With the House and Senate now shuttered until September, anyone seeking a quick fix of foolishness this week will have to look beyond the Beltway. Ames, Iowa would be an ideal place to start.
On Saturday, Ames hosts the second annual “FAMiLY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT,” where you’ll be able to hear a variety of speakers each “address a ‘singular’ and ‘major’ threat to America and to America’s families, along with the opportunity for leadership solutions to these threats,” and maybe even find out why “The FAMilY LEADER” organization exempted the “i” from their all-caps name. For a mere $49, you can savor speakers such as washed-up actor Stephen Baldwin, washed-up politican Rick Santorum, and tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump, and your boxed lunch is included. I have no inside info, but I’m guessing that the “singular” and “major” threats to America will include minorities, gay people, SNAP recipients, Girl Scouts and Democrats.
If that shindig seems insufficiently compelling, you might consider Tuesday’s fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans in Wolfeboro, headlined by someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently has a summer home there. It seems not all fools and their money are soon parted; as of this writing, there are still $1,500 VIP tix available.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has just wrapped up another Cairo trip after discussions with various Egyptian politicians and interest groups, and conjoined twits Lindsey Graham and John McCain are likely to head there this week at the behest of the Obama Administration. If their efforts falter, I hope the President sees fit to send reinforcements, like maybe the other 44 members of the Senate Republican Conference. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/5/13
ONE: “Please run for president. Please run for president.”
They nominated an entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider whose positions change with the tides and whose religion is considered by much of the party’s base to be a cult, and they still can’t seem to shake off their amazement that they failed to regain the White House. Nevertheless, Republicans are already desperately rummaging around for their next presidential contender, and they might want to be careful what they wish for.
Donald Trump has apparently spent about a million bucks on “electoral research” in advance of a possible 2016 run. Although he routinely overstates his net worth, this kind of money is no big deal to Trump, and of course we’ve all seen this reality show before, when he hinted and flirted and teased about thwarting a second Obama term before finally endorsing Romney, so perhaps there’s nothing to this beyond typical Trumpian hot air. Or maybe this is how he gets revenge for being dumped from the program at the Republican National Convention. Or maybe he’s serious, in which case it’ll be a groove watching the party scramble to cut him off at the knees.
With no apparent awareness of the irony, Trump recently told a gathering of the Oakland County Republicans in Michigan:
“Everybody tells me, ‘Please run for president. Please run for president.’ I would be much happier if a great and competent person came along.”
TWO: Ventura Biway
But what if an even more egregiously self-aggrandizing blowhard came along instead? Former Minnesota Governor and inveterate clod Jesse Ventura was in Saint Paul last Friday to honor a retiring State Patrol sergeant, and mused about an independent run in 2016:
“… 2016 is an opportune moment because there’ll be no incumbent,” he told reporters after the reception. “I believe one issue that would carry me to victory … I would give the people of America to their first opportunity to elect a president who doesn’t belong to either party, since George Washington.”
Or at least their first opportunity since 2012, when the last spate of deluded independents threw their hats in the ring to no avail. If a Ventura candidacy might worry The Donald at all, the Star Tribune has some reassuring words for him:
The fact that [Ventura] lives in Mexico much of the year and that he would want shock-jock Howard Stern as his running mate suggest that this seed might never germinate.
And if it ever does, Candidate Trump could just tap Gary Busey for his running mate, and the balance of kitschy weirdness would be instantly restored.
THREE: Yawn Top of the World
As for that entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider I mentioned above, he and his arrogant, peevish, spectacularly insincere spouse are back in the news, because… well, frankly, I have no idea why. Perhaps they’re already tired of playing with their car elevator.
Mitt is currently hosting a two-day something-or-other in Park City, Utah, attended by Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, among others. Ann, meanwhile, recently talked to CBS, vaguely, about possible ’16 nominees:
“There are some great candidates out there and, you know, I think Mitt and I are always very, very partial to Paul Ryan but, you know, we don’t even know if he’s going to run… but there are some good candidates.”
