Posts Tagged ‘Republican’

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.


2024: Neither Trump nor Biden, Please

Friday, November 25th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

  91E29BA5-E946-48C8-A9D2-5FFC851BB1FF  Never again, Donald Trump.

    Thank you for your decades of service to the country, but please not again, President Biden.

    Yes, in large part because of Trump’s constant need for attention, we’re talking about the 2024 presidential election already. 

     The ex-president could barely wait for the final 2022 midterm election results (which were disastrous for the out-of-office Republican Party over much of which he still commands significant influence) before announcing his candidacy for the 2024 presidential campaign.

    I guess he figures it’s either that or answer a subpoena. Or two.

    Unfortunately for Trump, except for diehard MagaLomaniacs, the bloom is off the rose for him with many Republicans, including some currently holding elected office. And, he may have to answer those subpoenas even if he is an official candidate for president.

     Attorney General Merrick Garland tried to clear the air on the subpoena front by appointing a special counsel to investigate Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection, his attempts at election tampering in the 2022 election and the possession of classified documents once out of office at his home in Florida.

   The counsel, a career prosecutor and lifetime registered independent voter, is a way to separate the Biden White House and Democrats from the ongoing investigation into Trump’s activities at a time when he is a declared candidate for president. It’s a welcome step.

     Whether the appointment of the counsel clears the air for the Republican Party is another matter. Having started decades ago down the road to gaining power at any cost, the party is now paying the price for looking the other way and holding its collective nose while registering any bigoted, racist, narrow-minded American who promised to vote for any Republican who fed their fears while doing little to deal with their actual problems.

     Sacrificing policy for scare tactics and voter suppression, the party gained power with Trump’s election in 2016. Never underestimate the American voter’s appetite for shock and awe over substance. But, having no actual platform save for giving wealthy people a tax break and being handcuffed to a self-serving leader who valued loyalty over competence, the party could not sustain its grip on Washington.

    Trump’s utter lack of understanding of the role of president and the failure of most Republicans to criticize him for his pathological lying and inflammatory rhetoric, among other things, finally registered on a significant majority of Americans. He lost to Biden in 2020, a result he refuses to accept, and most of his election-denying sycophants lost in state elections this month. And Democrats held on to the Senate. Some prominent Republicans are finally summoning up the courage to criticize him. Or, to be accurate, to say he may not be good for the future of the party and, thus, their political careers.

      Which leaves us with some potential Republican presidential candidates who want to prove they can out-Trump Trump (notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) and some who apparently hope voters won’t notice their complicity in quietly looking the other way while Trump was in the White House (notably former Vice President Mike Pence).

      It may be a knives-and-daggers battle among Republicans for the nomination, but there’s no way they can offer Trump as their candidate again without giving up their last chance of rescuing their party from the pit of shame into which he has dragged it.

      So what about the Democrats? They have a different problem. Biden will be 82 in 2024. (By the way, Trump will be a not so youthful 78.) Running a country is not an old man’s game except in kingdoms and dictatorships. While Biden has brought competence and dignity back to the office of president and demonstrated that the government can indeed address the needs of all the people, the daily stress of the job could well affect his performance of his duties. Indeed, campaigning for the presidency against a new, younger, bomb-throwing Republican candidate could prove to be challenging.

     More importantly, Democrats need a younger, newer, more forceful face for 2024. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82, made that clear in announcing she would not be a candidate for House Minority Leader in the next Congress.

    The problem is, there aren’t many Democrats around who are well-known by a majority of Americans. Vice President Kamala Harris is an obvious candidate for the nomination, should Biden choose not to run. But she has been remarkably quiet in her two years as next-in-line for the presidency. That’s a contrast with her often outspoken, forceful demeanor in the Senate. A little more of that Harris would serve her and her party well.

     California Gov. Gavin Newsom is said to have his eyes on the White House and he has some national recognition. There’s also Labor Secretary Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who would bring a great deal of energy to a campaign.

