Point of View Columns

Preview of a Nightmare

Donald Trump provided the American people with a preview of what “make America great” really means when he announced his short list for his first Supreme Court nominee. There were seventeen judges – all were white, 3 were female. There was not an Asian, Latino or African American candidate to be found. Clearly, “making America great” to Donald Trump means making America (more) white. And now, he has provided us another preview of the nightmare that would be the Trump presidency by revealing a couple of potential Vice Presidents – Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich.

The Constitution of the United States is quite clear on the point – the Vice President succeeds the President if the President is unable to serve. Yet, over the past half century, Republicans have shown a combination of ignorance or disregard for the importance of the office of the Vice President given their choices for the person who would be a “heartbeat away from the presidency”. Consider some of the choices that have been made and imagine the unimaginable – if one of these Republican Vice Presidential candidates had become President of the United States:
• Spiro Agnew – Former governor of Maryland – Indicted and convicted of bribery while serving as governor.
• Dan Quayle – United States Senator from Indiana famous for his malapropisms and his incredible inability to spell the word “potato” correctly
• Dick Cheney – A neocon hawk who famously dodged the draft five times. Became very wealthy as the CEO of Halliburton, a charter member of the military industrial complex.
• Sarah Palin – Former governor of Alaska whose foreign policy credentials included her claim that she could see Russia from her kitchen window. Perhaps the most unqualified person ever nominated for vice president in the modern era.

While Donald Trump is not known as a traditionalist, he is hewing to the G.O.P. tradition of dangerous and/or preposterous vice presidential nominees by seemingly giving serious consideration to Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie. Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. And Newt Gingrich left that office in disgrace, cast out by members of his own party. Since that career debacle, he has managed to earn a living by offering his opinions, supported by a gossamer foundation of facts and truth, and getting paid for it.

Newt Gingrich proclaimed his adoration of “Anglo-Saxon values” during the Trump inspired “birther” disgrace that targeted President Obama. A true dog whistler, his personal skeleton closet is virtually overflowing and his Vice Presidential candidacy would be an early Christmas gift to Gawker, TMZ, the National Enquirer and every other gossip monger. The vision of a Gingrich presidency could actually be more nightmarish than a Trump presidency.

Trump’s possible choice of Chris Christie would be the consummate narcissistic act on his part. Chris Christie was Trump in politics before Trump got into politics. Christie has been a vulgar bully who seemingly abhors any facts that do not crown him with glory.

Some of those facts include the collapse of Atlantic City while he has been governor (another point of commonality with Trump’s failures in that benighted city, cursed by the presence of Trump and Christie), his horrific battles with the teachers of the Garden State and his as yet to be resolved involvement in the closing down of the George Washington Bridge for political revenge. That last item, by the way, has already cost New Jersey taxpayers over $10 million in legal fees, all to protect Chris Christie.

Perhaps Donald Trump sees himself when he looks at Chris Christie. Perhaps he believes that Newt Gingrich would actually “make America great again” in the Anglo Saxon tradition that countenanced slavery and genocide.

Or, perhaps Donald Trump is so sure that he will live forever, he doesn’t really need a Vice President – he just needs someone to reflect his self-proclaimed glory.

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Point of View Columns

R.I.P. G.O.P.

There is now a great likelihood that historians will look upon May 3, 2016 as the date that the Republican Party seriously began to die. There have been disturbing signs of deterioration as the party has engaged in internecine battles with Democrats and other Americans as vaguely interested bystanders. But now, with the designation of Donald Trump as the “presumptive presidential nominee” of the Republican Party, it would seem that it is only a matter of time before this very ill patient dies.

Donald Trump may be a lot of things but an ideologue is not one of them. He believes what is convenient for him to believe in order to achieve his objective. And right now it is convenient for him to believe in the current brand of angry conservatism that, if fully implemented, would result in a miserable, misinformed and raging nation that would be a danger to itself and the entire world.

One might look at the Nixon “Southern Strategy” as the beginning of the end for the Republican Party, because even then the bet that whites angry over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could form a sustainable base was wrong because demographics and arithmetic were working against the likelihood of an eternal white majority in this country. But the “Southern Strategy” had a good run with the election and reelection of Richard Nixon, the election and reelection of Ronald Reagan and the election of George H.W. Bush.

But anger is, by definition, a difficult force to manage. By the 1990’s revolts led, first by Pat Buchanan, and then by Newt Gingrich started to fray and tear the party, first at the edges, and then at its very core by 2010. By labeling government as the “enemy” and fomenting constant rage against “the others” – nonwhites, nonAmericans, whatever – a new and more virulent strain of adversarial political thought began to spread across this nation.

This view of America is seen through a prism that highlights class distinctions, racial divides and the complicity of the government and a nameless ruling class in the entire process. The Tea Party and its more recent descendants executed a takeover of many local and state governments along with the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. This focus on the governmental jugular vein of this country has given this movement outsized power and influence. And because its goals are relatively vague this movement has been difficult to control.

Because Trump has admitted that he will say just about anything, many devotees of this right wing movement have supported him. Because Trump has been at varying times racist, sexist, mean, misogynistic, ignorant, xenophobic and a bully, he has attracted enough support to become the Republican presidential nominee. His new status has awakened the Republican leadership to the fact that a Trump presidency might well mean the end of Republican Party as we have known it for the past 162 years.

It might very well be too late for the #NoTrump fans to stop The Donald from being the Republican presidential nominee. The train wreck of a campaign that he will wage will by turns embarrass, enrage and disgust millions of American voters and many people who currently call themselves Republican. But there will be millions of Americans, who will embrace the Trump vision of the world, and these Americans literally have no interest in what Paul Ryan or Reince Priebus think.

There should be no question about whether Donald Trump can become President of the United States. He can.
The question is whether the Republican leadership that built the philosophical laboratory that yielded the monstrosity that is the Trump candidacy can now stop the monster that they helped to create.

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Requiem for Sanity

As you are reading this, close to 50 percent of likely Republican voters believe that either Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson should be President of the United States. Although both men have proudly owned up to statements that alternately boggle the mind or chill the blood, there are walking, talking and voting Americans who think that it would be a great idea for either of these men to be the 45th President of the United States.

Those who follow politics and enjoy the push and pull of democracy in action have had a special treat in watching the Teapublican Candidate Bus careen and lurch over the airwaves and across the country. At first it seemed that there would be a virtual rerun of the 2012 campaign which, in 2011 offered up such implausible candidacies that could have produced a President
Newt Gingrich, a President Herman Cain, a President Michelle Bachman or a President Perry as they took their turn as the leading candidate.

But in 2011 and 2012, there was always the candidacy of Mitt Romney looming in the background like a mountain that could never be climbed by the likes of Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin. And while Mr. Romney was never a shining beacon of progressive thought, he assumed the role of the only adult in the room which translated into the inevitability of his becoming the candidate of the Republican Party.

This time it is different. Donald Trump exploded onto the Teapublican arena and immediately started playing the role of Donald and the Fifteen Dwarfs. Sucking all of the media oxygen out of the campaign, “inevitable adults” like John Kasich and Jeb Bush began suffering from asphyxiation and the other candidates scrambled for the few dangling oxygen masks of credibility as they tried to stay alive. Carly Fiorina found one, as did Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz…..and then there was Ben Carson.

Defying the logic that said that his campaign was DOA as soon as he started to sprinkle his Bible-laced homilies with regular references to slavery and Nazism, the Good Doctor has become a leading candidate in the Teapublican Cage Match. In many polls he is THE leading candidate, and so it appears that this dwarf has undergone a growth spurt.

But what does it say about the Teapublican Party when 49% of its likely voters actually support either a man who utters mean spirited comments clad in the velvet cloak made of faux genteel rhetoric or a man who believes that insults and bluster and a wall of gigantic proportions constitute a campaign platform? What does it say about this country that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are taken so seriously that both of them could beat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate, if recent polls are to be believed?

This country faces enormous domestic challenges – an ancient and decrepit infrastructure, health care concerns with a rapidly aging population, mass incarceration and then there is the issue of lingering and pandemic income and racial inequality. The international challenges faced by the United States are countless as well – ISIS, immigration, climate change, global terrorism and a world economy that seems to be riding a permanent roller coaster.

Who are these Americans who believe that Donald Trump or Ben Carson are the right persons to lead this country through this minefield of problems, crises and potential disasters? After to listening to Dr. Carson opine that his reading the Bible leads him to the conclusion that Joseph had the pyramids built to store grain, for what public office could he be remotely qualified?

Similarly, after hearing Donald Trump set forth his Middle East strategy that seems to come straight out of a Special Ops video game, what form of reality puts him the Oval Office with authority to wage war, putting American lives in harm’s way? Yet here are both of them posing as leading candidates to hold the fate of the planet in their hands.

