The Bizarre and Scary World of Republicans

There they go again

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican debate from Florida (transcript here) and then checked this morning’s coverage from major networks such as NBC and CBS.  The focus of media coverage was the “civility” of this debate compared to previous ones, combined with typical horse race speculations about which candidate won and which lost.

Well, I can’t tell you who won, but I can tell you who lost: the American people lost.

Several lowlights from the debate that stick in my mind:

1. Marco Rubio was asked about climate change and whether human action, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, contributed to it.  Rubio essentially denied that human action had any significant impact on global warming.  The essence of his answer: the climate is changing because the climate always changes.  And the U.S. government can take no action to reduce it.

2.  Donald Trump held to his position on torture.  He believes waterboarding should be used, that laws should be changed to allow harsher means of torture, apparently because the enemy (ISIS) beheads its opponents or drowns them in cages.  He was not challenged on how he would change international laws against torture, nor was he challenged on consistent evidence that torture does not work in efforts to gain accurate intelligence.  Nor were any questions raised about the morality of torture and its proposed expansion if he wins the presidency.

3.  All of the candidates expressed support for sending U.S. ground troops, perhaps 20,000 to 30,000, to combat ISIS in the Middle East.  The situation was presented as a civil war within Islam between radical Sunni and Shia forces, but no candidate explained how U.S. combat forces could win someone else’s civil war, a war driven by fierce ideological differences.  Somehow, magically, the reappearance of big battalions of U.S. troops and massive displays of air power would “shock and awe” radical jihadists into collapse and capitulation.

4.  For the candidates, nothing Obama has done in the last seven years is worthy of the slightest praise.  Obamacare must be repealed.  The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster.  His forthcoming trip to Cuba represents a capitulation to communism.  His executive actions are illegal; all of them must be reversed.

5.  Each candidate tried to best the other on who is more pro-Israel.  According to Trump, “there’s nobody on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am.”  Apparently Israel is the only U.S. ally that is worthy of total support and unconditional love by Republican candidates.

6.  Trump refused to qualify his statement that there is “tremendous hate” in the Islamic world directed against the United States.  However, there was no reason given for this hate, and no sense that U.S. military actions overseas, to include invasions, drone strikes, and special ops raids, contribute in any way to Islamic animosity.  The candidates were simply not asked why some, most, or nearly all Muslims “hate” America.

7.  Finally, topics that weren’t discussed at this debate but which are commonly discussed at Democratic debates: racism, shootings by police against Blacks, prison and justice reform, raising the minimum wage, the rising gap between the richest 1% and everyone else, reducing the cost of college education, and efforts to guarantee affordable health care for all.  Nor were women’s issues, such as equal pay for equal work, mentioned.  Indeed, with the exception of Trump’s comment about women being mistreated by the Muslim world, women’s issues simply didn’t exist, not in this debate and not in most of the others.  Indeed, my wife turned to me during a previous Republican debate and said, “Not one of these guys cares one whit about women’s issues — they’re offering us nothing.”

And on that sad yet telling note, I’ll end.



13 thoughts on “The Bizarre and Scary World of Republicans

  1. “His [President Obama’s] forthcoming trip to Cuba represents a capitulation to communism.”

    Sounds like You-Know-Her doing a red-baiting Richard Nixon or Tail-gunner Joe McCarthy number on Senator Bernie Sanders at the most recent Democratic Party debate in Florida. It seems that Senator Sanders, while mayor of Burlington, Vermont, made some favorable comments about certain aspects of Cuban governance back in 1989 (like universal health care and widespread literacy, etc). The “blacker than Obama” Goldwater Girl seems to have something of a schizophrenic pandering problem when it comes to the right-wing Cuban exhiles who never vote Democratic but somehow seem to obsess the right-wing Clintons with their implacable anti-communism — at least when it comes to Cuba. Cheap-labor “communist” China and Vietnam? not so much.

    For a moment there, I half-expected You-Know-Her to appear on stage with the four Republican pretenders, masterfully schooling them in the proper techniques of savaging liberal positions — a Clinton specialty.

    One way or another, the ruling corporate oligarchy will get the political puppet they demand, either one calling himself a “Republican” or one calling herself a “Democrat.” President Obama’s [and Secretary of State John Kerry’s] fledgling steps toward thawing of relations with Cuba represent probably the only foreign policy success of the Obama presidency other than the six-nation deal over nuclear issues with Iran. That Florida Cubans and Florida Jews vociferously condemn Obama and Kerry for both achievements should matter not at all, but You-Know-Her would have us think differently. She really belongs in the other party. Why the Democratic Party tolerates her and her right-wing proclivities I will never understand.

    But again, the Repubilcans will win either way, either in their own name or in hers.


      1. Thanks for the link, Bill. I hadn’t gotten around to that particular article by Glenn Greenwald, but now that I’ve gone over it, I find nothing surprising that I didn’t already know.

        Although born in Portland, Oregon in 1947, I grew up and worked for many years in arch-reactionary Orange County, California, surrounded by far-right Republicans and their bitter condemnations of Democrats as “communist fellow travelers,” et cetera. Listening to You-Know-Her pathetically pandering to the Cuban exile community in Florida surprises me not one bit. She has no problem whatsoever with “brutal dictators,” as long as the ruling corporate oligarchy finds them good for business and generous political contributors. She even seems not to realize how many times the current U.S. President has brutally murdered or viciously persecuted both foreigners and American citizens of whom he did not approve for reasons too “secret” to share with us common citizens. So we most certainly cannot credit You-Know-Her with much in the way of disinterested self-awareness.

