Posted tagged ‘John McCain’

08.13.17 American depths (Charlottesville & North Korea)

August 13, 2017

This has been one of the darker weeks in the American history of my lifetime. At least since last November, I have known consciously that the worst had not yet come, but emotionally, denial prevented me from hitting bottom. And, even as I feel the United States of America to be at utter depths now, there is probably more digging to come before we slowly begin to crawl our way back to something resembling a nation of compassion, rationality, and hope.

Of course, I’m writing about Charlottesville. (And I feel so badly for the good people of that town, whose name will be drenched in hatred and blood for years to come.) It is no surprise that white supremacists and Nazis would gather to spew hate. What is different this time?

  1. The hoods are off. There is apparently nothing that is considered too much for polite company, too outrageous to risk being associated with publicly. After decades of festering and culturing in the GOP, Trump has completely normalized the violence and hatred on display the past two days. Sieg heil, Nazi salutes, and driving into crowds of people you disagree with are on main streets and in living rooms across the country. Like gun deaths, soon we will cease to even notice them.
  2. For the first time since before World War II, we have a president who is a violent bigot, who cannot discern the difference between good and evil.* Even as numbers of Republicans have come out to condemn white supremacists as the sole cause of Charlottesville (the name now stands in for the events there), the inciter-in-chief – and all his henchmen – just can’t see where blame belongs. (And, of course, even those GOP officials who are condemning the hate are not speaking out about Trump or about his fitness for office. Are you listening, John McCain?)

I’m also writing about North Korea. The tweeter-in-chief is frothing at the mouth and is doing so without any forethought (as if he were capable of forethought). Since he has never read a book, he knows nothing of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or deterrence strategy, or even (absurd as it is) nuclear gamesmanship theory. The narcissist-in-chief probably doesn’t even know that Seoul is 35 miles from the DMZ and has a population of 25.6 million (greater metropolitan area).

So much for the “axis of adults”** we have been told would provide necessary supervision of the infant-in-chief. None of them knew in advance what Trump would say about the Kim regime. None of them could do any more than deny that he meant what he was saying over the past week: these supposed adults are little more than a shovel brigade. There are no brakes at all on an impulsive, vindictive, mentally ill man with the nuclear codes.

And, again, the few mumblings of criticism from the likes of Über Patriot McCain and Lindsey Graham don’t amount to shit. No one on the GOP – even in the face of a potential nuclear war – has a meaningful, powerful, actionable word to say about getting the Giant Cheetoh’s tiny hands off the nuclear trigger.

I am purposely demeaning Trump by calling him names in this blog post, something I have avoided doing up until now. Why have I avoided this? Because the name calling has the side-effect of dimishing the clear and present danger this man and his enablers pose to our country, our values, and the world. Yet, today, my anger and fear need full expression that tempered language just cannot fulfill.

The hate of Charlottesville, the toying with nuclear war – these are only the latest news items to consume us. Even worse than the events themselves is the coming to grips with a government – under the complete control of a racist, irresponsible party – that will do nothing – NOTHING – to save us.

How much lower must we go before someone, anyone, with actual power says: “No more”?


*This is not to say that previous presidents have not been racists or haven’t promulgated policies with racist impact. But Trump is both of a different magnitude and kind.

**John Kelly (chief of staff), Jim Mattis (secretary of state), H. R. McMaster (national security advisor), and Rex Tillerson (secretary of state)

©2017 Keith Berner

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07.25.17 John McCain, American hero?

July 25, 2017

In one sense, the answer is an unimpeachable “yes!” Nothing can ever wipe away John McCain’s heroism in Vietnam. His courage and resistance under torture were compelling and rare. But we are talking about events over 45 years ago.

Since the senator was diagnosed with brain cancer a handful of days ago, the accolades for this “fighter” have been overwhelming, including from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and plenty of liberal pundits. But what does McCain’s post-Vietnam record show us? Nothing but a right-wing politician who flirted with being a “maverick” for a brief time when running against W in 2000. He sure was entertaining and the media fell head-over-heels in love with that ephemeral persona.

Since then, he has run to the extreme right as fast has his feet could carry him, while the media still have nothing but stars in their eyes for his supposed integrity. He supported the entire neocon agenda and remains to this day the biggest hawk in elected office, ready to throw US arms against anyone unwilling to toe an imperialist line. He has promoted tax cuts for the rich and service cuts for the poor. He has opposed almost every instance of progress towards social justice.

And then, with the slogan “country first,” he selected Sarah Palin to be his vice president. Why anyone paid a whit of attention to him after that political treason, is beyond me.

This is the man who got brain surgery paid for by taxpayer dollars and hopped on a jet as quickly as he could, so that he could vote today to take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.

