Remember These Words. They Will Stand You In Good Stead In Times Ahead

Our good friend Roger is a history scholar and thus understands the lessons of history far better than most of us. And, from his perch across the big pond, he sees our situation here in the U.S. better than we do sometimes, for I think we have trouble “seeing the forest through the trees.” I enjoyed … and learned from … his recent post, and I think you will too! Thank you, Sir Roger!

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes


The face may not be familiar. Nor the name Joseph N Welch (22nd October 1890 – 6th October 1960). These words may strike a chord though:

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

These were address to Joseph McCarthy on the 9th June 1954 during  30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, one of McCarthy’s several ‘enquiries’ in alleged Communists within US government and wherever else he could think of. Welch was acting on the behalf of the armed forces against McCarthy’s team and had just rebutted Roy Cohn McCarthy’s chief legal counsel. McCarthy interrupted with a personal accusation against Fred Fisher a young lawyer working in Welch’s firm. McCarthy had kept this in his seedy back pocket thinking it would embarrass Welch. McCarthy was not ready for this response, from a prepared Welch:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I…

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A Wart On The Family Name

Robert F. Kennedy is hoping to win the Democratic nomination next year for president.  Truth be told, I am more qualified than he is to run for president, for I am at least an honest person.  Robert Kennedy is trading on the family name and in the process is tarnishing that name.  The world thinks of the name “Kennedy” and they think of the late President Kennedy who was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963.  And they think of the late Attorney General, senator, and presidential candidate Robert (Bobby) F. Kennedy, who was assassinated on June 6th, 1968.  But if Bobby’s son has his way, he will place a permanent stain on the legacy left by those two men.

The odds of Kennedy actually beating President Biden in the primary are slim-to-none, and surely he realizes it, but for some reason he has decided to throw his hat in the ring anyway, as have so many on the Republican side of the aisle who have zero chance for success.  Robert Reich believes that when Kennedy loses the primary, he will launch a third-party candidacy, damaging President Biden in the general election.

Kennedy is a rabid anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist who has claimed that the reknowned infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci was orchestrating “fascism.”  He has often invoked the Holocaust in his speech, claiming that victims of that horror had more freedom than people in the U.S. today.  He claimed that Anne Frank had more freedom for “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.” He later apologized for that remark, but words once spoken are never truly erased, for they reflect the true thoughts of the speaker.

Kennedy has found kinship with none other than Twitter’s Elon Musk, who hosted a two-hour conversation with him on Twitter Spaces.  It was a mutual admiration society, from what I’m told, with Kennedy licking Musk’s boots, at one point comparing Musk to colonists who died during the American revolution in order to give “us our constitution.”

I find it concerning that Kennedy has rallied more support than I would have thought possible among Democrats.  Around 20% say they would definitely support him, and a concerning 64% say they would consider supporting him.  Granted, that is not a winning number, however with 517 days left until the election (17 months), a lot can happen.  The media and others seem to want to continually focus on President Biden’s age, and heaven forbid that he trip over a sandbag that never should have been on the stage anyway, for then he is deemed to be incapable, incompetent, and any number of other derogatory adjectives. (I tripped over my own pants leg this morning while out watering the flowers … does that make me mentally incompetent???)

Among his numerous conspiracy theories are that he claims to believe it was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that killed both his uncle and his father, not Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan.  In fact, he has advocated for Sirhan Sirhan’s release from prison.  At one point he claimed that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had somehow paralyzed 496,000 children in India during a polio vaccine trial.  In the past 23 years, there have been exactly 17 cases of vaccine-derived polio in India … not 496,000, not even close.  And, naturally, he claims to be convinced that Bill Gates was implanting microchips into patients through the Covid vaccine … in fact, he was largely responsible for starting that falsehood.

Robert Reich has even more to say about this Kennedy in his latest piece …

Make no mistake. Junior has nothing whatever to do with his father – who stood up for economic and social justice (and for whom I worked in the late 1960s).

The younger RFK is a right-wing nut case.

