From Draining the Swamp to Filling the Cesspool

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It is often said about a Presidential administration that you can garner much of their goals by the people that the President names to different Cabinet positions, organizational heads, and ambassadorial positions. In the second Bush Administration, there was a great deal of concern about A) the number of people from his father’s Administration that he tapped (especially his VP, Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense under his father), and B) those that were involved with the military previously (such as Donald Rumsfeld, who was his Secretary of Defense). That the Bush Administration during its eight years ramped up military action (and, as a result, spending) in hindsight should come as no surprise to anyone.

After the stunning turn of the 2016 General Election, the GOP nominee now has the same issues facing him that 44 other men have had – deciding who would best push forward the agenda of his Administration. After mouthing platitudes about wanting to “unite the people,” why has the GOP nominee done exactly THE OPPOSITE of what he says he wanted to do? A simple look at those he has chosen for the different Cabinet appointments and political seats demonstrates that, instead of “draining the swamp” as he said he would, the GOP nominee is filling the cesspool that his Administration will become.

The problems began with his staffing of those members that DON’T have to go through a Congressional hearing to be able to take their seats. The choice of Steve Bannon, the former editor of the Neo-Nazi news site Breitbart.com, to be his chief strategist – along with former General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff – rang alarm bells for anyone who could rub two brain cells together. Bannon’s “fiery rhetoric” at Breitbart (which poked at Jews, women, and Democrats, just to name a few) indicated to many that the GOP nominee was going to try to run the country like he ran his campaign – short on facts, long on insults, racist, misogynous, and xenophobic rhetoric. He got Priebus out of the way from his duties as chairman of the Republican National Committee by making him his lapdog “directing” White House operations (you really think that Priebus could direct the GOP nominee to do anything?). Flynn very nearly ended his run with the GOP nominee’s Cabinet by continuing to push conspiracy theories, but his son took the bullet for him earlier this month over “Pizzagate” to effectively quiet many.

Then there South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who wasn’t smart enough to see her gentle execution by the GOP nominee for her opposition stance during the campaign. In taking the position of ambassador to the United Nations, Haley may believe she is “serving” the country, but if she looked up what normally happens in a time of strife, she may not have taken the position. Any time that there is a particularly noteworthy moment at the UN – a critical vote or an important discussion on a dire situation between the member nations, let’s say – the Secretary of State swoops in and takes the reins from the UN ambassador. The reason she was put there? South Carolina Lt. Governor Henry McMaster, a vehement supporter of the GOP nominee, will take over as Governor with Haley subserviently sitting in New York.

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If you thought this was bad, the worst was yet to come. It seemed that the criteria used by the GOP nominee was to identify what the job was of the department that he was choosing the Cabinet secretary for, then put the least qualified person into that position. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the selection for Secretary of Education, has no qualifying degree from any school in the field of education. What qualifies her to be Education Secretary? The fact that she donated $1.8 million to the GOP nominee’s campaign and that she has advocated (re:  demanded) a shift from the public-school system to “voucher programs,” private and religious institutions. The purpose of the Department of Education is to set standards for ALL schools – to go in with the express purpose of destroying the very thing you’re supposed to be supporting is outlandish. (Add in that she is the brother of the founder of Blackwater, the heinous “mercenary” force that is supposed to be a “military company” that was used by the Bush Administration during the Second Gulf War, and she’s even more despicable.)

It doesn’t get better. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was unable to get a position on the bench in the federal court system 30 years ago because of his racial statements regarding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations. But now he’s been chosen to be the next Attorney General under the GOP nominee’s Administration.

The GOP nominee tapped on one of his former opponents, much like President Barack Obama did when he picked Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State in 2008, when he pulled Dr. Ben Carson into the mix despite Carson saying he wanted no part of a government position. So, what position do you think would be benefitting of a world-renown brain surgeon? Surgeon General of the U. S.? Nope. How about Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Despite the efforts to portray Carson as someone who rose “from the projects” he would be now leading, the only relative experience that Carson has with the Housing Department is that he lives in one.

Then there’s Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, that has been nominated to take over the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite the factor that he’s currently SUING the EPA for its regulation of power plants, Pruitt is a known climate change denier who proudly touts this fact to anyone who will listen. Pruitt also is a longtime advocate of fossil fuel usage. That you would put someone in charge of an agency that is tasked with PRESERVING the environment whose main raison d’etre is to destroy the very department tasked with that cause, you’re not putting the best personnel into the position.

Pretty much look at any department and you can virtually smell the shit from the cesspool. Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services? A doctor who is looking to destroy the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood and advocated for not labeling food. Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary? A carrot tossed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, her husband, for support in the Senate?

