Just How Bad Can They Be, Right?

I particularly liked Gail Collins’ piece in yesterday’s New York Times.  She injects a bit of humour into an otherwise depressing situation.

Whoops! Behold the Republican Trove of Truly Terrible Candidates.

By Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

5 October 2022

Down to the finish line, people. Elections just about a month away. A ton of races to keep track of, but if you’re looking for diversion, you’ll find some of the Senate campaigns really … unusual.

In a normal year — OK, let’s just admit there hasn’t been any such thing for ages. But if normal years existed in American politics and this was one of them, we could reasonably assume the Republicans were going to be big winners. You know, two years after one party takes control in Washington, voters have a tendency to rise up in remorse and throw out whoever’s been in.

Except — whoops — the Republicans have assembled a trove of truly terrible candidates. You’d almost think the party honchos met in secret and decided that running the Senate was too much of a pain, and that they needed to gather some nominees who would guarantee they could keep lazing around in the minority.

I know you know that we have to begin this discussion with Herschel Walker.

A few days ago, Georgia looked like a prime possibility for a turnover. It tilts strongly toward the G.O.P., and Walker seemed like your normal Republican candidate by 2022 standards — terrible, yeah, but with some political pluses. His autobiography vividly described a spectacular rise to sports, school and business success after a childhood in which “I was an outcast, a stuttering-stumpy-fat-poor-other-side-of-the-railroad-tracks-living-stupid-country boy.”

On the minus side, Walker was a tad, well, fictional on points ranging from his academic and business achievements to the number of his children.

Walker also has a very angry and social media-skilled son who describes him as a terrible father to four kids by four different women, who “wasn’t in the house raising one of them.”

Plus, Walker seems totally out to lunch when it comes to … issue stuff. He attacked Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act with its emphasis on halting global warming, as did many, many conservatives. But I’m pretty sure Walker was the only one who argued that “we have enough trees.”

So maybe not a perfect pick for a candidate to run against incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock, a longtime public speaker, community activist and pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s old church. But hey, Walker was a really good football player! And a Donald Trump fave!

As the whole world now knows, The Daily Beast reported that one of Walker’s ex-girlfriends says that he’d paid for her to have an abortion, producing the check for $700 along with … a get-well card.

Rather problematic for a candidate who calls for a “no exceptions” abortion ban. Walker denied the whole thing, except the hard-to-ignore check. “I send money to a lot of people,” he told Fox News. As only he can.

Walker isn’t the only awful candidate the Republicans are fielding in critical races. In New Hampshire, a Democratic senator, Maggie Hassan, is running for re-election to a seat she won by only about 1,000 votes last time around.

The Republicans had it made. All the party had to do was avoid nominating somebody off the wall, like Don Bolduc, a retired general who the Republican governor, Chris Sununu, called a “conspiracy-theory extremist.”

Surprise! Bolduc won the primary. And the way he’s handling his victory makes you think he was as shocked as the party leaders. From the beginning of his campaign, he’d told voters that he was positive Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. In August, he was assuring them, “I’m not switching horses, baby.” Then, after he got the nomination in September, he, um, wavered. (“What I can say is that we have irregularity.”)

This is the same guy who vowed to “always fight” for the life-begins-at-conception principle. But we live now in a political world where Republicans are discovering, to their shock, that people don’t want to be told what to do about their reproduction choices. Bolduc is now rejecting Lindsey Graham’s proposal for a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks. (“Doesn’t make sense.”)

In the Republican search for terrible candidates for winnable races, we can’t overlook Arizona. It’s a very tough state for Democrats. The incumbent, Mark Kelly, won the seat after John McCain’s death with the power of his story — an astronaut who took his wife’s place as family politician after she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents. Many of his supporters feared he’d be doomed to defeat in a year like 2022.

Enter Blake Masters, the Trump-backed Republican nominee who appeared in one early campaign ad toting a short-barreled rifle that he kinda boasted was designed not for hunting but “to kill people.”

Masters, a venture capitalist, rose into political prominence with the enthusiastic backing of Peter Thiel, billionaire megadonor. You certainly cannot dismiss a candidate with that kind of money, even if he does have a history of blaming gun violence on “Black people, frankly” and making a video while dressed in war paint in which he makes fun of people who worry about “cultural insensitivity.”

