Don’t Vote for the Person You Believe In!

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Feel the Bern

W.J. Astore

The corporate-owned media is at it again, urging Democrats to vote for a sensible centrist like Joe Biden.  According to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post:

“Warren is a much bigger risk for Democrats (and the survival of our democracy) than is Biden. There may be candidates who could, if they managed to rise to the top of the Democratic polls and win nomination, be as competitive as Biden, but Warren and Sanders fail to attract a chunk of voters that Biden grabs, and by the way they are campaigning, they are unlikely to remedy that deficit.”

Poor Elizabeth Warren.  Not only is she a “bigger risk for Democrats.”  Her very emergence as a contender imperils “the survival of our democracy.”  And I thought a Trump presidency was bad!

Unsurprisingly, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is against Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressives.  Bezos loves his billions and doesn’t wish to share them with anyone.  Taxes, after all, are for the little people, not for the mega-billionaire owner of Amazon.

It’s amazing how the mainstream media peddles the same narrative election cycle after election cycle.  Democrats are always told to reject “radical” or “extreme” politicians like Warren and Sanders, even though Warren is a former Republican and Bernie is basically FDR-lite.  Instead, Democrats are supposed to embrace the “sensible centrist,” someone like Joe Biden, who is basically a corporate hack who will run and rule as an Eisenhower Republican (just as Barack Obama did, as he himself admitted in an interview).

It’s funny how the “radical” Republicans got their man (Donald Trump), but Democrats are advised to reject “radical” candidates who promise them better health care, student loan debt relief, taxpayer-subsidized college education, affordable housing, and the like.  That’s crazy talk!  You can’t have your man (or woman), progressives.  You need to vote for solid old Joe Biden, or Milquetoast Mayor Pete, or someone similar who’s “safe” and “moderate” in their views.

What arrant nonsense.  We need to vote for the man or woman we believe in.  The one who excites us.  The one who stands for what we believe in.

For me, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight

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Tulsi Gabbard’s promotion to major

W.J. Astore

Donald Trump attended a high school military academy.  But when the Vietnam War came calling, he developed heel spurs that kept him out of the military.  In the case of Joe Biden, it was asthma that kept him on the sidelines of that war.  Dick Cheney had multiple student deferments and “higher priorities” than serving, as he put it.  George W. Bush got a safe spot in the Texas Air National Guard.  John Kerry, ironically, did serve in the military during Vietnam but famously turned against that war.  His service was “Swift-boated” into infamy even as Bush/Cheney were being applauded by some for their alleged toughness.

When it comes to service in the military, U.S. politicians typically vote with their feet, meaning they double-time away from joining the ranks.  This is nothing new, of course.  During the U.S. Civil War, the rich could pay for substitutes if they were drafted.  When it comes to war, it’s very often a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.

Interestingly, there are two Democratic candidates who are veterans of America’s most recent wars: Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.  According to his website, Mayor Pete “served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and took an unpaid seven-month leave during his mayoral term to deploy to Afghanistan. For his counterterrorism work, he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal.”  Sounds impressive, yet a “joint service commendation medal” is a standard-issue medal for any company-grade officer who completes such an assignment without screwing up in a major way.  It’s a little like a participation trophy in a Little League tournament.

Despite Mayor Pete’s fairly limited military experience, his web site boasts that if he’s elected president, he’ll take office with the most military experience since George H.W. Bush, who served in the U.S. Navy in combat during World War II.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s military record is far more extensive than Mayor Pete’s.  She joined the Army National Guard soon after 9/11 and deployed to Iraq during some of the most bitter fighting in that country.  She’s currently a major in the Guard and has spoken extensively about how her military service informs her positions against wasteful, regime-change, wars.  According to her web site, “Having experienced first-hand the true cost of war, Tulsi made a personal vow to find a way to ensure that our country doesn’t continue repeating the mistakes of the past, sending our troops into war without a clear mission, strategy, or purpose.”

Tonight, there’s yet another Democratic debate featuring Mayor Pete as well as Congresswoman Gabbard.  It will be interesting to see if they’re called on specifically for their views on military issues, such as Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria.