The media keep showering love on this evil man because he occasionally issues mild, coded criticisms of Trump. Especially in the realm of foreign relations, McCain knows as well as anyone the damage this regime has done to American interests since January — through attacks on allies, love for Putin, etc. Yet, McCain has refused to actually stand up and declare Trump — the man who insulted McCain’s Vietnam bravery — to be unfit for office.

John McCain is no maverick or hero. He is a run-of-the-mill GOP henchman who gives up everything, including his own integrity, to advocate for the ultra wealthy. He had an opportunity today to change his epitaph to what it might have been prior to his disgraceful political career. He didn’t. And this tells me everything I need to know about John McCain’s character and “heroism.”

©2017 Keith Berner

07.16.17 Not a single patriot

July 16, 2017

I belong to a Facebook group for the summer camp I went to 47 years ago. (Damn, I’m old!) On July 4, this year, someone posted a request for people to share their Independence Day memories from back then. What I recalled (proudly) was the campers raising the flag upside down and backwards to protest the Vietnam War – it was either 1970 or -71. And I remember the camp owner giving us a harsh lecture on patriotism. “Love it or leave it,” was the mantra of the day.

I remember being called a commie for walking down the street with long hair in my teens. Worse epithets were used against those who opposed the Reagan’s defense buildup in the ‘80s. And the militarists went ape shit, as usual, when people who were neither brainwashed nor morons stood up against the Iraq War. (That was when Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich [R – of course] spent taxpayer dollars to infiltrate community peace groups who were such a threat to. . . what exactly?)

It was the right – and increasingly the Republican Party – that declared, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” and accused us of being traitors.

Notwithstanding my belief that the US has more often than not been a hypocrite in touting democracy, I am a democratic patriot. Democracy is not merely about holding elections, but rather making them free and fair, inclusive, and backed by a robust civil society and a judiciary that acts for justice (imagine that!). This is the only system of government that fosters individual dignity and the rights of all to influence outcomes, at least in its ideals.

Come the year 2017, democracy has been under assault for a decade around the world. In the past two years, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey (among others) have more or less given up on it, adopting ever-more authoritarian practices.

The US Republican Party has never seemed to care much for democracy.* Prime example: voter suppression. To a certain extent, it is inherent in conservatism to oppose a full franchise, because the idea is to preserve the power of those who already have it. But the Trump regime has raised contempt for democracy to a whole new level. Not only does Trump praise authoritarians around the globe (including in the aforementioned countries), but his rhetoric and policies have put our own (albeit flawed) democracy in grave danger, not the least by ceding power to Russia, America’s most dangerous adversary.

At least since the infamous “pussy tape” last summer, predictions that the GOP would imminently abandon Trump have been a mainstay of every new crisis. It has never happened. With the revelations of the past week, it still has not happened.

To be fair, the conservative intelligentsia and pundit-class have turned on Trump en masse. Columnists from David Brooks to Charles Krauthammer have been pummeling Trump, as well as calling out their party for its utter lack of principle.

But, even given a clear and present danger to national security, GOP members of Congress cannot step away from their one true cause: enriching the wealthy. Oh yeah, there are the usual two or three GOP stewards who mumble a few words of gentle criticism, but they intend no action and their colleagues go on fiddling while Rome burns. (John McCain is a particularly heinous example, because he knows better: It’s not enough to sound smart by saying you know there will be “more shoes to drop,” Sen. McCain. Do something about it!)

It is clear now that Trump could indeed shoot someone on 5th Avenue (as he said last summer) without losing his base. It won’t matter if he is caught fucking a little boy in the Oval Office or is on video handing the nuclear codes to Moscow: racist voters won’t abandon him; neither will Fox News or Breitbart. As for GOP elected officials, the only hope of peeling some away will be indictments against Trump henchmen. Even then, only those who perceive an immediate threat to reelection will turn.

No outrage is too much for the GOP: the same people who have used patriotism as a bludgeon for decades. With push having come to shove, they don’t give a shit about their country or anything but themselves and their monied pals.

I can only hope that a sufficient number of Americans note and remember for years to come this GOP-led assault on our fundamental institutions and ideals. I’m not holding my breath.

*I encourage readers to re-read this piece: 11.07.16 The GOP’s existential threat to democracy.

©2017 Keith Berner

11.07.16 The GOP’s existential threat to democracy

November 7, 2016

For the past 50 years, the Republican Party has pretended to have a number of missions. It has seemed to be the party of patriotism, a militarily aggressive foreign policy, the Bible, and the Wall Street elite. In 2008, I described the party as an awkwardly constructed “3-1/2 legged stool” (see Parts I and II): a coalition that didn’t really fit together, but was joined for convenience. That analogy was true, but—in retrospect—rather superficial.

Last week, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait took a deeper look in an aptly titled piece, “The GOP’s Age of Authoritarianism Has Only Just Begun.” The author (who, in my estimation is the best analyst of the US body politic today) unpacks the apparent paradox between libertarianism and authoritarianism (which I had referred to eight years ago). He demonstrates that the core driving force of the GOP is service to the wealthy. This is the GOP of Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand, under which it is immoral to suggest any impingement on the right of the rich to keep every penny they control.

While “libertarianism” can mean different things to different people (including protection of civil liberties and civil rights), the US version has been deeply aligned with the GOP. The justification here is that full liberty is meant only for those who can afford to purchase it and enforce it. And this is where authoritarianism comes in.

In the aughts, as W’s “with-us-or-against-us” politics was in full swing, I remarked sardonically that the only reason why the GOP hadn’t called tanks into the streets and canceled elections was because of their confidence that elections posed no threat to their and their donors’ power.

Sure—ever since the mid 1950s (with the exception of Pat Buchanan)— the GOP had favored aggressive US imperialism around the world (the military leg of the stool). But who were these policies ultimately in service of? The giant corporations who manufactured our might and the open markets that enriched the rest of US industry. (The 170-year history of US intervention in Latin America— supported by both parties—has often constituted outright theft of others’ resources.)

No doubt the GOP has championed theocracy (another stool), from assaults on reproductive freedom and gay rights, to prayer in the schools. At bottom though, this was purposeful manipulation of cultural and religious symbolism to exploit the lower classes into supporting an economic agenda counter to their own interests. Many claim that Trump 2016 embodies the realization by the down-and-out that the GOP has never had their interests at heart. Of course, this is not really the case, as shown by the $72,000 annual income of the average Trump supporter, well above the national average.

Even regarding economic policy, the GOP uses its stated mission (jobs, jobs, jobs) to obfuscate its real one. The Party doesn’t give a hoot about job losses caused by automation or trade, nor wealth losses caused by declining wages. There is no purpose behind their wealth transfers to the rich other than to make the rich richer (trickle-down is a convenient lie and its effectiveness been empirically disproven).

The Republican Party has opposed democracy and the US Constitution whenever it has served their core mission. From Nixon’s infamous “Southern Strategy,” to the voter-fraud fraud, to harassment at the polls, to W’s far-right rule as if he’d been popularly elected, contempt for the public has been a purposeful right-wing strategy. The current culmination is the Party’s announced intention not to allow a president Hillary Clinton to get a single Supreme Court appointment, if they keep the Senate. (Supposed uber-patriot, John McCain was the first senator to announce this intention last month. It has now been echoed by many or most GOP senators.)

The GOP and its donor class now feel threatened, not so much by a risk that their agenda will be turned back, as by the possibility of having their oh-so-close complete victory snatched away from them. They still don’t need to call out the tanks, but the Trump campaign is even better, as it avoids the inconvenience of civilian casualties (beyond the occasional immigrant beaten).

While it is uncomfortable for the likes of Ryan and Mitch McConnell to be tied to Trump and his Deplorables’ explicit racism and misogyny, their continued support for the man is not a display of weakness or hypocrisy. Most of their discomfort is feigned. As Chait points out, they believe a Trump presidency will lead to the final dismantling of the New Deal welfare state, elimination of most federal regulations, and the end of progressive taxation. These are their true goals and the ends justify all means necessary. So much the better if appeals to bigotry motivate a sufficient number of voters to allow a semblance of democracy to proceed.

(There is one aspect of discomfort that is real for Ryan, McConnell, and McCain: they consider Trump an amateur whose lack of self-restraint has seemed to put victory at risk.)

So, here we end up with authoritarianism in service to a libertarianism for the few. There’s no problem with a Supreme Court that hands victory to one presidential candidate over another or an FBI that delivers an October-November surprise in service to the forces of reaction. Who cares if minority voters are intimidated face-to-face, kicked off voter rolls, or impossibly inconvenienced by closing polling places only in their neighborhoods? What’s the problem with a know-nothing, wanna-be-dictator for president, as long as Ryan and McConnell are naming his advisers and cabinet appointments (not to mention his Supreme Court picks)?

The Trump campaign is only truly embarrassing to the small minority of so-called “intellectual” Republicans (like David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and Michael Gerson). These are a mostly honorable bunch, with whom I’ll disagree much more often than I agree, but whose motives seem noble, if misguided. It is interesting to note that there are almost no actual GOP officeholders that are members of this group. This is because all of them are exclusively interested in cash from the biggest donors, power, and the continued suppression of the popular will.

Two-thousand-sixteen is a GOP wet dream. The chance to get a president they can boss around, both houses of Congress, their own Supreme Court, and control of most US states, makes a little thing like democracy a trifling matter.

Chait predicts this is only the beginning. If he is right, progressives’ hope that the GOP will degenerate into civil war and destroy itself is fantasy. Instead, the corporate elite will learn from the lesson of having allowed an infantile candidate to lead them. Next time, they will be back with someone much more polished, who can control his own impulses, stay on-message, and go back to dog-whistles instead of blasts of racism and misogyny.

The GOP is not the only threat to US democracy, of course. A grossly irresponsible broadcast media is perhaps just as dangerous, as purveyors of sensationalism (CNN) and lies (Fox and the alt-right). Even the newspapers of record have been scared to speak out for truth, engaging in “false equivalence” (“Democrats declare earth round; experts disagree”).

I sympathize in principle with those who say we need a responsible center-right party to make our democracy work. (Maryland, an example of nearly complete one-party Democratic rule, is not pretty, giving rise to machine politics are that are also profoundly anti-democratic.) But there is no hope in sight that the GOP can resurrect its earlier moderation. Until big money is removed from politics, redistricting is made non-partisan (are you listening, Maryland?), and voting rights are aggressively enforced, moderation is impossible. And the problem is that the only way to accomplish any of these objectives is to get control of legislatures and courts.

It took Barack Obama five years to understand that he was dealing with an intractable enemy in the opposing party. One piece of good news is that Hillary Clinton will have no illusions in this regard. For the rest of us, there will be no point in trying to play nice with a radical, authoritarian GOP. All we can do is to beat them anywhere and everywhere they show their ugly faces. James Comey will have robbed us of the chance to bloody them badly this year. He needs to be removed from office and we have to try again in two years and four.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.02.15 Breaking News: Indiana declares war on Iran

April 2, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Indiana declares Iran nuke deal dead on arrival, declares war on Iran and Washington, DC.

In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson counseled caution as he awaits guidance from Walmart.

Meanwhile John McCain and Benjamin Netanyahu have been rushed to emergency rooms with apparent aneurysms.

©2015 Keith Berner

12.14.12 John McCain: traitor and liar

December 14, 2012

John McCain’s campaign slogan when he ran for president in 2008 was “Country First!” Then he chose as his running mate a small-state governor with only two years in that office under her belt, whom he only new from about one hour’s conversation: a dangerous dimwitted demagogue with a giant chip on her shoulder and just about zero understanding of any public policy issue. “Country First” was a horrific lie. If you love your country more than you love a risky shot to shake up poll numbers that have been trending against you, you do not put Sarah Palin on your ticket. Especially not when you have a history of heart trouble.

Now he’s done it again. Notwithstanding my view that Susan Rice was not worth the political capital it would have cost Barack Obama to get her confirmed as secretary of state and notwithstanding my concerns about her financial stake in the XL pipeline, there is no question that she is fully qualified to be secretary of state. But the GOP, with McCain in the lead, decided that partisan maneuvering was more important than unity in foreign policy. That’s right: with absolutely no substantive justification on his side, McCain attempted to make Benghazi the sole issue in the presidential campaign’s waning days and then went on to smear Rice’s character enough that she had no choice but to stand down.

Rice’s withdrawal from consideration yesterday was the right thing for her to do. She put the country’s interests in front of her own (though, her move — in it’s shear nobility — certainly helped in one stroke to repair her “brand”). Would that small-minded, mean, and self-centered John McCain would ever do the same.

©2012 Keith Berner

11.30.12 Susan Rice: global warming bad guy

November 30, 2012

Just because John McCain is evil, doesn’t ipso facto mean that any and everyone he targets is good.

(It infuriates me that McCain retains any power or audience at all after he, Mr. “Country First,” tried to put Sarah Palin a heart attack away from leading the country — an act of treason, if you ask me.)

Yeah, McCain, Lindsey Graham, et al. have been playing politics with the country’s diplomacy by going after Rice, for the HUGE CRIME of believing CIA reports that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous and saying so ONE SINGLE TIME on TV. I gotta ask: what the fuck difference does it make that first impressions about the nature of the attack were one thing and reality turned out to be a another, especially when the GOP had cut funding for diplomatic security?

I was already coming to the conclusion that, as unjustified as the GOP’s lynching was, it would be stupid of Obama to waste political capital on saving Rice, when there are one or two other things to spend that capital on. But now this: a New York Times report that Rice and family own between $300k and $600k of stock in . . . TransCanada, the firm that wants to build the global-warming and ground polluting Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

Not only is Rice yet another member of the disgusting 1% club*  (given that she has enough wealth to have that much of it invested in one company). Not only does she own a share of one giant evil-doer in the  global warming industry. But as secretary of state, it would be her job to determine whether the pipeline goes forward!

So, I say, drop Susan Rice like a hot potato and turn to John Kerry. Yeah, Kerry is another one with plutocrat wealth, but at least he doesn’t seem (yet) to be actively promoting global warming.

*Yes, I am actively engaging in class warfare. Got a problem with that?!

©2012 Keith Berner