My son Gabe, who had the misfortune of growing up in a newspaper family, just posted this piece—part reminiscing about the life and death of the Rocky Mountain News and part musing on the future of newspaper journalism—on a new website called Medium. It’s worth reading.
I’ve just posted a new cartoon for my new project, Cosmic Limit. Here’s a sneak look at it. You can have the cartoons sent to you every time I post one at CosmicLimit.com. Click on the link and sign up today.
America was a different nation 50 years ago, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King made his ringing “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Legal apartheid is a despised thing of our disreputable past. Minorities have made inroads into employment, housing and other realms unimaginable just half a century ago, and enjoy an increased share of our nation’s wealth.
You will hear many people repeat what has become a comfortable bromide that yes, despite these impressive gains, much still needs to be done, yadda yadda, etc.
That’s way too easy. Every American who was cheered by Dr. King’s words, and for whom they still resonate, should be deeply and profoundly ashamed of this country today for how far we have regressed in recent years, and how far away from that dream we remain.
The Roberts Court, in throwing out key elements of the Voting Rights Act, willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence that in a number of states (controlled by Republican governors and legislatures) an aggressive campaign is underway to roll back voting rights for minorities and the poor. In North Carolina and Texas, especially, voter ID laws and other restrictions will make it much more difficult for minorities, students and the poor to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
The war on Obamacare shows no end, and no mercy for the millions of Americans who are still denied access to decent health care.
Wages for the middle class have been stagnant for a decade, and the poorest working Americans have seen their buying power diminish, as the wealthiest Americans, abetted by a political establishment that has turned its back on all but the richest, have helped themselves to an obscene share of the nation’s bounty.
Fifty years later, we’ve not simply failed to live up to the dream. As a nation we’ve abandoned it.
I’m not making the shift to sci-fi and fantasy just because it’s a lot more fun than political cartooning in this age of furious hyper-partisanship (although it is). One of the reasons is a reaction to what this story documents:
Speculative fiction has always been an antidote to the constricted imagination of the flat earth religious zealots and science deniers. Give me the humanistic optimism of Star Trek over the sclerotic pessimism of the reactionary right any day. So, even though I won’t be drawing editorial cartoons per se, I’m guessing some political commentary will inevitably creep into my work. You’ll be able to see it at CosmicLimit.com.
Okay, I was going to give up political commentary in favor of my new gig, but I think it’s in my DNA, or my bones, or wherever addictions and bad habits reside.
According to a new poll, as reported by Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post, 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the government’s shamefully incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina. Apparently, they haven’t a clue that the hurricane that devastated much of coastal Louisiana and inundated New Orleans hit three years before Obama took office. Only 28 percent remember that George W. Bush was the president at the time, and 44 percent don’t know who to blame.
You can be sure that Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican disinformation machine will be in no hurry to correct their sadly mistaken brethren.
It was probably inevitable, given the reflexive hatred the GOP and its allies has managed to drum up for all things Obama. I wonder how many of the same folks now blame the president for the 1929 stock market crash, the Pearl Harbor attack and the assassination of JFK.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m going where I’ve never been before, into the land of science fiction and fantasy cartooning (and some writing, I hope). The new home of my stuff will be at CosmicLimit.com. I hope you’ll follow me there and subscribe to what is, for now, my own little sci-fi newsletter. Enjoy. Here’s another sample of what you’ll find there:
I wish I could take full credit for this one, but it was written by my buddy Scott Stantis, the talented creator of the comic strip Prickly City and the editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune.
Hard to believe it’s been three months since I last posted. I haven’t died, been diagnosed with a horrible disabling disease or run off to Fiji with some bimbo. We’ve been remodeling the house, which takes an unimaginable amount of time, and I’m not even the one with the saw and nail gun. Do you have any idea how many different floor tiles there are? How hard it is to choose between 600 nearly identical door handles?
Plus, I’ve been busy working on my secret new project that will revolutionize cartooning, save newspapers, cure cancer and make me a gazillionaire.
Or not. But I have been revisiting my first love and seeing if there is still any magic left between us after all these years. When I was a young lad of ten or twelve I read Robert Heinlein’s magnificent juvenile science fiction novel, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, and I fell into a black hole I’ve never emerged from; I’ve been hooked on sci-fi ever since. Throughout my long career as an editorial cartoonist, I never stopped writing science fiction stories and cartoons, and now that I have the time, I’m going to start publishing them online.
I’m working on a new website with my son Gabe, the Internet Whisperer, which will launch one of these days soon. More details to follow soon. Until then, here’s a sample.
Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they will do everything in their power to prevent, or at least slow down, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known derisively as Obamacare.
Let’s take this apart. The ACA is the law of the land. Even the obstructionist-in-chief John Boehner had to admit that after Obama won reelection. It will be implemented, either efficiently or slowly and painfully. The GOP has chosen the latter. Aside from displaying a reflexive contempt for Obama and anything he stands for, the only reason to go down this road is to to score political points for the next election cycle.
The other choice, of course, would be to help implement the law so that the maximum number of Americans might enjoy its many benefits, and the inevitable tweaks to the program might be made expediently. That’s not the choice the Republican party has made. Instead, they’ve chosen to make the law as unworkable as possible, thus preventing as many citizens as they possibly can from getting health care. In some cases, this will mean confusion, delay, inconvenience and frustration, which will, in their calculus, benefit them at the polls.
In other cases—likely many cases—it will mean that people in desperate need of life-saving procedures and medicines will be denied the care they need. They will die.
The question we should be asking is how many American lives will the GOP sacrifice to embarrass the president and his party.
The University of Colorado at Boulder on Wednesday named Steven Hayward as the Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy, a newly invented position and the first of its kind anywhere. I’m not making this up.
Mr. Hayward, a former fellow at the Heritage Foundation, received his doctorate in American Studies from the Cleremont graduate school. His one-year residency is being funded by $1 million in private donations, including one from Denver banker Earl Wright.
I’m all for it. We desperately need someone who can help our impressionable young people understand contemporary conservative thought. I’m especially hoping that Professor Hayward will be able to explain to his students how the United States can keep its edge while pursuing conservative budget policies that require cutting billions from higher education budgets, depleting the resources of public schools, defunding early childhood education and gutting federal scholarship programs, while making sure that folks like Mr. Wright can keep enough of their money to hire their own conservative professors.
Maybe his hiring can serve as a model for luring educators to campus in the age of austerity: just get rich folks to pick and choose what they’d like to be taught and who they’d like to teach it and then to underwrite the salaries of their preferred professors. That way the university would be spared the arduous task of hiring and the public the burden of paying. That would certainly transform education.
And perhaps Mr. Hayward will be able to tell us why it’s worth a cool million to bring him here, when conservatives have been howling for years about all that wasteful spending on public education.
