Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cain: GOP's Latest Showman

This opinion piece, appearing in this morning's Des Moines Register, rips the veneer off of the GOP's public face. A must read.....

Written by HARRY BROD

HARRY BROD is professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa. Contact:

With the most recent poll showing Herman Cain leading in Iowa by a margin of 10 points over his closest rival, it's time to take a longer look at the Cain candidacy, a longer view that looks back to the former candidate whose mantle all Republican contenders now claim, Ronald Reagan.

There's a direct line from Reagan to Cain, but it's not in terms of values or issues, where Reagan was much too moderate for the current crowd. I mean the line from Reagan the actor to Cain the motivational speaker, the line that underscores the increasing victory of style over substance.

Sincerity is everything in politics. If you can fake that you've got it made, goes the old saying. Renowned physician Oliver Sacks (the basis for Robin Williams' character in the movie "Awakenings") tells of patients with a condition that turns them into sort of human lie detectors - they spot insincerity, and find it hilarious. Sacks once walked by a room in which a group of such patients were laughing hysterically. Peeking in to see what was going on, he found them glued to the TV, watching a Reagan speech.

Reagan understood the importance of stagecraft. He was controversially the first president to return a military salute, a violation of military protocol. Not even five-star General Eisenhower did that as president. He respected that the privilege of saluting comes with the uniform, not from the title of commander-in-chief.

Cain's got a commanding stage presence, too, but he takes too much command. He reacts to interview questions thrown at him like a batter at home plate, swinging hard at pitches he likes but ignoring others, even those in the strike zone. One wonders if the swagger Republicans like will continue to be popular. Americans tend to want their chief as well as pizza executives to answer the questions they're asked.

Today the way to convince people you're doing or would do a good job as president is by appearing rather than being presidential. When he tried to actually function as head of our executive branch President Bill Clinton was criticized as a "policy wonk," and President Barack Obama tries hard to avoid that label. As far as I can tell, wonkiness is a charge that they're trying to do their job.

Or at least that they're trying to do the job the Constitution envisions for them. But the line from Reagan to Cain traces a different job description, emptying the job of real content and leaving it as a figurehead position, not so much chief executive as national spokes model.

There is indeed a policy agenda behind the Republican emptying out of the presidency, but it's not spoken out loud. The policy is privatization, meaning increasing corporatization of our lives, with the essential functions of once public institutions like schools, prisons and the military increasingly outsourced to private contractors, putting them outside the democratic process by which they could be controlled.

That's why the Republican Party is out to prevent government from functioning. Convince people that government is inherently dysfunctional, and corporations are there to fill in the gap. The less government does, the more unregulated and excess profit there is to be made.

For those puzzled by Cain's new ad featuring his campaign manager blowing his cigarette smoke into the camera while the song sings "I am America," it's Cain repaying his corporate sponsor. He got his political start as a Washington lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association and made his mark by turning it into a front organization for the tobacco industry by opposing regulations on smoking in restaurants, a move opposed by many restaurant owners who thought his actions were bad for small businesses.

The lines spoken by candidates in the Reagan-Cain line are written by someone else. These candidates are a mouthpiece for the corporate interests behind them, and their seemingly presidential style is just skillful corporate ventriloquism. I'll let you figure out what that makes them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GOP's Spooky Candidates

As Halloween draws near, ones thoughts turn to things scary, even bizarro.

Like demons.

But for some evangelical Christians, demons stalk us year-round. They believe demons have taken hold of parts of our country, especially Washington, D.C.

O.K… I can live with the D.C. part.

As the recent
AP releaseElection-year goals of fringe Christian group questioned” points out, some Christian religious leaders, like Lou Engle the leader of The Call prayer marathons, has warned that the tornado that decimated Joplin, Missouri this year was evidence of God’s judgment on the country over…. wait for it…. abortion. Demons are punishing women over choice, so they leveled Joplin.

Say what?

And, Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer, views the acceptance of same-sex marriage as a sign of the end times. The end times, the favorite theme of the follow-my-nutty-ideas-or-you’ll-burn-in-hell pulpit thumpers (pass the plate).

But here is the creepiest part, these apocalyptic doomsayers were the organizers of GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s Houston prayer rally in August, a week before he announced his candidacy. The end of the world is an intense focus of many of the religious leaders involved in the rally.

Now that’s scary.

Actually, Perry should be holding prayer meetings about God’s judgment on Texas, as large parts of that parched state burn like the portal to hell-fires.

But, it isn’t just Perry, as Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens reveal in today’s New York Times editorial, “
The Evangelical Rejection of Reason… The Republican presidential field has become a showcase of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann deny that climate change is real and caused by humans.” Perry and Bachmann also dismiss evolution as an unproven theory.

Giberson and Stephens expose the anti-intellectual fundamentalist evangelicals who promote (and profit from) the idea that “their country has been overrun by a vast secular conspiracy.”

They point us to the earth-is-10,000-years-old leader, Ken Ham; the-founders-intended-America-to-be-a-Christian-nation, David Barton; and the really scary, gay-people-are-unnatural (and SpongeBob SquarePants promotes gayness), James C. Dobson. They left out the Rev. James Farwell who warned that Teletubby Tinky Winky might be gay. All of this would be funny…. if it wasn’t so relentlessly promoted.

These anti-intellectual scare-mongers want to take over our government…the Tea Party (useful dupes) is wrestling for control of the GOP, and intend to place the evangelical boogie-men’s hand-maiden, or man, in the White House.


By the way, no Mormons, i.e., candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, need apply for evangelical political blessings... they're not real Christians.

“…when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even it it means criticizing fellow Christians.” Amen to that!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

GOP's Anti-Patriotism

Sullivan Ballou was a major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers during the Civil War. He wrote this letter to his wife in Smithfield, 14 July 1861 from Washington, D.C.:

Dear Sarah, The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American civilization now leans on the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break. And yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly, with all these chains, to the battlefield.

Sullivan’s letter continues for many paragraphs as he expresses his undying love for his “dear Sarah," his hopes to see “our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us,” and how when his last breath escapes him, "it will whisper your name."

So how do our politicians today uphold this honorable, courageous recognition of the vital role our government plays in the lives of all of us. The recognition that civilization leans on the triumph of the government. The reverence for the great debt we owe to those who went before us? The burning inspiration that together our country can do great things, for and with each other?

Under this noble lens, it's hard to watch the current crop of GOP candidates elbow each other aside in their eagerness to curry favor with the anti-government, pro-corporate me-first Tea Party.

Presidential wanna-be Michelle Bachmann at a Tea Party rally called the current administration a "gangster government,” to great applause, and even claimed in a recent debate that citizens should pay no taxes at all.

The current GOP-majority House blocks job-creating measures intended to lift us out of the financial morass they are largely responsible for under the Bush/Cheney administration. Their constant drum beat is for tax breaks for corporations…. corporations they and the Supreme Court have labeled as “people” with the right to spend unlimited sums of money to buy elections. As GOP presidential candidate
Mitt Romney said this year at the Iowa State Fair, “Corporations are people, my friend.”

GOP presidential candidate
Rick Perry calls the upcoming election a religious crusade to put God in charge of government. God is the cloak scroundels use to mask their raw lusting for the power of the presidency, however unqualified and self-serving. Bible-thumping rheotric designed to obscure their lack of patriotism.

Where are the GOP presidential candidates who will uphold Sullivan Ballou’s honorable, unselfish recognition of the vital role government plays in the lives of all of us?... and the great debt we owe to those who fought and died for this government? Their sacrifice wasn't for corporations.

Sullivan Ballou was mortally wounded at the first Battle of Bull Run a week after he wrote this letter. He was a true patriot… by definition a person who loves, supports, and defends his country and its interests with devotion. It says nothing about slash and burn devisive ideology against his government.

Grand Old Party, where are your Sullivan Ballous?