If You Can't Say Something Nice, Sit Next to Me

President Obama could be chosen by the Almighty to emcee the second coming, and his critics would find something to criticize. If Congress is a clown car, then every clown car needs a driver and we know who that is.

If You Can't Say Something Nice, Sit Next to Me
Actual photo of 2024 Presidential delegates.

For a time, this aphorism was taken as gospel in American political circles.

"Politics stops at the water's edge."


It is generally credited to Michigan Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg. He made the comment in 1947 to explain why he had abandoned his previous reputation for isolationism which, in the post-WWII era seemed an untenable position to take. And it was in a speech defending President Truman's foreign policies and the hope that when it comes to dealing with events overseas, we present a united front, regardless of party.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1946–48), Vandenberg marshaled congressional support for the Truman Doctrine of aid to Greece and Turkey (1947), the Marshall Plan of aid to Europe (1948), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949) not to mention the (GASP!) United Nations.

Oh, certainly we have our arguments domestically in establishing said policy, but when the President is overseas or otherwise dealing with some foreign leader, we put a cork in it and try not to undermine him at a crucial time. Whether Truman, Ike, JFK or Reagan, they represent the country, whether you voted for them or not.

That's the theory, anyway.

How quaint and adorable that seems. How guileless and gullible. I personally see images of spats and garters when this is mentioned. I know, it's hard to do when, for example, you see Donald Trump shaking hands with the bloodthirsty dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un.

Andy Kim
Not sure I trust Google on this one...I looked up "Kim."

And believe me, I think Trump is one of those truly dangerous personalities, dumb and cocky. As the blue-collar philosopher Charles Bukowski wrote...

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts. While the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

But if he had come away from the meeting with Andy Kim with some sort of real arms limitation agreement, or something similar, I would have to grudgingly said, OK, that's a good thing. I love both Kennedy's Berlin Wall speech, and Reagan's.

I admire the Nuclear Test Ban treaty by Kennedy and the frankly bold offers made when Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykjavík, Iceland in 1986. Believe it or not, they came close to eliminating all nuclear weapons. It is no doubt hard for old cold warriors to realize, but a total ban was on the table. What ultimately proved to be unimportant sticking points kept it from happening, but even the most liberal Democrat had to admire the ambition.

Could have called this the IKEA Summit.

And now, as I write this, we are in the middle of a pause in the Israel-Hamas war to get some of the Israeli hostages back. And they are being delivered in cynically small batches, but they are being delivered. President Biden has pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu on this and has brought up the only reasonable end to the entire conflict, the idea of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

To even mention this is tough given the massacre on October 7th and the devastation that has followed. I know who started it, and I know how it will end. But then what? To his credit, Biden has brought up not just the Hamas atrocities, but Israeli settler violence on the West Bank. This at a time when Netanyahu is fighting for his political life and sees being a wartime leader as key to his survival.

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has publicly condemned Hamas but frankly, no one has paid any attention, except the Administration. Antony Blinken has met with Abbas on the issues of Gaza and settler violence.

And what do we hear in the midst of all this? How have politicians reacted at home?

"Man Joe Biden is old, isn't he?"

Just today, Saturday, in the midst of more hostage returns actually happening as he typed, Donald Trump posted this on his soon-to-be-defunct Truth Social platform...

"Has anybody noticed that Hamas has returned people from other Countries but, so far, has not returned one American Hostage? There is only one reason for that, NO RESPECT FOR OUR COUNTRY OR OUR LEADERSHIP. This is a very sad and dark period of America!"

Notice the bi-polar all caps. I said on the radio years ago that President Obama could be chosen by the Almighty to emcee the second coming, and his critics would find something to criticize. If Congress is a clown car, then every clown car needs a driver and we know who that is.

And by the way, Americans, including that adorable 4-year-old girl, have been released.

But that is where we are now, particularly with the internet. The instant nature of it, the immediate, instinctive, gut-level response you can have without a pause to think about consequences, has tainted our discourse. And then there's just plain lying.

The Vice-President and her husband sent out a Thanksgiving tweet or X-clamation or whatever you call it these days. And, as an aside, I hate the sobriquet "Second Gentleman." Please, people. It's awkward and just plain dumb. I have a substitute that we can all agree on. He's the Vice-President's husband, period. He doesn't get a title.

Anyway, the X-tweetable. It was just she and her hubby in the kitchen with some awful casserole saying have a lovely day, or something.

Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Even the standard, trite political holiday wish is just too much today. Here is Fox "News" take on it as Host Lisa Boothe said to guest Charlie Hurt...

"Speaking of Thanksgiving, we couldn’t help but notice Kamala’s tweet about it. Here she is with Second Gentleman Doug in what appears to be their kitchen with her homemade cornbread, but what’s that behind them? Is that a gas stove? Kamala, how could you? Don’t you remember when the Biden administration suggested banning gas stoves?"

To which he replied...

"They’re suddenly going to kill all of us after we’ve been using them for, I don’t know, all of the last 150 years. They’re suddenly going to kill us all. No, it’s really amazing and it’s really interesting, it’s not just, of course, the Biden administration that has suggested that they want to do away with gas stoves, it’s actually– if you go to Democrat-run places, like Washington, D.C. and New York City, and you look at the new, latest building codes and approvals for building apartment buildings, they’ve removed the gas lines from them because they want to take away your gas stoves.

And so it’s so funny that people, they saw that, her tweet, they saw her stove. They rightly heckled and mocked her and made fun of her and ridiculed her, and then all of the Democrats got freaked out and jumped online and said, “Oh no, wait a minute, they don’t want to take away the gas stoves. That’s misinformation.” No, they do want to take away the gas stoves and, in fact, they are taking away the gas stoves in any of the places where they control things!"
After Boothe asked, “Why do they want to ban gas stoves?” Hurt claimed, “I think because they hate us, they hate humans, they hate joyfulness, they hate pies, they hate good food. They hate. They want us all to be miserable.”

Just, wow. Hate humans? Hate good food? Hate pies? Have you seen Michael Moore?

Michael Moore - Wikipedia
"Are you going to finish those fries?"

And sorry to correct what I'm sure was a fun bit of banter for them, but no one is going to ban gas stoves. New standards for the fumes they can emit have been proposed, but not a ban. That is the kind of "information" we are getting, and people actually cast votes on. We see the results this week in Ireland.

A deranged, knife-wielding attacker slashed two teachers and three kids outside a school in Dublin. The man is in his 50's and has lived in Ireland for 20 years, apparently. But that is all the police have released so far. However, right-wing and anti-immigrant internet sites began getting folks revved up about an "Algerian" attacker and how we need to protest in defense of Irish kids.

So, in a response most Americans would recognize, you burn stuff down.

Conor McGregor is the Ultimate Fighting champion and natural heir to Oscar Wilde in the hearts of the Irish everywhere...

Conor McGregor of Ireland gestures at Dustin Poirier during the UFC 264 ceremonial weigh-in
A reminder, he gets hit in the head for a living.

On second thought, Wilde might like him after all. But I digress. Conor has helped stir the pot with tweets and posts about the immigrant threat and how "real" Irish folks aren't safe. All this, when we know absolutely nothing about the attacker. Now he may well be Algerian, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess people are attacked by red-haired, freckle-faced guys every day there.

Now, here is the supreme irony in all this. When the attacker slashed the five victims, a food delivery guy was riding by on his bike. He jumped off, took off his helmet and cold-cocked the perp with it. Knocked him out and held him down until the police arrived. Here is that man.

Brazilian Caio Benicio poses for a photograph during an interview with AFP, at the scene of the November 23 attack outside a school in Dublin (Peter MURPHY)

His name is Caio Benicio. If you wondering, "hey, that doesn't sound Irish" then you are very perceptive. He is from Brazil and is, wait for it, an immigrant. He was helped in subduing the attacker by a 17-year-old French chef's intern. Obviously, a couple of foreigners in Ireland to muck things up for the locals.

Oh, and Elon Musk has joined in for some unknown reason except that he is Elon Musk. When Ireland's PM Leo Varadkar said laws against incitement to violence will be toughened, Elon just had to weigh in on his X-box-twitter-thingy...

"Ironically, the Irish PM hates the Irish people."

Wow, the man just knows everything, and apparently has an opinion on it. Hell, Veradkar may hate pies, too for all we know.

So, even when politicians do something good, we hate it because we didn't vote for them. When something happens that is bad, we jump because some guy on the internet said to. I've quoted before what Gore Vidal told me once in an interview. "It is proof Darwin may have been wrong."

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.