Letter to the GOP Candidates by Pete Rearden

Pete Reardon photo by Steve Watkins
Pete Reardon photo by Steve Watkins

GOP candidates,

Well now, it seems that your little clown car is filling up rather quickly isn’t it? From Lil’ Jebbie towards the center to the Don on the far right to Graham Cracker out in the right field parking lot, you guys are all promising a vibrant and booming economy, job growth, and lower taxes. I, a pragmatic independent voter would like to ask some questions about this and a few other matters which I am curious about.

First question: since WWII the United States has suffered through 42 quarters of negative GDP growth. Of these 42 quarters, 31 of them have been during Republican administrations. How, exactly, is that not a sign that your economic policies aren’t weaker than those of the Democrats? It would seem to me that having almost 3 times as many quarters of negative GDP growth as your opponents is a sign that your economic policies don’t work. Granted, I am not possessed of an advanced degree in economics, so I may be missing something in the nuances, but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. In the past 70 or so years your pudding hasn’t tasted that great.

Let me ask you about taxes now. It has often been said that the tree of liberty must occasionally be nurtured with the blood of patriots. Since this is quite obviously a metaphorical statement, could that blood not also, metaphorically speaking come from the wallets of patriotic individuals and patriotic corporations? It would seem to me that when the nation isn’t being invaded, that those taxes could realistically be considered the blood of patriots needed to nurture the tree of liberty.

Moving right along, let’s discuss social issues shall we? For a group of individuals who claim to be all about liberty, freedom, and personal accountability, you sure don’t act like it when it comes to a number of social issues. Take marriage equality. Other than the fact that you wouldn’t be able to treat a class of American citizens like second class people, there are no down sides to it. It is a personal choice two people make. No one is going to force religions which don’t accept gay marriage to perform same sex weddings, and in fact, your strong stand against marriage equality violates the religious freedoms of many religious sects in the United States.

Women’s reproductive rights are another matter you take strong moral issue with. Why? If you are so big on freedom and liberty, why oppress the freedom of women to determine the course of their lives? I’ve known women who have had abortions. It has never been a choice they made flippantly, and in many ways is the height of accountability. They will have to remain accountable to themselves for the rest of their lives.

If you are so dead set against abortion, then why not make safe, effective methods of birth control available to women, along with evidence based sex education? Those have been proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to reduce abortion numbers far more effectively than restricting access to abortions. Seriously. Do you guys live in the real world, or in some fantasy?

Before you trot out Jesus, God, and the Bible, answer me this: where in the Bible does it unambiguously say that God opposes abortion? I’ve read the whole book a couple of times through, especially the more salacious bits, of which there are many. Nowhere in the book do I find a specific and unilateral injunction against abortion. Quite the opposite in fact. In the Bible forcing a woman to miscarry (aka an abortion,) is a civil matter involving a weregild. Since I am sure you aren’t familiar with the concept of a weregild, it is a monetary remuneration for the lost life. It wasn’t an offense which called for death. It wasn’t called an abomination. It required no ritual ablutions or ritual exile to cleanse the guilty party. It was a monetary transaction. I bet you didn’t know this, but according to the Bible you love to thump so much, between the ages of birth and one month, there wasn’t even a fine for killing a child. They were to be considered ‘as water.’ Between the ages of one month and five years the weregild was reinstated: three shekels for a girl, and five shekels for a boy. The Bible is unambiguous about that.

Speaking of God and the Bible, I note that many of you are quite willing to invoke his name and his will. It is only the savage who claims to know the mind and the will of God implicitly. What we can glean of the mind of God, through the Bible is that he is a champion of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, and those rejected by society at large. Did Christ hang out with the wealthy, the powerful, the elite, rabbis, and the like? Nowhere in any bible I’ve read. He associated with tax collectors (traitors to their people and their faith,) whores, fishermen, lepers, beggars, Samaritans (blasphemers,) and criminals. In fact, Jesus was forced to his death by a group of devoutly pious individuals who wanted only to protect their religious freedoms. Wouldn’t it be more honest of you to identify with the Pharisees, Saducees, and the Sanhedrin? I for one would be more willing to vote for you if you were that honest with yourselves and me.

