Category Archives: 2016 elections

The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

.

The decision laying on the table


In the last critical hours before the American people decide their new leadership, the hyperbole will mount into near hysteria. Much, if not most, of what is said is either irrelevant or grossly inaccurate. Even the descriptive monologues of The Talking Heads are either exaggerated or dead wrong.
No, it is not certain this is the most important election in history, even recent history. That would have to left to historians with a more dispassionate view decades if not centuries from now.
No, it is not the most dramatic or controversial presidential election ever. Greybeards will remember when a dashing, young, handsome utilities executive organized the balconies at Philidelphia in 1940 to wrestle away the convention from the floor and domination of the historic Taft family of Cincinnati. [In many ways he set the style for the Kennedy brothers a generation or so later.]
No, not the most drama ever? going to work an early November 1948 morning on an overnight shift through an empty Time Square bereft of its NYC Democrats only to find a few minutes later that Harry S Truman had won a victory that surprised almost everyone included the professional politicians.
American presidential campaigns have always been as much show and tell as serious electoral proceedings. The parties were one of the few major governing features the Founding Fathers did not envisage. But even the otherise untouchable George Washington complained to his Thomas Jefferson follower, soon to be president himself, that Democratic-Republican critics were out of hand in their fight against they saw as the royalist Federalists around the first president.
None of this is to minimize the importance of the decision coming in next week’s voting booths. [Early voters by mail or whatever as a new innovation not to be discounted]. The voters are being given a choice of two candidates who may represent more differences than usual. They are not reflected in the policy arguments – which have been few and far between. Hillary Clinton, despite her enormous reliance on the Baracl Obama Presidency’s support, would likely drift quickly away from many of his policies, the disastrous Obamacare and the American overseas withdrawal where she is quietly much more hawkish.
But it is the tone that sets the two contenders apart, not their differences on policies. One has to take Donald Trump’s more flamboyant throw-away proposals with more than a dash of salt. Yes, Washington and the American people have tired of bearing what they consider an overload for the maintenance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But the argument, like all policy conundrums, is complex: is the solution in an expansion of European forces in thegface of new Russian aggression in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine. There are the complicated payments for resident American forces [which in any event would have to be maintained if in North America]. It’s an old and complicated argument, as old as the Treaty itself. But as the most successful alliance in history, NATO won”t be abandoned overnight whatever Trump’s throwaway suggestion.
But what Trump is adding to the political mix is a sense of the amateur, the non-professional political – one he rides to success on and cherishes. He may know, as he claims and which seems likely, that as a successful big businessman he has more than the novice’s share of understanding of how the system operates. That makes him, he claims in an interesting argument, the one to best tackle and reform it.
But what really sets this election apart – if, indeed, it is that unique – is that that the amateurism which Trump represents and the knowledgeable if tarnished professionalism of Hillary introduce a new and basic “feel” to the contest. There’s little doubt that Trump has reversed the traditional party roles, the mystic that the Democrats since at least Franklin Roosevelt’s time that they represented the little people and their Grand Old Party opponents were the creatures of Wall Street. We may never see those speeches Hillary gave at enormous fees for the corporations [nor Bill gold auxiliary speaking tours from the Clinton Foundation] but her ties to big capital are now well known.
The big policy questions may indeed be how much Trump could and would change major trends in the U.S. economy with his “amateurism”. Some of his [and Hilary’s] economic promises are downright foolish. Neither can nor would “return” the “jobs” they are promising. Washington’s actual contribution to the economy – even with such expensive outlays as FDR’s and Obama’s – has minimal effect. In fact, what business craves at the moment is the withdrawal of Washington’s bear hug. Meeting the demand for jobs against a tsunami of technology which is routinely eliminating them would be an enormous feat; America’s economy even traveling at its current slow rate demonstrates that new phenomenon.
So what’s at stake in a few hours is not thoughtful contradiction of ideas but the contest between a rank if talented amateur and a gifted is tarnished politico.
sws-11-04-16