Paul Ryan is absolutely right. Every family needs to balance its budget, and the government does, too, although except for the constant squabbling, it’s hard to see how the government is like my family.
By all accounts, unless you’re listening to anyone who’s not a House Republican, Ryan has put forth a “serious budget,” so I thought it ought to make a good blueprint for balancing my family budget.
To start with, making more money is off the table. Asking for a raise is out of the question. According to Ryan, that’s absolutely the wrong way to go about it, and because he’s an expert, I’ll just have to take his word for it. Making more money would mean taking it from my rich employer, who has way better uses for it than I do. If I took it, it would leave him less to put back into the economy, and that would seriously inhibit growth. So, my only choice is to cut spending.
Where to start? Health care would be an excellent choice. By not paying my health insurance premiums, which in 2014 means refusing to fund Obamacare, I can cut about $1000 a month from my budget. And, here’s the great thing: if I follow Ryan’s budget closely, I can also count the savings I would have had if I’d paid for my Obamacare! Make that another $500 a month. I know it seems somehow wrong to count both, but who am I to question such an expert?
Next, I really need to stop funding my kids’ education. I have a real weakness for the little darlings, I admit, but it’s time for a little tough love, and we all need to be self-reliant.
Too bad they’re older and I can’t gain any savings from not making their school lunches any more. When I think of all the money I wasted on that over the years! And what a fool I was to pay for their early childhood education. Who in his right mind would fund kindergarten when the budget is so out of whack?
I can stop helping them with their retirement funds, though. I wish I’d stopped doing that years ago. I thought I was so smart opening up IRAs for them when they had summer jobs. Little did I know that I was wrecking the economy. That Ryan guy doesn’t miss a thing, does he?
I do feel bad about their health insurance. Both kids were on my plan before I cancelled it. I’ll replace what I was spending on them with a block grant. It won’t actually be enough for them to buy their own insurance, and over the years it most likely won’t keep up with inflation, but Ryan and I are on a mission here. I just hope the kids use it wisely and don’t spend it on frivolous things like food or clothing.
I’m definitely going to stop giving money to charitable causes. Giving money to the poor is just bad economics; they bleed the system and they don’t employ anyone. Instead, I’m going to donate that money to my boss, who will use it to hire people, theoretically. I haven’t seen him actually doing that lately, but if he stockpiles enough of it, he’s going to have to start hiring people sooner or later, right? That’s the Ryan theory, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
Now to my own retirement plan. Social Security will be insolvent in just a few years unless we fix it, and asking the rich to pay a little more into the system is a non-starter in the Ryan/Stein plan. Therefore, I need to scale back my expectations. For the good of the country, I’m going to stop funding my IRA and 401(k), and just plan on living on less when I stop working, which, in my new budget, will be when I’m 78.
Well, that about covers it. Thanks to the Ryan blueprint, my family budget is now balanced.
With the conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaling that they will vote to end key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, a number of organizations are contemplating challenges to other laws they view as no longer necessary.
"The Court’s majority is saying that the Voting Rights Act is so successful that it’s not needed any longer," said a spokesman for the League of White Southern Voters. "We agree with the Court that governments in the Deep South with an unbroken history of egregious racial discrimination will no longer discriminate as soon as sanctions are lifted.
"We’re just worried that the Court won’t go far enough. We’re hoping to persuade the Justices to throw out the entire act, and not just Section 5 covering southern states.
"It’s just preposterous in this day and age to think that any states, northern or southern, will go on a binge of Gerrymandering, discriminatory voter ID restrictions, absurdly short registration periods, understaffed vote centers and inconvenient poll hours in an attempt to discourage the minority vote. We haven’t seen any of those shenanigans since way back in November of 2012."
The National Association of Sweatshops announced that “we are seriously considering asking the Court to follow its own logic and get rid of the hopelessly antiquated child labor laws. Ater all, it’s been decades since children were forced to work, proving that the law is no longer necessary. And that goes for the forty-hour work week and overtime laws, too. They worked so well they’re unnecessary.”
The American Polluters Alliance agreed. In a press release yesterday, the group stated, “The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have been so successful at protecting the nation’s environment, we simply don’t need them any more.
"There’s a lot of evidence to prove that once these laws take effect, they outlive their usefulness. Look at the banking industry. Congress relaxed the regulatory burden on the financial sector years ago, and almost nobody in the industry has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing since. Doesn’t that prove our point?"
Added a spokesperson for the Corporate Legal Protection Council, “Look how successful workplace safety rules have been. Given the amazing decline in deaths and injuries ove the years, isn’t it obvious that we don’t need those rules? I think it’s pretty clear from the results that corporations absolutely can be trusted to put their employees’ health and safety above profits.”
"The Obama administration is living in the past," read a statement from the National Association of CEOs. "He’s asking to raise the minimum wage at a time when minimum wages have been shown to be astonishingly effective at preventing millions from falling into hopeless poverty. Why on earth would we want to continue a program that’s so outlived its usefulness? Does anyone honestly believe that American CEOs wouldn’t voluntarily pay people a decent living wage without some law forcing us to?
"We look forward to working with other like-minded groups to finally get rid of these useless, costly and burdensome laws which no longer have a place in 21st Century America."
With automatic budget cuts looming on Friday, the war of words between President Obama and Republicans intensified.
Mr. Obama traveled to Newport News, Virginia, where he warned that thousands of shipbuilding jobs would be jeopardized by the continuing budget standoff.
Republicans, meanwhile, accused the president of playing politics and trying to scare the American people rather than working to solve the impasse.
"If the president were serious," House Speaker John Boehner claimed, "he’d come up with a plan to target these cuts so that only the poor, minorities, the unemployed, the sick and inner-city school children are affected. Instead, the middle class is going to suffer because of his inaction."
"The House has put forth reasonable plan to spare all but the most disadvantaged the worst effects of the budget cuts," added Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the No. 3 House Republican, "but this president insists on policies that also impose burdensome new taxes on millionaires and billionaires. It’s a complete waste of time. He knows this is a non-starter."
Added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “We’d like to make a bipartisan deal, but we’re prepared to let the sequester take effect rather than give in to the president’s outrageous demands that the burden of balancing the budget be shared by the richest Americans.”
"Besides which, the American people are too smart to be frightened by Mr. Obama’s scare tactics," said Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) "As you know, I’m a budget expert, and I’ve worked the numbers. The sequester simply will not be nearly as bad as the president wants you to believe.
"Tonight I can assure the American people that even if nothing whatever is done to prevent the budget cuts from happening, not one single billionaire will be harmed."
The justices of the Supreme Court have rejected the idea of video coverage of arguments before the court, explaining that Americans would be incapable of comprehending what they were seeing.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor justified the decision, saying, “very few of them understand what the process is.”
