Posts Tagged ‘Republican’

You’ve Got Mail, Please Read It

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

By BOB GAYDOS

The mail. RJ Photography

The mail. RJ Photography

You can tell a lot about people by the contents of their mailboxes. In fact, if you pay attention, you can even learn a bit about yourself.

      For example, a recent day’s delivery to my box included ACLU Magazine, a letter from Planned Parenthood, one from the Southern Poverty Law Center and a note from Marlo Thomas for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital.

     Now, anyone who is familiar with my columns would hardly be surprised by this mix. Since my days of reading David Bernstein’s daily editorials in The Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. (1965-1973), I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Before that I was just a kid out of college who liked JFK. Since then, I’m lefty and proud and public.

     And I guess that’s the point here. Public and proud. I’ve been writing and commenting on the news and life in general for more than 50 years, but it has never seemed more important to me to be clear and forceful and consistent in expressing my opinions, however repetitive some may find them. Especially about politics and the state of the nation today.

     One of the two major political parties has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned the principle of compromise in governing for the good of the country. The Republican Party, as a willing and aggressive tool of Donald Trump, is a clear and present danger to our democracy. The past eight years testify to that.

     That’s my opinion and the opinion of many others. But still, there are millions of Americans who are buying the snake oil and gold sneakers to keep the Trump lies alive.

      And so, when I get my mail these days, I notice a certain urgency and consistency to it. These are people who feel the same as I do and are doing all they can to preserve and protect what was established in Philadelphia 248 years ago. Our democracy is at stake. This is our reality.

       I try to spread their messages so that those who have not yet recognized the true threat of the MAGA Party might one day hear it and realize what it means to them, to their freedom.

     This may sound a bit high-minded and exaggerated to some. But, again, I go back to my mailbox.

     The SPLC tells me about the spread of hate groups and its efforts to fight the threat of violent white nationalism and racism that has “gone mainstream’’ and is spreading  through our politics, media and schools and the constant racist rhetoric of Trump and a segment of the Republican Party. 

    The ACLU tells me about its legal efforts to protect voting rights from efforts, again, by Republicans, to restrict them for certain groups of people rather than promote ideas and programs those people might approve of and vote accordingly.

    The ACLU also tells me about its efforts to protect pregnant workers and  abortion rights and free speech.

    And Planned Parenthood tells me about its ongoing and increased efforts to educate the public about the threats to abortion access and to advocate for policies that protect sexual and reproductive health care for all.

     Freedom. It’s all about freedom. Many of you probably have similar messages in your mailboxes. 

   Again, that’s the point. Read them. They are there for a reason and I noticed them on this particular day for a reason.

    Our much-celebrated way of life is under attack and too many people still don’t recognize it. I would much rather write about the great work of the St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital that also comes in my mail, but if the MAGAs prevail, that will surely suffer also. Bigotry and hatred become pervasive.

      So I pay attention to my mail. I read it and I write about it. Because I still can. Because defense of freedom is not junk mail.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The (not so) Sweet Mysteries of Life

Friday, February 16th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Life is full of mysteries. Too many to solve and some (Why did Mario Cuomo not get on the plane to New Hampshire?*) never to be fully resolved. Lately, there are too many to keep up with.

Me and Mario Cuomo, circa late 1980’s, at a budget dinner presentation at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, where he was apparently more comfortable than he would have been in the White House.

Me and Mario Cuomo, circa late 1980’s, at a budget dinner presentation at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, where he was apparently more comfortable than he would have been in the White House.

 

     At such times, I lean on a tactic made famous by a favorite sports writer of mine from a half century ago or more, Jimmy Cannon. With a deep bow of respect:

  • Maybe it’s just me, but:  When the leading vocal critic of Vladimir Putin dies unexpectedly during a stroll at a prison in the Arctic and that critic, Alexei Navolny, is only 47 years old, is there any doubt that the Russian president, a well-known fan of poisoning his detractors, is behind it? The only mystery is what story the Kremlin will come up with to “explain” the death since there were no  10th-story windows for Navolny to fall out of.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: If I am the governor of the state that just witnessed its crowning glory celebration of another Super Bowl win turn into a bloody mass shooting with one dead and more than 20 injured, including many children, I might want to rethink my state’s gun laws. In fact, I might think about actually having some. No sign yet that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a rock-ribbed, pro-gun Republican if there ever was one, has had such a moment of clarity. Parson, who was at the Kansas City celebration of the Chiefs’ championship, along with his wife and thousands of other happy fans, revealed that his security detail had quickly moved him and his wife to safety. Others had no such protection. In fact, Parson as governor has squelched efforts by Kansas City and St. Louis officials to pass stronger laws because of an increase in shooting deaths in both cities. He also supported a state law that forbad local police from enforcing stricter federal gun laws. The courts overturned that. Missouri has no state licensing requirement for possession of a rifle, shotgun or handgun, nor is any state permit required for purchase of those firearms, as per the NRA’s official site. It’s an open carry state. The shooting was reportedly the result of an argument among teenagers. The mystery: How do you live with yourself and your bloodied celebration just to get campaign donations from a corrupt organization?
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: When a former president, who has bankrupted several businesses, run a fraud university and phony charity, lied to banks and others about the value of his properties, been ordered by the court to pay $364 million in fines because of it, has routinely failed to pay lawyers and contractors and also showed a remarkable indifference to and ignorance of history and world affairs says he would be OK if Putin sent Russian troops against NATO countries who are behind on paying their dues, I don’t understand the so-called thinking of Americans who profess  patriotism, yet support such a man to be president of this country.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: The decision by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin not to launch an independent campaign for president under the No Labels Party — a rare wise decision by the retiring Democrat — should be enough to convince the phony baloney independent group to drop its efforts to field a spoiler in the 2024 presidential election. Manchin even said he didn’t want to play that role. The mystery here is, when the choice in November will be between democracy (Joe Biden) and fascism (Trump or another Republican wannabe Trump), why anyone would want to play that role.

*Mario Cuomo, the so-called “Hamlet on the Hudson,” was widely considered to be a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992. He kept a plane on the runway with its motor running on the day to register for the New Hampshire primary, but never got on the plane. A lingering mystery.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Donald and Nikki, How Will It End?

Friday, January 26th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Jack and Rose, together in “Titanic.”

Jack and Rose, together in “Titanic.”          

Throughout history, there has been no shortage of famous duos. Most famously perhaps, there was Romeo and Juliet. But also, remember Antony and Cleopatra, Ozzie and Harriet, Napoleon and Josephine, Abbott and Costello, Batman and Robin, Butch and Sundance, Sonny and Cher, Charles and Diana, Franklin and Eleanor, Heckle and Jeckle, Jekyll and Hyde, Bonnie and Clyde

    That seems an appropriate place to stop to consider this year’s dynamic duo: Donald and Nikki. A match made in MAGA heaven.

    Or maybe not.

     As Donald Trump’s would-be challengers for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination have quickly dropped by the wayside, being too honest (Chris Christie) or too boring (Ron DeSantis), the party found itself in January with only Nikki Haley still running against the man facing 91 felony indictments.

      This is all very un-Republican, what with Haley being a woman and an accomplished, outspoken one at that. Where are her traditional family values? Doesn’t she know her place? Did she really question Der Donald’s mental status just because he repeatedly confused her with Nancy Pelosi and said Joe Biden could ignite World War uh Two? Did she really suggest Trump (and Biden) might be too old to be president?

      Yes, she did and Trump reacted in his customary style, with insults and threats, typed in all caps and misspelled on his social media platform. The ultimate threat: Anyone supporting Haley will be cut off from any MAGA connection. Ostracized financially. Out of the cult.

      Still she persists, to borrow a Democratic Party notion. And, having shown some surprising support among Republicans in New Hampshire, she moves on to the primary in South Carolina, where she was a popular governor, offering a more traditional Republican message than Trump’s scorched-earth, I-am-a-victim-of-Biden-oppression-and-will-get-revenge-on-my-enemies-when-I-am-re-elected message.

    Haley presents a dilemma for those Republicans who can’t stand Trump, but are too afraid to say so because they need the votes of the aggrieved, angry whites who make up MAGA, the volatile base of the GOP, but who don’t outnumber the relatively sane voters populating the rest of the electorate.  Haley speaks to some of those people. When she wants to. Sometimes, she bows to the Trump persecution complex strategy. She’ll pardon him if necessary. But now that she seems to be on the verge of being labeled a disloyal, ungrateful (Trump did make her his UN ambassador) umm, woman, she runs the risk of breaking up the Donald/Nikki duo before it becomes official. Before the tango becomes a waltz. As in running mates. With Donald taking the lead, of course.

    Trump’s most avid supporters say that must never happen. Assuming Trump wins the Republican nomination and assuming he is not in prison and assuming the Supreme Court allows him to run anyway (not a given), the MAGAs want no part of Haley as a vice presidential candidate.

    But, if she is left standing and looking legit, she would bring some voters Trump can’t reach. Non-MAGA women. Some sane Republicans. And, as the daughter of parents who came from India, immigrants.

     I don’t see it happening, Trump being Trump. He likes the easy way, predictably obedient foot soldiers willing to take the fall and not complain or testify against him.

     For her part, Haley has tried to play it both ways, sometimes supporting Trump so as not to anger his base, and sometimes speaking the truth, acknowledging other views. Ignoring slavery as a cause of the Civil War, talking about raising the Social Security age and cutting government controls but, unlike Trump, supporting more U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and for Israel in its war against terrorist groups.

  Who knows, maybe Trump will be convicted of one or more of the 91 felonies before the Republican nominating convention. Maybe some judge will actually lock him up for defying a gag order.

   Liz Cheney, another accomplished, outspoken woman who was, in effect, expelled from the Republican Party for daring to speak the truth about Trump and the January 6 insurrection, has encouraged Haley to stay in the race. To continue the tango. The male chorus remains mute.

     It remains to be seen whether Donald and Nikki become a true couple or wind up like another famous duo, Jack and Rose on the Titanic. A brief flirtation, but only room for one on the raft.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

     

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Pine Cones, Politics and Power

Friday, January 19th, 2024
The pine cone revolution. RJ Photography

The pine cone revolution in Pine Bush.
RJ Photography

By Bob Gaydos

    Ivan Pavlov, who knew a bit about how to figure things out, had this bit of advice which can apply equally to journalists as well as scientists: “Don’t become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin.”

     In a week of mysteries (to me, at least), the big mystery around my neck of upstate New York right now is why  there are so many pine cones on the ground. Even allowing for recent rainy weather, it’s been a mystery since the phenomenon started appearing on our property in the fall. Hundreds of cones were strewn about, still are, and social media chatter confirms that lots of neighbors have remarked on the same phenomenon, alternately complaining and wondering what to do with them.

      Responding as Pavlov would have me do, I tried to find answers, which proved to be not that simple. For me, the easiest answer to the pine cone glut appears to be evolution, which is both common sense and remarkable. The theory is that every two or three years (called “mast years”), pine trees produce far more than their normal number of cones, which contain seeds, in order to throw off the seed-gathering routine of their natural predators, such as squirrels, insects and birds, thus assuring the likelihood of enough seeds surviving and turning into future pine trees.

    Survival of the species. Something that is still taught in our schools. I think this is pretty darn clever of the pines, if you don’t mind crunching on the cones while you walk your dog, which I don’t. Mind, that is.

     What I do mind very much is a mystery which I have been struggling to understand for more than eight years. That is how an amoral, self-obsessed con man with no understanding of or regard for the Constitution has captured the minds and votes and loyalty of so many Americans.

    That phenomenon played out again in Iowa this week as Donald Trump swept the Republican caucuses for the party’s presidential nomination without even participating in any debates. Instead, he gave speeches about ordering mass deportations on his first day in office, if re-elected, talked about getting revenge on his enemies, and insisted he was immune from prosecution for the 91 felonies with which he is charged, many of which stem from his continued lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

     The mystery to me in Iowa (though not exclusively there) is that more than 90 percent of Republicans who said they voted for Trump also said they believed Joe Biden was not their legally elected president. This, after all the evidence produced to the contrary over nearly four years.

      Following Pavlov’s suggestion, I think the origin of this magical, self-deluding thinking might be found in the failure of schools and religious institutions in Iowa (and elsewhere) to actually fulfill their purported missions. Certainly, there has been little obvious evolutionary progress in many states in the development of tolerance and respect for others or for the value of actually learning something in school. Anyway, that’s my operating theory.

      The operating theory behind that theory is that it’s all about wealth and power. Control what people are taught and you can control the people and how they think and vote and there are wealthy, influential people behind the scenes doing just that within today’s Republican Party.

     The other mystery of the week took place in Denmark, where Queen Margrethe, the longest reigning monarch in Europe, which is big on monarchies, abdicated her throne to her son, Crown Prince Fredrick.

     My puzzlement is not so much over the 83-year-old queen turning over the keys to the kingdom to her son after 52 years of ruling, but rather why there is still a royal family being treated royally in Denmark. 

     While the queen’s role is purely ceremonial, with no connection whatever to the government, many Danes apparently like the history, fairy tales and traditions associated with their country, home of fairytale master Hans Christian Andersen. A kind of once-upon-a-time power.

     Margrethe was also very popular for her earthiness and rapport with other, non-royal, Danes. Some said they felt she explained to the world what Danes were all about.

      For this contribution to the Danish reputation, the royal family received 88.9 million Danish crowns, or a bit more than $13 million, in tax funds in 2022, a pittance, compared to what British royalty receives, but still, we’re talking millions.

       There’s no word yet on what the new king and his wife, soon to be queen consort, will receive as an allowance from grateful Danes. But this tradition of paying a “ruler” a handsome sum just because might explain why a certain greedy American politician might be doing all he can to take this crown-fighting democratic republic back to the days of rule by royal edict. Devolution from the revolution. The Danes’ fairy tale story would be an American horror story.

     At least the pine cones make sense.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

       

GOP’s make believe presidential debates

Friday, November 10th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The Republican presidential debaters.

The Republican presidential debaters.

    Let me state at the outset that I have not watched any of the Republican Party “presidential” debates, nor do I anticipate watching any in the near future. I see no reason to subject myself to hours of meaningless posturing.

    I say meaningless because the Republican Party apparently is and will remain hostage to Donald Trump’s MAGA minions until and unless he is removed from the equation by a judge, jury or some higher power. 

      Thus far, no Republican has been capable of challenging him for leadership of the once-proud party, or even saying why he or she would be a better president than Trump. Even with years of evidence to make the case.

       Let me also note here that, while I haven’t watched any of the Republican debates, I have read many and varied accounts of them and am aware of the fact that no one on stage — not even Chris Christie, the most vocal Trump critic — could simply point to Trump’s reckless, self-serving, ineffectual approach to running the country, including promises unkept, and articulate what he or she would do or would have done differently. You know, maybe send in the National Guard right away on Jan. 6. Something concrete.

    The so-called presidential hopefuls appear to be campaigning to be the “best” one remaining should Trump — who leads all of them by a wide margin in polling among Republicans and who has ignored all the debates in favor of court appearances and campaign rallies, which he sometimes confuses — somehow turn out not to be the party’s nominee.

      But even then, with Republicans suffering losses in each election since Trump was elected president, the party presidential candidate would face the issue of how to gain more votes — appeal to a wider base of Americans  — without losing the MAGA base that is all Trump all the time.

        Democrats don’t have the same problem. While Republicans were debating, polls were “revealing” that Trump has a lead over President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch. It happens all the time to incumbents.

     Age is supposedly one of the issues, even though Biden is 80 and Trump 77. I’m betting on Biden’s lifestyle and health care over Trump’s.

     But Biden also has an impressive presidential record of accomplishment to run on (employment is up, roads and bridges are being rebuilt, Medicare can negotiate drug prices, inflation is being wrestled down), a lifelong resume of leadership and — do not ignore this — a demonstrated respect for American democracy, the rule of law and the Constitution.

    Trump has none of that. And none of his so-called challengers seems willing to simply make that case. It’s as if we are supposed to simply trust that under another Trump administration America would not be further divided politically, more threatened by world leaders playing to Trump’s ego and ignorance and even more prone to believe the lies of charlatans.

    Polls notwithstanding,  Biden a year from now will have a strong record to run on while Trump may be in jail or in court or both. Answering to 91 felony counts can be time consuming. Even some of his allies are bailing on him in court cases and in books that also expose their complicity.

     Trump is simply a menace to democracy and doesn’t belong anywhere near the White House again. The facts and his daily statements make that abundantly clear to a majority of Americans. 

   In any campaign for president against Donald Trump, Joe Biden, as he did in 2020, can proudly, unequivocally and truthfully say that he represents America’s best choice to protect and preserve democracy.

     Apparently, other Republican “candidates” for president can’t find the courage to make the same case for themselves.

     Meaningless posturing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

As Maine Goes … Well, Never Mind

Friday, November 3rd, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Cameras captured images of the shooter in Maine.

Cameras captured images of the shooter in Lewiston, Maine.

Well, it is was another typical week in America: A mass shooting, a judge telling Donald Trump, in effect, to shut up and Republicans in the House of Representatives choosing a “leader” who doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, wants to give rich people more money and take food away from the not-so-rich.

 Let’s be mercifully brief and start with (1.) the Republicans’ latest demonstration that it is a political party out of touch with a majority of Americans and has no interest in actually governing, to wit, the election of Mike Johnson (who?!) to be Speaker of the House, with a mandate from the rightwing extremists who control the GOP to (2.) refuse to negotiate with President Biden and the Democrat-controlled Senate on pretty much anything, as quickly evidenced by Johnson’s (3.) opposition to further aid to Ukraine, (4.) tying aid to Israel to (5.) a cut in funding for the Internal Revenue Service, which would mean fewer agents to audit the rich, billions less in taxes paid and a larger budget deficit and (6). a cut in SNAP benefits, which provides food to the needy, who presumably should just (7.) pray for a miracle from the Almighty, which would seem to be the guiding principle for a man who, as a Christian Nationalist, believes the U.S. is a Christian nation, refers to the Constitution’s “so-called ‘separation of church and state’” and was once (8.) dean of a law school at a Baptist university in Louisiana that never opened its doors to teach its “biblical worldview,” which Johnson can now try to bring to the Congress instead and maybe even lead the Freedom Caucus Trumpers in praying that (9.) Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over Trump’s election overthrow attempt trial in Washington, D.C., doesn’t finally lose patience with the pathological liar and toss his twice-impeached, four times indicted rear end into jail for repeatedly violating her orders not to threaten or harass prosecutors, potential witnesses or court personnel as he continues to demean the status of the office he once held while his successor, Joe Biden, (10.) demonstrates just the opposite, including (11.) a trip to Maine to mourn with survivors and, indeed, the whole state, for the 18 victims (nearly the average toll for shooting deaths in a year in Maine) of a mass shooter, who chose kids’ night at a bowling alley to start his killing spree, one that was (12.) predicted by the shooter himself, his family, his superior officers and other members of his Army Reserve unit, flagged by a two-week stay in a psychiatric facility in New York State, including an evaluation at the military hospital at West Point, none of which, apparently (13.) was reason enough for anyone in any position of authority in the entire state of Maine to take his assault rifles and ammunition away from him before he actually did what the voices in his head were telling him to do, because Maine (14.) is one of those states where people are free to buy any kind of guns any time and walk around with them anywhere they please and (15.) doesn’t have a “red flag“ law requiring that guns be taken away from people who exhibit all the behaviors this shooter did, a situation that is (16.) likely to get the attention of lawmakers there who have always felt proud to proclaim, “Things like that don’t happen in Maine.”

    (17.) Not anymore.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

News? War Trumps Everything

Sunday, October 15th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

F5BE3EB8-ADE1-4B6F-8DBA-31EEF43376F0    Reporting the most significant news of the day is always a combination of judgment and opinion, seasoned by experience. But, within the variables, one thing is certain: War trumps  everything.

      The terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel was so brutally vicious, claiming the lives of more than a thousand innocent civilians, including women and children, the elderly, people dragged out of their homes, young people at a festival, even babies and also resulting in the taking of hostages that it (1.) overshadowed the unprecedented shutting down of the House of Representatives because Republicans, the majority party, had removed their chosen Speaker and could not agree on a new one, putting in peril (2) funding for the government itself, (3) aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia and (4) aid to longtime ally Israel in its declared war against Hamas, which (5.) did not seem to trouble the small group of rightwing radical Republicans holding the government hostage, or their anointed leader, Donald Trump, who (6.) gave his blessing for new Speaker to Jim Jordan, the ineffectual Ohio congressman who aided and abetted Trump in the failed January 6 insurrection and whose only goal seems to be to shut down the government and, in the process, all the investigations and court proceedings against Trump, who (7.) took the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel as an occasion to compliment Hezbollah, another Islamic terrorist group with a target on Israel and (8.) to blame Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for the success of the surprise attack, most likely as payback for the fact that Netanyahu (9.) was the first foreign leader to congratulate Joe Biden on his election as America’s president in 2020, something which Trump, Jordan and the rest of the MAGA crowd are still  (10.) trying to undo even as (11.) Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a member of one of America’s most celebrated political families, flip-flopped between conspiracy theories and strategies in his own ego-driven campaign for the 2024 presidential election, having (12.) announced that he is dropping his plan to run as a Democrat to run instead as an independent candidate, probably because he was gaining little traction among Democratic voters since his extreme views more closely resemble those of Trump supporters, (13.) a development which caused confusion among political prognosticators as to whether Kennedy as an independent candidate with a famous Democratic name  would take more voters from Trump or Biden, (14.) something which would be more of a worry for Democrats if RFK Jr. even vaguely resembled his late father politically and personally (he’s no Bobby Kennedy) and had also not recently been accused of anti-Semitism, but, again, was complicated by (15.) Kennedy’s unambiguous reaction to the Hamas attack on Israel: “This ignominious, unprovoked, and barbaric attack on Israel must be met with world condemnation and unequivocal support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. We must provide Israel with whatever it needs to defend itself — now.”

    War trumps everything.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Joe: Join the Strikers; Train Your Dog