In fact, I’d like to hear the views of all twelve Democrats on that stage tonight on the question of America’s forever wars, and why these wars have illustrated that old story of war being in the service of the rich even as the poor pay the ultimate price.  Given America’s supine Congress, our presidents have enormous power over life and death in making war across the globe.  When are we going to rein that power in?  When are we going to stop fighting foolish and destructive wars that have nothing to do with safeguarding America?

Until we honestly — even ruthlessly — address these questions, America will continue to witness generational wars for the rich fought by the poor.

Democratic Candidates for President in 2020

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Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders: Change We Can Believe In

W.J. Astore

Yes, it’s much too early, but I count at least fourteen Democratic candidates for president in the 2020 election.  Here are a few impressionistic words on each of the candidates.

The True Progressives

1.  Bernie Sanders: Bernie is principled, sincere, honest, and dedicated to helping working people.  Yes, he’s a “Democratic socialist,” which is scary to the mainstream media.  The establishment of the Democratic Party is against him.  Advantage, Bernie.

2.  Elizabeth Warren: She identifies as a “capitalist,” but she’s proven she’s willing to take on Wall Street, the big banks, and other special interests.  She’s intelligent, sharp, and committed.  Her weakness: a lack of charisma and the whole “Pocahontas” angle, i.e. her identifying as Native American on past occasions.

3.  Tulsi Gabbard: A military veteran who’s strongly against regime-change wars, a vocal critic of the military-industrial complex, Tulsi has demonstrated poise, thoughtfulness, and coolness under pressure.  The DNC and media are against her because she’s independent-minded and refuses to bow down before special interests.  A dark horse candidate who may catch fire.  (I’m so excited I’m mixing metaphors.)

The Usual Suspects (Milquetoast Centrists)

1. Cory Booker: A water-bearer for Big Pharma, Booker has a pleasant demeanor but takes few chances.

2.  Kamala Harris: A former prosecutor, Harris seems to love prisons more than schools.

3.  Kirsten Gillibrand: Rumor has it she asked her friends on Wall Street whether it was OK for her to run.  They apparently said “yes,” so she announced her formal candidacy today.

4.  Amy Klobuchar: Already with a sad reputation for abusing her staff and making ill-judged jokes about it, Klobuchar is an uninspiring centrist.

5.  Beto O’Rourke: A millionaire who married a woman who will apparently inherit billions, Beto showed up in Iowa speaking in platitudes about the wonders of democracy in the USA.  His only firm principle is that he believes he deserves to be in the race, perhaps because he looks a little like a Kennedy if you squint really hard.

The Governors

1.  John Hickenlooper: A governor from Colorado, Hickenlooper made his money by opening a micro-brewery.  At a campaign appearance in Iowa, somebody broke a glass, and he helped to clean it up.  Though he was afraid to say he was a “capitalist” on TV, Hickenlooper may have some potential.

2.  Jay Inslee: Governor of Washington State, he’s made fighting climate change the central issue of his campaign.  He’s got one of the big issues right, so advantage to Inslee.

Wild Cards and Also-Rans

1.  Andrew Yang: A former venture capitalist and unconventional thinker, Yang has caught people’s attention by talking about a guaranteed income for all.  A possible anti-Trump in the sense he’s a successful financier with brains and heart.

2.  Pete Buttigieg: A gay mayor who’s also a veteran, Buttigieg got some air time recently by referring to Trump as a “porn president.”  Comes across like a young Mr. Rogers.

3.  Julian Castro: Formerly Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama.  And that’s all I know.

4.  John Delaney: I just saw his name today.  The end.

The Ultimate Centrist and Establishment Man

1. Joe Biden: Hasn’t yet announced, but it looks like he will.  The presumed front-runner based on name recognition and his loyal service as Obama’s VP for eight years.  Will have the full support of the mainstream media, the DNC, and the Washington establishment.  A decent-enough man, Biden is effectively a moderate Republican.

Bracing Views, in all its power, fully supports Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, real progressives who want to effect real change.

Which candidates do you like, readers?  And which ones don’t you like?  Look forward to your comments!