     Of course, the best-known and one of the most popular political figures who would make a formidable presidential candidate is Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House Select January 6 committee. But Cheney,  a Republican who has been blunt in her criticism of Trump with regards to his claims about the 2020 election being stolen and for his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, lost her seat in still strongly pro-Trump South Dakota. Right now, she’s a potential candidate without a party.

   Of course, a lot can happen in two years. But the 2024 presidential campaign simply cannot be a rerun of 2020. America needs to move on.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Did the Press Scare America Straight?

Sunday, November 13th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

    5C086408-528A-4128-99B1-CF8FBCE4BB82 Exhale, America, you survived another election in the era of Trumpism. Apparently, some of you did learn history’s lesson on complacency enabling the spread of fascism. Not that the purported defenders of democracy — a free press — did much to help the cause.

       The “surprising” results of the 2022 midterm elections, as characterized by the mainstream media, once again demonstrated the dubious reliability of political polling and the very real risks of news agencies relying heavily on them to “predict” what is likely to occur when people give their actual opinions at the ballot box.

        The “red wave” of Republican victories predicted to occur across America failed to materialize this year, even though in midterm elections the party out of power is “supposed to” make gains because people are fed up with the current president and his policies. That’s what the political “wisdom” is and that’s the bias that goes into much of the polling and the reporting on the campaigns.

         But this year it didn’t happen. Democrats maintained control of the Senate and may have an even stronger hold depending on a runoff election in Georgia. And Republicans are likely to have only a slim margin of control in the House. And, there was no avalanche of Republican election deniers being swept into office in state elections on the strength of a Trump endorsement.

        What happened? Apparently, abortion did matter. Democracy did matter. Ukraine did matter. Inflation? Yes, it hurts. But voters obviously felt they would survive it again and, just maybe, President Joe Biden wasn’t to blame. 

        But you’d have had a hard time knowing that pre-election if you listened to the loudly opinionated “newscasts” on television and the carbon copy reporting in most newspapers, much of it based on information provided by pollsters, many of them funded by Republicans. Did anyone reporting on the polls consider that a basic Republican strategy the past several years has simply been to lie?

      Of course, by constantly repeating the polls’ supposed prediction of what was likely to happen on Election Day, the media did create a lot of anxiety among a lot of people. And maybe that got more people (especially young people) to vote who might otherwise have sat this one out. But that would only mean that the basic assumption of most polls and much reporting was incorrect to start with: that Americans were fed up with inflation and Democratic spending and eager to embrace Republican policies.

    Republican “policy” under Trump has been to divide and conquer, lie and cheat, make voting harder, restrict freedoms of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian, non-male Americans, provide tax cuts for the wealthy, dumb down the public education system, promote violence against political opponents … and blame Democrats for everything. 

      That’s a lot of alienation. It’s a lot of restriction. It’s budding fascism, in fact.

       A lot of Americans apparently noticed. Not nearly enough, but enough to prevent total chaos in Washington and to provide time to take stock of what direction this purported beacon of democracy wants to pursue.

       In its unflagging pursuit of win-or-lose, horse-race reporting based on increasingly unreliable polls (do you know anyone who actually answered a poll?), the only thing positive to say about the job of the American press on this story is that it might’ve scared enough previously unconcerned people into voting and proving the predictions of the “experts” to be wrong.

      That would mean a lot of Americans deserve credit for recognizing, for many of them perhaps the first time, the real threat to democracy represented by the Republican Party’s capitulation to Trumpism. It also means that reporters ought to be talking to more real Americans, real voters, before writing about what those Americans supposedly think. It’s important, because the threat, while weakened, has not disappeared.

       There’s a lot of arguing among Republicans today about who’s to blame for their party’s disappointing (to them) election results. (I’d say they all are.) A lot of them blame Trump himself, which is a change, and Trump himself faces several serious legal actions. But the threat is still alive and well in some elements of the Republican Party. Start talking with voters in Florida and Texas, reporters. Trumpism may or may not be fading, but fascism is always looking for another face. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com    

Save democracy, vote Democratic

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

   62395128-094D-465D-A455-BC0B61B1AABD  I voted early. Easy. No lines at the Government Center in Monticello at 2:30 on Tuesday a week before Election Day. Helpful, pleasant volunteers. I voted for every Democrat across Row A. Also easy. There was really no other choice.

