Republicans Are Scaring Me Again

debate
Kasich, Bush, Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Carson, Christie (left to right)

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican Presidential Debate from New Hampshire.  And then I slept poorly.  John Kasich and a subdued Ben Carson excepted, all of the candidates were determined to frighten me and mine.  As they shouted and gesticulated, I wrote down some of their words and some of the thoughts and feelings they generated.  It went something like this:

We’re in danger!  Obama’s gutting our military!  Muslims are shouting “death to America”!  China!  America is weak!  We must build a HUGE WALL to keep out illegals! Abortion is murder!  Take their oil!  Chopping heads!  Dying in the street! Waterboarding isn’t torture, which doesn’t matter, because we need more torture!  Respect the police! People need to fear us again!  We don’t win — we need to win again!  Iranian and North Korean nukes!  America must get back in the game and be strong!  Tough!  Win!

Well, you get the picture.  The prize for most obscene statement of the night (among a wealth of obscene statements) was Ted Cruz’s claim that America’s possession of overwhelming airpower — its ability to carpet bomb enemies into oblivion — is a blessing.  A blessing — I’m assuming he meant from God, not the Dark One, but who knows?

My wife’s impression?  She said the candidates reminded her of low-blow fighters, or teenage boys in high school.

It’s simple, really: If you want more bombing, more killing, more war, more torture, more police, more walls, and lower taxes on corporations (yes — that came up too), vote Republican in November.

My nightmare scenario: this is exactly the vision Marco Rubio had in mind when he repeatedly called America “the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

 

The Republican Alternate Universe of Paranoia

repubdebate-162-master675
Paranoia will destroy ya

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican debate so you wouldn’t have to.  Leaving aside the usual mugging by Donald Trump, the usual jousting over side issues like whether Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen, I thought I’d take an impressionistic approach to the debate.  You can read the debate transcript here (if you dare), but here is my admittedly personal take on the main messages of the debate.

  1. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are coming to take your guns. So you need to elect a Republican who will allow you to keep your guns and to buy many, many more guns while carrying them openly in public.
  2. Related to (1), ISIS is coming to these shores. In fact, they’re already here.  That’s one big reason why everyone needs guns – to protect ourselves from ISIS and other terrorists out to kill Americans on Main Street USA.
  3. America is weak. Obama has gutted our military.  The Iranians and Russians laugh at us.  To stop them from laughing, America needs to rebuild its military, buy more weapons, and use them freely.  In fact, all the next commander-in-chief needs to do is ask military leaders what they need to win, give them exactly that, then stand back as our military (especially Special Ops troops) kicks ass.  Victory!
  4. America is weak (again), this time economically. The Chinese are kicking our ass.  They’re tougher than us and smarter than us.  We need to teach them who’s boss, perhaps with a big tariff on Chinese imports, combined with intense pressure on them to revalue their currency.
  5. The American tax system is unfair to corporations. We need to lower corporate tax rates so that American companies won’t relocate, and also so that American businesses will be more competitive vis-à-vis foreign competitors.
  6. The most oppressed “minority” in the U.S. are not Blacks or Hispanics or the poor: it’s the police. Yes, the police.  They are mistreated and disrespected.  Americans need to recognize the police are there to protect them and to defer to them accordingly.
  7. The only amendment worth citing in the U.S. Constitution is the Second Amendment.
  8. The National Security Agency, along with all the other intelligence agencies in America, need to be given more power, not less. They need broad and sweeping surveillance powers to keep America safe.  Privacy issues and the Fourth Amendment can be ignored.  People like Edward Snowden are traitors. “Safety” is everything.
  9. Bernie Sanders is a joke. Hillary Clinton just might be the anti-Christ.
  10. Immigrants are a threat, especially if they’re Muslim. They must be kept out of America so that they don’t steal American jobs and/or kill us all.

What I didn’t hear: Anything about the poor, or true minorities, or gender inequities, or the dangers of more war, and so on.

My main takeaway from this debate: Republican candidates live in the United States of Paranoia, a hostile land in which fear rules.  Think “Mad Max, Fury Road,” but without any tough females about.  (I have to admit I missed Carly Fiorina/Imperator Furiosa on the main stage.)

Only one candidate struck a few tentative notes of accord through bipartisan collaboration and compromise: Ohio governor John Kasich.  In his closing statement, he spoke eloquently of his parents’ working-class background.  He’s also the only candidate with the guts not to wear the by-now obligatory flag lapel pin.  I’m not a Republican, but if I had to vote for one, it would be him.  Why?  Because he’s the least batshit crazy of the bunch.

Yes, it was a depressing night, one spent in an alternate universe detached from reality.  In the end, old song lyrics popped into my head: “paranoia will destroy ya.”  Yes, yes it will, America.

Republican Presidential Candidates Are Scaring Me

Please, God, make him stop
Please, God, make him stop

W.J. Astore

Yes, I know Republican candidates for president are currently feeding “red meat” to the base, a base that consists of evangelical Christians who vote in the primaries come hell or high water.  But the rhetoric used recently by Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee is more rancid than red meat. And it’s dangerous.

Jeb Bush is supposedly the more centrist candidate.  Yet according to “centrist” Jeb, the federal government under Obama has adopted an “aggressive stance” against religious freedom.  The solution for Bush is to revive the “Christian voice,” which he claims isn’t being heard enough in America.

