Tag Archives: President

The Threat of Idiocracy

Exactly ten years ago—in 2006—filmmaker Mike Judge released a movie called Idiocracy. The movie, a satirical comedy, tells the tale of an America of the future, a nation of anti-intellectuals—idiots—governed by former professional wrestler President Camacho. The outlandish plot and dystopian vision of America was heralded by some as a nascent vision of our future … our distant future. However, the presidential aspirations of Donald Trump and the response to it,  may have fast-forwarded this notion: “Trump’s blatantly anti-intellectual, boorish persona is so over the top, it has drawn multiple comparisons to that of pro-wrestler-turned-president Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Mike Judge’s eerily prescient satire, 2006’s Idiocracy” (Perry). In fact, no less than the author of the screenplay weighed in last February with this tweet: “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary” (Cohen).

When businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump announced he was entering the 2016 presidential contest, a majority of political pundits gave Mr. Trump very little chance of winning the nomination of the Republican Party—much less winning the presidency. Today, as the nation stands at the precipice of Mr. Trump as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, it is instructive to look back into history and compare the tactics of other destructive demagogues who shared the same vitriol being spewed by Mr. Trump during his march on Pennsylvania Avenue. Has our republic devolved to the point where we as a nation are ready to elect a man who can, arguably, be described as non-presidential? And ultimately, what has been (and will be) the effect of a Trump presidency on our republic? The answers are clear: A Donald Trump presidency would be a dangerous step back in our nation’s history and must not be allowed to come to fruition.

The ascendancy of the Trump phenomenon has surprised some politicos and pundits. The brash nature of the man and his lack of political experience, on the surface, make him a weak candidate for responsible political office, much less as leader of the free world. The rhetoric of Mr. Trump and been vitriolic and at times dangerous. Examples include his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country and his promise to pay the legal fees of any supporter who attacks protestors at his campaign rallies.  However, this type of invective speech doesn’t occur in a vacuum—there is a receptive audience for it, as his growing base of support shows: “There is a lot of anger in the electorate, which Trump’s victory reflects” (Davidson).

It is precisely this anger and perceived disenfranchisement that Mr. Trump skillfully exploits. There is a large segment of the population that is, generally, uneducated—and frankly afraid—afraid that the government will come for their guns, their churches, and their livelihoods. These are fears that have no foundation in rational discourse, fears that are flamed by demagogues like Mr. Trump who are motivated less by conviction and more by sheer ego. In his book The Art of the Deal, Mr. Trump unabashedly rants about his deal-making prowess, often at the expense of the means necessary to attain the ends: “I wasn’t satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement. I was out to build something monumental—something worth a big effort” (Blair).  This brash, devil-may-care attitude has struck a chord. President Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod said “Donald Trump has a phenomenal sense of his audience” (Chotiner).

In the 1950s there was a similar audience, an audience that feared the encroachment of communism and the rise of the Soviet Union. And there was a man then too—a Senator from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy—who also had a clear sense of his audience. Sen. McCarthy skillfully exploited the fears of the era to fuel his rise to prominence within the US Senate, and his place on the national stage. His tactics led to the creation of the word McCarthyism; “Today, McCarthyism is used to describe any public accusation of disloyalty without real proof” (Fitzgerald 84). Ironically (or predictably to some), Mr. Trump has called for a wall to be constructed to keep out what he describes as Mexican drug runners and rapists’. Furthermore, he has advocated denying Muslims entry into the US based on their religious faith alone. At no time has Mr. Trump provided any real evidence to back up his claims; and the media has been generally unwilling to effectively challenge him on this inflammatory rhetoric—just as the media was unwilling to do so in the incipient stages of McCarthyism.

The similarities between Mr. Trump and Sen. McCarthy are obvious and frightening. In my lifetime, I never imagined I would see the rise of a personality so deeply entwined with the hatred and vitriol of McCarthy. As the son of parents who witnessed this destruction first-hand, I feel an obligation to sound the klaxon and remind my fellow citizens of the parallels being played out in our current political arena. I was merely a child during the successive presidential campaigns of Governor George Wallace of Alabama, but I have distinct memories of my parents expressing their feelings of anger and disappointment that such a racist individual—an unapologetic segregationist—could advance as far as he did each time. I am clearly not alone in my concern:

Trump is increasingly more George Wallace than Ronald Reagan; his outbursts against establishment politics and undocumented immigrants have few limits. Trump’s raw message particularly resonates with those Americans who have stomached a decade of economic loss and social displacement. It is an American paradox that billionaire Trump so effectively channels George Wallace’s blue-collar, everyman appeal and message. (Williams)

In fact, the line between Mr. Trump and Governor Wallace is short indeed:

“I love that he’s talking in everybody else’s language. He’s not trying to be politically correct”…THAT response is simply an update from one of Mr. Wallace’s 1968 followers…”He tells it like it is and if it offends some government bureaucrats and loudmouth civil rights agitators, so what? He’s standing up and fighting for real Americans.” (Carter)

 These soundbites are irresistible to the ratings-hungry news media and further advance the ill-informed and racist’s views of the speaker. But to the blue-collar workers, struggling to make ends meet and seeing their jobs in danger of being shipped overseas, this rhetoric feeds into their paranoia and gives them an icon to rally around… just as Gov. George Wallace did in the 60s and early 70s. This is their president. This is the individual telling them what they want to hear—rationality and facts be damned. That Trump has no political experience is a bonus to them—he’s an outsider. That he is not presidential at all is even better—he’s one of us.

It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office and subsequently being Commander in Chief of the world’s largest military force. This is the man who has participated in Wrestlemania events (an activity hardly considered to be statesman-like behavior). This is the man that has encouraged physical violence at his campaign rallies. This is the man who consistently spews racist views. Yes, this could be our next president. While character is not specifically mentioned as a qualification for being president in our Constitution, common sense, a sense of decorum, and downright decency should be qualities the voter considers when electing a president. Consider the following statements from candidate Trump: “Listen, you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent! … This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop…Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it!” (Bailey). Presidential language and sentiment indeed—FDR, Eisenhower, and even Republican stalwart Ronald Reagan would surely blanch at the possibility of this man sharing their throne in the Oval Office.

In addition to the national disgrace that would be a Trump presidency as the result of his actions and rhetoric, it’s wise to consider the psychology of the man hoping to have his finger on the nuclear button. Is the man so recklessly and childishly calling on his followers to assault those peaceful demonstrators who disagree with him, able to maturely control our armed forces—indeed have to power to annihilate our planet? “When he lost, he would say he won; when he won, he would say he won more. A psychologist might call such behavior narcissistic, egotistical, and, no doubt, a sign of hidden insecurity” (Blair). However, a proper clinical diagnosis can certainly not be made based purely upon the rhetoric of a political candidate. As many Trump supporters will eagerly claim, Mr. Trump is not, in fact, a racist, a misogynist, or any of the other titles that seem to fit him so well. They claim that Mr. Trump is a brilliant political strategist with his finger on the pulse of the population. And they may be right: “For all his theatrics, Trump has caused a stampede in the Republican Party and he’s done this using a classic, class-based divide-and-rule strategy” (Trubowitz).

In the context of today’s media free-for-all climate, it is certain that many voters are influenced by broadcast media outlets such as Fox and MSNBC. Neither of these networks can be, arguably, described as unbiased sources of information. In 1987, when the FCC Fairness Doctrine (a requirement that broadcast news be honest and balanced) was gutted, the landscape of the so-called news media took on an entirely different meaning. News producers were now free to openly cultivate what they had surreptitiously sought for years—ratings—and the resultant advertising revenue that followed. “If it bleeds it leads” was the cry of the media now, and sensationalism was the order of the day. Candidate Trump is the logical extension of this denigration of the fourth estate. A man with reality-show credentials and a personality larger than life, Trump exploits the media in an unaffected manner like no other candidate. The louder, more boorish his behavior, the bigger the rating and the more electoral support he gains. Trump is well known for his sophomoric Twitter rants; and now, scholarly research has shown it to be quite effective: “We…evaluated the effects of Trump’s tweeting activity on the growth of his followers…the more he tweeted the faster his follower camp grew. Lastly, we measured the effects of two Trump-initiated controversies. Based on our data, neither one is hurting his campaign” (Wang et al. 4).

Similarly: “Trump’s supporters have continuously ranked among the most intolerant and least educated of voters—a point punctuated by Trump’s triumphant assertion, after winning this week’s Nevada caucus, that he loves ‘the poorly educated” (Perry). So the question arises: is it the man or is the man simply tapping into a nascent and dangerous ideology? Is America ready for a leader who expounds the virtues of intolerance? Regardless of the source, this homogenization of hatred must not be allowed to continue. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, renowned 20th century psychologist Karl Popper agrees: “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal…” (qtd. in Hedges 1). Analyzed from this perspective, the blatant hate-speech and racist vitriol transcend the musings of a petulant man-child and indeed contributes to a damaging dialogue that slowly, but consistently, tears away at the fabric of rational public discourse.

