Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

Writing’s on the Wall for Trump, GOP

Friday, October 27th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

4F611D6E-7D63-4D85-B12B-9990537F2EA1     With the rapid fire guilty pleas of three lawyers in a courtroom in Georgia, a lot of legal experts are saying the handwriting is on the wall for the same outcome for the lawyers’ client, Donald J. Trump.

       A tearful Jenna Ellis joined the no-nonsense Sidney Powell and the puzzling Kenneth Chesebro in cutting a deal with Fulton County DA Fani Willis, pleading guilty to avoid prison time for participating in Trump’s fraudulent attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

      Ellis, the youngest of the trio and the one who seemed to enjoy the media limelight the most, said she trusted the older, more experienced lawyers on Trump’s team, that she thought what they were saying was true.

    “What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” the 38-year-old Ellis said.

       That may be just another lie by Ellis, but at this point it doesn’t matter. All three admitted to making false claims, accepted responsibility for their parts and agreed to testify as witnesses for the prosecution in the case against Trump.

   Basically, they admitted to participating in a criminal enterprise to change the results of the election in Georgia to favor Trump. That means the handwriting might well be on the wall for Rudy Giuliani, too, since he was Trump’s point man in Georgia.

     Synchronistically, Georgia is one of some 25 states that still require some classroom training in cursive handwriting in public schools. I say synchronistically, because at the same time history may have been metaphorically scribbled on the walls of a Georgia courthouse, on the opposite coast, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was literally signing a law reinstating education in cursive writing as a requirement in California public elementary schools, in grades one through six. 

      The author of the bill says it is intended to help students to be able to read and write in cursive so that they can read historical documents, including documents written by members of their own family.

      Others who opposed the removal of cursive as a requirement for public school curriculum in the U.S. in 2010 say many studies have shown that learning cursive not only improves retention and comprehension, it engages the brain on a deep level, that it helps youngsters to learn.

     Full disclosure. A little more than 10 years ago I wrote a column proclaiming that three things were obsolete. No longer needed. They were: Pennies, cursive writing and the Republican Party.

      Well, I still have pennies in my pocket and I can’t seem to do much about what the federal government mints. Although I have evolved from cursive to typewriters to computers to dictating this column on my cell phone, I still write quite a few checks by hand. I feel right and secure in doing so.

    I’ve been known to still sign an occasional card. And the educators and historians advise us not to lose this tool. So, I admit, I may have been a bit hasty 10 years ago in bad-mouthing cursive writing. I was wrong.

   But on the third item, I was dead on. Here’s what I wrote 10 years ago: “The Republican Party: Talk about obsolete. The 21st century version of the Party of Lincoln has been hijacked by haters, nay-sayers, evangelists, wealthy bullies and Flat Earthers. Anything, anyone, any idea that does not fit their narrow view of life is automatically a threat and subject to loud assault, not debate. It has no interest in working with others to better life for all Americans. It has no interest, in fact, in working with anyone who disagrees with its views. …

      “The best thing would be for the Republicans with a brain, a heart and a sense of obligation to actual governing (I know they’re out there) to form a new party. Leave Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, the Koch brothers and the Tea Partiers the ruins of the day. We don’t need them anymore.”

    The latest GOP fiasco in picking a Speaker of the House of Representatives is simply more evidence. Whether it was written in tea leaves or cursive, the message was there. The Republican Party was well on the road to becoming the catastrophe it is under Donald Trump today.

    That’s my two cents.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 






Stink Bugs, the GOP and a Clean House

Friday, October 6th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Stink bug

Stink bug

    There were two significant events this past week:

  1. The stink bugs arrived in the neighborhood and settled on the screens to the kitchen windows, resulting in constant barking by the resident beagle.

Kevin McCRthy

Kevin McCarthy

 2. Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker of the House of Representatives to be removed by a vote of its members in the history of the United States of America, as a result of a motion introduced by members of his own Republican Party, no less.

    The odor emanating out of Washington was far worse than anything the bugs could offer and, while Republicans kept barking that Democrats were to blame for McCarthy’s squashing, for a change no one was listening. He and they are victims of their own cravenness.

      While a quick finger snap on the screen got rid of the bugs (at least temporarily), Republicans had to shut down the entire House of Representatives for the rest of the week after their  Tuesday dethronement of their “leader” because no one was sure what to do next.

      Apparently, a lot of Republicans expected the Democrats to provide the necessary votes to keep McCarthy in the speaker’s position, even though he had given them no reason to do so, having gone back on his word to President Biden on a deal to avoid a government shutdown and then having agreed to a sham hearing to decide whether there was any conceivable reason to begin impeachment proceedings against Biden. There wasn’t.

     So yeah, Democrats really felt like supporting McCarthy. Your mess, you fix it, they said. Rightly so.

     The mess, of course, is the inevitable result of the GOP’s own deal with the devil. In this case, the part of Faust was played by the Tea Party.

     When the GOP grew weary of traditionally lagging badly behind Democrats in registered voters, rather than seeking to offer ideas for a new century, rather than offering programs and projects that might appeal to more Americans, and, thus, result in more votes for Republicans, the party simply agreed to let in more radical rightwing thinkers whose ideas were even less popular with a majority of Americans, simply because they at least represented more numbers.

     But those new “Republicans” never had any concept of how to govern, and, indeed, never intended to do so. They wanted mainly to gain the power to strip the government of virtually all its control of how corporations and businesses make money and to impose their own strict, moral code on the nation. To heck with “of the people, by the people, for the people.” They wanted it their way and were willing to do anything to get it

    Over time, efforts to prevent certain people (non-whites) from voting weren’t successful enough to boost Republican election numbers, so the party simply let in pretty much anyone who could sign his or her name and say no to every Democrat.

