Regional Political Anecdotes, Part 2

In my last column, I described how politics had found their way into back-to-back trips I took earlier this month, the first being to Las Vegas. There, my brother and I celebrated his 50th birthday with some sight-seeing and shows, and picked up some interesting theories and media philosophies from a couple of local cabbies. Today, I’ll be writing about the other trip, which included what I thought was a really good conversation with a distant family member who holds political views that are quite a bit different than mine.

It came in Port Republic, New Jersey during a Daly family reunion with over 20 relatives. I flew out there with my father just a couple days after returning from Vegas.

My dad had been looking forward to the event for quite a while. No one on his side of the family lives anywhere close to our home-state of Colorado; they all reside in the eastern half of the country, and have most of their lives. So, he hadn’t seen his brothers, his sister, and their families for quite some time.

It had been much longer for me. I hadn’t shared space with any of my Daly uncles since my wedding day nearly 20 years earlier. And believe it or not, it had been almost 40 years for most of my cousins. My last memory of them was when we were children, playing croquet and jarring up lighting bugs in my Grandma Daly’s front yard in a little-known Ohio village (where my father and his siblings all grew up). I was eager to catch up with everyone.

We hung out on an uncle’s and aunt’s porch for most of our three-day stay, telling old stories and talking about our families and careers. I had a lot of fun, and it was neat to discover some unexpected parallels with some of my cousins. Again, regrettably, most of these people were virtual strangers to me — and I them.

One thing I did know about the eastern Daly contingent was that they’re all true-blue, liberal Democrats. I’d gathered this from offhanded comments my parents had made over the years (not in a disparagingly way, but rather as a simple matter of fact). And it had been confirmed through the occasional Christmas letter or social media post.

Of course, stuff like that makes no difference to me. As I’ve written in the past, I may be a small-government conservative, but my friends run the political and ideological spectrum. In fact, some of my favorite people happen to be liberals. Frankly, when it comes to what intrigues me about an individual, their personal politics rank pretty much near the bottom. I’m much more interested in who people are than how they identify.

I don’t think that’s a popular philosophy these days. We’re so divided and tribal as a country, and so inclined to judge the “other side” by its worst examples, that political tolerance just isn’t as easy or as natural as it once was. Sadly, lots of families have been torn apart by this division in recent years, and a lot of it has to do with sharply conflicting feelings toward a single individual: Donald J. Trump.

Well, it was a cinch that Trump wasn’t going to be a major point of contention at the Daly family reunion. As I’m sure you’ve all gathered from my writing, I’m no more inclined to defend Trump’s honor than I am President Biden’s. What was interesting, however, was that very few people on that porch even knew where I stood politically, nor were they aware that I’ve been writing political commentary for national platforms for the last decade. That was fine with me. I don’t normally like discussing politics outside of my writing anyway.

But in today’s environment, when you’re gabbing in a big circle for hours on end, politics are inevitably going to come up. And they certainly did over those three days, including lots of talk about climate change, corporate greed, Trump’s continued influence over the GOP and its base, Fox News pundits’ bizarre pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd, and the January 6th solidarity march that was slated for that weekend in Washington (I hadn’t even heard of it until others brought it up).

I eventually did weigh in on some of the talk, explaining that I’m a former Republican but enduring conservative who left the GOP back in 2016 over the party’s embrace of Trump. I spoke of how much the base and platform had changed from when I’d joined the party at the turn of the century. But it was on our last night in town, in the back of a restaurant, that I got into that pretty meaty political discussion. One of my cousins, an accomplished doctor who had missed my earlier ideological reveal, found out that I was a conservative political writer. And over dinner at our table in the back corner, she had lots of questions for me.

She admitted to being quite liberal herself — an Elizabeth Warren and MSNBC fan. And she was sort of fascinated to learn that within her large, extended family of committed, life-long Democrats, there was an unapologetic conservative outlier.

(To be clear, my parents and brother aren’t Democrats either, but I’m the only one among us with any history with the Republican party and conservative movement, and I’m by far the most politically engaged.)

Of course, political views and political identity aren’t genetic. They come from experiences. Many people’s politics are ingrained in them early in life from sensibilities picked up from their parents. In other cases, they’re developed through events and life lessons in adulthood. It’s usually a combination of both.

So, in that regard, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that I’m the oddball. My father is a bit of an oddball himself.

A multi-sport athlete in his youth, my dad’s last stint with academia was his senior year of high school. He then headed off to the U.S. Navy for four years, and when he returned from traveling the world aboard ships, he went into construction. He eventually started a family, and moved them west to the mountains of Colorado. There, he worked as a pipe-fitter at a large brewery, making a modest wage from crawling through metal ducts, welding alongside guys with names like “Mongo” and “Snake,” and coming home every night smelling like yeast and sweat. He did that all the way until retirement — a blue-collar man his entire life.

And to an extent, I’m a product of that life.

My father’s siblings went a different route. They all went to college, earned postgraduate degrees, and had highly impressive careers. A lawyer. An engineer. Two university professors. A renowned laser scientist! And my dad couldn’t be prouder of them all.

I’m only describing this to make the point that with different experiences come different perspectives. In a number of ways, I grew up much differently than my cousins.

Anyway, the doctor cousin was genuinely interested in exploring the mindset of the modern right. A lot of it didn’t make sense to her, from the persistent devotion to Donald Trump (even in failure), to the refusal to accept the results of the last election, to the hostility toward the COVID-19 vaccines and Dr. Fauci.

