are in every state. 

     My area of strongly Democratic New York state is home to chapters of the Oath Keepers, who have a statewide presence, as do American Patriots Three Percent. Several other hate/anti-government groups are active here, according to the SPLC. Emboldened by the Trump Republican Party, they have emerged from the shadows.

     It makes fear the common denominator for all Americans, or at least it should. And that’s why the Jan. 6 hearings, the convictions of insurrection participants and further arrests of anyone who participated in the failed coup attempt are so important. Accountability is crucial for democracy to survive.

      Yet many Americans don’t seem to care, or feel it’s something they can do nothing about. That’s how we get a president like Trump. The obvious starting point is our schools. We need to rethink what we teach and how we teach it. A shamefully high percentage of Americans are clueless about history and lacking in the ability to sort fact from fiction.

       But this is a long-term project. More immediately, simply speaking out against hate and extremist behavior when it appears is something everyone can do and every religious group is theoretically supposed to practice. In addition, supporting political candidates who endorse laws to fight white supremacists, militias and spreaders of hate on social media is vital. Simply put, that means actually registering to vote and then voting for the Democrat because Republicans have lost any right to be trusted in this battle.

    Trump was right. The marchers with their weapons are not looking to hurt him. They are out to create an authoritarian government by destroying the democratic  institutions that protect our freedom. 

     Yes, hate has come out of the shadows.  Ignorance is its sustenance. Fear is its weapon. Apathy is its enabler. Only a stronger fear of losing our freedom can defeat it. The light of truth is crucial to the cause. 

      These are not merely the high-minded words of a retired editorial writer, people. I believe we are at a critical point in our nation’s history. It’s everyone’s fight. These hate groups must be exposed and held accountable. In truth, it’s probably what they fear the most.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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


Unwrapped over America’s Unraveling

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Making History, the Painful Way

Monday, May 9th, 2022

The world in 500 words or less …

By Bob Gaydos     

Ex-NYPD Cop Thomas Webster Guilty in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

Thomas Webster at the Capitol.

   History came to my area of slightly upstate New York twice in one week recently, but not in a celebratory way. The history was announced in newspaper headlines. Both involved “firsts.”  Some might have regarded these historic moments as simply the result of unfortunate circumstances, but they made me think of the choices we make.

        The headlines linked two of the biggest stories in the world — the Jan. 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the war in Ukraine — with two men with ties to Orange County, N.Y. 

  •  The Insurrection: Thomas Webster, 54, a retired New York City police officer, was the first person arrested in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming Capitol police officers had used excessive force against the violent mob seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and maybe hang Mike Pence. Interesting defense choice right there.  After viewing videos of Webster profanely berating the officer, beating him with a metal flag pole, tackling him and grabbing the officer’s gas mask, the jury took only two hours to find the former Marine guilty of assault and other charges. Married and with a family, Webster started a landscaping business in Orange County after serving 20 years as a New York City cop. He said he chose to go to Washington, D.C., alone and carrying that flag pole, on that fateful day to hear Donald Trump speak about how the election had been stolen. Webster said he became agitated as the pro-Trump crowd approached the Capitol. Once there, he joined the melee and, like many others, was photographed doing so. Now, the man who once served on the protective detail of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faces a possible 20 years in prison. 
  • Ukraine: Willy J. Cancel, a native of Orange County, graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, Walden volunteer firefighter, was reportedly the first American to die in combat against Russian forces in Ukraine. A former Marine who, reports said, had not received an honorable discharge and had never been deployed, Cancel was a corrections officer in Tennessee. But his family said he was also employed by a military contracting company. Soldier-for-hire might be considered an unusual second-job choice for a 22-year-old man with a wife and seven-month-old child. That company sent him to Ukraine, where he died. Cancel was praised back home for his service and bravery. A Go Fund Me site has been created on Facebook for his widow and infant child.

     I don’t know anything else about either of these men and am in no position to understand, much less judge, the choices they made. Their stories just reminded me that, what may seem to some like reasonable, even honorable, choices can have unintended, dire consequences. Even historic ones.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

With the Bases Loaded, Baseball Whiffs

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

   F023405A-4B43-4727-BBFE-117778586F71 The world is in the third year of a deadly pandemic, Russia has started a brutal war in Europe, the United States is still reeling from an attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of white nationalists trying to overturn a presidential election, one of the country’s two major political parties has become a.cult led by a con man with fascist DNA … and there’s no baseball.

     Take it easy. I’m not putting the Major League Baseball lockout in the same category as the grab bag of historic events dominating our lives today (and I’ll add global warming). That’s actually the point.

     When the world goes, well, to hell, a person needs somewhere safe to go for a break. Sports in general and, in the bleak of February especially, baseball has filled that need for me.

     February typically means the Super Bowl ends the football season and pitchers and catchers report to spring training to start the new baseball season. But there was nothing typical with this February. With the contract between players and owners expired and no new agreement ready to be signed, team owners locked the doors to training facilities in Florida and Arizona. No contract, no getting into shape at our digs. Dumb.

       Both sides then toughened their negotiating stances in the contest between billionaires and millionaires on how to share the wealth from TV deals and over-priced tickets. And Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, started talking about delaying the start of the season or shortening it. Dumber.

     Since my mid-teens, I have followed the practice of the late Chief Justice Earl Warren by turning to the sports pages to start my day. Time enough for the rest of the world. Sports for the most part is safe conflict. No one really gets hurt, except the gamblers.

     But lockouts and shortened seasons are not the headlines baseball fans were looking for. Not safe.

      Nor smart, from a business sense. Think about it. With all the grim news in the world and having already surrendered the national pastime crown to football by focusing on how fast a baseball can get to home plate and how much faster it can leave the park, baseball decision-makers blew a golden opportunity to grab some attention and provide some stress relief with positive, non-confrontational news. New contract! Who’s the talk of training camp? A comeback story? No more starting extra innings with a runner on second base?

       Instead, we got Derek Jeter quitting as boss of the Marlins because they apparently don’t want to win as much as he does, bigger bases to improve the success rate of stolen base attempts, a lockout and Opening Day pushed back two weeks. 

       Oh yeah, and no more shifts because major league hitters apparently can no longer hit it where they ain’t.

      You blew it, baseball. Fans were looking for a hit-and-run. Instead, they got an intentional walk. You picked a really bad time to play moneyball.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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