Mitt had his own interview with the Wall Street Journal, and talked, vaguely, about his personal life, which sounds a little like a Habitrail: Continue reading Take Five (Party Down edition)
This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.
There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.
I have no hope that either will ever happen.
This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:
… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.
This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:
The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…
The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…
When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.
Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:
Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.
And then he added a scabrous little grace note:
Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.
The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.
TWO: With Fiends Like These…
Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.
Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:
“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”
Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”
Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:
“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”
Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:
“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”
Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:
“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”
Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:
“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.
“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”
Against Haley Barbour:
“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”
Against the House leadership:
“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?
“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”
With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.
THREE: Minority Report I
Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.
Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)
ONE: Middle Age Queasy
The Conservative Political Action Conference turns 40 this year, but don’t expect maturity from a gathering where the speakers include Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Artur Davis, Dick Morris, Wayne LaPierre, Rick Perry, Allen West and Donald Trump.
The coveted keynote slot will provide a generous 33 minutes for Cruz to prevaricate, obfuscate, fabricate, fulminate and regurgitate. Organizers have allotted the second and third longest slots to Palin and Trump, respectively, though why Palin needs 16 minutes and Trump 14 to recite “me, me, glorious me” is a mystery only slightly less mysterious than either of them being invited to begin with. I suppose The Donald and The Sarah deserve grudging credit for realizing that Fitzgerald’s dictum about American lives having no second acts is irrelevant now that first acts can simply be prolonged indefinitely.
Over and above her CPAC gig, Palin manages to keep busy just being Palin. She devoted at least part of Monday to crafting a tweet celebrating the overturning of New York City’s ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces:
Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!
Yes, because nothing says “liberty” like 17 ounces of carbonated water, HFCS, artificial color, artificial flavors and caffeine. But it’s not all freewheeling Twittery for Palin; her latest higher calling is nothing less than saving Christmas:
The former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor has a deal with HarperCollins for “A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas,” scheduled for November.
HarperCollins announced Monday that the book will criticize the “over-commercialism” and “homogenization” of Christmas and call for a renewed emphasis on the religious importance.
Wow! Only 48 years after A Charlie Brown Christmas definitively addressed the very same issues. And Palin’s so versatile that she even wrote the first review of the not-yet-written book:
“This will be a fun, festive, thought provoking book, which will encourage all to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our faith and ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas.”
That’s what cutting edge is all about, Charlie Brown. You betcha. As for Trump, he’s taking his cues from none other than Charlie Brown doppelganger Newt Gingrich, who last Friday tweeted his brainstorm to save White House tours recently suspended under sequestration:
Donald trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students
This was followed two minutes later by:
Trump and president obsma both golf but trump doesn’t charge the taxpayers $920,000 for a golf weekend in florida.
Yeah, damn that obsma anyway! Two minutes later, Gingrich found some more meat on that bone:
If trump offers to pay for the White House tours what will President Obama’s excuse for punishing visiting school children be?
Trump was nonplussed about all this until he joined Fox and Friends by phone on Monday:
“I think it’s so nice of Newt to suggest that,” the media mogul said, adding that Gingrich and his wife are members of his club in Washington. “But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?”
Gingrich is also speaking at CPAC, so he and Trump have a readymade opportunity to discuss the idea in detail, assuming the Gaylord National Hotel has a room large enough to accommodate both their egos simultaneously.
TWO: In Through the Out Door
CPAC drew criticism recently for barring GOProud, an action that prompted the Log Cabin Republicans to withdraw from the event in solidarity. The groups have now gained some exceptionally unsavory company: notorious Islamophobe Pamela Geller.