     A few of them eventually wound up in Congress and, in the House of Representatives, which is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, their disproportionate ability to sway the vote for speaker despite their numbers saw them pressure McCarthy to promise to give them anything they wanted if they would let him be Speaker of the House. Pretty please with a tax cut on top.

      And so he did and so they did and so, predictably, they — now calling themselves the Freedom Caucus — turned on him the only time he tried to actually do his job and keep the government open so that tens of thousands of Americans could get their paychecks and government services could proceed as usual.

   McCarthy, driven purely by ego and apparently devoid of any backbone, didn’t understand that they were giving him the title, but not the power. A whole lot of other Republicans in the House simply sat quietly while they watched the travesty unfold, apparently waiting for Democrats to save McCarthy from the knives of his own party. Again: Fear, ego, cowardice.

      Of course, while this was going on, the leader of the onetime actual political party, Donald Trump, was in court, having been found guilty on business fraud charges which stripped the gold-plated phony of his claims of being a business genius and maybe of all his businesses.

    There are about a half dozen other court appearances still waiting for him. And he is still considered to be the leading candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024, although some of that support has apparently been slipping lately. Apparently, some feel that’s in direct proportion to his own slipping mental capacities.

     At week’s end, as weary and wary Americans waited, unimpressed by the history of the moment, there was still no clue as to who the new speaker of the House might be. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, two of the least competent, least intelligent Republican members had declared themselves candidates for the job. Trump was reportedly pushing for Jordan.

      Meanwhile, the stink bugs on the screens had quietly disappeared, knowing they were unwelcome. Experts say the best way to avoid a stink bug infestation is to make sure that windows are properly caulked and weatherstripped, window screens are not torn and any other openings into the home are sealed. It’s also advisable to keep your lawn mowed regularly and keep your lawn vegetation maintained.

      In other words, keep a clean house and you shouldn’t have a problem. But if one of the stinky buggers should somehow sneak in, the recommended approach is to hit them with soapy water and flush them down the toilet.

      Wonder if that would work with the Republican Party.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

What Would Barbara Say About Today’s GOP? A Tribute to a Colleague and Straight-shooter

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Barbara Bedell

Barbara Bedell

 A colleague with whom I spent 29 years carefully avoiding talking politics died the other day. In my sorrow at her passing, I contemplated what it would be like talking politics with her today.

    She would have hated it.

    Barbara Bedell was a prominent fixture at the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, NY, when I started working there in 1978. She was an even more prominent fixture when I retired from the newspaper 29 years later.

      She remained another 10 years, cranking out her daily column of news you can’t find in local papers today. Fund-raisers, charities, non-profits, civic organizations, the stuff that makes a community. Names, names, names. Everyone wanted their name or their group mentioned in Barbara’s column.

      I worked at a desk next to hers for about a decade. It offered handy access to the famous Bedell candy dish and was close enough to share gossip.

     Barbara knew a lot of people. But she also knew about being discreet and had learned to reconcile her somewhat conservative political views with the decidedly liberal views offered daily on the paper’s editorial page, editorials written for the most part by me.

     I knew she was a longtime, loyal registered Republican, a Ronald Reagan Republican, from her proud roots in Annapolis to stops in South Dakota and Poughkeepsie. She often donated to Republican political campaigns, but she never let her political preferences influence who was mentioned in her column. Or who was not. She played it straight.

     It was that straight-shooter trait I remembered when I ran into Barbara four years after I had retired. I was working on a column for my blog and the 2012 presidential campaign was in full swing.

   Not having talked politics in a while, I asked, in total innocence, “What do you think of the presidential candidates your party is offering?”

      She did not disappoint.

       “It is absurd, insulting. None of them is qualified. It’s embarrassing. Obama is going to win in a landslide. I couldn’t vote for any of them.”

    “Not even Romney?”

    “No.”

     “But how did this happen? How did this gang become the Republican Party’s best and brightest?”

     “They’re not. And all those (Tea Party) Republicans who got elected last time are going to lose next time. It’s a disgrace. I got phone calls from all the Republican campaign fund-raising committees. I told them not to call me. I’m not giving any of them any money.”

       “So who would you like to see run for president?” I asked Barbara.

        “Hillary Clinton. And don’t use my name.”

        “Spoken like a true Republican,” I wrote.

         It was a great kicker for the column, but how prophetic those last lines proved to be.

         A disgrace, she had called her party’s leading figures at the time. The Republican candidates for president in December of 2011, when Barbara and I had this brief conversation, were Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and the two Mormon candidates, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.

       The field ate each other up. Huntsman was too smart and reasonable. Romney simply said whatever the audience of the day wanted to hear. He won. Then, as Barbara predicted, Obama beat him.

        The story at the time was that loyal Republicans kept quiet about the candidates’ obvious lack of presidential qualifications until and unless they were vying for the same nomination. Republican candidates could see their fellow candidates’ flaws all too clearly. They keep quiet about them only when it suited them to do otherwise.

    The traditional party faithful, the “moderates,” as Barbara described herself, mostly kept their opinions of the candidates to themselves. And Barbara was wrong about one thing: Some of those Tea Party candidates kept winning. As a result, the party core steadily became more and more conservative, anti-science, anti-immigrant. anti-education, anti-gay, anti-anything but white, Christian nationalist philosophy.

      Mostly, they kept this to themselves as well. Then Donald Trump came along and let them out of the closet to trumpet their ignorance, intolerance and occasional inclination to violence. Party leaders, well aware of the shortcomings of Trump and many of their fellow elected Republicans, again kept it to themselves.

      And so fear and cowardice have become the bywords of the Republican Party today. It doesn’t matter that what you know in your heart is true, just do not speak ill of the ignorant elite if you don’t want to lose your job, or worse.

    Today, having become the party of Trump — a man twice impeached, found guilty of sexual assault, charged with campaign finance fraud for paying hush money to a porn star, indicted for attempting to overturn the legitimate results of an election, a conspiracy to threaten the rights of others, a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding before Congress and obstruction of an official proceeding, about to be indicted for a separate conspiracy to overturn the results of a legitimate election and indicted for concealing and refusing to return classified government documents  — the continued silence of most Republicans is deafening.

      So what would my departed friend and colleague, Barbara Bedell, think of the Republican Party candidates for president today?

       I don’t think she’d mind me speculating. Listening over the divider that separated our desks, I think I can hear her muttering quietly, “They’re a disgrace, Gaydos. An embarrassment to America. And you can quote me.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Heart of the GOP: It’s Not Pretty

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Rep. Liz Cheney ... says she doesn’t recognize today’s Republicans.

Rep. Liz Cheney … says she doesn’t recognize today’s Republicans.

  While sitting around waiting for the Super Bowl to begin, I stumbled upon this interesting tidbit of news: Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney said in a TV interview, “We are the party of Lincoln, we are not the party of QAnon or anti-Semitism or Holocaust-deniers, or white supremacy or conspiracy theories. That’s not who we are.”

     To which I immediately said to myself, “Umm, yes you are. In fact, that’s precisely who you are.”

     Then I wondered how someone with such an impeccable Republican pedigree could have become so out of touch with her colleagues. After all, her father, Dick, was also a congressman and served key roles in Republican administrations. As George W  Bush‘s vice president, he was a key member of the cast that lied the United States into a war with Iraq. Remember? And, staunch Second Amendment man that he is, her dad also managed to shoot a hunting partner accidentally. Plus they’re from Wyoming. Republican through and through, for Pete’s sake.

       So what has Ms. Cheney been doing the last four, eight, 12, 16, 20 years that she did not notice the GOP morph into the QOP? Methinks, what the rest of her Republican colleagues have been doing — closing their eyes, covering their ears, holding their noses and crossing their fingers as all those people she says aren’t Republicans joined the party in such numbers that, when lumped into one, united, bigoted bunch, they represent a major voting bloc. In fact, a career-threatening voting bloc for those who dare to cross it, as Republican office-holders, including Cheney, are now finding out. Did she really think Tea Party members held traditional, conservative Republican views?

         Desperate to achieve and maintain power, if not necessarily govern, the Republican Party needs numbers because there are more Democrats in this country than Republicans. That should be a message. But instead of trying to adapt their party to represent the changing face of America, Republican leaders took what they must have thought was the easier way out — welcome all the fringy groups who can’t stand those libtard, multi-cultural Democrats.

         Welcome heck, have them run for office as Republicans. Put big money behind them. Re-draw election districts to help them get elected.Tell them to criticize budget deficits and promise tax cuts. And to say that Democrats will take away your guns. Say that a lot. Also, God bless America.

         It kind of worked, but America kept changing. And even elected a black president. All those people Cheney talked about in her TV interview had no one to speak for them politically. So the GOP reconfigured its big tent and said, “Come on in. Turn on Fox News and turn off the rest of the world. Vote for Republicans and we will save you from those  book-reading, God-hating, science-believing, socialist  Democrats. And we’ll let you keep your guns.”

         Cheney is one of the few Republicans in Congress who had the guts to speak the truth, finally, about Trump — that he incited the insurrection at the Capitol and deserved to be impeached. She backed up her words with her vote, being one of only 10 House Republicans to do so. For that, Republicans in her home state voted to censure her and called for her to resign.

        Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, an example of what you get when you let anyone into your house, asked her to tone down the truth-telling. She refused, but still managed to hold onto her third-in-line leadership post among the House GOP. McCarthy also had a talk with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, the Trump-loving Quanon conspiracy queen, who has denied the Parkland school shooting, supported executing Democrats, defended the Capitol attack and said California wildfires were started by a Jewish family with lasers. (Hey! Who let her in?)

       She “apologized” for a whole raft of hateful nonsense she’s been spewing, said she was allowed to believe lies spread by the media and was allowed by McCarthy to keep her committee assignments, until Democrats, who control this House, took them away. (Cheney said McCarthy should have taken Greene’s committee posts from her.)

        Yes, this is definitely where the Republican Party is today: Stuck between members who still believe in a former president who was super-cozy with Russia, robbed Americans blind, lied constantly and tried to stay in power with a coup and a bunch of self-seeking, gutless members of Congress who knew what was going on, but let it happen. See anything Lincolnesque in there?

        When Cheney says of Republicans, it’s “not who we are,” she is really pleading for others to finally show some courage and admit they have been complicit, either through greed or cowardice, in allowing Trump’s transformation of the party into an organization that seeks power above all else and will do whatever is necessary to obtain and keep it.

         To do that, he only needed to tap in to the fears, ignorance and biases of all those anti-Semites, Holocaust-deniers, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists who somehow snuck into the GOP when Cheney and the rest apparently weren’t looking.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

 

America Has a Narrow Escape

Friday, November 13th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, irrupt it across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, erupted across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

We got off lucky. Four more years of Trump might have killed the Great American Experiment.

