Window to a Footnote

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in history.

It was merely a sliver of a much larger piece; a brief flicker on a movie screen. It certainly would not equate to The Boston Tea Party or the Treaty of Versailles. At most, the events surrounding the state convention of the Colorado Republican Party will eventually amount to no more than a footnote in most historical texts. Yet, this election is nothing if not historic, and I was glad to play a minuscule part in it. Given the controversy that is now swirling around the actions of the Colorado Republican Party, I thought my perspective (however insignificant) might prove valuable as another place marker in my life’s journey.

I spent the entire weekend in Colorado Springs. With apologies to the GOP, my main reason was not political. My girlfriend’s birthday was in close proximity to the convention, and that proved to be my prime motivator. It also may explain why I was more than a little tired when I got to the Broadmoor World Arena at approximately 8:45 on Saturday morning. It was not a good morning to go without coffee, but I had no choice as I had already overslept and was in a rush.

I could tell you about the myriad of speeches I heard. The chief form of entertainment at a convention is speechmaking. All of the state big-wigs put in quick appearances at the microphone; Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn, Mike Coffman and Ken Buck all spoke. But for my dough, the most interesting exchange took place, not on stage, but in the row directly behind me.

The dialogue occurred between two rank-and-file Republican delegates; one of them a supporter of Donald Trump, the other a backer of Ted Cruz. The Cruz supporter was a woman of advanced age with a telling Texas drawl. The Trump advocate was a guy who sounded as if he could’ve been anywhere from 30 to 60. Their personas were polar opposites of their candidates. The Cruz supporter was aggressive, abrasive and at times, rude. The Trump guy was soft-spoken and polite.

I didn’t have a sound recorder or a note taker of any kind so I’m paraphrasing here, but this is just some of what the Cruz lady said:

“Ted Cruz is a man who will do what he says he’s gonna do. When he was AG in Texas, he went after a couple of illegals who raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl. That’s cast-iron character right there. Donald Trump is a windbag who makes his straw through character assassination. We don’t need a leader like that. Ben Carson is a wimp. I can’t believe he would back a man like Donald Trump!”

The Trump guy didn’t bother to point out to her that she was engaging in the very behavior for which she was criticizing The Donald. The most he ever said was, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about Trump.”

You could tell he was ready to withdraw from the encounter, but she kept pressing him.

“I just don’t see how Trump supporters can back a man who’s been on every side of an issue. Cruz is a man of his word. Ain’t that what we want in our politicians? When we finally get one, half the party craps out!”

Finally, the Trump guy got up and left. I didn’t blame him.

As for me, it’s strange how you can be on someone’s side on the issues, yet find that they chafe like sand paper underwear. I call it, the Dr. Laura Schlessinger phenomenon.

I could tell you more about the convention; the endless speeches, the transparent ass-kissing from the 597 delegates all wrestling for 13 seats, the ballpark hot dog and Pepsi I had for lunch, thereby emphasizing the sporting nature of the event. But let’s just skip to the part where Ted Cruz showed up.

My pal Bill told me that Cruz was on the schedule for 12:30. Given the nature of national campaigns with their vast arrayed of staff members, Secret Service escorts and death threats, not to mention the protesters (probably Bernie supporters) lurking outside the arena, I found it impressive that Cruz was only a half-hour late. According to my trusty iPhone, it was 1:05 when he took the stage.

At that point, I had forsaken my seat in my row. The noise, the crowd, the stadium-style steps, the confines of the seat strangling my torso, the mouthy Cruz fan behind me…all of these factors conspired to drive me downstairs, where I eavesdropped on Cruz’s speech at the bottom of a stairwell. A third of the way through, an authoritative voice said, “Sir, do you have a seat?”

“Maybe,” I replied.

“Well, I [‘m gonna have to ask you not to stand right here blocking the stairs, sir. It’s a fire hazard.”

“Sure thing,” I said with a smile and walked away. I found another stairwell further down and was careful not to stand directly in front of it. Luckily, the stairs were very close to an amplifier, so I could hear Cruz clearly.

Fire hazard or not, foot traffic was no problem during his speech. The hallway where I stood was absolutely clear. There wasn’t a soul on the steps nor in the area near me. In my mind, I imagined the arena filled to capacity as Cruz delivered his remarks.

Honestly, the speech itself was nothing you couldn’t see on the internet. It was the same platitudes delivered in Cruz’s trademark pseudo-televangelist’s style. The call-and-response nature made me want to hit my knees and beg for salvation. The noteworthy element was the energy that filled the arena. You could almost sense that my fellow delegates and alternates all realized that, despite Cruz’s cheap Reagan imitation, they were living during a distinctive moment in history.

After Cruz was finished, a human tidal wave flooded into the hallway. I flattened myself against the wall and waited as every Cruz supporter in the building headed for the nearest hot dog, soft pretzel and pizza slice.

The reason for the mass exodus became evident when I detected the light tones of a youthful voice coming from the arena. It turned out to be the Trump surrogate. I only caught snippets of his speech, but it sounded as if it was written by Bernie Sanders (or maybe Alex Jones?) as he railed against, “The Establishment,” “International corporate corruption,” and “Honey money politics.” The cheers received were sparse at best.

I missed John Sununu’s speech on behalf of John Kasich. Despite the fact that I believe that Kasich is irrelevant at this point, I must admit that I started to mentally check out after Cruz spoke. Darryl Glenn was a pleasant surprise and won my support. After doing my homework, I chose to support the slate of delegates who were pro-Cruz. I’d pretty much made up my mind by 2 PM and the rest was just fluff. You can only hear so many chest-thumping speeches before your brain begins to switch to cruise control.

The exception to this came during George Brauchler’s short speech. I’ve been partial to Brauchler ever since I heard him as a weekend radio host on KOA. Later, I sat with wrapped attention as he prosecuted the case against James Holmes (aka, the Aurora Theater Shooter.) I appreciate his direct style and plain language. I work in Boulder and my coworkers are a collection of clichéd leftist stereotypes. In a workplace where people are bound and determined that two plus two equals five, it was oddly comforting to be reminded that good and evil are still finite concepts. Brauchler is merely a human being like the rest of us, but sitting there in the cold control room, he served as the voice of justice. I also enjoyed his speech at the county assembly wherein he spoke of his family with evident warmth and affection.

The rest of my time was spent finding a reader for my ballot. Many thanks to J. R. (yes, that’s really his name) and his lovely wife for reading the ballot to me. I never got her name, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Sue Ellen. When I left, it was raining and nothing had ever felt so soothing to me.

My first hint of what was to come came the next day as my girlfriend and I returned from her birthday dinner. I glanced at Twitter and saw a lament from Matt Drudge that said:

“Does George Bush have to invade Colorado to make it a democracy? STUNNING Republicans had no primary or caucus. At least Dems are faking it.”

I dismissed this as the all too typical pro-Trump handwringing by Drudge and made a mental note to unfollow his personal Twitter account when I got home the next day. By the time I followed through on said mental note a day later, Trump was shrieking about a crooked, rigged system in Colorado and the national media was running with the ball. The Drudge sirens were shrill with headlines about, “voterless elections,” “stolen delegates,” and “Establishment tyranny.” Trump officials were accusing Cruz of using, “Gestapo tactics.” Colorado Trump delegates claimed that they had been banned from the convention, their names had been left off the ballot and that they were given no true voice at the venue.

The Cruz camp countered that they did their homework, while Trump slacked off by scheduling an event in Colorado Springs the day before the convention, then canceling at the last minute. By late Monday, GOP state chairman Steve House had canceled all interviews with the media and turned off his cell phone.

From this point on, let me be clear about my bias so there’s no mistaking where I stand. Up until March 16, I was a supporter of Marco Rubio. When he suspended his campaign, I switched my loyalty to Ted Cruz. I have done so with a clear conscience. I don’t have high hopes for a Cruz victory in November, but at this point, I’ll take substance over symbolism. I should also make it clear that, as I’ve previously stated in this blog, I will write in a candidate before pulling the lever for Donald Trump. That said, let me correct some of the misnomers that have been flying around since Saturday.

First, the sassy Cruz supporter who sat behind me at the morning session was an anomaly. I overheard many conversations that day and, with that one exception, they were all friendly at their best, civil at their worst. I never witnessed any bullying or intimidation on any side.

Next, Matt Drudge is dead wrong. We did hold a caucus in Colorado. I was there at the Centennial Covenant Church on March 1 where I was chosen to be a delegate to the county assembly and to the state convention. The good folks in my precinct chipped in their own hard-earned money to send me to state because I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet to fund my own trip. When I asked them for their phone numbers so I could reimburse them, they refused. This wasn’t charity or guilt. It was participation in the political process.

Drudge loves to use the term, “Voterless elections,” when referring to the Colorado contest. This is disingenuous. People who bothered to show up had the chance to vote on who they wanted to send to their county and state assembly from each precinct. At the state convention, delegates voted on who they want to send to the national Republican convention in Cleveland. The illusion of a bunch of high-powered leaders in smoke-filled rooms deciding the fate of our election with zero voter input is misleading. If you want to make an argument to me that our election process wasn’t as representative of the average voter as it should have been, I will go along with that. But this is the same way we’ve been exercising representative government for decades. There was nothing deliberately nefarious about the process this year.

It’s also worth mentioning that the number of Trump supporters at our local caucus was very low. We had Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Carson supporters who were all vocal, but not a one for Trump.

The snag comes in because the party did not hold any kind of straw poll. Several people asked our caucus leader if we were going to hold a presidential voice vote before the caucus adjourned and she flatly said no. I thought this was a mistake then and am doubly certain today.

The entire core of anger from the anti-establishment crowd comes from the idea that they no longer have a voice in the process. They believe that the Republican elites in Washington D.C. are consumed by their own interests and no longer care about their base. A straw poll, even a non-binding one, would have gone a long way to mitigate this anger. Instead, it only served to fuel Trump’s very predictable reaction when Cruz swept our state convention.

Never mind that Trump didn’t even try to compete for our state. Never mind that he didn’t do his homework and, thus, was outflanked by Ted Cruz. Never mind that neither he nor his supporters complained about the process until the day after the contest. Trump lost the game and, when he loses, it’s everyone else’s fault but his own. So Trump, populist manipulator, plays on the tangible anger of his own base and mixes a kernel of truth into his mish-mash of lies.

Trump is claiming that the state establishment wanted to thwart him, so they changed the rules last August to favor Cruz. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense! Yes, the state party changed the rules last August, but sabotaging the Donald wasn’t a factor. At that time, only one debate had aired and no one thought Trump was going to get as far as he did. Our mistake. For that matter, no one thought Cruz was going to get as far as he did. Our mistake.

In truth, the reason the party dispensed with the straw poll had to do with past elections. In the 2008 Colorado primary, Mitt Romney was the winner. By the time of our state convention, Romney had dropped out and John McCain was the presumptive national nominee. Yet, the delegates were bound to Romney, which made their initial votes null and void.

Flash forward four years to 2012, when Rick Santorum won the Republican Colorado primary. Once again, Santorum was gone by the time of our state convention, though his delegates were still pledged to him.

The party thought that it would be better to leave the delegates available to see who was left standing on the national stage at our convention. This may have seemed pragmatic at the time, but given the anti-establishment mood that has permeated this election cycle, it proved to be a serious lapse in judgment. And that’s all it was. I don’t believe for a second that it was a vast conspiracy to defraud Trump of his God-given delegates.

The solution to this current public perception crisis is obvious. Colorado needs to switch from a caucus to a primary system. For the record, Chairman Steve House has publicly supported this idea.

Frankly, I like the caucuses. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Trump doesn’t do as well in caucus states. I think the voters that show up and spend a little more time at a caucus, rather than simply pulling a lever in a voting booth, are better informed and engaged in the affairs of their community. However, a primary system is more inclusive and allows for the busy schedules of the average voter more than does a caucus.

That said, I am absolutely, unalterably opposed to an open primary. This is the kind of contest that squishy moderates and sneaky political organizers love, because it allows someone from either party to vote in either primary. A closed primary only allows for registered members of a given party to vote in that party’s contests. Why in God’s name would we want Democrats having a say in who we present as our choice for the general election?

Before the state convention, there were already rumblings of a ballot initiative this November that would switch Colorado’s elections from a caucus to a primary. I have no doubt that this controversy will only fuel the fire. I will happily support such a measure, but only if we get closed primaries on both sides. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Donald Trump does better in states with open primaries.

Finally, I will make a sad prediction. Hillary Clinton is going to be our next president. Republicans and right-leaning moderates have about six months to make their peace with the coming reality of President Clinton 2.0. Frankly, this is heartbreaking to me, but this is the hand that Trump has dealt the GOP. This election had so much promise with a diverse field of candidates who, by in large, could have easily trounced Hillary in November. But the thing I feared most has taken hold; the misguided anger of the uninformed voter.

If Trump is selected as our nominee in Cleveland this July, those of us in the Never Trump movement will stay home, or will do as I plan to do and write in a candidate. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but I refuse to give the vote that my grandfathers and uncles fought for overseas to an unprincipled, narcissistic opportunist who has no core values. Many other principled conservatives feel the same way.

On the other hand, if Trump is not the nominee, he will throw yet another tantrum, walk out of the hotel and officially start his third-party run. I believe that the stink he’s raising over the Colorado convention is merely a prelude to such a bid. Moreover, I don’t believe that he actually wants to be president. I think he just gets off on the adoration of the big crowds that gather at his rallies. If his campaign manager manhandles an occasional reporter, so much the better. Any media attention is good attention for The Trumpster.

Trump’s disenfranchised base will blindly follow him. It won’t matter if our nominee is Ted Cruz, or a Hail Mary candidate selected at the convention. They won’t care. They’ll either vote for Trump, or just stay home. The Republican Party is deeply fractured and I don’t see a figure who can rise above the fray and unite us in time for November to come around.

Meanwhile, Hillary’s base will unify behind her despite her unlike ability. Yes, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are vocal and passionate, but they’re not going to swing over to Trump, no matter what he claims. They will vote for the lesser of two evils. The only slim chance Republicans have for a victory is if Sanders runs third-party after he loses the Democrat nomination. I don’t see this happening.

Sidebar: Some of my conservative friends hope that Hillary may be indicted over her Email debacle. Obama will never let this happen. He knows that Hillary is the best chance he has of perpetuating his legacy. The Supreme Court vacancy left in the wake of Antonin Scalia’s death is the best example of this political reality.

So, there you have it, folks. That was my first (and probably last) dalliance in state politics. I’m glad I participated in the convention, but I doubt that I would ever do it again. I just can’t tolerate noisy crowds the way I did a decade ago.

You know…I wonder if Scalia is having a good laugh right about now. He probably realizes just how futile all of this gamesmanship really is. I guess he can let us know when we get there. In the meantime, this is the world we live in and we can either choose to engage, or sit back and let things happen to us.

Shining City in the Darkness

This entry is reprinted from a Facebook post I wrote late last year. In light of the recent fractures within the GOP, and given the fact that I will be representing my precinct next weekend at the Republican State Assembly in Colorado Springs, I think it’s more important than ever that I take this opportunity to reaffirm my values.

Let it also serve as an explanation for my friends and family as to why I will never vote for Donald Trump.

“Ryan, how can you be a Republican!?”

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question. The subtext is usually, “Ryan, how can a blind person possibly be a member of a party that clearly doesn’t care about minorities.”

The answer is simple. I am not a person who is defined by my blindness. My eyes may be broken, but I don’t blindly follow a political ideology with which I fundamentally disagree.

I believe in a limited government that defends our borders, but I believe even more strongly in a free market that allows individuals to reach their full potential. I believe in the men and women who defend said borders. I believe that said government can only maintain a robust economy if we balance the budget and don’t spend more than we have. I believe that lower taxes stimulate the economy. I believe that the Constitution of the United States as written is the greatest American document ever authored and, if it is followed, allows people to achieve the highest form of freedom in their lives.

I believe that minorities can achieve more understanding through dialoguing peacefully with their neighbors, rather than being caught up in the collectivist mentality of angry identity politics. I believe that every human being has the right to life, pre or post partum. I believe that a gun is merely a tool in the hand of the person who uses it.

I believe that man is merely another part of Mother Nature and has absolutely no dominion over her what so ever. I believe in justice for the victims of violent crime. I believe that our country is strong due to diversity through lawful immigration. I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. I believe that the family unit is the greatest weapon against poverty that humanity has ever designed.

But most of all, I believe in America! Yes, we are a flawed country with a checkered past. What country isn’t? But there is no place on God’s green earth that I’d rather live as a blind person and as a free citizen.

Does the fact that I carry a cane and read with my fingers mean that I shouldn’t believe in any of these things. Of course not! It merely means that, in my opinion, the Republican party is the best apparatus by which my views can be expressed in the public discourse. No, they are not perfect, but they represent who I am far more closely than any other political party or philosophy.

Someone once said to me, “I wouldn’t admit that I was a Republican if I were you.” Why the hell not!? I’m proud to be a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio and many other great leaders. If you don’t like it, go vote with the other party and don’t let the door bang you in the butt on the way out.

Thank you, God bless America and have a nice day.

Book Review: “The Top 10 Lies About America”

In the wake of Mike Rosen’s retirement, my last vestige of conservative talk radio sanity is Michael Medved. On the national level, Rush, Hannity and Laura Ingraham are overt or covert Trump supporters and I can’t stomach it anymore. Glenn Beck and Mark Levin have come around to Ted Cruz, but they were never my cup of tea. On the local level, Mandy Connell is a libertarian who just can’t fill Mike’s intellectual shoes.

So, it’s down to Michael Medved. Too bad he airs from 10 PM to one AM every weeknight. I have to put head to pillow by 11 in order to function at work the next day and he doesn’t offer a free podcast, so I only catch snippets of his show.

Michael has written a book that I can’t recommend highly enough. It is called, “The 10 Big Lies About America.” He examines and deconstructs the most common distortions perpetrated about our country in the classroom, in our pop culture and at liberal cocktail parties and political forums.

This is not the obligatory book penned by your standard right-wing pundit. It’s not a conservative manifesto full of Ann Coulter-style diatribes and attacks against liberal personalities. Rather, it is a book that is chalk full of well-researched, well-presented arguments. Many on the left will dismiss these arguments out of hand, but any reasonable, thinking person should take the time to read this book and at least process the assertions set forth by Medved.

Here are, in order, the top 10 lies about America, according to Medved:

1. “America was founded on the genocide of Native-Americans.”

2. “Slavery is a uniquely American sin.”

3. “The Founding Fathers intended for America to be secular.”

4. “America was founded on multi-culturalism and is strengthened by diversity.”

5. “Big business hurts America and oppresses the people.”

6. “Government programs offer the only remedy for economic downturns and poverty.”

7. “America is an imperialist nation and a constant threat to world peace.”

8. “The two-party system is broken and we urgently need a viable third party.”

9. “A war on the middle class means less comfort and opportunity for the average American.”

10. “America is in the midst of an irreversible moral decline.”

Now, you’ve had your pudding. To have your meat, go buy the book, which is still in print. For those of you who prefer or are compelled to read audio books, I highly recommend the commercial version, which is narrated by the author. Sorry, fellow blind folks, but as of now, it’s not available on BARD, but is on Audible.com and well worth the money you’ll pay for the unabridged copy. It is also available on Bookshare.org.

So, go read this fascinating book and you’ll do better in your next argument with that unreasonable leftist. You won’t win them over, but you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Di Mi Nombre…Bitch!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of crime fiction. Whether it is literature, movies or a television series, I love a tale full of cops, gangsters, gunfights and bloody deaths. I usually admire the writing, the acting, the thematic presentations and, in the case of Breaking Bad, I experience a bit of wish fulfillment. I admit it. Sometimes, it’s fun to root for the bad guys. I wanted Walter White to win his war against Gus Fring. When Michael Corleon sought vengeance during the climax of The Godfather, I silently cheered. After all, those cinema villains are cool, right? Sure!

And then, there’s real life, embodied by the likes of Joaquim Guzman. He’s known to his friends and admirers as, El Chapo.

If you don’t follow current events, you may be wondering who El Chapo is. If you’re a fan of the show, 24, think of Ramon Salazar. If you’re not a fan of 24, think of a Mexican version of The Godfather, or Tony Montana, or Heisenberg. If you don’t get any of those references, I can’t do anything for ya.

El Chapo is one of the biggest drug lords in the world, possibly of all time. His exact age is unknown, though he’s estimated to be around 60. He’s wed at least four spouses and sired at least 11 children. As the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, he is one of the biggest dealers of cocaine, meth, heroin and pot in Mexico, North America and Europe. He has been arrested three times and has escaped from prison twice. He has committed scores of murders and ordered hundreds more.

El Chapo (which is Mexican slang for Shorty), has the kind of biography that makes him legendary in certain quarters. It’s also the kind of story that only a Hollywood directorial legend such as Martin Scorsese could love. Maybe that’s what Hollywood actor/activist Sean Penn was thinking when he arranged to interview El Chapo on behalf of Rolling Stone Magazine. Penn conducted the interview in secret after El Chapo had escaped from a prison in Mexico for the second time. To characterize the interview as a puff piece would be generous. It was little better than a love fest, with Penn excusing much of El Chapo’s criminal behavior due to his impoverished upbringing; a claim that is dubious at best.

It is not my intention to excoriate the virtues of El Chapo. He doesn’t have any. Nor will I waste energy in the condemnation of Sean Penn. His actions are perfectly predictable. As an extreme leftist, Penn never met a despot or thug whom he didn’t love. He has openly championed the likes of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, while characterizing George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice as, “Villainously and criminally obscene people.” His work with Rolling Stone is not his first foray into the world of advocate journalism. He has written articles for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post and the Washington Post. He is the quintessential example of a celebrity with no real journalistic credibility who uses his fame to bolster himself as an authority on politics.

The larger question to be considered is this. How did we get to a place in our society where Sean Penn could write such a biased article about El Chapo And have it taken seriously by the public and the mainstream media?

It’s not just that El Chapo is considered to be a sort of countercultural celebrity in many circles. We’ve had our share of criminals throughout history who have been romanticized and mythologized. Think of Jesse James, Al Capone and John Gotti. Nor is it the blatantly biased “journalism” that seems to have become more popular today. I truly believe that something deeper is happening.

It is my firm belief that complex problems always have complex origins. Many would point their fingers at one scapegoat for the blurring of the lines between fact and opinion in today’s world. The left would blame Rush Limbaugh and Fox News for the problem. The right blames a biased mainstream media who openly champions one political philosophy over others. This is a simplistic view. In my opinion, various trends and events have formed a kind of nexus that culminated in the meeting of Mr. Guzman and Mr. Penn, forever to be crystallized in print.

One aspect concerns the blurring of the line that separates hard news pages from the editorial pages. We’ve always had yellow journalism in our country. William Randolph Hearst exemplified it in the early 20th century. Though he was a media magnate, many of his contemporaries shunned Hearst and condemned his work for the sensationalistic tripe that it was. In the 20th century, many hard news reporters seemed to be able to maintain a reasonable level of objectivity, even when the truth of a story was evident. Legendary investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame are the best examples. Walter Cronkite was biased against the Vietnam War, but did a respectable job of keeping his opinions neutral until the tide of public sentiment turned against the war.

The face of journalism began to slowly shift over time. The Watergate scandal and the election of Ronald Reagan as president brought out a new breed of journalists who were more open in their criticisms. That was followed by the birth of the cable news phenomenon, with CNN blazing a trail toward 24/7 news coverage. In the ‘90’s, Republicans who rightly felt that they weren’t getting a fair shake in the media rejoiced at the creation of Fox News, a network billed as the alternative to CNN. The left shook it’s collective head and waited for the demise of Fox News, but throughout the late ‘90’s and the first decade of the following millennium, it became the ratings king in the world of cable news. Seeing their success, the left tried to do Fox News one better by creating MSNBC, a channel even more left of the mainstream CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN.

The first time that I really sat up and took notice of blatant mainstream advocate journalism occurred during the presidential election of 2004. Does anyone remember, Memogate?

Dan Rather and his 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes aired a story claiming that they had obtained memos that proved that George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973 was less than honorable. They further claimed that members of the Guard scrubbed the documents to cover up Bush’s failure to meet all of his service obligations.

Within minutes of the airing of the story, the conservative blogosphere went crazy. Soon, it had become apparent that the documents were forgeries and had been provided by a source who was a well-known anti-Bush partisan. After a two-week investigation fueled by mounting pressure from the mainstream press, CBS retracted the story and apologized for airing it. Mary Mapes was subsequently fired and Dan Rather relinquished the anchor’s chair of the CBS Evening News and quietly faded from the public eye. He later sued CBS, but the lawsuit was dismissed in 2009.

The money shot of this story came from Mary Mapes a year after the controversy hit. In an interview with ABC’s Brian Ross, he asked her if she thought the responsibility shouldn’t rest with the reporter to prove the authenticity of the documents before going to air. She replied, “I don’t think that’s the standard.” Her notion echoes Mark Twain who said, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Twain’s remark was delivered with sardonic irony, but Mary Mapes takes it literally.

11 years after the debacle, the movie, “Truth: hit theaters, with Robert Redford starring as Dan Rather and Kate Blanchett as Mapes. The movie painted Rather and Mapes as sympathetic heroes who were chasing a true story, while CBS was depicted as the villain who was covering up for their corporate owners. CBS condemned the movie as, “rewriting history,” and few people went to see it, but that didn’t stop dozens of journalists from fawning over the real Rather and Mapes in a pre-screening press conference.

Along with the rise of the 24/7 news cycle came the rise of the internet, where anyone who operates a blog or chat forum (formerly known as a bulletin board), could call him or herself a journalist. The black-and-white print of newspapers started to become obsolete in favor of instantaneous electronic transmissions that could be posted in mere seconds. In order to keep up with the instant gratification of readers, all of the major newspapers began to shift to digital content in hopes of keeping their corporate owners in the black, all the while competing with original websites such as Slate.com and The Daily Caller.

Sidebar: The irony isn’t lost on me that it was a bunch of bloggers who forced Memogate into the public eye, while the mainstream media chose to ignore it until it became the 500-pound elephant in the room. These people are admittedly partisan. It’s sad that not one hard-news journalist ran with the ball before it became popular to do so.

Finally, celebrity culture has taken a major upswing in the 21st century. Social media plays a pivotal role. Most people have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat account. Within mere seconds, you can show that cute photo of your kid making a mashed potato sculpture to all of your friends and family. If he’s cute enough, you will go viral, getting thousands of hits on Youtube. Suddenly, you’re a “journalist” who might just get to interview Barack Obama, or pose a planted question at a presidential debate.

Combine this with the sad trend of so-called, “Reality television.” It started innocently enough in the late ‘90’s with soft fare like Cops and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but with the dawn of the millennium, we amped it up from American Idol and The Amazing Race to Survivor, Fear Factor, The Apprentice, Real World and Duck Dynasty. These shows may have different styles, but the common thread involves supposedly ordinary people being plucked from obscurity and slowly emerging into the spotlight of fame, all while the cameras roll.

