Do Not Forget Cardinal Rule In Politics

A cardinal rule in politics and governing is that one’s opponent on an issue or policy yesterday will be an ally on a different policy or pressing matter today. While we may never really forget that fact, in the heat of politics and the heightened nature of our rhetoric, we too often set aside that working wisdom.  Over the past week, the back-and-forth of working alliances was again clearly demonstrated.

Pro-Ukraine think tankers on Monday brought Johnson to a private lunch in Dallas, Texas, to meet two dozen of the state’s leading conservative figures, including politicians, donors and captains of industry.

The message Johnson was there to deliver was simple: America must stay the course in Ukraine.

While I am an absolute and staunch supporter of the brave men and women of Ukraine and know Russia must be repelled from attacking a sovereign nation, my views of Johnson are, let us say, not very charitable. His lies that led to Brexit and his caddish personal lifestyle define the man.  But when it comes to the international goal of defeating Russia, we all can stand shoulder to shoulder with those who share our values against military aggression.  

“I just urge you all to stick with it. It will pay off massively in the long run”. 

The former U.K. prime minister flew to Texas as a growing number of conservative lawmakers, candidates and activists have started to question the size of the U.S. support package for Ukraine as it attempts to fight back against the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022.

But Johnson told Texan Republicans on Monday: “You are backing the right horse. Ukraine is going to win. They are going to defeat Putin.”

The lunch was not the first time Johnson has lobbied U.S. lawmakers on Ukraine’s behalf. He visited Washington in January, where he publicly urged the U.S. administration to give Ukraine fighter jets, and privately met Republican lawmakers on the same trip.

This weekend I read that Russia wants to arrest South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham following his comments related to the fighting in Ukraine. Following his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the conservative Republican described the U.S. military assistance to the country as “the best money we’ve ever spent’.

Photo via Reuters

There are many examples of Graham coming unglued and acting less than polished in the years following the death of his very good friend, John McCain, but once again the cardinal rule of governing applies concerning his work in Ukraine. On the matter of steadfastness with a policy to remove Russia from a sovereign nation the words and understanding from the senator allow us to be part of a larger group for a most justified conclusion.

The ever-moving series of alliances and working relationships in politics are often overshadowed by the bluster and desire to play to the base where money is raised and votes in elections are secured. That is easy enough to understand. But the work of governing demands that personal regards be put aside for the betterment of the people or the advancement of a policy. The cardinal rule of politics must always prevail. I am deeply pleased to see it working on behalf of Ukraine.

Wisconsin GOP Assemblyman Rob Brooks vs. GOP Talking Point About Personal Responsibility

Many readers of this little site on the internet highway (a term that now sounds old-fashioned and dated) will recall when the Republican Party continually lectured about personal responsibility (a talking point that now also sounds old-fashioned and dated). If we are silent for just a few seconds, we can almost hear President Reagan talk about how leaving people alone so as to rise with their own abilities was the path the nation needed to take.  America just needed to unleash the notion of personal responsibility.

The words and tone from Reagan came to mind as I read the news report about Wisconsin State Assemblyman Rob Brooks and the bar he owns in Saukville.

Police in Wisconsin say the fentanyl-laced drugs that killed one person and caused three more to overdose in a village north of Milwaukee were bought at a state lawmaker’s tavern that has been the subject of multiple calls to police in recent years.

Republican Rep. Rob Brooks has owned the Railroad Station in Saukville since 2007 and said he was aware of issues with drugs at the bar shortly after purchasing it but thought they had been addressed.

Brooks has not reached out to the family or responded to their calls and did not publicly comment on the recent death or answer questions about the bar until Thursday.

“It ticks me off. It seems like he doesn’t care, like he doesn’t care about the community,” Joe Hamilton said on Wednesday.

When asked about other incidents police have responded to at the Railroad Station, Brooks said, “We’re a bar, and there is alcohol served.”

I was taken aback by Brooks’ cavalier tone about the problems at the bar that he has owned and operated for 16 years.  The level of irresponsibility and unaccountability runs counter to the rhetoric that comes from his party about how there need to be fewer regulations and rules for businesses to follow.  Equally troubling are the GOP talking points on the one hand about why law and order must be maintained and respected when facts clearly demonstrate on the other hand there is an obvious problem with criminal activity taking place inside the bar. When police are overburdened with too many social ills which they need to contend with, it is concerning that they need to be called repeatedly to an establishment run by a state representative.

“We’re a bar, and there is alcohol served.”

Brook’s words really struck me as a cop-out (pardon the bad pun) as it totally undercuts the GOP push about personal responsibility. What he said was there can be no personal responsibility. How can he be held responsible, after all, there was alcohol being served?  That sounds like examples used by Reagan and his fellow pols when talking about why there was always a reason given by people for something bad happening.  Socio-economic reasons were responsible for inner city crime, or a lack of birth control was the reason for teenage pregnancies.  How can Brooks be responsible, after all, alcohol was being served?

Political rhetoric is cheap. What matters, of course, is the behavior of any politician both in terms of keeping campaign promises and living in accordance with the values the majority of one’s constituents believe are essential to have if holding office.

Shelia Stubbs Temperament Problem: Use Of “Force” To Get Dane County Position A Non-Starter

Dane County is in the midst of a controversy. One that did not need to happen.

When it comes to vital jobs in Dane County no one doubts the very important role played by the Director of Human Services.  When it comes to powerful resumes many feel State Representative Shelia Stubbs is an ideal candidate for the open director position.  But, equally important, especially in this time when our basic political institutions come under attack, there is no way not to be concerned about the tone and temperament Stubbs openly displayed when trying to secure the job after Dane County Executive Joe Parsi named her to the position. 

Last week, Stubbs delivered an impassioned speech about the nomination to a gathering at End Times Ministries International, where she is a pastor and the church’s co-founder. A video of the speech was posted on Facebook last Wednesday and was viewed multiple times by a Wisconsin State Journal reporter, but it has since been deleted.  (Let us be honest. Any time a video needs to be removed from social media underscores the fact there is something that is considered damming enough to require deletion.)

In the video, Stubbs indicated that she would not resign her Assembly seat if she’s confirmed to the county position and said that County Board members calling for her to resign the Assembly seat need to be “shooken up.” (After some highly publicized criticism of her attempt to keep both jobs as stated in the video, and of course both salaries which were un-stated, there was then the throwing of a nameless intern under the bus for having supposedly written a wrong statement from her office. It is unbecoming when an elected official so cavalierly can toss aside a worker in the office. That behavior should be a lesson for the Dane County Board as they proceed with this matter in the days ahead.) 

“It’s going to get a little hot politically,” Stubbs said and called on those gathered to pressure the board to confirm her nomination.

“No one else had to go through the scrutiny that I am going through: The difference is I’m Black,” she said. (Skin color has nothing to do with the ethics problem of her voting on budgets and policies in the state assembly that may impact the job she would like to also hold as director. This should not be a complicated matter to ponder.)

“God gave me that job,” she said in the video. “All I need God’s people to do is pray, fast and believe with me, and I believe we’ll take it by force.” (This is where I threw the newspaper on the kitchen table and I think used a name for the one who was ‘giving her that job’ in vain.)

But those comments have prompted a rebuke from Patrick Miles, chair of the Dane County Board, which will decide whether to confirm Stubbs as head of the county DHS.

A speaker at the church prior to Stubbs said the congregation should “storm the Capitol” if Stubbs isn’t immediately confirmed and also accused Miles of stalling Stubbs’ confirmation.

Miles called the rhetoric from Stubbs and her church “disturbing” and said it echoes the run-up to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“We’ve seen how such hyperbole and misinformation have led to threats against public servants and elected officials,” Miles said. “There’s no place for that kind of corrosive and dangerous behavior in county leadership, especially in the Human Services Department, which serves the most vulnerable populations.”

I absolutely echo the sentiments of Miles regarding Stubbs’ lack of proper tone and a clearer understanding of how the government has been under attack following the 2020 elections.  I am perplexed how Stubbs with many years of political experience could lower herself to the words she chose to speak in her church or create an environment of tensions and strife as a tool so to secure the director’s job.  That, in and of itself, is a most visible lack of sound temperament which places her at extreme odds with a job this county needs to be conducted with utmost credibility.

I well understand that some board members are coming under withering verbal attacks but they need to stand firm knowing, as do the residents of this county, that no one other than Shelia Stubbs created this controversy. One that did not need to happen. There are other competent people who vied for the director’s job and will handle the needs of the county with professionalism. Let us cut out the needless drama and get to the task this department undertakes to make our society stronger.

President Joe Biden: Steady, Measured Campaigner In Era Of Over-Charged Politics

Opening my email Tuesday morning brought me the headline I had heard on NPR when I woke up.  President Joe Biden made it official; he is seeking a second term in the White House.  It was not a surprise moment akin to 1968 when a sitting president announced a bombshell of not running again.  It was also not a take-to-the-podium event where family and top supporters gather in some hometown high school gym or public square and as the words of another term are spoken loud applause is registered and captured on film by a bevy of news reporters gathered around.  A digital recording was offered instead to the nation.  Just like that the 2024 presidential race was engaged by a man who has proven campaigns and governing is a one-day-at-a-time way of operating. 

