The Trumpet Blares

I swore I was not going to blog about the Trumpet that plays off-key, but when he refused recently to correct one of the zanies in his audience who insisted that Barack Obama is a Muslim and THEN went on to say he would not “defend ” Obama by correcting such people, one must raise his voice in loud protest.

In what universe is correcting a blatant falsehood a “defense” of the person wrongly accused? It is simply a matter of common decency to set things straight, especially when it’s a gross insult based on twisted thinking. But, of course, Donald The Trumpet is a stranger to common decency.

One is reminded of John McCain politely correcting a woman in his audience who misspoke when referring to Obama’s supposed religious affiliation. Again, it is the decent thing to do and clearly McCain is a decent person. The Trumpet is not. He is a loud, misogynistic egoist who gets off on hearing his own name and is lost among visions of grandeur that are way beyond his meager talents.

The perplexing question, of course, is why this man has any following at all, much less one large enough to put him ahead in the race for the highest office in the land. The simple answer, which a number of folks have suggested, is that voters are sick and tired of politics as usual (I know I am) and want something fresh and new. But this man is not a breath of fresh air, he is a blowhard. And the fact that anyone would take him seriously deserves serious reflection by anyone who truly cares about the survival of this democratic system. The Founders never had this scenario in mind — in their willdest nightmares. They were convinced that the best and brightest would rise to the top like cream in milk. The key, of course, was (and is)  education — which is why Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. They envisioned — or many of them did — a natural aristocracy, not one predicated on wealth, but one predicated on intelligence, ability, vision, and courage. Very few of today’s candidates exhibit these traits, and one must look far and wide to find anyone who might in fact do so.

I am convinced that this is a mark of the failure of the education system in this country coupled with the fact that parents are too preoccupied with making a living to pay close attention to their children who are then left to the wiles of entertainers, day-care, and teachers. While entertainers are hugely overpaid, day-care providers and teachers are not trained to do the jobs they are forced to do — and are not paid anywhere near as much and their job requires. In fact, teachers, especially, are today held in low esteem by a culture that puts the highest value on those who make the largest income. Teachers make very little, ergo they are not worth taking seriously. It’s simple logic, or logic for the simple-minded.

This might explain why the very wealthy Donald Trump is striking a responsive chord in the hearts of so many people in this country: they simply don’t know any better. They cannot differentiate between fact and fiction; they cannot spot the fool that mouths false platitudes; they cannot see beneath the surface; and they cannot  make intelligent choices.

The founders weren’t wrong: democracy requires an educated citizenry. While George Washington did worry, on the whole the Founders failed to see that their democratic system would flounder because so many of its citizens are, in fact, uneducated and even stupid. The condition that was necessary for this republic to succeed has failed to bear fruit and the system has been turned over to the image makers and the wealthy who have enough money to buy themselves a government. This is not what Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Monroe had in mind. Not by a long shot.

Senator Gone Amuck?

I have always kind of liked John McCain. I respected him as a man of principle though I thought him a bit too hawkish. I have never doubted his sincerity, but sincerity is not enough: Eichmann was sincere after all. One must also be aware of moral and, in this case, international implications. McCain’s trip to Syria raises serious questions about his sanity — and it may also raise constitutional questions about the role of Senators in international politics. A recent story tells us a disturbing fact about his current trip:

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. Senator John McCain was photographed during a trip to Syria with a man implicated in the kidnapping by Syrian rebels of 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims a year ago, a Lebanese newspaper said on Thursday.

McCain, a Republican, has been an outspoken advocate for U.S. military aid to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad and made a short, highly publicised trip to meet rebel commanders in Syria three days ago.

He has insisted that the United States could locate the “right people” to help among rebel ranks infiltrated with radicalized Islamists.

One must wonder who the “right people” are that McCain is speaking about. And what possible grounds could he have for talking about those “people” — despite official government statements to the contrary? McCain would apparently have the rebels believe that they may get official sanction and considerable monetary support from this country. It is not the place of Senators to play this kind of role in foreign policy. One is reminded of Dennis Rodman and his clown diplomacy with North Korea. Is McCain going to ask the rebels to do him a “solid” and take out the recognized government of Syria, which is currently supported by Russia — presumably our ally? Surely this borders on the comical, if not the bizarre.