He plans to travel to the Mexican border this week to “try to formulate policies that will seal the border permanently.”

He wants the federal government to consider the war in Ukraine from the perspective of Russians.

He doesn’t support a ban on assault weapons and blames the rise of mass shootings in America on pharmaceutical drugs.

He attacks Biden as a warmonger. He charged on Musk’s broadcast earlier this week that Biden “has always been in favor of very bellicose, pugnacious and aggressive foreign policy, and he believes that violence is a legitimate political tool for achieving America’s objectives abroad.”

You can read the rest of Reich’s column here.

I still can’t understand why Kennedy is running as a Democrat, since his ideas align much more with the Republicans than with the Democrats.  I sincerely hope that Democratic voters are intelligent enough to stick with the tried and true and not be lured by the Kennedy name.  John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Sr. would die of shame, seeing how this man has abused their name … if they weren’t already dead, that is.

Da ‘Toons Tell Da Story!

Monday afternoon seems like just about as good a time as any for a bit of political humour, don’t you think?  I’ve been collecting political cartoons for the past week or so and it’s time to clean out the file and share some of them!  Mind you that you have to consider the broader definition of the word “humour” here, for it’s a darker humour than, say, a Pickles cartoon or Charlie Brown & Snoopy, but the political cartoonists have an innate understanding of what is happening in our world, and the talent to reduce a situation into a single image.

Look closely at the images in the letters on this one

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, Indiana law, abortion, 10-year old, rape victim, political cartoon

Putin, Lukashenko, nucleau weapons, Belarus, Russia, Ukrains Warm, political cartoon

Rethinking 2024

I’ve read and heard many a commentator say that they hope Trump wins the Republican nomination in 2024 because they believe he’s the candidate least likely to be able to beat President Biden.  Hmmmmm … I wondered.  I made the mistake in 2016 of underestimating the fools who would fall under Trump’s spell, and I’m trying hard not to make the same mistake again, but … with all Trump’s baggage — not the least of which is having the distinction of being the only president to be impeached twice — it does seem as if he would be the least likely Republican to pose a serious threat to Biden.  And then I came across Frank Bruni’s column in the New York Times from Thursday and admittedly there are some things I haven’t been considering.  Take a look … see if you agree with him …

Do not underestimate Trump’s chances — or the damage he’d do with a second term

By Frank Bruni

01 June 2023

Did we learn nothing from 2016?

That, you may recall, was when Donald Trump’s emergence as the Republican presidential nominee seemed like some cosmic joke. Some cosmic gift. Oh, how Democrats exulted and chortled.

Donald Trump?!?

Hillary Clinton could start working on her inauguration remarks early.

Or so many of us thought. We got “American carnage,” two impeachments and a deadly breach of the U.S. Capitol instead.

And yet some Democrats are again rejoicing at the prospect of Trump as his party’s pick. They reason that he was an unproven entity before but is a proven catastrophe now and that his troubles with the law, troubles with reality, egomania and megalomania make him an easier opponent for President Biden, who beat him once already, than Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senator Tim Scott or another Republican aspirant would be. Perhaps they’re right.

But if they’re wrong? The stakes of a second Trump term are much, much too high to wager on his weakness and hope for his nomination. The way I size up the situation, any Republican nominee has a decent shot at the presidency: There are enough Americans who faithfully vote Republican, lean Republican or are open to a Republican that under sufficiently favorable circumstances, the party’s candidate wins. And the circumstances in November 2024 are neither predictable nor controllable — just as they weren’t in November 2016. If Trump is in the running, Trump is in the running.

So I flinch at thoughts and remarks like those of Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat, who told Politico in late April: “Trump’s obviously an extremely dangerous person who would be very dangerous for the country. But I’m confident that President Biden could beat him.” She added that “politically, for us, it’s helpful if former President Trump is front and center.” The headline on that article, by Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris, was “Dems Relish Trump-Biden Rematch.”

The headlines on other reports that month: “Why a Trump-Biden Rematch Is What Many Democrats Want in 2024” (The Wall Street Journal) and “Trump or DeSantis? Democrats Aren’t Sure Who They’d Rather See Biden Face in 2024” (NBC News).