     It has taken me a few days to sort through the feelings I’ve had since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. There was relief, of course. But more. When I read that Biden had finally been projected as the winner, four days after the election, it felt as if a huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted off my shoulders. That’s apparently how worried I was about the future of this country.

     I do not state this lightly: No president in my lifetime, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to damage the basic foundations of this nation than Donald Trump. For point of reference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when I was born.

     Trump has not done it alone, of course. He has had the willing, cowering support of most of the Republican Party, top to bottom, in his assault on decency, democracy.and the rule of law. He has had the fawning, self-serving support of white Evangelical grifters, who convinced their followers to pray for Trump and donate to their always needy churches, to forget the hypocrisy and immorality of it all. He has had the angry, armed support of rejuvenated, suddenly hopeful, groups of white supremacists. The KKK credo (“America First”) and Nazi flags had a rebirth, thanks to Trump. And he had the unwavering support of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans who I’m sure would deny vigorously that they had any racist, bigoted, misogynistic bones in their body or that they were too lazy or too embarrassed to find out if those conspiracy theories, like much of what Trump said, were lies that fed their pre-conditioned biases.

       Harsh? I think not. Just look around. It’s still going on. But the thing is, this time the rest of America isn’t buying it. The rest of America voted overwhelmingly for a return to sanity, competence, compassion, truthfulness, and respect for the law in the Oval Office. And state election officials have performed their duties in a professional manner, making Trump’s claims of fraud sound ridiculous and desperate. To be sure, many of his followers still claim “it’s not over,” but thousands of Americans danced in the streets when Trump lost, because they knew they were free of the menace of the man who broke bread with dictators, insulted allies and called American veterans “losers.”

         We got off lucky. Yes, we endured four years of arrogance and paralyzing incompetence in the White House, culminating with Trump’s criminally negligent response to the Covid-19 virus, but we also learned some valuable lessons:

         — Racism is not only alive, but widespread in America. It came out of hiding in full force with the permission and encouragement of Trump. Its presence was announced daily on social media, in police actions and in people’s routine daily activities. The videos are there as evidence. Racism is a tear in the fabric of our society that Trump has widened. To continue to blindly support him is to endorse racism. Period. There is no “nice” way to ignore this. But now we at least know that there is much work to be done. Kamala Harris as vice president is an excellent start.

         — The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense at bipartisan governing. In handing control of the party to government-hating Tea Party members and power-at-any-price opportunists, Republicans have become worse than the Know-Nothings of the 1850s. In their blind obeisance to Trump, they have demonstrated that, not only do they not know, they don’t care. America now knows this. Democrats now know this. Disaffected Republicans now know this. A two-party system should be about cooperative governing, not constant pursuit of absolute power. Can the Republican Party be reclaimed by those who know and care?

           — The Electoral College is obsolete. Whoever gets the most votes should win. Trump played on the fears and resentments of a largely ill-informed minority. He gave them a feeling of power. He lied to them, used them to, mostly, feather his branded nest. The country paid the price.

           — A lot of Americans don’t know a lot about a lot of things. I’ve tried to say that as delicately as possible. Willful ignorance has been a hallmark of the Tea Party from the outset. (Where is Sarah Palin, today?) Somehow, being educated, knowing about history, science, literature, economics, the law, health, the arts, philosophy, math, geography … is seen as a bad thing. Higher education is something to be ridiculed, not admired. (Except of course for wealthy conservatives.) The level of gullibility for much of the nation has been raised over the years by daily radio feedings of bigotry and bull from the likes of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. But Fox News on TV has been the primary purveyor of the “fake news” Trump likes to talk about. An entertainment enterprise masquerading as a news outlet, it has fed on people’s fears and justified their feelings of resentment, all in order to make lots of money for Rupert Murdoch. It has been particularly damaging to the concept of a free press. It has lied shamelessly, with no significant repercussions, and today millions of Americans have no clue about how to verify if something is true or not. If a statement reinforces their bias, that’s good enough for them. However, closed minds are unable to compromise and we need to be able to do this to live together. The challenge to remedy this demonizing of learning falls primarily to our educators. I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, maybe Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas. Also, getting rid of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

          We got off lucky, America. It could have been far worse, as Germans well know. Authoritarianism and blind allegiance to a power-driven, truth-hating leader lead to fascism. But Trump’s incompetence ultimately undid him, as it has always done before. Whatever happens to him and his many enablers, there is much healing to do for America and there will be resistance. But now at least we know what we didn’t know about ourselves and our 244-year-old system of government, though it bent, eventually held up. With some adjustments, beginning with the Biden Administration, hopefully we won’t have to rely on luck to survive in the future.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

A Vote Against the GOP, Top to Bottom

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

   9B18EF52-9B62-47A7-8AB6-22A41F774E44 I voted by mail three weeks ago. Easy. I voted Biden/Harris and 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 change.

       When I say there was no other choice on the ballot aside from Democrats, I don’t mean there were no Republicans running for 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 four years and countless opportunities to do so. None had.

       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. Four 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. A flaw to examine.

         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,

     Most of the attention to the Republican Party’s enabling and self-serving reaction to Trump Has been focused, rightly so, on Congress. Not only did the Republican-controlled Senate fail to convict Trump when he was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House for trying to bribe/extort Ukraine into concocting a scandal involving Biden, Senate Republicans refused to even allow any witnesses at the trial. So much for checks and balances.

      Indeed, there has been barely a murmur of anti-Trump protest out of the Senate Republicans, save for an occasional comment from Mitt Romney, who voted guilty at the impeachment “trial,” but managed to look the other way most of the rest of the ttime. House Republicans, for their part, have become a classic case of devolution, marching backwards intellectually and morally since the Tea Party took over the GOP.