These are all the questions and comments I have for you right now. Rest assured, as your campaigns progress I will have more uncomfortable questions to ask, but ‪#‎JebBush‬ ‪#‎ScottWalker‬ ‪#‎DonaldTrump‬ ‪#‎MarcoRubio‬ ‪#‎TedCruz‬ ‪#‎LindseyGraham‬ ‪#‎CarlyFiorino‬ ‪#‎BenCarson‬ ‪#‎RandPaul‬ ‪#‎MikeHuckabee‬ ‪#‎RickSantorum‬ ‪#‎GeorgePataki‬ ‪#‎RickPerry‬ ‪#‎ChrisChristie‬ ‪#‎BobbyJindal‬ ‪#‎JohnKasich‬, if any of you have the courage to reply with concise and articulate answers to these questions I will be more than happy to read your answers with an open mind.

One last thing, and this is directed specifically at Jeb, Don, and Scott; why do you feel it is morally acceptable to use the hard work of musicians for your own self aggrandizement without first asking their permission, or offering remuneration? That is called theft, and I believe your Bible has some pretty unilateral injunctions against stealing.

A concerned voter,

Pete Rearden is a photographer, photojournalist, and opinionated commenter on America.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and should not be attributed to Cognitive Relevance (CR).


Is This About Race? Black Leaders Call for Lynch to Be Appointed


Why are Republicans in the US Senate holding up the appointment of nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch?  If confirmed, she will become the first African American woman to hold the position of Attorney General and first to hold a cabinet level position in the Obama Administration.

What makes Lynch’s confirmation interesting is that she’s had a stellar career.  Yet her confirmation has been held up longer than any Attorney General in 30 years.   A glaring and stark comparison to her appointment, is that of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who was nominated on December 5, 2014 and approved unanimously February 1, 2015.

Observers question, is this is about race?  Lynch was nominated by President Barack Obama on November 8, 2014 and confirmed out of committee, 12-8 on February 26, 2015.   Yet, she waits for the full Senate body to confirm her appointment.

The confirmation has gone from a “process of confirmation to a trial by ordeal that has moved from ridiculous to absurd,” Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said yesterday on an hour long press call about Lynch in which he was joined by Congressional members, the head of a civil rights legal defense group and sorority president.

It is difficult to argue the absurdity of the confirmation considering that Carter who is White was nominated after Lynch and confirmed as she waits for appointment.  Adding to the drama is that nothing in the confirmation hearing questioned or challenged her qualifications or her character.

“The CBC is disturbed that this confirmation has taken four months…..the votes are there today to have her confirmed.  If she was put forward for confirmation today, she would be confirmed by tonight,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC) said.

So, is this about race or something else?  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says her confirmation vote will occur after the Senate votes on a human trafficking bill.  While Senators Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (TX) and Ted Cruz (TX) have said the President’s action on immigration and Lynch’s defense of his actions are why they oppose her appointment.  Either way, her confirmation hearing has now come and gone.  While Secretary Carter has been nominated and confirmed during a shorter timeframe.

“Rather than focus on race, we should ask, what are women and African Americans perceiving when they watch this?  For those who watched a woman who is an African American woman control the room during her confirmation hearing, also saw her move even the opposition party with her story.  When women all over the country see a woman, move toward getting this job and then see it held up despite her qualifications, what does that say to women?”  Sherilynn Ifel, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund stated.

Loretta Elizabeth Lynch, born in Greensboro North Carolina is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  She has been confirmed for the position twice by the Senate, holding the position now twice, first from 1999-2001 and now since 2010.   With leaders around the country calling for the Senate to vote up or down for her appointment, despite her stellar record, there is speculation two Senators from Lynch’s home state may vote against her confirmation.  One saying before the process began, he would not vote for her.

When the vote happens, some on the call said, it could be one of the closest ever for Attorney General.  Some analysts speculate, that Vice President Joe Biden may provide the deciding vote.

Potential Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in this week on Twitter, “Congressional trifecta against women today, 1)Blocking a great nominee, 1st African American woman AG, for longer than any other AG in 30 years 2) Playing politics with trafficking victims 3) Threatening women’s health and rights.”