And then, there’s Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone was never intended to be a hard news publication on par with USA Today, but they try to remain an avant-garde force with the younger generation. To that end, they love to mix socio/politics with their pop culture. They’ve never been known for their journalistic integrity or impartiality. Remember the August, 2013 cover that featured a flattering photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (aka, The Boston Marathon Bomber)? The issue was banned by many stores, including Wal-Mart, over the cover. But they hit a new low the following year when they published a now-infamous story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The story was proven to be fabricated and Rolling Stone was forced to issue a retraction. The author, Sabrina Erdely, is clearly a fan of Mary Mapes’ style of “journalism.” It’s also noteworthy that Erdely is still employed at Rolling Stone. At least CBS had the decency to fire Mapes.

No, it’s not a bit surprising that Rolling Stone would collaborate with Sean Penn to concoct a piece glorifying a murderous drug lord like El Chapo. It’s not even surprising that the media’s reaction to the interview was so tepid. It’s not even surprising that Rolling Stone agreed to give El Chapo preapproval for the article before it ran. Founder Jann Wenner’s’s quote sums up the situation from Rolling Stone’s perspective: “We have let people in the past approve their quotes for interviews.” How many of those people are drug lords who kill reporters who write unflattering articles about them and popularized the beheading of their enemies as a means of warfare?

The nice thing about fictional characters like Tony Soprano is that, once you turn off your television, they flicker out of existence. They are born from the imaginations of a group of people sitting around a conference table in a writers’ room somewhere. Sean Penn thrives in a world of fiction, both in his personal and professional life. El Chapo’s victims live and die in a stark reality. Those who are no longer here to speak for themselves passed with a death scream upon their lips. Those who are left behind live as slaves to addiction with poison in their blood. As fiction and reality become more blurred in our modern age of the information super highway, that cold, brutal fact never changes.

Hey! Who Crapped On My Chessboard!?

Last Thursday night was a watershed moment for me. For the first time in 12 years, I missed a major political debate. Not only did I miss it, but I missed it deliberately. A friend asked me if I was going to watch and I replied to her, “Nope. Donald Trump has shit all over the process and it just ain’t fun anymore.” Rather an uncouth statement, but it sums up how I feel perfectly.

To understand the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, it is necessary to understand how the Republican Party came to the unfortunate crossroads where it stands today.

I became interested in politics in 1991 when my father introduced me to Rush Limbaugh during a trip to lunch. The Bush-Clinton-Perot election of ’92 was the first major political event in which I was a spectator (I was too young to vote.) I wavered a bit in college, causing me to miss out on the GOP Congressional takeover in ’94 and the Clinton-Dole contest in ’96. But in 1998 I began to come back to my Republican roots. It’s probably not a coincidence that I dropped out of college in ’98. Each political cycle has brought with it interesting twists and turns for me that have been more engrossing than any mystery novel.

In 2000, I voted for the first time and proudly pulled the lever for George W. Bush. That’s probably what heightened my interest when the Bush-Gore electoral controversy hit. It was at that point that politics ceased to be a mere hobby for me and became a passion. It was a no-brainer for me to vote once again for Bush in 2004. I’ve only voted for a Democrat once. That was for the mayor of Lincoln, NE in 2006 when it turned out that the Republican candidate was certifiably nuts.

By 2008, I had moved from Lincoln to Denver and watched the political drama unfold on both sides of the aisle as President Bush prepared to make his swan song. The winter of ’08 gave us an interesting cast of characters. On the right, we had John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and the late Fred Thompson. On the left, we had Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson.

On the left, the real drama lay in the contest between Hillary and Obama. The left was caught in a beggar’s choice; should I vote for the first woman president, or the first black president? IN the end, racial guilt won out over gender guilt, much to the consternation of the Clinton camp.

Sidebar: I really believe that Edwards would have served as Obama’s running mate if he had not been caught in a scandalous affair. It wasn’t the affair itself that drew the ire of the American public. Democrat voters are so over that whole adultery thing after Bill Clinton made it no big deal. But the fact that he was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife made his very name toxic. So it was up to good old Slow Joe.

ON the right, it was a contest of moderates. In the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush had become unpopular. The party was eager to put forth a candidate that didn’t appear to be too conservative. McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee all were openly critical of Bush. Fred Thompson was the only solid conservative in the race, but he seemed too low-energy for GOP voters. Ron Paul was the token libertarian spoiler who always comes to the party and never knows when to leave.

I remember writing a depressive rant on Old Blurty about the inescapable fact that McCain was our presumptive nominee in early March of ’08. I kept lamenting over and over, “John McCain is going to be our Goddamn candidate!” It was sad, but I knew that, in the end, I would choke down my puke and pull the lever for him. He made it easier when he executed his only smart move of the general election campaign by selecting Sarah Palin to share the ticket, but his clever tactic ultimately backfired on him and we got President Obama.

Honestly, I think Ronald Reagan could have returned from the grave in all his glory and it wouldn’t have assured the GOP a win in the White House. In addition to two unpopular wars, the country had faced a recession, a housing crisis, TARP and the eminent collapse of two financial institutions. The country was ready for a change and Barack Obama’s positive message served as an opiate for the masses.

2012 was a different story entirely. Obama now had a track record on which he could be attacked by his Republican challengers. Such challengers presented themselves in the form of more conservative candidates such as Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. The only two moderates were Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, though Romney shifted more to the right, leaving Huntsman as the lone mainstream center candidate. Ron Paul once again showed up at the party, but this time, drew more attention from young people who served as a growing chorus for the legalization of marijuana.

Herman Cain is notable because he foreshadowed what was to come four years later by serving as the first impactful candidate running under the label of, “Outsider.” He attempted to use his credentials as a successful businessman who was untainted by the political system to gain traction and he did at first, but a series of rumored sexual scandals forced him to drop out. He was the favorite of the Tea Party, a loosely formed, grass roots political organization that sprang into being in 2010 as an answer to the passage of Obamacare. The Tea Party proved to be a force in the 2010 mid-term elections, but many of the candidates whom they supported were beaten by more mainstream candidates in either primary or general elections of 2012.

When all the smoke began to clear during the primary season of 2012, it was evident that the Republicans wanted to play it safe. The economy was still sluggish and everyone wanted someone who had a good head for money to take the helm. That someone turned out to be Mitt Romney. He was a very respectable candidate whom I voted for in both 2008 and 2012, but his mild-mannered demeanor was no match for Obama in the political ring, even with the addition of Paul Ryan as his running mate. It didn’t help that Romney (also a successful businessman) was painted by the liberal media as a rich guy who didn’t care about poor people. The class warfare stratagem was in full swing and resonated with much of the public in the wake of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and the Occupy Movement.

