Tagged: Paul Ryan

John Ostrander: Pop Culture Politics

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“Chicago is not the most corrupt American city, it’s the most theatrically corrupt.” Studs Terkel.

Seducation of the GUnWith due respect (and a lot of it) for the late, great Studs Terkel, I think the Chicago city council has been supplanted by the Congress of the United States for political theater and corruption. As an old Chicago boy and fan of political theater, I was fascinated this week as the Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a sit-in in the well of the House, led by the venerable civil rights leader (and graphic novel author) John Lewis, to protest the refusal of the Republican leadership to even permit a vote on two very small and very specific gun control issues.

House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the sit-in as a “publicity stunt.” Well, duh. That’s what a sit-in is, a publicity stunt to draw attention to a specific problem. Ryan himself has done a fair share of publicity stunts so I don’t know what his problem is. It’s all part of political theater.

I think there was more to the Democrats’ ploy that a mere desire to shine C-Span’s cameras on themselves. It was triggered by the shooting in Orlando at the gay nightclub that left 49 dead and 52 wounded. The House had its moment of silence to honor the dead for the 16th time of these type of events and that was going to be it. No gun control legislation was going to be even brought up for a vote, let alone passed, and the Dems snapped. They protested, they staged a sit-in to dramatize the situation and they got attention.

Why didn’t the GOP leadership simply allow a vote? I have my own theories. I doubt that the Dems would have allowed a simple voice vote; it would be a roll call and each representative would have to be tagged as they voted. For the GOP, atsa no good. Estimates say that 90% of the electorate are in favor of simple gun control measures so the representatives who voted against it would have to justify that vote to displeased voters.

They also don’t want to vote for any gun control measures. The National Rifle Association gives good money to Congresspersons to keep that from happening and they have issued stern warnings of what they would do to any Congressperson who did vote for gun control legislation – any gun control legislation. Translation: we’ll pour money into the campaign of someone to unseat you. We will make sure you lose your job. This is more important to them than doing their job. More than ever, Mel Brooks’ line in Blazing Saddles as the governor of the state resonates: “Gentlemen, we must protect our phony baloney jobs.”

Not to say that the Dems were completely in the right. One of the simple measures was “no fly, no buy” – meaning that if you are or were on a no-fly list (and thus, presumably, suspected of terrorist ties) at any time, you should not be allowed to buy a gun. However, I watched Larry Wilmore on The Nightly Show voice his problems with that. He has some of the same problems that the ACLU has – it’s too easy to get on the list, too little evidence has to be shown, it’s too hard to clear yourself and get off the list, it appears to unfairly target people of color, and it violates Constitutional freedoms including the right to due process.

It’s too bad because “No fly, no buy” is the sort of simplistic jingoistic catch phrase that works so well with the American public. We don’t do well with more nuanced declarations. Easy to say, easy to remember, and you don’t have to think. That’s ‘Murrica right there, that’s what that is.

To my mind, however, the real issue is not the specific legislation but the larger issue of how no meaningful gun regulation is possible because the NRA won’t hear of it. That’s the underlying frustration that led to the sit-in. Even though 90% of Americans want some kind of laws passed (according to many polls), they can’t even get discussed in the House and they sure won’t get passed in the Senate.

Just keep in mind that this Congressional version of Big Brother has one thing in common with the TV show – in the fall, they can get voted out.

Mindy Newell: Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

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“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the

country. They love anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my

my numbers would be terrific.” – Donald Trump, People Magazine, 1998

“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” – Benito Mussolini

Perhaps this is “bad business,” but before you do anything else, I want all of you to go over to Michael Davis World – yes, that Michael Davis, who happens to be my loooong time friend and fellow ComicMix columnist – and read Martha Thomases’s latest piece, entitled “Trump Card.” Then sit and think. Then read it again.

Then be afraid. Be very afraid.

I know I don’t often get political – oh, c’mon, who the hell do I think I’m kidding? – but this time I have to tell you that I am more consumed with fear for this country than even when the Bush administration sold the American public a bill of goods, the Brooklyn Bridge, a mule they swore was a horse, and lied us into the Iraq War. Which, if you understand history and current events, you’ll be able to follow the timeline that has brought us to the cliff on the edge of the abyss that is Donald Trump.

Ronald Reagan was called the “Teflon President,” but never in all my life have I seen a truer description of the “Baby Man,” as Jon Stewart calls the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate – no matter what he says, no matter what he does, no matter what is revealed, nothing touches Trump; criticism and truth slides off of him the way a well-cooked omelet slides out of a sauté pan, be it insults, lies, racial slurs, gender insults, religious attacks, or back-tracking.

No matter what they have previously stated on the record about never endorsing Trump, just about every Republican still in office or up for re-election in the fall is falling into line behind him, forgetting their oath to this country to protect it “against all enemies, “foreign and domestic.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hems and haws and hems and haws, and I am actually disappointed in the man. Although I am unlikely to ever agree with his policies, there is no denying that Mr. Ryan is not stupid. But instead of having the balls to stand up and say “there is no way I am ever going to endorse this guy, there is no way this phony in an expensive suit is suitable for the office of the President of the United States, there is no place for a loose cannon like Donald Trump in the White House,” Mr. Ryan, like too many of his fellows, looks only to his own future. He could have simply laughed at the suggestion that Trump will fire him from the position of Speaker of the House if Ryan doesn’t go along with him – that alone shows how ignorant Donald Trump is about the workings of our government, as the Speaker of the House is not a contestant on “The Apprentice,” and cannot be fired by the President. He can only be fired by his fellow Republicans in the House… if they maintain the majority in the November election.

There are Republicans currently in office who are refusing to support Trump:

John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) being the two biggest names, though both claim it is because he does not have “conservative bona fides.” Of course McCain is obviously worried about the Hispanic and Latino vote in Arizona, as he’s running for re-election in his Latino-heavy state. Hey, while I’d rather hear them both say it’s because he’s a loon, I’ll take it. However, there are more conscientious Representatives and Senators out there:

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) loses points because he is planning to retire at the end of his current term, but he did send a letter out to his supporters which urged them to vote for anybody but Trump: “My love for our country eclipses my loyalty to our party, and to live with a clear conscience I will not support a nominee so lacking in the judgment, temperament and character needed to be our nation’s commander in chief. Accordingly, if left with no alternative, I will not support Trump in the general election should he become our Republican nominee.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said, early in the campaign “This man does things and says things that I teach my six- and three-year-olds not to say. I could never look them in the eye and tell them that I support someone so crass and insulting and offensive to lead the greatest nation in the world.” You go, sir! That’s what I want to hear! Representative Curbelo has also said that he will back either a third-party candidate or a write-in.

And yes, there are many Republicans whose names are not familiar to the national public, but are on the inside of Washington politics who are open about their opposition, such as Elliot Cohen, counselor to the State Department during George W. Bush’s administration, who tweeted “…I will oppose Trump as nominee. Won’t support & won’t work for him for more reasons than a Tweet can bear.” He also wrote an open letter to Trump, signed by 60 members of the GOP National Security committee which said: “Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States.”

Max Boot, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, and a fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times that I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump. There is no way in hell I would vote for him. I would far more readily support Hillary Clinton, or Bloomberg if he ran.”

I don’t know if the “Republicans for Hillary” movement will gain any ground, at least in public, but I do think – and many people have derided me for thinking this – that a lot of them will quietly take advantage of our “secret ballot” system to indeed pull the lever or push the button or pencil in the box for the Democrat who would be our first woman President…or will “feel the Bern.” Maybe this isn’t brave of them, as they will be protecting their own Republican asses, but at the least they will be doing the right thing for the country. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I wouldn’t be afraid to bet that the Bushes (all of them, including the wives, kids, and assorted family members old enough) will be voting the Democratic Presidential ticket, whether it’s Hillary or Bernie, though I wouldn’t bet that on that outcome when it comes to their Senate, Representative or local races.

Last February the website Gawker punked Trump by sending him quote by Benito Mussolini, the fascist Italian dictator, which Trump retweeted. The quote was: “It is better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a sheep.” When confronted about it by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press, and if the candidate wanted to be associated with a dictator, Trump said:

“Chuck, it’s OK to know it’s Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to – it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what – and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote… I want to be associated with interesting quotes. And people, you know, I have almost 14 million people between Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and all of that. And we do interesting things. And I sent it out. And certainly, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

That answer is pure Trump.

As for those 14 million followers on “Instagram and Facebook and Twiiter and all that?” As I told our editor Mike Gold today after seeing Captain America: Civil War, “Those yahoos think Trump is talking about a pizza parlor in New York called ‘Mussolini’s’.”

Open all night.

Oh, yeah. And Civil War rocked!!!!!!