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

 By Bob Gaydos

President Biden and Commander

President Biden and Commander

    Not that you’d notice it, what with all the media attention paid to the lies, threats, chaos and confusion generated by the Party of Trump, but (1.) President Biden made history this week as he became the first sitting president of the United States of America to walk a picket line when he joined  striking auto industry union workers, which is as bold and clear a statement of support for the working people of America as any president can make and far removed from (2.)the phony effort by Trump to court those same workers by showing up at a non-union auto parts plant to complain about electric vehicles (promoted by Biden to help save the planet) taking workers jobs, which is more Trump nonsense, when, in reality, (3.) his motivation was to avoid yet another confrontation with the rest of the field seeking the Republican nomination for president because, as more and more Republicans fear, the twice-impeached, four times indicted, twice found guilty in civil court ex-president seems to be having even more difficulty than usual keeping his facts straight and may actually fear having to debate other Trump wannabes in public, especially since (4.) there’s yet another book out written by a former Trump White House insider laying out the selfishness and hypocrisy in his administration, that book being a memoir by Cassidy Hutchinson, the young woman who bravely testified before the Jan. 6 committee about her experiences as chief aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and, (5.) like all the others, is looking to cash in on her experience now that Trump may actually be held accountable for his many crimes, which is (6.) the fate a Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, is facing, having been accused by the Justice Department in a bribery scheme, along with his wife, in which he’s accused of trading political favors for lots of cash (several hundred thousand dollars of it being found in his home, some stuffed in pockets of his suits) and gold bullion (also found in a search of his home), all of which (7.) prompted a call from many Democrats in the Senate, including fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, for Menendez to resign, a reaction strikingly different from typical Republican response to misbehavior within their ranks, but no doubt prompted by the fact that (8.) Menendez was charged with a similar crime a few years ago by the Justice Department but a trial resulted in a hung jury and, Jersey voters being, well, Jersey voters, Menendez subsequently was reelected to the Senate where, from all appearances, he learned nothing from his misbehavior, which, also, (9.) unfortunately, seems to be the pattern with family pets the president has brought to the White House, the most recent one being a German Shepherd Dog named Commander, who reportedly (10.) bit a Secret Service agent (again) in the family quarters of the White House, reviving stories of a previous German Shepherd who was shipped off to Delaware for similarly inappropriate behavior, prompting one (me) to (11.) wonder what steps Biden and all those security conscious people around him have taken to make sure the shepherds, who are highly intelligent dogs bred to herd sheep and to protect, have received proper training as puppies so that they can be comfortable in social situations with non-threatening individuals, such as Secret Service agents and other “friends” they come into contact with routinely during the day and whether there is (12.) a designated handler for the dog, perhaps First Lady Jill Biden and maybe a Secret Service agent, who work regularly with the dog so that he is friendly, alert and obedient and only aggressive when needed, which is what basic training for such a dog would provide and Commander, being only two years old, could likely learn, thereby allowing everyone to feel comfortable in his presence and (13.) avoiding any more “Dog bites Secret Service agent” headlines, which only tarnish the reputation of these special dogs, just because some humans have neglected to provide them with the proper training that, in fact, should allow Commander to (14.) walk anywhere with the president, including a picket line, without any fear of “President’s dog bites man” headlines.

      Sit. Stay. Friend. Good boy.




On Growing Old with Mitt Romney

Saturday, September 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos
                                * * *

Mitt Romney … retiring, from what?

Mitt Romney
… retiring, from what?

“I grow old … I grow old …

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and …”*

     Forever hate the word ‘‘impeach’’?

                                    ***

   With profound apologies to T.S. Eliot and his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the topic here is politicians and age.

   Or is it? 

   If you believe Mitt Romney it is. Looking and sounding fit and capable and considerably younger than his 76 years, the senator from Utah recently announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate next year.

      In doing so, he also criticized President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, both older than Romney, and called for them to “stand aside” for a “new generation of leaders” in Washington.

     Romney, also a former governor of Massachusetts and the defeated Republican candidate for president in 2012, said neither Democrat Biden, 80, nor Republican Trump, 77, is effectively leading his party in addressing the important issues of the day, which is a typically safe and even-handed Romney style comment. A pox on both their houses.

   To be fair, Romney was the only Republican senator with the courage to vote guilty on Trump’s two impeachments and he did have some frank, unflattering words to say specifically about his party.

     “There’s no question that the Republican Party today is in the shadow of Donald Trump,”  he said, adding that the MAGA wing that has commandeered the party is less concerned with governing and more enamored with “resentment and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.”

       Those are unusually harsh and honest  — and rare — words for an elected Republican official to state publicly about his party today.