Update (3/19/19): Apparently two more candidates are waiting in the wings: Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum.  Both are candidates of color who recently ran close but unsuccessful races in Georgia and Florida.  Perhaps not presidential material (due to lack of experience on the national stage), they may emerge as strong candidates for a VP slot.

abramsgillum

The Clintons: So Many Masks

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Scheming, secretive, Machiavellian: birds of a feather

W.J. Astore

As Donald Trump continues to implode, it’s worthwhile considering how he even has a chance at the presidency.  It’s quite simple, actually: Americans don’t trust the Clintons, and rightly so. Why? Because the Clintons, in their quest for office, try to be all things to all people. Even as they talk about the poorest Americans and economic fairness, for example, they’re promising to make special deals for the richest and special trade deals (open trade borders for all!). Even as they criticize Wall Street they praise bankers and the financial elite behind closed doors (cashing-in big-time for these speeches). Even as they talk about the environment and global warning, they praise fracking and the fossil fuel industry.

What do the Clintons really believe?  Like many politicians, they ultimately believe in themselves, in their own quest for power, a quest in which virtually all tactics are justified. In which you can don any mask depending on that day’s audience and performance.

But if you’re all things to all people, you’re basically nothing to no one.  Put differently, if you’ve worn so many different masks for so many audiences, which face is the real you?

Trump’s followers embrace him in part because they think they know where he stands. He’s willing to say unpopular things.  As loutish and crass and ignorant as Trump is, he’s not always holding a finger up to test the political winds.  He’s not always currying favor with (and favors from) established elites.  He may be bad, but he’s genuinely bad.

The Clintons?  The word “genuine” just doesn’t apply.  Words like “scheming” and “secretive” and “Machiavellian,” however, do.

Small wonder that Hillary Clinton is such great friends with Henry Kissinger!

Does Trump Really Want to be President?

Trump holds a rally with supporters at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, U.S.
Throwing the presidency?  Or crazy like a fox?

W.J. Astore

Is Trump trying to lose?

It’s a serious question, and I’m not the first to ask it.  Michael Moore wrote an intriguing article that suggested Trump was deliberately trying to sabotage his own campaign.

Trump is seemingly doing his best to alienate everyone but white males driven by testosterone.  Today, he suggested that military veterans who suffer from PTSD do so because of their own failings, i.e. that they simply can’t handle what stronger veterans can handle.  Add this (careless? ignorant?) statement to attacks on a Gold Star mother, the denigration of John McCain’s military service and time as a POW, and all the other attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, even an entire gender (his high school locker room mentality when he talks about women), and you have to wonder how such behavior could possibly be part of a winning strategy.

Why would Trump want to be president?  To him, the salary is vanishingly low, and the workload incredibly high.  Sure, being president would feed his ego, but Trump is mainly driven by capitalist greed and the celebration of his own magnificence.  Being president is burdensome.  It can be tedious, even boring.  It requires discipline.  Self-control.  These are realities that don’t play to Trump’s strengths.

Trump is a showman.  A braggart.  A strutter.  He’s thinks of himself as the biggest fish in the smallest pond.  He seems to delight in thrashing around and upsetting all the little fish.  But he’ll have precious little chance of doing this if he’s shackled to the Oval Office and all the responsibilities that office entails.

One thing is certain: Trump is rewriting all the rules of U.S. presidential politics.  It’s hard to keep track of the constituencies he’s offended, the bridges he’s burned, the leaders he’s estranged.  That he can still win it all is incredible: indeed, it may be incredible even to Trump.

Trump, I believe, would personally profit far more from losing the “rigged” election than winning it.  If he loses, he becomes a martyr, at least in the minds of his followers.  He can build a Trump Network/conglomerate that taps all the voters he’s rallied — and riled.  He can milk them for all the money they’re worth, and bask in their adulation while being unencumbered by the real responsibilities of holding public office.

By losing, in other words, he’ll really be winning.  Between now and the election, look for more outrageous statements by and from Trump.  He already knows he can say or do almost anything without losing his core supporters.  (As he himself boasted, he could shoot someone in cold blood in New York City and his loyal followers wouldn’t blink.)

Look for him to lose in November as well.  And then look for him to clean up — big-time.