Granted, those three articles appeared before the Washington Post/ABC News poll that shook the world. Published on May 7, the survey gave Trump a six-point lead over Biden in a hypothetical matchup and showed that voters regard Trump, 76, as more physically fit and mentally sharp than Biden, 80.

Over the weeks since, I’ve noticed a muting of Democrats’ confidence that Biden can roll over Trump. But I still hear some of Biden’s supporters say that they’d prefer Trump to, say, DeSantis, who can define himself afresh to many voters, or to Scott, whose optimism might be a tonic in toxic times.

And I worry that many Democrats still haven’t fully accepted and seriously grappled with what the past seven years taught us:

There is profound discontent in this country, and for all Trump’s lawlessness and ludicrousness, he has a real and enduring knack for articulating, channeling and exploiting it. “I am your retribution,” he told Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference this year. Those words were chilling not only for their bluntness but also for their keenness. Trump understands that in the MAGA milieu, a fist raised for him is a middle finger flipped at his critics. DeSantis, Scott, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley — none of them offer their supporters the same magnitude of wicked rebellion, the same amplitude of vengeful payback, the same red-hot fury.

Trump’s basic political orientation and the broad strokes of his priorities and policies may lump him together with his Republican competitors, but those rivals aren’t equally unappealing or equally scary because they’re not equally depraved.

He’s the one who speaks of Jan. 6, 2021, as a “beautiful day.” He’s the one who ordered Georgia’s secretary of state to find him more votes. He’s the one who commanded Pence, then his vice president, to subvert the electoral process and then vilified him for refusing to do so and was reportedly pleased or at least untroubled when a mob called for Pence’s execution. He’s the one who expends hour upon hour and rant after rant on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him — a fiction that’s a wrecking ball aimed at the very foundations of our democracy. His challengers tiptoe around all of that with shameful timidity. He’s the one who wallows happily and flamboyantly in this civic muck.

There are grave differences between the kind of threat that Trump poses and the kind that his Republican rivals do, and to theorize a strategic advantage to his nomination is to minimize those distinctions, misremember recent history and misunderstand what the American electorate might do on a given day, in a given frame of mind.

I suspect I’d be distraught during a DeSantis presidency and depressed during a Pence one. But at least I might recognize the America on the far side of it.

Thoughts On The ‘F-Word’

It is only in the last month or two that I have discovered Joyce Vance and her writings.  Ms. Vance was a United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017. She was one of the first five U.S. Attorneys, and the first female U.S. Attorney, nominated by President Barack Obama.  She is intelligent, knowledgeable, and her writing is clear and concise.  She writes on Substack, which is where I first discovered her, and her latest piece is … chilling.

Can We Call It Fascism Yet?

Joyce Vance

02 June 2023

“Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers,” George Orwell wrote in 1944, “almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.” Although political scientists have crafted more precise definitions in the ensuing years, the enduring image of fascism is that of the hate-fueled bully.

In a September 2020 interview, Joe Biden called his then-opponent, Donald Trump, “sort of like [Joseph] Goebbels,” a reference to Hitler’s propaganda chief during the Nazi regime. “You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge,” Biden explained. One aspect of fascism is repeating the lie until your followers come to believe it, accepting it as an obvious truth, something Trump is the master of.

In 2018, Madeleine Albright said in an interview: “We can’t have a leader that feels that he is above the law. The law and the rule of law is the most essential part of a democratic system.” Trump subsequently advocated for his supporters to use violence but sent federal forces to curb Black Lives Matter protests in American cities. He used the nationalistic slogan “Make America Great Again” and aligned himself with Christian nationalist groups that have little to do with Christianity.

Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in advance of the 2020 election and tried to overthrow it after he lost, claiming it was rife with fraud—it wasn’t—while trying to install fake slates of electors to preempt duly elected ones and running an intimidation campaign against his own vice president to try and secure his cooperation. With the dismissal of his court cases and all his other plans coming apart, Trump tried to subvert DOJ and came close to installing as attorney general an unqualified environmental lawyer whose only credential was his willingness to throw the might of DOJ behind Trump’s claims of election fraud. It was a putsch attempt and Trump sulked like a child when it failed. Instead of ensuring a smooth transition to the new rightful president, he balked and obstructed and, apparently, took classified documents with him on the way out of the White House. He has continued ever since to act as a divisive force, motivated only by self-interest.

So reporting this week that Trump intends to target prosecutors and agents involved in the special counsel’s investigation of him if he regains the White House, identifying and firing them, comes as no surprise. But it seems to have mostly gotten lost in the shuffle of news about developments in the Mar-a-Lago case, despite the fact that it is equally deserving of our attention. Rolling Stone reported, “In recent months, the former president has asked close advisers, including at least one of his personal attorneys, if ‘we know’ all the names of senior FBI agents and Justice Department personnel who have worked on the federal probes into him. That’s according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter and another person briefed on it.” There you have it, the party of law and order, preparing to exact revenge on people pledged to work for law and order.

If law enforcement officials who are upholding their oaths to the Constitution and doing their job won’t be safe in a new Trump regime, then really, who will be? No one. Because in a country overtaken by a cult of personality, you never know on any given day when you’re going to run afoul of the leader’s whims. You could be the shop assistant who doesn’t have the right size shirt in stock or the chef whose meal Trump doesn’t like. You could be a grandchild’s teacher who gives an accurate but low grade. Really, you could be anyone. It doesn’t matter because once we install a leader who rejects a rule of law system of government in favor of one where all that matters are the momentary desires of the head of the cult, we are beyond the protections the law has traditionally offered people in this country from overreaching leaders. Trump has made abundantly clear his intent to dismantle that system if he gets another opportunity.

More from Rolling Stone’s reporting: “Trump has…privately discussed that should he return to the White House, it is imperative his new Department of Justice ‘quickly’ and ‘immediately’ purge the FBI and DOJ’s ranks of these officials and agents who’ve led the Trump-related criminal investigations, the sources recount. The ex-president has of course dubbed all such probes as illegitimate ‘witch hunts,’ and is now campaigning for the White House on a platform of ‘retribution’ and cleaning house.” Trump is the quintessential bully who doesn’t believe in the rule of law.

Trump has leveled specific criticism against FBI Director Chris Wray, his 2017 appointee, objecting to Wray’s failure to engage in a wholesale purge of people who are not loyal to Trump and threatening to fire him on his first day back in the White House if he wins in 2024. But Trump’s sights aren’t set exclusively on DOJ. He has gone beyond that, promising that top of the list for his revenge and retribution campaign against federal employees whose loyalty is to the Constitution, not Trump, is reinstituting “Schedule F.” Schedule F is an executive order that would make it much easier for him to fire federal employees across the executive branch, while also offering the ability to replace them with Trump loyalists (despite longstanding protections for civil servants against just this type of action).

From his earliest moments in office, Trump targeted employees whom he thought were insufficiently loyal to him, personally. The first one was then–FBI Director Jim Comey, who declined to give Trump the personal loyalty oath he sought, saying that his loyalty was to the Constitution. Comey was, of course, fired. The bookend at the conclusion of Trump’s presidency was his top cybersecurity official, Chris Krebs, who issued a statement calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history” despite his boss’s claims of pervasive fraud. Trump fired Krebs on Twitter for contradicting The Big Lie.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s attention appears to have turned toward the Krebs firing, but it may have more to do with establishing Trump’s state of mind—proof he knew he’d lost in a fair election—than any new substantive lean in the direction of that investigation. It is nonetheless another significant marker on the path toward the possibility of an authoritarian America.