      It’s as if the party’s last glimmering morsel of self-respect, honor and sense of duty to country died with John McCain. Personally, I like politicians who honor their oaths of office.

      So, after four years of incompetence and embarrassment in the Oval Office, my fervent hope is that: (1.) Joe Biden, a decent man with a lifetime of service to country, wins a resounding victory and begins the essential task of restoring dignity and respect to the presidency from the first day of his term and (2.) The Republican Party suffers a sweeping, top-to-bottom death by ballot equal to the pain it has, by action or inaction, inflicted on this nation. It should not rest in peace.

      Decency says there is no other choice.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos, a lifetime independent voter, is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Real GOP Mavericks: Murkowski, Collins

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

If you’re looking for a maverick, you don’t go to Arizona where they brag about the “dry heat” and almost everybody is a retired something or other from somewhere else looking to be left alone while they head for the air-conditioning. The state motto in Latin is Ditat Deus, which means “God enriches.” Whether one is a believer or not, that certainly doesn’t suggest an attitude of going out and stirring the pot to make things happen. It’s more like, “Well, OK, let’s chill and if it doesn’t work out, it’ll work out.”

No, if you’re looking for a maverick, by which I mean in this case, an independent-minded person, you go where it’s cold a lot of the time and winters are rough and people don’t have time for pettiness and pettifoggery. “Get on with it! What are you talking about? That’s nonsense; don’t waste my time.”

You go to Maine or, better yet, Alaska. If you’re lucky, both.

The Maine state motto is, “I direct,” or “I lead.” Alaska’s is “North to the Future.”

Action words. Follow me. I know the way.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate early Friday morning, John McCain, the Arizona senator whose reputation as a maverick disappeared in a puff of “Holy smoke!” at Liberty University when he was running for president in 2008, staged a dramatic moment in which he cast a “no” vote — complete with a theatrical thumb-down — on the Republicans’ last-gasp effort at repealing Obamacare.

Boom! The bill was dead. Gasps from Republicans. Applause from Democrats and millions of Americans. The maverick — fresh from surgery for brain cancer at a Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix — was back.

Not really.

Yes, McCain’s was the deciding 51st “no” vote, which killed the bill. But without the preceding “no” votes from Republican senators from Maine and Alaska, McCain’s would have been meaningless and those two senators had been in the forefront of opposing their party’s hypocritical efforts at “health care reform” from the outset.

In the matter of saving Americans from the cruel reality of the disastrous GOP effort to kill Obamacare (as opposed to passing its own health care measure), the real mavericks were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Both women endured insults and threats from male (Republican) colleagues in Congress — and the president — as they stood firmly opposed throughout the sham process conducted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. No last-minute theatrics for them. They let McConnell and the president know where they stood from the outset — on the side of truth and reasonableness, no petty politics.

For doing their job, voting their consciences and what was best for their constituents, rather than toeing the strict party line, Murkowski and Collins were referred to as “witches” and “bitches” online by the Trump troll patrol. Rep. Blake Farenthold, another sad excuse for a legislator from Texas, said that he would challenge them to a duel if they were men. He’d never survive.

The narcissist-in-chief tweeted his displeasure with Murkowski and suggested, in true Kremlin style, that her state might face retribution by the administration. In fact, Senate Democrats said they would ask for an investigation into calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Murkowski and fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, in which Zinke threatened projects important to their state if Murkowski persisted in voting no. That was merely more thuggery from an administration that has no respect for laws or rules of conduct, much less respect for differing opinions.

Collins displayed no patience for McConnell’s nonsense from the beginning of the latest Republican effort to squash Obamacare, pointing to the lack of information and debate on the measure, as well as its negative impact on millions of Americans — the things most other Republican senators were fully aware of but chose to neglect in voting yes.

Collins and Murkowski, of course, were not among the dozen white male Republican senators appointed by McConnell to try to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare. No women were on that special panel.

This is today’s Republican Party. A misogynist, or worse, in the Oval Office and a bunch of dumb white men trying to tell women to mind their place.

McConnell, of course, famously shut off the microphone of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate, only to listen as she persisted. Clearly, he has similar feelings about Republican women, senators or not.

But Murkowski, who vowed to defend funding for Planned Parenthood (eliminated in the GOP health plan), was elected as a write-in candidate over a Tea Party opponent who beat her in a GOP primary. She doesn’t scare off.

After the big GOP health care flop, she said, “My vote yesterday was from my heart for the people that I represent. And I’m going to continue working hard for Alaskans and just focus on that. I have to focus on my job. I have to focus on what I came here to do.” She had earlier said that it would be nice if some “governing” actually went on in Washington, rather than constant campaigning.

Collins was heard on an open microphone saying Trump’s handling of the budget was “completely irresponsible.” She opposed the Republican health process from the beginning, including the vote to even allow debate. McCain described that tactic as irresponsible, before voting for it. Then he actually voted for a GOP health plan offered later. Collins, Murkowski and several other Republicans voted “no,” (as did all Democrats on every vote). McCain saved his “maverick” vote for the end.

Some called it statesmanship. It was political theater — the deus ex machina coming in way too late. We’re glad you did it, senator, make no mistake, but where have you been all this time, through all this arrant nonsense from McConnell and Trump?

It brings to mind another “mavericky” theatrical moment in the McCain biography, one that also involved an outspoken woman politician from Alaska. Sarah Palin, senator. Remember her? What were you thinking? Were you that desperate for votes in 2008 that you had to sell out to the loony fringe now running your party? Don’t bother answering. Thanks for this decision; it’s a big one. But it doesn’t come close to making up for that earlier one.