Plugging, common sense and precision


It was inevitable, of course, that when The Digital Revolution spawned The Information Revolution, it would simultaneously open up The Misinformation Revolution.
If anyone, anywhere, anytime – except perhaps in China – can gap on the internet and pontificate, a great deal of what is there is bound to be even worse than nonsense, but poisonous. The only defense is a resort to history, which seems to have gone out of style as an academic discipline, and common sense.
Here are cases in point:
The CN-NPR war against the candidacy of Donald Trump, whatever your own views about The Donald, constantly harps on the theme of the minority vote which they conclude he will not receive. Mebbe. But it is well to remember that in the past – with the enormous exception, granted, of 2008 and 2012, and for obvious reasons — was never a major factor in elections. Even registered black voters notoriously did not vote, and the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, less half as much as they. It remains to be seen if Pres. Barack Obama’s face, and the incredibly honed digital machine his supporters built, has reversed these historic trends.
Speaking of Hispanics. There are none. There are Americans who language in their household – or perhaps their only language in parts of the Southwest – is Spanish, properly Castellano. But, for example, antagonism between Mexico and Cuba in the Spanish Empire was the feud to end all feuds. That carried on among their progeny in the U.S. The Florida and New Jersey Cuban minorities, because of the flight of many of them and their antagonism to the Castro regime, have in the past been Republican with notable exceptions, e.g. Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey (2006–Present), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 13th district [993-2006]. The flirtation with Raúl Castro of the Obama Administration is likely to end the erosion which was taking place among younger Cuban Americans in recent years. Puerto Ricans is the largest Spanish-speaking minority in Florida; they cannot vote in federal elections in Puerto Rico. They tend to be Democrats because of the long affiliation the first popularly elected governor of the Rican Commonwealth Luis Muñoz Marín local social democratic party was tied to the Democrats’ New Deal on the Mainland. California Mexican-Americans, when they vote tend, to be indeed solidly Democratic, but the Bushes and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has cut heavily into their formerly Democrat base. By the way, all speak Spanish but most Mexicans will admit – unless they come from their own Caribbean coast, e.g. Tampico – that they have great difficulty understanding Cubans and Puerto Ricans’ Spanish.
The Trump campaign keeps trumpeting a “fact”; the candidate earned more votes than any GOP primary candidate in history , they argue, in his primary race with 17 opponents whom he liquidated [or did more or less so until Ted Cruz’ ghost showed up at the third day of the Republican convention]. The “fact” is indisputable, but in no small part explained by another fact: the current estimate of the U.S. population is 322.48 [not counting an unknown number of illegals], more than double the 163.03 million estimated in 1954. Obviously, what is considered the minority political party – kept under an Electoral College handicap by the huge and continuing Democratic majorities in New York and California – has gained spectacularly? With an unprecedented number of candidates all salivating at the possibility of running against a “third Obama administration masquerading as Hillary Clinton, that impetus would have been even stronger. There was large numbers of Democrats and independents, in the states where registration can be changed easily, switching their party affiliation to Republican to take part in the free-for-all.
The CNNers and NPRers are trumpeting the divisions of the just ended Republican Convention, again, as the first time ever, etc. In fact, in the modern era both political parties have been coalitions of regional forces – often at ideological loggerheads with one another but both more interested in power than more egests. The Talking Heads ignore, for example, the fact that the Democratic Party which ruled [under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman] for two decades was a coalition of segregationists [“The Solid South, Dixiecrats, etc], highly personal urban political “machines [Tammany in NYC, Hague in Jersey City, Daley in Chicago and Pendergrass in Kansas City – from which Truman, himself emerged], the AFL-CIO unions, socialists and Communists, and FDR’s “kitchen cabinet” of academic advisers. Furthermore, vice presidents – to “balance” ticket geographically – virtually disappeared with FDR’s firing of Henry Wallace, an Iowa and agricultural society icon, in 1936. [I know; I was writing editorials in my hometown weekly supporting Wallace and the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee!] So-called platform committees in both parties have been irrelevant in terms of influencing the candidates’ policy but simply a combat ring for battling. Party apparatchiks.
So what’s the lesson here? Obviously, don’t believe everything The Talking Heads say with great authority. [It’s something of a delight to listen to one noted female star that has suddenly blossomed into an expert on the Mideast!] Remember, — at least for the time being –Google, and there are dictionaries, the Britannica, to check them out. But most of all maintain your own skepticisms – everything on the Internet is not The Word!
sws-07-21-16

Faked Obituary


Reports of the demise of the Republican Party are premature.
It makes good copy for Fox News and the few other slightly serious current spectacle reports. But the Talking Heads who spout this prediction have forgotten if they ever knew much about the history of American political parties.
They argue capture of the leadership of the Party by a billionaire populist TV star whose own past political inclinations were not those of the Grand Old Party candidate for president has led to its bifurcation. On the one side are the Trumpeters and those who have joined his bandwagon and on the other are the rock-ribbed conservative ideologues. The later dominated the Party’s serious discussions even if over more than a half century – except for the Goldwater anachronistic nomination of 1964 – their presidential candidates have been much further to the left. Even the vaunted Ronald Reagan, despite his iconic reincarnation, more often than now is admitted, turned his back on conservative decisions as he compromised for an intensely popular presidency.
The Trump takeover of the Party’s steering wheel, as a matter fact, looks very much like the seizure of the GOP from the conservatives then led by Cincinnati’s Taft family by Wendell Wilkie in 1940. Then a former Democrat, a Wall Street businessman, — and one from the utilities sector which had been the target of much of Franklin Delano Rosevelt’s own populist rhetoric — stampeded the nominating convention. He loaded the galleries and perhaps was the antecedent of the Kennedy brothers a couple of generations later and their manipulation of the media and public opinion.
Aa it turned out, of course, Wilkie didn’t have a chance against FDR despite Roosevelt’s violation of the old axiom – reputedly laid down by George Washington –against third terms. But he did develop into a statesman and it was his role as much as that of Michigan’s Republican Sen. Arthur Vandeberg to fight the old-line isolationism of the GOP in a new world dominated by American economic power.
But the conservative core, licking its wounds, remained an important part of the Republican Party. Today’s argument that the GOP is facing death through internecine warfare between its two radically contradictory wings doesn’t hold up.
First off, American political parties – for the overwhelming majority of their histories – have been amalgamations of often diametrically conflicted forces. That arises, as much as anything from the fact that any national party is a continental organization, a vast collection of local political forces in the many different locales and conditions of American life from ocean to ocean and now beyond.
The current crepe hangers ignore the history of these kinds of parties, even in recent history. It was after all a collection of the most disparate groups with whom FDR came to power in 1932. The Democrats, who held power, and dominated American political life for the next half century were a very, very strange combination. They consisted of a segregationist, ultra-conservative Southern Democrat contingent, setting the pace particularly in the Congress. There were the Big City Machines, largely built on immigrant Irish political wit and the new urbanites who could be corralled and shepherded to the voting booths. There were the Socialists and Communists activists, few but disproportionately responsible for the hard slugging of policy formulation and implementation. And all this was capped – during FDR’s lifetime – by a Hudson River bsquire pretending to be aristocracy. It could not have been more disparate. But it held together then, as the Republicans will now, by the search for power.
It remains to be seen whether this division within the Party will keep it from power. While their divisions restrained the Democrats through the 30s and 40s, it did not keep them out of the White House and in control of the House of Representatives for almost half a century. It begs belief that even the most die-hard conservative ideologue will not come over to Trump leadership if it continues to bring “moderates”, independents, and even a new crop of “Reagan Democrats” into a strengthened party. That, after all, is the road to power and that it is what it is all about. Conservatives will persuade themselves with some justification, that even in a Trump pragmatic administration they could burrow from within to achieve some limited conservative goals. And besides, the alternative is the Hillary Clinton ogre!
sws-05-06-16

.