This kind of negative discourse, the factions described by Hamilton et al in The Federalist Papers, are immune from the remedies described by our founding fathers. The safety net, the opposition mounted from rational members of society, is gradually being thwarted by the fear-mongering likes of Mr. Trump and some evangelical Christians:

…the myth peddled by the Christian Right about the American heartland: that here alone are family values and piety cherished, nurtured and protected. The so-called red states, which vote Republican and have large evangelical populations, have higher rates of murder, illegitimacy and teenage births than the so-called blue states… (Hedges 46)

These are the folks that our forefathers envisioned rising up against factions. Instead, they are being led down a path of fear and redemption by a presidential candidate that is far from presidential.

While the conventional political wisdom holds that Mr. Trump is unlikely to win the presidential election, the broader concern should be the effect his rise and his candidacy is having on our electorate. Movements like this don’t happen in a vacuum and there may well be long term effects from its success. While touted by conservatives as a great president, Ronald Reagan’s social and economic polices arguably set into motion destructive patterns within our society that remain today. It is also likely that the success of the Trump campaign and the resultant nearly complete lack of critical coverage by the major broadcast news organizations will be setting the plate for the next Trump … or McCarthy … or Wallace:

But there are striking similarities between Mr. Trump and George C. Wallace…The connections between the two — their rhetoric and their ability to fire up crowds — give us a better sense of what Trumpism will mean once he is gone from the campaign stage. After all, political losers as well as winners can shape the future. (Carter)

The damage done to the Republican Party will be the most immediate concern. Their lack of cohesiveness, not only in Congress, but in fielding effective countermeasures against one of their own is astonishing. This is a party in crisis; Mr. Trump has hijacked the party and the so-called Trump Train is racing full speed ahead into a chasm that will be very difficult for them escape: “The consequences for America and the world—if he wins, of course, but maybe even if he loses—are unknowable and perhaps unimaginable. The degree to which…he will also permanently deform American politics can only be speculated upon, but his primary victory will, decades from now, likely be seen as one of the defining events of 21st-century America” (Chotiner).

Perhaps another troubling sidebar to Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been the nearly widespread lack of critical coverage among the major broadcast new organizations. With the exception of partisan stalwarts Fox and MSNBC, the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS) as well as CNN have been generally easy on the candidate. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Mr. Trump’s rise in the era of Murrow and Cronkite. It simply wouldn’t happen. So that begs the question of whether we have entered, in the days after the repeal of the FCC Fairness Doctrine, an era of free-for-all politics. Will our political process be reduced to shouting matches and ad hominem attacks? Will our fourth estate complete their death knell and encourage this behavior to boost their stock prices? We may already be there: “And yet when people look back…a generation from now, our larger cultural response—at least as seen through our television media—will seem incomprehensible…there was hardly a whimper…the media have spent so long domesticating Trump that his victory no longer appeared momentous. He is the new normal” (Chotiner).

But is this paradigm shift unhealthy? Some would argue that this form of rhetorical democracy is vital: “Civility is often the camouflage for hiding challenges to the big-government faction… the First Amendment does not protect merely decorous or genteel speech, but as the political rhetoric of American history shows, all manner of speech no matter how rude or uncivil” (Thornton). There is no question that the principles of rhetorical democracy must be protected and unlike Popper, I’m not advocating imprisonment of those merely expressing intolerance through speech. However, it is clear that the American political landscape has been changed by the Trump candidacy—our discourse has become not only uncivil, but it has pandered to our collective base instincts—our lowest common denominator is now enjoying an ascendancy heretofore rationally unimagined. It remains to be seen what the lasting effects of Mr. Trump’s candidacy will be; but it is incumbent upon all those who share a stake in the political system to think critically about what is happening and exercise lasting vigilance.

History has shown that our nation has survived the destructive likes of Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace. The parallels between those divisive figures and Mr. Trump have been well documented. Likewise, the crude and boorish behavior of candidate Trump has been on display throughout the current election cycle, and yet his appeal has grown exponentially. This begs the question of the effect the “Trump Factor” will have on our country and the electorate in general. A resounding, crushing defeat of Mr. Trump in the general presidential election will go a long way towards reclaiming not only the gravitas of the presidency, but will help send a message that appealing to the lowest common denominator is not the road to the White House. Maybe we can suspend the advent of Idiocracy for at least another generation.

Works Cited

Bailey, Jason. “Who Said It: Presidential Hopeful Donald Trump or ‘Idiocracy’ President       Camacho?” Flavorwire. Flavorpill Media, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 May 2016.

Blair, Gwenda. Donald Trump: The Candidate. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Google Books. Alphabet, Inc. Web. 06 May 2016.

Carter, Dan T. “What Donald Trump Owes George Wallace.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Chotiner, Isaac. “Donald Trump Is TV’s New Normal. That’s Insane.” Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 03 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Cohen, Etan (etanjc). “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary.” 24 Feb. 2016, 9:27 a.m. Tweet.

Davidson, Amy. “Why Cruz, and the G.O.P., Lost to Trump.” The New Yorker. Conde Nast,  04 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Fitzgerald, Brian. McCarthyism: The Red Scare. Minneapolis: White-Thomson Publishing Ltd., 2007. Print.

Hedges, Chris. American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

Idiocracy.  Dir. Mike Judge. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2006. Film.

Perry, Tod. “Idiocracy Writer Admits He May Have Predicted the Future.” GOOD Magazine. GOOD Worldwide Inc., 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Thornton, Bruce S. “Here’s Mud in Your Eye: Politics in Democracies Have Always Been Rough and Tumble, and We’re Better off Because of It.” Hoover Digest 1 (2016): 29+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 May 2016.

Trubowitz, Peter. “How the “Trump Factor” Came to Dominate the 2016 Election.” LSE Research Online. LSE Research Online, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016

Trump, Donald and Schwartz, Tony. The Art of the Deal. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. Print.

Wang, Yu, Jiebo Luo, Richard Niemi, and Yuncheng Lee. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter  (2016): 1-4. Google Scholar. Web. 6 May 2016.

Williams, Victor. “Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and a Disrupted Electoral College: High Unfavorable Ratings, Multi-Candidate General Election Ballots, and Pursuing the ‘Art of the Deal’ with Free-Agent Electors in December 2016”. Social Science Research Network. Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc., 4 Dec. 2015. Web. 6 May 2016.

 

 


The Trump Train Rolls on…

So “The Donald” has swept Super Tuesday and pundits are anguishing over how in the world this has happened.

The Republican establishment is falling over themselves wondering how this guy has run the table.

I’m cracking up over here: how the Republican party can wonder how this paragon of dysfunction and hate has ascended to the throne of their party mystifies me. Are they that clinically incapable of self-awareness? Everything their platform and party has stood for in at least the last generation has led to this. I think they are just surprised it took this long…it’s like pouring lighter fluid on the campfire and wondering how-in-the-hell did the flame back up the stream and blow us to smithereens?

It’s genuinely frightening that a wannabe fuhrer like Trump is one general election away from the presidency, but I remain confident that what makes him appealing to the frightened masses, is exactly what will energize the segment of our population that is…well…rational…to trounce this clown come November.

If not…well, I can only imagine a variety of cataclysmic scenario’s up to and including a potential military coup should “The Donald” actually become commander-in-chief. I realize this sounds alarmist, but Trump sweeping Super Tuesday would have seemed alarmist a year ago. So there’s that.

At the end of the day, if “The Donald” becomes our next President, it will be entirely what we deserve. It should be no surprise. We’ve been asleep at the switch and sitting on our hands, and votes, for FAR too long.


He Whose Name Shall Not be Mentioned…

Of course I’m referring to the train wreck otherwise known as Donald Trump and his infantile pursuit of the title “Leader of the Free World”.

If you have seen the Mike Judge movie Idiocracy you may want to stop reading; you know where I’m going. If you have not, I implore you to view this masterpiece that, tragically, is playing itself out before our eyes.

At first viewing of the movie, I reasoned that it was plausible, indeed likely, sometime in the distant future. Trump, in his “bull-in-a-china-shop” manner, has hastened this demise of culture and politics.

In fairness to “The Donald”, he is simply the catalyst of a broken media system that relies on titillation rather than reasoned analysis and evaluation…formerly known as “news” and “op-eds.”

It’s been pretty well documented by others that Trump is simply reflecting a certain (and I PRAY, remote) segment of our population that is generally uneducated, or otherwise unwilling to analyze and research the complex issues affecting our society. Some are educated but simply lazy in that they, understandably, want change–someone “to stir things up.”

Yes, a Trump presidency would certainly do that–that we could recover is quite another question.

His ascendancy to front-runner status in his party amazes me. But then again, I dumped cable about a year ago and have received my news largely through various sources online and on the radio (NPR, PRI); but the other day while taking a break at work, I had occasion to see a TV in a nearby shop that was tuned to CNN, and for the entire hour that I ate my lunch, some sort of “panel” was discussing what I assumed was the topic of the “crawl”…that “The Donald” had engaged in playground name-calling of Ted Cruz. I don’t remember the exact specifics, but it was pedestrian and child-like at best.

30 years ago, the topic of the CNN crawl would not have even been a blip on the radar of CNN, or any self-respecting news organization. But today “if it bleeds it leads” has morphed into a mine field of political persuasion that infects the minds of ignorant voters (see Fox and MSNBC).

That a schoolyard bully (and I hesitate to call him that, as today he called his earlier sexual liaisons his own “personal Vietnam”) can garner the attention that a generation ago would have been appropriately ignored is deeply disturbing to me.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m that old guy yelling at the kids to “get off my damn lawn”, but I think not. I still believe in propriety and decorum. And the deadly seriousness of the issues affecting our country call for an adult, not a child.

I still hope Idiocracy is a few generations away, as I don’t think I can bear to watch…

 


Throw Us a Rope Mr. President

Whether Edward Snowden turns out to be the modern day version of Daniel Ellsberg, or simply an opportunistic, overachieving ITT Tech grad (as some pundits suggest), this much is clear:  Mr. President, you’ve a crisis of confidence on your hands.

Until recently, I was your biggest fan.  You won me over during your first campaign (okay, even before) and I’ve steadfastly remained in your corner until, well, until your drones and your sham FISA court, and your Gitmo (remember Gitmo sir, that place that you promised to close by now?) and your inability to express the razor-sharp reasoning that leads your administration to continue to operate outside the Constitution. OK, your Justice Deparment will argue that your policies are within the letter of the law but let’s get real…even if that’s true (and I don’t believe it is), you’re a big boy and we both know perception is reality, PARTICULARLY in the political arena.

So here’s the deal Mr. President: your actions have forced me into a segment of society I’d rather not invite over for dinner…the right wing conspiracy theorist. The Tea Partiers. The NRA fascist. The Fox News contingent. Yecch. I don’t like it here and I want to go home.

I want to go back to the audacity of hope that you promised us. The moral commitment that we came to expect from you. If it remains, it is well hidden. What we SEE is a President generally willing to compromise with the right (in a spirit of cooperation that has long since left the station) and a President that is willing to forgo the message of hope that you instilled in all of us.

Do the right thing Mr. President. Be clear with us why these draconian measures are necessary. Tell us exactly why the balance has swung so far into the infringement of our civil liberties. If you can’t do that, then make it stop…NOW.

I can’t be your only supporter that has become disenfranchised with the military-industrial complex that you oversee…and perpetuate. You’re throwing us to the wolves (Fox-es) Mr. President and your legacy is being critically injured through your actions and inaction.

Throw us a rope…


Dear Mr. Obama…

Obama And Biden Sworn In During Official Ceremony

…I congratulate you on your second term (I voted for you) and I join you in celebrating your inauguration today.  You presented us with another beautiful speech today…filled as always with hope, inspiration and the promise of a better world.

It is, in fact, your words and your promises that have moved me like no other President in my 51 years.  You are my J.F.K.  And I believe you are a good man.  I continue to believe you are a decent man who believes the words coming from within you.  I need to believe this, because you see Mr. President, I am deeply disturbed about some of the events that have transpired during your presidency.  Events, policies and executive orders that betray your words; indeed policies that betray the hope you have instilled within us.

Why, sir, are we confronted with the following deep and fundamental threats to our liberty that you so eloquently champion?

  • The National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A.) allows the military to indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of supporting terrorism.  Due process? You ceded to congressional republicans on this one at the expense of our civil liberties Mr. President. A precedent was set and a frightening one at that.  As you rightfully championed the civil rights of LGBT Americans today, you have quietly usurped the core rights of all of us when you signed this Act.
  •  A policy certainly begun by another administration but exponentially expanded during yours, the use of unmanned drones continues to concern me.  I am in favor of minimizing risks to our troops through the use of this technology and am certainly far from prude when it comes to the sad necessity of collateral damage within the framework of the rules of war.  What raises the hair on the back of my neck is the seeming escalation of these so-called “targeted killings”.  I am more than happy to give you my trust when it comes to carrying out the business of war and protecting our country, but enough flags have been independently raised about this program that I believe you owe the American people an appropriate justification for the continued use and parameters of the program.
  • Aaron Swartz.  Your Justice Department presides over a system of law that is flawed and unfair at best.  The tragic death of Mr. Swartz represents the very worst of our system of jurisprudence and the inherent lack of balance within the halls of justice throughout our land.  Was his death collateral damage of N.D.A.A.?  Or just the predictable fallout of a broken system run amok?
  • I thoroughly applaud your efforts at reducing the tragic mass shootings such as Sandy Hook.  But as a liberal gun owner and supporter of the second amendment, I ask that you approach this issue pragmatically.  Ending these tragedies is the ultimate goal…please be realistic about the manner in which you approach the issue.  Guns, in and of themselves are simply instruments used by madmen to attain their sociopathic goal.  If banning weapons would solve the issue alone, I would support it.  It will not. Please continue to explore a multi-pronged social approach to this issue.  If it continues to be a “gun” issue, more of our fellow citizens will be lost.

I truly have no idea what it’s like to walk a few feet in your shoes.  The pressures, demands, politics, compromise and secret briefings about horrible topics, must take their toll.  I’d like to believe that in this second term, you will reward us with a glimpse of the guy you have promised, and who we want you to be:  a compassionate, strong, rightful leader who puts others ahead of his own interest.

God speed Mr. President and best of luck over the next four years…

 


Welcome to “Idiocracy”

(courtesy Teabonics)

On the eve of the last Presidential debate, I’ve been suffering from a nagging VP debate hangover.  By all accounts, my guy (Biden) “won” the debate.

Before we declare a “winner” tomorrow night, I want to throw this out: let’s wake the fuck up folks…there are NO “winners” in these exercises in demagoguery!  What we witness is a pre-packaged regurgitation of talking points that are as meaningless as the “debates” themselves.

Tomorrow night we will hear President Obama attack Romney’s “flip-flop” vulnerability and counter-attack on the Obamacare issue; he’s also likely to hit on some of the fabrications proffered thus far by the Romney campaign.  Romney will delight in attacking the President on the Libya non-issue (seriously, can we all be grown-ups for a second and agree that not all the information about an incident is immediately available to the parties involved?) and on the slow growth of the economy as if President Obama was the ever powerful economic wizard that the Republican’s would have him be.  I applaud BO’s efforts (GM, stimulus) and am willing to be patient.

The point is this: neither of these guys will talk about anything of any real substance.  And the “winner” will be declared based on who (and I can’t believe I’m about to use this Palinism) had the better “gotcha” moments.  And who walked the fine line of aggressiveness vs. decorum.  These things are a joke and an insult to educated, critical-thinking citizens throughout our land.  I want one of these guys to have the balls to stand up and say so.  Say “Look, our campaign is about more than sound-bites and media created “issues”…here’s where we stand, here’s what our platform is, and here’s how we are different from the other guy”.

Folks, it’s time we started demanding more from this process.  No matter who wins next month, our system if FUBAR and we are in deep shit if we don’t start making some changes.  If you have seen the 2006 Mike Judge movie “Idiocracy” you share my terror that we are moving towards making that a non-fiction movie…


Syria & Obama…Kudos for What He’s NOT Doing.

(courtesy puoicm.org)

As the violence begins to creep towards a tipping point in Aleppo, it seems a good time to laud the President for his inaction.  Yes, I said his INACTION.

We’ve been down this road before, most recently in Iraq, and we all know how well that turned out…

Republicans have been capitalizing on the President’s lack of military aid (although I’m quite sure clandestine “back-channel” support is alive and well) and rhetoric with regard to the Syrian crisis.  They want tough talk and threats of military action, if not actual military intervention in a conflict the resistance fighters themselves have asked that we not engage in.  Hmmm, not invited to the party by the people we seek to help. Message received. Loud and clear.

The folks on the ground, and those in the State Department and Pentagon whose professional lives are consumed with studying the crisis and the nuances involved, overwhelmingly endorse the Obama Administration’s position on Syria.  Yet that’s not enough. The pundits on the right, including failed presidential candidate John McCain call for “Moral Leadership” on the issue. Sure…let’s denounce al-Assad and jump headlong into another sectarian conflict.  It worked so well in Iraq and for the Bush II folks…why not make the same leap in Syria?

The President knows that his position on Syria is a political liability. An electorate spoon-fed 20 second sound bites historically doesn’t tolerate actual foresight and intelligence.  But to the casual observer, I’d like to applaud the President for not only what I view as his “Moral Authority” but his willingness, on an election eve, to do the right thing.  I simply can’t believe a lot of politicians would make the same decision, including men and women whom I admire.  That Obama is willing to NOT act in this case speaks volumes to me about the man and his character.

It says a whole lot more to me than any campaign ad ever will.  Kudos Mr. President. Kudos for your courage. Kudos for simply doing the right thing in the face of adversity.


Romonarchy…

I actually feel bad for the man. Much like the replacement NFL referees, here is a man utterly and completely out of his league. It wasn’t that the videotaped comments were so much incorrect, as he staunchly stood by his statements; it’s that he is out of touch with both his constituents and the electorate as a whole.

Mitt Romney wants to be your king. Not your president…your king. Monarchy. That’s what he aspires too and that’s what he is suited for. Wealthy, entitled, privileged…all the earmarks of Monarchy.

The problem is Monarchy doesn’t flow too well with the Republican doctrine (think small government) and for those independents and third partiers whose votes may still be up for grabs.  I’m pretty sure the statement that “my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…” will not resonate with those folks. It’s demeaning and divisive. It’s a peek into the psyche of a man out of touch with the majority of the people in this country who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

That Romney so far has conducted a disastrous campaign on just about every level leads one to the logical assumption that if he can’t avoid a train wreck leading up to his presidency, that the actual presidency won’t fare much better.

And it’s a telling insight into the man himself. Yes, there are cold, dispassionate realities to every campaign and yes, there must be a calculated pandering to these realities. I just don’t see Bill Clinton or Barack Obama making this kind of off-the-cuff statement. I don’t believe it’s who those men are as human beings and leaders.  And that is the kind of leader I want: imperfect for sure, but empathetic, ethical (within the political framework) and kind, compassionate human beings that actually feel pain.

Indeed, we do have a choice this election. I can’t imagine a clearer distinction.


The Reluctant President

Measured. Professional. Authoritative. Presidential. Safe.

President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was…okay.

I expected more.  I expected passion.  I expected fire.  Or did I?  Things have changed a lot since that day in Denver 4 years ago.  Gone was the intensity.  Make no mistake, last night the President made a quality speech.  About the issues that speak to me.  He’s my President. I will likely vote for him again.  It’s just that…there was something missing.

I tossed and turned in bed last night and continued to try to put my finger on what it was about the speech that let me down.  At the end of the day, for me, the speech lacked the heart and soul, the immediacy of speeches I’ve seen this President give in the past.  That Bill Clinton set the bar perhaps too high the day before is inconsequential.  Obama just didn’t bring it last night.  In fact, I haven’t seen him bring it in a while.

Obviously I don’t know the man personally.  But every fiber of my being is certain he is a good, decent, caring and compassionate man.  I am very glad he is our President and hope he gets reelected.  What disturbs me is the lack of passion.  This is not the same man I voted for.  Why?

I want to believe it is because the gravity of being the leader of the free world has sobered Obama.  Whereas Bush forty-three blindly fumbled through his presidency, I really believe Barack Obama gives a damn about what he is doing and how it affects people around the world.  That he reads 10 letters from citizens a night speaks volumes.  I think politician Obama passed away sometime in the last four years and President Obama was born.  I want to believe that the incomprehensible weight of the decisions the man has to make on a daily business has tempered his enthusiasm for hyperbole and rhetoric.  Look at his face in that famous picture where he and his staff are monitoring the Bin Laden mission.  Compare that face to the one of Bush 43 being told the World Trade Center was attacked.

I wanted to see the guy I saw in Denver last night.  That guy didn’t show.  I hope the guy that showed last night continues to grind away at what he cares about for the next four years.  I’m afraid the reality of the responsibilities, of the bitter political in-fighting, of the often frightening daily security briefings, have taken their toll on the man who inspired a nation 4 years ago.  I hope President Obama can reach down, for his own sake, and rekindle some of the fire that he once had.  I hope he can believe in himself again…as so many of us have.


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