So: to enhance religious freedom in America, we need to amplify the voices of Christians?  Excuse me for seeing a slight contradiction here.

Mike Huckabee, of course, is a minister as well as a politician, so he is used to speaking with forked tongue.  As he announced his candidacy, Huckabee claimed that Obama had not been active enough against Muslim jihadists.  The answer, in his words, was simple:

“As president,” said Huckabee, “I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism, we will conquer it!”

Super!  The answer to Muslim extremism is a conquering crusade against it, led by a Baptist minister as president!

Did I just slip back 800 years into the past?  Well, there’s nothing like a religious crusade to calm the waters of worldwide strife.

Few thinking Americans will be hornswoggled by such rhetorical nonsense (or so I hope).  But rhetoric has a way of becoming reality.

Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and all the other “committed” Christians in the Republican Party put me to mind of one of Christ’s teachings in the New Testament:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5 KJV)

So I have a humble request to make, Republicans: Stop talking about religion on the street corner.  Stop boasting about how you’re going to fight your own jihad.  Start trying to live a truly moral life.  You might start with humility and compassion, both becoming in a true candidate of the people.

And, if you please, stop scaring me.

Update (10:00PM): A reader sent me this image.  It’s hilarious — and frightening.

unnamed

Republicans and Fear

 

PFC Jones with Mine-Detector. Want to talk about fear?
PFC Jones with Mine-Detector. Want to talk about fear?

W.J. Astore

Why, looky here, another article in the New York Times that examines the Republican “hawks” posturing for a presidential run in 2016.  As the article blurb states, “Republicans are scrambling to outmuscle one another on national security issues.”  It’s all about looking tough and calling for more boots on the ground in battles against ISIS and terror everywhere.

Here’s the money quote:

“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, noting that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had become a regular topic of discussion at his regular breakfast spot in Columbia, the Lizard’s Thicket. “The waitresses and managers and everybody there has a notion about ISIL. People understand who this group is now.”

I should think the waitresses at “Lizard’s Thicket” would be more fearful of paying their weekly and monthly bills, given the low wages earned by wait staff in America.  Or that they and their customers would be more fearful of their sons and daughters in uniform being deployed to Iraq to showcase those “muscles” that Republican politicians are always trying to flex.  (Don’t worry: No politicians, Republican or Democrat, are eager to send their own sons and daughters overseas to fight.)

Once again, Republican politicians are banging the drums of fear – and as my dad always said, the empty barrel makes the most noise.  The music is as tragic as it is predictable: endless war in the name of looking tough and defeating terror.  And anyone who dares to suggest the folly of this risks being tarred as an appeaser to ISIS and its ilk.

What burns my butt is that none of these blowhard politicians has any skin in the game.  They risk nothing in bleating for war.  It’s not their sons and daughters who are being deployed to the front lines.

The other day, I was talking to a young woman at my eye doctor’s office.  Her brother is in the Army.  She told me he’s an EOD, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist.  A risky job, I said, to which she replied, “He volunteered for the extra money,” money that the Army has yet to pay him.  He’s got a four-year commitment and is due to be deployed after his training is completed.

So, as they seek to “outmuscle” their political rivals, how many politicians’ sons are in the Army right now, training for EOD duty and risking their lives for the extra money that comes with this hazardous duty?  My educated guess: none.  Absolutely none.

It’s easy to flex (and to risk) the muscles of others, America.  Stop listening to politicians and their fear-mongering.  No foreign terrorist is coming to get you as you enjoy your coffee and hash browns at “Lizard’s Thicket.”  No – the biggest risk is blowhard politicians who are so, so, eager to send your sons and daughters off to yet more wars in the cause of outmuscling their rivals for political office.

Conservative Kookiness in Iowa

Scott Walker serves up some red meat
Scott Walker serves up some red meat

W.J. Astore

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

So we know Republicans are supposedly for lower taxes, smaller government, and family values.  What else are they for? Abortion, of course, as in restricting it further or even eliminating it.  Voter ID laws, because we all know how the “wrong” kind of people are being bussed in en masse to skew voting results in favor of socialism (talk about an urban myth!).  And more gun rights, like open carry laws and easier approval for concealed permits to carry.

Egads!  These are the issues that sway the activist base of the Republican Party?  Fetuses, the specter of more disadvantaged people of color voting, and guns.

Wow.  Our country faces serious issues.  A crumbling infrastructure.  An unsustainable prison system.  Perpetual wars.  Climate change (even Republicans admit it’s real, though they won’t blame humans for it).  Ever widening gaps between rich and poor.  Student loan and credit card debt that threaten a fragile economic recovery.  Mediocre education.  Ever rising health care costs (still the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in America).  But forget all that: let’s talk about fetuses, non-existent voter fraud, and guns.

And Republicans like Santorum wonder why “too many people don’t think we care about them.”  Gee… I wonder why, Rick.

(A personal note: In 1976, though too young to vote, I supported Gerald Ford rather than Jimmy Carter.  In 1984, I voted for Ronald Reagan because I believed Walter Mondale lacked the gravitas to be president at a crucial moment in US-Soviet affairs.  Ever since then, the Republican Party has lost me with its cynical culture wars and active suppression of democracy, among other reasons.)