Lots to look out for, particularly if you’re not interested in baseball playoffs or another “Halloween” movie in which Jamie Lee Curtis does battle with Michael Myers. Hey, you don’t need to go to a movie theater to be horrified. Just think what the Senate would be like if these guys win.

What Drives The Election Roller Coaster?

The upcoming elections remind me watching a game of tennis, or ping pong … back, forth, left, right, back, forth.  Round and round she goes, where she lands no one knows.  To say that it is stressful is an understatement!  Frank Bruni’s latest column sums it all up fairly nicely …

Live By the Trump, Die By the Trump

By Frank Bruni

8 September 2022

Democrats were doomed. We prediction-mad pundits felt predictable certainty about that. The recent history of midterm elections augured disaster for the party in power. Inflation would make the damage that much worse.

So why are Republicans sweating?

Their overreach on abortion and the subsequent mobilization of women voters explain a great deal but not everything. There’s another prominent plotline. Its protagonist is Donald Trump. And its possible moral is a sweet and overdue pileup of clichés — about reaping what you sow, paying the piper, lying in the bed you’ve made.

Republicans chose to kneel before him. Will he now bring them to their knees?

Thanks in large part to Trump, they’re stuck with Senate candidates — Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona — whose ineptness, inanity, immoderation or all three significantly diminish their chances in purple states at a propitious juncture.

Thanks in even larger part to Trump, voters ranked threats to democracy as the most pressing problem facing the country in a recent NBC News poll. That intensifying concern is among the reasons that President Biden went so big and bold last week in his intensely debated speech about extremism in America. He was eyeing the midterms, and he was wagering that Republican leaders’ indulgence of Trump’s foul play and fairy tales might finally cost them.

Trump is also a factor in Republicans’ vulnerability regarding abortion rights. For his own selfish political purposes, he made grand anti-abortion promises. He appointed decidedly anti-abortion judges, including three of the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. He as much as anyone fired up the anti-abortion movement to the point where Republicans may now get burned.

With two months until Election Day, Republicans want to focus voters’ attention on unaffordable housing, exorbitant grocery bills and the generally high cost of living. They want to instill deeper and broader fear about immigration and crime. They want to portray Democrats as the enemies of the American way.

But that’s more than a little tricky when Trump had America’s secrets strewn throughout the bowels of Mar-a-Loco. When his excuses for mishandling those classified documents change at a dizzying clip, contradict previous ones and often boil down to his typical infantile formula of I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I. When he uses Truth Social, the media penal colony to which Twitter and Facebook sentenced him, for all the old falsehoods plus new ones. When criminal charges against him aren’t out of the question.

The progressive excesses of some Democrats pale beside the madness of this would-be monarch.

Democrats could still have a bad, even brutal, November. That is indeed how the pendulum historically swings, and two months is plenty of time for political dynamics to change yet again. Biden could overplay his hand, a possibility suggested by that speech.

But for the moment, Republicans are spooked. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, has decided to try to recapture the party’s long-ago Contract-With-America magic by detailing a “Commitment to America” that will no doubt omit what should be the most important commitment of all — to the truth. It also won’t erase the fact that 196 of the 529 Republican nominees running for the House, the Senate, governor, attorney general or secretary had “fully denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” according to a chilling FiveThirtyEight analysis of the party’s nominees as of Wednesday.

That morally corrupt position was probably a political asset in their primaries, just as having Trump’s endorsement usually was. But in the general election? As Republican nominees pivot toward that, at least a few of them are realizing that it’s a different ballgame — and that Trump is trouble. They’re taking baby steps away from the world’s biggest baby.

Good luck with that. He’ll never let them go, never muffle himself long enough or behave well enough for there to be a Republican narrative that doesn’t revolve around him. That was clear to Republicans from the start. To hang with him is to hang with him.

Snarky Snippets Must Be Shared!

A buildup of snark, rather like a buildup of cholestrol, stomach acid, or any other substance, can prove to be very uncomfortable if not taken care of.  And the snark has been building for a few days now, so just in case you guys don’t have any snark of your own, allow me to share my excess with you!