No, if you’re looking for statesmanship and courage in this story, look to Senators Collins and Murkowski. If the Republican Party hopes to reclaim its soul, it needs more mavericks like them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Republican Party: Mean to the Bone

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of Alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

In much the same way that a broken clock is correct twice a day, so did our narcissist-in-chief (NIC) stumble into a truism the other day when he described a “health-care” bill approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives as “mean.”

Why did our clueless leader suddenly think a bill he had only recently pushed for and extravagantly celebrated at the White House was “mean”? Surely not because almost everyone who knew anything about it except for Tea Party Republicans thought it was mean. That’s never bothered him before.

I suspect it had more to do with the fact that he needed the Senate, also run by Republicans, to also pass a health-care bill so he could brag about it again and he just happened to be in the room, sitting there like a broken clock, when someone said if there was any hope of getting a bill through the Senate it had to be different from the House bill, which was, as he subsequently repeated, “too mean.”

Those are the kind of simple words the NIC understands. Big. Great. Best. Bad. Fat. Lousy, Mean. He likes to use them. A lot. Mean is not good. It’s bad. People don’t like mean things. How is the bill “mean”? Nuance is another matter.

Well, the bill that was presented to the Senate by a 13-member, all-white, all-male, Republican-only task force was apparently only a tad less mean than the GOP House bill, which means most of the country still thinks it’s awful policy, as do a handful of Senate Republicans. Actually, a lot of Senate Republicans think it’s not mean enough. In fact, not enough Republicans like it for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to a vote that would carry, so he put it off to allow for arm-twisting and bribing.

As he apparently demonstrated at a ballyhooed arm-twisting meeting with all the Senate Republicans at the White House, the NIC doesn’t know — or even care — how the bill works. He’s apparently confused about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, stuff like that. No matter. Mean or not, he just wants a health care bill passed so he can have another Rose Garden celebration and thumb his nose at Barack Obama. That’s pretty much the entire Trump policy.

McConnell, for his part, resorted to his favorite weapon — bribery — to try to get 50 Republicans to buy in to the bill. That comes in the form of billions of dollars in local projects for Republican senators who might face difficult reelection if they vote for the still-mean health care bill.

Tell me that’s not an awfully mean way to conduct public policy. And to no purpose other than to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans so they will continue to fund campaigns and vote for Republican candidates who promise to cut taxes even more, to eliminate pesky regulations that force businesses to be accountable for any harm they do, and to remove all those “deadbeats” Rush Limbaugh rails about from the Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and welfare rolls.

In other words, Republicans have totally lost the concept of governing for the public good. They have been against everything for so long they don’t know how — or seem to even care to try — to work with Democrats on creating useful legislation. I’ve been trying to figure out when “mean” became the Republican go-to word in policy. Maybe it was Ronald Reagan’s phony trickle-down spiel. The middle class and poor are still waiting for the first nourishing drops. A lot of them — many Trump supporters — are those supposed “deadbeats” of Limbaugh’s. Of course, they did have to suffer through a major economic disaster brought on by those rich individuals and corporations, who apparently didn’t have enough stashed away from the tax breaks so they had to simply cheat people out of their money. And they got away with it.

By the way, Republicans just voted to do away with an Obama regulation that required people dealing with other people’s money — brokers — to tell their clients what was in their best financial interests, not the brokers’. Bad idea, according to Republicans. Mean, I say.

Mean is slashing hundreds of millions from Medicaid, which pays for health care for 20 percent of Americans, including seniors in nursing homes, simply to cut taxes for those who don’t need it — the one percent. The very wealthiest Americans. Mean is cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and food stamps. Mean is promising coal workers that their dying industry will be revived while creating no jobs for them, but allowing coal companies to dump their waste into streams from which the workers get their drinking water. Mean is putting the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects Americans from such things as water pollution, under the direction of someone who wants to eliminate the agency.

Mean is looking to do away with hundreds of regulations that protect people from health and safety risks posed by unscrupulous cost-cutting minded corporations looking to improve their standing with shareholders. If Republicans want to take an object lesson about such short-sighted governing, they need only to look at the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 79 people.

The fire is believed to have been started by a faulty refrigerator and spread rapidly up the high-rise, fueled by a highly flammable exterior wrapping, called cladding, that is banned for use on high-rises in the United States, but which its maker is allowed to sell in places where regulations aren’t as stringent. In the aftermath of the deadly blaze, Arconic — formerly Alcoa — said it would no longer sell the cladding, which has a polyethylene core, for high rise projects anywhere in the world. The company makes a more-expensive, fire-resistant cladding. Grenfell is a public housing project whose residents had complained for years that there were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no safety tests and only one stairwell.

Public housing. No safety features. Total disregard for safety regulations. Cheaper construction material. Years of complaining with no response from British politicians more concerned with helping businesses save money rather than protecting people’s lives. Mean.

Since Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they have eagerly worked to erase safety regulations issued late in the Obama administration, including rules to keep coal companies from dumping waste in streams and denying federal contracts to dangerous companies. And it’s not just people who are the target of Republican callousness. The NIC recently signed a bill to allow the shooting of bears and wolves — including cubs — as they hibernate. Heartless.

This list could go on and on and undoubtedly will so long as Republicans, once the proud party of Lincoln, now seemingly a collection of mean-spirited individuals lacking in compassion and tolerance, have access to power. Trump is not really even a Republican, but party leaders have been cynical enough to try to use him to advance their cruel agenda.