In a word, even if his convictions about whom the United States should support are on firm grounds, McCain has no business whatever consorting with the rebels on behalf of the United States. Though he can tell them he has no official endorsement, he will surely be regarded by those rebels who desperately want U.S. aid as an official of the United States government.  One can assume that these rebels will now expect to get the aid the man has virtually promised. Though current policy might well change any day,  one must wonder what sort of situation will be created by “the right people” flying in the face of official government policy to aid rebels in a cause that their government has failed to fully embrace.

Barack Obama has been a disappointment as President of late and his policy toward Syria is complex if not incoherent. And the Congress becomes a bigger laughing-stock each day. They seem to play no role whatever except that of obstructionists who are determined to cripple the country if necessary in order to make the President look bad. But for a U.S. Senator who has run for President to take it upon himself to go to a foreign country and consort with known international criminals in the name of the United States is a new sort of low, even for American politicians. I cannot help but recall Henry Adams’ concern that the U.S. Senate was given too much power by the Constitution. He hoped that when Grant was elected President he would straighten things out. But Grant got caught up in a scandal of his own and showed himself to be an incompetent President. So the changes Adams hoped for never materialized. But even in his worst dreams, Adams wouldn’t have predicted that a U.S. Senator would take it upon himself to visit a foreign country and make overtures to a group that has yet to receive any official recognition from the government that the Senator presumably represents. This must be a diplomatic nightmare that Obama and John Kerry must somehow extricate themselves from.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make excuses for these people. They really do appear to be as stupid and inept as we all thought in our worst nightmares. I’m with Adams here: there ought to be major changes in the Constitution to limit the power of the Senate and allow us to remove those in government who have shown themselves incapable of governing. Indeed, if such were possible there would be very few remaining after the house-cleaning.

You Must Be Kidding!

This story from HuffPost beggars belief:

On Tuesday, FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, said that the notion that tax hikes on the richest Americans would kill jobs was simply “mythology.”

And on Monday, a gathering of the nation’s top defense executives took a surprising turn when they endorsed tax rate increases on the wealthy and cuts of up to $150 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Top executives from Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, TASC and RTI International Metals appeared at the National Press Club at an event organized by the Aerospace Industries Association, the top defense contractor lobbyist.

David Langstaff, CEO of TASC, said that the executives were speaking out because so far leaders of the defense industry were “talking a good game, but are still unwilling to park short-term self-interest.” After the event, he told a defense reporter for Politico that tax rates need to go up.

“In the near term, [income tax rates] need to go up some,” Langstaff said. “This is a fairness issue — there needs to be recognition that we’re not collecting enough revenue. In the last decade we’ve fought two wars without raising taxes. So I think it does need to go up.”

And apparently there are a number of other key members of the wealthiest classes in this country who agree with Fred Smith and David Langstaff.  This is truly quite remarkable. Cut military spending? You must be kidding me!  It can’t be April Fool, but it may be a Christmas miracle! Not so. As expected, the Congress hasn’t given any sign that they will move on the question of continuing the tax breaks for the very wealthy which many believe are the reason we are in such a financial pickle. Led by intransigent Senators like John Thune and Marco Rubio, who would apparently just as soon see us fall head-first off the fiscal cliff, the Republicans in the Senate are adamant that there will be no rise in taxes on the rich — even if they want them.

Now there’s the kind of enlightened, inspired leadership the founders were hoping would rise to the top like cream in a milk bottle. Oh, that’s right, the scum also rises!

Calm In A Storm

The documentary singling out  Egyptian Muslims for their alleged bias against Christians coupled with a blatant attack on the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a fake led to a series of terrifying events in the Middle East recently. I have already written about the inappropriate response of candidate Romney to the attack and killing of the Ambassador and three diplomats in Libya, and especially for turning the terrible event into a political football. But the aftermath of that response tells us even more about the character of the man who would be our next President.

A recent story by John Hellemann in New York Magazine includes this interesting paragraph:

That the left heaped scorn on Romney’s gambit came as no surprise. But the right reacted almost as harshly—with former aides to John McCain, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan creating an on-the-record chorus of disapproval, while countless other Republican officials and operatives chimed in anonymously. “This is worse than a Lehman moment,” says a senior GOP operative. “­McCain made mistakes of impulsiveness, but this was a deliberate and premeditated move, and it totally revealed Romney’s character; it revealed him as completely craven and his candidacy as serving no higher purpose than his ambition.”