    The hamlet where I live is tucked in to the southeastern tip of Sullivan County in upstate New York, about an hour’s drive to New York City. It’s between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. Pretty country. A lot of it is Republican country, but not as much as it used to be. Our area’s congressman and state legislators are all Democrats. A recent development.

       When I say there was no other choice on the ballot aside from Democrats, I don’t mean there were no Republicans running for federal, local or state offices. I mean, in my opinion, no Republican candidate for office even deserved consideration for my vote if he or she had failed to publicly voice any kind of criticism of the Trump disaster despite having six years and countless opportunities to do so. Two impeachments. The election conspiracy/lie. Thousands of other lies. The January 6 Insurrection incitement. Classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Threats of violence. And, of course, total incompetence. Nothing.

       Republican silence on Trump goes well beyond party loyalty to the realm of blind allegiance to their leader and/or sheer cowardice, neither of which I want in an elected official at any level. As far as I can tell, it is a pandemic of its own within the Republican Party in every state at every level. Silence, obedience … or unhinged vocal support.

          I cannot think of one local Republican official in the three-county area (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster) which I call home who has publicly said a negative word about Trump. Not one. Six years. To do so, many apparently fear, would cost them votes and maybe end their political careers. The thought that it might gain them respect and new votes apparently hasn’t occurred to them.

         Of course, there are those Republicans who support Trump vocally, if not vigorously, yet deny that this defines them as racist, bigoted, fascistic, phony, cruel, anti-science, anti-free press, ignorant of the law, misogynistic, double-dealing, anti-education, anti-veteran, hypocritical, self-absorbed, lazy liars. There’s more, but you know it all. If the Republican Party, individually and as a whole, supports Trump, it is Trump. The whole ugly package.

  Full disclosure: Most of what you’ve read so far is repeated from a column I wrote two years ago, prior to the presidential election.  Fortunately, Democrats prevailed. Yet, today, many of the leading voices in the Republican Party still parrot Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him. Indeed, Republican candidates for all sorts of state and local offices also repeat the lie. For many it’s their only campaign issue. Truthfully, the only issue Republicans seem to have is to gain power and maintain it in any way possible, legal or otherwise. Violence is apparently not ruled out.

     That’s a pretty harsh statement, but I repeat, I see no evidence that it is offbase. The only Republicans who have criticized Trump have been ostracized from the party. The silent ones are complicit in what I believe is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.

    I am 81 years old and after more than a quarter century of writing editorials for daily newspapers I never imagined I would write these words. But then I never imagined one of the two major political parties would abdicate all responsibility to govern in favor of creating an authoritarian system of government designed primarily to protect conservative white Christians. 

      This column is directed primarily at those who say their vote doesn’t matter. Or that both parties are the same. Wrong. Every vote for every office matters this year. Joe Biden’s two years as president with a Democratic Congress produced meaningful legislation for all Americans. If Republicans control Congress, there will be two years of stalemate and phony hearings, but no meaningful legislation. If they control state governments, no Democratic victory will be accepted. Constant turmoil.

     Vote like democracy depends on it, America,  because it does. And vote for every Democrat on the ballot. Please.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Here Comes Another Food Fight

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

Cracker Barrel’s Impossible sausage

Cracker Barrel’s Impossible sausage offended some customers.

  What happens when politicians lose all interest in looking for solutions to the challenges facing the people they represent and become focused simply on retaining power by getting the votes of as many of those people as possible in any way possible? What if that includes inventing problems that don’t exist and creating societal conflict to attract voters who fear they might lose something (they’re not sure what) if they vote for the wrong person?

      You get a food fight. Literally and figuratively.

      One of the more absurd results of this form of politicking — embraced enthusiastically by virtually the entire Republican Party — is the recent “controversy” that erupted over an addition to the menu at Cracker Barrel restaurants.

     The folksy, country-style chain recently added a plant-based sausage — the Impossible Sausage— as an option for breakfast. It did not replace any of the traditional pork items, but rather, was just an addition. Something new.

     No matter. The reaction from some of the conservative diners was, well, outrage:

— “All the more reason to stop eating at Cracker Barrel. This is not what Cracker Barrel was to be all about.”

— “I just lost respect for a once great Tennessee company.”

— “If I wanted a salad … I would in fact order a salad … stop with the plant-based ‘meat’ crap.”

— “Oh No … the Cracker Barrel has gone WOKE!!! It really is the end times …” 

    In other words, how dare they tarnish “our” restaurant with “their” food?

    This, in the land of freedom of choice. Hundreds of texts and tweets criticizing a company which, by the way, has previously been called on the carpet for discrimination against gays and blacks. Not exactly a bastion of liberal thought, at least in the past.

    In this case, though, the company admitted it thought the Impossible Sausage was a sensible business decision “at a time when more than ever, consumers are seeking plant-based options that are better for them.”

      “Better for them.” Imagine, a restaurant chain being criticized for offering something that might be better for some of its customers.

     Actually, some customers said they “couldn’t even tell the difference” between the Impossible and the regular sausage. More liberal customers appreciated it for the dining option and the contribution to fighting global warming and cruelty to animals — issues that apparently don’t exist for the majority of Republican politicians and many of their voters.

     But hang on. If you think this food fight was something, the next one could be really messy. “Animal House” messy.

      It seems food companies are experimenting with, and even beginning to produce, what they call “non-meat meat.”

       No, this is not any of that “plant-based meat crap,” as that Cracker Barrel customer complained. “Non-Meat meat” is also known as lab-grown meat, which sounds even less appetizing. The burning question, of course, is, “Is it really meat? Or what?”

    I guess you might call it “meat-based meat.“ Shades of “Brave New World,” I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. The best explanation I found so far for this new food offering is that scientists are able to painlessly collect a small sample of muscle cells from a living animal (cow, pig, fish), cultivate the sample to grow outside of the animal’s body and eventually shape the grown sample into cuts of, well, meat or fish or poultry or pork.

     No breeding. No huge factory farms. No slaughterhouses. No over-fishing. Much smaller herds. Far less methane gas. Less water pollution. Same great taste. That’s the concept.

     The process has already begun to move out of the laboratories, which were necessary for research, and into more traditional production facilities. No word yet on when non-meat meat burgers will be available for widespread consumption, but as a fan of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, I’m likely to give it a try.

      The question I have is, while this process is obviously healthier for the animals, is it any healthier for the human consumers? In other words, for people who stay away from beef and bacon for example, for health reasons, will non-meat meat offerings be any healthier for them? Early reports say the product will still be an excellent source of protein, but producers will be able to control the amount of cholesterol and fat, which would be a plus. More, I guess, will be revealed.

   In the meantime, I won’t even try to explain this for the folks who are angry at Cracker Barrel, except to say that, since non-meat meat is technically meat, it is not vegan. So you don’t have to worry about being, God forbid, “woke,” if you try it. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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


     

 

Republicans have Stockholm Syndrome

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

Patty Hearst, holding up a bank with the Symbionese Liberation Army

Patty Hearst, holding up a bank with the Symbionese Liberation Army

A news report to ponder as the House January 6 Committee prepares to resume its hearings on Donald Trump‘s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results: 61% of Republicans contacted in a recent poll do not believe the aforesaid former president had classified government documents stored at his home at Mar-a-Lago.

     In that same poll, conducted by the Marquette Law School, 65% of independent voters said they believe there were indeed classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago and 93% of Democrats agreed.

    Why the disparity? Stockholm Syndrome. I’m convinced the Republican Party was taken hostage by Donald Trump more than six years ago and, for a variety of reasons, like Patty Hearst, they have fallen in love with their kidnapper. We’ve all been paying the ransom, but few Republicans seem to want to actually be freed.