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Wilbur Ross and Todd Ricketts as Commerce Secretary and Deputy Commerce Secretary, respectively? Billionaires who bailed out the GOP nominee previously or an opportunistic hypocrite who was previously critical of the GOP nominee that owns the Chicago Cubs. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary? Formerly a part of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment firm the GOP nominee railed over through the entirety of the campaign. Toss in former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy (seriously, does he even have an energy idea beyond “drill here?”) and you have a Confederacy of Dunces that rivals a Marx Brothers movie.

In fact, you could say that there are two paths that the GOP nominee is going down. One is that he is creating the ultimate oligarchy, as six of his nominees to prominent positions in his cabinet have donated $12 million to his campaign. You could also say that the GOP nominee is forming a military junta, as he continues to fill major spots in his organization with people with lifelong military backgrounds, including former Marine Corps generals John Kelly (Homeland Security) and James Mattis (Defense), both positions that have traditionally been put in the hands of civilian oversight (Flynn is also a former general and Bannon has a military background).

And we’re supposed to give this a chance?

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The problem is that, once the process begins for those that require Congressional approval, there’s virtually nothing that can stop it. Due to the stupidity of the Democratic Party back in 2014 when they blew up the procedures to push through lower federal court justices, the GOP now just has to have 51 votes to end filibusters on Presidential appointees (this applies to everything outside of the Supreme Court) and move to a vote. When it was for their own good, the Democratic leadership was all for this change. Now it comes back to bite them in the ass.

If there is to be a check on the GOP nominee’s ignorance of choices, some help is going to have to come from some of the “renegade” members of the GOP itself. Virtually every choice is unqualified to be in the spot they were picked for – quite like their prospective boss – and should receive a negative vote in their respective committees. That’s not going to happen, so the Democrats must pick their battles wisely if they are to enact some changes out of the GOP nominee’s festering cesspool. Otherwise, the symphony of destruction is warming up…

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What to Expect at the First Democratic Debate

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Just when you thought that the political world had calmed down, the first of a planned six debates from the Democratic Party will be held on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The five announced candidates – former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Senator and Governor Lincoln Chafee and former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb – will take the stage around 9PM Eastern Time on Tuesday night at the Wynn Las Vegas, presenting their reasoning for being the party’s selection for the 2016 Presidential nomination. It may not be as visually exciting as what the Republican Party have been able to put on in their previous two clashes, with their myriad of candidates all saying the same thing but trying to sound different, but these debates are just as important as those on the GOP side.

With President Barack Obama heading off into the sunset following his two terms in office, it is up to one of these five people to try to maintain the legacy of the Democratic Party for several reasons. One, the next President will probably have at least one and potentially as many as three Supreme Court justices to name in their 4-8 year term, basically allowing for a reshaping of the Court towards a more conservative or liberal bend. Two, if the next President is one of these Democrats, they will be able to firmly ensconce the Affordable Care Act – “ObamaCare” to many – as the “law of the land” and make it even more difficult to take away through repeal as it becomes more entrenched in the U. S. psyche. And three, the Democrats would be able to maintain the current foreign policy viewpoint of diplomacy before dominance – the major difference between them and the GOP, who want a war on all days that end in a “y.”

Anyone who says that the Democrats didn’t think that this would be a simple coronation for Clinton on the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016 would be out-and-out lying. After getting stunningly pummeled in 2008 by Obama, Clinton did her duty in first accepting the Secretary of State role in the Obama Administration and then in not trying to usurp Obama is 2012. Her reward for this party loyalty was supposed to be a free pass to the Democratic nomination in 2016 but, along the way to the coronation party, someone threw a huge monkey wrench in the plans.

Sanders, the genial, grandfatherly Senator from the Northeast who calls himself a “democratic socialist,” has been stealing a great deal of Clinton’s thunder, especially in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Part of the appeal of Sanders has been his Quixotic-tilt against the uber-rich, banks and corporations, which has struck a chord with the young and the downtrodden. His firm stance against all military action in the Middle East has also drawn comparisons of Sanders to fellow Kentucky Senator and Presidential hopeful Rand Paul – you know, back when Rand Paul was cool before he became a Republican.

Sanders has become so popular with some Democrats that the threats against Clinton in the early primary states have forced her into campaigning much sooner than she would like to have done. The Clinton team is looking to get her through the first few primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, ready to take a second place finish behind Sanders, and prepare for the “SEC Primaries” at the beginning of March in the South, a traditional stronghold of the Clintons that would allow her to be able to thwart a Sanders attack through numerous victories.