She also wondered whether or not the talking heads on Fox News, and a number of Republican leaders who regularly appear on their shows, actually believe what they’re saying when they fuel such sentiment.

“Do they know better?” she bluntly asked me.

That particular question was an easy one to answer. “Yes,” I told her. “They do know better. What they’re doing is pandering to viewers and constituents for ratings and votes.”

I’ve written a lot about this topic over the years, but I think my most effective piece was the one in which I compared today’s cable news industry to yesterday’s pro-wrestling industry. As I told my cousin, “cable-news is to news what professional wresting is to sports.”

There may be a Venn diagram of common attributes, and not everyone on those networks is a phony, but for the most part, the sentiments are scripted and the pundits are simply performers playing a part. And though Fox News is as guilty of it as anyone, they’re far from the only culprit.

Case in point, in a recent spot on Jonah Goldberg’s podcast, conservative writer Kevin Williamson told a story about the guest appearances he used to do with Howard Dean on Larry Kudlow’s old CNBC show.

“He’s a really smart, interesting guy,” Williamson said of Dean. “He’s kind of been around, and knows everything, and had really interesting political insights… in the green room. And then, the little red light comes on, and he calls you a Nazi for two minutes. And the light goes off. And he literally said to me [after a segment], ‘Do you believe the shit that just came out of my mouth?'”

Goldberg revealed that he’d had similar experiences with Democratic strategist, Lanny Davis, who’d express certain views off-camera, and then do a condescending 180 once things got rolling.

I’ve personally come to know a number of Fox News commentators over the years (current and former), and I’ve heard some of them tell very similar stories (both publicly and privately) that went on behind the scenes in 2016, once their colleagues at the network figured out that Trumpism had become the new direction of the Republican Party.

Off-air, these co-workers would describe how abhorrent and destructive they found Trump; they viewed him as a cancer to the Republican party. But the moment the cameras flipped on, they would transform into unabashed defenders of the man, and even go as far as trashing his conservative critics as “RINOs” and “elitist” members of “the establishment.” Once the segment would end, and the cameras were off, these people would sometimes hang their heads in shame, with one even saying, “I need to take a shower now.”

Williamson explained the phenomenon: “That paycheck and that camera, and the power that comes from being a celebrity is really enormously influential, and in many cases a destructive thing in our politics.”

To this day, I don’t think a lot of people fully realize just how horrified many in the world of professional conservative commentary felt by mid 2016, having witnessed the audience they had long written for, spoken to, and thought they understood, pulled right out from under them by Donald Trump and his cult of personality. In no time at all, much of the conservative base had abandoned the issues and principles they had loudly championed for years, and had no tolerance left for people on their “side” who held critical (or even skeptical) views of Trump.

Those who hopped aboard the Trump Train saw their ratings, readership, and listenership jump. Those who didn’t watched them steadily decline. And if they were network contributors (as opposed to hosts), their invitations to appear on various shows became less and less frequent. The message was clear: Get with the new program, or else…

While I’m sure some of the less scrupulous pundits saw the sea change as a rebranding opportunity to increase their celebrity profile, I think most who eventually sold out (including some older, established names) were just trying to hang onto their jobs.

Not everyone played ball, of course. Some stuck to their principles, and remained intellectually honest and consistent in their commentary. By doing that, they ran a very real risk of committing career suicide, and unfortunately, a number of them suffered that very fate. Others managed to hang in there, and continue to contribute — what is in my view — some of the best political content out there. My cousin was interested in hearing from such people to better understand principled conservative arguments (since they’re much harder to find than they used to be), and I was happy to pass some names along.

My cousin did push back a bit on my broad assertion of cable-news disingenuousness, arguing that she enjoys Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid, and believes (even if people disagree with them) that they’re expressing they’re honest views.

She may be right, but I think Reid in particular is such a bomb-thrower and so hopelessly partisan that I’m not sure it matters. Controversy grabs attention. Attention drives ratings. And ratings — not journalism — are what the cable-news model lives and breathes for.

Another question from cousin: What happened to all of the “smart” Republicans?

“Dick Cheney may have been evil, but he was smart,” she said. She added John McCain and Steve Schmidt to the “smart” list, the latter of which a drew a cringe from me.

To be clear, I think all three of those men are/were indeed smart. But I don’t think Cheney is evil, and I don’t think very highly of Schmidt, mostly for reasons described by my friend, Jay Caruso. I suspect Schmidt came to my cousin’s mind because he used to be a regular on MSNBC where he’d routinely bash not only Donald Trump, but pretty much every other “fellow Republican” who wasn’t part of his Lincoln Project.

Still, I understood her larger point, and I used to dwell on the same thing in regard to Democratic leaders and supposed liberal-media intellectuals. I even wrote a column on the topic back in 2013.

“I think liberals sometimes have some interesting points to make when it comes to social issues,” I said at the time, “but when the topic is the economy, federal spending, foreign policy, energy, or any other of the major challenges our country faces, it’s an entirely different story. There is an inexplicable, intellectual laziness on the left that seems to prevent these people from identifying the very real costs associated with any benefit.”

I generally still believe that, and there’s been ample evidence — especially lately — to support that thesis, from the unforced crises in Afghanistan and at the Mexican border, to the insanely-sized spending bills that Democrats keep trying to push through (even as our national debt races toward $29 trillion). The Republicans have unfortunately followed a similar path in recent years, but prior to the Trump era, I still took a certain amount of pride in my side’s group of thinkers.

In that 2013 piece, I added, “I realize that there are several one-dimensional hacks in the conservative media as well, but there is also a surplus of brilliant, independent-minded voices from the right who seem to have no liberal counterparts.” I pointed to people like Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Thomas Sowell (which may have been a bit unfair to the left, being that those three really were the cream of the crop).

But truth be told, I felt that most Republican leaders in Washington were also pretty smart, and believe it or not, I think the same is true today. The difference now is that many of them pretend not to be. The reason goes back to that need for celebrity, and the job security that comes with exciting the base.

In lots of states and congressional districts, the big election battles are no longer in November, but rather weeks earlier in the primaries. The political tilt in many constituencies is significant enough that if a candidate wins his or her party’s primary, he or she is pretty much a shoo-in to also win the general. So, dazzling the base has become job one, and what dazzles today’s Republicans aren’t the things that used to do the trick: fiscal responsibility, limited government, free markets and free trade, “peace through strength” foreign policy, etc. Not even traditional social stances like a pro-life position are regarded in the way they once were.

What now gets the base excited are social grievances, rhetorical culture battles, a “fighting” spirit, and unconditional loyalty to one Donald J. Trump (who they believe is the ultimate champion of those first three items).

A platform of that depth doesn’t exactly lend itself to high-end intellectual discourse. It’s why performative clowns like Marjorie Taylor Greene bring in more donor money that just about anyone else in her party, despite not having any legislative achievements to speak of. It’s why so many Republican leaders tried to stop the November election from being certified, and still dance around conceding that Biden lawfully won. It’s why Ohio Republican Senate candidates Josh Mandel and J.D. Vance spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter trying to figure out which one of them can sound more like he belongs on an FBI watch-list.

These people aren’t stupid (well, Greene might be)… They just know what sells with today’s base. And again, the same is true of a number of people on the left. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that President Biden himself was shamelessly labeling relatively mundane voter restrictions “Jim Crow.”

As one would expect, President Biden also became a topic of the dinner conversation. I was curious if my cousin believed, as many liberals do, that Biden has governed like the moderate he ran as. She did (I think to her frustration), and I explained that I didn’t feel that way at all. I pointed to the obscene spending initiatives and the debacle in Afghanistan, and was surprised to learn that she put stock in Biden’s excuse that he had been left with no other choice but to honor the withdrawal deal his predecessor had made with the Taliban.

The truth is that he was under no such obligation. Biden has overturned all kinds of Trump’s executive decisions since taking office, and he could have scrapped the Taliban “deal” just as easily. Heck, the Taliban wasn’t even upholding their end of that deal — a tidbit that didn’t seem to matter to either Trump or Biden. I explained this, as well as my belief that we should have just kept our limited deployment of troops there (altering the number if necessary) to maintain a status quo that had been beneficial to both America and the Afghanistan citizens.

My cousin’s husband wondered if I thought, as he did, that Trump will run again in 2024. At this point, I think he probably will. And if that happens, I suspect he’ll win the GOP primary (pretty easily) and lose again in the general election (for the same reasons he lost last time). I explained that, contrary to popular believe, there are a number of Republican hopefuls that would make a good president. The problem is that they don’t stand a chance of getting the party’s nomination with Trump still so controlling of the base and party establishment.

What I surprised them with, however, was my prediction that Joe Biden will not be the Democratic nominee. I don’t think he’s going to run again, and as I said to them, I think Biden is already pretty much “checked out.”

“You think Kamala Harris, then?” one of them asked.

My answer was no, and I explained that I don’t think she’s a strong enough candidate to win the Democratic primary (as was the case last time).

What I particularly enjoyed about the conversation is that we were able to talk and listen to each other, in a respectful, productive manner. We weren’t talking over each other with political slogans, and ignoring what the other was saying (which is pretty much today’s default approach). There was a genuine curiosity and exchange of perspectives. Sure, it helped that we’re family (not everyone coming into a political discussion carries that level of affection), but it also helps to be able to concede that our “side” isn’t always worthy of a defense.

Blind partisanship and tribalism have become downright poisonous to our politics, so being able to set them aside is always going to open the door for a more honest and productive discussion.

And I was thankful to be able to have one that day.

Next week, I’ll get back to my regular format of writing about things going on in the news. I hope some of you enjoyed this little two-week diversion.

 


Sean Coleman is back in John A. Daly’s upcoming thriller novel, “Restitution.” Click here to pre-order.




Bernie’s Q&A: Biden, Carlson, Giuliani, and much more! (9/24) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

Welcome to this week’s Premium Q&A session for Premium Interactive members. I appreciate you all signing up and joining me. Thank you.

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):


From last week’s Q&A: “I honestly can’t think of any place I’d like to live besides right here. Scandanavian countries sound good … but way too cold for me.”

Way too cold?????? Is that the worst you can say about Scandanavian countries???? You do realize that Scandanavian countries are what conservative call dens of socialism???? What exactly do you find attractive about Scandanavian countries???? Watch out! Your comrades in-arms might call you a closet socialist. 🙂 — Bob H.

What do I find attractive about Sweden? Denmark? Norway?  Finland? The people are nice. Friendly. The standard of living is high. With exceptions, crime doesn’t seem to be a problem. Pollution doesn’t seem to be a problem, either. No, I’m not a big fan of socialism, but I’d hire a bunch of smart people who would try to help me keep as much of my money as I can. But money isn’t everything, right? Let’s take a trip together, Bob, and if you like it there you can stay and let me know how it’s working out. Yes?

