Both Feet!

I have posted before about the protest that is going on in the NFL (especially) by a number of players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem. It is a hot topic, indeed a large pond of hot mud, since there is a great deal of pointing of fingers and angry cries of “foul” but very little seems to be happening. The problem is the focus of attention is directed to the protests themselves and not to the problems that have brought on the protests — namely, the civil unrest, especially in large cities and most especially in poor neighborhoods where there have been numerous clashes between police officers and citizens who see the police presence as a threat.

This issue, as I say, is very muddy indeed and a number of the players — not only in football but in other professional sports as well — are actually working with those in the ghettos to help resolve the tensions that exist there between the citizens and the police who patrol the streets. What is needed is dialogue, of course, between the two sides so that an understanding can be reached between two groups of folks who simply see the world differently.

But of recent note is the insistence of our Fearless Leader to jump into the mud feet-first, throwing mud in every direction and generally making a mess of things. He sees things in black and white terms, as so many of us do. And he insists that the NFL Commissioner simply demand that the players stand or fire them. I kid you not! Simple solutions to complex problems: that’s in the man’s DNA. It’s the sort of thing that will appeal to a great many Americans who are offended by the protests and refuse to see beyond them to the real problems the athletes seek to draw attention to. But it is not going to help matters one bit.

This country was founded on protest. Those who ignore that are really not in a position to call the protests “un-American,” or “un-patriotic.” They are the very heart and soul of America. But the protests themselves should not be the focus of attention, as I have noted. We need to ask ourselves why certain individuals, many of them after deep soul-searching and at the risk of hatred and derision at the hands of those in the stands, would choose to disrespect the flag of their country. Is it possible that there is something amiss? Something that should be addressed? To be sure, there is.

We do love simple solutions and we find those who suggest simple solutions to complex problems reassuring. I give you Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh. It helps us avoid the exhausting effort of trying to figure things out for ourselves. Donald Trump is not the first to suggest a simple solution to a complex problem and he will most certainly not be the last. But the issue is there and it will not go away until people start to talk seriously with one another, to make a concerted effort to understand the other’s point of view. And shouting “Fire the bums! is taking this in precisely the opposite direction. To mix metaphors a bit, it is throwing gasoline on the fire. Or, to stick with my original metaphor:  jumping in with both feet simply makes the mud pile deeper and more smelly.

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res publica and Republicans

Years ago, before the Flood, I reviewed a book written by the Ripon Society. It led me to do some research about that group since the book was well written and struck a comfortable balance between political conservatism and “bleeding heart” liberalism. I confess I find the political middle ground more firm than the ground at either extreme. At the time I wrote the review the society embraced moderate Republicanism. I discovered some interesting things about the group, including the fact that it was the first major Republican organization to support passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, it called for the normalization of relations with China, and the abolition of the military draft.

That was then. That was when the Republican party traced its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson who traced his roots back to Cicero and the republican ideal of the “public thing,” the res publica. The founders all had read their Cicero in Latin, of course, and they tended to idealize the Roman Republic of Cicero’s days when individuals were admonished to put the common good ahead of their own in the name of “public virtue.” It was the ideal Augustine had in mind when he established his monastery which became the model for similar Christian communities throughout Europe: committed to the common good, seeking to control man’s natural wish to put self ahead of the good of all.

But, as I say, that was then: the days of Jefferson, and later Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Today the Republican party is the party of Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, the spiritually certain, Fox News, and the corporations that want to squash the common good in the name of increased profits. And the Ripon Society seems to be leaning precariously to the right these days. It is difficult to see any connection whatever between today’s grasping and greedy Republican party that would trash social and environmental programs in the name of saving a few tax dollars and the Roman ideal. The idea of the common good has disappeared behind a stinking cloud of greed and self-interest, the very thing Cicero tried so hard to prevent. And yet these people claim to be “Republicans.”

The Republican party is not alone in its preoccupation with greed and self-interest, of course. Both parties are in the pockets of the corporations and tend to ignore the commonwealth as they push their own agendas — whatever those might be. But on balance, the Democratic party tends to care about people above profits — as a general rule — even as it seeks to solve all problems by throwing money at them. So for all its shortcomings, the Democratic party does seem more concerned about the common good, more concerned about the welfare of others and the survival of the planet. However, the more adept members of this party become at playing the political game (and they seem to be learning quickly) the farther they will remove themselves from Cicero’s ideal of the res publica, the public thing, the commonwealth. If that ideal is to mean anything again it will require a third party that remains disconnected from corporate wealth and special interests. Don’t hold your breath.

Knee Jerks

It was interesting to read the comments made by several conservative politicians after the shootings in Newtown insisting that we should avoid “knee jerk” reactions to the terrible events of that day — (trans: don’t pass anti-gun legislation). These comments were in line with the NRA hardliners who fear that there might actually be tougher restrictions about buying automatic weapons and hand guns after the latest terrible shooting event. The NRA, of course, has a vested interest in fighting off the restrictions since it is funded in large measure by the people who make the guns. (That seldom gets mentioned, strange to say — even though we are told repeatedly that the media lean precariously to the left.)

It’s not as though the shootings in Newtown are an isolated incident in this country, though. In fact, America has nearly twenty times the number of mass shootings as any other “developed” country in the world. There have been 31 school shootings in this country since Columbine in 1999 — mostly in high schools. But the Newtown shooting targeted very young children and this seems to have finally soaked into the brains of many who like to waive the second amendment in the faces of those who would cry “enough”! Many, but not all.

Reportedly gun sales were off the charts right after the shootings in Newtown when people rushed to stores like Walmart to buy weapons and gobs of ammunition — as we are told in this story in The Los Angles Times:

Calls for stricter weapons laws after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school have gun enthusiasts scrambling to buy firearms before they’re restricted or banned outright.

Brownells Inc., which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools, said it has sold 3 1/2 years worth of ammunition magazines in three days.

It’s quite possible that those sales resulted not from opportunism but from the fear running through the population as part of the aftershock from  the latest in a series of mass killings that seems finally to have gotten the attention even of the Congress — several members have come out against the continued sales of weapons that are not legal for hunting. A couple of those who spoke out are card-carrying members of the NRA! I dare say their membership will be revoked: members really aren’t allowed to make public comments suggesting that the purchase of automatic weapons may be an incredibly stupid idea.

I tend to lean toward the second explanation of the spike in the sale of guns and ammunition: I think it is fear. This is not the first time that fear has proven to be a powerful motivator. Conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich have used it as an effective motivator for years. And the liberal political fund-raisers are starting to use it as well. It works! In this case it may have resulted in another “knee-jerk” reaction, namely, the rush to buy automatic weapons — presumably to defend oneself against all the other maniacs out there who have rushed out to buy automatic weapons. It really is madness multiplied.

Speaking of knee jerks, it is heartening to read that Smith and Wesson’s stocks recently plummeted in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown. Apparently investors see the handwriting on the wall: there may be tougher restrictions after all. We can only hope. But if there are tougher restrictions against the purchase of automatic weapons, hand guns, and/or ammunition clips that hold more than ten bullets that will be a very good thing — as long as the restrictions are accompanied by a buy-back of some (if not all) of the weapons already out there, not to mention the 3 1/2 year supply of ammunition that was sold three days. (It does boggle the mind.)

But after the dust settles, we really need to address the larger question: why is this culture so in love with violence? and why do we think that violence is the best way to address our problems — as individuals and as a nation?

Hillary For President?

A recent story in the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye. It begins as follows:

If Hillary Rodham Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, would she be unbeatable? That’s the pronouncement of former GOP Speaker and onetime presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Mr. Gingrich flatly proclaimed his party “incapable” of beating Mrs. Clinton in a potential 2016 matchup.

“[I]f their competitor in ‘16 is going to be Hillary Clinton – supported by Bill Clinton and presumably a still-relatively-popular President Barack Obama – trying to win that will be truly the Superbowl,” Gingrich said. “And the Republican Party today is incapable of competing at that level.”

There are so many aspects of this report one hardly knows where to start. For one thing, it’s Newt: the new Guru of the Republican Party, waxing wise. For another it’s four years away, for Pete’s sake, and Hillary may not be healthy enough or even want to run. Recent pictures suggest she’s worn out — as one might expect from a woman trying to repair this country’s fractured image abroad. And for another the report is being carried in the ultra-conservative Christian Science Monitor and the lead-in paragraph is fodder for a rebuttal by the article’s author to which Newt (and Hillary) has not (yet) replied.

But if Hillary were to run I would certainly support her without reserve. She strikes me as the sort of person who has a mind of her own and would be able to take on the monied interests that currently own politics in this country. For that reason alone, however, she may never run: they may see to it that it simply doesn’t happen. There’s enough truth in Newt’s pronouncement to make even the staunchest Republican quake in his gold-plated boots. They sure as Hell don’t want a Democrat running they cannot possibly beat. There are enough weak opponents out there to at least make it a close race. This, of course, assumes that the Republican Party can get its act together in the next four years (and that may be Newt’s motivation here) — and figure out what to do with their lunatic fringe.

But let’s get serious: the new President hasn’t even been sworn in yet and there’s that freakin’ fiscal cliff staring us all in the face as Obama currently meets with Republican no-taxers to try to wrangle a compromise. In the end there will almost certainly be a slight rise in the taxes on the rich (not enough for my blood; they own the country; they can damn well pay taxes!) and there will be cuts in social programs. The latter worries me, because the programs that are likely to be cut almost certainly benefit those in need.

I am not (repeat NOT) a “bleeding heart liberal.”  I am a political moderate who leans left on some issues and right on others. I am fully aware that there are social programs that support the entitlement ethos that has gripped this country (and which I have pilloried in a number of my blogs). But there are people in need and they require assistance. Even though there are abuses of the “hand-outs” from a generous U.S. government, there are also a great many stories to be told about how many lives have been saved from going under for the third time.

It is better to err on the side of compassion it seems to me, especially in a country that claims to be predominantly “Christian.” In any event, the next election is years away, thankfully, and whether or not Hillary Clinton decides to run, we know it will be a circus and we will have to learn about how to put up with the nonsense all over again. Come to think of it, that may be the reason Hillary will decide not to run. The system really doesn’t encourage the gifted and able to run for public office: it wants clowns.

Fear Mongering

I made a point in passing in an earlier blog that Obama’s “hustle” in the first debate may have been a ploy to help his party raise more money. I was being facetious (as I often am). But I am now beginning to wonder. Immediately after the debates cyberspace was inundated with requests for money and the appeal was clearly an appeal to fear: Karl Rove is raising millions of dollars in swing states, WHAT IF!!?? The following paragraph from a Yahoo News story sheds some light on the subject:

President Barack Obama and the Democrats raised $181 million in September — their largest monthly haul since he launched his reelection bid, his campaign announced Saturday.

I really don’t want to accept the fact that Barack Obama would stoop to this level. So I will assume for the time being that it is merely a coincidence that Obama’s loss in the first debate would send a shock through the Democratic world that could be turned into big bucks for the home team. But it does seem to be the case that the Democratic party is considerably richer today than it was the day before the debate.

There are two major difficulties here, it seems to me. To begin with are the obscene amounts of money that have been raised already on behalf of the politicians running for political office in November, as summarized in a recent New York Times article. This cartoon sent to me by saltypoliticalmusings says it all:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the appeal to fear is a problem of a different order. If the amount of money going to reelect politicians is obscene, the increasingly common appeal to fear borders on the immoral. It is a given, sad to say, that the voting public is unwilling to spend much time and attention on the question of who it is they will vote for next month — if they vote at all. So appeals to the emotions are commonplace. They grab unwary TV viewers since they are very effective, if logically fallacious. And we have known for some time that Newt Gingrich is a master of that sort of appeal. We have come to expect such appeals from politicians.

Following 9/11 the appeal to fear was palpable and it resulted in huge increases in defense spending, the initiation of “Homeland Security,” and the rise in prestige of the CIA and greater license for its clandestine activities. A certain amount of this hysteria is to be expected and the results are not all bad. But the carry-over into political marketing is alarming. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be led to do something because of a fear that if I don’t do it something dreadful will assuredly happen. That amounts to extortion and that is not morally acceptable.

Clearly, the “game” of politics is writing its own rules as it goes along. As voters without bottomless pockets we seem to be along just for the ride. We really don’t have much to say any more about who runs this country and how it is to be done. But we don’t have to like the way the game is played. And we can refuse to play as we raise our shrill voices in protest.

Disenchanted Republicans?