    Oh, did I mention that a biography of Romney is soon to be released and that excerpts of the book have appeared in an article in the recent edition of The Atlantic Magazine?

      And did I mention that the author of the biography, who had full access to all Romney’s notes, files, tapes, musings, etc., has apparently painted a candid picture of the cowardice and hypocrisy rampant in the Republican Party today? A picture that, obviously, is created with Romney’s words.

     A picture that, for example, has former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell envying Romney for being able to criticize Trump publicly and to vote to convict him on the impeachment — for “saying things the rest of us can’t say.”

     A picture that also has Republican senators sitting attentively in a room with an obviously clueless President Trump discussing foreign affairs and laughing hysterically the minute their “leader” leaves the room.

    It’s apparently the kind of “I’m out of here now” tell-all book that others in the Trump orbit have also written, telling millions of Americans what we already knew about the four-time indicted ex-president. It’s a dollar short and a day late. A book written only when there is no longer any fear of having to run for reelection in what would likely be a brutal primary against a Trump-backed opponent.

      In other words: I’m retiring from the Senate. It was fun while it lasted, but my party is now a cult of hypocrites, sycophants and liars and, besides, I don’t need the job.

        Now, Romney did say, “While I’m not running for reelection, I’m not retiring from the fight. I’ll be your United States senator until January of 2025.” But he didn’t elaborate. Too bad, because there are things a retiring, respected senator can do to improve things in Washington, but framing it as a generational thing is misleading and disingenuous.

          Yes, a majority of Americans (me included) would prefer a different presidential contest next year than Biden/Trump. But Biden, for all the complaints about his age, has been an effective president and still represents the safest protection against Trump for millions of Americans.

    His backup, Vice President Kamala Harris, is often dismissed by “political experts,” but she is intelligent, experienced, articulate, female and of a different generation. She is also a woman of color. These days, for many voters, these are all positive political attributes and, besides, what vice president has ever gotten glowing reviews from the public? It goes with the job description.

   Democrats also have a good back bench of younger leaders in Congress and state houses who know how to actually govern, not just air grievances.

     But Republicans are a different story. Trump may be convicted, in court, in Russia or who knows where next year and, in any scenario, his followers apparently are planning on being there to the end, whatever happens.

      There’s Romney’s “fight.” The problem is, he’s never shown much interest in waging it, in getting his hands dirty. As a former party standard bearer and recognized public figure, he could have been doing something about the MAGAs hijacking the GOP back in 2012, when he ran for president, or better, in 2008, when John McCain inexplicably ran with Sarah Palin as his clueless co-pilot. Romney could also have been much more vocal than he has been in the Senate about Mitch McConnell’s obstructionism and Trump’s criminal presidency.

     However, Romney, who has called the Senate an “old men’s club,” has burnished an image of himself as an old-time, conservative (wealthy) Republican who can work with Democrats to accomplish things for the public good: Gun legislation. Global warming. The Electoral Count. Sure, he’ll work with Democrats to craft legislation, but always quietly, always in the background.

      Romney’s probably right about age with McConnell, 80, who has had two mysterious “freezing” incidents when talking to the media. As a leader, his days should be over. Maybe Mitt can talk to Mitch about retiring. And while he’s at it, maybe Romney can talk senator-to-senator to Republican Tommy Turberville of Alabama about single-handedly holding up all senior military promotions, creating confusion and resentment in the Pentagon.

       If he really wanted to engage in a fight, Romney could encourage fellow Republican senators to support a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. 

    And, good luck here, Romney can suggest that fellow Republican, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, certainly not an old man, start acting like a leader, not a sniveling coward, bending to every outrageous demand  of his mostly young, not terribly bright and mostly incorrigible Freedom Caucus.

     This is, after all, the “new generation” of Republicans and, for the most part, they are the reason “traditional” (“older”) Republicans like Romney are looking for an exit. This is where the real fight is, senator. Ready to get your hands dirty?

                                       ***

“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”*

*From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

By T.S. Eliot

 

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.