Regarding ScottyG’s question [in last week’s Q&A] about President Biden choosing not to speak at the 9-11 Remembrance Service. Why, in your answer, did you feel that you needed to make it clear that you would expect similar behavior of President Trump? The question did not ask about Trump..why not also include any other ex-Presidents? My point is that President Biden needs to be addressed, commented based on his actions/words alone, not always in reference to President Trump. It’s kind of like saying…”Yeah, that was cowardly (fill in the adjective) but so was Donald Trump” or “Yeah, but Trump was worse.” This is a common Biden apologetic…”yeah, but Trump!” blah, blah, blah. I’m tired of hearing it and it lets Biden off the hook.” — John F.

First of all, here was ScottyG’s question from last week: “Could you ever have imagined 20 years ago or even up to very recently that we would have a President of The United States who has been advised NOT to speak live to the American people during a 9-11 Remembrance Service? Isn’t this man a true bully, that talks tough, talks and whispers down to Americans, brags about s*#! he never did; but when it comes to facing a challenge like possibly being booed or heckled, just like a true bully is nothing but a mere coward? Were you blown away that he chose not to speak on Saturday?”

Scotty’s question was about whether I could “have ever imagined” a president doing something like this, which amounts to the breaking of a presidential norm, and displaying poor character and leadership. Here was my answer: “Nothing [Biden] does surprises me, Scotty. Same as with his predecessor. Nothing he did surprised me either.”

My answer would have been incomplete without that context. Whether you love or hate Trump, he broke all kinds of presidential norms and frequently displayed poor character and leadership. That’s why it is not hard for me to imagine “a president” doing it. That’s not an “apology” for Biden (no one reading my columns could mistake me for a Biden apologist). It’s a criticism of both men (as well as today’s political environment). Biden could have been different from Trump in this regard, but he has proven over and over again not to be. So, as was the case with Trump, this latest example from Biden didn’t surprise me.

No doubt about the left wing slant of the mainstream media and kid gloves for Biden, but iron fists for Trump. It’s also true that Presidential approval poll numbers rise and fall with the economy and those lower poll numbers could reflect a weakening economy. More significant to me is how a medicine has been “partisan-ized” by the media. I keep hearing of Ivermectin as a “horse dewormer” and also elsewhere as a possible Covid treatment. I’m thoroughly confused on whether it has real application for humans or not. How did we get to this point on something that should be irrefutable? — John R.

I hear all sorts of stuff on cable TV mostly from supposed “experts.” They often disagree on treatment, masks, booster shots and a whole bunch of other things involving the virus. I’m also confused — and not only about the drug you mention, John. I’m confused because I don’t trust news organizations anymore to play it straight. Too often the “experts” they put on their shows are there simply because they reflect the station’s values and biases.

Bernie, I don’t know but I think that Joe Biden is actually worse at telling the truth than Donald Trump. Donald Trump only looked worse because the media kept calling him a liar no matter what he said. Also, can you provide some specific lies that Donald Trump, not including the lie about the number of people at his inauguration? I’ve heard the comments about all Donald Trump’s lies but never specifics. — Jerry G.

If I have to provide lies that Donald Trump has told to convince you he’s chronically dishonest, then I’d be wasting your time and mine. Google Trump’s lies. Then discount half of them. You still have thousands of statements that are false, misleading or outright fabrications.

Bernie, as far as I can tell, Joe Biden hasn’t done one true press conference since he was elected, where reporters were called on randomly and without prior knowledge of what would they ask. Am I correct in this, and if I am can you think of any previous President that went eight months into their term without a true press conference? To me, this more than anything shows that not only is Biden not equal to the position he holds but that everyone around him recognizes that he’s not equal to the position. — Bob K.

I think you’re right on all counts, Bob. The reason he doesn’t hold more news conferences and take more questions from more journalists is because his handlers don’t trust him not to screw things up.

On his show Monday, Tucker Carlson said: “The point of mandatory vaccinations [in the military] is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the freethinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anybody else who doesn’t love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately. It’s a takeover of the U.S. military!”

In the world of reality (a world that doesn’t have much representation on cable news these days), U.S. military members are required to get several different vaccinations before they can serve (for health and readiness purposes), and receiving those vaccinations (including the Covid vaccine now) obviously doesn’t make those soldiers any less Christian, less independent minded, or have low testosterone. It’s clear that Tucker doesn’t believe a lot of what he says on television these days, but because he knows that millions of Americans really do take him seriously, would it be unfair of me to recognize him as a sadist who gets some kind of special thrill out of sending his viewers into hysterics? — Ben G.

Whether he’s a sadist or not, Ben, he is one crummy human being. Is he perceptive at times? Yes. Does he say things at times that need to be said? Yes. But he has a bad habit of attributing the worst motives to people — and I suspect he does it because he knows that’s what the hard core part of his audience wants to hear. As for the quote you reference: Assuming that’s what he actually said, it’s just one more example of how he crosses the line to make points with a segment of his audience.

