Tag Archives: GOP

The Hypocrisy Hall Of Fame

Recently, Max Boot–formerly of the GOP and now a self-described “man without a party”–authored a scathing column in the Washington Post. The introductory paragraphs give a hint of the points made in the remainder of the essay.

“In scandals such as this, it is always members of the president’s party who have particular leverage, and therefore who have a particular responsibility, to hold the president accountable for his actions.”

So wrote noted Republican moralist Bill Bennett in his 1998 book, “The Death of Outrage.” Bennett went on to excoriate Democrats who were “troubled by the credible allegations of ethical and criminal wrongdoing” and who saw “the harm that is being inflicted on America” but failed to say so “forcefully, unambiguously, publicly.” “No Democrat went to the president of the United States and insisted, emphatically, that he do what is right, none insisted that he fully answer questions, stop stonewalling, and come out, immediately, with all of the facts, wherever they might lead,” he wrote. “This is shameful.”

Agreed, it’s shameful when members of a President’s party see the harm being inflicted on America and fail to speak out.

Some of us think that personal corruption, incessant undermining of the Constitution and rule of law, encouragement of white nationalism, and refusal to admit economic reality in order to start a trade war likely to devastate the nation’s farmers (among others) might–just might–inflict a greater harm to the body politic than discovering that a President had received a blow job in the Oval Office.

As Boot notes, Republicans have remained deathly quiet, although Mueller’s report documented conduct by Trump that “beyond a shadow of a doubt” is both criminal and impeachable. Over 800 former federal prosecutors signed a letter saying that Trump would have been indicted for obstruction of justice if he wasn’t president.

Trump is committing further “high crimes and misdemeanors” by vowing not to comply with “all” House subpoenas. The House Judiciary Committee has just votedto hold his attorney general, William P. Barr, in contempt for refusing to provide the unredacted Mueller report to Congress. His treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, risks similar sanctions for refusing to provide Trump’s taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee. Yet no Republicans are speaking out to condemn Trump for his lawlessness or urge him to comply with congressional subpoenas. This stands in stark contrast to the way that Republicans rained rhetorical fire and fury on Democratic presidents who stonewalled Congress.

Boot calls out several Senators by name: for example, he quotes Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s criticism of then-Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to provide some of the requested documents during a House probe of a gun-running sting. Rubio’s language was scorching:

“I think that it is outrageous that any attorney general — Republican or Democrat — refuses to comply with Congress’s constitutional right to hold them accountable and the Justice Department accountable. I would say that if that if this was a Republican just like I do now because it’s a Democrat. Not only that, I think this has gone on so long and the stonewalling by the attorney general has been so egregious, that I think he has to resign.”

Now there’s a Republican administration, and Rubio isn’t calling for Barr to resign for his stonewalling.

Then, of course, there’s Lindsey Graham, whose performance as a slavering Trump sycophant must be making John McCain roll over in his grave.

Rubio is joined in the hypocrisy hall of fame by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) who, as a House member in 1998, demandedthat President Bill Clinton be impeached for, inter alia, refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas: “The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena was the day he was subject to impeachment, because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury.”

Well, Clinton was a Democrat.

Boot gives other examples, and concludes that “Republicans believe in presidential power only when the president is a Republican. When it’s a Democrat, they suddenly discover the importance of congressional oversight”.

There is no disinterested principle that could possibly explain or excuse Republican conduct. Their only principle is blind partisanship. We are in a “constitutional crisis,” as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says, and Republicans are siding with their party over the Constitution.

I remember when many more Republicans were like Max Boot–when, as honorable public servants, they would have been appalled by Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and all the other Republican office-holders who are so eager to place partisanship above patriotism, and who fear Trump’s rabid and ignorant base far more than they love their country.

History will place them all in the hypocrisy hall of fame.

Dick Lugar Has Died. So Has The Party He Served With Distinction.

I stepped out of the shower yesterday to find a news alert telling me that Senator Richard Lugar had died.

My own involvement with politics began with Dick Lugar’s mayoral campaign; I headed up an effort titled, as I recall,  “The 67 Committee for Lugar for Mayor”–a euphemistic name for an effort at outreach to Indianapolis’ Jewish voters.

The Washington Post has a lengthy recap of Lugar’s career, and it is worth reading for several reasons: to remind those of us who care about governance that genuine public servants once occupied the Senate; that the complexities of foreign affairs demand the sort of intellect and expertise that Lugar exemplified rather than the faux machismo and counterproductive religiosity currently on display; and that once upon a time, the Republican Party included grown-ups who took their oaths of office seriously.

If there had been any doubt that the GOP represented by statesmen like Lugar was dead and gone, it was underlined by his 2012 primary loss to a Trumpian asshole whose entire campaign was a cartoonish Tea Party performance.

Every aspect of Lugar’s service–from his stint on the Indianapolis school board to his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–was marked by thoughtfulness, intellect and civility. Those characteristics are in extremely short supply these days, especially in the once-Grand Old Party, and most of us who supported that party, who admired statesmen like Dick Lugar and agreed with their philosophies of governance, have left, horrified at what the party has become.

I didn’t always agree with Dick Lugar’s domestic positions, especially in the later years of his Senate tenure. His positions on reproductive rights and discrimination against LGBT Americans, for example, were far different from mine (although I still admire his unsuccessful efforts to curtail farm subsidies and his support for comprehensive immigration reform.) But when it came to his work on foreign policy–the area that clearly was his abiding passion– he was a giant.

As the Post obituary put it:

A moderate conservative who came of age in the Cold War, he viewed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as the most serious threat to national security, and it was in that area that he left his greatest mark.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, he and other policymakers feared that its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons might fall into the wrong hands. In 1991, Mr. Lugar teamed with the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), to push through legislation to help Russia and other former Soviet republics secure their arsenals and, in most cases, dismantle them entirely.

The initiative — officially the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program but better known as Nunn-Lugar — provided funding and expertise that over the next two decades led to the deactivation of more than 7,500 nuclear warheads and hundreds of other weapons and delivery systems, according to the Defense Department. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan eliminated all of their nuclear arms.

The obituary noted a number of other important contributions to foreign affairs–from arms control to the New START nuclear-weapons-reduction treaty with Russia.

In his first stint as Foreign Relations chairman, Mr. Lugar played an influential role on two hot-button issues. Although a faithful supporter of Reagan’s agenda, he led the Senate in overriding Reagan’s veto of legislation imposing stiff economic sanctions on apartheid South Africa. He also helped bring about the ouster of Marcos in the Philippines.

Lugar had a reputation for working across the aisle; he was the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee when he first collaborated with Obama, then an Illinois senator. They traveled together to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan in 2005 to visit weapon dismantlement sites, and later co-sponsored legislation aimed at  eliminating stockpiles of shoulder-fired missiles.

I can’t help experiencing the death of Dick Lugar as more than the death of an honorable and important statesman. His death is also symbolic of the terminal state of statesmanship itself–and yet another reminder that a political party that once elevated serious, effective and principled office-holders has been replaced by a collection of embarrassing know-nothings, hypocrites, bigots and moral cowards.

I mourn them both.

Analog Candidates For A Digital Age

Let me begin with an admission: I am old. The same age as Bernie Sanders, actually, and just a couple of years older than Joe Biden. I know firsthand that age bestows a number of benefits along with the gray hair and sagging skin: more tolerance for the foibles of others, a broader context within which to analyze thorny issues, greater appreciation for the complexities of the world.

When we are determining which candidate the Democrats should nominate to occupy the Oval Office, however, those benefits must be weighed against some undeniable negatives.

First and foremost is political reality. If a Democrat wins the 2020 election, he or she needs to be seen as a possible– or likely– two-term President. Thanks to Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate, we have ample evidence that the GOP will do everything in its power to run the clock out on a President in his last–or only–term. (Ask Merrick Garland if you don’t believe me–or look at the overall pathetic performance of Congress in Obama’s last term.) It’s much, much harder to pursue that strategy with someone who is potentially a two-term President.