Personal loyalty oaths to the president aren’t how our country is supposed to work. Career federal employee jobs aren’t spoils of war for a president to hand out like party favors. There are political appointments like judgeships and executive agency leadership, but the folks who move the ship of state forward from administration to administration are career professionals. Like the prosecutors and agents temporarily detailed to special counsel investigations into Trump, they are supposed to have civil service protections. In a normal world, Trump would be unable to walk in and fire them. His plans to do so are sinister. Trump is threatening to fundamentally change the structure of our country so that it runs in a way that serves him and not the people. That, of course, describes Trump in a nutshell.

What’s still more sinister is that little, if any, attention is being paid to Trump’s clear intentions to lead us away from democracy if he gets another shot at the White House. Is it fascism yet? Even asking the question can draw criticism these days. But we have on our hand a bully who repeats his lies until they become accepted as fact, at least by his followers, and who eschews the rule of law in favor of personal loyalty to him. It’s a frightening picture for the future, a future it’s critical that we prevent.

We’re in this together,

Obstructionist, Not Conservative!

On the first day the members of the 118th Congress walked into the Capitol to vote on a Speaker of the House, there was no doubt that it would end up being Kevin McCarthy.  Oh sure … they made him beg and sweat for it, forced concessions knowing that his fragile ego would not allow him to accept defeat at any cost, but there was no viable competition within the Republican House members for the job.  It’s a sad statement that Kevin McCarthy is actually the best they had to offer, for on a scale of 1-to-10, I’d give him a 2.

Now, I want to talk a bit about the House Freedom Caucus, for they are the worst of what the Republican Party has to offer.

The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) got its start in mid-January, 2015, when the most radical right-wing members of the Party joined forces with the sole goal of pushing the Party further to the right.  I will always believe that two things prompted this:  the election not once, but twice, of a Black man to the presidency, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act that, at least in theory, would enable all people in this country to have healthcare when they need it.

The HFC was founded by nine right-wing men calling themselves ultra-conservatives, including Jim (Gym) Jordan, Mick Mulvaney, Mark Meadows, and Ron DeSantis … yes, THAT Ron DeSantis!  They call themselves ‘conservatives’ but by definition they are obstructionists.  Their interest has absolutely nothing to do with the best interests of the nation or of its people and they will use any means at their disposal to obstruct good governance and throw the nation into turmoil.  Why?  Because they crave power, because they do not adhere to democratic principles but would much prefer an autocracy, and at the moment, their goal is to set the stage for President Biden’s defeat in 2024.  There is no Republican – not Trump or DeSantis, not Haley or Pence, and certainly not Hutchinson or Ramaswamy, who can win the general election as things stand now.  But, if the HFC can destroy the economy, destroy the trust of our allies abroad, then blame it all on Joe Biden, they might just stand a chance … at least that’s what they’re banking on.

The HFC has only 46 seats in the House of Representatives, but if you think about it, that’s more than 10% of the full House, so while they don’t hold a majority, they do make a difference … and certainly not one that is positive for the nation.  Historically they have been against anything and everything that promotes equality or helps people, such as the aforementioned Affordable Care Act, the Respect for Marriage Act that codified the right of same-sex couples to marry, and they almost unanimously voted to overturn President Biden’s electoral win in January 2021.  I sense they would relish a civil war of sorts in this nation.

Why are they on my radar today?  Because they are making empty threats right and left, saying they will refuse to vote for the deal worked out between the President and McCarthy to avoid a default on our debt that would send shockwaves around the globe, not to mention crash the economy here in the U.S.  They are threatening McCarthy with an ouster from his seat as Speaker of the House.  Now, with only 46 members, their threats can be passed off as idle … except they are screeching at the top of their lungs from their highest perches.  Except that we PAY these bastards and in exchange we expect them to put our interests ahead of their egos, yet they are unwilling to do so.  You could lose your job tomorrow, become homeless next month, and die of starvation by August and not a single member of the HFC would give a royal damn!  Only one thing matters to them:  next year’s election.

Here is a list of the members of the HFC.  Is your representative listed?  If so, call him/her, write him/her, and tell them that they are NOT doing the job you pay them to do and to either work for the people, else get the hell out of Congress!