Geller devoted a recent appearance with Christian radio host Janet Mefferd to throwing a tantrum about the CPAC snub:
… I’ve always held events there even though I wasn’t warmly welcomed because of the influence of what can only be described as Muslim Brotherhood facilitators or operatives like Suhail Khan and Grover Norquist… This year I could not get an event, I was banned…
What are they doing at CPAC? Essentially they are enforcing the Sharia. Under the Sharia, the blasphemy laws, you cannot say, you cannot offend, you cannot criticize and you cannot insult Islam. That is effectively what they’re doing, they are enforcing the Sharia.
Also joining GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, albeit voluntarily, is MSNBC’s resident purveyor of flapdoodle, SE Cupp. She recently tendered her regrets, publicly:
“… as a proponent of gay rights, CPAC’s decision to sideline GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans makes me increasingly uncomfortable… It seems like we’re hardly in a position to be marginalizing any kinds of conservatives, let alone ones who have been so courageous in the face of adversity… until the conference stops shaming some of its most valuable advocates, it’s unfortunately not an event I can take part in.”
Cupp’s calmly reasoned position prompted a fretful rant from Mr. Unreason himself, Joseph Farah. Sensing the black helicopters of tolerance hovering over his pinched and pusillanimous reality, WND’s founding father lamented:
This little brouhaha with Cupp comes at the same time dozens of Republicans – including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress – have signed a legal brief arguing in favor of same-sex marriage…
Farah went on to shake a querulous finger at Meg Whitman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Richard Hanna, Stephen Hadley, Carlos Gutierrez, James Comey, David Stockman and Deborah Pryce, noted conservatives all. Or not:
What do all these people have in common?
They are not conservatives.
Ah. Good to know, I guess. Farah finished with a flourish of hyperbole worthy of a pilled-up teenager posting on a message board at 4:00 AM:
The Conservative Political Action Conference is for conservatives – not for people who seek to undermine the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization with one of the most radical ideas considered since child sacrifice.
Keep it unreal, Joe.
THREE: Hot Air Apparent
CPAC 2013 will also feature John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, who recently stuck his head up out of the ground to find out whether he would see Mitt Romney’s shadow. Bush is ostensibly in the public eye these days because he’s hawking a new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, but of course what he’s really hawking is the idea that the GOP will be desperate enough to nominate him in 2016. To that end, Bush has been appearing on various talk shows, casually trying to convince conservatives of his viability with a string of inane observations. Continue reading Take Five (CPAC Up Your Troubles edition)
ONE: Alle Menschen werden Brüder…
Suffused with bipartisan good vibes, Republicans greeted Barack Obama’s re-election with smiles and outstretched hands… firmly withheld. Grapes actually don’t get any sourer than the ones Republicans have been angrily stomping into whine – uh, wine, since the evening of November 6. The 2012 Grand Old Vintage will long be remembered for its pronounced acidity, robust historical revisionism and almost maddeningly insistent notes of cattle droppings.
The sheer volume (in both senses of the word) of Republican angst, anger and anxiety in the wake of the election has been a challenge to keep up with, but out of many dozens of conservative tantrums I’ve read and bookmarked over the past few weeks, here are some examples I thought worth highlighting.
It was no surprise that one of the first querulous voices raised was that of tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump. Trump took to Twitter on election night and, as he is wont to do, made an utter jackass of himself:
Trump began tweeting before the election was called that it was “a total sham and a travesty.” After news outlets projected that Obama won the election, Trump tweeted, “Well, back to the drawing board!” He posted more than 10 angry tweets, declaring “our nation is a once great nation divided” and “the world is laughing at us…”
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,” fumed the celebrity mogul…
He [later] deleted some of Tuesday night’s tirade, including tweets calling for revolution and incorrectly saying that Obama had lost the popular vote…
Hinge-less commentary of a different sort was served up by William Murray, chair of the Religious Freedom Coalition. Murray is convinced that the President won a second term because he promised to put a chicken, or something, in every pot:
… millions of people… voted for Obama because of “what’s in it for me.” Some feared welfare payments would be cut or unemployment payment periods reduced by a Republican. Still others voted for Obama because they were promised more union jobs with higher pay. Most Obama voters had no interest in the “fiscal cliff” or the huge deficit, or the declining economic and military power of our nation. They voted for Obama’s race, his image and for their hope of personal gain.