Sir Bernie, your prediction came true! Apparently three black women from Texas attempted to enter Carmine’s Steakhouse in New York City, but they were asked to leave because of the vaccine mandates in place (you know, those mandates that President Biden and the liberal Democrats support so much). Apparently the three women could not or would not show proof of being vaccinated against Covid. So what did these classy women do? Well the three black women assaulted the young Asian hostess (golly gee whiz—so much for stopping Asian hate, but I digress). Then the three hooligans allied themselves with BLM to harass Carmine’s staff and customers with the same old hackneyed accusations of racism that’s been a part of the liberal playbook for decades. I’m sure you’ve known many liberal Democrats—What do the liberal Democrats say when they witness such incidents?—-How do you think those diversity loving left wing Democrats in New York City feel when they see incidents Like this that destroy several of their narratives all at once? I’m really curious. — “New York Strip with a side of Assault & Battery” Regards from The Emperor

I don’t know what actually happened. But there are reports that paint a different picture than the one you’ve outlines, Your Holiness. Here’s a report from something called “Eater, New York” …

Vaccination requirement controversy at Carmine’s takes another turn

Late last week, various media outlets reported that a trio of customers allegedly assaulted a hostess at Carmine’s on the Upper West Side after she requested to verify their vaccination status. The incident sparked a flurry of news coverage and outrage over social media over the weekend; however, the conflict took another turn on Saturday: The New York Times reports that the customers, three Black women visiting from Texas, did in fact show documentation of their vaccination status, according to their lawyers as well as Carmine’s.

Video footage from a security camera appears to show that three men tried to join the women in the restaurant but two weren’t able to prove their vaccination status, according to reports. At that point, the women exited the restaurant and the Carmine’s hostess allegedly used a racial slur and assaulted the customers first, one of the lawyers representing the women told the Times. The restaurant has denied the women’s account of the altercation through its legal team. The women now have a court date for October 5.”

I’ll wait to see if truth emerges, Sir Emperor.

Yes, I’m going to touch the third rail of political speech – abortion. To me this issue is one where we need strong voices on both sides (all sides?) and a constantly evolving argument. I’m uncomfortable with the government interfering in the most intimate of medical decisions. I’m also put off by this “celebrate your abortion” mentality of the left, which I think is an unconscionable departure from “safe, legal and rare”. Likewise, I am in favor of the death penalty, but this is also a moral issue that needs to be constantly debated by intelligent people. Aren’t these difficult issues the reason we have free speech? Instead we want to declare “settled law” so our side can win and move on. Medical ethics, discoveries, taboos and social mores are necessarily shifting and evolving. Shouldn’t our public discourse be thoughtful and unsettled as well? — Steve R.

You make a lot of sense, Steve. But as you know, both sides are locked in. Some, but very few people are moved or influenced by arguments put forward by the other side. If there were more like you out there, we’d be less polarized — and more open-minded.

Hey Bernie, where can I find the resource for those who is paying the taxes percentages you mentioned [in this week’s “Off the Cuff”? It’s not that I don’t believe you, I just want to be able to back it up when I share it. — Titaniumman11

Here’s the link.

Bernie, as public figures who insisted the 2020 election was “rigged” continue to face costly defamation lawsuits from the voting-system companies they falsely implicated, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell appear to have joined forces to generate extra revenue for their legal defenses:

Three questions:

  1. Isn’t this the greatest collaboration of two individuals since Simon & Garfunkel, or at least since Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage formed the “Mega Powers” tag-team in the WWF in the late 1980s?
  2. Do you agree that “Towels that Work!” is an absolutely genius product tag-line, being that so many of us are sick and tired of falling victim to regular towels that refuse to absorb moisture?
  3. Is there a “Bernie” promo code that I can use on my next My Pillow online order?

Thanks. — John D.

All interesting questions, John D. And by interesting I mean you’re clearly off your meds — again. But I’ll take a whack at it anyway.

  1. It is a great collaboration … the guy who makes pillows and the guy who made things up. I agree with you that Simon & Garfunkel might be a tad higher on the “Great Collaboration” List …  but only a tad higher. As for Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage: I’ll bet you didn’t know that they recorded “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” BEFORE Simon & Garfunkel did. But Jesse Waters threatened a lawsuit claiming the song was about him and he wanted a piece of the action.
  2. Towels that work are much better than towels that don’t work. I stand by that. They’re especially useful if you fall into troubled waters.
  3. Yes there is. It’s “BernieSaysGFYS”. YS stands for your self.

 


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.




Regional Political Anecdotes, Part 1

First, an apology to my readers for not putting out a column last week. I had a very busy seven days that began in Las Vegas with my brother (where we celebrated his turning of a half-century old), and ended in southeastern New Jersey for a Daly family reunion with over 20 relatives (many of whom I hadn’t seen since childhood, if ever). So, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the national news cycle.

That was fine with me. It’s good to take a break from time to time, and as I’ve written in the past, I honestly don’t even like discussing politics outside of my writing.

Still, with America as divided as it is, everything seemingly politicized, and people perhaps more willing than ever to make their voices heard on such topics, politics managed to find their way to me anyway.

Today, I’ll be describing a couple of those instances. And in my next column (which I hope to get out later this week), I’ll be discussing another.

We’ll start with Vegas.

Again, politics was the last thing on my mind at the start of the birthday weekend. I just wanted to get to our hotel, get ready for dinner at Battista’s Hole in the Wall, and then head over to the Foundation Room at the top of Mandalay Bay for some VIP treatment (courtesy of the hilarious and very generous John Di Domenico). But just minutes after my brother and I left McCarran International, our cab driver started right in.

“Dammit!” he abruptly shouted, his head flipping back and forth between the road and his side window. I figured the 50-something fellow had simply missed a turn, but then he pointed out his window and added, “Those clouds are fake!”

At first, I thought I had heard him wrong, perhaps because of his European accent. There were some clouds still hovering above from a rain storm that had recently passed through (the storm had actually delayed my plane’s landing), and this guy was clearly worked up about them. He soon explained why, and shortly afterwards, I tweeted about what he told me. To my surprise, the tweet went kind of viral:

I wish I was joking, but I’m not. The driver was genuinely convinced that Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci of all people (he later added George Soros to the mix) were masterminding an operation that was creating “fake clouds” in the sky (including those above us at that very moment), and he wasn’t going to sit quietly by as it happened. He angrily called the men (all considered villains by much of the political right) “bastards” and “human cockroaches,” and he responded to the Daly brothers’ glazed-over silence by repeatedly (and aggressively) asking, “Do you not believe me?”

Being that my brother and I are both fairly sane, we of course didn’t believe him. They were just — you know — clouds. And honestly, I don’t even know how Dr. Fauci could find the time for meteorological side-projects with all of those pandemic-related television appearances he does. But while I’m generally more than happy to shoot down zany conspiracy theories, it’s a bit of a unique situation when the guy spewing them is driving you around in a car (with your life in his hands and your luggage in his trunk). We were almost to the hotel anyway, so I just shook my head and bit my tongue.

My brother, on the other hand, felt inclined to try and smooth things out. “Damn one-percenters,” he said, nodding his head in faux populist solidarity.

“Exactly!” the cab driver shouted back. “Exactly!” The guy believed he had found an ally. Mission accomplished, I suppose.

Well, we soon made it to the hotel, and after the cabbie took off, I snapped a picture of the Gates/Fauci/Soros clouds. They were actually quite pretty, so nice work guys!

But seriously, while this was just one anecdote and one person, I do think it’s indicative of the cultural and political landscape we’ve found ourselves in as a country. While some would dismiss this fellow as a crackpot, what he said wasn’t as outlandish or exceptionally hostile as it should be, being that we live in an era when political-based conspiracy theories run rampant and find large audiences — not just through dark corners of the web, but also through major media organizations and mainstream political constituencies. Unfortunately, all that’s required for a large number of people to buy into them (entirely) is a preconceived notion or the tiniest grain of truth.

For example, earlier this week, Tucker Carlson told his millions of viewers that President Biden’s mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. Military personnel was not employed for the purpose of troop health and readiness (the reason that our soldiers have long been required to get vaccinated against serious diseases).

No, according to Carlson, “The point of mandatory vaccinations is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the freethinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anybody else who doesn’t love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately. It’s a takeover of the U.S. military!”

This should strike any reasonable person as patently absurd (as should other vaccine conspiracies that Carlson has shamelessly peddled), especially in the context of a global pandemic that has killed close to 700,000 Americans, hospitalized many more, and caused an extraordinary amount of societal, cultural, and economic strain. And of course, what he said doesn’t even make rhetorical sense. How does getting vaccinated against a deadly virus make someone less of a Christian or less of a free thinker? How does it amount to low testosterone, or having a crush on Joe Biden? The obvious answer is that it doesn’t.

But because the type of people who watch Carlson’s show tend to view Democrats in the same light that Carlson described (godless, bubble-dwelling weaklings), nothing else is necessary to bolster the narrative, get people to defend it, and keep them tuning back in for more. The same has been true of Donald Trump’s continued insistence that he won the 2020 election. Despite overwhelming factual evidence thoroughly debunking his claim, many on the right will forever believe him. Why? Part of it is because they adore Trump, but it’s also because they view Democrats as morally and institutionally corrupt enough to pull off such a sham.

Heck, even the “fake cloud” theory didn’t formulate completely out of thin air (no pun intended). As a surprising number of people who responded to my tweet pointed out, Bill Gates has granted money to a geoengineering study at Harvard having to do with reducing climate change. Part of that study proposes launching a high-altitude balloon 12 miles into the air to release a limited amount of non-toxic dust into the atmosphere, in order to measure its sun-reflecting effectiveness.

I’m not sure exactly how Dr. Fauci and George Soros are supposed to play into this, or how a proposal to release dust 12 miles up equates to an active and flourishing “fake cloud” program above Sin City, but a number of Twitter folks believed that the mere existence of the study, and Gates’ partial funding of it, conclusively vindicated the cab driver. Some even decided that I owed the cabbie an apology (for what, I’m not really sure).

But sadly, that’s where we’re at right now. Virtually anything can be presented, justified, and absorbed as fact… as long as it’s rooted in a desired political narrative or preconception. And because of our societal willingness (and even eagerness) to politicize each and every thing, fewer and fewer people have reservations about injecting such themes into our public discourse. It’s no longer taboo.

The very next night, after my brother and I enjoyed the lights on Fremont Street, another cab driver also engaged us in politics. He too was an immigrant in his 50s, but New Zealand was his home country. He was much more pleasant than the first guy — jolly, in fact. But when he asked what we did, and learned that I’m a writer and my brother is a news producer, he jokingly called us “the enemy,” and then got down to business.

“Is your news company right or left?” he bluntly asked my brother.

“Well, we like to think we’re right down the center,” my brother answered.

It wasn’t just a diplomatic response but likely an accurate one. My brother works for a local-news network, producing the local nightly news in a red-leaning region of a blue-leaning state. He’s one of the least ideological people I know, and the stories covered often have little or nothing to do with politics.

But the cab driver wasn’t buying it. “Yeah, right,” he said. “Do you work for Fox or CNN or what?”

My brother briefly explained his job, and the scope of the reporting he does. I’m not sure if any of it sunk in, but the moment he mentioned that his station is a Fox affiliate (it’s also a CBS affiliate, but he wasn’t given a chance to spit that part out), the cab driver said, “So ‘right’ then! You guys are on the right!”