Spoilsport


We have held our fire in the increasingly bitter controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency.
The truth is that our feelings were mixed.
We yield to no one in our growing concern – and contempt – for the self-appointed “elite” which from “Inside the Beltway” is attempting to run the country for the benefit, they tell us, of the rest of us. Nothing could be more antagonistic to the concept the American Republic and its dedication to democracy.
On the other hand, we find The Donald something of an enigma. He certainly has fire in his belly and is in the good populist fight to express the exasperation and resentment of a large part of the population toward the leadership. But taking up arms against the elite is not enough; it requires from a leader not only knowledge of the policy issues and alternative solutions to those problems, but savvy about the process. That’s where Trumpism leaves off – it has been almost exclusively foot stamping and bellicose rhetoric.
But we concede that even that has served a purpose. It has shaken up the all too conformist political hacks of both parties, all too willing to get along to go along. In our complicated lifestyle, it is all too easy for the great mass of voters to leave their politics to surrogates. After all, few of us have the time and energy – and money — to pursue politics at the level of participation in organizations that must carry on the intricate poll-sitting that is required to build political machines and support in the fifty states.
That brings us to our current complaint.
It’s much too easy for the Trumpets to yell and scream about The Establishment and the domination of a corrupt Republican Party National Committee. Trump leads that kind of talk, of course. But is it really accurate?
The so-called GOP Establishment is a pretty large and accommodating group. As far as we know, it admits anyone who has, again, the time, energy and wherewithal to participate in the Party activities. True, enough, that includes a lot of Party faithful who have been elected to public office. Why would it not? Most have put in long hours and often sacrificed other interests to become a part of a vast machine. After all, the state committees and their organization are pretty much built from the ground up, not the creatures of the Republican National Committee as some of Trumps’ supporters have claimed.
When the chosen delegates in a state like Colorado turn out to be fulltime political activists and officials of the state parties, it is hardly surprising. True enough, as the Trumpeters have argued, these are not the new voters – many of them disaffected Democrats – who are flocking to Trump by the tens of thousands. But neither are they necessarily unrepresentive professionals who do not echo the new mass of voters who have endorsed Trump in one way or another.
The fact is that Trump, perhaps precisely because he is a one-man band shouting and screaming slogans we want to hear, hasn’t taken the time and effort [and money?] to organize local delegates. They are “delegates”, that is, they are semi-professionals whom the rest of us busy voters normally hand off the chores of nominating candidates for office, putting together the machinery which gets them through several ballots, and, ultimately, setting up the major campaigns between the two parties.
What we see happening now, of course, is that at the same time Trump is being forced to put some meat on the bones of his slogans for the coming more serious policy debate, his followers are also getting down into the mud of selecting delegates. That they didn’t do it before is less a case of their having been purposely excluded than that they thought – or perhaps didn’t think – they could wage a successful campaign without state and national organizations.
Whether the Trumpets can manage to put this kind of machine together before the opening of the convention in July remains to be seen. If they don’t, and Trump does not roll up the necessary majority of delegates before the convention opens, that first ballot is likely to be the only one he wins, before his enthusiastic but amateurish following dissolves, as the old tried and true selection profess continues on its way. But blaming it on the system rather than their lack or misplaced efforts is a false charge by Trump and his followers.
sws-04-19-16

What is Obama up to?


At 54, Barack Obama may well believe – and with more than a little justification – that the political world still has something in store for him.
But with the search for the new secretary-general of the United Nations now well under way with the usual East 42nd Street suspects, that doesn’t seem a job some of us thought for which he might be angling. Why else would be entrust so much of his “transformation” foreign policy to hapless international organizations?
Just because we are suspicious doesn’t mean we are paranoid. But one note has struck us in his many recent interviews. The rather badly handled one with Fox News’ Chris Wallace comes to mind. Wallace couldn’t figure out how to frame his questions to keep control of the narrative, and so when Obama began his superficial philosophizing, Wallace had to jump in ineffectively to give us mostly jabberwocky.
Still Obama did make a point worth noting. It was interpreted by the Talking Heads, quite rightly as a nasty crack at the Brits, so often a target of his derision and disrespect. When asked for the worst mistake of his administration, he said it was the failure to anticipate what would happen after the Qadaffi regime in Libya was brought down. Of course, his critics might find another half dozen or more egregious examples. He said he had not anticipated what would come with regime change and that he had left it to Cameron who had dropped the ball.
But we found it interesting that he did not kiss this question off as he did so many other direct interrogations from Wallace. He might very well have said that history would be the judge of his mistakes, a not uncommon answer other presidents have given the not terribly original question. Much was made his blaming the Libyan disaster on his not unknown object of antagonism, London..
But bringing up Libya at this particular time was not very helpful to Hillary Clinton, running more scared than had been anticipated for the Democratic nomination. Bringing up Libya at a time when Republican Congressional investigators are still going after her role as Secretary of State in the death of an American ambassador and three other U.S. officials at Benghazi wasn’t very helpful to the Hillary campaign. And the whole “leading from behind” strategy which has been such a target for his critics, was hardly a subject he would have wanted to get into, one would have assumed.
Just a coincidence? We wonder for we find the President’s public positions in the present campaign for the Democratic nomination a rather strange one. Yes, he has said, it would be a good thing to have a woman president. And he has endorsed Hillary’s credentials for the post. But he has not endorsed her, nor has his vice president.
Given what is likely to be a highly contested general election tussle between Hillary and whoever comes out of the Republican scrounge, the Obama endorsement as soon as possible would seem to be the order of the day. After all, it is pretty clear that as Hillary – if and when she gets the nomination – comes closer to the general election, she is going for crass political reasons to have to put distance between herself and an Obama Administration which is more and more criticized and a president who appears to have, at least for the moment, lost his mojo.
Obama’s legacy, as we are constantly told is a high priority concern of his, is increasingly up for grabs. Obamacare, his only major domestic accomplishment, almost daily turns into a bigger disaster. His strategy of an orderly retreat from what he regards as American overcommitment overseas, is bleeding at every regional conflict where U.S. intervention and leadership had been the order of the day for a half century.
So the relationship between Obama and the nominee for president may well decide whether he has any future political role. And that may be why he is playing a cat-an-mouse game with the Hillary campaign and her supposed nomination.
sws-04-15-16

Conventionphobia


True enough, the world might come to a sudden end at any moment. Scenarios aplenty have existed in our fiction for a long time, and in the more serious speculation of many learned gentlemen and ladies scholars.
But a “contested” Republican presidential nominating convention is not the end of the world despite what you have heard from many if not most of The Talking Heads. Nor would this honored exercise in electoral procedure signal the selfdestruction of the Republican Party. In fact, it was until relatively recent times dating from the mid-19th century the way the process of choosing our presidents ran. As late as 1976. for example, Pres. Gerald Ford – seeking popular election after replacing the disgraced Richard Nixon after his Watergate resignation – came into the convention with more delegates. But he was challenged by Ronald Reagan. “Reagan’s Raiders”, an enthusiastic and determined Texas delegation almost persuaded enough to come over to him but Ford beat them off by promising government benefits and sinecures.
Our hunch – and like everybody else we have been so wrong so many times in writing him off – is that Donald Trump will not enter the convention in Cleveland in mid-July with the required 1237 delegates in his pocket. Now that is only one more than is necessary for a majority of the 2,472 delegates from the various states [the Distrct of Columbia and associated territories].
It does include, of course, a certain number of professional GOP politicians, what the Trumpeters keep calling “The Republican Establishment”. But, by the way, that is a term that confuses us no end: is that the Republican National Committee? The RNC in 1952 was expanded to 145 members. [It now actually has 168.] It includes the state party chairmen, if that state voted Republican in 2012, or has a Republican majority in their congressional delegation [both House and Senate], or has Republican governors. That is a pretty wide bunch of politicos, certainly not the Wall St. Republican Eastern Establishment so long associated with the Bushes and other “moderate” Republicans.
Then there is the complicated test of the first vote. Most states require their delegations to vote for the candidate who either won their primary [or their caucus] in the proportion of their victory – or all that state’s delegation if it is a state with a rule a majority vote for one candidate takes all the state’s delegation.
Marco Rubio is said to have lined up 171 delegates who originally supported him, but under some state rules, have now been “freed” in the first ballot, to continue to support him. His aim is obviously to block Trump. The Alaska GOP, for example, that allocated Rubio’s five delegates in their 28 delegation to Trump and Cruz, but has now announced that since the actual delegates have not yet been chosen, they will now go back to Rubio. Speculate! Speculate! Speculate” Can Rubio hold on to their loyalty, especially after the first vote when most delegates will be unleashed, and if so what will he do with them?
By the way, the state Republican Parties, either through their own rules, or the rules of primary [or caucus] set up by state law, govern the selection of delegates. And while they may at times hiss and cajole, the RNC can’t do much about the individual state’s process. Although, again, there have been times, in the worst of cases, when there was a fight on the convention floor to block a state’s delegation for what the other delegates saw as good and sufficient reason.
But there is nothing sinister, nor for the most part for those who want to follow the game [although the Mainstream Media’s poor reporting isn’t helping], is there anything g underhanded. Talk of “stealing” delegates is ridiculous. Electoral democracies – and nobody has yet invented a better form or are they likely to do so any time soon – are always an expression of loyalty and desire and sometimes compromise to achieve political objectives.
It’s important, however, to understand that this convention – if it does open with no candidate with the majority of delegates – is not going to be “brokered”. If the digital revolution and social media have given us nothing else, it is the end of cabals in which a few highly skilled [and often corrupt] politicians smoked their stogies and drank their Bourbon [or Scotch] in smoky backrooms and traded huge blocks of delegates under their aegis.
No, if Trump doesn’t make it, it will be one grand political free-for-all. It may even bring back some interest and sympathy for the whole process, now being negated by a lackluster leading Democratic candidate and a much too low-level GOP debate.
sds-04-06-16

The American Iran disaster


It is hard to exaggerate the strategic disaster that has befallen American relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At a time of increasing acts of terror – unfortunately now “lone wolf” murders that have no central command – the Obama Administration in a series of encounters has emboldened one wing of Islamic terrorism. It may be ironic but hardly laudatory that the U.S. and its allies are now more dependent for their ultimate defense on the conflict between the two wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and their terrorist offspring.

The Obama Administration early on lost its strategic bearings in dealing with a fanatical regime in Tehran aiming to become the hegemonic power in the Mideast. That defeat is at every level – strategic and military, economically, and in propaganda. It is true, of course, that much of the difficulties of dealing with the mullahs predates Obama’s seven years in the White House. One might even, at the risk of offending those who quite rightly worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan, recall his failure to cope with Tehran. It was, after all, Reagan who did not retaliate after calling the suicide bombings which killed 299 American and French Marines in October 1983 in Beirut a “despicable act”. There was circumstantial evidence of Iranian complicity. Contradictorily, Reagan withdrew from the Lebanese peacekeeping force.

When a grass roots movement against the mullahs took to the streets following the stolen president elections of 2009 calling for American assistance, the Obama Administration turned its back on them. For all the talk about moderates and radicals in the Tehran regime, there is little hope that its leaders would modify their regional aggression and worldwide terrorist activity so long as it is successful in increasing Iranian influence. That is very much the case now with full-fledged allies on the Mediterranean: Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reeling but still functioning al Assad regime in Syria, and even the Sunni Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Instead, Obama has sought to make some sort of pact with the mullahs, apparently believing American concessions would satisfy their hunger for international aggrandizement. It is only likely to feed it. The lengthy negotiations to limit Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction have turned into a farce. When Tehran objected to inspection of their military installations as part of the enforcement arrangements, the issue was simply dropped by Washington. At the very moment the success of the agreement was being heralded in Washington, Iran launched tests of new intercontinental ballistics missiles in defiance of UN Resolutions which could one day strike the U.S..