Barack Hussein Obama received millions of votes from people who have little command of the English language beyond that needed to shop at Wal-Mart and who have no concept of our form of government. Millions more cast their ballots for Obama for purely racial reasons.
No question, Mr. Murray. Now that you mention it, I distinctly remember filling out my absentee ballot for Barack Obama and drooling at the idea that I’d just voted for a guy of mixed race. Take that, whitey!
Others, such as Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, quelled their disappointment by adopting an activist approach. Phillips had the bright idea to advocate for a de facto Electoral College coup:
We have one last, final chance to save America. We have one last, final chance to stop Barack Obama. One final chance…
According to the 12th Amendment, for the Electoral College to be able to select the president, it must have a quorum of two-thirds of the states voting. If enough states refuse to participate, the Electoral College will not have a quorum. If the Electoral College does not have a quorum or otherwise cannot vote or decide, then the responsibility for selecting the president and vice president devolves to the Congress.
Except, of course, that Phillips is full of crap, as WorldNutDaily itself tersely acknowledged a day later:
Editor’s note, Nov. 20, 2012: Since this column was posted it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error. According to the 12th Amendment, a two-thirds quorum is required in the House of Representatives, not the Electoral College.
Wow! Barack Obama hasn’t even begun his second term yet and somebody over at WND honest-to-God actually bothered to read at least part of one amendment to the Constitution. And yet there are still some who refuse to admit that this presidency is transformational.
Michael Reagan was equally stroppy about the election results, but took a road less traveled in his desperate search for a scapegoat:
For four years Barack Obama has blamed the Great Recession on [George W. Bush] and used his presidency as his excuse for why the economy is taking so long to get fixed.
And where’s G.W. been? MIA or AWOL, take your pick…
The 2012 campaign was all about “the economy, stupid.” Obama blamed G.W. and Republicans. Plus, he had Clinton and Carter bashing G.W.’s record with their bully sticks every day and countering Romney’s arguments that Obama was to blame.
We should have had G.W. standing up and saying, “This is bull. I’m tired of this. This is what I did or did not do with the economy as president. The real culprits are Dodd & Frank and four years of Obama’s failed policies.”
Nobody with any credibility has ever accused Michael Reagan of being smart, but it’s a little stunning that even as witless an observer of current events as Reagan could be unaware of how George W. Bush was swept under the rug by the Republican Party long before Barack Obama was sworn into office. Bully sticks, indeed.
For some fretful scapegoat hunters, however, there’s no place like home:
A Mesa woman was arrested [November 10] after she allegedly chased her husband around a Gilbert parking lot in an SUV during an argument over the presidential election.
The woman finally ran over her husband, leaving him with critical injuries.
According to a Gilbert police report, the argument started over her husband’s lack of voter participation in the recent election…
Solomon’s husband, Daniel Solomon, told police his wife “just hated Obama” and was very angry he was re-elected and blamed the President for problems her family is going through.
But there’s taking it hard and then there’s taking it really hard, as the late Henry Hamilton did:
A Key West man who told his partner that “if Barack gets re-elected, I’m not going to be around” was found dead on Nov. 8, with the words “F— Obama!” scrawled on his will and two empty prescription bottles nearby.
Henry Hamilton, 64, owner of Tropical Tan off Duval Street, was “very upset about the election results,” his partner Michael Cossey told Police Officer Anna Dykes.
Super Mario doppelganger and chair of the Maine Republican Party, Charlie Webster, didn’t kill himself, unfortunately. Instead, he went on TV and angrily blamed the President’s garnering of the state’s four electoral votes on – gasp! – suspicious black people:
“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day,” he said. “Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”
Webster said he has identified five “pockets” of the state where he has concerns about voting irregularities. He would not identify those areas, but said he plans to mail “Thank You” cards to all of the newly registered voters. If a large number of cards are returned because the addresses are invalid, Webster said, he will know he is on to something.
