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It’s the GOP, Stupid.

Kai Ryssdal

Kai Ryssdal, host of Marketplace on National Public Radio, was interviewing James Patterson Monday evening when I tuned in, missing most of what he was opining vis a vis books and the part Amazon has played in the decline of bookstores. The celebrated author, mainly of thrillers but lately of children’s books, has garnered considerable publicity for his attempts to interest youngsters in reading.

James Patterson

That’s all well and good, and I applaud him for it – even though he ignored the two (admittedly feeble) solicitations for a testimonial about Murder in Palm Beach that I made, emboldened by my having written a magazine story about him circa 2001 after an interview at his home. (Okay, okay, no more shameless name dropping.)

It’s what he said next that bothered me. Somehow, he segued into a brief observation about the country’s current political climate, alluding to Republicans and Democrats’ “demonizing each other,” thus preventing the country’s business from getting done.

Tell It Like It Is.

I am always dismayed when I hear people talk this way – because it’s weak and dishonest, going by the name of false equivalency. Come on, the Republicans in Congress for many years have assailed the Democrats relentlessly, the hard-right folks taking the position that it’s their way or the highway. That’s what’s caused the gridlock in Washington. Republicans have total control over our government now, occupying the White House and both the House of Representatives and the Senate – and they still can’t get anything done.

Senator Jeff Flake

Why? Because they are fighting among themselves, moderates refusing to side with members of the hard-right on their extremist positions, many of which, experts and studies have shown, would harm all of us (think inaction on climate change) and their most needy constituents, including poor people and those dependent on Medicaid. They ignore calls from Democratic leaders to come together and make needed improvements to Obamacare, purely for political reasons: After failing for eight years to come up with a better replacement for Obamacare, they refuse to concede that a black president wrought an improvement of the health-care system.

Fearless Flake

A smattering of pundits, even those of moderate-conservative persuasion, have dared to step up and place the blame where it belongs. GOP members of Congress have had little criticism for their obstructionist colleagues, but one just broke ranks. He’s Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, author of the new book Conscience of a Conservative (echoing the title of Barry Goldwater’s 1960 top seller).

Over the weekend, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize winner with the Miami Herald, noted that other scribes have hailed Flake for an act of moral courage, and said he may be one.

“At the very least, the book is timely, particularly in its lamentation of the hatefulness … of the nation’s political divide,” Pitts wrote. He noted that moderately conservative columnist Michael Gerson called it “the single largest act of political bravery of the Trump era.”

Too Late

Leonard Pitts

But, Pitts added, “this courage would be more impressive had it shown itself sooner. The GOP, after all, didn’t lose its mind when Trump came to town. Rather, it was the loss of its mind that made Trump possible. And that loss predates his presidency by a good two decades. How much of the dysfunction of those years – the baseless 24/7 investigations, the birther idiocy, the Islamapobia, the death panels, the obstructionism – might have been ameliorated by a little in-the-moment conservative courage?

“This is not about ideology,” wrote the liberal Pitts. “Rather, it’s about the GOP’s en masse retreat from reason, responsibility, statesmanship and simple decency.”

To that we say: Amen.

#Amazon #Michaelgerson #LeonardPitts #NationalPublicRadio #MiamiHerald #MurderinPalmBeach #JamesPatterson #SenatorJeffFlake #ConscienceofaConservative #KaiRyssdal #Obamacare

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