Bob Dole, 1923 – 2021

Photo copyright © 2012 by Gerry O’Brien

I got to spend an hour with Bob Dole a decade ago, when he was 89 years old.

Long retired from the U.S. Senate and public life, he was still a force to be reckoned with. He regaled us with stories of his Kansas childhood, and his life in New York City, where he attended Brooklyn College for a brief time before being shipped off to fight in World War II as a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

A star athlete, his life was changed forever by the war, and he returned home paralyzed from the neck down, expecting to die soon after.

Fate had other plans for Bob Dole, and like many in the Greatest Generation, he continued to serve his country for many years. Despite debilitating injuries, he never lost his sense of humor.

From The Archives, 1983: Mayor Ed Koch

Photo copyright © 2021 by Gerry O’Brien

Somewhere, John McCain Is Smiling

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

From The Archives, 1981: County Chairman Vince Albano

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien 

Fun Fact: Vince was the brother of John Albano, creator of DC Comics’ Jonah Hex.

From The Archives, Circa 1981: Richard Nixon

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien

America’s 37th President is now only our second most corrupt Commander-in-Chief of all time, thanks to Donald Trump.

Nixon was many things, but he refused to challenge the election results after his close 1960 loss to John Kennedy, because he knew the damage it would do to our country. And when Barry Goldwater and other old guard, conservative Senators traveled to the White House in 1974 to tell Nixon it was over, he left office peaceably. Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly refused to say he will honor the results of this election, and has spoken many times about ignoring the constitutional two-term limit.

If you live in the United States and haven’t voted yet, today is your last chance. Perhaps for a long time. VOTE.

From The Archives, 1983: Mayor Ed Koch

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien

36 Years Ago I was A Reagan Delegate At The Republican National Convention. This Year, I’m Voting For Joe Biden For President.

(This is a distinctly political post; those of you who follow me strictly for photography
and lighter subjects can read on at your own peril)

In 1984, I was 25 years old, and two years earlier, I had defeated the local Republican boss in a Primary Election. As the new State Committeeman and District Leader for Brooklyn’s old 51st Assembly District, I represented the area from Park Slope to Bay Ridge, communities with a healthy mix of liberals, blue collar conservatives, and Latinos.

I was active in the community and worked with people of all political stripes on important neighborhood issues. And I was a presence in local media. So when it came time for Reagan Delegates to be selected for the Republican Convention that year, I made sure I was named. And when I was, I got picked to serve as the Daily News Hometown Correspondent, writing a daily column from the Convention floor.
I went to a Republican Convention where there was a clear distinction between politics and government. Where family members of the candidates occasionally spoke, but were prohibited from any role in government or the campaign and where the candidate and his family did not benefit financially from the presidency or the presidential campaign.
The convention I attended in 1984 had a candidate who was optimistic and cheerful. He didn’t attack reporters, and he didn’t demean women for questioning him. And that candidate didn’t fake a foot injury to avoid military service.
The convention where I served as a Delegate went to great lengths to shun kooks and conspiracy nuts, not award them prime time speaking slots on national television. Or worse, appoint them to positions of power and influence in the Administration.
The presidential candidate we nominated at that Republican Convention comforted Americans in time of great tragedy, and he mourned the loss of American servicemen and women. He didn’t smear dead soldiers, and he didn’t abuse the parents of those Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.
That presidential candidate also didn’t single out American companies to feud with, or try to hurt them financially. That presidential candidate did not use the Presidency to settle personal scores.
The presidential candidate we selected at that Republican Convention wasn’t petty and he wasn’t a coward. When that presidential candidate was shot and almost killed, he joked about it.
The presidential candidate I voted for at that Convention was a hardliner when it came to the Russians. He eventually signed far-reaching nuclear arms reduction treaties with them. But he made damn sure their new leader could be trusted before he agreed to anything. Trust, but verify, he always said.
The presidential candidate I supported at that Convention was not a perfect man. Nor was he a perfect President. But the difference between him and the man Republicans nominated this week is stark. Because the man they chose is a shameful embarrassment to their party and to our nation.
I left the Republican Party in the spring of 2016 and became an Independent, because the Donald Trump I knew from living in New York City all my life didn’t have the character, the courage, the decency, or the skills to be President.
The last four years have proven me right. Almost on a daily basis.
No need for details: 2020 has been brutal enough. Suffice to say, I don’t hate Donald Trump — but as an American I am deeply ashamed of and embarrassed by him. We want, we need this soap opera on the Potomac to end.
I expect to disagree with a lot of things Joe Biden does as President. That’s politics.
But Joe Biden is a decent man. He’s suffered great personal loss in his lifetime, yet remains a warm and engaging gentleman.
Biden understands that red states and blue states are still the United States. He’ll never make disaster relief decisions based on partisan politics. American Presidents don’t do that. Trump did.
Biden as President will put Putin in his place — as the leader of a minor world power with an economy equivalent to Texas. Trump appears beholden to Putin. And too much money from Kremlin oligarchs has found its way into Trump’s Republican Party.
My conservative friends will rail about the budget, the Supreme Court, and so on.
As if any of that matters with a racketeer in the Oval Office. 
Trump could appoint Jeffrey Dahmer as White House Chef, and some conservatives would express glee at such a fresh approach to cuisine.
Evangelical leaders continue to contort themselves to defend Trump. Proof positive that those same evangelical leaders are the crack whores of American politics: they will get in bed with anyone.

Note to my friends on the left:  I am not demonizing addicts, sex workers, or pool boys. Just the kind of people who preach and lecture the rest of us, then rip babies from their mothers’ arms and toss children into cages.

I will point out that the central message from this week’s convention — that Donald Trump will never abandon you or America —  was delivered by his third wife, whom he cheated on with a porn star. Character is everything, and Trump has none. But I digress.

As far as the budget goes, Trump makes drunken sailors look like price conscious coupon clippers.
What really bothers me is all that government money and party donations being spent at Trump properties. America’s Founders never intended the presidency to be a profit center. And they absolutely never wanted the White House to be pimped out as a Campaign Headquarters, complete with signs and bunting.
As the son of an immigrant ironworker, I am saddened to see Trump’s Republican Party become the vanguard of xenophobia and hatred of immigrants. Like Jack Kemp, I want to close the backdoor of illegal immigration so we can keep the front door open to the millions of new Americans we need in our country, not malign them, nor seek to overturn the naturalization of American citizens who have built roots here and made our nation their home.
Even when I was a Republican, I never voted a straight party ticket in my life. Standing in the voting booth, I always saw the names of people I knew personally, who ought not to have been on the ballot. So I’ve voted for Democrats and minor party candidates over the years. Lately, I’ve taken to writing in the names of my preferred candidate in some races, like John Kasich for President in 2016.
But I’ve never voted for a Democrat for President. Until now.
I’m voting for Joe Biden.
I’m voting for Joe proudly, with the kind of hope and optimism that has propelled our nation forward for centuries. I’m voting for Joe because he’s a decent man, who will work hard to protect our nation and get the job done. I’m voting for Joe because he can end this national soap opera, turn things around, and get America moving again.
Let the crazies and the bitter, hateful kooks vent all they want. Ignore them.
Because I know there will be many current and former Republicans — along with lots of Independents and Democrats and just plain old Americans — who will join me in voting for Joe Biden.
Because we know that putting America first isn’t just a slogan.
It’s what patriotic citizens do.

The Man in the Arena

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

WCBS TV discusses Trump & the 2016 Presidential Race with me

Reporter Tony Aiello asked me about Trump’s decision to boycott the latest GOP Debate on Fox News.

My response: “If he can’t handle a hostile debate, how’s he going to handle China or Russia or any of the other 1,001 problems that are going to confront the next president of the U.S.?”

What I also told him, which ended up on the cutting room floor, was:

  1. This gives the real candidates (such as they are) a chance to talk to voters.
  2. Trump has only a fraction of the number of paid staffers on the ground in Iowa as some of the other candidates. You don’t win a caucus (which is an entirely different animal than a Primary) with robocalls and TV ads. Not that Trump has spent much money on them either.
  3. There’s a difference between a candidate who is angry
    (and there’s certainly enough wrong with our country today to make voters angry) and a candidate who is hateful and downright mean, like Trump. Americans are not going to entrust the nuclear launch codes to someone who is prone to fly off the handle and attack people.

The Odd Couple of Politics

Crain’s New York Business ran an excellent piece by @RosaGoldensohn on the recent war of words between Donald Trump and Mayor de Blasio.

Some of my colleagues and I were interviewed for the story, which you can read at the link here: