Sunday, November 2, 2014

Newspaper Column

As a former weekly columnist, I still occasionally send a screed to the local paper. Today they published one I'd sent in a while back, long ago enough that I assumed they'd spiked it. Singing my usual song, I guess, which doesn't make it any less true or, I'd argue as the election approaches, relevant. They did, however, edit out what I consider the meat of the argument, which I'll indicate below in bolded italics.

How long must one bathe one’s brain in the baleful bilge bubbling from Fox “news” to believe, as do some, that Barack Obama is the worst president ever? Listening to how many people assert, how many times, that our president brought Ebola here to punish white people, does it take to extinguish critical thinking? I make no claim about who might really be the worst president of all time; I was a biology major.  But, c’mon! Let’s just compare the two most recent. It’s like shooting ducks in a fish. 
One was gifted an unprecedented budget surplus which he unapologetically turned into the largest deficits ever recorded. He took an economy that had created twenty million jobs and transformed it into one losing three quarters of a million per month. Rudely dismissing the messenger, he ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden; intelligence about Saudis and flight training got lost in his bureaucracy. Proclaiming the truth of dishonest information, about which there’d been specific warnings he chose to ignore, that president undertook an ill-conceived and unpaid-for war, with minimal preparation and unrealistic expectations of the aftermath. The result was countless ruined or ended lives and crushing debt. The reasons for the war remain conjectural, and the aftermath – regional destabilization, enabling our enemies, recruitment of more terrorists including the roots of ISIS – he left to others to fix; daily, we see how impossible that’s been, having no good options. At home, again unconcerned about funding it, that president added a Medicare benefit, risking future solvency. The list goes on. I won’t. 
Under the current president our economy has produced more consecutive months of job growth than any time in our history. The stock market has nearly tripled; the deficit is down by two-thirds. In place is health care reform covering millions who never had it, saving lives, cutting costs and, to the horror of those who still believe in Reaganomics, this president made sure it’s paid for. He revitalized the auto industry, completed the abandoned search for bin Laden. All this he did without the help of a single Republican Congressperson. Imagine how many jobs there’d be, had Rs not blocked every jobs bill after the initial stimulus, which they unanimously rejected but didn’t have the votes to filibuster until a few months later. 
President Obama has been far from perfect. Among liberals like me, disappointments include giving up on single-payer health coverage; failing to end (much less prosecute) many of Bush’s policies; misspeaking on several occasions; believing he’d have participants in solutions among Republicans. We don’t yet know if his ISIS plan will succeed. But to consider him worse than the president he succeeded, knowing all the above? Let’s call it, charitably, mysterious. 
Sure, it’s partisan hyperbole, bordering on silliness. But there’s a fundamental issue here, serious as a case of Ebola and more pathogenic: There’s no middle ground any more. Politicians are incapable of addressing our urgent problems. Voters hold Congress in historically low regard but keep electing the same hidebound obstructionists. (Not here, happily.) Pushing the agenda of a handful of very wealthy people whose aims are antithetical to those of their listeners, contumeliously convinced they’re getting “fair and balanced” news, a propaganda machine unlike any outside Pyongyang and Moscow has become a threat to effective democracy, which requires informed voters. More hyperbole? Hardly. 
We’ll always have paranoid haters and cynical profiteers. But only one network trots them out round the clock, providing them an audience made grateful to be deceived. Only one defends voter suppression, laughs at inequality, lionizes law-breaking government-haters, gives voice to conspiracy mongers like Keith Ablow, Jeanine Pirro, and to haters like Ann Coulter; promotes Sean Hannity’s and Steve Doocey’s peculiar cluelessness and Bill O’Reilly’s egomaniacal bloviating. This weakens us; it endumbs and divides us, paves the way, as intended, to plutocracy. They’ve gotten rich manipulating their followers who, when faced with problems which require cooperation and sacrifice (not to mention generosity), are convinced instead to turn to denial, scapegoating and fear. Always fear. Always distraction from the real agenda. Clearly, it’s irresistible, despite the obvious disregard their media have for their audience. 
I quit my column here not because of negative comments, per se. It was the futility. The encounters with so many people to whom facts will never matter, who enthusiastically dismiss reality when it threatens to pierce the illusory comfort of the Foxolimbeckian bubble. It won’t be me, but someone needs to find a way back.
[Image source]


  1. As usual,enjoyed your post. Me thinks you hit it "spot-on" most the time. Am over here in Yakima (I sometimes live here)campaigning for a moderate Republican (Dan Newhouse) for the 4th Congressional District. The national media has largely avoid the race but his opponent is a Tea-Party Nut Case of the first order. (Clint Didier) The sad part is he (Didier) may just win and make himeself a laughingstock right along side of Bachman,Gohmert,King,Stockman,etc.Now you know why I am stumping for votes for Dan Newhouse. Stay tuned for Tuesday night. Count on it!

  2. "a Tea-Party Nut Case of the first order."

    Well James,
    It's not like republicans were not warned about what was coming - from no less than Barry Goldwater. He said:

    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”


    “Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.”

    But It was the republican party (Moderate Republicans?) that encouraged the Tea Baggers to begin with . Apparently moderate republicans thought it was a good idea to use bomb throwers to defeat democrats; and, like Dr. Frankenstein, were destroyed by the monster he created but, ultimately, was unable to control.

    James, you sound like a reasonable person who is aware of the fundamentalist craziness that has consumed your party, and you admit that the ‘moderate’ candidate you support is going to lose; so I have to ask: why are people like you still trying to elect a republican?

    Does political power mean so much to you that you would rather lose to people you know to be insane rather than vote for a democrat?


  3. Sid, I haven't thanked you lately for using your voice. Thank you.

  4. EugeneInSanDiego:Thanks for your comments. I need to clarify a few things: 1. I am not a Republican;but rather an Independent. There is no Democrat in the race! The way our primary works is the top two vote getters go to the general....regardless of party. So, we had two Republicans fighting it out...a normal Republican and the Tea Party jerk. So,their you have it. I have read the Goldwater comments many times. By the way the "normal" guy was finally declared the winner by the AP last night....only a 3 point spread which still scares the hell out of me. It should have been 80/20. Tells you a lot about the radicalization of the voters in Central Washington.Faux News drones on and on...

  5. I was relieved to see Didier lost, finally. He was a scary dude.


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