The two faces of Mitch McConnell

It’s difficult to say which of the GOP candidates on the docket this November are the worst of the lot, for the entire lot seems to be infused with incompetence, venom, and an uncanny propensity to lie.  But, there can be no doubt that Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, both running for senate seats from Pennsylvania and Georgia respectively, are in the list of the 10 very worst choices.  Fortunately, neither is on a fast track to a win, if the polls can be believed.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to tone down the GOP’s hopes for gaining a majority in the Senate, saying that ‘candidate quality’ was important, and while he didn’t come out and say as much, the implication was that the Republican candidates for Senate this time ‘round aren’t of the highest quality.  So, can anybody explain why on earth McConnell is co-hosting a fund-raiser with Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, as well as current Representative Ted Budd of North Carolina who is running for a seat in the Senate?

Walker and Oz are two of the absolute least qualified … one is a former football player, the other a former snake oil salesman with a medical degree.  Neither have government experience, neither have a Civics education, neither have ever taken a course in Constitutional Law … and both are polling below their Democratic opponents, thankfully!  I guess ol’ Mitchie has lowered his standards since he spoke of ‘candidate quality’ earlier this month, eh?

And speaking of really bad candidates …

Blake Masters, who nobody ever heard of until this year, is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Arizona.  He’s hoping to beat incumbent Mark Kelly, who filled the seat vacated by Senator John McCain at his death.  Masters has a bigotry problem:  he is one.

Back in June, he blamed Blacks for gun violence in the U.S. …

“We do have a gun violence problem in this country, and it’s gang violence. It’s gangs, it’s people in Chicago, in St. Louis, shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly.”

And then last week, the Associated Press put out the following on Twitter:

“Leadership at the Federal Reserve has become its most diverse ever. There are more female, Black and gay officials contributing to the central bank’s interest-rate decisions than at any time in its 109-year history.”

To which Blake Masters sardonically replied …

“Finally a compelling explanation for why our economy is doing so well.”

The list of incidences where Masters put down Blacks, women, and/or LGBTQ people is endless. Fortunately, Masters is also polling behind Senator Kelly.  He is a blatant example of what McConnell meant by his concern over the quality of current GOP candidates … I’m surprised Masters wasn’t invited to join the little fundraiser McConnell, Oz, and Walker are holding!

A threat or a call to action?

Lindsey Graham … back-stabber, two-faced, split-persona Lindsey … made the following statement a couple of days ago …

“If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country.”

Just for a bit of reference here, Lindsey went from being a hater of the former guy to his present-day status of one of the former guy’s chief bootlickers.  There was a time when Lindsey Graham actually believed in democracy, that no person was above the law, but today … he has drunk too much of the Kool-Aid being offered by those who would gladly destroy this nation and its people.

Lindsey’s comment could be taken merely as an observation, or more darkly, as a threat, as a notice to the same groups that attempted to overturn the government at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, to “stand by”.  In this day of radically divisive political views, a time when the entire nation feels like a tinderbox just waiting for the right spark, such talk is simply unconscionable coming from a member of the United States Congress.  Unconscionable.

Unfortunately, Lindsey Graham is not up for re-election until 2026, so we cannot simply vote his fat patootie out of office.  Too bad.

A couple of ‘toons to help you find your smile again …

A Long List Of UN-Qualifications

I’ve written before about Herschel Walker, the former footballer who is now running for a seat in the United States Senate from the state of Georgia.  Walker … well, I think he may have taken a few too many hits to the head in his football career, because I swear that every time he opens his mouth, it comes out stupid.  But his take on the well-being of the planet and life here on Planet Earth is simply jaw-dropping.  Back in July, he gave a speech and had a rather convoluted take on air quality and how he thinks it works …

“We in America have some of the cleanest air and cleanest water of anybody in the world. The U.S would spend millions of billions of dollars cleaning our good air up. Since we don’t control the air, our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then now we got to clean that back up, while they’re messing ours up. So what we’re doing is just spending money. Until these other countries can get on board and clean what they got up, it ain’t going to help us to start cleaning our stuff up. We’re already doing it the right way.”

And then on Sunday, in response to the environmental protections built into the newly-signed Inflation Reduction Act, he had this to say …

“They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not. Because a lot of money, it’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

I literally grabbed my head and groaned when I read that one.  I think, perhaps, Mr. Walker has already suffered from oxygen deprivation at some point in his life!  No, Herschel, we don’t have enough trees, but what we do have a surplus of is ignorant wanna-be members of Congress!  Please, Georgians, do not send this man to Washington!

There is a complete roster of highly unqualified and improbably candidates on the Republican ticket this year, and Eugene Robinson has done a great job of highlighting the worst of the worst, with the conclusion that while the former guy’s picks have racked up points in the primaries, they may well have brought about the opposite when it comes to November’s election …

Which Republican Senate candidate is worst? There are so many choices!

Eugene Robinson

22 August 2022

The race for the title of most incompetent, least electable Republican candidate for the Senate has become a real competition. Thanks, Donald Trump.

The former president’s endorsements led enough bad Senate nominees to primary victories that the GOP’s hopes of seizing control of the chamber — in what should be a Republican year — are fading. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) acknowledged ruefully last week that “candidate quality” is an issue. The “lack thereof” might have been implied, but his point was obvious.

Former football star Herschel Walker, whom Trump muscled his party into nominating against Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael G. Warnock in Georgia, had an early lead in the contest for hands-down-worst Republican standard-bearer. His across-the-board incoherence remains unmatched. But while Walker trails in the polls, he is actually doing better than some of his Trump-endorsed counterparts in other states.

Take Mehmet Oz, who trails Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman by 7½ points in the RealClearPolitics polling average in the battle for retiring GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey’s Pennsylvania seat.

It makes sense that Trump, a former reality television star, backed a reality television physician. But Oz’s supposed media savvy hasn’t made up for his other problems, chief among them, a lack of connection to the state he wants to represent.

Oz, a longtime New Jersey resident, only moved to Pennsylvania two years ago. Fetterman’s campaign has made gleeful, social-media-friendly hay from that fact, pushing for Oz to be nominated to the New Jersey hall of fame and spotlighting the number of Oz’s residences.

It certainly didn’t help last week that a video of Oz going grocery shopping and complaining about inflation went viral. Oz was trying to portray himself as Joe Average. He did not succeed.

In the video, first he gets the name of the store wrong — it was a Redner’s, a well-known Pennsylvania-based chain, not “Wegner’s,” as he called it. He then examines some raw broccoli, asparagus and carrots, and explains, “My wife wants some vegetables for crudités.” Fetterman, a cargo-shorts and hoodie-wearing Joe Average in everything but height, responded: “In PA, we call this a veggie tray” and issued a bumper sticker with the slogan “Let Them Eat Crudité.”

Then there’s Blake Masters. In Arizona, Republicans had high hopes of defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who looked vulnerable. But Trump pushed the GOP to nominate Masters, a venture capitalist and political novice who has disturbing support from far-right extremists, and who backs Trump’s false claims about the purported illegitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Masters has also attacked McConnell as being “not good at” legislating and has called for him to be replaced as GOP leader in the Senate. While Kelly’s political skills are seen by Democratic strategists as less than dazzling, a Fox News poll last week found him leading Masters by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent.

In Ohio, the GOP ought to have had a lock on retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat; Trump won the state by eight points in 2020. But a mid-August poll by Emerson College showed Republican J.D. Vance ahead of Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan by a mere three points, and a string of earlier polls by the nonpartisan Center Street PAC consistently showed Ryan in the lead.

Vance might have gotten rich writing his best-selling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” but Ryan has deep roots in the state’s post-industrial Youngstown area. Vance was stridently anti-Trump before he became stridently pro-Trump, and — like Walker, Oz and Masters — he is a political novice.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a MAGA true-believer, trails Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes by four points, 50 percent to 46 percent, in a recent Fox News poll. Even Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is suddenly running for his political life against his likely challenger, Democratic Rep. Val Demings. The polling averages have Rubio ahead; but the only recent survey, by the University of North Florida, showed Demings with a four-point lead. These races are close. And given polling errors in Democrats’ favor in recent elections, the contests might be even fiercer than these figures indicate.

Still, if the GOP snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and falls short in the Senate, Trump will be to blame. It is not clear what impact the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade — made possible by the three justices Trump appointed — will have on Democratic turnout. But if voters across the country come out in huge numbers to support abortion rights, as they did in the recent Kansas referendum, then all bets are off.

