Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

The Death of The Fourth Estate?

Friday, May 10th, 2024

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

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

                                ***

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

Joe Kahn, editor NY Times,

May 5 in an interview with Semafor

                         ***

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

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

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

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

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

                         ***

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

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

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

Daughter. Oh. Cool.

— Bob Gaydos




Donald and Nikki, How Will It End?

Friday, January 26th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Jack and Rose, together in “Titanic.”

Jack and Rose, together in “Titanic.”          

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

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

    Or maybe not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

     

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Free speech, free press, free fall

Sunday, August 20th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The Marion County Record … still publishing

The Marion County Record … still publishing

     There has been plenty of news coverage of the daily stream of complaints from the twice-impeached, four times indicted former president that (1.) accusing him of crimes (91 of them) for things he has said and trying to silence him from talking about the accusations constitute an attack on his First Amendment right of free speech, but (2.) the most recent legitimate threat to the First Amendment has received much less attention, possibly because it happened in Marion, Kansas, where the entire sheriff’s force raided the offices of the local paper, the Marion County Record, and the home of its owners, taking computers, phones, notebooks, etc., looking for the source of information on embarrassing news about a local politician and a business owner, even though the paper had not published articles on either person and despite a warrant that the local DA invalidated two days after the raid as unwarranted, leading (3.) news media organizations to denounce the rare government interference in the operation of a free press, an action which the editor said (4.) created stress which contributed to the death of his 98-year-old mother and newspaper co-owner a day after the raid, which is tragic, as is each of (5.) the estimated 49,500 people who committed suicide in the United States last year, the highest number ever, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, which said suicides had become more commmon in America than any period since just before World War II, a war whose outcome established the former Soviet Union as a world power, to fear and grudgingly respect, both of which were absent as (6.) Ukraine continued its counteroffensive in the disastrous war launched against it by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which revealed the weakness of Russia’s military, and (7.) Russia’s robotic Luna-25 spacecraft crashed on the surface of the moon, much as (8.) Hunter Biden’s plea deal on tax fraud and gun charges did when a judge

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden

refused to accept the terms and (9.) Britain’s hopes of magically winning a World Cup in women’s soccer did when gritty Spain won the title match, one-nothing, which (10.) experts said was pretty much what Hawaii had done to prepare for the disastrous wildfire that devastated Maui, leveling a town and killing more than a hundred people, the kind of devastation Democrats could experience in 2024 if (11.) the deceptively named No Labels Party runs a candidate for president, since the moderate-conservative group wouldn’t take away any of Trump’s loyal followers (assuming he’s not in prison), but could sway some independents away from voting for Joe Biden, who (12.) practiced statesmanship by hosting the leaders of Japan and South Korea, traditional rivals if not enemies, at Camp David, to forge an alliance in the three countries’ favor, kind of the opposite approach of Trump, who (13.) said he would skip the scheduled Republican presidential candidates debate in favor of an interview with Tucker Carlson somewhere Trump can presumably demonstrate his right to free speech ad nauseum without fear of someone confronting him with facts, kind of like (14.) Rudy Giuliani‘s approach claiming that the RICO law, which he is charged with violating in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, does not apply to conspiracies among political  figures, even though, as the first U.S. prosecutor to use the law, Giuliani, who (15.) has experienced an epic fall from 9/11 grace, (16.) once bragged how he used it against Mayor Ed Koch and other New York City political figures. 

     Ain’t karma great?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A Week of Wills, Won’ts and Walkouts

Monday, July 17th, 2023

4CA8BB44-4999-4BDA-84BF-9D1F8B35B6F7By Bob Gaydos

Here’s another stream of consciousness report on the news because, well, we seem to be living in a stream of consciousness world:

     The week began in what has become a normal pattern these days with (1.) Donald Trump asking a judge to postpone his trial for stealing and refusing to return classified government documents until the 12th of Never or he gets elected president again, whichever comes first, which was a disturbing development because said judge is believed to have a crush on the twice-impeached former president and might rule in his favor, which isn’t what happened to (2.) some of Aretha Franklin’s offspring, who went to court four years after her death to decide which one of her wills was the real one — the notarized, signed one found in a locked cabinet or the scribbled, unsigned one found stuffed in a couch cushion, which also contained comments about the singer’s ex-boyfriends, which may have convinced the jury in Pontiac, Mich., that it was the legit will because that’s how they decided after only an hour of discussion, a ruling some found as curious as (3.) the World Health Organization’s determination that the artificial sweetener, aspartame could cause cancer while a special panel appointed by the same UN organization simultaneously said the sweetener was still safe for regular use, which is pretty much what (4.) the NRA said about the widespread availability of all types of guns in response to a report that the U.S. in 2023 had experienced the deadliest six months of mass killings since 2006, or 140 killings in 180 days, not that anyone noticed, (5.) what with record numbers of tourists flocking to Death Valley hoping to experience record high temperatures as the thermometer hovered near 130°F, (6.) which wasn’t far from the heat generated on picket lines in Los Angeles by striking actors and writers, led by The Nanny, Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild, who roasted film and streaming companies executives for, among other things, wanting to use artificial intelligence- generated images of background actors instead of real people in order to save money, which is the opposite of (7.) what India had in mind when it launched a rocket to the Moon, hoping for a soft landing for a lunar rover to explore the surface of the moon and bolster India’s emerging space program as a major source of revenue, rather than, as some cynics speculated, as an exploration for a future home for some of the nearly 1.5 billion people living in a country whose trains keep running into each other and (8.) whose neighbor, China, is being difficult over some disputed borders between the ancient countries, who have maintained a careful relationship with (9.) Russia as it slogs through a misbegotten war against Ukraine, who has (10.) been promised NATO membership in the future, whether or not (11.) Russian President Vladimir Putin figures out which of his generals knew about the attempted coup before it unraveled almost as quickly as (12.) Twitter when Elon Musk bought it to show us again how smart he is.

    Whew. … Oh yeah, (13.) The New York Times announced it was eliminating its sports desk and pretty much nobody noticed.

     There.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A Strange U-turn on the Road to Moscow

Monday, June 26th, 2023


By Bob Gaydos

Yevgheni Prigozhin … man without a country?

Yevgheni Prigozhin
… man without a country?

I’m not sure if Yevgeny Prigozhin is the bravest or dumbest man in Russia. Well, I guess Belarus now. However, I have no doubt he has shown the world that Vladimir Putin’s 20-year, vise-like grip on the reins of power in Moscow has slipped.

   Even if that weakening is ever so slight, in Putin’s Kremlin that is cause for concern for him.

    Prigozhin’s dramatic  Saturday dash for Moscow with his Wagner fighting forces electrified and captured the attention of the world only to fizzle out just as TV commentators were getting used to the words Russia and revolution in the same sentence.

      Just as dramatically as it had begun, it was over. What happened? It remains the 64 million ruble question.

      First reports said that Putin’s patsy neighbor, Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, had brokered a deal giving Prigozhin amnesty in Belarus and Putin dropping treason charges in exchange for Prigozhin calling off his apparent assault on Moscow. The Wagner forces would also not face charges and would be allowed to join the Russian military.

      Prigozhin reportedly said he turned his troops around to “avoid spilling Russian blood.”

       Then what was the point? He had been clear and very vocal about his displeasure with the way Russia’s military leaders have been conducting the war in Ukraine. He had gone even further, accusing Russian troops of attacking his Wagner forces. He was demanding a change in leadership at the top.

      The dramatic (and easy) seizing of Rostov-on-Don, a key military headquarters in Russia and the movement of a force of mercenaries hundreds of miles unhampered towards Moscow certainly seemed like Prigozhin was finally turning his words into action. Reports said the Wagner forces were cheered as they left Rostov-on-Don to head to Moscow.

       Later reports, however, quote Prigozhin saying he never intended to actually try to seize power in Moscow but rather, apparently, just make a show of force to bring about a change in Russia’s military leadership.

     Well, I’m not an expert on Russia, but I have been around long enough to know that Vladimir Putin does not take kindly to other Russians publicly challenging his leadership, never mind sending a well-trained fighting force to do something or other in Moscow. Nor does he usually forget calling someone a traitor.

     Nor am I convinced that Lukashenko could come up with such a deal so quickly as to stop a rebellion literally in its tracks. I see the hand of Putin in that and I also see Prigozhin being a fool if he thinks he is safe in Belarus. If anything, Lukashenko’s regime is worse than Putin’s and Belarus is virtually an annex of Russia.

    If Prigozhin stays there, he’s going to have someone testing his water or vodka before drinking for the rest of his life. Poison is Putin‘s favorite means of getting rid of enemies. This looks like a quick stop for Prigozhin just to go elsewhere. But where would he be safe or welcome?

      Meanwhile:

— Putin went incognito for a few days while the Russian parliament went about passing a law prohibiting private mercenary groups such as Wagner.

— Russian state-controlled media continue to report that treason charges against Prigozhin are still on the books.

— Wagner forces returned to Ukraine, though apparently not sure what their next mission would be or who would be their commander. The uncertain future of the Wagner group, the most brutal Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, was good news for Ukraine.

— Ukrainian forces hoped to take advantage of the chaos in Russia in their counteroffensive against Putin’s troops.

— There was no indication of any changes in leadership of Russia’s military command.

— Russia’s military power was once again shown to the world to be much less than advertised.

— Putin reappeared to insist that his Kremlin team and, indeed, all Russians remained united against any forces who wanted them “to fight each other.” He was also left to wonder if, next time, the revolution won’t make a U-turn on the highway to Moscow.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

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

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The invitation

The invitation

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

     Donate now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

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

       

The Leaks: When Reality is not Virtual

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Airman Jack Teixeira

Airman Jack Teixeira

     I suspect I am not alone in wondering how, in the name of Jack Ryan, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman trying to impress an online gamer chat group called Thug Shaker Central, got his hands on hundreds of pages of top secret intelligence briefings on the war in Ukraine, U.S. spying on Russia and lots of other countries (friend and foe) and posted it online, thereby presenting a potential whopper of an international crisis and a not-so-small for-real embarrassment for the Pentagon.

   I also wonder how, in the names of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a young man who was part of the military, intelligence and computer communities, could not (if the allegations against him are true) appreciate the potential risk in human lives of exposing such information to the worldwide web. How could he not process the difference between real life warfare and video gaming?

    And finally, I wonder how, in the name of basic common sense, could a young man apparently unable or uninterested in making such vital national security distinctions be granted access to so much “secret” information?

     More, as they say, will be revealed, but we already know enough to be concerned.

     So far, there are apparently two threads of “explanation” coming from Pentagon and intelligence services:

  1. Yes, the information leaked was important for military and intelligence gathering reasons, but their dissemination is survivable. Ukrainian officials are even said to be glad for the leak, because it exposes their true need for more military support.
  2. Young people in the military are given all sorts of important responsibilities and are expected to abide by the rules. In fact, they are essential to the storing and processing of all sorts of important intelligence material.

    This is all sorts of troubling. President Biden has ordered a review of the process of granting clearance to classified material. The Pentagon says it will do so. But what exactly will it do?

      Reassessing the actual classifying of documents would be a good place to start. How many secrets do we actually need? The people who collect them are likely to always think they need more. Maybe some outside eyes are needed.

       Then there’s the issue of who gets to actually look at the secrets. Is it crucial for a 21-year-old living on Cape Cod and serving in the National Guard to have what appears to be easy access to classified reports on the war in Ukraine and USA spying on Russia? Was there anything in his background to suggest an inability to comprehend that casual dissemination of the material he was privy to was a serious crime?

     The airman, Jack Teixeira, apparently knew what he did was against the law, the FBI says, because he was searching the topic of  “leaks“ on the web the day before he was arrested. 

    In response to the online leaks, the Defense Department is reviewing its processes to protect classified information, reducing the number of people who have access, and reminding the force that “the responsibility to safeguard classified information is a lifetime requirement for each individual granted a security clearance.” So said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks in a memo issued following Teixeira’s arrest.

     That’s all well and good and necessary. But the Defense Department also admits that it has long been concerned about the proliferation and popularity of video war games with many of its younger members and cites its inability to monitor such games for any illegal activity. That’s the purview of the FBI. It’s probably safe to assume that some agents will be working on their video gaming skills in the near future.

    Meanwhile, Airman Teixeira, apparently well-schooled in the victories and defeats of virtual reality, is about to get a crash course in real-life consequences. Wonder if he’ll notice the difference.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

     

Old? Make That Bold Joe Biden

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023
President Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

President Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

By Bob Gaydos

    About that Joe Biden is too old to run for re-election column I wrote a little while back … I may have been a bit hasty. 

      The “old” man just took the boldest, most dramatic act by an American president since, well, I can’t remember when.

       Biden’s surprise trip to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was at once diplomatically and politically brilliant, as well as brave.

        Shaking hands with the Ukrainian president in the middle of a war zone in an area not controlled by American forces immediately sent two messages:

  1. To Russian President Vladimir Putin: The United States of America is still the protector of freedom and democracy around the world. The leader of the Free World. Do not mess with us.
  2. To Democrats (and Republicans) considering running for president in 2024: Joe Biden is still an astute politician and the leader of the Democratic Party. Don’t mess with him.

         Too old? A special military flight to Poland and then a secret train ride to Kyiv for a “golf” rendezvous, with a courtesy call to the Russians that the American president will be visiting the heart of the country they have so miserably failed at conquering so don’t do anything stupid? That’s a movie script.

        The scenes of Biden shaking hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Biden’s later comments in Poland had to infuriate Putin as much as it heartened Ukrainians and citizens of Poland and other Eastern European countries fearful of Russia’s expansionist tendencies. One year since Russia invaded Ukraine and Biden is in Kyiv, not Putin. The U.S. and NATO stand resolved to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invaders. 

       It also undoubtedly gave pause to any Democrats thinking of challenging Biden in 2024, as he appears to be planning a campaign for reelection. 

    Of course, there is also the fact that there is no obvious, younger, replacement candidate among Democrats. No charismatic leader. Nor is there anyone with the political experience and savvy demonstrated in his first two years by this president who occasionally flubs some words, stutters and walks slowly.

     As for Republican  presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump has already lost to Biden, is under several criminal investigations, any one of which could result in his indictment and, as Nikki Haley not so subtly reminded us of, is in the same age category as Biden. Over 75. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, announced her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by calling for competency tests for any candidate for federal office over the age of 75.

      Gee, wonder who she was talking about. Personally, I think one would have to be out of his or her mind  to run for Congress, although these days that doesn’t seem to matter in Republican primaries. But Haley’s statement represents a blatant ageism, assuming that candidates younger than 75 would automatically pass a  competency test. For what it’s worth and based on what we’ve all seen and heard, I think Biden easily passes and Trump flunks any legitimate one.

     Do I wish Biden were maybe at least 10 years younger? Sure. I’m a year older than Biden. I know the actuarial numbers on life expectancy and the daily risks of life in general for older people.

      But presidents get the best of care and it’s hard to dismiss experience and boldness, especially when combined with results.

      Biden has got inflation down to a manageable level, the unemployment rate is the lowest in decades, a wide-ranging infrastructure bill (promised, but never delivered by Trump) will bring jobs and improve bridges, highways, railways across the country, a new chips act will take much of that business away from China and Medicare recipients will get a break on drug prices. He even tricked Republicans into saying they don’t want to cut Social Security and Medicare in giving his State of the Union speech. Not a bad first couple of years, especially for an “old” man.

    An old man, by the way, dealing with a Republican party pledged to oppose anything and everything Democrats propose. In a party with a growing progressive wing, the moderate Biden has demonstrated he knows how to be president and get some things accomplished in spite of sharp differences of opinion. And, in his trip to Kyiv, he has displayed courage and leadership to go with his ability to connect with the average American.

     So, is he too old? Time and fate may ultimately hold the answer. But Biden showed me something I didn’t know was there. For now, I guess I’m hedging my bet.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

      

 

On Making History, the Painful Way

Monday, May 9th, 2022

The world in 500 words or less …

By Bob Gaydos     

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

Thomas Webster at the Capitol.

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

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