A recent story in the HuffPost by Robert Reich caught my eye. He was attempting to figure out why Mitt Romney is slipping in the polls and speculated that two reasons count heavily in the analysis. The first is that Romney is a lousy campaigner. Mitt certainly does seem ill-suited for the huge stage he is now performing on, flubbing his lines and terribly uncomfortable with the role he is being asked to play. But the second reason Reich gave is most interesting. I quote at length:

. . . the second explanation strikes me as more compelling. The Republican primaries, and then the Republican convention, have shown America a party far removed from the “compassionate conservatism” the GOP tried to sell in 2000. Instead, we have a party that’s been taken over by Tea Partiers, nativists, social Darwinists, homophobes, [birthers], right-wing evangelicals, and a few rich people whose only interest is to become even wealthier.

These regressives were there in 2000, to be sure. They lurked in the GOP in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich took over the House. They were there in the 1980s, too, although Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition gave them cover. In truth, they’ve been part of the GOP for more than half a century — but never before have they held so much sway in the party, never before have they called the shots.

The second view about Romney’s decline also explains the “negative coat-tail” effect — why so many Republicans around the country in Senate and House races are falling behind. Scott Brown, for example, is well-liked in Massachusetts. But his polls have been dropping in recent weeks because he’s had to carry the burden of the public’s increasing dislike of the Republican Party. The same is true with regard to Republican senate races in Florida, Virginia, and every other battleground state.

One thing about this campaign that has struck me is the amount of time Romney spends explaining what he meant to say. My memory of past elections is that the Republicans were always on the attack and the Democrats were on the ropes, explaining and apologizing. But the shoe does seem to be on the other foot this time around (though thanks to Romney’s gaffes the Democrats don’t need to attack) and if Romney doesn’t shine in the debates — his own people suspect he will not — Obama should retain the White House. The Senate race is a whole different ball game, as they say.

But Reich’s analysis gives rise to this interesting question: if enough Republicans get sick and tired of the nasties and crazies who have taken over their party, could a third party with both money and political clout be aborning? Interesting.

Opposites Repel

In an earlier blog I mentioned an editorial by Michael Brune in the Sierra Magazine who expressed his optimism about the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in Washington, D.C. on climate change. He mentioned his meetings with several political big-wigs on both sides of the aisle, one of whom indicated that “on climate change there’s really not much separating us.” He was speaking for the Republicans with whom he is identified and to whom his loyalties lie — to the point where he fears possible repercussions from his colleagues should he speak his mind. As he himself went on to say “there’s no way I can say that publicly.” He spoke to Mr. Brune “off the record.”

What we have here is a politician — described by Brune as a “prominent Republican” — who is unable to speak publicly about his concerns over one of the most pressing issues facing this nation if not humankind because of party loyalty. Think about that. Washington politics is no longer about what is good for the country — if it ever was — it is about what is good for the party (and the folks who have bought the party and now run the show).

In the era of what the editors of Sierra magazine called “The Worst Congress” ever it is not possible for the two sides to come together to hammer out some sort of compromise on energy and climate change. The “Worst Congress” — even worse than Newt Gingrich’s  104th Congress — has passed 247 anti-environmental measures and voted 77 times to undermine Clean Air protections. 94% of the Republican members of this Congress have cast anti-environmental votes and there have been 37 votes to block any action whatever on climate change.

This is why one of the more powerful members of that political party cannot speak publicly about his own concerns regarding one of the major issues of the day: he might be ostracized by his fellow party members and once outside he may never get back in. What we have is people on both sides of the aisle who are apparently concerned about climate change and the damage we are doing to the environment but who cannot get together for fear the they will be called “disloyal” — not to their country, but to their political party.

This impasse is not peculiar to environmental issues, of course, and it may well be the reason the confidence of voters around the country in the political system has fallen to new lows and Barack Obama has recently sounded like the great mediator, promising to work “with both sides” in the coming years if re-elected. Even the dullest person in the local bar complaining to his buddies can see that this system is broken. If the two sides cannot come together to work some sort of compromise on issues such as climate change, the repercussions will be heard around the world. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. The system seems to be broken, and if it is then the American experiment in democracy must be deemed a failure.

I couch these dire pronouncements in the conditional mode because there is always the possibility that even the dullest politician whose loyalties are deep and true to his or her political party may at some point realize that there are larger issues at stake and that party loyalty is not worth beans if the experiment does indeed fail. At some point, let us hope, a strong voice will be heard in the Congress that rises above the din of party loyalties and rallies colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to the deeper cause — which is to save the country, if not the planet.

In the meantime, thank goodness, small but encouraging steps are being taken by bright, innovative, and caring individuals and small groups — even some state legislatures — that give us hope that even without a national environmental policy which makes sense, we will somehow turn the tide.