 

Dump Chump Trump

The Donald: Easy to make fun of ... too easy
What a chump

W.J. Astore

What kind of a presidential candidate tweets in the middle of the night about alleged sex tapes involving a former Miss Universe winner?  Indeed, what kind of a man does this?

Donald Trump is a chump.  I’d call him a chimp, except it would be an insult to chimpanzees everywhere.  The man has no discipline, no sense of decorum, and no compassion for others (let’s not forget his signature line, “You’re fired”).  Indeed, he seems to revel in humiliating others.  This was mildly amusing when he was taking on equals on the stage during the Republican primaries, but it’s disturbing in the extreme to see him bullying the little guys and gals for whom he’s supposedly a champion.

So many sane people and major newspapers have gone on record as being against Trump that there’s little I can add.  Sadly, Trump’s followers seem unperturbed and undisturbed no matter his insults and tyrannical behavior.

All I can say is this: Trump is not the kind of man my father taught me to be.  My dad, who fought forest fires in Oregon in the CCC, a veteran of an armored division in World War II, a city firefighter for more than 30 years until his retirement, treated people fairly and squarely. He was humble about himself and considerate to others.  I can’t recall him insulting others, certainly not in the intentional and hurtful way that Trump directs at others.  Trump is especially fond of attacking women or minorities or anyone he sees as vulnerable, the very opposite of my dad’s code of behavior.

Don’t get me wrong: my dad wasn’t perfect.  He had his faults.  But his faults were not directed at others; he didn’t try to demean or diminish other people, as Trump so obviously enjoys doing.  Unlike Trump, my dad wasn’t boastful; indeed, three favorite sayings of his were: “Still waters run deep,” “Don’t toot your own horn,” and “The empty barrel makes the most noise.”

You were right, Dad.  The rushing nonsense from Trump exhibits his shallowness; the man is constantly tweeting his own horn; and, like the empty vessel that he is, he makes an awful amount of noise.

Trump: Not the kind of man my father would respect; not the kind of man our country needs. Dump chump Trump.

The Bull, not the Eagle, Is the New Symbol of U.S. Foreign Policy

Send in the bombers! A "strange love" indeed
Send in the bombers! A “strange love” indeed

W.J. Astore

One of the first acronyms I learned in the military was KISS.  No, not the heavy metal band.  No, nothing romantic either.  It stands for “keep it simple, stupid.”  The lesson: don’t think too much.  That leads to “analysis paralysis.” Be decisive!  Act, if need be, with extreme prejudice, a preference expressed vulgarly as “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.”

It’s a preference readily expressed by the current crop of political candidates for commander-in-chief.  With the possible exceptions of Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, all are slavering for a chance to bomb the bastards back to the Stone Age.  Like the young macho fools in the movie “Boiler Room,” they all want to wield their (fantasy) big swinging dicks.  They’re all budding Curtis LeMays, cigar-chomping bulls in a china shop.

Indeed, the bull rather than the eagle should be the symbol of American foreign policy.  Always charging off to foreign lands, always striving to gore anyone within reach of its horns, all in the name of being decisive, of showing that “America means business” (and not just on Wall Street).

To this season’s peculiar electoral crop of presidential candidates, it looks remarkably easy to win wars. Just bomb the bastards!  Teach them not to mess with Team USA.  Heck, I’m sure it looked easy to the political hacks of London in 1775 as they faced a perceived terrorist threat in a faraway land.  Just send some “special ops” Redcoats supported by Hessian mercenaries (boots on the ground!) to teach those New England terrorists a lesson. Use superior technology (in this case, gunboats) to bombard their rebellious cities (like Boston).  Never mind civilian casualties – a show of force will show the bastards who’s boss.

At least the British had enough sense to cut their losses after six years of bungling that ended at Yorktown (1781).  The U.S. today just keeps sending more troops and more money and more bombs overseas, each time expecting victory instead of the destruction and chaos that characterized previous misadventures (Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria …).

American foreign policy: It’s become like a bull in the ring, snorting, pawing at the ground, racing madly at red capes.  Each time it thinks it’s going to get that cape – until it ends up impaled on the toreador’s sword.