Dr. Paulette C. Walker, National President of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., for which Lynch is a member said, “Call upon the Senate to confirm.  The Senate needs to do what it is elected to do and confirm Loretta Lynch.  She has committed her life to make the lives of all Americans better.”

If this is about race or even opposition to the President, the Senate’s disparity in confirming the two nominees, may show that control of the Senate is harder than it was in the minority.  The Republican Senate appears more fractured than what we see on the surface.

Is McConnell holding up the nomination because he is having the same issues Congressman John Boehner experienced with Tea Party members in the House of Representatives?  Either way, holding up the nomination of Lynch, a qualified candidate, may further distance and hurt GOP relations not only with important voting communities of African Americans or Hispanics around immigration.  It may also distance itself with women.

Atiba  Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow @atibamadyun or like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

How We Got Here: The Path to America’s 2013 Government Shutdown

The government is shutdown, and the world is watching how America treats its citizens in a battle of wills.  As Ezra Klein said, before the clock struck midnight starting the shutdown, “This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That’s it. That’s why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt.”

Below is info on the path to the shutdown.  Thank you to the budget expert with experience at the White House Budget Office and U.S. Senate for sharing information used below.

Here is what happened.

  • House and Senate have been fighting about the overall spending levels for months.
  • The Republican controlled House wanted the 2014 budget level at $967 billion for discretionary spending.
  • The Democratic controlled Senate wanted the level at $1,058 billion (to include a plan that replaces sequestration responsibly).
  • Democrats agreed to a level at $986 billion, which is the level of the continuing resolution (CR) that was under debate.
  • Democrats took the compromise even though it is below the desired level, thinking they would have a clean CR without any crazy ideological riders.

Fast forward to this past week.

  • The House passed a CR with a provision defunding the Affordable Care Act – (A law passed four years ago and a law tested by an election and the Supreme Court.)
  • The Senate voted against the CR
  • Senator Ted Cruz held his personal version of a filibuster.
  • The Senate voted, stripping out the ideological riders the House put in and sent a clean CR back to the House.
  • The House did not take up the Senate bill.
  • The House in turn attached more riders that are unacceptable to Senate Democrats.
  • The Senate voted and tabled those amendments, sending a third clean bill back to the House.
  • After more back-and-forth, the House asked to appoint conferees to work out an agreement and negotiate.
  • Leading up to this shutdown for six months, the Senate asked 18 times to appoint conferees for a budget conference.  Every time Republicans objected.
  • Not once has the House voted on a clean CR – which the Senate sent to the House.  Meanwhile, the Senate along with the President made it clear that anything other than a clean CR would not pass the Senate and if it was it would be vetoed by the President.

When the House declined to vote on a clean CR passed by the Senate before midnight Tuesday, the fiscal year ended.  Appropriations lapsed and the government shut down.

So now we wait!

“Showdown to A Government Shutdown”


Today, minutes wind down on the “showdown to a government shutdown.” The clock ticks as elected officials in Washington guide us toward a rock that could sink the ship.

People like Ted Cruz from the Tea Party took the helm last week to bring attention to defunding ObamaCare. Cruz reminded me of a Harry Belafonte speech I heard a few years ago. In it he said, “Don’t worry about the Tea Party, because you know what happens when you put a tea bag in water?…It sinks!”

The Tea Party is sinking the ship. What many don’t accept is that ObamaCare and raising the country’s credit limit called the debt ceiling is good for Americans and the world economy.

To call ObamaCare immoral is wrong. To lead the country to a shutdown or a to default on the debt ceiling is as immoral as purposely guiding a ship toward a dangerous rock. A ship that responsible elected officials keep trying to guide to smooth waters that will allow the country to strengthen the economy.

Congress has allowed a budget sequester to go too long. Government workers who have been furloughed several days a month, now may not receive any pay at all. If the shutdown occurs what is immoral is that they also may not receive back pay after it ends.

What is immoral is, if we have a shutdown, 800,000 Americans will not receive a paycheck. It means 1.3 million servicemen and women and thousands of essential government workers will work but will not receive a paycheck until the shutdown ends.

As the minutes tick toward midnight, Republicans and Tea Party Republicans have the future of the American people in their hands.

So now we wait!