Declaring War?

You have probably noted the latest outburst from the cluster of clowns running for the Republican presidential nomination insisting that we declare war on IS. This in response to the shootings in San Bernardino by two people who were apparently supported by money from an unknown source, presumably IS — and in response to President Obama’s perceived soft response to those killings. Folks like Jeb Bush insist that IS has already declared war on the United States. Another idiot suggested that we are already involved in World War Three. Whether these things true or not matters little. What matters is that saying such things will bring the votes to Jeb Bush or one of his ilk when November rolls around.

There are so many things wrong with this knee-jerk response one scarcely knows where to start. For one thing, it is clear that as long as the American people are kept fearful and full of hatred they will be more likely to vote for a “strong” candidate as their leader next November. So the tactic is to keep the flames burning as fiercely as possible. Convince the voters that the Democrats, who seek to maintain some semblance of sanity in what appears to have been an insane act by two people in California, are too soft to lead the country in time of “crisis.” This is standard practice, politics as usual. The end justifies the means and grabbing the office of President of the United States is the prize.

But any talk of a declaration of war against a terrorist group that is apparently growing exponentially will assuredly simply give impetus to that group to continue to grow even more rapidly. We should have learned by now that such a war cannot be won. Hate-mongering might make some people feel better, but it is precisely the sort of thing groups like IS will use to convince like-minded people in the Middle East that they must take up arms against those insane Americans across the Atlantic. It pours gasoline on the flames — as does absurd talk about refusing admission to this country by anyone who happens to be a Muslim.

I applaud Obama, as I have said previously, for trying to sooth jangled nerves. Hillary Clinton has also attempted to restore some sort of reasonable balance to the discussion, to keep things in perspective. As F.D.R. said long ago we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But fear is the order of the day and those who would declare wholesale war on terrorist groups have their heads in the sand and are concerned only about gaining political office and not in the least about doing the right thing — or even the sane thing, which is to keep our cool and deal with these problems as they arise in a way that assures everyone that this sort of aberrant behavior will not be tolerated.

If we assume that Jeb Bush is correct and that IS has indeed declared war on this country (which is debatable), then as a nation we need to pull together, not in several different directions. A frantic, passionate response to the actions of zealots can only lead to chaos and if these men running for President were truly patriots concerned about the safety and security of their country they would not attack the sitting President of this country and stir up fear and hatred among its citizens in times of crisis. What is required are cool heads and reasonable suggestions. But, then, these men have their eye on the prize and winning that prize is the only thing that matters. Cool and reasonable are not their strong suit.

Predictable

Following the president’s speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night (something I have said he should do more of) the Republicants predictably lined up to take pot shots at the man who was clearly trying to quell fears and bring civility to the discussion of terrorism. It seems clear to me that the president might have rallied the citizens behind such things as tougher gun laws if he had used his prestige and considerable rhetorical skills in front of cameras addressing the American people before this. But he has been reluctant tho do so — perhaps because he knows he will simply provide an occasion for his political opponents to take aim. And what a group it is! A brief portion of a news story tells us of the response from some of the clowns vying with one another for the Republicant presidential nomination:

“President Obama has finally been forced to abandon the political fantasy he has perpetuated for years that the threat of terrorism was receding,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in a statement. “We need to remove the self-imposed constraints President Obama has placed on our intelligence community and military, and we need to put in place an aggressive strategy to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism as I have proposed.”
After the speech, Republican hopeful Donald Trump tweeted, “Is that all there is? We need a new President – FAST!”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida criticized Obama for saying that Americans should not fall into a trap of discriminating against Muslims.

“Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?” Rubio said on Fox News after the speech. “I think not only did the president not make things better tonight, I fear he may have made things worse in the minds of many Americans.”

Aside from the Trumpet’s comment which, as always, is not worthy of note, one must reflect on these comments. Jeb Bush wants to assume the Nazi pose and take a Fascist approach to international affairs. Storm troopers and armed drones against anyone and everyone who thinks or believes differently than us. But Rubio’s claim that this nation is not becoming rabid in its fear of Muslims and reeks of discrimination shows how out of touch he is with reality. Long before 9/11 this nation has shown its ugly side when it comes to those who are different from the norm. As I have said in previous posts, the root of this fear and hate of others is our ignorance of those who differ from us. But to see issuing forth from the mouth of one who would be the leader of this nation words that show him to be blind to the obvious does give me pause. Has the political fabric of this country torn beyond repair? Are we that far gone that we would pay serious attention to people who reside at the bottom of the intellectual pool groveling  in the mud and sludge of utter nonsense and hate-mongering?

In any event, I applaud the president for seeking to restore calm after the praise ISIS heaped on the couple who engaged in mass killing in San Bernardino last week. The murders themselves were sufficient to drive reason from the playing field, but the discovery that the pair were Muslims added fuel to the fire and someone needed to say something. The president was wise to make this move and one would hope that it will have a soothing effect and bring civil discourse back into play. But with ambitious, small-minded political candidates elbowing each other out of the way to claim center stage, this may not happen. My goodness how stupid those people are.

Donald Trumps?

On the surface, Donald Trump’s candidacy for President of these United States seems like a page from Monty Python. It’s a joke, right? Perhaps not. At present, he’s the leading candidate in a parade of clowns who desperately want the Republican nomination so they can beat out, presumably, the dreaded Hillary Clinton. And it does seem like a parade of clowns, to be sure. But the biggest clown of all leads the parade and it raises the question: how is this possible?

In addition to the usual Republican objectives — elimination of needless government agencies like the E.P.A., promoting the military, reducing taxes, protecting the citizen’s constitutional right to carry concealed automatic weapons, opposing abortion and gay marriage, supporting major corporations, and the like  — there are a number of reasons why this man with the strange hair and arrogant air is popular with the electorate. To begin with, he has name-recognition, which all of the other candidates — perhaps excepting Jeb Bush — lack. He’s a TV personality and people know who he is, whether they like him, or not. “You’re fired!!”

Secondly, he is a successful business man. And this counts twice: (1) he’s a businessman and that rings true with a great many Americans, especially those who lean to the right, because so many think that the business way is the only way. But, also (2) he is successful in the only way Americans generally know how to measure success: he’s filthy rich. He’s not one of us, but he’s what so many of us aspire to. Like so many filthy rich people, he likes to tell us how he made it on his own and he holds the poor in great disdain for being lazy and unmotivated; and while this is off-putting for some, it is not for many of  those who lean to the political right and wish they had the Donald’s helicopter.

Third, he’s decisive and Americans like their leaders to be decisive, even if the decisions they make, and refuse to alter, are wrong-headed (like the war in Iraq, for example). They are not wishy-washy. Effeminate. They are not smarter than us; we can identify with them. We do not like those who change their minds should the evidence show that the decision they made yesterday is totally wrong today. Just think of George McGovern’s decision to drop Thomas Eagleton in mid-campaign and pick a new running-mate not so many years ago. We do not like indecisive people and admire those who stick by their guns, right or wrong.  [One wonders if this is a consequence of the fact that in a democracy, by design, decisions come slowly — sometimes not at all — and a great many people don’t understand this and want men of action (like Ollie North) even if those actions are terribly wrong. Is it possible that these people would be happier in a monarchy? Well, not to worry, we now have an oligarchy; monarchy may yet be in the cards — or at least a despotism.]

Fourth, Donald is a bigot and this appeals to a great many Americans who lean the same way — not only with respect to Mexicans, but anyone who seems the least bit foreign. After all, this is America and we have enough immigrants running around; it’s time to keep them out. Yeah, let’s finish Bush’s wall and keep the Mexicans out, at the very least. This may make some of Trump’s employees at his many golf courses fearful and nervous, but it warms the hearts of a great many of those who wield votes. After all, those immigrants take our jobs and we need to keep America for Americans. (Let’s ignore the fact that the real Americans were the indigenous people and they were killed off, pretty much, so we could pave over their land and build Disney Worlds.)

Finally, Trump is smooth and gives every appearance of knowing what he is talking about — even if he talks out of both sides of his mouth. He’s a true demagogue, and we seem drawn to the type. Since most people don’t listen anyway, they think they heard what they wanted to hear and that’s enough for them. In a word, this man is a clown, but he is leading the clown parade at the moment and he must be taken seriously, difficult though that might be for most of us.

Where’s The Shrub?

When George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, recently endorsed Mitt Romney reporters asked Romney whether he expected to get the younger Bush’s endorsement. (Let’s call him “the Shrub” to distinguish him from his father, “the Bush.) No one seems to know, and apparently the Republicans aren’t eager to hitch themselves to that particular horse. You remember — the one that led us into two wars and left a huge budget deficit after sneaking into office under questionable circumstances (and the assistance of Ralph Nader). The Republicans in general would prefer if we forgot that and blamed Obama for the mess. As a recent news story mentions, “In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the economy, government spending and federal debt, the Republican candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which the George W. Bush administration’s policies contributed to those problems.” Indeed.

In any event, it would seem that the Shrub’s silence will be encouraged as Romney hopes to distance himself from what he apparently regards as a political pariah. The Shrub himself also seems to want to remain in the distance — working on the building of the Bush Presidential library at a local university. “‘For now we’re just staying out of it,’ George W. Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said Thursday, declining to comment on a possible endorsement. Ford said Bush was focused on promoting and developing a presidential library bearing his name at Southern Methodist University.” Is it possible to develop a library consisting only of comic books? I’m just askin’.

But it would appear that the Shrub’s father (the Bush) doesn’t seem to want to remember his son’s legacy as 43rd President of the United States. We are told that his picture is hidden in the Bush’s office behind a flag. The Bush was actually a pretty good President, as Presidents go these days. His son’s performance must have been a severe disappointment as the Shrub was clearly on anyone’s list of the ten worst Presidents this country has ever had. Henry Adams thought Grant was living proof of the flaw in Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the Shrub would be even stronger evidence. But then Darwin allowed for occasional anomalies so perhaps his theory is safe.

In any event Mitt will have to soldier on without the endorsement (for the time being) of George W. Bush — though he has that of both the Shrub’s father and his brother Jeb. You remember Jeb: he was former governor of Florida and led the charge to pass a law giving permission for people in Florida to shoot first and ask questions later. So, how’s that working out?