"It’s not because they’re stupid, although they are," growled Justice Antonin Scalia," it’s just because we’re so incredibly much smarter."
"For example," said Justice Samuel Alito, "I doubt one percent of Americans could follow the arcane logic that led to the inescapable legal conclusion that corporations, even though they are soulless, lifeless artificial legal constructs, are actually people."
"Or," chimed in Justice Anthony Kennedy, "that money and speech are identical as far as the law is concerned. It doesn’t make sense to the average person that a corporation can secretly stuff unlimited cash into a campaign coffer, and that’s the same thing as some poor schmuck standing on a street corner trying to get someone’s attention. People would just be confused trying to unravel the arguments if they saw us in action."
Chief Justice John Roberts asserted, “it would have created unneeded controversy at a very emotional time if the voters actually saw how we made George W. Bush president, despite some pretty compelling evidence that Al Gore actually won. They wouldn’t have understood the highly abstruse reasoning behind that decision. They might have concluded that it was a completely unwarranted and unprecedented decision by a court that arrogantly and recklessly inserted itself into partisan politics, instead of the finely-reasoned determination that in fact it was.
"Plus," he continued, "it wouldn’t have served this court or the nation if people had been able to see the look on Scalia’s face when I voted in favor of Obamacare. You really wouldn’t have wanted that showing up on Youtube."
Alito wondered, “would you honestly want the public to see Clarence (referring to Justice Thomas) just sitting there day after day never saying a word? They might conclude that he’s only there as a token black who reliably votes with the conservative bloc. What would that do to the public perception of the court as a legitimate body?
"For that matter," he went on, "I don’t think anyone outside this room wants to watch Scalia when he gets rolling on one of his tirades. I love the guy like a brother, but the full Antonin when he goes off is hard even for me to take."
"Not all of us are all that photogenic, either," said Justice Elena Kagan. "People might spot Ruth Ginsburg and wonder why there’s a garden gnome on the bench."
"So," Roberts concluded, "we’re not going to televise the proceedings of this court. When we really thought about it, the negatives so outweighed the positives, it was a no-brainer. When it came right down to it, it was as easy as refusing to stay an execution.
"All eight of us agreed. No cameras. Justice Thomas didn’t say anything, as usual, but we assume he concurs."
Only weeks before the almost certain extinction of all life on Earth, Senate Democrats were unable to muster enough support to force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to lead his proposed Comet Defense Task Force.
A visibly angered Obama vowed to take the fight straight to the people. At a speech in a field outside Dubuque, Iowa, at the very the spot where the massive comet is expected to strike, Mr Obama said, “With a rock a million times the size of the one that hit Russia the other day heading right for us,” he said, “it’s time for Congress to put aside partisan concerns and act. The American people deserve a vote.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led the charge against former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Obama’s choice for the post. “We need more information about this guy,” Graham said. “For instance, why hasn’t he come clean about Benghazi?”
Reminded that Gates was not in government at the time of the attack on the U.S. embassy, Graham responded, “Is that why he got out? We need to know a lot more before we let him take such an important job. The lives of every American are at stake.”
Ted Cruz, the firebrand junior senator from Texas, was equally adamant. “How much contact did this Gates guy have with Martians before this comet suddenly appeared? How often did he communicate with our interstellar enemies?”
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner threatened to withhold funding for the task force. “My caucus has two main concerns. Many of us are deeply skeptical of writing a blank check for something that might not even work at a time of crushing deficits. We won’t fund this boondoggle unless every penny is offset by spending cuts.”
"And," Boehner added, "a significant number thinks this comet is God’s will, and it would be wrong to try and thwart it. And the concerns of other members need to be addressed before we agree to move forward."
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) vowed, “Not one dime if illegal immigrants aren’t specifically exempted.” Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said he would refuse to vote to fund comet prevention if gays were included in the protection.
That sentiment was echoed by televangelist Pat Robertson, who said, “You just knew something like this would happen when they let homosexuals in the military.”
NRA head Wayne LaPierre demanded that private citizens be given immediate access to nuclear weapons and the missiles to launch them. “Those anti-gun zealots in Washington would rather let you die than allow you to defend yourself,” he said. “The Second Amendment was written to give Americans the firepower they need to shoot that thing out of the sky.”
An exasperated Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “This is insane! The longer we wait the closer that thing comes, and the harder it will be to deflect or destroy!”
John Cornyn (R-TX) countered, “Says who? A bunch of so-called scientists trying to scare us with their end-of-the-world hokum. The same bunch that’s behind the global warming hoax, I bet.”
Barbara Boxer (D-CA) bemoaned the loss of comity in the normally staid Senate. “This is a sad day. This is the first time in history that a nominee for such an important post has been filibustered.”
"It’s not really a filibuster," John McCain (R-AR) claimed. "It’s a temporary halt in the proceedings that just LOOKS exactly like a filibuster. We’ll allow a vote after the recess."
With the Senate not scheduled to reconvene until three days before the comet hits, there is little likelihood that there will be enough time to prevent the total annihilation of the planet.
Conservative Republicans were unmoved. “It might not be such a bad thing just to let it happen,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). “If the world ends, so will the deficit.”
Within minutes of the shocking announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would resign, the betting on who would be the next Pope began. The early line in Vegas made Cardinals Marc Ouellet of Canada and Peter Turkson of Ghana prohibitive favorites.
Ouellet, the head of the Congregation of Bishops, would be a logical choice given his place in the heirarchy. Turkson, if elected, would be the first black Pope, and would certainly appeal to the fast-growing Catholic population in Africa. Both men share the outgoing Pope’s extreme conservative leanings, which have alienated many Catholics in Europe and the United States.
Come on, guys, way too predictable. It’s time for the Church to think outside the box. Pope Benedict is the first Pope to resign in six centuries. If you’re going to go back to old traditions, why not go all the way back to the beginning? All the early disciples were Jewish. Saint Peter, the founder of the Church, was Jewish. Why not a Jewish Pope?
Look, at a time when the Catholic Church seems focused on losing as much influence as possible in the West, what better way to accelerate the trend than to appoint a rabbi as Pope? Let’s face it: nobody listens to rabbis.
Oh, sure, virtually every congregation has one, and rabbis perform essential functions like giving sermons and officiating at bar mitzvahs and weddings and funerals, but no matter how many times they ask their congregants to keep kosher and not work or shop on the sabbath or fast on Yom Kippur, they’re pretty much universally ignored.
Also, because the rabbinate doesn’t answer to a central authority, priests under a Jewish Pope would be a lot more free to deal with the individual needs of their own congregations without the heavy hand of Rome interfering all the time. So each individual congregation would be free to ignore its own rabbi rather than having to go to the trouble of tuning out the entire Vatican.