     Rather, the majority still support, implicitly by their silence or explicitly by their words and actions, Trump’s claim that Joe Biden was not legally elected president in 2020. In the same manner, the majority support Trump’s claims of having nothing to do with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. And, as this new poll indicates, they support Trump and all his outrageous claims about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, including the fact that the FBI planted them.

       Stockholm Syndrome.

       While it is not an officially recognized mental health disorder, studies of the syndrome have found it to be present in victims of kidnapping or abuse. Or, in this case, both.

       In October of 2016, I noted in a column that Trump, as the Republican candidate for president, said he might not accept the results of the 2016 election if he lost. The crowd cheered. Republicans remained silent. He made good on that threat in 2020.

        In the interim, he has kept his followers in line by promising to give them what they want — in large part, assurance that people who don’t look like them (white) or think like them (ultra-conservative Christian) will take away whatever they feel is important to them (an illusion of power). He alternates this con job with threats to punish them if they challenge him. The latter strategy has been especially effective with elected Republicans lacking the courage to speak the truth about Trump lest he campaign against them. Safer to work with him. Stockholm syndrome.

     All the while, Trump has played the victim and raised enormous amounts of money from his sympathetic supporters for bogus campaigns. Over the years, many, probably a majority, of Republicans, have formed a bond with Donald Trump that belies their true relationship. He has made a mockery of everything this political party one said it stood for, repeatedly encouraging the use of violence to achieve his goals, turning the party of law and order into a mob that attacks police at the United States Capitol and threatens to attack the FBI.

      In October, 2016, I wrote: “Republicans, Trump is not one of you. He is Trump. Period. You created him. … He has sullied us all. And he has destroyed you.”

     But those documents he declassified by thinking about them, even though they weren’t actually there and the FBI planted them anyway and he still wants them back, although they really don’t exist. 

     Apparently, they still can’t get enough of it.

     Stockholm syndrome.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

They’re Still Trying to Ban Books

Friday, September 16th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos    

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

 One of my favorite places to hang out when I was growing up in Bayonne, N.J. was the Bayonne Public Library, a magnificent, sprawling stone and concrete structure (with columns and a courtyard) that offered solitude and satisfaction for all manner of tastes. It looked important, which it was. It was a storehouse of what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we wanted to know and it was all free for the reading.

      What a deal.

       Alas, not everyone feels the same way about libraries and books. Books have been burned and banned for centuries by those who fear what they don’t understand and by those who look to control what people know and believe.

      The book-banners are alive and active in America today, encouraged by a political party that has abandoned any pretense of democratic governance in favor of a fraudulent code of moral conduct. Reasons why books have been banned or challenged in the past include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language. Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians.

       Today’s Republican Party essentially exists to protect whatever power it has by banning anything that threatens or offends the biases of its increasingly bigoted base of support. Books are high on that list. They can combat bias through knowledge, promoting greater understanding. That’s not helpful to a party built today on fear and mistrust. Accordingly, the American Library Association has declared that its theme for the 2022 Banned Books Week, which runs September 18–24, is “Books Unite Us; Censorship Divides Us.”

       It’s an effort to combat renewed efforts to remove “dangerous” books from libraries around the country.  As always, the best way to engage in this battle is to shine the light of truth on it. Books are not the enemy.

        What I have done in the past is post a list of books I have read that I have also found on various internet lists of banned books (some to my surprise) and invite readers to comment and offer titles of books they have read which also have been banned somewhere. It generally provides an excellent, eclectic reading list. It also tends to provide a sense of common purpose.

          My list, in no particular order:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

        — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     Let’s fight this together. Knowledge is power. Tell me your banned books in the comments below or via e-mail and I’ll include them in a new column for those (like me) looking for new reading material. And thank your local librarian.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Vote Smart America, Save Democracy

Sunday, August 21st, 2022
An American at a polling booth.

An American at a polling booth.

By Bob Gaydos

“Because Americans are stupid,” I said.

And with that harsh assessment of the intellectual capacity of my fellow countrymen and women, we generally shook our heads, finished our coffee and said, “See you next week.”

