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Inside the mind of a House Republican

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Every one of those damned Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee Impeachment hearings knows exactly what Trump did. Every damned one of them. They know he attempted to bribe, or extort, Zelensky: “You’ll get your money and your White House meeting when you publicly announce Ukraine is investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.” And they know that Trump and his co-conspirators—Mulvaney, Giuliani and the whole damned bunch of them—are engaged in a massive coverup and campaign of intimidation to keep the American people from finding out the truth.

Any Republican on that committee who claims he or she doesn’t know these things is a damned liar. They have their orders: Say anything you have to say to protect Trump. Lie, insinuate, distract—anything. If you don’t, well, you’re going to be in trouble.

Do you remember when Jim Comey compared Trump to a mafia boss? He meant that when the boss “suggests” you do something for him, it’s not a mere suggestion, it’s an order. By “suggesting” instead of ordering, perjury can be circumvented: if a prosecutor asks you if the boss “ordered” you to do something, you can truthfully answer “No.” But when the boss tells you, “Gee, I really wish so-and-so would go away and not come back,” you—the subordinate—understand his meaning: Kill him. And so you do.

Henry II: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” That’s how it works.

Zelensky understood that Trump’s “favor” was an order. Trump is far more powerful than any mafia boss who ever lived; Zelensky, a new president (a former comedian!) knew that he had no choice whatsoever but to obey the president of the United States.

These Republicans on the Judiciary Committee likewise understand that they have no choice but to lie, insinuate and distract, even though they know exactly what Trump did. If they don’t—if they refuse to toe the Republican line—they not only lose all power in the Republican caucus, they’d be shunned by the entire caucus, and eventually forced to leave the Congress. Or they’d be primaried out of office. Once returned back to civilian status, they’d never be able to get decent jobs at any law firm, think tank or corporation with Republican ties—which is pretty much every law firm, think tank and corporation in America. That’s a pretty heavy price to pay for conscience. And so they flush conscience down the toilet.

A common meme these days, especially among Democrats, is that someday History will catch up with these Republicans. They’ll be embarrassed and shamed; their grandchildren will turn on them; their neighbors will shun them; they’ll go to their graves regretting their cravenness.

But these Republicans don’t see it that way. They figure that they may have to take a little heat in the short term, but over the long haul, people will forget this unpleasant episode, and it will be business as usual. Some of these Republican backbenchers may even be rewarded for their protection of the criminal president. If they get to a position of leadership in the House, or get elected to the Senate, their lies, insinuations and distractions will be long past. Nobody, in five years time, will ask them about it; nobody will care; the whole sordid thing will be forgotten, buried by an avalanche of subsequent history. They may feel a little guilty now for what they’re doing—no one but a sociopath wouldn’t. But they know how human nature, or at least their nature, works. Time heals all wounds. Five years down the road, ten years, fifteen, their personal shame will largely be healed over, like a wound that scabs. Sure, it may leave a little scar. But no one else will be able to see the scar.

And so they do the dirty deed. They lie, insinuate and distract, and the fact that their fellow Republicans are lying, insinuating and distracting is a great balm. They look at their Republican colleagues, who to a man and a woman also are lying, insinuating and distracting, and they think, “Gee, maybe what I’m doing isn’t so bad. All my friends are doing the same thing.” And then they remember the good times they have in the caucus—the card games, the beer-and-football games, the restaurant dinners with their wives and Republican pals. They know, on some primitive level, that what they’re doing sucks. But the perks of the job! The power tripping! The respect they get back home in the district! It’s ridiculous for anyone to expect them to chuck all that away. Easier to live with a little shame, for a little while. It will end someday…won’t it…???


AN ENDORSEMENT: MAYOR PETE FOR PRESIDENT

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I’ve refrained from endorsing any of the Democratic candidates so far, although I did take The Pledge, at the very beginning of the race, to support whomever the eventual nominee is. And I stand by that promise. But I’m now prepared to endorse Pete Buttigieg for President in 2020.

My reasons are simple. For starters, I believe Mayor Pete can win. Perhaps any of the other Democrats can, since Trump is loathed by a majority of the American people. But Mayor Pete has that mysterious aura of “winner” shining over him.

Another reason Buttigieg has earned my support is his temperament. I like the cut of the man’s jib, as they say. His coolness, his blasé demeanor, his detached intellectualism testify to a first-rate intellect, which America is going to need as we recover from the catastrophic damage the Trump cult has inflicted upon us. At the same time, for all his welcome gravitas, Mayor Pete possesses an amused irony I find refreshing. In so many ways, he reminds me of John F. Kennedy. JFK, let’s remember, was another man whom the pundits said could never be elected. I remember the history well: Kennedy, it was said, couldn’t win because he was Catholic. Now, some people are saying Mayor Pete can’t win because he’s gay. JFK proved the skeptics wrong. I think Mayor Pete will, too.

Electability and temperament aside, I also like Mayor Pete’s positions on the issues, although I acknowledge they’re still evolving. That’s okay; he’s not going to arrive at final conclusions on issues until he’s analyzed them fully and figured out ways of achieving his goals, and I like that pragmatic approach to problem-solving. As for those issues on which he’s taken positions, I like his formula for “Medicare for all who want it.” This basically expands the Affordable Care Act to its maximum extent without replacing it with Warren-style universal healthcare. I don’t think the country is ready for a government-run healthcare program; polls prove that it frightens the middle class (they worry about not being able to choose their own providers). The devil is in the details, but “Medicare for all who want it” seems to strike the sweet spot in the debate over healthcare insurance.

His economic plan focuses on “working and middle class families.” It has all the standard Democratic talking points: lower housing and childcare costs, affordable college tuition, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, a $15 an hour minimum wage, comprehensive sick leave and family leave, higher teacher salaries, clean energy, protection for unions and so on. This is all a bit anodyne to be sure, but then, I haven’t seen a presidential candidate in my life whose campaign promises weren’t. (Candidates campaign in poetry, and govern in prose.) On the all-important matter of taxes, Buttigieg has three major proposals:

  1. Tax cuts for the middle class, and
  2. A capital gains tax on the top 1% of earners, and
  3. Eliminating the Trump tax cuts that benefited the rich and corporations.

Granted, this doesn’t go as far as the confiscatory taxes on billionaires that Warren and Sanders call for. But it also doesn’t raise the fear factor that a Buttigieg presidency will raise taxes on working people. This is preventive warfare on Mayor Pete’s part: Republicans will attack him with all the savagery of which they’re so capable, but accusations of “He’ll raise your taxes!” won’t carry water.

All this is to suggest that, in our over-simplified political parlance, Mayor Pete is a “moderate.” All the evidence suggests that the American people are not in a mood for radical changes; President Obama’s recent warning to the party to beware of “revolutionary Democrats” seems spot-on to me. The last two elected Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both were “moderates,” with Clinton proclaiming his “third way” and Obama attempting, without much success, to reach out to Republicans and work with them in a bipartisan manner. That Obama’s fair approach didn’t work wasn’t his fault, but the fault of an ideologically rigid, religion-crazed and intolerant bloc of Republicans, whose “my way or the highway” style culminated with the election of Trump.

I don’t mind having a conversation about “how far left is too far left?” over the next ten months. It’s a good conversation for Democrats to have. The party needs to rejigger its default settings if it hopes to regain the White House, and anyway, any Democratic policy is going to steer America in the right direction. Democrats broadly agree on most things; and I think most of us are smart enough to realize there aren’t quick fixes or silver bullets to solve anything, but only the slow, painstaking progress of incremental change. Pete Buttigieg appreciates this truth, and with his enormous intellectual capacity, he is fully capable of presiding over a period of reconstruction and progress.