        Still, the Democratic Party has pretty much stacked the deck against any challenge to You-Know-Her. Therefore, as the votes come in, state by state, under prevailing party rules, the mathematics do not look promising for Senator Bernie Sanders and his unsatisfied, idealistic followers. As the late Sheldon Wolin pointed out, the Democratic Party exists to dismay and discourage working-class and anti-war Americans so that they will pose no inconvenient challenge to the Republicans and the ruling corporate oligarcy that owns and operates nearly every American politician. You-Know-Her, the Candidate of Can’t, certainly seems well disposed to dismay and discourage any truly democratic challenge to America’s militaristic empire. In a contest between You-Know-Her and Donald Trump, one really has to wonder which would prove the more disastrous for America and the world. If only we could vote for and elect “none of the above.”


      2. as Michael said: thank you for the link … sometimes I’m not sure which is more troublesome: a Trump Presidency or a[nother] Clinton Presidency


    1. Robert Kagan feels comfortable with Clinton. I guess it is a win-win situation for the Republican extremists.


      1. Robert Kagan wrote an article in one of the Washington papers critical of President Obama, and Obama promptly invited Mr Kagan to the White House to soothe his ruffled neocon feathers. And as Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, still works for the U.S. State Department after helping to foment a fascist coup in Ukraine, I’d say that both You-Know-Her and President Obama find the neocon power couple at least comfortable, if not inspiring. A win-win for both kinds of right-wing extremists: Republican and Democrat.


  2. Another “power couple” Obama charmed himself with is the neocon (she might say “liberal interventionist”) Samantha Power and her husband Cass Sunstein. Sunstein is a “cognitive infiltrator,” which is his fancy way of not using the strait forward term “thought policeman” extraordinaire. Harvard puts forth some beauties.


  3. after last night in Chicago and today in Dayton, I’m almost wondering if this is karma for 1968? or worse, 1932 … Trump or Hillary, Hitler or Hindenberg? but then, we’ve brought this mess upon ourselves over the years, more’s the pity, as evidenced by the leaders we’ve chosen and the way our society has evolved into a “zero-sum game” of who has more than the other guy

    I’m reminded of a comment near the end of one of the early Clinton/Sanders exchanges, when Clinton – in response to how well some of Sanders’ idea were working in Scandinavia, declared that “this isn’t Sweden, this is America” (to an expected thundering round of applause from the DNC-picked crowd) … it was then, of course, that my own thought was “well, maybe that’s the problem right there”

    I’m still a bit feather-ruffled that Warren never endorsed Sanders, esp the time prior to the MA primary, and certainly seeing more Green Party in the basic idea of “secular humanism” … and yes, Bobby Jindal was far worse for Louisiana than Hurricane Katrina (and it’s not even close), but that’s just Bobby driving the state to bankruptcy: Rubio would deny human involvement with climate change long past the day when FLA and LA underwater, because (in his words, as pointed out by Tom Toles) “I have long supported mitigation efforts, but as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there’s no such thing” … Marco Rubio, the wannabe who doesn’t know the difference between weather and climate, how promising for the coastlines of Earth (Rubio also pointed out, and rightly, that “America is not a planet” … proof that his understanding of geophysical and geopolitical concepts are at a dangerously low threshold of expectations for “the world’s most powerful elected position”)


    1. I love that quote from You-Know-Her: ““this isn’t Sweden, this is America.” It reminds me so much of my days at counter-insurgency school back in 1969, when we had to read Bernard Fall and other experts on the disastrous French experience in Vietnam. We would ask: “Why do we keep doing this stuff year after year when none of it worked for the French?” Our instructors would smugly answer: “Well, we’re not the French.”

      A year later, after my deployment to the now-defunct Republic of South Vietnam, I had occasion to come across something a Vietnamese said in comparing the Americans and the French in his country: “The Americans have more helicopters.”

      Still more years later, after I had gotten out of the U.S. military and the U.S. military had hauled ass out of Vietnam, I came across another comment by a Vietnamese compariing the Amerians and the Soviets who has started docking their ships at Cam Ranh Bay, my first in-country duty station back in 1970. “The Russians are like the Americans,” he said, “only without the money.”

      Looking back on all this mind-bogglingly stupid American militarisism and its likely extension into the foreseeable future, it occurs to me that the Republican rabble running for President of the United States might know even less than You-Know-Her about the world in which we live, but as Mark Twain said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” The Republicans can’t seem to help looking dangerously ignorant but proud of it. You-Know-Her has had plenty of time to learn on the job, but has chosen not to. This, in the United States, constitutes a “choice”?


      1. Well put, Mike. I’m reading Halberstam’s book, “Quagmire,” from his early days in Vietnam prior to the coup against Diem. Same sentiments back then. The French lost, but Americans are tougher … we will win.

        No, but America was richer, which helped them to drag out the tragedy for another ten years after Halberstam published his book (1965).


  4. Human action DOESN’T have any significant impact on global warming, so Rubio’s statement was a highlight. And the fact that the Rs didn’t discuss what’s on the D menu is another plus.


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