Competing Disappointments: Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump

One of the biggest criticisms early in the Obama administration was his blaming of George Bush for the many problems he faced. It would seem Mr. Trump doesn’t remember this criticism.

Mr. Trump is leveling blame on Mr. Obama for failing to take decisive action when the evidence of Russian interference in the election first came to light. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/us/trump-russia-cia-john-brennan.html)

In this, I must concede, Mr. Trump has a point. When President Obama received this most startling memo from the CIA, he had almost eight full years experience (and the gray hair to prove it) of dealing with the difficult decisions facing a President.

When his advisers split on giving the go-ahead on launching the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden, when the odds were about even the information was accurate, President Obama put the political risks aside and decided to go.

An easy decision in hindsight, gut-wrenching in the moment.

Yet, when faced with direct evidence of Russian interference in our election process, President Obama let the potential appearance of partisan interference affect his decision. Worried that unveiling such information might appear he was using the office of the Presidency to sway the election, he kept the information from the American people and took symbolic action against the Russians.

It was a valid concern, but not one that rose to the level of preventing him from doing what was necessary.

It is easy for those of us who’ve never faced such decision to criticize, but in this case, the political consideration should not have affected the decision.

The sad part about this is that the Russians outsmarted us. Say what you like about Putin, he is not stupid.

By manipulating the election they diminished our standing in the world. They feared a Clinton Presidency, with all the experience her background brought (leaving aside the negative baggage of which the Russians couldn’t care less), the continuity of a strong America was likely.

In Trump, they saw an inexperienced and naïve megalomaniac with a god delusion riding on the backs of an angry, but in many cases uninformed, populist trend. They could take advantage of the learning curve of a neophyte on the world stage. Or even better, take advantage of his “I’m always the smartest one in the room” attitude.

Yes, there is plenty of disappointment to go around.

My descent into disillusionment began long before Mr. Trump’s election. It began with the national nominating conventions. Out of three hundred million people, the best we offered was Hillary Rodham Clinton, a career politician who believed she had a divine right to the office of the Presidency and the aforementioned Donald J. Trump who seemed to run on a whim.

But I am an optimist at heart. Despite the trend of many to disparage any source with whom they disagree and to blindly embrace those they agree with, there is hope.

I have unqualified faith in Robert Mueller. His reputation, job performance, and history speak to the highest level of integrity. When he completes his investigation, whatever the results, I believe the findings will be trustworthy.

Despite my disagreement with much of Donald Trump’s policies, he is the President of the United States. Until the evidence and the law demand his removal from office, it is a fact we must accept.

Disappointment is a fact of life. Let’s hope we can also reclaim the pride in our government and the election process despite these past disappointments.

Trumping America

I think I have figured out the Trump phenomenon. His success in the primaries comes from supporters who behave at the maturity level of 15-year-old boys and 13-year-old girls. They are not quite children, not quite adults, and driven by raging emotional responses to anything they cannot or choose not to understand.

They are willing to sacrifice civil liberties and constitutional protections in the pursuit of fighting terrorists. They are willing to employ torture as a means justified by their mistaken belief it will protect America.

They support a candidate who said targeting families, including children, is a worthwhile military strategy. One he is prepared to order our military to carry out. Trump, with all his pride in his Ivy League education, must have skipped history and ethics. His was a poison ivy education.

Here is a quote Trump and his supporters could adopt in support of effective genocide.

Raymond D’Aguilers, a witness to the victorious end of the Crusade of 1096-1099 in Jerusalem, wrote

‘Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers.’

Men, women, and children not of the Christian faith dead at the hands of the faithful. Unbelievers meaning those who believe differently than the one holding the sword or the launch codes for nuclear weapons.

Trump must believe My Lai was the most successful operation during the Viet Nam war. Unless he missed the story on TV.

Trump’s idea is not even original. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed thought it a good idea. If we follow Trump’s logic, flying planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was brilliant.

This country is in a lot of trouble if anyone, let alone a candidate for the Presidency, takes such policies seriously.

They risk destroying the very freedom and moral character that built this country.

Trump screams he will lead us to Making America Great Again. By what measure? By what means? He wraps himself in the flag, portraying himself as the ultimate patriot.

To quote Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the refuge of the scoundrel.”

Trump’s idea of patriotism encompasses all the evil of nationalism that no rational American should condone.

Out of this fire of ignorance, Trump emerged as the poster boy of xenophobia.

This pseudo-tough, swaggering, ne’er do well spouting invectives and threatening anyone not in lockstep with him. An American version of ‘das Herrenvolk.’

A schoolyard bully picking on the weak while his “fans” stand around with their cell phones recording and posting their childish voyeuristic nonsense, afraid to stand up for what’s right.

We face the real specter of a President whose policy platform consists of acting like a junkyard dog.

During the last debate, where supporters considered jokes about the size of appendages high humor, there was only one adult on the stage. Trump was not it. Yet his supporters are okay with that.

The reality that people are fooled into believing Trump represents the best of America is frightening.

Nevertheless, he is winning the primaries. True, he is winning Republican primaries under a system rigged to favor the lead candidate; designed to minimize the chance of a brokered convention. They never imagined the rise of the Donald and his living, but brain dead, hordes.

Keep this in mind; he is winning with at best 35% of the vote. Which means 65% of the vote went against him. Many of these are winner take all contests.

Staunch conservatives, like the Tea Party and others, deserve some of the blame here. As Stephen King so aptly wrote. “Conservatives who for 8 years sowed the dragon’s teeth of partisan politics are horrified to discover they have grown an actual dragon.”

We can only hope a St. George will arrive on the scene to slay the dragon before he incinerates us all.

If Trump wins, he will have at least given us one thing of value. We will need that slogan, Making America Great Again, once his Presidency ends. I fear, if there is a Trump presidency, we’ll be singing the line from the Paul Simon song, America.”We’ve all come to look for America…”

 

Neither a Democrat nor a Republican Be…

Not all that long ago, there was a time in this country when people defined themselves, politically at least, as either Republican or Democrat.

Voters took pride in entering a voting booth and pulling the master handle to vote for a candidate not for their positions on issues, not for their record of achievement, not for their ideas or proposals, but for their party affiliation.

Party affiliation.

Sounds eerily similar to the politics of the Soviet Union or Mao’s China instead of the promise of the Constitution and the brilliance of the Founding Fathers.

Which brings us to the politics of 2016. While in many places the master lever is a fading memory, the propaganda (there is that similarity again) of the parties is the same.

Depending on your political leanings, either the Republicans, representing a conservative approach, or the Democrats, representing a progressive approach, are the ONLY choice.

There is NO room for compromise, no room for a blending of ideas, no chance that anything proposed by one party will gain support by the other.

I have a friend who had an opportunity to have a private discussion, in a setting far removed from the media or public eye, with a former Speaker of the House. My friend lamented the lack of cooperation across the aisle and the seemingly endless process of erecting roadblocks to cooperation.

The Congressman assured her it was not as bad as it seems. This is good news, at first blush.

But upon reflection, it is one more indication of the dishonesty, disingenuousness, and outright lying that goes on for the sake of getting elected and, more importantly, staying there.

Either the politicians think so little of voters’ ability to recognize the necessity of cooperation and compromise in Congress and play to that ignorance or they have come to understand if you give the voter what they want to hear, they vote for you.

Then, you do what you want.

All parties have their heroes, their bright shining beacons that represent the best the party has to offer.

The Republicans had Reagan. Held up as the standard-bearer of less government. His famous quote during his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” touted as the best example of wise policy.

Reagan then went on to lead the biggest increase in government spending in decades. His Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which ultimately failed, led to enormous increases in technology research. This policy almost single-handedly built Silicon Valley and the technology corridor outside of Boston, Ma.

Reagan expressed his despise of big government. His legend used as the example of getting government out of the way. The reality is his SDI program, a holy crusade against the evil empire of the Soviet Union, was a huge government funded program.

Moreover, it worked. Contrary to all his vaunted statements, government programs worked.

Do I even have to mention Richard Nixon?

We ignore the truth for the sake of a slogan or false premise.

The Democrats have had similar icons. John F. Kennedy, whose short time in office created such hope and promise, also set the stage for our entering into the war in Vietnam. His promise of “we shall go to the moon…” stimulated a generation of optimism that we could do anything we choose to do.

President Clinton, his presidency marked with much success, supported and signed the ridiculous Defense of Marriage Act. His boldface lying to the American people corroded the many good things he accomplished.

Yet each of these Presidents, none of them perfect, succeeded by compromise. They sought cooperation to blend a solution.

Which leads us to today. The same, perhaps wider, chasm divides this country. Sanders is a socialist. Hillary is a liar. Cruz is a religious nut. Rubio cannot balance a checkbook. Trump is… I am not sure there is a word for it.

Each of these candidates has something to offer. Yet it seems the politics of this era compels us to pick one path, one philosophy, one political policy.

We deserve more.

If the reality of compromise and cooperation does exists away from the cameras and 24/7 media storm, the American people deserve to be trusted with that knowledge.

In our everyday lives, we make choices; we balance the things we want against the things we need. That is being an adult.

Those that scream the most about the evils and dangers of those they disagree with are like schoolyard bullies, trying to shout down and intimidate.

Standing up to a bully is the right thing to do.

A politician who claims to have all the answers, offers nothing but disdain and criticism of opposing views, and insists his (or her) policies are the only choice is not what we need. It is what we have been afflicted with for the past few years and it is time to seek a better solution.