Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

America Finally Has a President Again

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

    I tuned in a week ago for the first time in four years to listen to a president’s speech. I got more than I bargained for. The president’s speech was, in fact, a presidential speech. Thank you, President Biden.

     Why presidential? Because it was honest. Because it addressed seemingly every need and problem facing the nation, detailing what he wanted to do, challenging Congress to get busy with him doing it, and proposing to pay for the sweeping programs in a way with which the great majority of Americans could not possibly disagree. Help America win the 21st-century, Biden said. Restore it to its position of global leadership. Repair its tattered reputation.

      Only the congressional Republicans in attendance, sitting on their hands, dour-faced, had a problem with the speech. That’s because they knew Biden was speaking truth and hope to Americans and all Republicans had to offer — still — was lies.

      They couldn’t even claim that Biden was weak or stumbling or unsure of himself In delivering his speech, because he wasn’t. Because he was clear and direct as he laid out a detailed program of what needs to be done to bring America back from four years of incompetence and treachery in the White House. That’s presidential. It was long overdue and much-needed.

      Over and over, Biden referred to the economy, to making and buying American goods (“There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.”) To helping families with young children. To paying fair (livable) wages and providing broader educational opportunities. To repairing roads, replacing ancient water systems. To building a network of charging stations for electric vehicles. To negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. To getting everyone vaccinated so the country can open up and get back to work. And to jobs, jobs, jobs. As I listened, I thought of the old Democratic campaign motto, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

      And, he said we could pay for it by taxing only the wealthiest of Americans. Make corporations pay their fair share, he said. It was a message aimed right at middle America and, as polls have demonstrated in the following days, middle America heard and liked it.

       Republicans responded by having their only black senator declare that America is not a racist nation. Fine, but Biden never said it was. He said there was institutional racism, which there is. He said he would attack the threat of white supremacist terrorists within our borders, which the FBI has described as our greatest internal threat. He called for sensible gun reform in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings. And again, polls show that the large majority of Americans support this. And he said he was bringing our troops home from Afghanistan where they have been fighting since accomplishing their mission of killing Osama bin Laden 10 years ago. Again, most Americans are not in favor of endless wars with no clear mission.

        There was a lot more in Biden speech, but all of it was aimed at one goal: restoring America’s dignity. Let us work together, care for each other and show the world that our actions match our words, the president, a Democrat, said. The other party pouted. He stole the election, they lied, insulting state election officials of their own party in the process. He’s not uniting us, as he promised, they said, after years of ignoring all Democratic proposals. They voted against his programs and then took credit for the ones that benefitted them politically. They passed state laws making it harder for people to vote. And they lied constantly.

        America has a president who knows how government works, who knows about international diplomacy, who cares about more than his own selfish interests and who actually does his job. Joe Biden wants to heal America and he asked the “loyal” opposition to help. They sat on their hands. They have nothing, but we, at last, have a president again.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

         

Beware: No Labels is Mislabeled

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos (more…)

It’s Time for the Filibuster to Go

Sunday, April 4th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

     “If it’s good enough for The New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

      With those words of wisdom, a newspaper editor gave a willing but wary member of his staff a gentle shove into the world of editorial writing. The staff member was me. The editor was Bill Kennedy. The newspaper was The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The time was late November, 1983. My maiden piece had appeared on Nov. 23,1983, the 20-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Serendipity. JFK and I share a birthday.

       On this day, I was asking Bill about an editorial I was thinking of writing, but which The Times, which circulated in our area, had just voiced an opinion on that morning. It was pretty much the same as what I had in mind and I was a little annoyed that they “beat” me. An ego thing.

      “Do we care?“ I asked.

      “Do our readers care, or even notice?” Bill answered.

      I wrote the editorial. The topic has long since been lost in my memory. But Kennedy’s message remained.

       It came to me in a flash a couple of weeks back as I was having a debate with myself on the wisdom of scrapping the Senate filibuster. I had pretty much decided I was all for it because, honestly, I am up to my eyeballs in Mitch McConnell single-handedly trying to destroy this country for anyone but the super-rich and super-white. With him as Senate majority leader for 10 years, any meaningful piece of social legislation proposed by Democrats had no chance. Now, as minority leader, he threatens to use the filibuster to kill Democrats’ sweeping voter reform law while having the gall to claim that Democrats refused to negotiate on it with Republicans.

         My only hesitation in writing this piece was that even some Democrats were defending the filibuster because of its “ttradition“ in the Senate and its supposed protection against a super majority running roughshod over democracy. Those arguments had pretty much lost out and I also thought about the threat the filibuster would pose to immigration reform, criminal justice reform and anything else President Biden might propose to advance racial and cultural harmony in the nation in the wake of four years of the divisive Trump administration.

         Enough of McConnell, already, I said to myself. Let’s save the country while I’m still alive to appreciate it. And then there was the Times editorial: “For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go.”

        Well, thanks, Bill.

         Of course, I was so upset that I let them beat me on writing the editorial and didn’t want people to think I just copied theirs, that I waited a good two weeks before sitting down to do mine. This is it. The filibuster must go.

         Here’s why.

         Even though it is promoted as a barrier to a majority abusing its power over a minority, its primary application from the beginning has been to allow a minority of senators to exclude minorities in America from enjoying the rewards of democracy. First, it was slavery. More recently, civil rights legislation. Forget Jimmy Stewart in the movies. It is an outdated tool that has been used to preserve and promote bias. And for all it’s “tradition.” the Senate has already written exceptions into the rule.

         A brief description of the filibuster rule is appropriate here. When the Constitution was written, the framers kept it simple. In order for a bill to pass in the 100-member Senate, a simple majority of 51 votes was all that was needed. When Southern members took to long-winded floor speeches (filibusters) to delay or deter votes to abolish slavery, a rule was approved that requires the votes of 60 senators to end a filibuster.

        Modern senators being less fond of doing the actual work of talking for hours on end, in relays if necessary, to defeat a bill, amended the rule so that any senator can delay a vote on, and maybe defeat, any bill, simply by sending an e-mail saying he or she is filibustering it. That’s it. Go to lunch.

       In effect, that means the bill sponsor has to find 60 votes instead of 51. And, of course, there is no real debate on the bill. The Senate has already excluded money-raising bills and the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices from the filibuster, allowing, most recently, Donald Trump to appoint three new justices to the high court.

         Some (including two Democrats) have suggested going back to the talking filibuster so that there is actual effort required to oppose and maybe some debate on the bill. But there has seldom been any debate provided by the filibuster and, even assuming Republicans are willing to argue for hours on end against expanding voting rights, Biden and the Democrats don’t have the time to waste.

          With Georgia leading the way, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are passing laws to make it much more difficult for members of minorities especially to vote. Basically, that’s un-American. More to the point, it’s racist as hell.

         The only way Republicans win congressional races in a lot of areas is by gerrymandering voting districts so that their candidate has a majority of Republican voters in the district. Even in Georgia, though, that failed when Democrats managed to put together a major get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans are basically scared to death they will not get elected again.

           Being able to vote should be one of the easiest things to do in this country. It’s almost insulting to have to write a column arguing that point. The fact that Republicans lied about the presidential election being stolen from Trump — and some still do — and make no bones about imposing restrictions on people’s ability to vote suggests that there is no debate to be had on this issue. Republicans just don’t want minorities to vote. They are not concerned with changing their policies to attract the voters, just denying the votes.

          Democrats have the presidency and control of both houses of Congress (but only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate) for two years. Midterm elections often produce changes in the power structure. Democrats can go a long way to repairing the damage done in the last four years by the Trump administration. (Biden has already started.) Democrats can go even further by passing sweeping voters rights legislation that will ensure that Congress is truly representative of the majority of the people rather than in the hands of a tyrannical minority interested only in power, not governing.

         Of course, what I just said is pretty much what The New York Times editorial also said. What can I say, great minds think alike. If it’s good enough for The Times (sorry, a slight edit, Bill), most of the time, it’s also good enough for me.

(Personal note: I wrote editorials for The Record for 23 years until I retired. Thanks, Bill.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

A 12-Step Program for Republicans

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

38E746B5-A254-42AA-9A6F-7683C3D4A74C     Denial is the first, big obstacle. Until and unless they can admit they were powerless over Donald Trump, Republicans have no hope of recovering. They will be forever known as Trumpaholics, people addicted to avoiding reality and destined for a life that is, by any reasonable measure, unmanageable. I cite the last five years as evidence.

      But, as they say, there is a solution, one that has changed lives for the better for millions of people worldwide — a 12-Step program. It has worked miracles for alcoholics; it can work for Trumpaholics.

       I’ve written on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. One of the recurring stories I’ve heard over that time is that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are not just a proven way to stop drinking, but also an excellent formula for living a good life. Getting rid of the booze — or in this case, the Donald — is only the beginning. Republicans can reap these rewards, individually or as a party … but only if they really want to change.

        So, with a deep bow to Bill Wilson and A.A. and adapted in all humility, here are the 12 Steps of Recovery for Republicans:

 

    1. We admitted we were powerless over Trump, that our party had become unmanageable.  This state of affairs is usually evident to non-addicts of the individual’s acquaintance well before that aha! moment arrives, if it does. Members of A.A. say this is the only step they have to get perfect, for obvious reasons. If a Republican can’t admit — still — that Trump dominates his or her every political thought or action, there’s no sense going on to Step 2. Denial. However, if Republicans can look at the past five years of saying yes to virtually everything Trump did or said and acknowledge the trouble that this blind obedience, this dependence, has caused in Republicans’ lives (broken relationships, lost jobs and opportunities, ruined reputations, trouble with the law) as well as the pain it inflicted on the lives of many others, there is hope.
    2. Came to believe that a power greater than Trump or Mitch McConnell could restore us to sanity. (No one said this was easy.) No, this does not mean everyone becoming Evangelical Christians. Quite the opposite. That would simply be swapping blind faith in Trump for blind faith in other con men and women. Give me your money and you will be saved. For a party that professes a belief in strong family values and makes a public display of respecting religious (well, Christian) teachings, this should not be a problem. Theoretically. However, I think it could be challenging to many Republicans who have become used to giving lip service to their professed religious beliefs. Skeptical alcoholics are sometimes advised to pick a higher power of their own choosing or at least to believe that someone whose sobriety they admire has such a belief. Instead of putting their hands on some charlatan’s shoulders and bowing their heads, supposedly in prayer, Republicans should look within the ranks (or without) for a source of strength, hope and faith and emulate that person. It should be someone with a sincere, demonstrated, spiritual footing. Hint: it’s not Ted Cruz. Not a Koch brother or Rupert Murdoch either. Keep looking. Someone more like Lincoln, remember? It may take a little time. That’s OK.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will, our money and our platform over to the care of whatever power we came up with in Step 2.  A key step. Last time out, Republicans did this almost accidentally with Trump. That was blind, misplaced faith in the flashy guy. No willpower, true, but no sense of shared responsibility to the greater good. This time, they need to decide to follow the lead of someone with sound moral principles and then lead their political lives accordingly. That is, decide to do the rest of the steps.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step could be a problem for a lot of Republicans because it requires honesty. But if they want to change, they need a list of the things they want to change. For example, lying that the presidential election was stolen while knowing there was never any proof of this would be something to put high on the list. Lying is bad, even in politics. Hypocrisy is just a fancy word for lying. Also, stealing and harming others so as to benefit yourself. Breaking the law, too. All Trump’s pardons did not remove the guilt, they merely freed the guilty.
    5. Shared with that higher power from step two, with ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In other words, look in the mirror and say, “I have been a self-serving, lying, backstabbing, selfish, hypocritical, cowardly son-of-a-bitch for the past four years,“ and then release a statement to that affect — in detail — on social media. Get Liz Cheney or Lisa Murkowski to pose in the picture with you. Piece of cake.
    6. 6. Were entirely ready to have my higher power (with the help of a new party leader of sound moral standing) remove these defects of character. Basically, Republicans must resign themselves to the fact that they have been a group of self-serving, lying, cowardly, etc. since they chose Trump as their leader. This is the truth, the real news. When and if they accept it, they can move on to Step 7.
    7. Humbly asked him or her to remove our shortcomings. Harder than it sounds. First of all, shortcomings seldom ever really go away. They find new hiding places. Republicans will have to become aware of them and try to avoid them. Stop lying about the deficit, That’s a lifetime of work and will require humility. Good luck finding someone to explain that concept to Republicans. Again, not Ted Cruz, who confuses humiliation with humility.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Really. You don’t get to totally screw up a country and just walk away like nothing happened. Not if you want to change. Start with the kids in the cages.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. Again, start with the kids in the cages. That last part lets Republicans stay out of jail and not hurt their own family by admitting how they routinely cheated minority voters with sketchy redistricting plans and harsh voter registration laws.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admitted it. This is the new way of living part of it. “I’m sorry; I was wrong.” Try not to abuse this step.
    11.  Sought through regular meetings and work sessions, at which an honest exchange of ideas is encouraged and welcomed, to maintain contact with our new party leader seeking only to learn what the new Republican Party stands for and the power and courage to carry that out. Prayer and meditation wouldn’t hurt either.
    12. Having had a major reprieve and possibly a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the new Republican Party message to Trumpaholics and others and to practice its new principles in all our affairs. One day at a time.

   That’s it. The formula for recovery for the Republican Party. But there is one thing more. With alcoholics, the drinking is just a symptom of the disease. When the drinking stops, the disease (much of the behavior) doesn’t go away. That’s why recovery is a daily practice. To avoid relapse.

   The real question for Republicans is what made them Trumpaholics in the first place.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Wear a Mask; Don’t be Like Rudy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

   Rudy’s got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

  “Hallelujah!” Scream millions on Facebook and Twitter. Also, “Karma;” “Serves him right;” “He probably spread it over half the country;” “Stupid spreader;” and, “I don’t wish anybody dead, but …”

      How far the mighty have fallen. How sad the daily sight of the onetime “America’s Mayor” making a fool of himself in court and anywhere he can arrange an audience in public in order to symbolically and delusionally prostrate himself at the feet of a man who doesn’t care about him and who will never pay his legal fees.

      And all without a mask. Everywhere. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, the White House. Rudy’s got it. Jenna Ellis, one of his equally delusional “co-counsels,” has it as well. Where’d they get it? Who knows? Who’d they give it to? No idea. No contact tracing as well as no social distancing.

      And no masks.

      What is it with Americans — especially a lot of Republicans — who won’t wear a mask? It’s the easiest and best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with proper social distancing. If everybody does it, fewer people get it, fewer people die, the sooner we can go back to work and we don’t have to wear masks. That’s not even new math. It’s just common sense and decency.

     We’re approaching 300,000 dead from Covid-19 in this country, a great many of those deaths the result of a total lack of planning and caring by the Trump administration. Criminal negligence writ large. Trump doesn’t care anymore. He’s focused on raising as much money as he can with his phony “the election was rigged” campaign. The one Rudy was in charge of until he got Covid. Inconvenient.

      Also embarrassing: The world found out about Rudy and Covid in a tweet from Trump. It’s a surprise the news didn’t get lost in that Twitter chaos.

      It’s hard to know what happened to Rudy. He took his 9/11 fame and prominence, conducted a half-hearted campaign for president a while back, then apparently decided to be a lackey and legal errand boy for Donald Trump, a job with great visibility and occasional perks, until you cross him. Spread the conspiracy theories. Make up new ones every day. Ukraine today, Philadelphia tomorrow.

       And whatever you do, don’t wear a mask. Not because there is no Covid. We know there’s a virus — Trump even got it — but because we can’t let all those people coming to our rallies know that it’s real. We can’t let them know that we ignored it and let tens of thousands of people die. We don’t wear masks whatever Fauci says. We were robbed! Help us fight it! Give us money! Don’t wear a mask! Only liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists and coastal elites wear masks! Real Americans don’t wear masks!

        Tell them, Rudy.

        So Rudy’s got Covid. I don’t wish him dead, but a little suffering might be good for him.

        Once upon a time I might’ve started this column by writing, “Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, has contracted the COVID-19 virus. The former New York City mayor apparently was exposed to the virus in the midst of his last-minute campaign to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.”

          But I spent four decades writing for tabloid newspapers and when a once-prominent political figure makes a fool of himself on a daily basis, that boils down to, “Rudy got Covid.” In bold type. He’s got the notoriety, but no longer the respect. He didn’t wear a mask.

         Now, I am not a Covid guerilla. In fact, I have even been chastised for occasionally being a little too casual in my own mask-wearing and social distancing. But I am of an age and I don’t like being considered expendable to the rest of the herd. So I learned. I try always to wear my mask properly (over the nose) and insist on social distancing. I even wear gloves. Also, my hands have never been cleaner. I also take vitamin D supplements and have type O blood, both of which have been reported as good things to have to avoid Covid-19. But if I’ve got it without symptoms, I don’t want to pass it on to you and, in return, I don’t want you to pass it on to me. It’s pretty simple. Science and respect. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be like Rudy.

       Wear a mask.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

America’s Getting a History Lesson

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

      Christopher Columbus was sent to the bottom of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Stonewall Jackson has been removed from his pedestal in Richmond, Va. The Washington Redskins are considering changing their nickname. Can the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves be far behind? The State of Mississippi is removing the Confederate flag symbol from its state flag. Several members of Congress have asked the Army to rename any buildings and remove symbols at West Point that honor Robert E. Lee and any other Confederate officers.

       America is getting a history lesson, many generations too late, and we owe it all to … Donald Trump.

       Sometimes life is weird. There’s a school of thought which holds that humans learn the important lessons in life only by going through difficult, challenging, perhaps painful situations. Some call them “opportunities.” The universe — your own personal one, or the one we all share — is thought to like harmony. Everyone singing in tune, so to speak. But apparently it takes going through disharmony to get there. Otherwise, we don’t pay attention and just go on thinking everything’s fine. How much disharmony is necessary before we learn the lesson seems to depend on how well we pay attention in class. That is, do we notice the disharmony, understand what it really is, know what or who caused it and do we look for a solution — a real, lasting solution, not a paper-over job that makes us feel good for awhile?

        History suggests we favor temporary, feel-good “solutions.” What follows is an extremely condensed lesson:

        European settlers “claimed” (and named) America more than 500 years ago, killing and raping natives who already lived here. Disharmony. Over time, however, generations of European-Americans made amends for this grand theft, first by having a special dinner with native Americans and later calling it Thanksgiving, designating unwanted parcels of land for the tribes to call their own reservations, killing thousands more in Western movies that portrayed them as savage redskins (Oops! Sorry, Washington.), ignoring tribal laws and customs that were inconvenient, letting tribes open gambling casinos and giving Columbus, the guy who started it all and gave the natives the name “Indians,” his own holiday. We’re square now, right, Chief?

         While this lesson was slowly unfolding, dark-skinned natives of African nations were being kidnaped and brought to America to serve as slave labor for plantation owners in the South. These unwilling immigrants were bought and sold as property for generations, without rights and mostly without education. They were the backbone of the American economy. Still, many Americans, mostly in the North, were not OK with slavery. Eventually, after much disharmony, a Civil War broke out over it, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, and the North won the most brutal war this nation has ever fought. A divided nation was rejoined and a semblance of harmony was restored. 

          Now free, Blacks nonetheless continued to live as second-class citizens throughout the segregated South for about 100 years. The 1960s brought another revolution. Marches, demonstrations, violence, death. But President Lyndon Johnson muscled the Civil Rights Act through a contentious Congress. Voila! No more segregation. Schools were integrated. Everyone was “equal.” Wow, it was about time, Americans agreed. We’re good now, right, Bro? Hey, you want to play football at our college? 

         At the same time, however, many Southerners also said let’s not forget those courageous generals who led the Confederacy’s fight to maintain slavery, even in a new nation if need be. Let’s erect statues praising them everywhere we can think of. And don’t you just love that Confederate flag? Live and die for Dixie. Uhh, also, we don’t really need to rush with this “all men are equal stuff,” do we? 

       So everything was cool, no more separate water fountains or schools. No more use of the “N” word, at least not publicly. No more profiling of people of color by police, well at least not officially. America was now, finally, a color-blind nation. It had to be. After all, it was the law. Harmony was mandated.

       Then along came Trump, a man who never read a history book, indeed could barely read at all. The Republican Party, which had become the favorite hiding place for all those white Americans who would still be slaveholders if it was allowed and who still had no problem with separate water fountains and who apparently never learned what the Civil War was about, made Trump its presidential candidate. Americans, in their wisdom, and with the considerable help of Russia and an antiquated electoral system, elected Trump.

        It turned out a lot of Americans didn’t like the Democratic candidate because she was a woman and she was smart and tough and knew more about the job of president than Trump and all the would-be Republican candidates put together. Vote for Trump, they said. He’ll shake things up in Washington.

      And they were right.

       A man who operates solely out of self-interest, Trump’s primary “governing” tools are chaos and vindictiveness, which he wields as weapons. In his effort to “Make America Great Again” (as in, before the Civil Rights Act), he has destroyed international alliances, stoked bigotry against all non-whites, encouraged violence — including by police — against peaceful protest and made it safe in the minds of his racist followers to come out of the woodwork to spew their hatred. There is a crisis of conscience in America every day. The evidence is in the news media, which he has labeled “the enemy of the people.”

         Evangelical Christians claim Trump was sent by some God to save them, but not necessarily the rest of us. The Rapture notwithstanding, I’m working on that need for harmony thesis. I’m thinking Trump may be the inevitable result of a universe frustrated with our inability to learn the lesson.

         Major change sometimes requires major pain. Having dozens of videos of police brutality against people of color splashed across social media helps. So does having an inept “leader” who flouts the law, promotes racism and violence, and lies on a daily basis. He is disharmony personified. We don’t need history books for this; we’re living it.

         So … wait a minute! Did you see what they did? Again? This doesn’t seem right! Down with Columbus! Down with Robert E. Lee! The Chicks are no longer from Dixie and FedEx insists that the football team that plays in the stadium which bears the company’s name must change its mascot. When big business gets a conscience, it may be a sign that America is finally learning the lesson. It’s simple: We are supposed to love and help one another. All one-anothers. Harmony.

         The universe may be speaking to us, in a sense, through Donald Trump. I pray we hear it this time.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Politics in the Age of Pestilence

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

 Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

   The job of the next president of the United States is to restore a sense of competency, decency and dignity to the office. Nothing is more important than that. 

     I actually wrote those words about three weeks ago as I worked on a reaction to developments in the Democratic presidential race and various complaints being voiced about the front runners — too old, too radical, too conservative, too male, etc.

     COVID-19, unfortunately, intervened. It also reinforced my belief in that simple campaign slogan: competency, decency, dignity. Put any Democrat’s name in front of it:

     — Joe Biden, competency, decency, dignity.

     — Bernie Sanders, competency, decency, dignity … uh, scratch that campaign, not the sentiment.

     — Andrew Cuomo, competency, decency, dignity. (I know; it’s Joe, but just hold that thought).

     As swiftly as Covid-19 moved through parts of the population, just as swiftly do political stories change. Sanders dropped out and pledged to support Biden just as I was rewriting for Covid. Cuomo burst on the scene just as abruptly, reminding Americans that it is important to have elected officials who are capable, competent and concerned about people’s welfare. Actually, their lives.

     Cuomo’s father, Mario, also a New York governor, once wrestled with the notion of running for president to the point he was dubbed “Hamlet on the Hudson” — to run or not to run. He decided not to at the last moment. Andrew has insisted repeatedly he is not looking to be president.

     Not yet. He’s also a friend of Biden’s. But Democrats can at least rest assured that if something else unforeseen happens between now and their nominating convention in August, they’ve got Bernie and Andrew in the bullpen. Elizabeth Warren, too.

   But the real need now is for Democrats to present, not just a familiar, comfortable name for president, but a super team, if you will, of potential cabinet members and presidential advisors who will reinforce the need to return competency, decency and dignity in the Oval Office.

      The need for competency has been apparent from the first days of the Trump presidency. The administration’s unconscionably inept response to the Covid-19 virus is the predictable result of three-plus years of looking the other way, justifying and making excuses for Trump, a man with no moral compass or sense of responsibility and who is incredibly dumb to boot. His dismissive attitude to doctors and scientists on the handling of the virus has resulted in chaos, fear, panic, a probable recession and death. There is no excusing this arrogant incompetence.

     In the category of decency and dignity, I include a respect for the truth as well as the Constitution. I also include an understanding of this nation’s once respected role as the leading voice for freedom and democracy on the planet — a nation represented by the Statue of Liberty, not by an egomaniac’s wall and caged migrant children,

    Regarding the nay-sayers among Democrats … Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both 78 years old. I am 78 years old. If you wanted to dig into my past life and drag out every stupid, profane, dumb, selfish, hurtful thing I have ever said or done, a lot of people probably would say, no, I don’t want him to be president.

     Given that, I still say without hesitation and in all humility, that I believe I would make a much better president than Donald Trump has been (as would a lot of you). That’s because I think I have learned, sometimes the hard way and with age, what is important and what is not so important. I don’t think I’m smarter than trained professionals. And I have a respect for the truth as well as the history of this nation. If you want references, I can probably pick some up.

     But I’m not running for president. Joe Biden is and, until recently, Bernie Sanders was. (Cuomo still says he’s out.) While I can agree and disagree with both men on a variety of issues, I have no doubt that either one would honor the tradition of the office and work immediately from day one to remove the stain that has been Donald Trump. I can say that about every one of the Democratic presidential candidates.                  

      For disappointed Sanders supporters, and they are legion and loyal, the victory can be claimed in his demand for Medicare for all. If the virus has shown anything, it is the utter failure of the American health system to deal efficiently and even-handedly with a health crisis. People should not die because they can’t afford to get tested or there are no tests or they have no insurance for treatment or their governor insulted the president. Not in this country. Biden as president may calm Wall Street worriers, but he must also make Sanders’ central issue part of a Democratic plan to restore America’s legacy of competency, decency and dignity. Sanders for Health Secretary? A thought to build on.

      Having been vice president to Barack Obama for eight years (a source of much of his support), Biden knows how this is done. As the presumptive nominee he should choose a younger female vice presidential running mate and assemble a team of one-time rivals for the presidency as potential cabinet members. Unity must be paramount for Democrats. Take back the country first, then fix all that has been broken. Republicans appear ready to stick with Trump right into the sewer. A united, impressive Democratic team behind Biden can defeat that.

      Also key is voter turnout. Republicans will do anything to keep potential Democratic votes from being cast. They have already shown that. A unified Democratic Party behind Joe Biden, with a plan to make America competent, decent and dignified again should get out the vote. It would help if Obama campaigned. It is also crucial to reclaim the Senate.

     And, as he enters the fourth and last year of his term, President Biden, at age 82, can say he does not intend to seek re-election, paving the way for that younger vice president to continue the restoration project. First remove the stain from the presidential seal, then polish it with gusto.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

How to Live Life and Fight Coronavirus

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

  1C731039-1A6C-416C-8764-4A0518417310 If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it. 

   Rules by which to live a life.

  The one, two, three of how to be were shared with me recently by a friend of a friend over a cup of coffee. That’s how life is sometimes. I was struck by the simplicity and basic decency of the message. Sometimes, things aren’t that complicated.

   Donald Trump has a simple playbook as well: If you want it, take it. If it’s illegal or immoral, hire lawyers to bury it. If you don’t know what’s what, make something up. This philosophy has served him well until now, but it’s kind of hard to bullshit your way through a worldwide pandemic.