The victory of the GOP in capturing both houses of Congress in 2014 did little to assuage the fear and anger of many conservatives who felt that Obama was bringing the fight to the party and they were rolling over and taking their thrashing with a smile. As I wrote in a previous article, Obama achieved his signature victory in the passage of Obamacare. Through executive action, he also made headway in other controversial areas such as immigration, gay rights, climate change and, most recently, gun control. The perception of conservatives was that he was the big, bad bully on the block and the GOP establishment, embodied by the likes of Speaker of the House John Boehner, were impotent. The budget is the best example. When members of the GOP such as Senator Ted Cruz threatened to shut down the government over passage of the budget, Obama laughed at them and Boehner capitulated.

I was excited about the coming presidential election as we entered 2015. As usual, there were many names in speculation for candidates; Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal, just to name a few. When I saw Marco Rubio speak at the 2012 Republican convention before Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech, I knew he would be running someday. I wasn’t surprised when he announced his candidacy in June. I wasn’t surprised when Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush all announced. I was mildly surprised when Dr. Ben Carson declared his intentions to run because he just didn’t seem like the type. I barely recognized Carly Fiorina’s name, vaguely remembering her from some bid she made in a California contest somewhere; a bid she lost, by the way. Huckabee surprised me a little after he declined to run in 2012, but like Romney, he too had shifted to the right in recent years and I thought he would do well. Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry and George Pataki rounded out a swollen field.

I paid little attention to what was happening in the Democrat camp. For years it had been a foregone conclusion that Hillary was the presumptive nominee for 2016. I did wonder if Vice-President Biden might run and was a little surprised when he didn’t, given the rumors of acrimony between the Clintons and Obama. I chuckled when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy. I lumped him in the Ralph Nader category of people who could and would never win in a million years.

I never saw Donald Trump coming. Yes, there were whispers of him running for president, but that was nothing new. The Donald had been making noise about running since 1988 and it never happened.

Donald Trump, multi-millionaire whom I first came to know in the early ‘90’s during his tabloid-saturated divorce from his wife Ivana after his affair with actress Marla Maples came to light. Donald Trump, who is best known for buying and selling properties, many of which he converts into casinos. Donald Trump, who is skilled at running beauty pageants such as Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe. Donald Trump, who has donated large sums of money to political candidates on both sides of the aisle. Donald Trump, the well-known host of the NBC reality show, The Apprentice, during which time he applied for a trademark application for the words, “You’re fired.” Donald Trump, who opposes Obamacare, even though he has publicly called for a single payer healthcare system in the past. Donald Trump, who has seen four of his businesses go bankrupt over the years. Donald Trump, who has switched registrations between the Democrat Party, the Republican Party and the Reform Party and as an Independent in the past four decades. Donald Trump, who twice tried to invoke eminent domain to force small business owners and a private citizen to sell their land to him for his new business ventures,. Donald Trump, narcissist, media whore and entertainer.

When he announced his candidacy in June of last year, I was sure he was doomed. He shot off his mouth about immigrants coming to our country who were rapists, drug-dealers and criminals and the political backlash began. Outrage poured from both ends of the political spectrum, manifesting itself in condemnations, protests and worst of all, boycotts. Boycotts can hurt the most because they often hit someone (be it a business person or politician) in their pocketbook. The apex of this occurred when NBC canceled The Apprentice and the airing of Trump’s beauty contests. But Trump forged on, never letting up in his pugnacious, boorish attacks on his opponents. In Trump’s view, anyone who dared to criticize him was a fair target, whether they were his primary GOP rivals such as Jeb Bush, critical media figures such as Megyn Kelly, or occasionally, the Democrats. His statements were peppered by non-presidential, juvenile characterizations such as, “Stupid,” “Idiots,” “terrible,” and “Incompetent.”

Trump has said that we are going to build a wall along our southern border and Mexico is going to pay for it. Crowds of conservatives cheer, but when debate moderators and interviewers ask for specifics, he dodges and weaves.

Trump said of John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Again, the media predicted the demise of Trump, sure that he had angered veterans and conservatives who were friendly to the military. Again, they were wrong, as his poll numbers rose.

Referring to his primary opponent Carly Fiorina, Trump said, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Carly turned his comments into a golden opportunity in a subsequent debate, and some (certainly not all) feminists decried his remarks, but again, his poll numbers stayed solid.

When Trump mocked a disabled reporter at a rally, there was some feigned outrage, but nobody really cared and he still remained atop the polls.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump suggested that we ban all Muslims from entering our country and suggested that we place all mosques under surveillance. He said we should register all Muslims in a national database and he claimed that thousands of Muslims cheered when the towers fell on 9/11; a claim that could never be proven. When the United Kingdom began a petition to ban Trump from their country on the grounds that he was using hate speech against Muslims, he waved it like a badge of honor.

His latest political stunt is to call the citizenship of his most dangerous challenger, Ted Cruz, into question. And now…what do you know…a lawyer from Texas is suing Cruz, claiming he is unqualified to run for the presidency because he is not a citizen. Is this the chicken or the egg? You be the judge.

Like many pundits, I was certain that Trump would be a flash in the pan. Now here we are less than a month away from the Iowa caucuses and it’s clear that The Donald isn’t going anywhere. Part of this can be attributed to the media. Conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly love The Donald. I used to be a dittohead, but now find Rush nearly unlistenable due to his thinly-veiled bias toward Trump, a man with whom Rush has probably played more than his share of golf. O’Reilly, who often skewers politicians for a lack of specificity, seems to have no problem giving Trump a pass and overtly defending him when the likes of Charles Krauthammer, George Will and Brit Hume question his substance.

Even the media figures who claim to hate Trump are inadvertently helping him. You cannot turn on any news program or current events show without encountering a discussion about Donald Trump. This goes for all of the major networks, including CNN and MSNBC.

I think a minor reason for Trump’s imperviousness is his celebrity status. He does have a charismatic personality and, like it or not, people are drawn to wealth and fame. We’ve elected celebrities to political office in the past. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken and Jesse Ventura? Sarah Palin became a celebrity after she resigned as governor of Alaska. Yes, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor, but his movie career had been dead for decades and he had served as governor of California before he became president.

But there is a deeper, more troubling reason for Trump’s success. It is anger on the right. This is characterized by Trump’s remarks in the most recent debate when he said, “I’m not angry. I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger.”

Is this how we want to be known as Republicans going forward? The GOP: The Party of Anger? We’ve already carried the spurious label of, “The party of angry, bigoted white men,” for decades. Is Trump the guy to turn it around? In his own words, I don’t think so. Ronald Reagan was a transformative figure because he brought his warmth and charm to an angry Washington. He revived and unified his party through his cheerful spirit of optimism and hope. Compare Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill, speech to Trump’s Make America Great Again kick-off speech and you’ll see the glaring contrast between the two.

At it’s core, anger is just another human emotion, no different than love, envy, joy or sorrow. We often paint it in a negative light, but anger can be a positive force when channeled properly. The followers of Dr. Martin Luther King were angry, but they used their anger to affect positive socio/political change. The reason we fear anger so much is because it often leads people down a destructive path. It damages relationships, causes violence and often ends in burned bridges that can never be rebuilt.

As I have demonstrated, many conservatives are angry at the so-called Republican establishment. If you listen to the pundits and callers on talk radio, you will hear a common refrain. “Obama has been in power for seven years and Republicans haven’t done jack squat to stop him. But Trump…we love him! He tells it like it is.” They feel bullied, frustrated and helpless to stop an encroaching political tidal wave that threatens to permanently alter the landscape of our country. In Trump, they think they see a fighter who can go in, do what he wants, say what he wants and really stick it to the Democrats. Their anger is tinged with hope that a Reagan-like figure will come along to save the party and the country. Trump is no Reagan. He is a populist, egocentric windbag who is a master of negative attention-seeking behavior.

The best illustration of this occurred in 2011, when Donald Trump continually poked at President Obama, demanding that he show his long form birth certificate so that he would prove his American citizenship, thereby validating his presidency. Rather than telling The Donald to go take a long walk off of Trump Tower, Obama yielded and produced his birth certificate at a press conference.

The next day, Rush Limbaugh was drooling with glee on his radio show. “Donald Trump was able to accomplish what the Republican establishment wasn’t,” he crowed. Really, Rush? Alex Jones represents the GOP? For any serious Republican, the Birther Movement was a joke and his citizenship was a non-issue. But the birth certificate issue is classic Trump in a nutshell.

This may very well have been the genesis of Trump’s latest notion to try once again for the Oval Office. He probably thought, if I can make Obama produce that document, I can do anything.

Whatever else he may be, Trump is the consummate salesman. One of his greatest gifts is the ability to win others over, which is a top asset in the business world. He did it with Chris Wallace, who repeatedly challenged him in an early debate, but now seems to practically fawn over him whenever he appears on Fox News Sunday.

When you combine anger with desperation and throw in a dash of false hope, you end up with a poisonous potion. Just ask the German people of the 1930’s, when they surrendered control of their nation to Hitler. Or you could ask the people of America at the height of the Great Depression when they elected FDR, thereby ushering in the first elements of socialism under the guise of Uncle Sam taking care of the people. Anger blinds us until we see and hear only what we want to see and hear, all but abandoning our reason and critical thinking skills. Historically, people who cast their votes from a place of anger without optimism or rationality to back it up wind up with a case of buyer’s remorse.

Sidebar: We’re also seeing a good deal of anger on the left. Obama has nudged our country further down the path toward socialism and the left can smell it in the air. Hillary is a terrible choice for our country, but she’s not a socialist. She represents old school American liberalism, when it was still respectable to be somewhat hawkish, when capitalism wasn’t a word worthy of censorship and when women stayed in loveless marriages to get ahead in their careers. Crazy old Bernie Sanders shouldn’t have this much traction in the polls, but Democrats want a choice and are angry that an old relic like Hillary is presuming on their favors. Barring any medical or legal complications, she’ll be the Democrat nominee, but in a few years, when a younger, more attractive and dynamic candidate comes along who is unashamedly socialist, watch out, America!

Ian Tuttle recently published an article in National Review that suggested that, while Republicans don’t want Trump to win, we should all suck it up and back him if he becomes our nominee. He believes that Trump just might be manageable if he is forced to answer to the American public and the members of the GOP as president. I disagree wholeheartedly. Trump is a lot of things, but manageable is not one of them. We’ve had no success in controlling him thus far, and residency in the White House would only fuel his already super-sized ego. I know I preach the philosophy that party trumps person, but if Big-T Trump should become the standard bearer for the GOP, I will shamelessly vote for my first write-in candidate, penning in the name of Raylan Givens, U.S. Marshall, for president.

Of course, we could always see a third party candidate materialize out of the storm. Michael Medved, my last vestige of sanity in talk radio land, thinks that Michael Bloomberg might run on a third party ticket if Trump should be the nominee. Hillary, Trump and Bloomberg; talk about a beggar’s choice. I think it more likely that we would see the scenario play out that we saw in Colorado in 2010, when the GOP discovered that our candidate was a fraud and unofficially backed Tom Tancredo. It’s likely that Marco Rubio would probably declare himself an independent and run against Trump and Hillary with the quiet backing of the Republican National Committee. Nice try, GOP, but if this scenario plays out, Hillary wins. If it’s a two-way race between Trump and Clinton, Hillary wins. If Bloomberg runs, Hillary wins.

As I sit here writing this on a winter afternoon, I tell you honestly that I have never felt a more profound sense of dread or impending sorrow over the political future of this country than I do right now. Donald Trump has managed to rob me of my passion for politics. Think of it in terms of someone who loves to play chess. He goes into a game, sits down across from his opponent, smiles broadly, and then some bored, rich prick walks up to the table, squats down and takes a massive dump right on the chessboard. Even if you clean it up with bleach, who’s going to want to play the game after a heinous episode such as that?

So think about it, conservatives. The Iowa caucuses are about three weeks away. Choose wisely and choose well. Don’t let your anger destroy you. Rush Limbaugh says that elections have consequences. How sad it is to realize that he has forgotten his own sage wisdom.

Party in the Shawshank Sewers

One of my favorite radio talk show hosts here in Denver, Mike Rosen, just retired from his daily program last month. I will miss him terribly. Rush used to be my favorite, but he’s fallen off in recent years and his thinly-veiled support for Donald Trump has cemented him in my disfavor.

Mike was a bit of a grumpy old curmudgeon at times. He did not suffer fools lightly. When liberals or ignorant right-wingers would call in and try to challenge him, he would often raise his voice and employ, “Mr. Hold Button.” On the other hand, he did not screen their calls and filter them to the bottom of the queue. Nor did he hang up on them when the disagreement sharpened. Although he quickly became impatient with those whom he regarded as ignorant, I believe that he had an inherent respect for his audience that is lacking in many of his contemporaries.

One of Mike’s maxims is, “Party trumps person.” When I first began listening to him, I did not believe in this bromide. That was before Barack Obama became president, the Tea Party gained prominence and Donald Trump became an unfortunate factor in politics. Mike wrote a column several years ago outlining why he believes in this political principle. Rather than simply copying it here, I will try in my own meager way to illustrate his point through current events. Stick with me, all two of you who read this blog, as the conservative blind guy springs into action.

President Obama has certainly presented a series of challenges to the GOP over the past seven years. Immigration, gun control, the budget, the idea of American exceptionalism, terrorism, gay marriage, racism…all of these political hot potatoes have grown in stature and controversy under Obama’s shadow. But no issue has carried with it the division and derision than the juggernaut that came into being almost five years ago. Democrats call it, The Affordable Care Act. Republicans call it, Obamacare. Simply put, it is Obama’s attempt (with the help of a Democrat-controlled congress) to revamp our healthcare system.

Obamacare became a reality in March of 2010. Since then, we’ve had three national elections. Twice, Republicans made gains, first taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011, then holding the House and gaining a majority in the Senate in 2015. Unfortunately, we lost the 2012 presidential election, thereby allowing the Democrats to maintain control of the most powerful of the three arms of political governance in Washington D.C.

Since Obamacare was enacted, Congressional Republicans have voted more than 60 times to either repeal, reduce or substantially alter it. Most of these votes came from the House where Tea Party candidates held more influence. Yet, Obamacare proved to be the werewolf howling outside the door, and the GOP had no silver bullets. Maybe we could blame the NRA for that one. Yes, every vote proved to be symbolic. Why? Merely because this is what those ever-loving founding fathers intended.

And now, a sidebar as I render unto you, my two readers, a crash course in how the legislative process functions in government.

In order for a bill to become black-letter law, it must be passed in one legislative chamber, it must then be sent to the other legislative chamber, where it must also be passed. Then it is sent to the executive office, otherwise known as the president’s desk. If he gives the bill his signature of approval, it becomes the law of the land. If he vetoes it, it can be sent back to Congress for another vote, but a 2/3 majority in both chambers must choose to override the president’s veto. If a 2/3 majority cannot be mustered, the bill is as dead as Lincoln, Nebraska on a Sunday morning.

Yesterday, on January 6, 2015, the GOP-controlled Congress gave my mother a wonderful birthday gift. They passed a bill that fully repealed Obamacare. It passed in both chambers. Is this a good thing? Yup. Will it make any difference? Nope. It won’t have any more impact than a feather on an elephant’s ass. Why? Because Barack Obama is still our president and he’s a Democrat. Hell hath no fury like a Democrat with a veto pen.

If John McCain had been elected president in 2008, we would not have Obamacare today, even with Congress in Democrat hands. If Mitt Romney had been elected in 2012, and if the senate had still gone to the GOP in 2014, Obamacare would be history tomorrow. But reality is what it is. The Constitution mandates this legislative process and deliberately makes it difficult so that we could not pass laws without the clear consent of the majority of Americans. I don’t think Obama got the memo, because he sure loves his executive orders.

This is why Mike Rosen is right. Party trumps person. It’s not just about legislation in Washington. In Congress, the party in control determines which bills come to the floor for a vote and which get buried with no hope of passage. The party in power controls the various committees such as Ways and Means, Homeland Security, Transportation, etc. These committees not only recommend legislation, but they also create, oversee and dismantle various federal agencies. In other words, the party in power sets the congressional agenda until such time as the balance of power changes hands through the electoral process.

Then, there’s the president. In addition to his or her veto power, the president sets the public agenda through a liaison with the media. The sheer gravitas of his position insures that he will command attention, thereby leading on any issue that presents itself.

The president nominates Supreme Court and federal judges, which has an enormous impact on public policy in this country. Think I’m wrong? Examine how gay marriage came to be the law of the land in America. If John McCain had been elected to office, neither Sonia Sotomayor nor Elena Kagan would currently be seated on the high court. They would not have been around to uphold Obamacare as a valid law.

The president hand-picks his cabinet. Everyone from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Education and all of the rest must carry the stamp approval of the president. Yes, the Senate must confirm each nominee, but the president is the one who ultimately activates the process.

And then, there’s that whole Commander in Chief deal. The president cannot wage war with complete autonomy, but he has the final say in the assignment of generals, the strategic placement of bases and other military facilities, the decisions on the use of drone strikes and bombings, the agenda at the Pentagon, and of course, the military budget.

OH yeah…money. Every year, the president submits a budget to Congress. They can either pass or reject it, but he still dictates the overall priorities of the purse strings. How much money goes to the military? How much to entitlement programs? How much to infrastructure? The president is no small voice in all of those decisions.

This political reality is why I voted for John McCain seven years ago. You know the movie, The Shawshank Redemption? Remember how Andy Dufresne had to swim through 400 yards of raw sewage to escape from the prison? That’s about how I felt when I pulled the lever for McCain. I applauded his military service, but was not a fan of his moderate voting record. Yet, I think I’ve illustrated in the above comments why he would have been a preferable alternative to our current president. I liked Mitt Romney better than McCain, but still felt he was too tepid in his overall approach to the campaign. But he too would have been far more palatable than Obama’s second term has proven to be.

Republicans did not invent this system of government. They merely work within it’s confines, just as the Democrats do. Yet, a growing number of conservatives are choosing to disregard the sage advice of Mike Rosen. They blame what they term, “The Republican Establishment,” for the failure of Congress to do anything substantive since they gained power in the House in 2010. If I haven’t already made it clear, the GOP cannot enact any meaningful, transformative reforms in this country until they control the three arms of government; the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Oval Office.

Another sidebar: I am always skeptical of this so-called Republican Establishment. Are we talking about the establishment that is supporting Marco Rubio? What about the big money behind Jeb Bush, who has about as much traction in the polls as a skittish dog on a sheet of ice. What about the establishment that is backing Chris Christie, or John Kasich? Is Paul Ryan, a guy who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the job of Speaker, part of an establishment? Who comprises this supposed establishment? And how many more times can I say establishment” before you two readers turn it into a drinking game?

It is not my intention to mount a blind defense of the Republican Party. They are guilty of their share of failures. They are a group of imperfect people operating within an imperfect political construct. I was not a particular fan of John Boehner during his tenure as Speaker of the House. I heard too many stories of petty vendettas against conservative malcontents. I appreciate the fact that he tried to compromise with Obama, but he would have been able to draw a harder line if he’d served as more of a unifier within his own party. I realize that a Texas Republican looks somewhat different from a New Jersey Republican, but commonalities must be found and an effective leader should be able to do just that. Boehner failed in this basic mission. But for conservatives to attack Paul Ryan as not conservative enough!? Please!

So, conservatives are mad. They feel underserved, underappreciated and unheard. And their answer is…Donald freakin’ Trump!?

I will save my anti Trump rant for another post. Sufficed to say that, if you appreciate my Shawshank analogy, forget the sewer pipe. Donald Trump is Bogs. If he should win the nomination, he’s the guy who will creep up behind you when you have your pants down, tap you on the shoulder and whisper, “Shhh…honey.”

There are two other lies I want to examine in connection with the Trump phenomenon and the general anger toward the GOP. They are:

1. “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.”

2. “A third party is the only solution to our broken two-party system.”

But I’m growing weary and just tacked up a larger poster of Carly Fiorina on the control room wall, so I need to get back to work. I’ll save those analyses for another day.

So friends, consider my words carefully as the primaries get rolling next month. If you care about our country, learn to understand the intricacies of our political system. Mike Rosen is correct; party does, in deed, trump (small t) person. Yes, sometimes you have to swallow a mouth full of shit, but at the end of your journey, you get to breathe the pure, sweet air of freedom.

Hey, maybe if The Donald wins the White House this November, he can build a wall and force the good folks of Zihuatanejo to pay for it.