Within 48 hours, Webster was on the phone to Portland’s WSCH again, eager to clarify his remarks (“clarify” being the term conservatives like to use to describe the pathetic flailing around they do after people take offense at the objectionable things they say):
Charlie Webster says he is not a racist, and that he regrets using the words “black people”, but he says he feels his comments are being taken out of context. He says his point was that voter fraud occurs in Maine.
“I still believe there are people who vote in Maine who are not residents in some of the towns and that was my point. It wasn’t that they were black or Chinese or they were obese, it wasn’t like that. It’s that if you live in a small town and someone comes in and weighs 400 lbs, you usually know who that person is.”
That same day, Webster cranked up the cringe-worthy in an interview with Talking Points Memo:
“There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory. I know black people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine. Nobody would ever accuse me of suggesting anything,” he said…
Webster hopes his investigation will settle his concerns.
“One of the things I’d like to do is nip this in the butt (sic) for good, and that’s why at my own expense I will do something after I’m no longer chairman,” Webster said. “I’m sick of hearing about it. Maybe there’s not a problem, maybe there is. I believe there is.”
As it happens, however, Webster won’t be nipping any butts:
In a statement issued late Thursday by the Maine Republican Party, Webster said it was “my intention to talk not about race, but about perceived voting irregularities. However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing and had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am truly sorry.”
… after the controversy that followed his comments, Webster said Thursday he would not send the postcards.
Webster’s term as chair ended on December 1. Where the Maine Republican Party will find someone with feet big enough to fill his clown shoes is anyone’s guess.
But Charlie Webster’s asshattery hardly begins to illustrate the virulence of the re-election variant of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Within days of the election, maniacs in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, Montana, Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota, North Carolina and Indiana had filed petitions at We the People to have their states secede from the Union. Petitions for all 50 states have since been posted, which begs the question of what these states – were they ever to successfully sever their ties with the nation – would collectively call themselves. The Disunited States of America? The Spoilsport States of America? We’re with Stupid?
The Oregon petition, created by a fellow named Kristopher W. Tillamook, is not only a splendid example of the “thought processes” of the secessionistas, but a solid contender for this year’s most egregious misuse of apostrophes in pointless furtherance of a lost cause:
With the Federal Govenrment increasing it’s size much larger than our Founding Father’s intended, and it’s abuse of power trumping over the rights of State constitutions, and the forcing of unconstitutional laws over it’s own citizens, the people of Oregon would like the chance to vote on leaving the Union immediately. The Federal Government has imposed policies on Oregon that are not in Oregon’s best intrests, and we as citizens would respectively and peacably seperate ourselves from a tyranical Government who cares nothing about creating a sustainable future for our children. At any time that the citizens of Oregon felt the Federal Government was no longer imposing on the Constitution we could re-vote to again join the Union under a new agreement.
As of this writing, 14,991 people, untroubled by the petition’s linguistic high crimes and misdemeanors, have signed it. Continue reading Take Five (Dave Brubeck memorial edition)
With a shudder, it occurred to me the other day that I’ve been writing about Willard Mitt Romney, off and on, for nineteen months. There are very few things I dream of spending nineteen months writing about, and he sure as hell isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, with Romney down to his final hours of pretending he can become President of the United States of America, the travail continues.
First, though, let me get Paul Ryan out of the way. Whatever he was thought, or hoped, to bring to the Republican ticket, what Ryan mostly brought was additional opportunities for ridicule, and even the shallow entertainment value thus provided got old fast. The vaunted conservative policy wonk – a “numbers guy” whose numbers (when he bothers to offer any) never add up, a “serious thinker” whose cherished political convictions are a bumper sticker pastiche of Ayn Rand’s Epistles to the Terminally Selfish, a small-government zealot whose entire life, pretty much, has consisted of feeding, if not gorging, at the public trough – has been surprisingly useless to the ticket. And I say “surprisingly” because I’d assumed that merely by naming a running mate, any running mate, the top of the ticket would receive a little less scrutiny, thereby benefiting the campaign. Happily, I stand corrected.
I was also convinced it was damn near impossible that a person could look more ludicrous than Ryan did in his now-infamous “Hey Girl” beefcake shoot, but I erred on that score, as well. In a world where Ryan could become the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party in the first place, not only was it possible, it was probably inevitable. When I saw the photos of the assistant-Commander-in-Chief-wannabe at a soup kitchen he was never invited to, stylin’ for the cameras as he scrubbed clean pots and pans, his grinning wife standing nearby, I experienced that vilest of emotions: feeling embarrassed for people too oblivious to be embarrassed for themselves. Mixed, of course, with newly refreshed loathing.
Yet even this sleazy perfidy pales beside the Romney/Ryan campaign’s crass exploitation of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when a scheduled Dayton campaign rally was hastily converted into a “storm relief event.” BuzzFeed has a terrific piece on the debacle, brimming with ghastly details, but the short version is that Romney’s handlers rushed to Walmart, spent $5,000 on groceries and other items the Red Cross didn’t want, handed them out to attendees so that the attendees could then “donate” them back, and all the while were blithely unconcerned that the obviously phony event would be exposed as, well, obviously phony. Not quite as spectacularly phony as George Bush’s victory jig on an aircraft carrier, granted, but culled from the same Republican playbook. Not satisfied with this smarmy charade, Romney then embarked on some epic hurricane-driven flip-flopping over just what he would or wouldn’t do with FEMA were the country to lose its collective mind and elect him, and topped it all off Wednesday morning in Tampa by urging 2,000 perfervid supporters to dig, uh, not very deep:
“So please if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep people who have been in harm’s way, who’ve been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers…”
As the media continued to stream horror stories from Sandy’s wake, Romney’s Thursday afternoon rally in Virginia Beach was interrupted by a protester, who asked:
What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!
As the candidate silently watched with his trademark vacant leer, the crowd began the boorish “USA!” chant Republican mobs, weirdly, use to try and shut up people they disagree with, as the protester was hauled away. Stinky little scenes like this have been integral to the Romney campaign, rather than isolated, garish eruptions of excessive exuberance, as they tended to be characterized back when Sarah Palin – or Ryan 1.0, as I now think of her – incited GOP crowds by claiming that Barack Obama “palled around with terrorists.”
As the last day of this sordid, abysmal campaign crawls by, we can at least be grateful that a few heretofore-obscure details are becoming clearer. That sure beats having to wait for the impending slew of tell-all books by Romney/Ryan campaign insiders, most of which will be read all the way through only by reviewers (and only because they’ll be paid to do so).
The recent plague of plutocratic extortionists threatening their employees with dire consequences for failure to vote Romney comes to mind. In These Times helpfully connected the dots back to a June 6 conference call where the candidate himself urged such a course: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)
It has long been apparent that neither Mitt Romney nor his handlers have any idea what they’re doing, and since nothing says “helpful and fellow-feeling” like the Republican Party, a stampede of GOP deep thinkers has charged into the breach. The unsolicited advice began before the first balloon hit the floor at the end of the convention in Tampa, and has only increased in sound and fury since.
The clearest sign of the mess Mitt Romney finds himself in is that even perpetually ardent hyper-partisan Peggy Noonan is beginning to sound delirious with frustration. Her September 18 Wall Street Journal column – entitled “Time for an Intervention”! – excoriated Romney’s hamfisted attempt to exploit tensions in the Middle East:
… he seemed like a political opportunist, not big and wise but small and tinny.
Noonan was even more dismissive of Romney’s notorious Boca Raton fundraiser remarks:
This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.