There are a few differences between Clinton and Sanders, but there is more diversity when you toss the other candidates in the mix. O’Malley is a “law and order” type that, as mayor of Baltimore, was able to lower crime rates and improve the city’s image (it is also alleged that the tactics employed by O’Malley – the “stop and frisk” utilized by police officers, in particular, where officers could stop anyone for investigation despite not visually committing a crime – were a major impetus for the Baltimore riots of earlier this summer). Chafee is a former Republican who first became an independent before moving to the Democratic Party, while Webb is almost a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) as he supports the “close the border first, then maybe amnesty” program popular with Republicans as well as reining in the Environmental Protection Agency and its regulatory authority.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room will be the specter of current Vice President Joe Biden. Supposedly considering a third run for President, Biden has not committed to this debate as of Monday, but CNN has stated that a podium will be on hand should Biden state he wants to take part in the festivities. With Biden polling better than Sanders (but still behind Clinton), Biden would be an immediate (and strong) challenger to Clinton, forcing her to fend off not only Sanders but also Biden.

What exactly is going to happen in the debate? First off, Sanders and Clinton – and throw Biden into the mix should he show up – will not attack each other as the GOP candidates did in their second debate. First, moderator Anderson Cooper and his panelists, CNN reporter/anchor Dana Bash, CNN anchor Don Lemon and CNN en Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez, are not going to ask the “challenging” questions that saw the Republicans rip into each other during their debates. “I think it’s just as interesting to kind of learn about some of these candidates who the American public doesn’t really know much about,” Cooper stated in an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources over the weekend, “as it is to hear from some of the candidates you do.”

There has also been a remarkable bonhomie between Sanders and Clinton in that they haven’t brought the knives out against each other. Sanders, in particular, has been given multiple opportunities to rip into Clinton over a variety of problems she has faced (her private e-mail server, her work with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative and how it affected her time as Secretary of State, her vote for the Iraq War in 2003, etc.), but he has refused to do any mudslinging and instead concentrated on his message. That is a bit refreshing in this current day and age of politics.

Both Clinton and Sanders are going to continue with their own presentations of what their plans as President will be, which differ in some areas. Sanders in particular has made many suggestions regarding what he would do as President – free college for all students, raising the minimum wage to $15 nationwide, universal health care (going beyond ObamaCare) – but he will also have to answer about how he’s going to pay for those things; if Sanders’ plan to increase taxes on the 1% (for your information, that would be anyone who makes more than $344,000) and reduce military spending doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny, then his other plans won’t be taken seriously.

The ones who have nothing to lose are O’Malley, Chafee and Webb. Any airtime they get during the debates would be welcome as the three men currently are barely even making an impact on the polls (Webb is averaging .9%, O’Malley .6% and Chafee .2%, according to Real Clear Politics and their national polls). They also have to make viewers/voters remember them, so taking some shots at Clinton, Sanders and/or Biden (if he shows up and he’s polling at 18.6%) might help them out. If these candidates can’t get a bump out of this debate, they may not get another shot at the next debate in November, especially if Biden announces a run for the Presidency and their numbers stay the same.

One thing that will NOT happen is any of the candidates making a serious faux pas. All of them are experienced debaters and, as such, will be able to withstand the slings and arrows that come from their opponents. Only the introduction of Biden into the mix (due to preparation by the candidates for those that are currently on the dais and not an 11th hour introduction of another player) or a change in tactics by Sanders regarding his “no mudslinging” tactics with Clinton might change the game.

It might not be as electric as the GOP debates have been to this point, but the Democratic debate should provide viewers/voters with more substantive information on the candidates. It will also mark the drive towards next November when the next President of the United States will be chosen.

How the Republicans Can Become Relevant Again

Watching the Republican Party debate on Thursday night, I was disillusioned by how far the Grand Old Party had fallen. Their Top Ten candidates (of a 17 player field, it must be reminded) consisted of the leader, a person who had never held political office, has filed for bankruptcy four times, traded in older wives for trophy wives twice and has little to offer the world other than a banal reality television program and the right to use his name on your properties; the third wheel of a familial dynasty that looks like he’d rather be somewhere else than running for President; a “bold visionary” who did nothing but hurt constituents that, while working for the state, suddenly found their rights to collectively negotiate their benefits was being pulled by his leadership; and, without droning on too long, a list of other religious sycophants, Tea Party dweebs and a Libertarian that lost his way. And this isn’t even looking at the JV team that played to a silent house before the Main Event on Thursday night.

There was a time when the Republican Party actually got things right. Richard Nixon was quite the embarrassment for the GOP in the 1970s in becoming the first sitting President to resign the position, but he did some great things before he was forced (rightfully, it must be added) from office. The opening of relations with China, the détente developed with the Soviet Union and the addition of several key agencies (most notably the Environmental Protection Agency) were all done under his watch. He was one of many in that era of Republicans who actually got the job done, except Nixon went a little too far.

