Sunday, September 27, 2015

Forget Iran: The GOP Goes Nuclear

Francis comes in, John Boehner bows out. There is a certain symmetry to some world events and this is one of those moments.

Here we have a Pope who is speaking forcefully and eloquently about how the issues of the day are having, and will continue to have, an effect on how people live, work and survive in the world and all the right wing can do is reject his message as an ill-conceived interference into the political realm. Stay away from climate change and gay rights, they say, and for heaven's sake, stop talking about immigration. Yet Francis has stayed on message in a way that would make House Speaker John Boehner proud.


Well, former House Speaker John Boehner, that is. Or at least he will be at the end of October. Poor John tried his best to reign in a fractious caucus of elected government officials who detest government and want it flushed down the sink, or at least shut down so it can't do any more damage to the country. Like pay out Social Security benefits. Or Medicare. Medicaid. Or keep the national parks open. Get people passports. Inspect our food. Defend the country. Provide funds for the less fortunate. Health care. Investigate crimes. It's terrible, this United States government we have today.

It's funny how conservatives have been saying for years that we need to base our actions on religious values and that we have lost our way morally under the weight of godless liberal social policies over the past 70 years. Yet here comes an infallible Pope who can be ignored at will because he has the temerity to say that the United States needs to do more, not less. Take in more Syrian refugees. Care more for the poor. Stop demonizing Muslims. Care for the environment and the globe.

When you put the right wing's agenda together with the rejection of Francis's message and stir in the fact that the next Speaker of the House is likely to be an even more conservative Republican than John Boehner, then you will get a party that simply doesn't like anything. And how do you run and win on that?

Mark this week down as the one that will eventually define the presidential election for the GOP. They have been saying no for far too long and the no backbenchers are about to get a more sympathetic ear for them to yell into. The elites are fighting to rid the field of Donald Trump, and he'll go eventually, but he won't go quietly or without tearing down enough of the other contenders to make their jobs more difficult. And the new House leadership is likely to allow some of the less savory bills that Boehner was able to squash to get out of the caucus room and onto the floor.

Pope Francis is actually leading the way for conservatives to re-engage in a balanced conversation. He's no liberal by any stretch of the imagination. But he is a humanist and he understands that if we don't take care of everyone, than we really don't take care of anyone.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, September 20, 2015


That's really all you need to know about Carly Fiorina's chances of becoming either the Republican nominee or president of this great country. She's an accomplished woman with plenty of money and a great speaking style, but when it came to getting votes, she couldn't win, even in the great Republican year of 2010.

Fiorina lost to Barbara Boxer in the 2010 California Senate race by 52%-42%. We will have a woman as United States President, but it won't be Carly Fiorina. When your best line has nothing to do with policy, but is instead a necessary rebuttal to Trump calling you ugly, then you will get press, but not solid voter support. And when your other policy proposal concerns building up the Sixth Fleet and spending huge amounts of money on defense rather than actually speaking to Vladimir Putin, then you have nothing more to say about responsible foreign policy. And those comments about the Planned Parenthood videos? All anybody has to do is watch them to know how utterly wrong Firoina was.

I am still of the opinion that we have a long way to go on the Republican side before we get a sense as to which one of the candidates will be the nominee. Each of them will get their day in the media spotlight and each one will be found wanting in some way. Donald Trump will not win. Ben Carson will not win. Carly Fiorina will not win.


Chris Christie is getting some nice press about his performance in the debate, especially his opening statement, which was the longest he got to speak. He still has plenty of money, so perhaps he will get the media's attention next, although the press is still not done with Jeb! and Marco Rubio.

If the debate was any guide, then the Democrats will still have the upper hand entering the general election campaign late next spring. The Republicans are still talking nonsense about how hard they'll come down on immigration, how they'll shut off money to the main source of women's health care in many states (Planned Parenthood), how they'll carve up the Constitution to preserve a religious right that's found nowhere in the document, and how they won't meet with world leaders until they do what we want them to do.