It was pretty amusing. The guy certainly meant no ill-will, and he kept things light and comical, but it was interesting that he wouldn’t leave even a little room for the premise of an unbiased news source in this country. I suppose, based on the direction of journalism over the last few decades, I can’t blame him. In fact, one could argue that he has a clearer picture of the modern news landscape in this country than a lot of journalists.

I think his perspective also says something about tribalism, in how the great divide in this country, along with how people choose to identify themselves and others, really does fall along political lines.

The guy had some other interesting insights as well, including how he viewed the United States as 50 separate countries rather than one. The concept of state governments fascinated him, which makes sense being that there isn’t anything comparable in his home country.

All in all, it was a fun ride. But again, it was further proof that politics have become a default topic of impromptu conversation in this country, perhaps even to the same extent as the weather (though the first cabbie managed to combine both).

In my next column, I’ll be looking at my east coast experience and how it too brought with it a political dynamic.

Stay tuned.

 


Sean Coleman is back in John A. Daly’s upcoming thriller novel, “Restitution.” Click here to pre-order.




Bernie’s Q&A: Joe Biden, Larry Elder, Norm Macdonald, and more! (9/17) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

Welcome to this week’s Premium Q&A session for Premium Interactive members. I appreciate you all signing up and joining me. Thank you.

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):


Could you ever have imagined 20 years ago or even up to very recently that we would have a President of The United States who has been advised NOT to speak live to the American people during a 9-11 Remembrance Service? Isn’t this man a true bully, that talks tough, talks and whispers down to Americans, brags about s*#! he never did; but when it comes to facing a challenge like possibly being booed or heckled, just like a true bully is nothing but a mere coward? Were you blown away that he chose not to speak on Saturday? I certainly was, or then again maybe I wasn’t.  –ScottyG

Nothing he does surprises me, Scotty. Same as with his predecessor. Nothing he did surprised me either.

Bernie: I think a lot of Americans are wondering who this guy is we thought we elected President. Biden sold himself as “ol’ Joe”, “Joe from Scranton” and “a return to normalcy”. Do they wildly spend $3.5 trillion in Scranton? Does ol’ Joe the empathetic leader perform the most inept and deadly troop withdrawal in U.S. military history? And is it a return to normalcy to threaten state elected officials with cancellation if they don’t line up and do what he says in his dictatorial edicts? His governance is nowhere near normal, competent or empathetic. I’m starting to put ol’ Joe in the category of a fraud. He isn’t at all who he says he is. Too harsh? — Steve R.

I recently wrote, Steve, that a majority of voters rejected Donald Trump last time around because he was chaotic and dishonest. And then elected Joe Biden whose presidency is chaotic and dishonest. So I’m with you in your analysis. Check out my column that will go up on Monday for more on this.

Apparently a “racism task force” has been appointed by the National Archives to clean up the offensive parts of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The task force suggested that the National Archives should post trigger warnings for people who may suffer psychological damage from reading these offensive documents that did not originally guarantee freedom for everyone, thus promoting racism and white supremacy. In fact, this task force even found the rotunda offensive because of some of the illustrations on it (Honest to God, I wish this were a piece of satire from “The Onion” or “MAD Magazine” but it’s not). Funny, but I seem to recall how the liberal left wingers absolutely HATED a similarly named organization from decades ago called “The House Un-American Activities Committee” that Hollywood still demonizes and makes movies about. Golly, I wonder why the liberal left wingers suddenly like such organizations —-what changed, I wonder. But I digress.

Here’s what I want to know your thoughts on: how does somebody become a part of this “racism task force” and what must their qualifications be? Seriously. Also, what government office has the authority to appoint such a waste of time and money?

“Woke Dunderheads Committee” Regards from The Emperor

I got a call from Joe Biden today asking for a name or two that I would recommend for the racism task force. I gave him your name. Hope you don’t mind. Regarding your observations: I’m with you, Your Worship: This looks like it’s the work of Mad Magazine or the Onion. I’m guessing National Archives has the authority to appoint a panel without a vote of Congress. But let’s be fair: The Constitution of the United States of America is a pretty scary document — what with that First and Second Amendment stuff. I mean, freedom of speech? Doesn’t that deserve a trigger warning? Freedom of assembly? Come on, man! As for the Second Amendment: I will make no jokes about “trigger” warnings. I could get cancelled for saying stuff like that.

Going into the California recall election night, Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder was suggesting that the election might be rigged. He was getting Trumpy in other ways at times on the campaign trail. But when he lost Tuesday night, he publicly conceded that he lost fair and square, and called on his supporters to be “gracious in defeat.” A breath of fresh air, though in the past a candidate conceding defeat was totally normal. What are your thoughts on Elder, and do you think ANY Republican recall candidate would have had a prayer in California? Schwarzenegger pulled it off years ago (because he was Arnold), but do you think anyone else could have? — Ben G.

It was a very long shot for Larry Elder given that there are twice as many Democrats registered to vote in California as Republicans. So, I don’t think — absent a scandal of major proportions — a Republican would succeed in ousting a sitting Democrat in a recall election. I’m glad Larry was gracious. That was a good way to go out.

Simple question, Do you think Trump cared about the Afghan’s that helped us. And do you think he would have done a better job of getting them all out? — Douglas S.

I don’t really think Donald Trump cares about anybody but himself (and maybe his immediate family). We can’t say if he would have done a better job … but I’m pretty sure of this: If it had gone as badly as it did with President Biden, Fox conservatives would have made a million excuses for him. Maybe 2 million. They had every right to bash Biden but they would not have bashed their guy Donald Trump if it had turned out the same way.