Someone who assumes office at the age of 78 or 80 is not a two-termer.

Second, the world into which someone was socialized matters. A lot. The reality we occupy growing up shapes us in ways we only dimly recognize. Joe Biden’s hugging and physical demonstrativeness is just one example; I love Biden, and I recognize his behavior as fairly typical of affectionate men of his and my generation. We all grow up unthinkingly accepting the social norms of the world we were born into as “the way it is,” making it very difficult to realize that “the way it is” isn’t anymore.

As a consequence, my generation has difficulty fully understanding and adapting to a world that is profoundly different from the world of our youth, not just because of  generational social change, but because of the way those changes have been magnified and their speed accelerated by the Internet, social media and technology generally.

What younger folks find intuitive is anything but for those of us who grew up with landlines attached to the wall, shelves of encyclopedias for information, and service station attendants who pumped the gas and cleaned our windshields. I’m an example: I am not the Luddite some of my age cohort are–I use an iPhone and laptop, I read on a Kindle, and I review research studies about the sometimes convoluted ways in which technology and social media are constantly changing social norms–but none of this comes easily or naturally, as it so clearly does to my students and grandchildren.

Nor does my understanding go very deep; like most of my generation, I rely on younger people if I need to go beyond superficial knowledge of how it all works.

If Russian bots are exacerbating America’s tribal divisions, those dealing with the problem need to understand what bots are, what they do and how they are deployed. If virtual currencies like Bitcoin are threatening to destabilize global monetary systems, they need to understand how those currencies work, how they are generated and why they have value. And that’s just two examples.

Thirdly, and much as I hate to admit it, age takes an inexorable physical and mental toll. I’m a pretty high energy person, and I am blessed with excellent health. But there is absolutely no way that I could discharge even the purely physical requirements of a job like the Presidency. (My theory is that Trump’s well-documented aversion to actually doing any work is partly due to his age and poor physical condition.) And numerous studies definitively show that on nearly every scale of intellectual capacity, people over 70 have less flexibility and less to offer than younger generations. 

There comes a time when we older folks need to yield power to the next generation. We can still offer our hard-earned wisdom, and we can still play an important advisory role. But existential threats like climate change need to be addressed by those who will live with its effects; racism, sexism and other bigotries can best be dealt with by people who have grown up seeing mothers who are doctors, lawyers and CEOs, and interacting with friends and classmates of many races, religions and sexual identities.

America owes huge debts to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. We are safer thanks to Biden’s wisdom on foreign policy and exceptional service in the Senate and as Vice-President. Sanders’ 2016 campaign almost single-handedly demonstrated the hollowness of Democrat’s “Republican-lite” policies. His is no longer a lone voice–virtually every Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020 has adopted his progressive perspectives on healthcare and economic fairness.

That said, it’s time for the party’s elders to step back and give day-to-day management of government to a new generation. Fortunately, the Democratic Party–unlike the GOP– has an exceptional young bench.

To coin a phrase: it’s time for a (generational) change.

 

 

 

The Once-Grand Old Party

According to Nate Silvers’ 538.com,

Democrats have deep divides over policy. In contrast, Republicans, at both the state and federal levels, are largely unified around an agenda of cutting spending for programs such as Medicaid that are targeted at low-income people, defending Americans’ ability to own and purchase guns, limiting abortion, and reducing regulations and taxes on businesses.

If you analyze those GOP positions, they all come down to screwing over poor people–either by shrinking the social safety net, by refusing to respect their personal autonomy, or by allowing businesses to ride roughshod over laws that were originally passed to protect them (and the rest of us).

Oh, and of course, ensuring that “good Americans” have access to guns to protect themselves against the freeloaders.

If you do a deeper dive into these positions–especially if you consult research conducted in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election–you’ll notice that Republicans picture the poor people they disdain as overwhelmingly black and brown. Other. Them. Those people. Not like “us.” Not “real Americans.”

The GOP of my younger days has been replaced by a White Nationalist cult.

I can remember when the Republican Party–at least in Indianapolis–was the party of good government, when the party people with whom I worked genuinely cared about building a society that worked for everyone.

Were there always some venal people in the GOP? Was there a racist and anti-Semitic fringe? Sure. There were also plenty of unsavory characters among the Democrats. No political party, no movement, no government is free of all corrupt influences. No party supports policies that all turn out to be good ideas. Especially when a political party is in power, the climbers and hangers-on and self-interested will gravitate to it and if those in positions of authority aren’t careful, they’ll pollute the entire organization.

Purity, unfortunately, is inconsistent with humanity.

That said, in the GOP I knew, among the candidates I supported and the volunteers with whom I worked, most were genuinely good people, and they are almost all gone now from the party ranks. When I talk to them–party workers, former political appointees and officeholders–they are depressed and appalled at what the Republican party has become.

Nixon’s southern strategy has become the Republicans’ national identity.

The problem is, America desperately needs two adult, reasonable, non-racist parties. In the absence of Republicans of good will, intellectual honesty, and rational policy prescriptions, the Democrats will fracture into warring factions. (We’re already seeing that, as the quote from 538.com recognizes.) That’s because, in a two-party system, when people with respectable political philosophies can’t imagine affiliating with one of those parties (because it is no longer respectable), and thus join the other party, that other party loses coherence. Policymakers lose the benefit of competing, rational prescriptions for dealing with the nation’s issues.

The Whigs went the way of the buffalo. Today’s iteration of the GOP needs to go with them.

America needs a new center-right party that is genuinely conservative–as a philosophy, not as a cover for racism, theocracy and plutocracy.

Indiana–Ignoring Law, Pursing Bad Policy

The current push by the Trump Administration to add work requirements to Medicaid is stupid and unworkable–not that Trump understands or cares. It is also likely to be costly–adding another condition to receipt of health care is yet another bureaucratic task, another box to be checked off by someone who must be paid to do the checking.

People knowledgable about the program point out that virtually all Medicaid recipients fall into one of three categories. They are elderly, disabled or children. (This is an administration that doesn’t listen to experts, of course. The President’s “gut” is the basis of policy, not evidence or fact.) The consensus of opinion from experts is that it would cost far more to administer the requirement than it would save by throwing a very few people off the program (unless, of course, the requirement is applied more broadly than justified).

And that brings me to my own State of Indiana, where ideology consistently defeats both facts and common sense. Indiana is continuing to pursue work requirements despite the overwhelming evidence that it’s a stupid policy and despite the fact that recent federal court decisions hold that it violates federal law.

On Wednesday, a judge struck down Arkansas and Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement programs, throwing the future of the conservative health policy — and Medicaid expansion at large — into question.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s ruling blocks Kentucky from implementing its program — which was the first approved by the Trump administration in January 2018 — and puts an end to Arkansas’ program, which has been running since June and has led to the loss of health care for tens of thousands of people.

In a case expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Boasberg ruled that “Medicaid is an entitlement” and that the defendants “did not address … how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.”

A number of Republicans echo the position taken by (increasingly unpopular) Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Bevin has vowed to end Kentucky’s entire Medicaid expansion program if he can’t implement the work requirements. That  would mean 400,000 people would lose their health insurance–but punitive ideology is clearly more important to Bevin than the health care of 400,000 citizens of his state.

Gives “my way or the highway” a whole new emphasis….

What makes this position especially egregious is that it isn’t prompted by cost concerns; it is entirely motivated by opposition to government-provided health care even when the federal government is paying for it.

Work requirements for Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance for the poor, sprang up after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. The law allows and helps states offer Medicaid to more low-income people. The federal government initially pays 100 percent — and eventually 90 percent — of the costs of expanding eligibility to people earning 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Most of the early adopters of Medicaid expansion were Democratic-led states. Some Republican-led states have slowly expanded coverage, but most of them have added a work requirement for nondisabled people — a policy that the Obama administration repeatedly rejected. Under the Trump administration, CMS has approved work requirement waivers for Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin.

I will never understand the Republican animus toward the poor. Whatever happened to the Christian admonition about caring for “the least of us”?