    Not that he and his shameless tribe of enablers aren’t trying. I gave up any hope for Trump many years ago. The moment he announced he was running for president, I thought, what a joke. Joke’s on me.

   Trump is what he always has been — a phony with lots of money (not as much as he says) who will do or say anything he thinks will impress his audience of the moment. It’s always about how he looks right now. Shallow doesn’t do it justice. There is nothing deeper at work than self-aggrandizement and self-preservation. Well, greed and revenge are also motivating factors.

      Of course, this isn’t news today to anyone but the delusional true believers at his campaign rallies. The rest are all in it for whatever they can gain out of it. They do this by sucking up to and covering up for their boss (all those unqualified people currently occupying well-paying government positions). Or they do it to hold onto their cushy elected positions (all those silent Republicans in Congress). Or it’s out of convenience (the evangelical preachers who can use the Trump-created chaos to stir up donations while they wait, comfortably, for the Rapture).

     I suspect the folks at Fox News, save for one or two, have been administered some mind-altering drug, had electric shock treatment or were hypnotized in the manner of “The Manchurian Candidate.” I honestly can think of no explanation for their posing as journalists while functioning as propagandists save one — they are just like Trump, phony and interested only in self-preservation. Rotten to the core.

      That may sound harsh to some, but consider the response to the Coronavirus. At a time when health officials and government leaders worldwide are issuing statements of concern, caution or even warning, this Trump/Fox/suckups coalition has gone out of its way to downplay the threat and defend Trump’s laughable effort to insist Americans need not worry, warm weather is coming, he has a “hunch” the scientists are wrong, the drug companies will come up with a vaccine any day now, Mike Pence will pray away the virus and, besides, even though Trump fired all those disease control people, it’s Obama’s fault.

      You want just one example of pure heartlessness at work? Health Secretary Alex Azar, a former lobbyist for drug companies, refused to say that, should a vaccine for Corona be developed, it would not be free or at least affordable for all Americans. Asked about this in a congressional hearing, Azar said, “We would want to ensure that we’d work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.” In other words, the drug companies will set the price. That is unacceptable when facing a possible pandemic.

        It’s really simple. At a time when calm leadership and clear information is needed, Trump silences the health officials and tweets insults at Democratic presidential contenders. By the way, don’t notice the stock market is plunging because of worries about how the virus will affect world trade. It’s all about image and it borders on criminal.

        The irony is, if the reaction worldwide actually was overblown, the best way to deal with it would have been to demonstrate a clear understanding of such threats, have a plan and team in place to deal with them and a commitment to make all information available quickly and to insure that all necessary treatment, etc. would be provided to those infected. Or at the very least, admit we’re playing catch-up with this threat and doing everything we can to protect all Americans. Meanwhile, wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face and stay home if you’re feeling ill. Something.

        Which brings me back to my friend’s friend’s one-two-three rule for living life. Trump and his cohorts either never heard of it or, worse, don’t care about it. As I said, I’ve felt this way about Trump for some time. It’s how many others are willing to go along with him that is disheartening. Their version of do unto others apparently comes with the caveat, before they do unto you. And lie to protect yourself.

       I am far from perfect, but I am at least willing to try to live up to that one/two/three. So are many others. We have put up with a lot of self-serving and orchestrated praying from the Trump crowd, but when people’s lives may be at stake, it would be nice if at least one of them offered something close to basic decency instead of the usual B.S.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

        

A Vocabulary for the Trump Era

Monday, August 5th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Vidkun Quisling ... his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

Vidkun Quisling … his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

        In the category of nothing is ever all good or all bad (I keep trying), have you noticed a marked improvement in your vocabulary since the man with “all the best words” moved in to the White House?

        Seriously. It struck me the other day as I was reading the daily disaster report that people — not just reporters or TV and radio commentators — regular people were reading, hearing, using and even understanding words, many of which have never been routine in American conversation. It started with “narcissist” and “misogynist,” but the vocabulary lesson has expanded exponentially (see what I mean?) since the news cycle has become all Trump all the time. I mean, “quisling,” really?

      I started compiling a list of words that were previously not your normal fare in your daily paper, including some words I had to look up (using Wikipedia and various legitimate online dictionaries), and decided I might as well share them. Who knows, maybe an English teacher will see it and want to help some students better understand what the grownups have done to the world. If you feel daring, test your partner. Here’s my list (including examples), starting with the two aforementioned words, which are now household staples:

       — Misogynist. From Wikipedia: “Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.” It’s Trump’s middle name and now the whole world is aware of what misogyny looks like in practice. That’s a good thing if steps are taken to combat it, which appears to be happening (#metoo).

       — Narcissist. From Psychology Today: ”The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. People with NPD … tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.” Mussolini comes to mind or, well, you know.

      — Quisling. Turns out we’ve got a bunch of them in the USA. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling was a Norwegian military officer and politician who was head of the government of Norway during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the country during World War II. Actually, he was a figurehead who collaborated with the Nazis in every way, including the killing of Jews and others. After the war, he was tried and convicted of murder and treason and was executed. His name became synonymous for collaborator and traitor. Until recently, there hasn’t been much call for “quisling,” but Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and the guy Trump wanted to run the CIA, among others, have given new life to it. I could have lived my life without wanting to get the history of this word.

       — Sycophant. While we have Lindsey Graham available as a perfect example, why not give a dictionary description of a sycophant: “A person who acts obsequiously (I’ll get to that) toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms:    toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel …” Add the entire Trump cabinet and staff and many Republicans in Congress.

     — Obsequious. Again, just dictionaries here: “Obsequious people are usually not being genuine; they resort to flattery and other fawning ways to stay in the good graces of authority figures. An obsequious person can be called a bootlicker, a brownnoser or a toady.” Our man Lindsay again and let’s add Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff and bootlicker par excellence.

       — Nativist. “Relating to or supporting the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants. Example. ‘He has made his nativist beliefs known through his divisive comments about immigrants.’” The Republican Party and MAGA hat wearers who are still waiting for the wall are perfect examples.

      — Xenophobe. “A person who fears or hates foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. A person who fears or dislikes the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different.” The same folks as above. Stephen Miller to be sure.

        — Asylum. Here’s one every American should learn. “The right of asylum is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted by one’s own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, such as another country or church official, who in medieval times could offer sanctuary. 

      “The United States recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees who apply for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980.”

       — Oligarchy. “A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. … Oligarchy is from the Greek word oligarkhes, and it means ‘few governing.’ Three of the most well-known countries with oligarchies are Russia, China, and Iran. Other examples are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and apartheid South Africa. Trump leans to the Russian and Saudi versions, although he admires certain things about the others. He would probably have been comfortable with apartheid South Africa.

        — Plutocracy. “Government by the rich or the wealthy class. Oligarchy is not necessarily just the wealthy. If a system of plutocracy and oligarchy occurred at the same time (government by a few wealthy people), it would be termed a …

       — Plutarchy. Again, I refer you to Trump’s cabinet, the Koch brothers, and various wealthy interests who have been able to buy power thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

       — Nepotism. “The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.” Especially for which they are unqualified. Trump is a master at keeping it in the family (his own and Fox News) in the White House. Ivanka, Jared, Larry Kudlow.

       —  Emoluments. (Tell me you knew what this meant before Trump.) “The emoluments clause, also called the foreign emoluments clause, is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives. It prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever’ from ‘any . . foreign State’ unless Congress consents.” Every stay at a Trump hotel, round of golf at a Trump golf course by the Saudis, the Russians, the Turks, the Chinese … goes into his bank account and he won’t share his income tax returns.

       — Exculpable. To exculpate is “to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.” The person is thus exculpable, something Trump claims Robert Mueller found him. Not true.

       — Propaganda. “Information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions — one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to consolidate their power and cultivate an ‘Aryan national community’ in the mid-1930s. … the manipulation of the recipient’s emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence.” Fox News and Trump and rightwing radio hosts spew it. Trump has even talked about setting up a government broadcast agency to counter the “fake news” of  mainstream media.

        — Brainwash. More commonly known, but worth putting in context. “To make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them: Could it be that we’re brainwashed to accept these things?”

        Again, Fox News — 24 hours a day of fake news right out of George Orwell. Also, Trump’s pathological lying. Second definition: “A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.” The Manchurian Candidate, or, perhaps, Putin’s Puppet. Once a far-fetched idea.

       — Hypocrite. “1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. 2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Trump of course, but here we’re referring to evangelical Christian leaders who kiss Trump’s ring and conservative, family values-spouting Republicans who do likewise.

        — Penultimate. Nothing to do with Trump, just a word I like. “As both an adjective and a noun, penultimate means next to the last. (Penultimate is not more ultimate than ultimate.)” In other words, this lesson is almost over. Just one more paragraph and thanks for staying with me.

       — Dotard. Kim Jong-un’s name for Trump. “The insult is centuries old, appearing in medieval literature from the ninth century.” Searches for the term have spiked since Kim resurrected it. Merriam-Webster: “A state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise.” Side note: Kim didn’t say the word. The North Korean state news agency, KCNA, offered it as the English translation of Kim’s spoken Korean insult, which literally is “old lunatic.” Works for me in any language.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Countdown to Woodstock and 2020

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

 

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

By Bob Gaydos

A look at the news, by the numbers:

  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum of empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner.
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script.
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com