As I looked at the video of Biden speaking to the nation it seemed so calm and ordered and structured.  Yes, it was a professional script and tone for the candidate but there was something more to be seen.  Or rather, not seen.  There were no hair-on-fire chaotic statements or crudeness or red meat that was planted to roil the base or add incendiary partisans into overdrive. It was a normal type of campaign statement that shows deportment and gravitas about the role we want from a president–of any party–being on full display. Voters can discuss the age of the man, the conduct of foreign affairs, or the domestic policies that have been implemented or planned. But what will also be noted and perhaps even more important to voters, felt by voters, is the steady and normal way Biden’s White House operates.  The way Joe Biden lives his life and operates as president.

I believe that people understand the way a president–of any party–conducts himself and offers service to the nation is hard to measure in polls.  Polls can evaluate snapshots of concern about guns or interest rates or progress with changing over to green energy and there can be a strong sense of where the nation stands.  But knowing that there is a strong even-tempered person in the White House, even if one disagrees with this or that policy, is far harder to measure but I argue vital to the success of an election than many heated partisans care to admit.

As I read the other headlines of the day in quick fashion while enjoying my first cup of coffee, I noted Donald Trump’s rape trial starts today, charges against Trump will likely be forthcoming this summer in Georgia over election issues in 2020, and some Proud boys are nearing the end of their trial that will surely end in convictions.  As the nation takes in all the harsh headlines and political and legal turmoil they will also see a soft-spoken guy who looks like his temperament and style matches the way our politics played for most of this nation’s history.  That mood and recognition may not make people honk their horns and rush into the office today to measure their fellow worker’s reactions but it is that steady calm from Biden that will secure him another term.

Fox ‘News’ Viewers Do Not Care About Lies Regarding 2020 Election

For the sake of democracy, a full airing in a courtroom of the actions and behavior that Fox ‘News’ took following the 2020 presidential election was needed in our nation.  That was pretty much what I told James as I came into our home Tuesday afternoon and learned that Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox ended in a settlement.  The irrefutable harm that this large corporation had done to the foundations of our nation was made clear due to the release of court documents and findings in recent months. With the willful misuse of our public airwaves, a certain segment of the citizenry developed a false understanding of our electoral process of free and fair elections. Make no mistake about what happened. Democracy took a direct hit.

I was not overly surprised by the settlement news, given the gravity of what we already knew.  The glaring evidence had already proved many within the ‘Fox Family’ knew the crazed conspiracy theories were, indeed, bogus, but then threw away any sense of journalism, ethics, decency, or love of country and went on-air to repeat the lies and even embellish and add flourishes to them, all in the effort of maintaining ratings.  What we came to know with clarity was Fox ‘News’ pushed a narrative that Trump had won, when in fact he had lost, and in so doing showed the nation the network was far, far more interested in abiding by the wishes and whims of an autocrat, Donald Trump, than doing their jobs fairly for the people.  It was stunning to read emails and accounts from those in the news operations center at the time of how far adrift from the facts they willingly traveled. 

Over the months the information about Fox was released, I kept wondering what it must feel like to be so weak that one will fall for anything.  First, from the ones who produce the shows and edit the tapes and those who then sit in front of a camera and spew forth what they knew to be absolute lies and utter garbage.  When did Tucker Carlson and Company settle for being a clown and a national joke line? Surely that is not why they entered the media world in their youth.

I also have pondered over the months what mental layabouts the Fox audience has proven themselves to be as they readily and gleefully open up for spoon-fed lies and conspiracy theories that the rest of the nation knew to be factually wrong.  What must it be like to glue oneself to the sofa each evening for Fox ‘News’ and not know, or worse care, that the world is reading in newspapers and hearing from radio and broadcast TV journalists a bevy of material about what the discredited network simply will not report, or report with factual basis?  What must it be like to have such a weak constitution and such an addled brain that the Fox Network seems like an information source?  (When I was a youngster, our classrooms were divided with the ‘fast’ readers and spellers on one side and the others pacing themselves for becoming a future Fox viewer. When looking back on those years and then locating some of them on Facebook it is rather remarkable how that separation in grade school matched the political lines as adults. For the record, I frown on such visible demarcation lines in teaching.) Why Fox viewers have such a deep disinterest in the world, heck, the workings of their own country, is a strong factor that Fox relies on for the ability to lie and undermine democracy, all for the sake of ratings and profits.