Finally, a Jewish Pope would most likely be married. Getting rid of the absurd prohibition against priests marrying would go a long way toward putting the whole ugly pedophile scandal to rest for good. Rabbis, unlike priests, actually have some experience with marriage and sex, and a Jewish Pope would not have a lot of patience with priests who torment boys. He would understand that that’s a job reserved for Jewish mothers, and that the abuse should be entirely emotional, not physical.
I know this is a long shot, but I think my idea is a winner.
Assuming, though, that this is not going to happen, I’m reduced to pondering how the Vatican will announce the election of Cardinal Turkson, if he’s the choice. Will it still be white smoke, or will they dare reverse the tradition and announce the first black Pope with black smoke?
I came up with the idea of Grandpaman a few months ago, but didn’t do anything with it until now. He’ll be making occasional appearances in the strip from now on. I love the idea of grandparents who, because of their special relationship with their grandchildren, can do things that parents can’t.
A newly-released Justice Department “white paper” laying out the legal argument by the Obama administration for the targeted killing of Americans has come under scrutiny by alarmed members of Congress.
The undated and unsigned document asserts that it would be lawful to kill a U.S. citizen who poses an “imminent threat” to the United States. To date only one American, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, has been killed under the authority claimed in the memo.
"That may be true so far," said a member of the United States Senate, who refused to be identified, "but the administration seems to be claiming unprecedented authority to act against American citizens. Under certain circumstances, you could see how the broad powers they’re asserting might include the right to shoot members of Congress.
"Heck, we’ve done more to endanger the American people than Al Qaeda ever did."
When informed of the senator’s comments, Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly replied, “Hmmm. Interesting.”
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply concerned," said a ranking member of the House minority, who also asked that his identity be kept secret. "The way this body handled the debt crisis, our constant attempts to destroy the safety net, our refusal to deal with global warming or gun control, our continued opposition to health care reform—if all that doesn’t qualify as an imminent threat to the safety of Americans, I don’t know what would."
His remarks were echoed by a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
"We do not believe the Obama administration can just claim the authority to kill Americans without due process of law."
"There’s no telling where this could lead," he added. "It might start with Al Qaeda, but there’s a dangerous slippery slope here. Under the broad language of that memo, you could make a pretty darn good argument for blowing up the entire House.
"Then again, if something unfortunate happened to that weasel Eric Cantor, I doubt the Speaker would shed too many tears."
Frustrated administration officials admitted today that they were no closer to identifying those responsible for recent attacks on Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.
A spokesman for the Defense Department said, “shadowy organizations calling themselves “Use Your Mandate,” “Americans for a Strong Defense” and “Secure America Now” have launched brazen assaults on Mr. Hagel’s character, but we have no way of knowing who’s really behind them.
"These groups hide out in the wild border regions between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, where they often operate with total impunity, given the lack of any real government oversight. Apparently they are extremely well-financed, and they’re careful not to reveal their funding sources. Identifying who’s bankrolling them is a real problem for us.
"We think they’re probably a loose confederation of determined ideologues with their own agendas, but who share a common hatred of the president. They come together briefly to plan an attack, place an ad buy and then disappear back into their clandestine caves on K Street. One day it may be Sheldon Adelson, defense contractors and drug manufacturers, and the next it’s Karl Rove and energy companies."
An administration spokesman added, “we have convincing evidence that they sometimes coordinate their activities with certain members of Congress, but they’re careful not to leave any fingerprints.
"It’s pretty annoying, but we’re doing what we can with what we have to work with. We can wish all we want that America was better able to control its rogue elements and that its political system was more transparent, but when you’re dealing with a country in which wealthy oligarchs wield enormous power and the where the legislature and the courts don’t really value democratic principles, that’s what you get."
"Sorry, boss. I couldn’t sleep. It just came to me! THE solution! It’s so SIMPLE! It works all day! I tell you, it’s GENIUS!"
"That’s what you boys down in Skunkworks said about the last brainstorm you morons had, Finley, remember? Total gridlock his entire first term, and there’s no way Obama wins a second chance, right? And the Dems lose the Senate in the bargain. Isn’t that what you told me? Guaranteed. Look where that one got us."
"Okay, so that was a mistake, I admit it. But this one is different."
"We damn near lost the company on that one, Finley. The Republican Party is Evil Science Labs biggest client, and to say they’re not happy is an understatement. If we lose them what’ve we got? Venezuela, with Chavez in a coma. Assad’s hanging by a thread and Morsi’s completely losing it in Egypt. After that fiasco in Libya we almost had to pack up our tents. If we lose the GOP we’re about three minutes from bankruptcy."
"I’m telling you, boss, this is the BIG ONE, the one we’ve been waiting for!"
"Right. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t total opposition to immigration reform, gay rights and contraception your last big unbeatable idea?"
"A minor miscalculation."
"Well, there’s no way I’m going back to sleep now. Might as well tell me your latest brilliant scheme."
"Okay, follow me, now. The states can allocate their electoral votes any way they want, right?"
"For most of them it’s winner take all, but a couple assign them proportionally."
"I got you so far."
"Okay, here’s where it gets interesting. Nebraska and Maine give each congressional district an electoral vote. In other words, if a candidate for president wins a specific congressional district, he gets that electoral vote."
"Don’t you see? If we did this in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which Obama won, Romney would have taken the majority of electoral votes!"
"Huh. How is that possible?"
"Because the congressional districts are gerrymandered like crazy. There are more safe Republican congressional seats than Democratic, even though more people voted for Democrats. That’s how the GOP kept the House even though House Republicans lost the popular vote by a landslide.
"And it gets even better. Republicans control both houses and the governor’s mansion in 24 states. If all of them changed to this system, we can virtually guarantee that Republicans never lose the presidency again!"
"Okay, Finley, I admit I’m interested."
"The genius of this is Republicans won’t even have to worry about moderating their image or going through the sickening charade of appealing to Hispanics and gays and women. No more embarrassing soul-searching or self-reflection. They can continue being the party of out-of-touch white men forever, boss! They win even when they lose!"
"I’m warming to it, but let me play devils advocate here. Isn’t there a risk people will be so angry at what appears to be a raw power grab the whole thing could backfire? You, know, protest, take to the streets, get violent? And Republicans could be blamed for the unrest."
"Listen, boss. Republicans keep the House no matter how much they lose the popular vote, and nobody squawks. We’re just applying the same system to the presidency. Oh, sure, there might be some grousing, but they’ll get used to it. We’re talking about fat, lazy Americans here, not Egyptians."
"Hmmm. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I like it. I think you may be on to something."
"This one’s a winner, boss. I can feel it."
"Let’s say you’re right. That takes care of the House and the presidency. What about the Senate?"
Shortly after President Obama concluded his inaugural address, the Republican Party released the following statement:
Moments ago, President Obama challenged the American people to come together as one nation to address the many issues that confront our nation.