Jeepers! Noonan hasn’t sounded this fretful since George W. Bush was nearly assassinated by a pretzel. She’s so pessimistic she believes the entire Republican Party is going to have to step in and save the candidate from himself. While her prescriptions for a campaign turnaround are comical, she depicts the urgency of Romney’s need for one rather eloquently:
It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment… An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”
As to the comical part, well, the Republican Party Noonan believes in ceased to exist decades ago, if indeed it ever existed at all:
… Luckily, Romney has access to some of the best writers and thinkers in the business. I say it that way because to write is to think, and Romney needs fresh writing and fresh thinking…
Time for the party to step up. Romney should go out there every day surrounded with the most persuasive, interesting and articulate members of his party, the old ones, and I say this with pain as they’re my age, like Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, and the young ones, like Susana Martinez and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio—and even Paul Ryan… he should be surrounded by a posse of them every day. Their presence will say, “This isn’t about one man, this is about a whole world of meaning, this is about a conservative political philosophy that can turn things around and make our country better.”
… Party elders, to the extent you exist this is why you exist:
Right this ship.
Whee! On September 28, Noonan sounded no less frantic, although she’d managed to weave some silver linings out of whole cloth over the space of ten days:
… there are some institutional and personal elements surrounding the Wednesday debate that may well work in Mr. Romney’s favor.
From a canny journalist with a counterintuitive head: “The media will be rooting for Romney.” Two reasons. First, they don’t want the story to end. They’re in show biz: A boring end means lower ratings. Careers are involved! Second, the mainstream media is suddenly realizing that more than half the country (and some of their colleagues) think they are at least operationally in the tank for the president, or the Democrats in general. It is hurting the media’s standing. A midcourse correction is in order, and Wednesday will offer an opportunity: I think it’s fair to say Gov. Romney more than held his own this evening, and a consensus seems to be forming that the president underperformed.
Which, if Noonan were capable of being honest about it, is exactly the sort of bullshit narrative that America’s vigilant free press is ready to deploy, even if Romney kicks off the evening by accusing Jim Lehrer of not having written a decent song since “The Vatican Rag,” tries to bet the audience $10,000 that he’ll win the debate, throws up on himself, and finally collapses in an aspic of tears and flop sweat as Ann Romney comes running out from the wings, screaming, “Look what you people have done to him! I told you people I was worried about his mental well-being!”
Noonan goes on to paint a lovingly detailed picture of a Barack Obama who exists only in the fever swamps of the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. At this point, I don’t think she’s trying to convince her readers as much as she’s trying to convince herself that Romney can win the debate and win the White House, and I don’t think she’s making any headway. In Noonan’s lush imaginings, the President is vulnerable because, A, everyone is too easy on him, B, he’s boring and pedantic, C, he doesn’t like to be questioned, D, he makes stuff up, and E, he acts like the biggest celebrity in the world, just as the McCain campaign alleged. Putting aside the fact that if her portrait of Barack Obama had any validity he wouldn’t now be the incumbent, it’s touching that Noonan retains enough vestigial faith in Romney to believe he could capitalize on these weaknesses even if they were real.
Others, in both the Republican squawkoscenti and among the hoi polloi, aren’t so sure. The recent Values Voter Summit featured a gratifying number of long faces, and no small amount of backseat driving: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Eve of Derision edition)
Just what the hell is it with Republicans and bad pizza?
Remember Tom Monaghan, founder of the resoundingly crummy Domino’s? Monaghan, a Republican and possible religious fanatic to boot, was last seen in the fetid swamps of my perpetually embarrassing home state, building a model God-centric community he calls Brigadoon. Or maybe Del Boca Vista.
A previous edition of this column featured the May 2011 Manhattan summit meeting of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, which began at the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue but, at Palin’s request, continued at the Famous Famiglia Pizza outlet near Times Square. Famous Famiglia claims that their pie is “New York’s Favorite Pizza” so you know damned well it’s no such thing.
Erstwhile Republican presidential gag candidate Herman Cain once helmed Godfather’s Pizza and later became part owner of the chain in a leveraged buyout from previous owner Pillsbury. He sold his ownership stake in 2006. Godfather’s woeful product has been excoriated by worstpizza.com as:
… about as good as any gas station or c-store heat and eat.