It does not take long to winnow down this sick relationship Fox has with its audience. Fox wants profits galore, and that means winning the ratings game. Donald Trump wanted autocratic power and in so shaping his cult following among the GOP base he created an issue I have often written about on Caffeinated Politics. He convinced those slow readers they deserve to feel their views and beliefs have merit, even though they are frightfully short of facts or reason. To challenge these chuckleheads is to offend them and so Fox executives in not wishing to lose ratings and dollars spun a Potemkin village of lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the majority of the nation recall from history books that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, etc., had read much concerning Rome and Greece and why the people needed to be vigilant as the past proved the destructive hand of tyranny could occur from one initially selected by popular will. When that power is abused as Trump demonstrated, and Fox furthered with its nightly repetition of lies and partisan garbage, the nation can be threatened.

Too bad the executives and hosts of Fox “News” never thought much about or cared for history and democracy.

Jack Teixeira Rooted in Christian Nationalism And White Supremacy

Jack Teixeira gets grouped with Bradley Manning (my second cousin) when it comes to the unacceptable act of releasing government documents. An online chat group site was where the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman placed highly classified material that very well might undermine war efforts in Ukraine regarding our efforts to thwart Russia. When I wrote about Wikileaks and before knowing Manning, (now Chelsea) was involved I stated, “it is imperative that candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries not be open to the general public in this manner.”   When it comes to the national security of a far higher order in the midst of war there can be zero tolerance given to anyone who releases such documents.  Governments have secrets and should have the ability to secure those they deem important.  (One can make that clear statement about military documents and still rightly argue that government often uses classified markings to secure too many facts from the general public, but that is another topic.)

What we are learning of Teixeira, 21, is troubling and begs the question of how he ever received clearance for having access to highly classified military documents. It is reported he would sometimes show up to class at Dighton-Rehoboth High School wearing camouflage and carrying a “dictionary-size” book on guns and tanks.  The New York Post reported that students recalled that Teixeira displayed some alarming behavior in school, including making purportedly racist remarks, and once showing up to class in a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of an AR-15 a day after the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.  

Leaking hundreds of sensitive documents about the war in Ukraine is astonishing in and of itself, but having access to such documents by one who, as the Washington Post reported, posted a video of himself wearing protective glasses and ear covers at a shooting range as he “yells a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target” is beyond the pale.

Jack Teixeira seems mired in a racist swamp where one can find many young white men, who then act dangerously. In his case he provided online group information and data about the war in Ukraine, the very type of documentation our government strived to keep away from the eager eyes in the Kremlin. That he is white and strongly associated with Christian nationalism and white supremacy (in his own words) fits a broader profile that is one which this blog often notes to be a problem in this nation. When we think of anti-Jewish rants the names of the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers come to mind. The video of Teixeira in this regard is most telling.

Many have discussed how the racism and listing of grievances on right-wing media are aimed at the easily led demographics. A large segment of Fox News’ viewer base was lulled into Tea Party politics and then further down the hole with Donald Trump, autocratic actions, and even supporting the undermining of a presidential election.  So when we see the anger—and yes, releasing military secrets and documents is a very visible act of anger—the nation is looking at it with the knowledge that white males in America have lived on a rainbow, but still are angry.  The entire power and governing structure of the nation were designed, from the drafting of the Constitution, to accommodate white males. And yet they are angry.

Trying to figure out what spurred Jack Teixeira will doubtless take us to right-wing media, a source of vitriol where President Obama or Vice-President Kamala Harris are scorned, mocked, and far worse. While there is a long list of cultural issues or economic matters such as large banks and past bailouts and COVID funding and now of all things, (drag shows!) that stir the rage of these people, the heart of it is always about race.

After all, a white majority population in America is not the future.  The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction.  And quickly.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way to social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment.  But it also allows for a certain segment to lash out and act in ways that society, or a democracy, cannot abide by.

The world of Jack Teixeira is about to be investigated nine ways to Sunday, as my folks might have termed it back home, and sadly, I suspect one of the legs of the stool will be racism that fed his hatred and then his treacherous actions.

White Tennessee GOP Racists To Bring House Session To Quick End

The politically tin-eared and overtly racist behavior of Tennessee Republicans backfired.  The conservative ones planning to run away from the statehouse surely buy their white sheets in bulk. When the white male Republicans rose to speak on the floor to oust two duly elected Black members they felt it was their right to act most offensively. It was almost as if those Republicans felt their actions were justified akin to how Margaret Mitchell wrote of the attitudes and behavior of that type who would do so much harm in the Jim Crow period when Reconstruction progress was undone due to racism.