Politics Left and Right

I once read that the psychological profile of a policeman and an habitual criminal are remarkably similar. This says something important about policemen or about criminals — or about psychological profiling! It may be the latter, but I have always thought there is a  resemblance in so many ways between the types of persons who are attracted to either end of the political extremes — right or left. In reading about those on the far right recently, I was struck once again by their resemblance to those on the far left.

In an article he wrote to distinguish political conservatives from those on the far right of the political spectrum, Mike Lofgren paints a rather frightening picture of right-wing personality types. Those on the far right “lack compassion.” Further, they are single-minded to the point of blindness. As Lofgren notes, “their minds appear to have no more give and take than that of a terrier staring down a rat hole.” That is, their thinking (such as it is) tends toward what logicians call “bifurcation,” all issues are either black or white — and of course their own view is white. This, coincidentally, explains the popularity of such ideologues as Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. In this regard, they are anti-intellectual to a fault, suspicious of anyone who uses their mind, and while many call for the dissolution of government in the name of “freedom,” they really want protection and, of course, laws that prohibit things they find distasteful. As Lofgren notes in this regard, “Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. [Ironically] freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.”

We might tend to think attitude toward authority is one point that separates the anarchist from the right-winger, the former rejecting out of hand anyone who is in a position of authority, the right-winger clinging to those strong leaders who will protect them. But not so. Both exhibit what psychologists characterize as “the Fascist personality.”

The fascist personality was described by Wilhelm Reich in 1933 as one who “craves authority and rebels against it at the same time.” This could describe folks on either extreme of the political spectrum: they follow blindly any ideologue who seems willing to lead them where they want to go — wherever that might happen to be.  Most, if not all, of the personality traits attributed to right-wingers by Lofgren can be applied to those on the far left as well. While we tend to think of those on the far left as “loners,” psychologists such as Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman who have studied the anarchistic personality point out that these people exhibit “an inverted form of authoritarian personality.” They both crave and hate authority. One begins to see indications of the narcissistic personality here.

Most interesting is the consideration that while right-wingers are “joiners” and those on the far left tend to be loners, both are attracted to strong personality types and willingly follow orders unthinkingly. In fact, the word “unthinking” applies equally to both types of personality.

While those on the political left wing seem preoccupied with a single political issue, usually what they call the “right to bear arms,” those on the far right focus on one narrow political issue as well, namely abortion or what they call “the right to life” — while they cheer speeches that promote executions of those on death row or “the prospect of someone dying without health insurance.” Consistency is not a feature of the mindset on either political extreme. Once again, we are back to the fact that neither personality type thinks at all: they just follow their emotions wherever they lead, and attach themselves to the nearest authority figure who pledges to deliver them to the promised land.

Estimates vary as to how many of these types occupy the political stream, but those on the far right could be as high as 40% of those who identify themselves as “Republicans,” though “in some key political contests, such as the Iowa caucuses, the percentage is closer to 60%.” Whatever the percentage, they are very well-organized and have considerable political clout. Those on the far left are anything but organized and tend to withdraw from the political stream altogether and become reclusive, banding together in small, anti-social groups (but note, once again, the inconsistency. In this case the  tendency to reject social groups while becoming a member of a group).

In a word, the people at both ends of the political extremes of this country resemble one another more than they differ. And, despite the fact that we tend to use words like “conservative” and “liberal” without really knowing what they mean, we should not confuse those on the political extremes as belonging to either group. They are a breed apart — or together, if you prefer.

Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Almost immediately after defeating Newt Gingrich and the other also-rans in Florida recently, Mitt Romney — who must now be regarded as the front-runner for the Republican nomination — made the talk-show circuit. He should have stayed in bed. He doesn’t seem to be able to open his mouth without putting his foot into it.

“I’m not really concerned about the very poor,” he said. Nor is he concerned about the very rich. They “can take care of themselves.” Also, they will certainly vote for any Republican this side of Genghis Khan. But the very poor, by which I take it he means those who live on less that $5,000.00 a year, are not a group of people who have the man’s attention — or sympathy. Or any political clout. It’s the middle-income folks Mitt’s concerned about. “The middle-income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now.” I take it, Mitt doesn’t think a family trying to survive on less than $5,000.00 a year is “struggling.” Welcome to Mitt’s world, but you must wear blinders.