Without offering specifics, the president mentioned the numerous tasks we must undertake to ensure the continued strength of our nation, from managing the deficit and an economy still recovering all too slowly, to the difficult choices me must make in dealing with climate change, gun violence, immigration policy, national security, energy independence, the social safety net, and extending the full benefit of our nation’s freedoms to all it’s citizens, whatever their gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation.
Mr. Obama called upon us all to work together, across philosophic differences and party lines, to see past the poisonous partisan politics so that the next four years will be marked by progress toward a better, stronger, more just America and a safer, freer, more democratic world.
Faced with a such a stirring call to ignore our baser instincts and appeal to our better angels, to work hand-in-hand with the president to lead America and the world into a brighter future, we in the loyal opposition have a responsibility to respond to the challenge laid before us.
Another in the series about social networking and the internet. Have Freshly Squeezed delivered to your inbox daily by going to GoComics.com/freshlysqueezed. You can read the ones you missed there, as well.
My kids are always after me to tweet more, post more often on Facebook and use every available social medium much more extensively than I already do. Luddite that I am, I just can’t quite seem to get the hang of it. Most of it is a stubborn refusal on my part to dive in to that world, but at least some of my reluctance comes from the sneaking suspicion that most of what I have to say is mundane, silly and basically useless gum-smacking, much like what most everyone else is posting.
Read the entire series at GoComics.com/freshly squeezed. You can even sign up to have the daily comic emailed to you each morning, a use of the technology I heartily approve.
The NRA yesterday released a genuinely despicable ad featuring Obama’s children. One can only imagine what their next assault on reason and propriety might be:
Video: Spilt screen: Still picture of Malia and Sasha Obama/picture of Secret Service agents
Audio: It’s bad enough that Obama’s children have round the clock protection from armed Secret Service agents, and yours don’t.
Video: Photo of Obama, as the words “ELITIST” and “HYPOCRITE” flash on screen
Video: Children walking down hallway in school building
Audio: Instead of being able to defend themselves openly, your kids have to hide their guns in their lockers at school. That’s bad and it’s wrong, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Video: Policemen hunkered down behind patrol cars, firing guns at unseen felons
Audio: The police carry their firearms right out in the open, and if a bad guy shoots at them, they can shoot back—any time, anywhere. But elitist hypocrites in Washington don’t want you to have the same right. They even want to prosecute brave, patriotic vigilantes who take the law into their own hands. They want you to be totally dependent on trained law enforcement agents to enforce the law.
Video: Photo of White House, as words “ELITIST” and “HYPOCRITE” flash on screen
Video: American Soldiers on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Audio: Soldiers can carry powerful military weapons anywhere they want, and nobody minds. But elitist hypocrites in Washington don’t want you to be able to defend yourself when Islamist militants attack your home.
Video: Islamic militants firing weapons
Video: Man in gun shop filling out paperwork
Audio: And you can bet our soldiers don’t have to go through background checks and waiting periods before they fire back at the bad guys. And they never have anyone trying to take away their assault weapons and their high-capacity ammunition clips. But you try taking your legally-purchased AR-15 into a movie theater or a school and see what happens. The next thing you know elitist hypocrites in Washington are howling for your guns.
Video: Capitol Building, as words “ELITIST” and HYPOCRITE” flash on screen
Audio: And when the Marxist socialist president…
Video: Photo of Obama, as words “MARXIST” and “SOCIALIST” flash on screen
Video: American soldier aiming gun at camera
Audio: …orders those troops to take away your freedoms and turn your neighborhood into a concentration camp, you won’t be able to do anything about it.
Video: Photo of Siberian prison
Audio: Remember, just because we make absolutely no sense and we’re insanely paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not coming for you. Hahahaha. High-pitched hysterical laughter, drowned out by a machine gun burst.
President Obama, in his inaugural address on Monday, will ask Americans to think small and lower their expectations.
"Our nation faces a series of enormous challenges and great opportunities," a draft of his proposed remarks, obtained yesterday by this reporter, begins.
"Throughout our glorious history," Mr. Obama evidently plans to say, "America has always risen to the moment, summoned the courage and the will to answer the challenge of the day, and emerged stronger and more vibrant. Not this time, baby.
"We face a stagnant economy, a growing wealth disparity that’s threatening to destroy our middle class and turn us into a third world country, an enormous deficit, a rising tide of gun violence, and the very real danger of climate change. Time and again, throughout our history, in moments of great crisis, Americans have put aside our differences, rolled up our sleeves, and worked together to solve our problems. Our hard work, our ingenuity, our selfless devotion to our fellow citizens, have made us the strongest, most successful nation in history, and the envy of the world.
"That was then, this is now.
"Let’s face it. The myopic Republican bozos in Congress can’t see past the next debt ceiling fight. My new cabinet is a bunch of party apparatchiks and loyalists from my inner circle with no real agenda but protecting my rear end. If you honestly believe that either group could solve an easy Sudoku puzzle, much less the national debt, I’ve got a solar panel company you can buy cheap.
"I’ve got about a year and a half before I’m a complete lame duck with no clout at all, and it’s pretty clear I’m going to spend that entire time bogged down in endless fights with those morons in the House over a bunch of idiotic self-imposed budgetary crises, with zero chance of addressing important stuff like energy independence, reforming our education system or saving the planet from global warming.
"As you know, I came into this office four years ago with high hopes and grand dreams, hopes and dreams you once shared, but as a very perceptive woman once said, ‘How’s that hopey changey thing working out for ya?’ I think we all know the answer.
"So, today, I ask all Americans, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, whatever your religion or ethnic background, to join with me in forgetting about leaders with vision, a government that actually functions, a Washington that works for you and not just for moneyed interests. Do not dream of a better world, a safer planet, or a brighter future for our children, at least not any time soon.
"Maybe some day, in the distant future, a future we cannot see from here, things will change, and the partisan gridlock that seems permanent now will somehow evaporate and we will magically return to the kind of functioning democracy our founding fathers envisioned. Perhaps Hillary can do something in 2016.
"But it’s probably not going to happen on my watch. Get used to it.
Opposition to President Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary continued to mount as Republicans and others voiced doubts about the selection. While representatives of Jewish and gay groups expressed concern about previous statements made by Mr. Hagel, the main criticism came from Senate Republicans.
“I’m a Vietnam vet like Chuck,” said John McCain, “I appreciate that he’s the first enlisted man ever to be nominated for this post, that he understands what it’s like to be in combat, that he was wounded twice, that he’s a war hero. That’s exactly why he’s wrong for the job.”
Senator Lindsey Graham echoed those sentiments. “This nation has a long history of old men who never saw combat sending other people’s kids to war. Will a guy who actually knows what being under fire is like be willing to use our nation’s youth as cannon fodder in a completely pointless war?”