Initially I gave Romney high political (but not moral) grades for attempting to turn his gaffe into a plus by assuming the offensive. I have noted in the past the Republicans are very good at this sort of thing: taking an event that results in mud in their own face and insisting it is chocolate. Instead of apologizing to the President and the country for criticizing the President at a moment when the country needed calm reassurance, he insisted his response was appropriate as he was “defending American values,” and such a defense, he insisted, is always appropriate. I knew this was B.S. but I thought it a clever attempt to attract the voters who still sit on the fences of this political contest and bring them into his camp. I wasn’t excusing the man, mind you, just noting his guile. I suspect he thought he would appear the stronger man while the President was adopting a conciliatory and meek posture. Clearly, it was a ploy designed to garner votes. I figured it might indeed work with voters who hear only what they want to hear.

But my son has convinced me (with articles like the one above from the New York Magazine) that this will likely not happen. He thinks, and I now agree, that Romney’s gaffe will hurt him the way McCain’s gaffe over the financial panic following the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank hurt his candidacy. The fence-sitters will see him as a self-absorbed political animal grasping at straws. No one left of the far right will see his attempts to attack a President in the midst of a crisis of major proportions as anything but a blunder of the first order.

I hope this is the case. John Hellemann certainly thinks so. He thinks it shows “. . .that Romney is losing, knows he is losing, and is starting to panic.” We do not need a President who panics in the face of calamity. Heaven knows terrible things happen and they seem to happen more and more frequently these days. We need a person in charge who exhibits confidence and calm in the face of chaos. That man is clearly not Mitt Romney. And judging by his past behavior in the Lehman Brothers crisis and his handling of the current situation in the Middle East it is Obama.  We will see if this episode hurts candidate Romney the way McCain was hurt by his panic in the face of the Lehman Brothers debacle. Time will tell. It usually does.

Change

I don’t pay much attention to polls. I especially tend to ignore pre-election polls. But a recent poll regarding the incumbent President’s chances to win in November and the “fact” that single women may win him the White House, while it suggests that single women may be the smartest segment of the voting public, raises some interesting issues that have nothing to do with polls. A recent story tells us that

In 2008, Republican Senator John McCain beat Obama 52%-47% among married voters, according to exit polls, while the Democrat [Obama} thumped him 65%-33% among unmarried people. That suggests that Obama has lost ground among married voters and unmarried voters alike. A drop would hardly be a surprise: Americans are unhappy about the sour economy three and a half years after the president took office vowing to fix it.

To begin with, Obama is being hoist by his own petard, having embraced the notion of “change” in his candidacy four years ago. He was going to be the President of Change and turn things around. Every political candidate promises this, of course. But he made it the focal point of his campaign. Big Mistake. The remarkable thing is that we still believe these people — after repeated failures to deliver on campaign promises. Further, Americans want what they want when they want it. We are an impatient people and if we grant the President three years to turn the economy around and he hasn’t done it we want someone else in there who will.

The problem is, of course, Obama was trying to get things done with a Republican Congress that refused to cooperate at every turn. He used up all his chips on health care, and he didn’t have many to begin with. We are now so deeply entrenched in party politics and there isn’t a man or woman alive who could effect meaningful change trying to work with people who are ideologically opposed to them in the Congress. It is naive to suppose that even if this man did everything he could to turn the economy around he could have done it alone. It’s not clear that a Republican President could have done it. The economy is in the toilet and no one seems to know what the magic formula is to pull it out (though I would suggest cuts in “defense,” increasing taxes on the wealthy, closing corporate loop-holes, shifting tax subsidies from Big Oil to clean energy thereby creating more jobs and helping to save the planet — for a start. But what do I know?).

Political promises are made to be broken. We simply should accept that fact going in. Furthermore, change takes time — years in the case of complex problems that have no simple solutions and where the infamous 1% seem to be in charge. This group as we know includes many members of Congress and as a whole they don’t really want radical change: they are doing just fine with things as they are, thank you very much.  Change may indeed come. But it will be very slow in coming and it may not be for the better.