118th Congress House Freedom Caucus members and allies

State District Representative
AZ 5 Andy Biggs
NC 8 Dan Bishop
CO 3 Lauren Boebert
OK 2 Josh Brecheen
CO 4 Ken Buck
MO 7 Eric Burlison
VA 6 Ben Cline
TX 27 Michael Cloud
GA 9 Andrew Clyde
GA 10 Mike Collins
AZ 2 Eli Crane
OH 8 Warren Davidson
TN 4 Scott DesJarlais
FL 19 Byron Donalds
SC 3 Jeff Duncan
ID 1 Russ Fulcher
FL 1 Matt Gaetz
VA 5 Bob Good
AZ 9 Paul Gosar
TN 7 Mark Green
GA 14 Marjorie Taylor Greene
VA 9 Morgan Griffith
WY At large Harriet Hageman
MD 1 Andy Harris
TN 1 Diana Harshbarger
LA 3 Clay Higgins
TX 13 Ronny Jackson
LA 4 Mike Johnson
OH 4 Jim Jordan
AZ 8 Debbie Lesko
FL 13 Anna Paulina Luna
IL 15 Mary Miller
OH 7 Max Miller
WV 2 Alex Mooney
AL 2 Barry Moore
NC 3 Greg Murphy
TX 22 Troy Nehls
SC 5 Ralph Norman
TN 5 Andy Ogles
AL 6 Gary Palmer
PA 10 Scott Perry
FL 8 Bill Posey
MT 2 Matt Rosendale
TX 21 Chip Roy
AZ 1 David Schweikert
TX 3 Keith Self
FL 17 Greg Steube
WI 7 Tom Tiffany
TX 14 Randy Weber

No Pony In This Show

I don’t care what Donald Trump has to say about the tentative debt ceiling agreement reached between President Biden and Kevin McCarthy, nor do I give a rat’s arse what Ron DeSantis thinks of it.  Neither of them are the president, neither are sitting in Congress, nor are they likely to be either.  They are, therefore, irrelevant to the discussion!  The unfortunate truth is that at this point, the only people whose opinions are relevant are the 535 members of Congress whose majority approval is required to pass this bill and save the nation from an extremely consequential default on its debt.

Is this a good bill?  Hell no!  The debt ceiling should have been lifted without consequence, without conditions.  The debt ceiling is simply the device that allows us to pay the debts we have already incurred through the years. Period. Budget negotiations are intended to be separate from paying the debt, but in this day of political polarization and obstructionism on one side of the aisle, that was not to be.  I am frustrated over the concessions that President Biden had to make, especially in three areas:  the environment, food stamp work requirements, and taxes/IRS funding. But, I realize that given the time frame and the crucial importance of raising the debt ceiling, there was no other viable option.  I would, if I were a member of Congress, voice my disgust, my protest, but I would vote for this bill, because the alternative would be so much worse … for everyone.

People like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are what I think of as pseudo-politicos because their actual understanding of governance, of how government is intended to operate, is nil.  Furthermore, they don’t care … they are politicians, not governors nor leaders in any sense of the word.  Their only focus is on winning the next election, on pulling the wool over the eyes of enough people with their lies and loud voices to gain or maintain a high-level office with its built-in power, privileges, and potential for greater wealth.  They need to shut up, but since they won’t, then the media needs to refuse to give them a voice.

I’ve said it so many times that I think I say it in my sleep: ‘Rights’ like the freedom of speech and freedom of the press, are always accompanied by responsibilities.  The responsibility of the press is to tell the truth, not to tell people what they want to hear, or what the politicians want them to hear, but instead to tell them what they need to hear:  the truth.  Nobody … NOBODY needs to hear what a twice-impeached former president posts on his private social media outlet.  And if Trump or DeSantis wish to campaign for next year’s election, then fine, but they need to keep their message one of what they plan if they should win, not weigh in on what is happening now that really is none of their business beyond the extent to which it is the business of us all. They have no pony in this show.