And they have other problems. The Republican Party elites reduced the number of debates and made many states winner-take-all when it comes to primaries in the hope that a nominee would emerge early enough in the process to begin running against the Democrat and to raise gobs of money. Now they're looking at a scenario where the nominee will be pulled farther to the right than Mitt Romney was four years ago and the prospect that Donald Trump will win some of those states where the winner takes the whole delegate bundle and becomes a power broker at the convention. The Citizens United case opened up the money spigot and one of the nastier effects, at least for the GOP, is that now even some of the fringe candidates will have enough cash to cause a great deal of mischief.

Now comes word that Vice President Biden will be entering the Democratic race ahead of the October 13 debate. This will give him the opportunity to gauge his support and will also give him an out if he feels that his emotions and his family will not support a long run. Hillary Clinton's campaign should be worried about Biden because they are at a vulnerable stage with all of the talk about lost momentum due to the e-mail problems she's had. Bernie Sanders will also get the loud applause at the debate because he'll give the base what Hillary probably can't if she wants to move to the center in the general campaign. Biden can pick and choose which Obama policies he wants to continue supporting and Hillary will be in the position where she'll need to distance herself from some of his programs. It's shaping up to be a fun night.

The presidential campaign seems like it's been dragging on forever, but we are still in its early stages as primary voters try each candidate on for size before they settle on the one they believe can win.

As presidents Giuliani, Dean and Cain used to say...

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Don't You Know How Bad Things Are?

When political movements move beyond their useful stage and devolve into extremism, ad hominem attacks, conspiracy theories and exaggerated accounts of wrongdoing, then those movements are in their dying days.

Thus it is with the conservative Republican movement.

While the right-wing wave has been swelling and crashing since 2012, this year's presidential mash-up is a textbook, laboratory, peer-reviewed example of the party's continued descent. Don't get me wrong; there will still be a Republican Party, and a strong, rational one is vital to our political system. It will just look very different by 2020.

Each of the candidates left in the race, after Rick Perry's shocking! (not really) exit last week, is painting the United States as a declining, morally bankrupt, ineffectual, soft country. They are blaming President Obama for all of the country's ills, although they do have a particular section of real estate in Hell reserved for the Supreme Court justices who affirmed marriage equality and upheld the Affordable Care Act.


And they're saying that the country is lawless and unsafe because our law enforcement officials are now hesitant to act because they don't want their body camera videos to end up on YouTube. You can see the frustration and anger in the candidates' faces and feel their campaign rage at every turn.

And all of this is occurring amidst an improving economy, a rising stock market (for the most part), declining unemployment numbers, improved consumer protections and a health care landscape that is taking care of many more people at a more affordable price. Do we have work to do? You bet, but part of the problem is the GOP itself. They continue to protect the coal industry by using the phrase "clean coal" in a way that probably has George Carlin contemplating the deliciousness of the contradictions while spinning in his grave, they continue to deny the practical effects of global warming and its origins in man-made pollutants, they criticize Obama's foreign policies with no discernible platform of their own except to defeat terrorism, and they just can't come to grips with the fact that they've lost the marriage equality argument.


The problem, of course, as they see it, is Barack Obama. Like Bill Clinton, the conservative right wing doesn't really see Obama as a legitimate president. That's why you have the arguments over his birth certificate and whether he's a Muslim or whether he created the high gas prices in 2009 and the low gas prices now. And whether he's secretly in league with the Iranians and that's why the agreement was so soft on them, or is the real reason because he hates Israel.

These dark conspiracies, which are given full lighting by the conservative press remind me of the JFK assassination conspiracy theories, but instead of choosing one of those to believe, you'd have to believe all of them. That would make Dealey Plaza awash in Cubans, mobsters, American military personnel, Communist spies and lovers who were jilted by women who had affairs with the president. The problem now is that the right wing believes that all of the accusations against Obama are true.

And did I mention race? I know, I know; that's bad form, especially given recent contemporary race relations in our country. Forget I even mentioned it.

This week Republican debate will feature all of the candidates telling us how terrible the state of the country is and how their angry, knee-jerk responses will make it sunnier and better. All we need to do is build the wall, police it, chuck out the undocumented, lower taxes, allow religious exemptions for whatever we happen to not agree with, destroy all of the unions, and tell women that they have to carry every pregnancy to term no matter what the circumstances. That's the ticket to a happier, Reaganesque revival, right?

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest