I Cannot Tell a Lie

November 28, 2016

Do you remember that old legend of George Washington and the cherry tree. Given an ax at the age of six, the future father of our country cut down a cherry tree to his father’s dismay. But when asked by his father how this attack on the cherry tree happened, the young Washington uttered the famous line,” I cannot tell a lie, it was I who cut down the tree.” Obviously George Washington didn’t live in what we call the post-truth America.

In this two month interim election period when America is supposed to turn its attention away from politics and look ahead to the holidays, we have become a nation still beset by charges and counter-charges, demonstrations and fear-mongering, assaults on ethnic identity and claims of hypocrisy. There is no rest from a campaign of meanness, threats and enemies in our midst.Isn’t this supposed to be the season of giving, healing and brotherly/sisterly love?

But what I worry the most about is the new normal in American politics and national life- a lack of respect for the truth. We hear stories about fake news, Internet conspiracy theories without foundation, and just plain, old fashioned whoppers. Lying has become the accepted form of  political conversation, and there is little being done to stop post-truth America. Where is George Washington when you need him?

When the truth regarding anything in our universe is treated so shabbily that it is without merit and has so little value, the social glue that keeps us civilized starts to fall apart. We believe what we hear and don’t bother to do a simple fact check; the media who a generation ago was trusted to keep us informed and point the way to reality is damaged perhaps beyond repair; and our leaders, especially our next president, seem to value post-truth as a valuable weapon to reduce the influence of enemies.

If we as a people are so gullible that we can be shaped like robots by slick lying; if we are so lazy as a people that we can’t take the time to find what is true; and if we are so cynical as a people that we don’t care that lying doesn’t matter, since everyone does it, then our nation is on a dangerous path.

In an election someone wins and someone loses and the winner gets the opportunity to shape the future, while the loser gets to complain. But when the winners have little regard for the truth and make policy statements and justify their actions based on public lies, then the end result can only be destructive to the common good.

The oath of office administered to our public officials requires them to uphold the Constitution. I would like to suggest that a new clause be added, one that requires them to tell the truth to those they serve. It’s not too much to ask.


The Blame Game

November 11, 2016

 

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump Democratic Party officials, liberal media pundits, and those who worked their buns off to get her elected are starting to play the blame game, no not a fun board brain teaser but a finger-pointing exercise that comes naturally when someone who was supposed to win gets tanked big time.

Sure I could say that Hillary won the popular vote but that is small consolation in our very odd electoral college system where you can run up the score in places like California and New York but lose a boat load of states by a narrow margin and win the White House.

Sure I could say that Hillary is far more qualified to hold the highest office in the land, but this election was about change and white America getting revenge for being ignored not governmental resumes and glass ceilings being broken.

Sure I could say that Donald Trump has no clue about the rule of law, checks and balances, and constitutional guarantees, but he won and this country has to live with a guy who poses a threat to our rights, our traditions and our security.

Could the outcome have been different? Certainly, and I put the burden of blame on Hillary. Let me tell you why.

Hillary suffered from the deadly political sin of isolation.When you live in an elitist bubble where most of your contact is with the same members of the establishment and don’t have any idea what the folks in Youngstown, Ohio or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania are going through on a daily basis, you will pay the price. Many Americans have little understanding of public policy issues and far less about simple civics, but they know self-interest and they know that their vote is power. Hillary neglected these folks, mostly white, and spent time speaking for gobs of money to Wall Street bankers and Hollywood celebrities instead of walking the walk along Main Street.

For a highly intelligent person Hillary was strangely unable to find the right words to bring people over to her side. She had to borrow a phrase from Michelle Obama to get attention and when she did try to coin a phrase she chose ” a basket of deplorables”. Trump, who used some of the meanest words in his campaign, won over the voters with one simple line-” I will be your voice”

Hillary also failed to understand the generational and class shifts that now define our country. She didn’t comprehend the anxiety of the millennials, she relied too heavily on African-Americans and Hispanics and she did little to win back those angry white guys who twenty years ago were shoo-in Democrats. Trump didn’t care about the millennials, the blacks and Hispanics but concentrated on the white population, young and old, rural and urban, middle class and under class. Hillary’s electoral coalition was always fragile because her operating premise was that smarts and organization would win the day when this was a movement election spurred on by millions who were just fed up.

Finally, Hillary like Bill live in a world where they believe it is possible to get away with actions that are secretive, self-serving, and too often phony. Now Trump is far worse on all of these accounts but sadly for a woman to break the ultimate political glass ceiling, there is little room for poor judgment, shady deals, and arrogance. Unfortunately, we hold women seeking power to a much higher standard then men, and Trump is the prime example. But for someone who was planning this campaign since her college days, you would expect that she might just have thought through how to present her best side rather than taking unnecessary risks.

An integral part of this blame game is whether Bernie Sanders would have been a far better candidate and eventually take the White House. A pretty good case can be made for President-elect Sanders rather than The Donald, but a few words of caution. Trump would have quickly coined a title for Bernie – how about “Bernie the Commie”. Trump would have been relentless in scaring the voters about the Socialist senator from Vermont pushing for more big government, more spending, more taxes, more regulation. A case can also be made that those white voters who chose Trump and change would have seen Bernie as just another leftist senator bent on picking their pockets.

Well I’m glad I got that off my chest. The election is over, Trump won, the American people are fair-minded and will give him the benefit of the doubt. Like all those people who believe in their shattered hearts that Hillary should have won, Trump remains a dangerous, ill-equipped charlatan. But let’s face it- he’s our dangerous, ill-equipped charlatan. God Bless the United States of America.

 

 

 


Melania’s Vote

November 8, 2016

There will not be too many positive or inspiring memories from the 2016 presidential campaign, but there will be a number of humorous or truth-telling remembrances that speak volumes.

Of course the SNL skits with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon will likely end up in the Americana section of the Smithsonian museum as they are now iconic representations of how the two candidates for the highest office in the world gave new meaning to the old phrase, ” The Emperor has no clothes.”

Then there was Tim Kaine speaking Spanish in his opening introduction to the American people as most viewers scratched their heads in frustration- ” what the hell was he saying?”

Then there were the Trump surrogates – Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich condemning the sexual exploits of ol’Bill even though both of these guys cheated on their wives and couldn’t keep their marriages together.

But one of my favorite memories will be Trump’s staff shutting down his Twitter account so the potential leader of the free world wouldn’t have the opportunity at 3 in the morning of making an ass of himself.

At the top of the list of out of this world images from the race was the picture of Donald Trump looking over his voting booth to see how Melania was voting. The only conclusion one can come to is that he doubted her loyalty. So much for the secret ballot.

It sure has been hard to laugh during this horrible election, since most of the words used to describe the two candidates are hypocrisy, falsehoods, corruption, unqualified, secretive and phony.”

You could say we deserve better from those seeking the presidency or you could rely on the wisdom of the cartoon character Pogo who said, “I have seen the enemy and it is us”.

 


The Year of Mercy

November 5, 2016

So many people must have missed the Pope’s message that this is the Year of Mercy. I think what Francis was saying is that in this year we should all be kind to each other, avoid making snap or rash judgments, refrain from humiliating people in public or behind their backs or condemning friends and foes just because they hold a different view.

Certainly Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must have missed the memo, and if I must say, more so Trump. Their campaigns, especially in the last week, have been just brutal and show no mercy. There just must be a few issues that need to be discussed to inform the voters instead of going negative?

Certainly the Catholic pastor in San Diego who included a flyer in the weekly bulletin saying that those faithful who voted Democratic would face the eternal fires of hell. Seems a bit harsh. Looks like I am headed for Hades.

Certainly Catholics who used the cruelest slurs possible  when they read a column by the Boston Globe reporter that stated  a position on abortion by a candidate (in this case Clinton) is not the only issue to judge her worthiness for the highest office. Seems that Pope Francis is trying to get social justice on the agenda of Catholics and not make the Church a one issue organization.

Certainly the media, mainstream and Internet outlets, for creating and fostering a climate of misinformation, disinformation, biased reporting, lie-telling and unsubstantiated leaking all in an effort to bump up ratings.

Certainly some angry voters who threaten violence, pledge to carry weapons to voting sites, wear the most vile T-shirts, and openly suggest that candidates should be shot just don’t understand that civility and mercy go hand in hand.

There is still some time left in the Year of Mercy, but it looks like the outcome of the election will not quiet those who refuse to embrace the Pope’s message. Now not every American voter is a Catholic, but mercy is a universal value and really should be above, way above politics.

 


Hope vs.The Scream

October 28, 2016

The difference between the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2016 presidential election may best be described through art. You may remember the iconic poster of Shepard Fairey with a depiction of Obama and the word “Hope.” The poster was a big seller and is still probably hanging in some basement playroom of a grown-up millennial. Of course there is always hope but that noble goal has taken quite a beating over the last eight years.

But in today electoral climate the art work that best describes the political climate should be Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. I am sure you have seen the expressionist painting of the gaunt hairless man with wide eyes and a huge open mouth holding his ears and yelling out a loud scream. If there ever was a proper depiction of the mood of the American electorate in this dismal election season it must be Munch’s “The Scream.”

By huge margins Americans can’t wait to see this hateful campaign come to an end and their screams are accurate representations of what they think of the two candidates and the state of our democracy. Screams are usually a form of emotional release, but they are screams nonetheless, and unfortunately, whoever wins, the screams will continue.

If the polls are right, Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States but she may instantly regret winning and engage in her own loud scream. Republican members of Congress, conservative pundits and the army of the “deplorables” will engage in their own screaming and do anything to make President Clinton II miserable and ineffective.

It may be cathartic if on November 9th we all go outside and scream just to let the political frustrations out of our system. But it may be wise to get in the habit of screaming at those in power on the day after the inauguration, January 21st. Who knows, maybe the noise will force them to listen to reason. Not.


Women Rule

October 12, 2016

Unless Hillary Clinton is found out to be a paid agent of the Russians or sexually abused a male campaign worker it is highly likely that she will win the presidential election on November 8th. If she does become the 45th President of the United States she can thank the women of America.

Even before the Pussygate scandal there were clear trends that women were abandoning Donald Trump in droves and headed over to Hillary. New polls in the coming days will only verify this electoral trend. As for the guys, they still buy into the Make America Great Again promise, the attack against political correctness, and the strongman proclivities of the Donald. The fact that Trump knows little about the Constitution, the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances and of course democracy seems less important to men as they have bought into the “kick the bums out” mantra.

Women on the other hand are not just so much champions of democratic values and practice as they see through the rantings of Trump. Women more so then men see the benefits of working together toward a goal, avoiding rash decisions, engaging  in compromise rather than confrontation, and putting more emphasis on solving domestic issues such as health care, education, and poverty rather than “macho” issues such as defense spending, corporate power, and using our military to send a message to our adversaries. These of course are generalizations but women do see politics differently and define leadership and decision-making as based on caution and pragmatism not on testosterone levels. Acting and talking tough are not the common ways women address a problem or seek a solution to a problem.

If Hillary Clinton is to succeed even in a small way as the next president she will need women to stay with her and validate the benefits of the female way of running a country. The damage that Donald Trump has done to the American ethos and psyche is enormous and will not just fade away on November 9th or after the oath of office is taken on January 20th. Hillary is no saint, that is for sure;she will carry a ton of baggage into the White House. But what she does have is political skill, government experience and a woman’s approach to bringing people together.


The Political Wisdom of Rod Stewart

October 3, 2016

One of my favorite Rod Stewart songs from yesteryear is “Reason to Believe”. No one would describe the Scottish/British rocker as a political pundit or philosopher but the words to ” Reason to Believe” in many ways hit at the heart of today’s electoral and democratic malaise. As Rod says in “Reason to Believe”:

” If I listened long enough to you, I’d find a way to believe it’s all true.Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried, still I look to find a reason to believe.”

In this terrible 2016 election cycle Americans are desperately looking for a reason to believe, but know that the candidates, mostly Trump, but Hillary too, lie straight-faced and bring decent voters and patriotic citizens to tears.

Politics is supposed to be an honorable profession where the best and the brightest make Americans feel confident about the future knowing that the national interest, the common good will prevail. They want to have a reason to believe, but instead face lies, half-truths, money-grubbing excesses, shady deals, secrecy, false promises, careless actions and hurtful tirades.

So how did we get into this mess, where the choices for leader of the free world make people cry? There are a laundry list of reasons from middle class anger, to money-driven politics, to influence-peddling interest groups, to a ratings-obsessed media, to congressional incompetence. And don’t forget that we as a people are culpable as we pay scant attention to matters of state and then get mad when things go wrong.

What may save this country and our democracy from falling deeper into political distress is that the American people continue to seek a reason to believe; they want their leaders to be straight with them, to care about their safety and security, to work to improve their lives, and to end the petty disputes that paralyze the governing process.

You could say that there is always hope, but over the last eight years hope didn’t work out so well. What this nation needs now is the truth, straight talk, and positive steps that instill confidence, in other words a reason to believe.