Could Democrats even keep their majority in the House? Still unlikely. But watch this space, because it looks impossible to overestimate the damage Trump can do to his own party.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

On May 24th, 19 children and two teachers were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  Since then, I have heard some of the most ignorant things come out of people’s mouths!  Those of us with brains still in our heads know that the major solution to school and other mass shootings is to get the guns out of the hands of would-be killers, even if it means maybe stepping on the toes of other gun owners.  Sorry, but the rights of these children to live and thrive, my right to feel safe checking out the green peppers in my local Kroger, supersede the 2nd Amendment.  But then, on the other side you have those who sold their brains early on and they have come up with some of the most off-the-wall blame for the latest round of mass shootings that I’ve ever heard!  If we weren’t convinced before that these people sold their brains early on, we must surely be convinced now.

Take, for example, Billy Long, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri and a candidate to replace Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate next year.  Now, ol’ Billy, a former auctioneer, when asked his views on gun legislation, replied …

“Unfortunately, they’re trying to blame inanimate objects for all of these tragedies. When I was growing up in Springfield, you had one or two murders a year. Now we have two, three, four a week in Springfield, Missouri, so something has happened to our society and I go back to abortion. When we decided it was okay to murder kids in their mother’s wombs, life has no value to a lot of these folks.”

Now, ol’ Billy Boy has quite a rèsumè of qualifications to make such a statement.  A college drop-out, he then attended a nine-day training program at the Missouri Auction School in Kansas City where he received his Certified Auctioneer designation via the National Auctioneers Association.  He owned an auction house, was a radio talk-show host, and is a member of numerous organizations including … wait for it … the National Rifle Association.  Surprised, aren’t you?

Why am I not surprised that ol’ Billy blames the gun craziness on women’s rights … naturally it is all women’s fault!  Isn’t everything?  Never mind that almost all gun violence is committed by men.  But sure … blame women … or Black people, as Blake Masters, yet another candidate for the U.S. Senate in November, claims.  Blake Masters, an unapologetic white nationalist running for a senate seat from Arizona, is a real piece of work.  He is the President of the Thiel Foundation, owned by one of the crookedest billionaires in the nation, Peter Thiel.  Masters had this to say when asked why we have so much gun violence …

“We do have a gun violence problem in this country, and it’s gang violence.  It’s people in Chicago, St. Louis shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly. And the Democrats don’t want to do anything about that.”

So, Mr. Tighty-Whitey Blake … ‘splain to us why the shooters in both Buffalo and Uvalde were white?  And, to the best of my knowledge, most of the mass shooters of late have been white males.  There goes your theory out the door, but … you didn’t really believe it anyway, did you?

The bottom line here, folks, is that there are certain congressional Republicans who have been told in no uncertain terms by their handlers in the gun industry that NO gun legislation is to be passed, or at least none that would slow down gun sales or reduce the number of guns in the hands of civilians.  And so, they are left scrambling for two things:  1) a scapegoat, someone to blame besides blaming guns, and 2) a non-starter disguised as a solution to the problem without restricting guns in any way.  To that end, they have talked about arming teachers, putting armed guards in every school, having only one entry/exit to each school (better hope there is no fire!), and other nonsense.  And what about the shootings that happen in places other than schools, say supermarkets, churches, synagogues, shopping malls, concert venues, and … streets.  We the People would be paying twice the taxes we currently pay just to arm all those guards and … there would still be mass shootings, same as there are now.

The Republicans in Congress and state governments are not interested in ending mass shootings, they are not interested in our safety, our lives.  They believe they have a right to protect their mega-donors in order to keep the dollars rolling in, and if it costs a few thousand lives here, then … oh well.  And these are the same people who go all goody-goody-two-shoes when the talk turns to women’s rights and abortion.  Oh, gotta protect the right to life … at least until it’s born, and then it doesn’t matter anymore.  Killed in school?  Oh well … tragic, but at least he/she wasn’t aborted before even becoming a human.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  Such a double standard, and they don’t even seem to care that we can see right through them and their sorry excuses!  And it’s not just our lawmakers … some 44% of Republicans said that mass shootings are something we have to accept as part of a free society.  Say WHAT???  Nearly half of Republican voters would sacrifice their child’s life to have the freedom to own an AR-15???  🙄

I say it once again.  There is no place for assault-style weapons in the hands of civilians.  None.  Never.  And no gun belongs in the hands of a teenager.  Period.  Full Stop.

If a man needs this … to feel like a man, then what he is, in fact, is a coward.