It may be a long time before we know why a group of American sailors were captured and then publicly humiliated by Tehran to prove U.S. impotence in the region. We may not know soon whether it was indeed a navigation accident and engine problems which called for a quick and nonconfrontational return, or perhaps even more threatening, Iranian technical capacity to interfere with the ship’s GPS. But the spectacle will highlight the reputation of the U.S. in the region for a very long time, and undermine any American strategy. Again, as in the swaps with the Taliban, Washington has given back a disproportionate number of proven terrorists – including some involved in bombings against Jewish installations in Argentina, and at the very moment a new administration in Buenos Aires has again promised to take up investigations of the incidents. It seems not only possible but likely, that like the released Guantánamo prisoners, most soon will be back at their trade.

The removal of sanctions and return of blocked funds probably exceeding $150 billion will be significant in helping the mullahs through their current economic crisis brought on by heavy military expenditures – including maintaining Iran Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria. Renewed oil and gas sales in the price-gutted world market will help only marginally. But there is little hope for regime change without substantial assistance from abroad. That, obviously, will not come from this American administration, leading from behind to enhance rather than diminish the major threat to peace and stability posed by the Tehran fanatics.

sws-01-18-16

 

Democratic Taiwan


Largely ignored by the mainstream media, Friday’s Taiwan elections have enormous implications not only for the Island’s 25 million people, but for China – and the U.S.

Ironically, the election of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] leader, Tsai Ing-wen, a woman at that — reinstalled a movement dedicated to maintaining Taiwan’s separate identity, the Island remains essentially a Chinese culture. It marks only a second time in its 2,000-year a Chinese entity has peacefully transferred power. The DPP earlier won power in 100-1008 as a minority government.

The meeting last fall of Beijing’s Pres. Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s outgoing Pres. Ma Ying-jeou was not only unprecedented, but finally marked the tacit recognition by the Communists of the Island’s stature. Beijing now has to bite its lip, having apparently Communist leadership thought that protocol concession after six decades would help Ma’s Party.

Tsai’s victory speech was a ringing declaration for preservation of the current status quo and a call on Beijing to avoid provocations. With slightly hunched shoulders, shy for a public figure, 59-year-old Tsai made it clear she and her Party – a large section dedicated to formal independence – would oppose amalgamation with the Mainland. That flies in the face of the Communists’ claim that Taiwan is an integral part of “One China” which Taiwan and Mainland leadership acknowledged to reduce tensions in 1992. Meanwhile, Beijing refuses to renounce force in resolving the relationship between the two countries.

The defeat of Tsai’s opposition, the Kuomintang, was to a considerable extent a reaction to Ma’s series of economic agreements with Xi and a movement toward some political arrangement. A downturn in the Taiwan economy and increased unemployment also played a large role.

In part, of course, Ma’s concessions to Mainland integration were only recognizing the Island’s growing economic ties to the Communists. Taiwanese economic relations are now a significant economic force for both Mainland China and Taiwan. Two-way trade is well over $350-billion, with the transfer of technology and resident Taiwanese management an important element in the Mainland rapid economic growth. More recently Taiwan authorities have permitted Mainland investment, including a highly controversial Chinese Mainland $2.7 billion participation in Taiwan’s semiconductor industry

Washington’s relationship to the Taiwan regime has fluctuated. When the Kuomintang [Nationalist] leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949after his defeat by the Communists, Washington endorsed Chiang’s effort to reconquer the Mainland. [U.S. clandestine forces aided Nationalist military who had spilled over the borders into Burma, Thailand and Nepal.] During the Korean War, more than 20,000 former Nationalist soldiers defected from Communist North Korea to U.S.-led forces to join their old comrades in Taiwan. In 1958, when Beijing threatened to invade Taiwan, the U.S. responded with an implied threat to use nuclear weapons to prevent a Mainland takeover. When Pres. Jimmy Carter swapped recognition of “China” from Taiwan to the Communists, a rebellion of Congressional Taiwan sympathizers passed the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 pledging continued U.S. defense of Taiwan including arming its forces.

Meanwhile Taiwan has become an economic powerhouse – the fifth largest in Asia and 19th in worldwide purchasing power — with what now looks like stable political institutions. Real growth has averaged about 8% over the past three decades. Old labor-intensive businesses have been steadily shoved off-shore, replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries.

But Taiwan is again more than an important trading partner for the U.S. [roaring toward $65 billion both ways in 2015.] With an increasingly aggressive China threatening freedom of the seas in the East China and South China seas, it again has taken on strategic importance. In December Washington after dragging its feet through the Bush and Obama Administrations finally okayed $1.8 billion in weapons for Taiwan over Communist objections. Although the package, to be delivered over several years, contains two decommissioned US Navy frigates, surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles and amphibious assault vehicles, most observers see it as inadequate to deter any Mainland military adventure.

Maintaining a stable and democratic Taiwan is an essential part of any American Asian strategy. It needs to be high on the list for reexamination by the new president in 2017. The issue is pressing all the more given the Obama Administration’s failing effort for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announced “pivot to Asia” to meet the growing threat of Chinese aggression.

sws-01-16-16

 

Wrong man, wrong job


Pres. Barak Obama repeatedly refers to the end of his time in office and that he is no longer campaigning. There is more than a little ambiguity there, however, for his modus operandi is a permanent campaign – even when it is for more limited objectives than the highest office in the land.
But now come rumors from the Middle East that he is, indeed, campaigning, and for a new and powerful job. The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida says he has been secretly sounding out Democrats, Republicans and Jewish officials in the U.S. for support for a campaign to become the UN chief.
There is no confirmation anywhere of these Arab media reports, but they take the possibility serious and also refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already engaged in a campaign to head Obama off.
Al-Jarida says Netanyahu is recruiting the Persian Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, his new tacit allies in their fear and opposition to Iran. Obama’s attempt to reach new accomodation with the Persian mullahs has raised the hackles of the Arabs and raised the ante in the Arab-Persian, Sunni-Shia conflicts.
The Jerusalem Post claims a source close to Netanyahu doesn’t deny that the prime minister is aiming to “torpedo the Obama project.” The source added: “His presidency was characterized by Washington’s moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and attempts to ally itself with political Islam.”
According to some sources, Obama figures he can somehow resolve the internecine warfare between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Copts and Salafists, and get all “the fifty-seven [UN] states” to support for him as a messianic UN Secretary General. The UN boss is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General’s selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The UN General Assembly, dominated by anti-American leftist and autocratic regimes, the argument runs, would support even an American candidate, one who has made reducing U.S. power abroad his principal strategy. But an okay from China and Russia, both of whom as permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a veto over the secretary-general’s appointment, is another question.
It seems likely that the whole story is another of those wild figments of the imagination which characterize the Arab world and its media. But, then, Obama was a most unlikely candidate for president of the U.S. and there is still something of a puzzle of just how he made it to the office, and furthermore, was reelected. And one gets the impression that outrageous ambition is not far from the center of the President’s personality.
We can’t think of a worse idea, however. Even under the lackluster former South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General whose term ends this year, the office has taken on increased activities never intended in the original UN proposals. Ban, much more than his predecessors, has taken to advancing his own policy proposals, when, in fact, he was supposed to be a creature of the Security-Council limited to its convoluted and often stymied instructions. The office in the hands of an activist like Obama – moving his current controversial presidential initiatives to an international level – would create an unelected, unrepresentative new element into an already increasingly unstable international scene.
Offhand, we don’t have a job for a former U.S. president, still too young and obviously too vigorous, to settle for retirement and elder statesmanship. But running the UN certainly isn’t the right niche.
sws-901-11-16

An Assistant President?


The American presidency is constitutionally and by tradition a very strong executive, our 33rd chief executive Harry S Truman uncharacteristically philosophized. And it sometimes makes less difference what his decision is but that he make one, he is alleged to have concluded. We say “alleged” for the Truman Library holders of his essences can’t find any quote like that. Maybe it was pillow talk between him and his notoriously publicly apolitical wife Bess. Or maybe it is just one of those many aphorisms mistakenly attributed to public figures because, like this one, they seem to fit.

But with that presidential power comes duty of almost limitless extent. Perhaps it could be argued that since Truman’s time those demands have become even heavier. Although thinking back to Harry’s role, his plate was indeed full: picking up after our iconic three term President without so much as a briefing [on the nuclear bomb project, for example], the test of America’s WWII victory immediately by Stalin’s aggression, the rebuilding of Europe, and the Korean War and all its dangers for another worldwide conflict and the test of civilian control of the military with the magnificent Douglas MacArthur, the epitome of the warrior.

Still Truman probably had that talent for administrative discipline which many Presidents, however brilliant and successful or unsuccessful, have not had. Truman came to the presidency with a remarkable life experience: a soldier in World War I, he had seen some of the worst of war. As a would-be entrepreneur who failed miserably at a time of deep economic stagnation. As a politician, he had worked in the bowels of one of the most corrupt but capable Big City Machines. Once in the national legislature, he had conducted what may have been the most successful Congressional investigations ever [the corruption of WWII government contracts][Aide-memoir to Congressman Trey Gowdy!], and, of course, the decision to introduce nuclear weapons to warfare.

Roughly, the U.S. president has three sets of duties, all of them more demanding than any one human being ought to have to carry and which test his abilities every second of the day.

He has first the protocol of president, the ceremonial duties that in other regimes is often handed off to a chief of state with little if any political power.

Secondly, he is the boss, the central figure at coordinating the vast bureaucracy as it goes about its individual tasks. [Truman: “The buck stops here!”] That, of course, includes being the civilian to ride herd over what is now and has been for some time and presumably in the near future the greatest military the world has ever seen.

And thirdly, he has the often delicate but critical role of cajoling his own political party and its adherents and opponents – more often than not the media and the public as well – into carrying out the necessary functions of government and those he would like to impress on it.

The Founders, while anticipating the possibility of a sudden demise of the president, produced a stand-in, the vice president. Logically, they thought, he should be the man defeated by the elected new president with the next most  votes. But it quickly became apparent that didn’t work and the 12th amendment to the Constitution sets up the separate election of a vice president.

Traditionally he had so little to do – except to be the presiding officer over the Senate.  One of the shrewdest and most pithy commentators, John Nance Garner who held the office for two presidential terms, said it was “not worth a bucket of warm piss”. Often, as in the case of Garner and Truman with FDR, they have not even been the president’s confidante.

The contrast with Pres. George H. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, could not be sharper. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Cheney’s politics, he served Bush in a capacity rare to other vice presidents. In no small part, that came from his career – a long list of staff positions both in the Congress and the executive including the presidential staff, a Congressman, secretary of defense, and even a presidential campaign manager. His severe health problems and apparent  lack of ambition for the highest office insured he was not a future presidential candidate. He became perhaps the most important cog in the wheels of the Bush Administration including taking precise policy positions to the president, often rejected.

Cheney became, not the vice president, but the assistant president, taking at least part of the load off an overloaded presidency.

One could have hoped this new pattern would prevail. It may in time.

But in the incumbency, Joe Biden appears more royal than the king, a spear-carrier for Barak Hussein Obama. But given what appears to be the President’s own intimations about who is the smartest man in the room, one has to wonder. A long and hard look shows little evidence of Biden’s long association with foreign affairs impacting the Obama strategy, for example.

Looking at the president current roster of high-flying political candidates, it is Carly Fiorina, the Republican presidential aspirant, who exhibits the qualities which would make for such an  assistant president. Her extemporaneous responses to interviewers are remarkable not only for the rhetoric but for an almost hierarchical outline she immediately accords the issue. Whatever the arguments over her business career, and we tend to the view she navigated a huge ship through a rough sea, she has administration in her dna.

In her case, of course, at 61, she might well go on to the presidency as many vice presidents have done. But in the meantime, we have our candidate for assistant president.
sws-01-09-16

On to the convention!


 

Hooray! Hooray! At this moment there is every expectation that the country’s voters and political aficionados are going to be presented with an old-fashioned open political convention.

The upcoming early primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina seem to be headed for a division of spoils among the hardy crew running for the Republican nomination.

We said “open”’ not, as some of the less historical minded pundits have said, “a brokered convention” To broker a convention – that is for a few political leaders deciding the candidate in a smokefilled backroom – requires their command of “machines”, carefully honed protocoled organizations that can deliver large blocs of votes. Obviously, in these days of digitalization of our society and social media, there is no political mavim however shrewd who can command that kind of following. Rham Emanuel’s difficulties in Chicago, once the home of one of the most formidable Democratic Party machines, shows just how far we have come from the old days. It is a long time since the Christmas turkey could buy a vote!

Instead we have a wild and wooly wrestling match between a large number of candidates. They may be further culled as we get further along into the presidential season. But every indication is that, given their appeals to different arguments in the current political debate, their own individual characteristics, and their ability to continue to tap money for their promotion, we will still end up at convention time with several candidates.

And for us, that would be a great thing. Some of us are old enough to remember when “the rollcall of the states” was just that. It was announcing, sometimes in vote after vote, how individual state delegations – sometimes winner take all, but often themselves divided among the candidates – were tallied. Sometmes, of course, the drama would reach high exhilaration with the outcome of a rollcall in doubt until it was completed. And in the worst [or the best in terms of drama] cases, the rollcalls would go on and on into the exhausting wee hours of a morning.

Returning that kind of excitement, and incidentally debate over issues, to the whole electoral process will be a marvelous thing. For our young people, too blasé about the political process to the extent that large numbers of them do not take part, it will present a new and different aspect of what politics can be. Some would argue, of course, that such shenanigans are not serious, should not be a part of electing the most important political in the world, the president of the United States. We don’t agree. Enjoying a political process, even if it is for the wrong reasons, is to be welcomed, especially since it contributes to the discussion of policy and future government strategies.

There is, of course, a hidden danger. That is that artful candidates may with the help of a corrupt and partisan media swing the vote on the floor with enormous stage effects. The most famous case of that happening was in the 1940 Republican convention when a virtually unknown utilities executive, Wall Street’s GOP candidate, but an enormously attractive young man and executive, organized the balcony in Philadelphia. He won the nomination against the majority of delegates of an older and for experienced candidate, Ohio’s Robert Taft, scion of an important 19th century political family.

Wilkie’s theatricals were to establish a new current in American political life, one that perhaps reached its apex with the campaigns and elections of the Kennedy brothers a couple of generations later. But, a great benefit in the end, Wilkie, who after his defeat by third-termer Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, became a respected public figure, eventually a kind of elder states, an advocate of the great international role America was to play in the post-World War II era.

So let’s now anticipate a great flowering of the American political process. We can’t wait! On to the convention and may the best man win!

sws-01-03-15

Mainline Media in the bullseye!


 

It will come as no surprise, we hope, for our loyal readers that we, like they, are often critical of our colleagues in the media.

But it was with a chuckle this morning that we received a campaign funds solicitation from Ted Criz, running of course for the Republican nomination for president. Cruz, like most of the dozen contestants scampering to keep up with the mob chasing the Grand Old Party’s goldring, is searching for new and different approaches to win money — and votes. And lo and behold! he is now running against “the Mainline Media” as much as against his Republican competitors and, eventually it seems, Hillary Clinton..

We are not sure any more just what that phrase :”mainline media” connotes. But it certainly includes some of our big city slicker publications here in the East and especially one holding up their end in the West.

There was a time in American journalism when we all made the attempt, at least in our news columns, to maintain a certain objectivity. We were supposed to be presenting “both sides of the story”. Of course, it has always been much more difficult than appeared on the surface to our readers, for there are often many more than two sides to an issue. Space and out talent prevented both we and our colleagues performing this miracle.

But the time did come, as the barristers say, when we pretty much abandoned that role.

The late senator and seer Daniel Patrick Moynihan got badly scarred by what he called “the capital press corps” [in those days] when he tried in the Nixon Administration to dissect the problem of poverty in the then Negro, now Afro-American, community. In defending what has come to be generally considered a masterpiece of American sociological writing and the debate over the race issue, Pat also had some things to say about the media.

He had a theory. We are not sure we buy it completely. But it is interesting as a hypothesis to describe the current situation of the mass media – and Cruz’s launch into a battle with it. Moinyhan said, in essence, that what had once been a working class occupation for [then largely] newspapermen had with the growing prosperity of the post-World War II years and the movement to the suburbs, moved to another kind of environment altogether. Now, with their rising living standards, the children of a new elite moved into the old journalists’ shoes – made fashionable and attractive by the increasingly abundant fiction and nonfiction written about it. [Much of it, by the way, far less realistic than Chicago reporter Ben Hecht’s “The Front Page”.]

That meant, in essence, Pat said, that increasingly members of the media                 mp longer saw themselves as sweaty purveyors of as much of the truth as they could present about the embattled social scene around them. Rather, as members of the new elite to which their income if nothing else entitled them, they saw their role less as “telling it as it is” so much as telling their audiences what they should and should not believe and instructing them how to proceed.

That’s at least one pretty good explanation for why we see some of our colleagues tweaking the facts of their coverage to support a more potent effort to persuade their readers. Perhaps you could charge we are not above that either. True, but we do not make the claim to objectivity and omniscience that some of our older, and should we say, more prestigious media voices do.

If Cruz hangs in, and undoubtedly if he does he will continue his thrashing of that “mainstream media”, we are going to enjoy the ride It’s probably a welcomed addition to the barnyard noises that are bound to increase in the long months before November 2016. And we hope our readers will enjoy the noisy concert as well!

sws-11-14-15

 

 

 

 

 

A Chinese bombshell


The unanticipated Singapore meeting Nov.7th [Saturday] of People’s Republic Pres. and Communist Party Boss Xi Jinping and Republic of China [Taiwan] Pres. and Kuomintang Party leader Ma Ying-jeou is a bombshell in Chinese and East Asian affairs.