A former official in the George W. Bush administration, who asked not to be identitifed, added, “While I respect Mr. Hagel’s war record, he was one of the first senators to recognize that the war in Iraq was a total sham. And he’s a Republican! The guy just can’t be trusted to get us into the next unnecessary conflict.”
“Our whole bloated defense budget depends on us jumping from one trumped-up war in some failed backwater state to the next so that our defense contractors can keep the assembly lines humming. And those companies are huge campaign contributors,” noted McCain. “I don’t think Chuck gets that.”
Texas Senator John Cornyn was especially blunt. “He’s the worst possible guy for the job. Chuck Hagel doesn’t understand how much of America’s economy depends on putting as many of our young people as possible in harm’s way for the sole reason of enriching mega-corporations like Halliburton.
“Where the heck would this country be today if we’d never invaded Iraq or Afghanistan?”
This is the last of this week’s series in which Nate worries about the weather and climate change. It’s probably as political as I’m going to get with what is generally a family-oriented comic strip. I’m still surprised by the vehemence of the responses I get when people comment on the GoComics.com website. As an editorial cartoonist I was used to a readership that accepted that they’d read things in the newspaper they disagreed with; comics readers are a different breed; they love you or hate you. To read the entire series (and add your own comment) click here.
The National Agency for Climate Change Denial (NACCD) issued a statement yesterday denouncing the recent report that 2012 was the hottest year on record.
“We categorically reject the assumption that the so-called “record heat” had anything to do with human activity,” the statement read. “This is yet further evidence of the massive global warming fraud being foisted on gullible Americans by evil scientists dedicated to proving their crackpot theories, even if they have to destroy our planet to do it.”
The statement was in response to the release on Tuesday by The National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., of its official tally showing that the average temperate in the United States during 2012 was 55.3 degrees, a full degree warmer than the previous high.
“This has gone beyond being a mere hoax,” a spokesman for the climate denial agency angrily charged. “We now believe that this is a full-fledged international conspiracy.”
The privately-funded agency, staffed by a broad spectrum of global warming skeptics, was established during the second Bush administration by officials alarmed by the growing belief among voters that climate change might be real and that the government might be expected to do something about it.
“Look at the evidence. Climate scientists predict that the temperature is rising, and then they come up with data showing that it’s rising. They predict melting ice caps, and the ice caps melt. They warn that we’ll get more severe storms, and we get killer tornadoes in the South and Midwest and superstorms along the coasts. They say the oceans will rise, and right on schedule, the oceans rise.
“We at the NACCD aren’t scientist—we’re religious fundamentalists, industry mouthpieces and former congressmen entirely beholden to special interests—so we don’t know how they’re doing it. All we know is, these climatologists are extremely dangerous and they must be stopped.
“They’ve already caused massive damage. Dozens dead from tornadoes. Homes and businesses leveled. New Orleans and now New York flooded. Damage in the tens of billions of dollars. Who knows where they’ll strike next in their deranged campaign to persuade people that they’re right about global warming.”
“In the coming days, the agency will issue a number of far-ranging proposals to limit any further damage climate scientists can do. I won’t get into specifics now, but some of the main suggestions will be to stop funding science education in the schools, to make it a crime to collect climate data, and—most important—to refuse to provide disaster funds for any future storm damage caused by these deranged scientists. It’s just bad public policy to continue to reward their recklessness.
“Finally, we ask these self-proclaimed climate experts one question: how stupid do you think we are, anyway? You really try to scare us into believing your scam by claiming that 55 degrees is record heat? Americans aren’t fooled so easily.”
Okay, so my editorializing occasionally creeps into my comic strip. So sue me. This week’s series is in part a recollection of how much the news affected my kids when they were young. Probably because I worked for a newspaper, they were exposed to more hard news at a young age than most, and it sometimes deeply affected them. Not having the seasoned perspective of an adult, stories about war, suicide bombings, school shootings and human-caused disasters (and I include climate change) terrified them. In other words, they were a whole lot more sane than the grownups.
In a surprise move, the House of Representatives yesterday voted overwhelmingly to secede from the union.
Shortly after taking their oaths of office and posing for ceremonial pictures with House Speaker John Boehner, the newly-installed members of the 113th Congress acted on a bill offered jointly by Chuck Fleischmann, Republican from Tennessee, and Joe Barton of Texas, compelling the House to formally withdraw from the United States of America.
All 233 Republicans voted for the measure, ensuring its passage. Not a single Democrat voted in favor.
Rep. Barton, explaining his reasons for offering the bill, said, “In this last election, the American people spoke loud and clear. They want a Congress that will solve this country’s problems, that will move beyond narrow partisan gridlock, that will take issues like global warming and guns violence seriously. That sure as heck isn’t what we in this chamber want.”
Michele Bachmann, Republican from Minnesota, an early and enthusiastic supporter of the bill, added, “It’s pretty dang clear that America and the House don’t see eye to eye on pretty much anything. Their agenda is so out of whack with ours it’s ridiculous even trying to talk to them. Health care for all, a progressive tax system, putting the interests of the people ahead of our campaign contributors—let’s face it, we have nothing in common with America.”
Speaker Boehner, in a last-minute attempt to stave off the vote, proposed a Plan B in which the House would move to an undisclosed offshore location but remain part of the country, but he was unable to muster enough support in the Republican caucus to bring the measure to the floor.
After the vote, a triumphant Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, exclaimed, “Let’s see them call us a do-nothing congress after this!”
The National Rifle Association (NRA), stung by outrage over its response to the slaughter of 20 school children in Newtown, Conn., yesterday modified its stance on guns in schools.
NRA head Wayne LaPierre, speaking at a hastily-convened press conference, said, “in the heat of the moment, after the terrible events at Sandy Hook Elementary, I proposed that teachers and school officials all across the country be armed. I understand the anger people expressed after I made that statement. It was unfortunately incomplete, and gave people the wrong impression. For that I apologize.
"What I should have said was that everyone in every school should be armed. It’s not fair to expect teachers and principals alone to carry the burden of defending their schools, when the students could and should be armed, as well.
"What armed-to-the-gills lunatic in his right mind would try to invade a school if every child there was packing heat? Imagine what might have happened if instead of being in a gun-free zone, every six-year-old at Sandy Hook had had a serious weapon. That guy would’ve been toast. Sure, some kids and teachers might have been caught in the crossfire, but I bet you a nickel-plated slug the body count would have been a lot less."
"This policy would have other benefits, as well. Kids would think twice before starting arguments on the playground if they knew the other guy had a Bushmaster .223 tucked into his jeans. And no child is going to talk back to a teacher who has a Ruger in his desk drawer. Unless the kid has more firepower, of course, but that’s an issue for another time and place."