There Is Wisdom In These Words

Seth Abramson is a bit of everything from professor of communication arts and sciences to criminal defense attorney to author to political analyst/writer, and his views are usually spot on.  His newsletter this morning hit the nail on the head regarding the Republican Party, debt ceiling, and the GOP intent to destroy not only the president, but the presidency and with it, the democratic foundation of the nation.  Take a look … see what you think …

A Five-Paragraph Explanation of the Debt Crisis

While the consequences of America going into default on its financial obligations are impossible to overstate, the story about how and why we got to where we are is in fact a fairly simple one.

By Seth Abramson

27 May 2023

Congressional spending in Washington over the last few decades has consistently been excessive, with most of the problem relating to overspending on the Pentagon, unnecessary pork sought by politicians of both major political parties in the United States, various forms of corporate welfare, and reckless tax cuts for the wealthy. The GOP has been particularly irresponsible in its spending under Republican presidents, presuming—rightly—that it can simply wait for a Democratic president to enter the White House to demand austerity and falsely accuse Democrats (who are certainly not blameless in the problem of overspending) of being the sole cause of profligacy in DC. One thing that’s remained constant in all this is that Republicans have no concern about raising the nation’s debt ceiling when a Republican president is in office. Their supposedly principled views on this matter manifest only when the man or woman they would be sticking it to by putting up a fight over the debt ceiling is a Democrat.

Several years ago, a new phenomenon intruded on the predictable, almost-clockwork-like parade of events, accusations, and recriminations described above. And that was this: the Republican Party ceased to be a credible negotiating party in Washington for the simple reason that it decided to conclude its ever-tenuous interest in governance. It realized, in short, that since most of its base had no love for the federal government anyway—in part because GOP leaders had methodically lied to it about how much of the average Republican’s life depends on federal spending—it could simply make its political platform the end of responsible federal governance. Thus, when Republicans were in control of the Congress with a Democratic president, unprecedented holds on judicial nominations issued, including one that literally stripped Barack Obama of his constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice; executive-branch positions requiring Congressional confirmation, even many that related to national security and international diplomacy, remained unfilled when the GOP ran Congress and it was a Democratic president getting denied the power to govern responsibly; and even the viability of democracy—including formerly uncontroversial concepts like absentee voting and early voting—was soon called into question by a political party no longer operating like a political party at all, replacing its policy platform with an implied promise to toss sand in the gears of American government at every turn. The GOP became, in short, a cult dedicated to pampering the Big Feelings of its base, which were monstrously (and often also incoherently and/or paradoxically) anti-government.

Then the pandemic came, and hundreds of thousands of innocents died needlessly for the simple reason that America’s president at the time happened to be the leader of the Republican Party and a chief advocate for venal and petty obstructionism of the normal functions of government (also, he himself had grown up in a cult in which bad news is ignored). The recklessness, negligence, and in a few cases the criminality of Donald Trump and his administration in the first year of the pandemic deepened the cost of the pandemic in America—ensuring we would be hit harder by COVID-19 than any other nation—and also extended its duration, forcing already high federal spending to increase even more dramatically than it would have otherwise in the midst of a national emergency. Whereas before the coronavirus arrived, spending in Washington as a percentage of GDP had remained below the heights of World War II, once the pandemic began under Trump the nation fully entered a debt crisis. And yet the Republican Party continued to ignore the problem because (per its credo) it could not be said to properly exist until a Democrat was back in the White House. Once Joe Biden was elected and Trump’s violent coup—aided in various ways many Republican politicians in Washington and the fifty states—was put down, Republicans set about trying to keep President Biden from getting America out of the hole Trump had put it in by demanding austerity at exactly the mid-pandemic moment that they knew it was unwise and would cause further harm to the country.

