Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Vote or Not to Vote?

How did we reach this point? The next President of the United States may very well be... Donald Trump?! A blustering, carnival barker with absolutely no political experience? The office held by Washington, Lincoln, FDR? Donald J. Trump? Or, even worse, it may be Hillary Clinton. A corrupt, grasping, transparently phony, self-aggrandizing liar of long standing? This is the best our electoral system can produce?

I feel ashamed as a citizen of the U.S. before the audience of the world. Not that I normally care much what the world thinks of us in general, or of me in particular, but this is really embarrassing. No, it's a disgrace. These are the two worst candidates for president of my lifetime; there really is no choice between them -- a clown and a criminal, a lout and a liar --  and so, for the first time in my adult life, I may not vote at all. That saddens me. I take my right to vote seriously (even though the courts religiously call me for jury duty every two years!), and I don't believe I have ever missed an election on any level. I even vote for members of the local school board. And I do my research. I actually read the candidates' statements, and look them up on the Internet to try to find out who they really are and what they really stand for. Then I mark my sample ballot and take it to the polling place so that I don't make any mistakes. No hanging chads for this voter.

But not this year. In its dysfunctional wisdom, the American electoral system has given me no serious choice. This is a bad joke, played on us, I think, quite deliberately by what is being called every fifteen minutes on cable news "the establishment." Both parties have failed us; the entire lousy, rotten establishment has delivered the nation into the hands of poseurs and phonies; the dreck has floated to the surface, and the flotsam is overwhelming us. And I sit here at my dining-room table gazing at my sample ballot, unable to begin filling it out.

Oh, I suppose I will vote for what they call the down-ballot candidates: senator, congressman, judges, city officials. But my presidential preference will not be proffered. Not this year. Not with these pathetic excuses for a commander-in-chief.

Or, maybe...

Maybe things have gotten so rum-runner rotten that it may be necessary to shake up the establishment -- give it a good dressing down, make it tremble until it collapses under its own putrid weight. Maybe Donald J. Trump is exactly what it needs, and deserves. Maybe I should just roll the dice and hope that we manage to avoid Armageddon while we bring down the whole, filthy, despicable mess that politics in this country has become.

Maybe I will vote, after all...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Run for the Hills

Hillary Clinton has been asked twice recently whether she would quit the race for president if she is indicted. Both times, she laughed and dismissed the possibility out of hand. Now, the FBI, refuting a report that 147 agents were investigating her activities, admitted that somewhere between twenty and forty agents are, in fact, investigating her. Think about that, please: The Democrat front runner is, and has for months been, under intense FBI investigation, yet when asked about the implications of that fact, she laughs. I am quite sure that if two FBI agents were investigating me, I would be near hysterics, unable to eat or sleep, let alone carry on work as usual. We now know that the Hills had over 2000 classified documents on her private email server, over twenty of which were classified at the highest level of secrecy. Yet if, in the course of my writing, I had even one such email on my computer, I would be prosecuted and probably jailed. But the Hills remains unfazed, and continues to run. So what is the difference?

Well, of course, she is the former First Lady, former senator from New York, former Secretary of State, and is now expected to be nominated for president. That alone ought to answer the question, though, to my mind, it does not. We live in a country of laws, and no one, we are solemnly told from childhood, is above the law. Breaking the law is not a question of who you are but of what you did, and what the Hills did clearly broke several laws. And these are only the violations we know about: the FBI has been very successful in concealing their investigative process, so we still do not know how many of the 32,000 deleted emails they were able to recover, nor whether they contained information which she intended to cover up, regarding either the Clinton Foundation or the suggestion that she, in effect, traded favors for donations. So her resume and her connections should make no difference; if she did sell favors for millions of dollars then she broke the law. If she did store secrets on her home computer, then she broke the law. And if she broke the law, she ought to be held accountable.

But there is, I suspect, another dimension to the strange equanimity and dismissive attitude on her part, and that may involve her relationship with Barack Obama. That it has been a contentious one is an open secret; she has been haughty, disrespectful and disloyal to the president, though she feigns a closeness to him in public. But that, of course, is eyewash; from everything I have read, the Hills despises Obama and his wife, and sees her prospective presidency as the finest form of revenge. And so, it seems likely (to me, at least) that she "has something" on Obama, something which she is using to contain leaks of the investigation (which earlier had been rife), and preclude the president from allowing his Attorney General to impanel a grand jury. This suggestion should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Clintons' careers; blackmail, bullying, smearing and intimidation are well-honed weapons in their political arsenal.

What do I think she has on the president? It is impossible to tell at this juncture, and we may not know for decades, but I think it may be one of three things (or two or perhaps all three). First, Benghazi. I believe she knows that Obama was derelict in his duty during that crisis, which led to the murders of four Americans. We recall that Michael Moore skewered George Bush for delaying his reaction to 911 for ten or fifteen minutes. Obama was absent for eight hours during Benghazi, and then went to a fundraiser in Vegas. And yet, to this day, we do not know where he was or what he was doing. But the Hills knows, and Obama knows that she knows, and that might be her firewall against indictment.

Second, there is the matter of the private server itself. Obama claims that he did not know about it until he read of it in the newspaper -- his standard deflection when he wants to avoid an outright lie. But subsequent reports have made it clear that he did know about it; in fact, could not have failed to know about it since he was sending and receiving emails to and from it. If it turns out that the FBI decides (as it should) that the Hills' server was illegal, then Obama was complicit in the crime.

Third there is the question of the Hills' personal relationship with Obama, and here there is very little if any public evidence, but I offer a speculation based on my knowledge of how the Clintons operate. There have been whiffs, no more than that, of infidelity on the president's part, and it is entirely consistent with Clintonian behavior that the Hills not only knows about such matters, but may even have evidence of them (just as J. Edgar Hoover had and used it against several presidents). Given Obama's pristine image as a husband and father, such evidence would be a powerful inducement for him to say, as he did last week, for example, that the Hills' private server did not jeopardize national security. This extraordinary assertion, based on no compelling evidence and made in the midst of an FBI investigation, can only be explained, I think, as a blackmail payment.

Other explanations have occurred to me, but I offer only these as food for thought. My principal argument lies, not in any public documentation at this point, but in the Clintons' long history of dirty, bare-knuckles politics. This is a power couple who would do, say, or threaten anything to gain and keep power, and whose success not only in securing power but in getting away with their tactics would make Richard Nixon spit in envy.

For my own poor part, I cannot imagine wanting anything so badly that I would stoop to such depths of deviousness, deceit and depravity as the Clintons have done, and, as I suspect, they are doing even as I write this. Perhaps I am wrong -- entirely wrong -- but I doubt that I am just as confidently as I believe that no office is worth trading one's integrity to achieve.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Well and Truly Trumped!

I recall some lines from the wonderful play "Marat/Sade" describing the violence of the French Revolution: "Now it's happening and you can't stop it happening. The people used to suffer everything. Now they are taking their revenge. You are watching that revenge, and you do not remember that it was you who drove them to it?!"

These same words could be said by Republican voters to the leadership of the GOP. The electorate as a whole is fed up with the political establishment, but the Republican base in particular has had more than a belly-full. They are saying: "We have given you plenty of opportunities -- we elected you, we reversed forty years of Democrat control of Congress, and we believed your pledges and promises, only to watch you (with precious few exceptions) go to Washington and sell out. We have seen you steamrolled again and again by Obama, and we still find ourselves saddled with Obamacare, a twenty trillion dollar debt, a war on the cops, the Iran nuclear deal, a lawless administration that rules by executive order, and, now, the prospect of Barack Obama appointing a successor to no one other than Justice Antonin Scalia.

"So we've had it. Had it with your lies, your hypocrisy, your betrayal. Now we are taking our revenge, and you pretend that you don't know that it was you who drove us to it. We're going to vote for Donald Trump, no matter how outrageous, irrational or dangerous he becomes. And every time you attack or malign him, we will only grow more determined to well and truly Trump you, even if it means tearing the Republican Party apart and putting Sanders or Clinton in the White House. Yes, we'd accept even that if it means finally teaching you a lesson, and tearing down the whole rotten, corrupt, treacherous edifice you've built. We'll burn your house down and Trump will be the torch we'll do it with. And you'll have no one to blame but yourselves."

That, I have become convinced, is what this election is really about: revenge, pure and simple. At least on the Republican side. On the Democrat side, of course, we have a criminal running against a communist, which has its own contorted logic. But in the GOP primaries, we are watching a spectacle that is nothing short of self-annihilation. It is not a pretty sight, but it may be a necessary one: The Republican Party has repeatedly betrayed its base, and the base is turning on it and will destroy it. And perhaps from its ashes, something resembling true Constitutional conservatism and political integrity may yet arise.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Collective IQ

It is finally caucus day in Iowa, and I must say that I am heartily glad to see it. I am by now so sick of the entire fatuous, cynical, phony process that I can only hope to have it over as soon as possible. Every election year our national IQ loses fifteen points, and the air is filled with lies, inanities and false promises until the sheer volume of debilitating nonsense becomes unbearable. Every election I tell myself that it can't get any worse than this, and every election I am reminded that it can, because it does. The current election campaign is by far the worst I have ever seen, given both the candidates and the media coverage of them.

Look at the choices we are being given. On the Democrat side, we are asked to choose between a chronic liar, hypocrite and phony who is under FBI investigation for leaking national security secrets and trading the national interest for money, and a septuagenarian socialist who spent his honeymoon in the most romantic place he could think of: post-Stalinist Russia. On the Republican side, the persistent front-runner is a carnival sideshow barker who wants to mass-deport Hispanics and ban Muslims from the country, both of which would be a) unconstitutional, b) impractical if not impossible, and c) immoral. If this is the best that our electoral system can produce, then we need a new electoral system.

The media's coverage of all this idiocy has been beyond idiotic. An inveterate news junkie, I keep hearing the same pointless analysis day after day, month after month. I think if I hear one more "pundit" say that Trump has "tapped into something," without being able to identify what it is, I shall perform an auto-tonsillectomy by screaming. What he has tapped into is no secret to anyone who has been conscious for the past fifty years: We are fed up with politicians who promise one thing and do nothing, with the corruption, lying, hypocrisy and cynicism of elected politicians at every level, with the fact that nothing ever seems to get done about the problems in this country except the blowing of a never-ending gale of hot air. I am reminded of what a famous screenwriter said about Hollywood: Nobody knows anything.

Take taxes, for example. For as long as I have been alive and conscious enough to understand it, people have complained about the inequities of the tax system in this country, its endless complexities, loopholes and its unfair distribution of the burden of paying for the government. And politicians have been promising to fix it, with either radical reforms, or a scrapping of the whole voluminous code which even high-priced tax lawyers and accountants can't understand, let alone explain. We elect tax crusaders generation after generation, and, voila, the tax code becomes more voluminous, complex and unfair. We have now passed the point where more than half of the American people pay no tax at all, while the rest of us find our incomes raided and raped before we even see the paychecks.

So, what do I look forward to this election year? Besides more of the current idiocy, I mean -- more talk about Rubio's boots and Trump's hair and Fiorina's face. Here is what I look forward to:

Above all, to Hillary Clinton being indicted. I can only hope that a perfect storm of accountability will occur, in which the "deleted" emails have been recovered, proving that she both mishandled classified information and traded favors as Secretary of State for contributions to her family foundation.  If the FBI director refers her case to the Attorney General for prosecution, and Obama orders the DOJ not to act on the recommendation, I hope for a firestorm of protest, from resignations by FBI officials to demands by the public that she at least withdraw from the race. Do I think that Obama will try to prevent her indictment? Yes, because from what I know of the Clintons and their past political behavior, I am sure that they have such defamatory material on Obama that they will blackmail him into submission. What sorts of things? Two: that he lied when he said he did not know she was using a private email server while Secretary of State, and that he deliberately absented himself from the Benghazi crisis, telling her and the Defense Secretary to handle it, while he disappeared for a good night's sleep prior a fundraiser in Vegas. There may be, and probably is more, but for that much at least there is some documentation already in the air.

As for Bernie Sanders, who has managed to woo young people and poor people with fabulous promises of more free stuff and divine retribution on the capitalist system that has oppressed them, I can only hope that his 74 years finally catch up with him, and he becomes too enfeebled to carry on. Or that his supporters wake up to the fact that the United States is not a socialist nation, was never intended to be a socialist nation, and must never become a socialist nation, since socialism, that eighteenth century European pipe-dream, has oppressed, enslaved and murdered more human beings that any other ideology in history. As Charles Krauthammer recently pointed out, it is a poignant irony that socialism seems to be gaining currency in America a full generation after it has been intellectually debunked everywhere else in the world.

Trump, I hope, will just go away. I cannot believe that the American people would elect to the presidency a vapid, self-promoting showman who has as little idea what he would do with the ultimate power as he does with all his money. Governing the United States is not a deal-making enterprise; it is a moral, political, social and cultural responsibility which requires integrity, pragmatism and a visionary quality such as Lincoln had, and which the current occupant of the presidency so painfully lacks. We do not need another amateur in office, no matter how much business experience he has. The results of doing that, as we learned with Obama, are far too plain to see: the economy creeps by in its petty pace from day to day, the federal system has ground to a standstill, to be replaced with executive orders the like of which would have made Madison's skin crawl, and our society is more divided, self-loathing and dysfunctional culturally and racially than at any time since the fifties.

If you were to press me for what I hope happens... Well, I think that if I woke up the morning after election day in November to find that Christie or Kasich had become president, I would feel relieved. Beyond that, I cannot see my way clear to comfort. I admire Ben Carson, but he has proved himself to be too unqualified for the job. Rubio is simply too young and inexperienced, and we know what happens when we elect a 43 year old first-term senator. I suppose Jeb Bush is a decent fellow, but the idea of a third member of that family in the White House is simply repugnant -- surely we can find someone else to govern the nation. Carly Fiorina does a very good job of laying out her policy positions, but her business record will doom her just as Romney's did. Rand Paul remains interesting, but only that -- not inspiring or visionary, but rather prosaic and slightly melancholy, and at times as much out of touch with reality as Obama is.

In the end I can say only this: What matters is that we finally rid ourselves of Obama, and that we not inflict on ourselves the (probably) fatal wounds of Clinton, Sanders and Trump. If we can just manage that, perhaps all will yet be well. Except, perhaps, for Ted Cruz...