Reminded that half the students in high school probably already have guns in their lockers, LaPierre replied, “Yes, and I admit that’s a real problem. If some nutbag invades the school, there’s no time for the kids to go out in the hall and grab their Smith and Wessons. They should have them in their lunchboxes or in their briefcases where they can get to them quickly.
"Again, I apologize for my hasty comments after Newtown. I hope this clarifies the NRA’s position on the issue.
"One last thing before we adjourn. I’m personally appalled that some politicians and many in the media chose to use this terrible tragedy for political gain.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, a reluctant House of Representatives yesterday went along with the Senate and passed legislation designed to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1. The compromise legislation raises taxes on Americans making more than $400,000, extends unemployment insurance and buys Congress more time to address deep spending cuts.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the No. 2 man in the House, said in a prepared statement, “Today the members of the House of Representatives chose to put the best interests of the nation ahead of our own narrow self-interests. That will never happen again on my watch.”
Angry rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom held their noses and voted to support the bill, passed earlier by the Senate, echoed Mr. Cantor’s sentiments.
Rep. John Campbell of California said, “Today the American people, not the politicians and not the special interests who fund our campaigns, are the real winners. It’s sickening. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to the wealthy contributors who rightly expect us turn the entire national treasury over to them.”
Mr. Cantor added, “At least we still have the debt ceiling to fight over. We can look forward to bringing the government into default and destroying our credit rating in a few weeks. There’s still ample opportunity to derail this recovery and throw America into recession again if we play our cards right. As soon as the new members are sworn in, we can get down to the business of making the 113th Congress even more lame than the 112th. This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”
First, let me say that it was a great privilege to campaign across this great land for months and to get to know so many of you and hear about your dreams and your concerns. I wish the outcome had been different, but it was not to be.
I’ve had a chance these last few weeks to reflect on the campaign and on what the election results mean, and I’ve come to this conclusion: I’m really, really ashamed of you. Facing an historic election that will determine the course of this nation for years to come, you chose to let yourself be swayed by a bunch of expensive gifts you don’t need and didn’t deserve. I’m not surprised that the 47 percent of you who are lazy, worthless takers without the ambition or initiative to make your own way in the world took Obama’s handouts, but I didn’t expect that other four percent who voted for him to be so easily bought.
You people with pre-existing conditions sold out your country for access to health care? Really? Your ancestors crossed the prairie in covered wagons, and you’re too wimpy to go to the emergency room when you get sick? And you shiftless washouts who lost your livelihood in the recession or had your jobs eliminated when Bain Capital took over your business want MORE unemployment benefits, after all you’ve taken already? You just expect those of us in the one percent to dole out more and more of our wealth so you can eat. Have you no shame?
Then there are you Latinos out there whose brothers and cousins and nephews came to this country illegally. You got suckered by the promise that their children could stay here and that your friends and relatives might have a way to become citizens. I offered to let your wetback relations self-deport without any problems at all, but no! You’d rather their kids be educated at our expense, take our people’s jobs and become good little taxpaying liberals. It’s sickening.
I’ll never understand women. A couple of silly little comments about rape and pregnancy and and you all go nuts! One promise to let your insurance pay for contraceptives and you’re all ga-ga for Democrats. You’d think controlling your own bodies was your God-given right the way you talk. And don’t even get me started on abortion. Oh, and that thing about equal pay? Dream on.
And you young people! Honestly, you traded your vote for what? Cheap loans for college. Like getting an education is going to get you anywhere these days. I guess you haven’t noticed that guys like me make the rules now, and we’re keeping the money. I don’t care what Obama promised you. The middle class is toast. You’ll take the wages we give you and be happy we let you have anything at all.
In conclusion, let me say again that I regret that you didn’t give me the opportunity to be your president. I’m not sorry, though, that I didn’t try to buy your vote with promises to create and maintain programs that might make your lives better. I lied about pretty much everything else, but I have too much integrity for that. It would have been an honor and a privilege to have had the chance to keep chipping away at what little you have left.
God bless you, and God bless America, or at least the 49 percent of you who voted for me.
Last week a group of Republican politicians and strategists met secretly in Washington for a high-level post-election debriefing. Yesterday, someone slipped a transcript of the meeting under my door.
Attending the meeting were Roger Ailes, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.
Ailes: Gentlemen, are we all here? Where’s Mitt?
Cantor: That loser? He wasn’t invited. Not like he was ever really one of us.
Ryan: Hey, he’s a good guy. I got to know him pretty well during the campaign.
Cantor: Another loser heard from. You couldn’t even carry your home state.
Ryan: You want to step outside and say that?
Ailes: Cool it, both of you. Calm down, everyone. You two can work that out next session. We’re here to figure out what went wrong.
Boehner: You should talk. Who was it that created the Fox bubble, anyway, Mr. Alternate Reality. Obama’s unpopular, the real issue is the deficit, Romney’s ahead in the polls, the Dems are gonna get trounced.
Gingrich: Yeah. As the historian in this crowd, I could have told you there’s no such thing as permanent majority.
Ryan: Hah! Didn’t YOU predict a Romney landslide, while you were on the Fox payroll?
Rove: Aren’t we getting a little off track here? Let’s face it, we underestimated Obama’s ground game. We had a lead, but they almost caught up with us in spending.
Cantor: Yeah, right. What did your $400 million win? Bupkus! And you want to piss away MORE?
Boehner: Shut up, Cantor. I had a grand bargain on the deficit in my hand, but you and your Tea Party loonies walked.
Norquist: You shut up, John. You would have caved on taxes, just to get a deal you could put your name on. And now you’re making public statements like you’re trying to weasel out of the Pledge again.
McConnell: No deals! Not gonna happen on my watch. Obama’s got to come to us.
Boehner: Screw you, Mitch. Did you happen notice who lost MORE seats in the Senate? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the Dems. At least I hung on to the House.
Ailes: Only because those seats are so gerrymandered you COULDN’T lose. Even that idiot Bachmann kept hers.
Gingrich: I think we’re missing the point here. We lost because the country is changing. There are more Latinos and Blacks, and that’s not going to change. We lost their vote and women. Demographics is destiny, gentlemen.
McConnell: So what do you propose? Roll over and pander to them? Like Hell!
Cantor: Amnesty for illegals? MORE Medicaid and food stamps and unemployment insurance? Contraception for women? Admit that rape is a bad thing? Abortion? Are you nuts? Abandon everything this party stands for?
Boehner: A little compromise on some issues wouldn’t be a bad thing, necessarily. You moved to the middle during the election, didn’t you, Paul?
Ailes: Lied like a rug, not that it convinced anyone.
Gingrich: Wait. I have a brilliant idea!
Rove: You’re going to divorce Callista?
Gingrich: Shut up. We’re thinking about this all wrong. Who DID vote for us?
McConnell: White men.
Gingrich: Right. As the resident historian, I can tell you that when this Republic was founded, only white men were allowed to vote.
McConnell: Yeah, so? I don’t quite follow.
Boehner: There’s a surprise.
McConnell: Shut up.
Ailes: But that would require repealing the Emancipation Proclamation AND the 19th Amendment.
Cantor: That’s crazy! That would take years to work through the states, and you’d never get Blacks and women to vote for it.
Gingrich: Who’s talking about repeal? Get the Supreme Court to declare them both unconstitutional.
Ryan: How can an amendment be unconstitutional? That makes no sense. The Court can’t overturn an amendment, can it?
Gingrich: These are the same guys who declared corporations are people and money is speech. If they can do that, they can do this.
Cantor: It’s brilliant!
Boehner: Do you really think we count on them to do it?
Gingrich: Scalia will absolutely LOVE it. The originalist asked to reaffirm the Founders’ intent. Done deal. Alito will fall in line, Kennedy’s on our side now. Thomas does anything Scalia says. I’m a little worried about Roberts, though, after the Obamacare ruling.
Ailes: He got beat up so bad for that one, I think he’ll fall back in line.
McConnell: I hate to bring this up, but isn’t Clarence Thomas Black?
Ryan: Now that you mention it, I think so. You wouldn’t know it from his rulings or the way he acts, but yeah, I’m pretty sure I remember him being Black when he was appointed.
Boehner: Hmm. That could be a problem. Would he vote to take away his own vote?
Ailes: I think we should at least feel him out. But we really ought to have a Plan B if this doesn’t work.
McConnell: Like what?
Ailes: You won’t like this, but we may actually have to reach out to minorities and women.
McConnell: I’m against it.
Boehner: Mitch, the whole idea stinks, but I think we have to. Let’s put Ryan to work on the women initiative. They go for those big dreamy blue eyes of his. We’re going to have to give on immigration reform if we ever want the Latinos. We can put Rubio and Bush on that.
Cantor: I can’t believe we’re doing this.
Boehner: Art of the possible, Gentlemen. We do what we have to. Now for the really hard part: anyone here know any Black people?
My neighbors David and Barbara are intelligent, witty and charming people of the extreme right-wing persuasion. They’re wonderful neighbors, pleasant, kind and generous. He’s 89 and she’s perhaps a year or two older. He just had a hip replacement, and she was hospitalized recently, as well. They shared a hospital room for several weeks while rehabilitating, which is kind of romantic, in its own weird way.
I spoke to David the day after the election, and he was mildly distraught over the outcome. He thinks Obama is a crook and assumes the president will raise his taxes. He hates paying taxes so that other people will get benefits they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. This is a staple, of course, of Tea Party thinking, that there are earners and there are takers, and the earners shouldn’t be forced to give up what they’ve earned so that the takers can live off it.
In the same conversation, he marveled at how much he and his wife had received from Medicare. He was certain that the medical services they had just received exceeded the amount he had put into the system. I couldn’t help needling him. “So, you like socialized medicine, then?”
What amazes me most about this whole strain of political thinking is the disconnect. Somehow, it doesn’t bother my neighbor that his neighbors are paying taxes for his health care, but it annoys him mightily that he might have to pay for his neighbors’ unemployment benefits. If he were alone in thinking that way, we might conclude that my wonderful neighbor is a sociopath, but he represents an alarmingly large and vocal percentage of the population. Fortunately, not quite large enough to have won the election.
This was a close election, right? A nation bitterly divided between red and blue. Two parties evenly splitting the vote. Two starkly different visions of America. Obama squeaking out a bare 50.3% of the popular vote, although he carried the electoral college handily. Except that it wasn’t really close and we aren’t that divided. No president presiding over an economy this bad should have been re-elected; it should have been a landslide for Mitt Romney, and the Democrats should have lost the Senate. If this election revealed anything, it’s not a divided electorate, it’s the glaring weakness of the Republican Party, which has become a party almost exclusively of rich old white men.
Demographics is destiny, they say, and the GOP has spent the last 20 years alienating the fastest-growing segments of the population. It has gone out of its way to drive away Blacks, Hispanics, women and the young, presenting the Democrats with a winning coalition broad enough to deliver a victory even in the worst economic climate in more than 70 years. Had unemployment been, say, five percent, Obama would have won in a landslide and the Dems likely would have retaken the House. Worse for the Republicans, the map is turning more and more blue. The solid South is solid no more, with Virginia and Florida going blue and North Carolina in play. The West, too, is turning Democratic, with Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada joining the West Coast, and Arizona beginning to shift. No region of the country is going the other way.
Now the fun begins. How will the Republican Party react? Will it adopt a more conciliatory strategy now that its four-year opposition to anything Obama has failed, or will it dig into that destructive playbook again? House Speaker Boehner seems willing to work across the aisle, now that the Tea Party has been somewhat rebuked (if not chastened). Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is another story. His classless and off-key remarks after the election don’t seem to offer much hope. Is it too much to hope that his own caucus might have something other than another four fruitless years of obstructionism in mind?
First, a reality check. Those who believe that climate change is happening and that it is at least partly caused by human activity predict warming of the oceans, melting of arctic ice, rising sea water and more frequent and more severe storms as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. Climate change deniers say it’s all a hoax. Given recent events, it would seem that the believers are winning the argument. Now that that’s settled, the question is, what to do about it. If you’re a denier, the answer is, nothing. In fact, if you’re a partisan right-wing Republican, you think we ought to cut taxes, defund infrastructure investments, get rid of government disaster agencies and limit government services. You, not the government, should decide what to do with your money, right? Maybe stock up on sandbags. If you’re New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, you are seriously considering huge investments in infrastructure projects that might limit the damage from future storms. If you’re New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, suddenly full of effusive praise for the president and federal aid, you might be doing a 180 on the whole anti-Washington thing.
If you’re Mit Romney or Paul Ryan, you’re still trying to convince voters that canned-food drives after the fact are the answer.
In the last few days, Mitt Romney has had to walk back yet another of his previous stands, that he’d do away with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s an article of faith among conservatives, despite conspicuous evidence to the contrary, that the federal government can’t do anything as well as state governments, and that governments in general can’t ever do anything as well as the private sector. Then something on the scale of Sandy hits, overwhelming the ability of any local responders, private or public, to handle the massive rescue, cleanup and rebuilding efforts. The only entity with resources close to sufficient to deal with the scale of the disaster is the federal government. It’s been a bit comical to watch Romney and his running mate appealing for contributions of canned goods and cash to the Red Cross while Obama puts the machinery at his disposal to work. So I guess Romney’s stance now will be that we should wait to disband FEMA until after all of Sandy’s damage has been cleaned up, and hope there’s not another one on this scale for a while. When the next natural disaster strikes we can test the conservative theory of limited government. I’m sure the cans of soup I have to offer will make all the difference.