In a sense, Romney simply made a political gaffe. The Democrats will make hay out of it while the Republicans will try to pretend it never happened. On a deeper level, however, such off-the-cuff remarks can reveal something about us we may not want revealed. I suspect this is the case with Romney’s remark. I suppose one should applaud Mitt Romney for being honest. I dare say many will. We prize honesty in this country — or say we do. It’s not clear we know what we are talking about when we say that, but we do say it. Quite a lot. But honesty in this case also reveals hardness of heart and a complete lack of sympathy for the chronically disadvantaged in this country. One suspects that Romney is just articulating (in his way) the thoughts of a great many others in this country who would just as soon sweep the poor under the rug as not.

I recall a former student of mine whose father was immensely wealthy and who had bailed him out of two failed businesses before the third attempt took hold. The young man became quite wealthy after that and we met on occasion. He held forth one day about those who couldn’t make it in this country because they lacked grit and determination. In a word, they were poor because they were lazy. I recall the conversation vividly, but can’t remember what I said in reply. What could one say, after all, to someone who was that blind? I daresay most, if not all, of those in poverty could “work” their way out if they had wealthy fathers to bail them out when they went under. But they don’t. And Mitt won’t be there to help, either.

The notion that the poor are so because they are lazy or shiftless may be more widespread than we would like to admit. It is also vapid and borderline cruel. In a wealthy country like ours there shouldn’t be any poor. There are, of course, and we have a moral obligation not only to acknowledge their existence but also to lend them a helping hand when we can. For most of us that will mean paying higher taxes as that’s the only thing we are in a position to do. But if it does mean higher taxes, so be it. We can afford that more readily than we can the continued apathy and callousness of the likes of Mitt Romney.

Pot and Kettle

A new Gingrich television ad in Florida asked: “What kind of man would mislead, distort and deceive just to win an election?” The answer is “Milt Romney,” Gingrich’s major opponent for the Presidential nomination who seems to have Newt on the ropes in Florida. We might expect the ad to have come from the Romney camp! 

For those of us who are not irony impaired, this quote takes the cake. The man who seemed to be taking pages out of Goebbel’s manual of instruction as he brought political discourse to a new low criticizes his opponent for deception and distortion. This is indeed the pot calling the kettle black. But name-calling and hypocrisy are nothing new in politics, as we know. They go back to the beginnings of politics in this country and we inherited the practice from ancient Athens, though the Greeks didn’t have popular elections as we do now. In any event, they are the ones who invented the notion of “civic virtue,” so we can guess their politics were a bit more sedate than ours. The English also know how to throw around the nasty epithets during their elections. But they always seem to manage to spice them up with wit and even with charm, not to mention a deep sense of history. And the combatants would usually end up going to the pub for a pint after it was all over. And while in this country political contests have always been hot and heavy, there seemed to be a line between nasty and vicious that was never crossed — until Newt. Gingrich has indeed removed all restraint from political discourse during his long political life, and one wonders why he doesn’t applaud his opponent for learning from the master.

But there are a number of ironies in this political year besides Gingrich complaining about his opponent’s tactics. To begin with, we have an American president who is happily married with two lovely children. One of his opponents is a divorced man whose former wife has stated in public that the man should never be elected president. Yes, it’s Gingrich again who is running as a member of the party that stands for “family values,” whatever that means. Indeed, after Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich the phrase begins to lose all meaning. Whatever they were once meant to convey, the words “family values” clearly no longer stand against multiple marriage, deception, and illegitimate children in one’s immediate family.

One gets the feeling we are in for a long and ugly fight for the Presidency in this country. Again. But this time, the limits on corporate spending have been lifted and the money will really start to flow in both directions as the election nears. Taking the cap off political spending will simply give the wealthy more power. And those of us who just want to watch TV uninterrupted and have a little peace of mind will just have to endure the noise and mud-slinging. The mute will help, but it doesn’t make the problem go away.

One gets the feeling that much of the incivility we hear in political debates simply echoes the “discussions” on TV involving sports analysts and news reporters, the “talking heads” who seem to be in a contest with one another to see who can shout the loudest. Pardon the interruption. Fiddlesticks! That would be civil discourse and that disappeared with black and white TV. We now have a new world of bare-knuckles political battering and it will be ugly. The one pleasant thought is that Newt Gingrich seems to be on his way out and we may not have to listen to him much longer. That would be a good thing.