The wheels proceeded to come off the Republican bus soon after that. While many look to Ronald Reagan as the “perfect Republican,” many in the party today would run him out of town if he were in the party because he wasn’t “conservative enough.” They would deride his sessions with then-Speaker of the House “Tip” O’Neill, a Democrat, after hours where the two men would commiserate – but not judge – about their jobs. Today’s Republican would have hated how, oh, just once or twice, Reagan would enter into a compromise with the Democrats, giving both parties the ability to say they got something done.

It REALLY went to Hell in the 1990s, however. The Republicans, granted control of Congress, worked with President Bill Clinton for a time before the ultra-right wing of the party decided that a blowjob in the Oval Office was a high crime and treasonous. Once the impeachment of Clinton was done – with his easy acquittal – the wedge was placed and, over the last 20 years, has been hammered in deeper and deeper.

Today’s Republican Party, while they like to say that they are “reflective of America (their word, not mine…we’ll get into that another time),” are about as far away from that as possible. It has become a political organization that looks out for business but doesn’t look out for their fellow man; it has become a political organization that is too beholden to religious interests, to the point of crippling the ability for their elected officials to do anything; it has become a party of “No” with zero credible ideas that would counter what is on the table and it has become a party that is way too old, male and white.

There’s still time for the Republican Party to resurrect itself, however. All they have to do is enter the 21st century and shed some weight.

Some of the platforms the GOP have are about as welcome in the 21st century as the proverbial turd in the punchbowl. Their views on several social issues, such as abortion, immigration, drug legalization, gay rights and social programs, are rooted in a 1950s mindset when these “things” weren’t discussed, pushing them under the pillow in the hope of smothering them until the light that the 1960s was illuminated the surroundings. As it is a new age – one that is more “forward thinking,” you might hope – the GOP could change some stances and make greater inroads.

Abortion should be a right; the government should have no place to tell someone what they can or cannot do with their body. Even the debate participants the other night couldn’t bring themselves to allow for an exception for rape, incest or endangerment of the mother’s life! Such a view as this is going to cause a sizeable segment of 52% of that electorate to not exactly side with you.

Immigration also falls into a category like this. When the minorities in one state (California) outnumber Caucasians, it might be a constituency that you would try to reach. Estimates are that currently the U. S. is 62.6% “white” (discounting Hispanics that count themselves as white), a total that will continue to move closer to the 50/50 mark as the country moves forward in this century. If you can’t have a solid policy for immigration – and this counts those that are here illegally as well – then you’re going to continue to have problems drawing these people to your viewpoint.

It is also time to get over the gay “rights” issue. Why shouldn’t people have the right to marry the person they love, even if it is the same sex? Why is it such an abhorrent occurrence that it causes Republicans to try to shut it down at every angle? How can you say that a same sex union sullies the “sanctity” of marriage while people get married two, three, four or more times heterosexually? Time to get over it, Republicans.

Now that we have most of the social issues out of the way, it’s time to cut the weight. For too long, the Republican Party has been carrying people that have dragged it into the morass that it currently finds itself. It is time to tell this “dead weight” to head off on its own.

First we’ll start with the “Tea Party” movement, who says it is all about lower taxes but seems to drag the GOP down when they start talking about social issues. Unfortunately, to run a government you have to have revenues and “trickle down” economics has been proven to be a disastrous way of running a government (let’s ask the people of Kansas what they think of this). Social issues are also a part of running a government and require funding.

The GOP should cast those that call themselves members of the “Tea Party” and say, “Hey, here you go. You’re on your own.” If the party is viable, then it will be able to garner support and, perhaps more importantly, financial viability and survive…hell, maybe even become a solid third party. If they aren’t able to do this, then they will drift off into the mists of history along with the Whigs, the Federalists, the Bull Moose, Know Nothings and Dixiecrats.

The GOP also needs to wean itself from the religious zealots of the party, which do nothing but hold it back. The United States has a definitive separation of Church and State; while you can be religious as a politician, it shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all with every decision that you make on a government level. In that case, you are a theocracy and no better than Iraq or other nations that rule by religion. The GOP needs to let those folks go also and maybe their party will be a viable one in future elections.

So let’s see what we have left in our Republican Party 2016:  people that believe the federal government should not reach into every level of a citizen’s life; those that believe there should be financial responsibility in the operation of government; for the most part, the citizens should be left to do as they want unless they violate an extreme law of the land. This party already exists but is pooh-poohed by the two major parties…it’s the Libertarian Party.

If the GOP were willing to do these things, then they might be able to survive as a party. They sure as hell would be able to draw a more diverse following than they currently have.

I’d be pretty happy if there were a Democratic (and let’s be honest, that one could be hacked up itself), Republican, Libertarian, Tea and Church Parties and we’d probably have a pretty decent set of candidates for every election. We’d also have a keen insight to what mental motivation drives this person for office and what we could expect if they were elected. We would definitely have much better choices for President in 2016 than we have under the current situation.