There’s a final reason for my endorsement, beyond Mayor Pete’s awesome and inspirational resumé. He is a decent man. After the indecency of this current administration, I yearn for a well-behaved president, one with manners and politeness, free of rancor, open-hearted and open-minded, a man (or woman) of integrity and, yes, love. Donald J. Trump is the opposite of all these values. Mayor Peter embodies them. That is why, I believe, he’s soared to the top of the polls in Iowa; the good people of the Hawkeye State recognize a gentleman when they see one (which is one reason why they choose Barack Obama in their 2008 caucus).

Don’t we all miss President Obama? No scandals, a gentleman, a lovely family (compared to the nasty spawn of the current president), a man (and a First Lady) to admire and look up to, rather than be embarrassed by. Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, similarly are admirable people. They will re-moralize the White House and restore grace and dignity to the presidency.

For all these reasons, I endorse Pete Buttigieg for President of the United States of America.


Republicans lie, while children die

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Another day, another school massacre. And what were Congressional Republicans doing, virtually at the same moment students were dying?

Blocking another gun control measure.

Senate Democrats proposed yet another law authorizing background checks, but Moscow Mitch—or “Massacre Mitch,” as he’s now known—blocked it. McConnell, too, bends over for Wayne LaPierre.

What in God’s name is wrong with background checks? Why do Republicans resist keeping assault weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people, or domestic abusers? Could it be—gasp!—that Republicans actually want crazy people to have firearms because they (Republicans) believe that most crazy people are Republicans?

After this latest school shooting, which occurred in Santa Clarita, California, I saw my Governor, Gavin Newsom, at a presser in which he commented on it.

I’ve known the Governor for a long time, and I’ve never seen his face so sad and weary. I almost weeped. A longtime advocate of stricter gun control, he’s watched as Republicans oppose every single effort at anything resembling gun control, as child after child after child is slaughtered. I feel Gavin’s pain; there are many perks that go with being Governor, but the anguish of a school shooting must be unbearable.

Republicans just don’t care. Somebody has to say it: they just don’t give a damn. They don’t care how many school children’s torn and bleeding bodies are scattered in hallways and classrooms; they don’t care how much blood is shed; they don’t care how many lives are traumatized and ruined. They.Do.Not.Give.A.Shit. All they care about is taking the NRA’s murderous hatred up their Republican asses.

Harsh words? Yes, for sure. But true—and everybody knows it. It’s my damned blog. I’m angry. If you’re not, why the hell not?

Does any sane person seriously think that the Republicans don’t know what went down in this Ukraine scandal? They know precisely what happened. They know Trump didn’t give a damn about Ukraine, or about America, for that matter. All he cared about was getting dirt on the political candidate he thought posed the greatest threat to him: Joe Biden. He then extorted, or bribed, Zelensky: invent something dirty on the Bidens, or you get nothing from me: no weapons, no White House meeting. That this accords precisely with the Russian agenda is no coincidence. As Speaker Pelosi noted, “All roads with Trump lead back to Putin.”

We may never know what Putin has on Donald J. Trump, but I think I know: the pee tape. Putin can ruin Trump politically, financially, socially, through a simple act: releasing the pee tape to a third party—say, a Romanian or Lebanese newspaper, from which it would leak out (no pun intended) all around the world. The scandal would be enormous; with Trump’s face clearly visible, sitting on his Moscow hotel bed while a pair of gorgeous porn stars urinate on each other, Trump would be mortified: Melania might even leave him. Trump would lie, of course. “Fake video!” He’d try to drag Hillary into it, Obama, Liddle Adam Schiff, “the Democrat Party,” the lamestream media, the faiing New York Times…the usual suspects he attacks every time his crimes and misdemeanors are exposed. But would even the appearance of the pee tape matter?

This is, after all, the man who boasted he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and murder people and not lose a single supporter. If he can commit first degree murder of innocent people and not lose any support, why couldn’t he be revealed as a sexual pervert, and still retain the love of his rightwing base? I get the feeling Trump could rip his face off on national T.V., reveal a hideous alien with tentacles, dripping goo from fanged lips, and his people would still stand by him. “Better a Republican alien,” would be their reasoning, “than a libtard Demon-crat.”