Comedian Norm Macdonald just passed away, and I’ve been surprised to hear about the many friendships he had with well known Republicans and conservative/rightwing media people. I’m guessing he leaned right, and discreetly hung out with a bunch of this crowd. I was wondering if you had a relationship with Norm, and either way, what you did you think about his comedy? — Jen R.

I only knew him from TV. He had a strange sense of humor but at times he did make me laugh. I just read an interview he gave where he came out against the cancel culture and other excesses of the left. I don’t know his politics, but if  he was a liberal, he was of the old-fashioned variety. If he played right field, it was smart not to be too political. He lived in LA after all.

This is from an interview he did in 2018 with the Hollywood Reporter:

Q: What about when someone admits to wrongdoing?

A: The model used to be: admit wrongdoing, show complete contrition and then we give you a second chance. Now it’s admit wrongdoing and you’re finished. And so the only way to survive is to deny, deny, deny. That’s not healthy—that there is no forgiveness. I do think that at some point it will end with a completely innocent person of prominence sticking a gun in his head and ending it. That’s my guess.

Goofy question probably, but other than the U.S.A., which country would you most like to live in? — Oliver T.

I honestly can’t think of any place I’d like to live besides right here. Scandanavian countries sound good … but way too cold for me.

Bernie, I have an idea on how to get more Americans vaccinated, and I wanted to workshop it with you a little:

Rather than presenting the vaccines as a choice between Pfizer and Moderna, we start presenting them as a choice between the “Trump Vaccine” and the “Go-Away-Trump Vaccine.” (In reality, the vaccines will be exactly the same, but people won’t be told that). This way, the Trumpers will get on board in larger numbers, as will those among the unvaccinated who wish Trump would just go away. I figure that these two groups pretty much make up the entire U.S. population.

Problem solved, right? Oh, and just for fun, once each of these people gets their second shot, the person administering the shot should say something like, “Oh sh*t! I think I gave you the <opposite> vaccine!”

Your thoughts are appreciated, sir. — John D.

First let me say that I have long believed that you escaped from a mental institution some time ago and that explains the strange nature of your questions. In other words, I have long thought they were crazy — just like you. No offense intended.

But I think this idea is really quite good. Brilliant actually. If they let you out for play time let me suggest you call Dr. Fauci and see what he thinks. Let us know how it goes.

 


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.




Counting on the Goodwill of the Taliban

If we needed any proof that politics really does make strange bedfellows simply take note of the fact that a democratic republic like the United States of America is dealing with the Taliban, a medieval band of terrorists.

What choice do we have? Leaving Afghanistan and ending “America’s longest war” is one thing. Reasonable people may differ on whether it was the right thing to do. But Joe Biden’s chaotic departure makes us look weak around the world. Leaving Americans and our Afghan allies behind makes us look unreliable. No matter how many times Mr. Biden tries to paint the withdrawal as a well-planned success, everybody knows what it was – a humiliating fiasco.

We went to war 20 years ago in Afghanistan to rid the country of the Taliban and now, 20 years later, we’re counting on them to not only let our people out – which they’ve already begun doing, a tentative but welcome sign – but also to make sure that the future in Afghanistan doesn’t resemble the past.

Maybe there’s a new Taliban out there, a Taliban 2.0, one that doesn’t long for the good old days of the seventh century. We’ll know in time. But let’s not be too optimistic. This, after all, is the same mob that enabled al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden 20 years ago; that let them train and plan their attack on the United States. So we don’t really know – not right now, anyway – what Taliban we’re partnering with.

The Biden administration has been trying to persuade the Taliban to clean up its act, but old dogs don’t readily adapt to new tricks. A few days ago, they named a new government that makes you wonder if the new Taliban is the same as the old Taliban.

Let’s start with the man they picked as interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani. “This is, literally, putting a jihadist terrorist in charge of internal security. Mr. Haqqani is on the FBI’s most wanted list, and the U.S. is offering up to $10 million for information leading to his arrest,” as an editorial in the Wall Street Journal explains it.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Haqqani Network, which his father who was pals with bin Laden founded and that his son now runs. According to the U.S. counterterrorism center, “The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting US, Coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. They typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles.”

Haqqani will have like-minded allies in the new Afghan government. The Taliban supreme leader in Kabul will be Haibatullah Akhundzada, an Islamic fundamentalist who wants to govern the country under strict Shariah law. The new prime minister is someone named Mullah Hassan Akhund, who was foreign minister in the pre-9/11 Islamic Emirate in Kabul.

These are the men who are supposed to prevent jihadists from once again using Afghanistan as a sanctuary for another terrorist attack on the United States. Do you feel comfortable with that? I don’t.

As the Journal editorial puts it: “In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush declared that the U.S. would no longer distinguish between terrorists and the governments that harbor them. Now, after Mr. Biden’s calamitous withdrawal, the U.S. is in the incredible position of hoping to make a government run by terrorists our partners.”

Like all of you, I watched in real time the horrors of September 11, 2001. But I have never watched a memorial service in the 20 years since. That day 20 years ago is etched in our memories. I don’t need a return to hell every year on the anniversary of the attack to insure that I won’t forget what happened. I won’t forget. None of us will.

President Biden is hoping things will turn out well. That we get all Americans and our Afghan friends out, that there will be no hunting down of those who helped us, no revenge killings, that women and girls will be treated with respect … and that by the midterm elections next year the American people will forget all about the way we left.

That’s a lot to hope for.