Fortunately, President Biden was able to pass much of his post-pandemic agenda—which, while expensive, helped the United States climb out of the pandemic and bring unemployment to its lowest level since 1969. Indeed, the American economy is now so hot that the Fed has had to work overtime to slow it down. Fears of a recession linger. It is at this sensitive time in the history of the United States, with a war in Europe and civil upheavals caused by an unprecedentedly far-right SCOTUS and a post-pandemic economy teetering on the brink of calamity that the Republican Party has decided to press a gun to the heads of all Americans on the comparatively minor issue of the debt ceiling, which, we must recall, is not a concern for the GOP (nor is federal spending generally) when one of their number is in the Oval Office. Indeed, the Republicans would soon make clear that they weren’t actually interested in fiscal responsibility by passing a debt-ceiling hike that was tied to a condition any American would’ve known in advance was going to be unacceptable to any person of common sense: specifically, the GOP now demanded that, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in the way it did without question or tumult under Donald Trump, the entirety of Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda (which in totality made him one of the most successful—if, inexplicably, not popular—first-term presidents in U.S. history) would have to be nixed completely.

It was not a serious proposal, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant as propaganda for the Republican base to spread on social media, which they now have en masse. The propaganda follows these misleading, even gaslighting talking points: (1) Republicans passed a debt-ceiling hike already (technically true, but it was devised in such a way that no politician of the party opposite could possibly have voted for it or received it as being in good faith); (2) Democrats have since “refused to negotiate” (wildly untrue, as despite knowing that he doesn’t have a good-faith negotiating partner Biden and the Democrats have made shockingly robust and persistent attempts to hammer out a deal with the men and women who admit—yes, some say so publicly—that they have taken the nation “hostage”); and (3) Democrats are responsible for the present debt crisis because the party passed the most recent spending bill in Washington before Republicans could take over (while it’s true Democrats passed a budget in December 2022 because they were obligated to do so, and while it’s true that that budget reflects the priorities of the leader of the Democratic Party as he continues to try to save America from four years of stunning mismanagement under Trump, it is yet again wildly untrue that the 2022 spending bill necessitated the current crisis, which the Republicans chose to fabricate after ignoring out-of-control spending for four years under Trump). Nevertheless, the Republicans are betting that enough independents will blame Biden for the collapse of the American economy that the GOP carefully engineered that it will help Trump get back into power in 2024—presumably so that he can do even more damage to American democracy, our economy, the ability of our government to function consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and our preparedness for dealing with myriad near-term domestic and international crises.

This is the current Default Crisis in a nutshell, and this is why I say that the present course of action elected by the Republicans is part and parcel of the insurrection it has sought to wage inside America for years. Some parts of that insurrection were of course criminal—like January 6—while others aren’t criminal but unconstitutional. Still others are neither criminal nor unconstitutional but indisputably un-American. The Republican Party would be happy to see the American government shut down—even collapse—because that is the end both its paramilitary and political fringe have now been working toward for years. One hopes that the Biden administration will see before it is too late that not only does it not have a good-faith negotiating partner (in fact, Kevin McCarthy isn’t even in control of his own party, its insurrectionist faction is) but is trying to extend his hand to people who want American democracy to expire.

The Pick O’ The ‘Toons!!!

Well, the news as I write this tonight is that Kevin McCarthy and President Biden have reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling until after next year’s elections, each side doing a bit of give-and-take.  Don’t get too excited, though … the bill isn’t completely written yet, then it goes to the House, possibly as early as this morning, and they will have until probably Wednesday to peruse it and decide whether to vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.  Since the House members are on leave due to the holiday, it may take them longer.  Then, if it passes the House, it goes to the Senate and must pass there, too … not as easy a task as you might think.  And then, it goes back to President Biden for signature.  All of this must happen prior to June 5th, a week from Monday, in order to avoid defaulting on our debt.  Will it?  I have doubts that it will go smoothly, but I suspect that like the annual budget negotiations, it will be resolved at the 11th hour.  We shall see.  Meanwhile, I have a few political cartoons that I need to share, and now seems as good a time as any!  Be sure to check out the very last one about Josh Hawley — it’s a hoot!!!

I was curious about that last one … I had no idea he had written a book, so I did some digging.  Josh Hawley has, indeed, written a book titled … wait for it … Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs

Josh Hawley, the ‘man’ who fist-pumped the rioters from behind a safe fence, then ran for his life once they breached the Capitol!  🤣🤣🤣🤣