Watch the impeachment hearings today and next week. The case is clear; the obstruction of justice by Trump also is clear.


Impeachment: 24 hours, and counting

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HERE WE GO into Impeachment Land. Don’t you get the feeling this whole thing is like a reality T.V. show? Republicans and Democrats each trying to banish the other from the island. Like any good serial program, one week one side is up; the next, the other; and every episode ends on a cliffhanger. Will the witnesses testify to any bombshells that haven’t already been made public? Will Republicans force Hunter Biden to appear? Will the pro-Impeachment and pro-Removal numbers rise, fall, or stay steady? Back in a moment—but first, this word from our sponsor.

It’s all very satirical, but we mustn’t lose sight of the underlying importance of this Impeachment, which is: we have in America an almost diabolical president, hostile to freedom, indifferent to human suffering, prejudiced in favor of his own billionaire class, a thug of unbelievable ferality and amorality, or at least devoid of anything that normal people would consider ethics. This thug leads a movement that is the most antithetical to democratic (small “d”) values that we have seen in our lifetimes, or even read about in the history books.

I was reading the other day an essay (I think in the N.Y. Times) by an op-ed writer, firmly Democratic in his beliefs. He was issuing a warning to Democrats: we could lose the 2020 election, thereby ensuring Trump’s reign from 2021-2025, which would be a catastrophe. What did this writer base his dire prediction upon? His sister, who lives in Eastern Washington State and, apparently being evangelical and poor, feels that coastal and urban elites turn their noses up at her and ridicule her for her beliefs. When the writer explained to his sister that Trump, if entirely successful, will take away her healthcare, and cause other damage to her and her class, she told him she didn’t care; she was voting her emotions, and Democrats and “liberals” have hurt her emotionally.

I have no way of doubting this cautionary tale. I’m sure that the writer’s sister will vote Republican even though, in every pragmatic sense, a Trump victory will cause her personal harm, especially if accompanied by Republicans retaking the House. Nor do I doubt that there are millions of American voters who feel the same way as the sister. They’re evangelical or fundamentalist (is there a difference? Not that I can see); they’re badly educated; they’re rural and poor; they do feel despised by people like me, who are in many respects their polar opposite: well-educated, not religious (and certainly not evangelical), urban, and middle class if not even higher on the economic totem pole. And the sister is right to this degree: I do despise these people. I always have. They’ve been out to get me–a gay man and a Jew, and as an intellectual who believes in science and reason–ever since I was born, and my reading of the news and of history teaches me that they’ve always been out to get my kind; and they’ve become even more demonic in this Age of Trump, which emboldens them.  So why would I not despise them?

At the same time, American history is replete with stories of opposing political sides compromising and accommodating each other. Indeed, that’s the spirit of our democracy, the premise upon which our political system rests. Admittedly, when it comes to the most basic political issues—abortion, gay rights, global warming, America’s role vis-à-vis the rest of the world, immigration and the border—it’s very hard to even theoretically imagine where compromise rests. Gay rights, for example: America either recognizes the full legitimacy of gay people (including the right to marry and adopt children) or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground that I can see. And the same is true for the other issues. Everything, it seems, that could ever be negotiated already has been; what remains behind is the non-negotiable stuff. I am not ready to compromise on whether or not America shall be a Christian country. The Mike Pences of our nation insist it be so; I insist not; where is the middle ground?

Still, I suppose I have to be bold enough to imagine that some sort of middle ground can be reached, because if it can’t, the result will be too drastic to contemplate. So let the Impeachment hearings begin, on television. Let all the T.V. stations, broadcast and cable, interrupt regular programming to televise them in their entirety. Let the independent media (which excludes Fox “News”) report on the hearings, which we’re assured will provide devastating evidence of Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors. Let the conversations roll forward, around kitchen tables and water coolers. Let the American people make up their own minds, and let them see through the veil of lies and smears issuing from Republican propaganda outlets like toxic gas from dismal swamps. Let the House Impeach, Impeach, Impeach—and let the chips fall where they may.


Thinking of becoming a Republican? Here’s how to do it in 10 steps!

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I know that I, and many of my readers, view Republicans as some kind of bizarre sub-species of humankind that, somehow, devolved from American liberal democracy into primitive atavism. Ruled by reptilian brains, lacking reason and morality, they have reverted to behaviors not witnessed in humanoids since Pithecanthropus wandered the Java lowlands.

But really, this extreme view of Republicans is unfair. In many respects, these Republicans just like you and me: family people, hard-working and patriotic. That secretary who works in your office—the one who unjams the Xerox machine and makes the coffee every morning—may in fact be a Republican. You never know!

I fervently believe that we have got to understand these people. Can’t we all get along? We can! So, along those lines, I offer this advice: How to become Republican in 10 steps.

  1. If you’re not already obese, become so, as soon as possible! Republicans are fat, and Trump Republicans—like Trump himself—are the fattest of all.
  2. Dis-educate yourself. You might have graduated from college, or even have a post-graduate degree. But if you wish to become Republican, you must get rid of all that useless stuff, like science, geography and math—and believe only in Republican propaganda.
  3. Get all your information only from rightwing sources: Fox “News,” Breitbart, InfoWars, the Wall Street Journal editorial pages.
  4. Develop an opioid addiction. I’m not saying that all Republicans are addicts. Nor am I saying that all addicts are Republicans. But a majority of opioid addicts are Trump lovers. We know this from the MAGA hats they wear, and from their glazed eyes. They also tend to drool and have trouble articulating.
  5. Live in a trailer. It’s even better if you use an outhouse.
  6. Learn how to make ugly, snarling, angry faces for all the Trump rallies you’ll be going to.
  7. You’ll have to learn to hate as you’re never hated before: Jews, queers, Blacks, Mexicans, Arabs, Muslims, liberals. No emotion is valued as much among Trump Republicans as hatred.
  8. Become an evangelical Christian. This may be hard if you were raised as a Jew, or as a liberal Christian (Unitarian, Episcopal, etc.), but if you really want to be a Republican, it has to be done. This also entails finding yourself a suitable preacher. Make sure that your preacher is at least as hate-filled as you are. See if Franklin Graham, Jr. is available. That dude really knows how to hate.
  9. Move to a Red state/district. This probably means you’ll have to live in a rural area. This will entail some adjustments for city folk; you instance, you’ll have to get used to your neighbors engaging in incest, or shooting, skinning and eating certain mammals you didn’t think were edible. It can be done—just takes practice.
  10. Step number ten is the hardest of all: You’ll have to learn to love such repellent creatures as Jared Kushner, the chinless Donald Trump, Jr., the wild-game killer Eric Trump, the failed fashion designer Ivanka Trump, and the former Eastern European “escort,” Melania Trump. I know, I know, you really dislike these ghastly people. I do too! But they are the Republican Holy Family, our Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Mother Mary and the Magdalene, rolled into one unhealthy amalgam. So get yourself some photos of them and put them up in your bathroom. While you’re on the porcelain throne, you can contemplate them, and achieve a deeper understanding of what they truly are.

And there you have it. I’m not saying it will be easy to become a Republican. But then, nothing in life that’s worth gaining comes easy. The best rewards come after overcoming challenge. If the struggle becomes difficult—and it will, believe me!—take comfort in the day when you finally realize you’ve become a Republican. No more worries about right and wrong! No more agonizing over the ethical thing to do! No longer will you have to figure stuff out—it will all be explained to you. Imagine the freedom you’ll experience at not having to think anymore! You will simply be and obey, happy to be surrounded by like-minded (or unminded) folk of your own kith and kin, in whatever trailer park you inhabit. Like the children in Village of the Damned, like the Pod People in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you will have sacrificed something—your mind—in exchange for something far more valuable and comforting: a sense of belonging.


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