Now comes word that John Schnatter – founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, Romney booster, and free-range asshat – warned his shareholders the other day that “Obamacare” will force the chain, every time some benighted soul orders one of its joyless pizzas, to tack on:
… 11 to 14 cents extra, “or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis.”
Schnatter raised this nightmare scenario because he prefers Mitt Romney’s economic positions, positions which would lead directly to a considerable segment of Papa John’s clientele deciding that delivery pizza is a frill they can no longer afford, even if they do get to pocket that “Obamacare” mark-up. If all this defies reason, and good business sense, welcome to the exciting world of savvy Republican entrepreneurs.
TWO: Stall Tales
The old expression “spend a penny” became hopelessly outdated the day then-Senator Larry Craig took his wide stance into a men’s room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport a little more than five years ago. “Spend $217,000″ is the updated version.
Craig and his bathroom habits are in the news again as the disgraced ex-politician fights a lawsuit filed by the Federal Election Commission over $217,000 in campaign funds Craig diverted to his legal defense against charges stemming from his licentious potty break. In the process, Craig and his lawyer Andrew Herman have raised the bar when it comes to ingenious legal strategies:
Craig counters that money tied to his airport bathroom trip was for neither personal use nor his campaign, but fell under his official, reimbursable duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and the nation’s capital for work.
He cites a U.S. Senate rule in which reimbursable per diem expenses include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing — and bathrooms.
“Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom while on official travel,” wrote Andrew Herman, Craig’s lawyer in Washington, D.C., in documents filed Thursday.
Genius! And the icing on the urinal cake is that Craig and his legal counsel adduce another rank Republican hypocrite, Jim Kolbe, as precedent:
In documents supporting his bid to have the complaint dismissed, Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who tapped campaign money in 2006 to defend himself after allegations of improper behavior emerged against him following a Grand Canyon rafting trip with two former male pages.
The trip by Kolbe, the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, was an official visit with support provided by the National Park Service.
The phrase “openly gay” should be taken with a big fat grain of salt in Kolbe’s case, by the way, since he came out only after gay-rights groups threatened to out him after his gutless vote in favor of DOMA. Craig, in contrast, is immortal for the line: “I am not gay.” And soon, I suspect, he’s going to be immortal for skating on egregious misuse of campaign funds, but happily, the $217,000 that a bunch of misguided Republicans steered into Craig’s coffers helped pay for, among other things, a lot of free entertainment for the rest of us.
THREE: Party of Personal Responsibility Update
Speaking of legal defenses, New Jersey Assemblyman Robert Schroeder is now facing criminal charges over $400,000 worth of bad checks alleged to have been written to investors in All Points International Distributors Inc., a military contracting business owned by Schroeder. If you inferred from that that he’s a Republican, you inferred quite correctly.
This is only the latest legal trouble Schroeder has faced. According to the north Jersey Record, Schroeder’s entrepreneurial career:
… includes more than a dozen lawsuits from vendors and creditors stretching back to at least 1997.
Uncharacteristically for a Republican, Schroeder initially seemed to signal that he knows who’s at fault here:
“I made a mistake, I apologize,” Schroeder said. “I’m responsible for my actions. It’s a sad day for my family.”
If you find that statement remarkably mature for a Republican politician who finds himself in hot water, don’t be too hasty. Schroeder has a ready explanation for why he “made a mistake”:
“We’re having tough business times like everybody else,” said Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, who represents the 39th District. “Business has been in decline during the Obama administration.”
Thank goodness. You can’t count on much in this crazy old world, but I’ve always believed you can count on Republicans invariably shifting the blame for their misdeeds onto somebody else. Bonus points for making your scapegoat Barack Obama, Mr. Schroeder. I guess we’ll see how that stands up in court. Continue reading Take Five (Saucy, Cheesy & Sorta Greasy edition)