Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Mental Illness of the "Trump Phenomenon"

     The recent comments by Republican presidential nomination front-runner Donald Trump about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating when the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001, were as per usual for Mr. Trump, a grain of truth converted to an entire beach by exaggeration. This recent comment is exemplary of the unworthiness of Mr. Trump for the presidency. Not because it was completely false, but because it was not entirely true. This exaggerated truth for political expediency is not part of the conservatism that I practice.
     I have been displeased at the ease with which many Trump supporters who call themselves conservative accept the advance of half-truths and fact-manipulations that are a hallmark of the Left. Lately it seems that politics have been defined by Republicans deliberately exaggerating the truth for the purpose of advancing a false narrative, as Democrats exaggerate lies for the purpose of advancing a false narrative. While the former is invested in the truth more than the latter, both are engaged in deception.
    But back to Donald Trump. I fail to understand, for instance, how Evangelicals can support a man who has build an empire based in large part on gambling. It seems that faith, and the principles that comprise it, have been subjugated to the political elixir known as Donald Trump. And even those conservatives who are not religious have sold their political souls to an idea and a man who makes them "feel good," but that does not pay tribute to what actually "does good."
     So the fact that Donald Trump makes outrageous statements about Muslims in America celebrating the attacks of 911, and the glee with which his devotees soak up his gravy of inaccuracy, is worrisome, not only for the Republican Party and conservative movement, but for the nation as a whole. For if even conservatives abandon conservatism, there is little hope for this great nation.
     Additionally, I seem to remember a recent mosque collapse that killed over a hundred worshipping Muslims that brought cheers from some on the extreme Right. But Mr. Trump would never mention that because it is more politically advantageous to convince his emotional votaries that thousands of Muslims in this country, and by extension therefore all Muslims in this country, celebrated the tragic events of 911, than it is to engage in a rigorous pursuit of accuracy and truth.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Now Aint the Time For Our Tears

     The terrorist attacks in Paris, France last Friday perpetrated by ISIS have elicited an outpouring of emotion in the form of sympathy from around the civilized world. They have also generated words of promised retribution from the French president, and babbling nonsense from our own here in this country. Radical Islam, and the terrorism upon which it thrives, precedes President Obama, as well as most U.S. administrations of the last 50 years. However, no United States president has done more to encourage radical Islam with his policy of inaction at a time when the terrorists are most active, than Barack Obama.
      As for our part; the innocent peoples of the world who are the target of such despicable aggression and barbarism, we have not cared enough to push our leaders in the direction of ridding the world of the cancer known as radical Islam. It puts me in mind of a line from an old Bob Dylan song in which the legendary song-writer sings, "Take the rag away from your face, now aint the time for your tears."
     With over a hundred innocent persons dead in Paris, and many hundreds of thousands more dead in recent years at the hands of the collective evil heart known as radical Islam, now is certainly not the time for our tears. As I look at pictures of the memorials in France, with their flowers and stuff animals, my reasoned mind must overcome my emotional heart in realizing that they mean nothing to ridding the world of the evil which prompted them.
     As for our president who seems intent on  staying the course of his drifting foreign policy, where engagement in real solutions is never approached, he has only encouraged and made possible more attacks like the ones in Paris. Barack Obama seems content to just serve out his time without engaging the most severe enemy of civilization since Nazi Germany. His inability, or unwillingness, to use the greatest force for good history has ever seen, i.e. the United States military, to coalesce other forces in the region and defeat this dastardly enemy, is tantamount to a charge of aid and comfort to the enemy.
     I do not make the charge of aid and comfort to the enemy against President Obama in any sense of invoking some constitutional punishment to be visited upon him before the end of his term. I proffer it in the greater sense of the moral wrong in which he has engaged by his drifting to avoid real conflict. When leaders fail, it is incumbent upon those being lead to take the reins of leadership by vociferous demands for confrontation of the evil which afflicts them, not by burying their faces in a flood of tears. We must take the rag away from our faces, because this is no time for our tears. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Media-Created Myth of Hillary's "Success"

     We live in an age where truth is malleable, like a ball of Silly Putty. On both the Left and the Right, the truth seems to be subject to the advancement of an agenda by the political ideology that is proffering it. The most recent and glaring example of this phenomenon is the media's reaction to Hillary Clinton's testimony before the House committee on the Benghazi affair last week. Had one not watched the hearing and just relied on the media for analysis, one would have thought there was no there there, and that former Secretary of State Clinton made mince meat of the Republican's case against her, while enjoying all the Democrat members of the committee act as her defense team.
     I wonder how many of the political media pundits on either side of the aisle actually watched the hearings, or simply made their analysis based on the narrative being advanced by the rest of the pro-Hilary media? If in fact they watched the hearings and were not troubled by what was revealed, then either they are in full Hillary defense mode, or they have no moral compass to guide them. For Hillary Clinton's glib and rambling responses that represented the best in circumlocution to be considered an apt defense of her actions or inactions is ludicrous.
     For those who are not swayed by presentation over substance, it was more than just a little troubling that Ambassador Stevens, who was so brutally murdered along with three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 by terrorists, had sent over 600 emails to Secretary Clinton asking for beefier security in the days and weeks before the attack. It is incredulous that, as former Secretary Clinton purposed, she did not see any of Ambassador Steven's emails and that they all went to underlings. If true, then I see nothing that would preclude the legitimacy of a charge of gross incompetence against Mrs. Clinton.
     Of course one of the most disturbing aspects of the hearings is the evidence produced that supported what we knew directly after the attacks, i.e. that Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration deliberately engaged in a bald-faced lie about the attacks being a spontaneous demonstration inspired by an anti-Muslim YouTube video. But what has been missed is the illegal act perpetrated by Hillary Clinton in telling her daughter about the attacks the night of the attacks. This breach of not only protocol, but the law governing the handling of classified information, was not even given a second look by most of the media. It was the same kind of actions that placed General Petraeus in so much hot water.
     And then there is the lie itself perpetrated by the Secretary of State of an administration that had been downright braggadocios about the retreating influence of terrorism in the Middle East under its watch. A false narrative advanced in the face of a challenging re-election campaign, made even more so by an economy in the depths of mediocrity after more than 3 years into a supposed recovery. The administration could not win re-election if the American people knew the truth about the groundswell of terrorism growing rapidly, in large part to the very policies and ineptness that were highlighted by last week's hearing.
     Yes, Mrs. Clinton may have done her best impression of her husband wagging his finger at the camera. But for anyone with even a scintilla of fidelity to the truth and morality, there is no escaping her culpability in the deaths of four brave Americans and her deliberate attempt to hide the truth. For those "impressed" with her performance, God help this country if the majority of the electorate is as gullible and ethically out-of-balance as you appear to be.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Does Freedom Caucus Represent Constitutional Values?

     There has been a great deal of consternation and gnashing of teeth among conservatives over the current quest for new leadership in the House of Representatives. Congressional Republicans are split between the so-called Freedom Caucus that wants to elect a Speaker that will advance and advocate for their "principles," and the more moderate Republicans, often called the "establishment" or "Rinos" by the former, who want to elect a Speaker who will work with Democrats in the House to advance legislation that is generally good for the country.
     The Freedom Caucus in the House is populated with around 40 members, but even in its minority status it wields a big stick. The caucus operates under an 80% rule, which means 80% of its members must agree on an issue otherwise the entire caucus must oppose said issue. Even the congress of the United States does not in any situation have such an inflexible rule, nor does the Supreme Court in its decision making require such a majority. This 80% rule means that a mere 8 members of the Freedom Caucus can influence a decision being made by the entire majority of the House. Not exactly what the Founders had in mind.
     Speaking of the Founders, and their brilliance enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, which is rightly and often used by conservatives to illuminate where political opponents have strayed, that same fidelity to constitutional principles must also be applied to our political machinations as well. The Speaker for which the Freedom Caucus is advocating is not exactly in the spirit, if not the actual letter, of the law of the constitution. The Speaker of the House is not an ideological position, but a managerial one, constitutionally speaking.
     The framers of the constitution state very clearly that House members elect by a majority vote a Speaker to lead them in the procedural tasks in the legislative process. The Speaker is not a representative of a minority part of any one political Party, e.g. the Freedom Caucus, nor is the Speaker even a representative of any one political Party in general. Constitutionally, the Speaker is to represent the entire House and manage that body in the legislative process to keep order and integrity in the procedural habits of that body.
     Fidelity to constitutional values is what should drive every conservative, whether those values are an impediment or a benefit to our political ideology. Those who oppose every person, issue, or solution that involves the slightest modicum of what they perceive as compromise, are not representing the best qualities the Founders outlined in this great nation's founding documents. And any body that claims to hold the ideals of the republic near and dear, and yet allows for minority rule instead of majority rule, is not in any sense following the example or the ideals of Jefferson, Madison, et al.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Foamy Head of Our Politics On the Frosty Mug of Our Culture

     Most readers can recall the image of an ice cold beer in a frosted mug with just the right amount of a foamy head at its peak. The liquid comprising 80% of the mug is overshadowed by the airy foam at the top. I have recently thought about the beer with the foamy head as I have perused the rocky landscape of this nation's politics. Sometimes the most important part of our national life, the liquid part of our frosty mug, has been subjugated to the frosty head that draws our attention from what is really important.
     The frosty head on our national mug is the day-to-day politics, sometimes petty and meaningless in the long run, that draws our attention and energies from the core greatness of this country which was built on culture, not politics. It becomes more and more difficult to see the substantive liquid in the mug the closer the foamy head is brought up to our lips. And so it has become with our politics, I believe in large part due to the explosion of information in American modernity.
     I do not intend to advocate a position against modern technology, the Internet, or the ever popular talk radio. To do so would be foolish, as those things are here to stay. But as useful as these things are to the dissemination of information, they have also made the propagation of disinformation just as ubiquitous. And sometimes disinformation comprises most of the foamy head in our public debate, becoming the focus that veils the most relevant aspects of our culture in verbiage that many times is constructed only of invective and acrimony.
     This phenomenon, unfortunately, is not the sole property of any one political ideology or ethos, but seems to have displaced our culture on both sides of aisle. This practice can be seen in the relentless drumbeat present in one-issue-politics. So much so that it no longer is a virtue that someone agree mostly with the practitioners of this faith. What has become the yardstick of someone's dedication to the ideology is the one issue with which they disagree. In other words, the foamy head on the beer becomes more important than the refreshing liquid below.
     As we proceed deeper into the sometimes dark and twisted woods of the exhausting political process to select our next president, let us not forget that culture is more important than politics. After all, politics is just the foamy head created by the liquid of our culture. It is that liquid part upon which we should focus, then the political will follow. Of course sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the politics from the culture. Which is why we must set down the mug from time to time so as to facilitate our ability to delineate between the foam and the liquid.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Donald Trump: Republican Party Temper Tantrum

     I am not totally unwilling to acknowledge that the angst in the Republican Party specifically, and in the conservative movement in general with leadership in congress is legitimate, if not exaggerated. I further accept that the rise of Donald Trump in the race to acquire the Republican presidential nomination is mostly an emotional response, in part as a result of Republican leadership, and in part because of frustration over where the current administration has lead this country. Like most emotional responses, the support for Donald Trump is not based on reason and rationale.
     I have had several conversations with Trump supporters who have expressed the desire to give Mr. Trump almost dictatorial power if congress does not support him, if and when he becomes president. It is a flummoxed intrigue that I have experienced during these conversations with the same persons who want to give extra-constitutional authority to Donald Trump to advance their agenda, but who have criticized President Obama for usurping such powers to advance his. It is a political dichotomy that I can not remember ever seeing in my lifetime.
     The latest Trump-ism that has me questioning the reasoning acumen of his supporters is his statements that had he been president in 2001, the terrorist attacks on September 11 would probably not have occurred. Beyond the obvious desperation of a presidential candidate in 2015 reaching back 14 years to stoke his bona fides, is the fact that Mr. Trump, as per usual, offers no substantive response to the question of how he would have stopped the attacks that took over 3000 American lives that day. He says his "immigration" policy that would magically include "higher standards" for student visas would have prevented the hijackers from entering the country.
     Mr. Trump's non-response response is typical of all his policy positions. Making the aforementioned statement about immigration policy is like a football coach stating that his team will win by playing better than the other team. The lack of detail, or of even the slightest substance, offered by The Donald on anything is shocking. Shocking, not because he has engaged in such pettifoggery, but that so many who call themselves conservatives have accepted it as a solution to this nation's problems.
     Even though the support for Mr. Trump is a minority of the conservative movement, it is a large enough number to cause me a certain amount of solicitude. Like the emotional response of a child throwing a temper tantrum because he has not gotten his way, so too are the Trump supporters reaching for a purely histrionic solution to the problems they perceive facing this country. But like all temper tantrums, this one will come to an end with a whimper and not a bang.
     Hopefully that will transpire before Mr. Trump's votaries have visited upon this nation a president who they seem willing to bestow with the executive authority that the current president has taken for himself. I would caution my friends on the Right, be careful what you wish for. With Mr. Trump's proclivity to change his political ideology on a dime, the powers you want to grant him may be used for ill and not good.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Compromise: That Which Created a Nation

     There is a new dirty word in the modern world of political discourse. This word has the power to transform its practitioners into pariahs to those who worship at the altar of absolutism. The word that is sorely missing from the modernity of politics is compromise. Just the mention of this word in some quarters can set the zealots to ranting and spewing invective such as "sell-out," "wimp," and "traitor." But it was not that long ago that compromise was the linchpin that held together this fragile republic.
     Ronald Reagan use to say that he would rather get half a loaf than no loaf, the whole loaf not always being possible in the real world of American politics. And Newt Gingrich, the firebrand conservative warrior, spent many hours across the negotiating table from President Clinton in an attempt to walk away with, not what was perfect, but what was good. Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Reagan, et al knew that the perfect should be strived for, but should never be the enemy of the good. The good being that half a loaf when a whole loaf was not possible.
     This nation's history is saturated with compromise. In fact the very document which formed our government and society, the constitution, was birthed out of myriad of compromise. The constitutional convention that lead to that most sacred document was arguably the most contentious and compromising political event ever. The Founding Fathers were not in agreement as to how this new government should be formed. Their beliefs ran the gambit from not forming a new government at all (which Thomas Jefferson who was not in attendance advocated) to creating a system where there would be no states rights, only a sovereign federal government (which Alexander Hamilton and George Washington advocated).    
     Through the sweltering summer days of 1787 in a Philadelphia hall, the Founders of this great nation were moved by the spirit of compromise to form a government which would allow for the free exercise of the people's God-given rights, and yet still empower a central government to the extent it needed to be to protect those rights. Those wise men who gave us the greatest system of government ever devised did not do so out of a religious adherence to their individual beliefs, but out of the perspicacity that comes from compromise. Each one knew that half a loaf was better than no loaf.
     From that auspicious founding of this great nation forward, the greatest of our advances has come not from standing on the lofty perch of perfection, but from rolling up our sleeves and digging the foundation of reasoned solutions with the implement of compromise. Too many of us today have forgotten the lessons of our Founders, and have even recast them as men who held collective principles which they enshrined in our constitution. Instead it was the many deeply held and disparate beliefs of our Founders that came together in compromise that breathed life into the greatest document of change the world has ever seen.