A sane country would not be in this position. Sadly, it is time for Requiem for Sanity to be held.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 28, 2012

Marie Antoinette has nothing on Mitt Romney and his “let them use the emergency room” response to healthcare for uninsured Americans. Meanwhile hopeful Teapublicans are touting Mr. Romney’s primary debate experience as a plus going into his debate with President Obama next week. They must be kidding. And meanwhile, Paul Lyin’ Ryan, the other 2/3 of the Teapublican presidential ticket seems to be hedging his bets more than a little bit.
Mr. Marie Antoinette

Mitt Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare as soon as he is inaugurated as president. “On Day One”, is Mr. Romney’s pet phrase. When asked what would happen to the over 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured and will be insured by Obamacare in the near future, Mr. Romney channeled his inner Marie
Antoinette.

He actually pointed to the fact that there are plenty of emergency rooms in hospitals all over the country as a viable alternative. The mystery is really that callous or is he just that out of touch with fragile nature of this nation’s healthcare system.

It is difficult to believe that a serious candidate for president would suggest that emergency rooms represent a viable healthcare strategy. And while we can be sure that Mr. and Mrs. Romney have not spent a lot of time in urban emergency rooms, it is still difficult to believe that a serious candidate for president would consign the sick, the elderly and children to emergency rooms for their primary care.

By the way, Marie Antoinette never actually said “let them eat cake”, but it is true that Mitt Romney has said “let them use the emergency rooms”.

Moving up to the Big Leagues

As the first presidential debate approaches, remaining Romney supporters are touting their candidate’s extensive primary debate experience as a reason why he will do well in Denver on October 3rd and beyond. They can’t be serious.

While Mr. Romney did indeed engage in twenty debates during the primary season, does anyone think that participating in a Klown Karnival qualifies as preparation for debating President Obama on the issues of the day? While practice is important, the level of competition is a critical factor.

Perhaps the Romneyites forget that one of Mr. Romney’s opponents couldn’t even remember his own talking points – Rick “Oops” Perry. Or that Michele Bachmann is at best delusional and may actually be in need of medical supervision – her claim that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation comes to mind.

Other Teapublican candidates that Mitt Romney vanquished included Herman Cain who admitted to having things “twirling around in his head” and Newt Gingrich who thinks that colonizing the moon is a good idea.

And we can’t forget Rick Santorum whose self-righteousness might have been attractive during the Inquisition but doesn’t come off so well in the 21st century. And, rounding out this less than impressive list of debate opponents was Ron Paul who played the part of the cranky old man at all of the debates.

If anyone on the Romney team thinks that debating these Klowns qualifies as useful preparation President Obama’s biggest task may be to steadfastly avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence.

Hedging His Bets

In 2008 then Senator Joe Biden ran for re-election as senator while also running as a vice presidential candidate. Not everyone saw this move as a demonstration of full confidence in the Obama-Biden ticket although some Democrats in Delaware thought it important not to give a certain Teapublican witch named Christine O’Donnell even a ghost of a chance of winning.

Now, in 2012, we have Paul Ryan, another vice presidential candidate who is hedging his bets. While campaigning on the sinking Romney-Ryan ticket he is also campaigning for re-election to Congress in Wisconsin. It cannot be the kind of move that inspires confidence with rank and file Teapublicans.

But then again, perhaps Paul Ryan knows something that they will only find out on November 6th.
.
Have a great weekend!

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Hide The Klowns!

The delicious symbolism of a Hurricane Isaac bearing down on Tampa just as the Teapublican convention begins is clearly the product of a divine script. But rain and gale force winds cannot possibly hide all the Krazy Klowns that have descended upon this Florida city. The powers that want to be of the Republican National Committee have tried to hack into the GPS devices of the Krazy Klowns, but they are coming to town anyway. And there aren’t enough attics, basements and closets available to hide them all.

Congressman Ted Akins kind of jumped the gun with his “legitimate” rape rant, but it is not as if Akins is the source of shame and dismay in the Teapublican Party. His odious and Neanderthal perspective on women is shared by many members of the legions of the right wing of the right wing including the presumptive vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

After all, it is Paul Ryan who has joined Congressman Akins in co-sponsoring bill after bill calling for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. After all, the Teapublican Party platform calls for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. And Mitt Romney is on the record as seeking to limit reproductive choice for women only in the instance of rape and incest – a position Paul Ryan calls “a step in the right direction”.

As you settle back to watch the Teapublican Klown Kavalcade with a glass of wine (or strychnine) there is an interesting bit of information that the leadership of the RNC would desperately prefer that you ignore. The following individuals have all led Mitt Romney in polling for president – Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

That would be Michele Bachmann who believes that God wanted her to run for president – although obviously God did not want her to win. Herman Cain, the pizza mini-magnate who couldn’t seem to tell the difference between a friendship and an affair and has ideas “twirling around” in his head was considered by many Teapublicans to be preferable to Mitt Romney.

