Sunday, February 25, 2018

Rabid Republican racism

To understand how far the Republican Party in Virginia will go to try and defeat Barack Obama in this battleground state, one only has...

Attack of the fear mongers

Incumbent Republican Congressman Virgil Goode has a long, sordid record of animosity against Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics and, apparently, even Italians.

So he's running ads against his Italian-American Democratic opponent that use a darkened photo that leave the impression that Tom Perriello could be Middle Eastern, Hispanic or even -- God forbid -- black.

The ad is smear politics in its lowest, basest form and prompted a well-deserved and strong editorial in The Roanoke Times:

Rep. Virgil Goode's latest foray into the politics of fear goes too far.

Granted, distorting opponents' views in political campaigns is so commonplace that the practice barely garners a public shrug. A recent Goode TV attack ad is something different, though, and warrants voter disgust.

Way beyond simply and only slightly distorting his opponent's stand on domestic oil drilling, the Republican incumbent in Virginia's 5th Congressional District distorts Democrat Tom Perriello's appearance. And the distortion seems designed to encourage ugly nativist fears.

As a voice-over warns viewers that Perriello is "wrong for Virginia," the ad shows a still image of the candidate shaded so darkly that he could be Middle Eastern -- or perhaps Hispanic. Voters can see whatever "other" stirs their distrust.

This kind of fear mongering is business as usual for Goode. I watched him spread his snake oil during my years in Washington and it made be sick to my stomach that this racist and misogynist not only came from my home state of Virginia but also from neighboring Franklin County.

But his ad, sick as it is, is also business as usual for the Republican Party. I know because, to my shame, I worked for too long as an operative for the GOP. I served on Capitol Hill as an aide to three Republican Congressmen. I was a political operative in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign and dozens of House and Senate campaigns and later as a communications associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a prominent GOP political consulting firm.

During those years, I not only observed, but participated in, too many organized campaigns of character assassination, smear campaigns and outright distortion of facts to serve the Republican cause. I made a lot of money working for Republicans. I'm not proud of it but it happened.

What Goode is doing is just one part of a well-organized, heavily-funded and tightly-orchestrated GOP campaign of fear that runs from the grassroots to the national political parties. The current campaign of fear-mongering by the McCain campaign against Barack Obama falls under the same umbrella and is designed to raise fear about Obama's race.

As The Associated Press pointed out this week:

By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign.

And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.

First, Palin's attack shows that her energetic debate with rival Joe Biden may be just the beginning, not the end, of a sharpened role in the battle to win the presidency.

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain's ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.

To be fair, both sides use negative ads but I know from working inside the Republican Party that their attacks are too often driven by racism (both overt and latent), homophobia and fear of anything that is not white, Anglo-Saxon and pseudo-Christian.

Franklin Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In this election, we must fear the fearmongers even more.

A tragedy that could have been avoided

Shawn Brent Gerald, the 28-year-old son of Floyd County Supervisor Fred Gerald of Indian Valley, died Sunday night when his motorcycle crashed into a car turning left on U.S. 11 near Fairlawn.

The driver of the car, Jerry Wayne Viars, 35, of Max Meadows, was charged by Virginia State Police with driving under the influence of alcohol.

State Police Sgt. Michael Conroy says an initial investigation into the accident shows Gerald racing with a Ford Mustang at the time of the accident. The driver of the Mustang fled the scene and police are still seeking information on the car and its whereabouts.

"There are multiple factors," Conroy told The Roanoke Times. "And if you take away one of them, you may not have had this tragedy in the first place. Here you have speed, you have alcohol."

Any parent who has ever lost a child in a senseless, tragic accident such as this knows the pain Gerald's family feels.  As one who also rides a motorcycle, I know full well the dangers that come from traveling the public roads on two wheels. Taking chances on a bike only increases the danger and lowers the odds for survival. As a recovering alcoholic who works with others who battle the beast of substance abuse, I also know that climbing behind the wheel of a car while drunk turns one into an instrument of death.

Life is precious and can be cut short in an instant. My condolences to Fred and his family. Knowing a tragedy such as this could have been avoided does not lessen the sorrow and sense of loss that all of us feel.

Ban cell phone use while driving…now!

It's time for Virginia to join other states in banning cell phone use while driving. At least a half dozen times in the last two weeks, I have almost been taken out by inattentive drivers who run stop signs, stray over the yellow line and change lanes without signaling.

Last week, I locked up all four wheels on my Wrangler to avoid hitting a Honda Prelude driven by a teenager who was texting on her cell phone and drove through a stop sign and onto U.S. 221 without even looking.  I've had to take emergency action in both the Jeep and on my Harley to avoid oncoming cars that crossed the center line because the drivers were more involved in talking on the cell phone than on concentrating on the road ahead.

When I'm driving the Jeep or riding the Harley, my cell phone can ring until the cows come home. I don't use the phone while on the road. I'll return the call when I stop. I'm not going to risk my life or the lives of others just to talk on the phone. Others, unfortunately, don't seem to care about their life or safety. In Christiansburg the other day, I had to swerve to avoid a town police officer who swerved into my lane while talking on a cell phone.

It's time for the General Assembly to ban cell phone use by drivers of any motorized vehicle while that vehicle is on the road (or moving in a parking lot).

Cowardly cretins

A cowardly cretin (or cretins) vandalized Floyd's new public restroom this week, removing a urinal from the wall and allowing hundreds of gallons of water to spill out onto the floor and flow out of the building.

It was the kind of despicable act that makes your blood boil. Whether it was the act of someone with a philosophical difference with the changes that are coming to our town or just a mindless vandal who inflicts damage for the hell of it is less important than the viciousness of the act itself -- a wanton destruction of public property that brings disgrace upon our town and raises questions about the character of our community.

A sad day for Floyd.