     For several years, I had a weekly coffee date with a friend whom I considered to be intelligent, well-informed, level-headed and tight-lipped. We talked about life, family and, mostly because of my interest, a little politics. At some point in our rambling conversation, he would inevitably ask, “Why do they do that?”

       And I would inevitably reply, “Because Americans are stupid.” Sometimes, I said “dumb.”

       Harsh. I know. Judgmental. It risks being called elitist. But I submit the last six-plus years of American politics as Exhibit A that many Americans are willfully ignorant, that they don’t know about things they know they should know about or don’t do things for their own benefit because they are too lazy, which also is dumb.

  Participatory democracies don’t do well on dumb and lazy. They wind up being ripe for exploitation by authoritarian thugs who want only to gain power and keep it for their own enrichment. They prey on the dumb and lazy, or the bigoted and misinformed, or the racist and ill-educated, or the fearful and easily manipulated.

     However you choose to say it, this is where America is today: Much of our public debate and government action is driven by fears and falsehoods directed at and repeated by an aggressive, sometimes militant, minority of mostly iIl-informed white Americans who have been sold a bill of goods by power-hungry, wealthy autocrats and their gutless foot soldiers in the Republican Party. Dumb.

     This minority has achieved outsized influence in large part thanks to the capitulation of a considerably larger group of Americans who have lacked the awareness or the will, or both, to participate in the democratic process through the simple step of voting.

       Lazy and dumb.

       It’s not considered polite or politically savvy to say such things publicly, but look where that’s got us — the FBI raiding the home of a former U.S. president to recover boxes of classified documents removed from the White House and elected Republican officials encouraging violence against the FBI agents who carried out their duty.

      This is not new. Just look at the data. Most of the states that spend the least on education, public health and childcare are governed by Republicans. It’s not a coincidence; it’s a plan. Rewrite the history taught in schools, tell people that big government is their enemy and that they need to vote for local Republican candidates to preserve the freedoms that elitist, socialist Democrats want to give away … to “those people.” Please donate.

      Here’s another dumb thing: a lot of so-called independent, think-for -themselves voters are fond of saying both parties are the same. Really? Have you been paying attention for the last ten years or so? 

      So as not to belabor what I realize is not an original point, I would encourage every nonaligned voter to ask every Republican candidate he or she encounters one question: is Joe Biden the legitimately elected president of the United States?

     That’s an easy yes or no answer. Voting for anyone who doesn’t say “yes” is dumb. Failing to vote for the other person is worse. The vote is the strongest weapon Americans have against the army of ignorance. We ignore it at our peril.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Liz Cheney for President? Yes, but How?

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney

  Liz Cheney for president.

      What?

      Too soon?

      You got a better candidate?

       Republicans don’t.

       Neither do Democrats.

       Really, it’s a no-brainer.

       All she needs is a party.

       … All she needs is a party.

        Americans claim to like leaders with the courage of their convictions and the guts to speak honestly, regardless of the personal political consequences. Occasionally, such a person actually appears. 

        Liz Cheney. In today’s Republican Party, populated by cowards, racists, liars and hypocrites, Cheney is an outcast. A pariah. As vice chair of the House Jan. 6 Committee, she has been the most eloquent, plain-spoken, messenger of the truth about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to attempt a coup. On live television.

        Cheney’s outspokenness has led to her ouster from the House Republican leadership, a censure by the Republican National Committee and a decision by her home state Wyoming Republican Party to no longer recognize her as a member. It has also earned her millions of fans among Democrats, independent voters and even a few quiet Republicans.

      So, Liz Cheney for president. Why not? She has the political bloodline, for starters. In fact, one doesn’t have to work hard to note the straightforward, assured and occasionally wry manner of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, in her political speech. She’s grown up in politics and has learned a lot along the way, most notably, about the need to preserve democracy and defend it against those, like Trump and his allies, who would pervert it to their own benefit, or simply destroy it.

       Cheney’s opening remarks for the committee’s hearings should be required reading for every American who claims to be a patriot:

       “We cannot leave the violence of January 6th – and its causes – uninvestigated. The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House – every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward. If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system. We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come, and another January 6th every four years.”

          She gets it. In fact, so do thousands of other Republican officials. But she is one of the few who has had the guts to state it publicly, repeatedly, and, in the process, put her political career in jeopardy.

          At least in Wyoming.

          It’s doubtful that she will be re-elected as the state’s lone member of Congress, given the exorcism of her by the state’s Republican Party. Most political analysts doubt that even a hard-hitting campaign ad by her father will help her win the party’s primary next week. Wyoming is solid red Republican, which means do or die with Trump. Dick Cheney’s campaign ad said, in part, “In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.” He called Trump “a coward.”

     You have to admire the Cheneys’ loyalty to each other and to their country. But it’s their political party that has betrayed them and others who once espoused a conservative but genuine loyalty to America’s stated ideals, including that no man or woman is above the law.

      To that point, Cheney has been consistently clear during the hearings. “As our investigation has shown, Donald Trump had access to more detailed and specific information showing that the election was not actually stolen than almost any other American,” Cheney said. “Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices …”

      As to those proclaiming he simply didn’t know any better, she said, “President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”

     Even Cheney’s congressional  re-election committee, while no doubt frustrated by the actions of Wyoming Republican leaders, is aware of the profoundly positive reaction to her courageous stand among millions of Americans who have not swallowed the Trump Kool-Aid.

    As one of her state campaign team members said, “The fringe right and the fringe left all hate her. But you’ve got this overwhelming, massive majority of people in the center who believe that what she’s doing is the right thing. Frankly, it’s the type of person that we need in the White House.”

   Yes it is. 

    So, how does she get there? Cheney hasn’t talked publicly about a possible presidential run, but she has already raised a sizable war chest, much of which is not being spent on her primary campaign. She reportedly doesn’t spend much time with her Republican colleagues in Washington anymore, some of whom have expressed admiration for her courage, but apparently lack any of their own.

     It’s hard to imagine a Republican Party cleansed of any Trump influence by 2024. Even if Trump is not the candidate, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and other Trump wannabes are already looking to take his place. That makes it harder even to imagine a Cheney presidential campaign as a Republican. Third party candidates historically have been successful only as vote stealers from one of the two major party candidates.

     So that leaves the Democrats. 

     Joe Biden was needed in 2020 to save America from Trump, and deserves thanks for that, but a much more dynamic, younger leader is needed in 2024. Vice President Kamala Harris has made no impact as a leader and there is no obvious top candidate waiting in the wings. Democrats desperately want to win in 2024. America needs them to win to help erase the Trump stain on the republic.

       It seems to me that a Cheney switch to the Democratic Party, despite significant policy differences, is more likely to happen than a sudden change in Republican philosophy. There are conservative Democrats and Cheney did recently support a Democratic gun control bill in the House.

      Does any of this seem politically possible or even realistic? Well, consider that we as a nation have never been in this situation before. History is being written. History also tells us that Americans admire and vote for those seen as decisive in difficult situations. Of the 46 presidents, 12 were generals. They were: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, William H. Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Col. Teddy Roosevelt famously led the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy was admired and decorated for his heroic actions as commander of PT109 in World War II. Men hardened and shaped as patriots by their leadership in battle.

      If Liz Cheney can succeed in her battle to make Trump accountable for attempting to overthrow a legitimate president, to preserve democracy, she will have written her name into history books. She will also have gained the thanks and votes of millions of Americans, political party registration notwithstanding. It will be one hell of a campaign message.

       Let’s hear from Cheney one more time:

       “I have been a conservative Republican since 1984 when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I have disagreed sharply on policy and politics with almost every Democratic member of this committee. But, in the end, we are one nation under God. The Framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics – and they knew that our daily arguments could become so fierce that we might lose track of our most important obligation – to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans. That is why our Framers compelled each of us to swear a solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics.”

      Liz Cheney for president.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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