Rodeo Rick “Oops” Perry was the darling of the right wing of the right wing until it became perfectly clear that Governor Perry was all hat and no cattle. And still, at this very moment, there are Teapublican delegates in Tampa who would vote for Rick Perry if they are allowed to do so. And we can’t forget Saint Santorum who wholeheartedly agrees with Paul Ryan that a rapist’s child is a gift from God to the rape victim.

Donald Trump, he of the manufactured hair and the contrived lies (or is it the contrived hair and the manufactured lies), played a latter day Dumb Quixote tilting at the birther windmill, that is until he was absolutely skewered and barbequed by President Obama at the National Press Club Annual Dinner. And The Donald, like a bad smell or a bad dream, still won’t go away.

And finally, it wasn’t too long ago that Newt Gingrich was the Teapublican flavor of the month (basically defined as Anybody But Romney). His ignoble failure at leadership as Speaker of the House and his pitiful personal narrative were bad enough. The fact that it was revealed on the national stage that he really had no reason to be so impressed with Newt Gingrich pretty much sealed the coffin of the Gingrich candidacy….and I haven’t mentioned Ron Paul who has been so moved by that fashionable neo-fascist Ayn Rand that he named his son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul after her (can you imagine a Democrat naming his son/daughter Marx?).

Nevertheless, there will be thousands of Teapublicans on full display who truly believe that a rapist’s child is a gift from God and that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, Muslim anti-Christ. There are presumably sane men and women who will contend that fraudulent claims of voter fraud are a legitimate tactic to deny the right to vote to black Americans.

The airwaves will be full of frothing Teapublicans who want to bomb Iran, shoot illegal immigrants and shred the social safety net. Shrinking the federal government to a size so that it could be drowned in a bathtub may be Grover Norquist’s ghoulish catch phrase, but most of the people that you see on television this week believe that this catch phrase articulates a strategy that will make this country better.

And underlying this entire maelstrom inside of a hurricane will be the gusting winds of racism. Toure and Chris Matthews at MSNBC have come under criticism for telling the truth. Ascribing foreign and un-American characteristics to President Obama are slick and slimy methods of playing the race card and stoking the mindless and soulless racist resentment that fuels the white heat of opposition to the very existence of Barack Obama on this planet.

And meanwhile, Mitt Romney blithely lobs not very subtle racist dog whistles and slime balls by touting his citizenship even though, ironically, his father George Romney actually was not born in the United States. But as Romney grips and grins his way through this outrageously gruesome Klown Karnival, the RNC leadership hopes that no one is watching…..or really listening.

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The Teapublican Circular Firing Squad

The G.O.Tea Party Presidential Klown Kavalcade has alternated from being comical to darkly dangerous to farcical to appalling. The constant lurching to the right wing of the right wing has turned the party that was founded around the concept of abolishing slavery to a gaggle of mean-spirited Teapublicans for whom no excess is excessive as long as it is cloaked in the threadbare cloth of conservatism.

The Teapublican Party embarked on an unprecedented strategy of intransigent partisan opposition from the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated as president. There is no policy, no program, no legislation, and no appointment that they have supported if it was seen as part of the Obama Administration. Clearly condemning President Obama to failure as a one term president has been more important than the health and welfare of the American people.

In their gleeful haste to unseat Barack Obama at all costs, the Teapublican candidates have relentlessly attacked each other as being undeserving of wearing the mantle of the G.O.Tea Party Avenger. It is not enough, in this Tea Party parallel universe, to simply defeat Barack Obama. It is of even greater importance that every policy of his be reversed and that the country is subject to reverse social engineering – eradicating every concept of a shared national purpose, compassion and social connectivity.

Saint Santorum has been almost hysterical in his claim that President Obama represents the greatest danger to this country in modern history. His hysteria at the prospect of a second Obama term in office is matched only by his horror at the idea of contraception and the right of women to choose how to live their lives. In Saint Santorum’s world, women have the right to bear children, home school those children and presumably fix meals for their lord and master and his progeny that she has been blessed to bear. And all along he continues to attack Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich has been a walking dead candidate for months, but thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision regular transfusions of billionaire dollars from the outer fringes of the right wing have kept him standing. And so Mr. Gingrich, who presents himself as the smartest person in the room, continues to prove that he is definitely not.

He has shown a remarkable ability to distort and misrepresent the facts, however. His views on the Obama Administration foreign policy have only served to bring clouds of confusion into international dialogue with bellicose rants about Russia, China and Iran. And all along he continues to attack Mitt Romney and Saint Santorum.

Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney has declared Russia as America’s number one geopolitical enemy (leaving some to wonder who is number two, and so on). Aside from revealing a thought process that would be more fitting during an episode of “Mad Men” in the 1960’s, Mr. Romney has shown himself to be willing to say just about anything to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for bile that exists on the right wing of the right wing. And all the while he continues to criticize Saint Santorum and Newt Gingrich for having the nerve to continue to run against him.

Ron Paul continues to be the ultimate outlier, attacking anybody and everybody. In Ron Paul’s world it is clearly each man for himself and women and children had better watch out.

This circular firing squad that the G.O.Tea Party has organized shows no signs of winding down anytime soon. While the nomination of Mitt Romney seems inevitable, it is not inevitable that the Teapublican zealots will embrace a man who has been compared to a well-lubricated weathervane when it comes to his political position(s).

Indeed, it will be interesting to watch when the Klown Kavalcade comes to Tampa for the Republican convention this August. It is hard to believe that the end of what promises to be raucous and riotous proceedings that the Teapublicans will come together and be the wind under Mitt Romney’s wings.

It is quite possible that the true believers, following Saint Santorum as their good shepherd will simply walk away from Mitt Romney and either stay home or run a quixotic third party campaign.

While this scenario makes no logical sense, to quote former president George W. Bush, never “misunderestimate” the zealots.

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It’s Only a Test

In a time when common sense seems to have gone into some kind of witness protection program, insanity parades across the public stage masquerading as common sense. Somehow we are supposed to believe that it is possible to dismantle the federal government and still maintain a quality of life for American citizens that is, at the moment, unsurpassed in world history. Somehow we are supposed to believe that multiple wars are worthy of contemplation and serious consideration. Somehow we are supposed to believe that lowering taxes for the wealthy while diminishing services for most Americans will make this country a better place.

In these times we seek inspiration and solace wherever we can find it. I was attending St. Charles Borromeo Catholic church in Harlem – http://www.churchofstcharlesborromeoharlem.com -with my son this past Sunday and the choir was singing “Its Only a Test”. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s only a test that you’re going through,
It’s gonna be over real soon.
Keep the faith; don’t give up for it’s only a test.

I have tried to keep those lyrics in mind as it seems that the entire country is going through a “testing time”. Perhaps it will help to remember, the next time that Newt Gingrich, a major presidential candidate says that the Obama Administration is the greatest threat to the United States since Nazi Germany, that….” it’s only a test”.

We have seen Ron Paul, yet another major presidential candidate proclaim that, if elected, he would dismantle the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce and the Federal Reserve Bank. We have to remember “….its gonna be over real soon”.

Rick Santorum would have us believe that it is a sign of snobbery for President Obama to want to insure that every American has the opportunity for post high school education – college or technical school. He would also have us believe that the root cause of this country’s problems are somehow connected to the national sex life and, as Saint in Chief, he would ban abortions, contraception and seek to dismantle the American public school system for good measure. We have to remember……….”keep the faith”.

Mitt Romney asks us not believe our lying eyes and to believe that the Obama Administration bailout of the automobile industry didn’t save millions of jobs, even though it did. He also asks us to believe that the Obama Administration stimulus didn’t work although millions of jobs were saved and almost all economic indicators including unemployment and the stock market indices are more positive than they have been at any time in the last four years……..”Don’t give up for it’s only a test”.

It is one of the great historical ironies that the Republican Party, which was formed for the express purposes of opposing and outlawing slavery, has now transformed into the G.O.Tea Party which typically speaks of limiting the rights of blacks, women, gays and lesbians. It also seeks to lessen the protections of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the children that we parent. The Teapublicans seek to dismantle “big government” even though it was big government that created the physical, educational, technological and economic infrastructure that is the modern United States.

The founders of the Republican Party would certainly recoil from the Teapublican vanguard that is so mean spirited that it will refer to women who advocate choice and control over their own bodies as “sluts and prostitutes”. The G.O.Tea Party of today has substituted meanness for compassion and sharp elbowed selfishness for a sense of national community.

In Tampa this summer the Teapublicans will chant for more guns, more wars, lower taxes, fewer social services and schools if you can afford them. That is the mantra of a major political party in the United States in the 21st century……………”it’s only a test”.

We keep waiting for the American public to wake up and realize that the Teapublican would-be emperors have no clothes. They have been stripped naked without even a fig leaf of intelligence, sanity, common sense or compassion. And all the spin masters and Koch-funded attack ads in the world will not change this fact…….”it’s gonna be over real soon”.

As this election year progresses we can hope that the bright light of day and the glare of honest inquiry will reveal the G.O.Tea Party for the destructive and offensive vehicle for change that it is. Certainly the Teapublicans are advocates for change. But it is change that we can never believe in.

It’s only a test.

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