It is an utterly depressing state of affairs that calls for new Republican leadership or a new party entirely. If you’re a Republican and are offended by any of this, that’s your problem. The rest of us are appalled. It’s your party. You are responsible for what is being promulgated and promoted in the seats of power in Washington. Your silence is tacit approval.

Like the clueless one said, “Mean.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The dumb, venal, rotten GOP game plan

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

I think I have the White House game plan figured out. Actually, there are two of them. Make that three:

  1. The NIC (narcissist-in-chief) thrives on chaos. He will keep as many balls in the air — as many ridiculous charges, outrageous statements and out-and-out lies — as possible to keep everyone’s eyes off his efforts to milk the presidency for as much money as possible for his and his family’s business interests. It’s always about the buck with the Donald. The fact that he also happens to be an ignorant, racist, misogynist, bully only helps to camouflage his motivation: Greed.
  2. The Republican Party, which controls Congress, wants to use the NIC as a smokescreen for the fact it has no idea how to actually govern and really wants to only do what it always wants to do — reduce taxes for the rich and reward its corporate contributors, for as long as it can manage to keep the NIC in office.
  3. The Destroy-the-Government Gang. As its name implies, this is the really dangerous one, a  combination of Steve Bannon followers and Tea Party fanatics who have grabbed the Republican Party by the throat and said, “Listen up, we’re in charge now.” It combines dumb and venal, a deadly combination which also exists in game plan Number 2. Plus, it throws in just plain rotten.

Since all three are working together for separate goals, they share a mutual interest in fomenting chaos. The media have to decide daily what to focus on: The Russians? The wiretaps? The Wall? The travel ban? The budget? The conflicts of interest? The Trump/Ryan health care plan?

The only way for the rest of us to maintain sanity is to take it in digestible pieces. or, as is the case here, indigestible pieces. I offer two examples from the past week of what I think are the dumb and venal thinking that drive Republican policy today. One involves the budget, the other health care.

First, the budget. Mike Mulvaney, the NIC’s budget director, in defending his boss’s (Bannon’s) proposed 2017 budget, which mercilessly slashes social spending to further beef up the most powerful military on the planet and close the nation’s borders, defended the elimination of federal funds for the Meals on Wheels program because it “doesn’t work.”

He said it was “compassionate” to eliminate funds to feed homebound, low-income senior citizens because it wasn’t fair to ask single mothers to pay for something for which there was no proof of success. He also said the same thing about free school lunches and after-school programs for poor children.

This is dumb on steroids because, as reported in The Washington Post, numerous studies show that Meals-on-Wheels programs that feed more than a million homebound seniors every week “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.” It also reduces costs involved with taking care of the elderly in costly nursing homes.

Plus, what kind of country doesn’t want to fund programs that allow volunteers to bring meals to senior citizens with limited income or to feed hungry kids? That’s just rotten.

For the record, Mulvaney is a Tea Party loyalist. His nomination by the NIC was approved by the Senate, 51-49, with Republican John McCain joining all 48 Democrats in voting no. McCain said his vote was based on Mulvaney’s previous votes to cut defense spending. Interesting, now that he’s the NIC’s budget chief and not just another congressman, Mulvaney is OK with pumping up a bloated military budget by adding $54 billion, even if it means poor kids and older citizens go without food. Dumb, venal and rotten personified.

Now, health care. The GOP plan has been almost universally described as a disaster. We’ll save that for a later time. But if you’re looking for the kind of genius that went into writing it, let’s look at an exchange that took place in the House of Representatives in the middle of the night.

As the Energy and Commerce committee discussed the bill, Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) asked Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) what he meant when he said premiums were “skyrocketing” in his state “because of the mandates from Obamacare.” What was he talking about, Doyle wondered. What did he object to? “Certainly not … pre-existing conditions, or caps on benefits or letting your child stay on the policy until 26, so I’m curious what is it we’re mandating?”

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” spoke up Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). “Is that not correct? And should they?”

“There’s no such thing as a la carte insurance, John,” Doyle replied.

“That’s the point,” Shimkus answered. “We want the consumer to be able to go to the insurance market and be able to negotiate on a plan.”

“There’s not a single insurance company in the world that does that,” said Doyle. “You’re talking about something that doesn’t exist.’’

Dumb.

The debate moved on with no one being so rude as to point out that it takes a man as well as a woman to produce the result that triggers the desire for prenatal care. It’s a family benefit. Shimkus happens to be the father of three young men.

One more thing about this sharp tack. Shimkus is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment Subcommittee. In an interview in 2010, discussing climate change in an interview, he said, “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God. And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.’’

Whew! I feel better.

As I said, there’s far too much of this kind of stuff going on with Republicans every day to be able to make sense of all of it. But if we focus really hard and snatch just one of those balls the NIC has in the air, all the rest will come tumbling down.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Give Me a ‘D’ for Dumb, Pat

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Pat Sajak ... scientist?

Pat Sajak … scientist?

It’s Pat Sajak’s fault.

For the past few years, I’ve been writing one opinion piece a week for a blog. It’s a way to keep doing in retirement what I did for more than 40 years for newspapers.

But I have been unable to form an opinion for three weeks — ever since I read about Sajak tweeting about “global warming alarmists being unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.”

This made no sense to me, starting with why the ever-smiling host of “Wheel of Fortune” had any reason to think his thoughts on global warming were worth sharing on Twitter in the first place.

But as I tried to set aside the Sajak incident, I found myself unable to find anything else that made sense to me. What the heck is wrong with this country? I wondered. What could I write about when what is supposedly the most technologically advanced society in history seems to be paralyzed by a combination of willful ignorance and abject laziness. Sajak Syndrome, if you will.

When did dumb become fashionable?

Pick a topic. Global warming? Pictures of the Arctic ice pack melting? Nearly 100 percent agreement among scientists that humans are destroying the planet’s atmosphere through extravagant, ignorant use of fossil fuels and cutting down of rain forests? That’s nonsense, the pundits on Fox News say. Wasn’t it cold this winter? Didn’t it snow? What the heck do scientists know?

If it were true, the Fox News folks would tell us, the Fox flock say. Really? When they’re being paid to lie? This is abject laziness on the part of the viewers and willful ignorance on the part of the bosses and staff and big money backers at Fox News. And sadly today, most of the Republican Party.

How do you reach people who don’t want to be reached, I wondered, people who are too lazy to question, who are so set in their own prejudices that they eagerly accept the drumbeat message that the man living in the White House is to blame for all that scientific foolishness and everything else that is wrong with this country?

Please, tell me again how racism is dead in America since we elected Barack Obama, a black man, to be president. Tell that to people whose voting rights are being stripped (by Republicans). Tell that to people of color in “Stand Your Ground” states. Check the arrest and imprisonment statistics on drug crimes.

Forgive me for jumping around here, but, as I said, I can’t figure out what to write about because there is so much insanity going on in this country. The bankers drove this country into a recession through shady deals and didn’t go to jail. Today, people who still can’t find jobs because of the recession are called lazy and Congress — again, led by Republicans — cuts money for food stamps for the poor and refuses to extend unemployment benefits to the unemployed or raise the minimum wage or expand benefits to veterans.

It also refuses to cut college students — the future of this country — a break on the interest rates on their back-breaking loans. The corporations, of course, still get their tax breaks and CEOs who drive companies into the red still get rewarded with lavish golden parachutes. And the boss of McDonald’s tells his employees to get another job to make ends meet because he can’t afford to pay them a living wage. To Fox News, this makes sense.

Did I mention guns? There is a shooting at a school or mall or other public place virtually every day now, but it’s not because guns are too easy to get, the willfully ignorant insist. No, the leaders of the NRA tell us that if we armed teachers and let everyone carry weapons openly there would be fewer shootings. Bring your guns to Chili’s and Target. More guns mean fewer shootings. Oh, and if you don’t feel like paying your share of income tax, hole up on your ranch with an arsenal and defy the federal government. Because you’re a patriot. Fox News will defend your “right.’’ This is insane.

Look at the food we eat. Well, actually, most of us apparently would rather not. Monsanto, a chemical company that controls the food supply, changes the genetic structure of basic foods. This allows companies to sell food cheaper because more crops grow in less space and the “food” lasts longer on shelves. That food is usually full of salt and sugar and chemicals, in addition to having its genetic structure changed.

No one knows the possible effects of genetically modified food, but Congress (Republicans, again) allows it — won’t even require labeling of foods with GMOs — because Monsanto is a very generous donor to political campaigns. Europe has banned GMOs. China, too, and other countries. But Fox closes its eyes and ears and shuts off its brain to the obvious questions — willful ignorance — and its sheep munch away on cheap, addictive food, raising health insurance costs as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight-related illnesses increase. All the while, of course — again at the instigation of Fox — they are criticizing the president for trying to make health insurance more affordable for everyone.

There’s plenty more. We are a nation of immigrants that can’t come up with a reasonable immigration policy. We espouse freedom of religion, but in some areas of America it’s probably not wise to admit being Muslim. There is still some question among some conservatives as to who is responsible when a woman is raped. Evolution is considered by the willfully ignorant and abjectly lazy as a theory to be debated. But Noah and the Flood — an undeniable fact.

The Internet gets blamed for a lot of the misinformation that is spread today. But the Internet is just a tool. People spread ignorance, out of fear, greed, selfishness, prejudice, envy, laziness. I think many of the commentators at Fox News are laughing all the way to the bank. They are getting rich by criticizing the poor. Others are simply willing to say whatever they are told to say to get a paycheck. Some are just nasty and don’t like people who are different from them. I think at times they all say stuff that they have to know can’t be true, but they do it anyway because that’s their job. There is really no excuse for people like this — the willfully ignorant.

Why the Republican Party has allowed itself to be dragged down to this level, kowtowing to the frenzied anti-government, anti-Obama cries of the tea partiers, I don’t know. I suspect it has to do with race (the president’s) and with money — who is providing how much of it to whom. Integrity is clearly not held in high regard in the GOP these days, at least not since it offered Sarah Palin as a person to be trusted a heartbeat away from the presidency.

That leaves the climate-change deniers (who also doubted the president’s birth certificate) who think anything they read on the Internet is true, except if it’s on an actual mainstream news site or one run by liberals. These are the abjectly lazy who wouldn’t check a fact put forth by Fox News even if their life depended on it. And sometimes it does.

So there’s my dilemma. I know what I have described here doesn’t apply to everyone in this country. My belief — indeed, my fervent hope — is that it doesn’t apply to a majority or even large minority of us. But Sajak Syndrome exists. So I will continue to write with that in mind and encourage others of like mind to do so as well. Far too many Americans have bought into the idea that dumb is good, up is down, black is white and what some politician said yesterday doesn’t have to make sense with what he or she says today.

Far too many, in other words, would rather think of renowned scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of “Cosmos” (on Fox TV no less) as a charlatan and liar when he describes the “Big Bang” theory and tells us that global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously and immediately. On this issue, they’d rather trust the judgment of game show host Pat Sajak.

That’s where I came in.

Bob Gaydos can be reached at rjgaydos@gmail.com.