As we know from how racist actions have played out over the years there is only one way this could end in Tennessee.  It had to severely backfire.  The first consequence was felt immediately as the nation learned the names and messages of the two elected members who otherwise would not have had national recognition. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson have a national platform that will resonate in the 2024 presidential election. The nation is diversifying demographically with younger voters from a broad array of nationalities playing key roles in elections, (as seen in Wisconsin this month) but the GOP is determined to continue using overt racism to play to the dwindling and aging white rural voters.

This week news was reported that due to the increasing heat from the public Tennessee House leadership Republicans are telling their members to pack for a long week when they come back Monday. They hope to adjourn by the following Friday or Saturday.   The session seems to be coming to a rather abrupt end. Hmmmm…. This action of the GOP would be funny if not for the dead children from gun violence in a Tennessee school recently that requires to be addressed.  What the change in session plans underscores, however, is that the racist, anti-children, but pro-NRA and pro-gun Republicans are running away from the statehouse.  Rather than deal with dead school children that needed to be scraped off the classroom floor from bullets that obliterated their bodies, Tennessee Republicans want to end the national scrutiny of their sordid racist actions.

What has happened in the statehouse over the past number of days in Tennessee is remarkable. But even more remarkable is the awareness from the public that is taking place about the character (or lack thereof) of the Republican Party in that state. What has been unleashed by the GOP will not end just because the session draws to a close. As a reader of history, one lesson that is repeated in many books on the shelves behind me as I type is the one now heard by more and more citizens nationwide. Fascism fails when people pay attention.

Republicans Relenting on Medicaid Expansion, People Will Benefit

After years of calling mail-in voting a fraudulent means of casting a ballot and attempting to undermine the integrity of a growing segment of the nation who cast ballots in such a manner, Republicans are now reversing course to embrace that method of concluding elections. It takes time for some politicians to stop leaning on heavy rhetoric that runs counter to the factual foundation of an issue. The same can be said now about the expansion of Medicaid and how Republicans see the merits of a program many castigated for years.

The idea of expanding Medicaid has been, unfortunately, a needless political lightning rod.  The plan was a central component of the Affordable Care Act, which was termed ‘Obamacare’ so as to be used as a partisan wedge issue with the GOP base.  The program’s goal was to increase access to federal health insurance coverage for low-income residents, in exchange for a 10% state match of the federal spending. Now that there is a very obvious need for more of the rural poor to be covered in many states, and with continuous efforts to secure votes for the next election cycle, some conservatives are having a change of heart about their opposition to the expansion.

People who watch politics in North Carolina say that Phil Berger, a Republican who calls himself a fiscal conservative and a “social traditionalist,” is the most powerful man in the state. For years, as the top Republican in the State Senate, he blocked North Carolina from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

But in a sunny outdoor ceremony at the governor’s mansion late last month, with the dogwoods blooming in a sign of spring, Mr. Berger looked on with pride as Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed Medicaid expansion into law. State officials estimate that the expansion will cover more than 600,000 North Carolinians.

Ten states remain where Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid, most of them in the South, leaving an estimated 1.9 million uninsured adults in the so-called coverage gap. Too poor to qualify for subsidized private insurance through the Affordable Care Act but ineligible for traditional Medicaid, they are forced to get by with patchwork charity care or skip care altogether. They are disproportionately people of color.

Nationally, the coverage gap is expected to grow in the coming months because of the end of a pandemic-era policy that provided states with additional funding in exchange for guaranteeing that recipients of Medicaid would not lose their coverage.

Since 2017, voters in seven states — most recently South Dakota — have approved ballot measures to expand Medicaid, despite longstanding Republican objections. Now the question is whether North Carolina will be a turning point.

Two factors are at work nationally concerning this matter.  First, and most obvious, is that Medicaid expansion continues to be broadly popular. So much so that even Republicans who have scorned, mocked, and ridiculed the idea are now moving to embrace it. The second reason is that many people read in newspapers or hear on the radio that small rural hospitals across the country are closing.  This exacerbates the healthcare crisis in many communities.  Generating more revenue from additional Medicaid recipients is one step towards addressing the needs of these hospitals.

From a policy and ethical point of view let us be honest.  Denying the health care needs of people living below 138% of the poverty line (or nearly $19,000 annually for one person) is far more costly to society than fixing the glaring problem. If one just factors in the positive results of preventative health care and a lessening of the need for costly emergency room visits the rationale for Medicaid expansion becomes a no-brainer.

The learning curve on this matter was never the issue for Republicans. Instead, it was one of when the political utility of the issue with their base no longer proved to be beneficial. Sad, but true.