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...