It is not only the first encounter of the two heads of rival Chinese states and movements since the defeat and retreat of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949, but it is precedent shattering on a number of other counts.

The Beijing Communist regime has always insisted the Taiwan institutions have no validity, that they are in fact the presence of a rogue regional regime in rebellion against their own legitimate central government. Much of the world has not accepted that characterization – and with the stability and exceedingly successful economic model on the Island – has maintained  various nonprotocol relationships with Taipeh.

The U.S. link, considered by both sides as essential to Taiwan’s continued success, was enshrined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. America’s formal acceptance of the Beijing de facto control of the Mainland came after years of Washington refusing “to recognize” a Communist regime. Much of that new role – for example, its veto on the United Nations Security Council – had come from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administrations insistence that Chiang’s China be accorded great power status after its long struggle as a victim of European colonialism and Japanese aggression. But the Act, by a recalcitrant Congress after Pres. Jimmy Carter switched sides, not only maintained an American relationship with the then Kuomintang regime but assured it of continuing military aid support to sustain its independence.

Beijing’s tacitly made a concession to the Taiwan Chinese – and the U.S. – by an offer for reunification under the slogan “one country, two regimes”. But Beijing until now has always refused the protocol concession of treating the Taiwan government as an equal negotiating partner. And, indeed, the forthcoming meeting is being carefully circumscribed by referring to Ma only as Taiwan’s “leader” and describing the summit as a “pragmatic arrangement”.

Hwoever, this abrupt break by Beijing with what was considered an sacrosanct policy is explained by Xi’s growing personalized power structure in Beijing. First and foremost, as a former Communist leader in the coastal regions on the Mainland facing Taiwan, he considers himself an expert on Taiwan politics. That, coupled with his own hard-charging personal takeover of the Communist Party as no leader since Mao Tse-tung in the 1950s, emboldens him to take what other Communist officials would not have dared. By offering some measure of conciliation – although little of substance is likely to come of this particular meeting – he hopes to strengthen Beijing’s current pitch as a responsible member of the world’s family of nations.

A more important explanation is that Xi is lending his support to Ma’s Kuomintang Party, which according to all the polls, has collapsed in anticipation of January elections. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party, with a long history of putting distance between Taiwan and the Mainland, even suggesting formal independence, is now headed for a landslide. Whether, in fact, Xi’s gesture may not backfire is the subject of current debate in Taiwan where the growing unpopularity of the Kuomintang is linked to Ma’s ambitious series of economic and political agreements with the Mainland.

Student groups and other political activitists have been increasingly critical of Ma’s moves. The growing friction between local interests in Hong Kong and Beijing has also influenced public opinion in Taiwan. The same “one country, two regimes” was used to smooth the 1997return of the former British Colony to China. But recent encroachments on local government and, ironically, former British freedom of speech and equality before the law, have been noted in Taiwan.

Only time will tell if Xi has overplayed his hand. But it is certain that this new nuanced play of Chinese forces increases the importance of the U.S.’ own China policy, with Taiwan’s critical strategic geography again a growing factor in aggressive Beijing moves in both the East China and the South China Seas.

 

 

Carson as a human being


 

There is something heart-warming about Ben Carson’s candidacy for the presidency. That’s true whether you are a loyal supporter or just another of the onlookers trying to make up your mind in the near jungle of Republican candidates.

And, again, it is no mystery. Carson represents the best in American life. There may be skeletons in his closet as there are in those of all of us. But nothing vitiates the truly remarkable career of the man, nor for that matter his public statements even when they are considered by many questionable. It is no surprise that when asked which candidate would unite the country as president, six of the 12 focus group participants named Carson. Nor is it a surprise that his favorability ratings are consistently the highest of all the Republican candidates. He also wins on honesty and temperament. They are a reflection of what the voters see in his low-intensity discussion of the issues and his approach to life, generally, as a sincere believer who does not thrust that down your throat.

He is the American dream: a poor child of a long-oppressed minority who with the help of a loving and dedicated parent made it into a long, ultra-sucessful and erudite career, and earned a great deal of money in the process. He learned to practice one of the most demanding aspects of medicine and surgery. And he appears to genuinely believe that after fulfilling that career, he had an obligation to take on a political life for a country he loves, respects and believes needs a new kind of leadership in a crisis of confidence. That is exactly what The Founders intended in another age when they hoped participation in government would be a part-time concern of its citizens, limiting government to only a few non-interventionist activities that only it could perform.

Nor are we among those who are concerned about his several contentious statements. He has compared Obamacare to slavery, and he has a point in that the Affordable Care Act does force on all American citizens a conformity in their most crucial activity they have repeatedly refused to sanction. He has questioned whether a Muslim should become president of the U.S., not an idle speculation if the role of Islam as a political institution demanding complete obedience is reckoned with. He has suggested the possibility had Jews in Germany been able to acquire arms along with other German citizens, they might have not ended in the death camps. It is one of those “ifs” of history which have no answer but worthy of the thought. In fact, and we believe not out of pure prejudice, all these responses won him majority approval among potential voters. As Carson said when he announced his candidacy, “I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician.”

We are not very excited about Carson’s climbing to the top of the polls except as it vindicates a reflection among the voters of appreciation for the American characteristics we believe he demonstrates. At this stage of an even more complex election campaign than any in our lifetime, speculation on the ultimate outcome of the race for the Republican candidacy – or for that matter, still the Democratic one – and the ultimate victor is just that, speculation. Months and many speeches lie ahead. The winner in the early poll in Iowa, where Carson has just pulled ahead of the herd, has never been that much of an indicator of who finally got the nomination.

But what Carson has introduced into the campaign is a tone of rationality, of modesty, of conviviality that conforms an understatement which suggests old fashioned American standards of virtue. That’s why we are glad he is in the campaign, that he continues to best his competitors by being as frank and seeming guilessness, whatever the final outcome of the contest.

sws-10-28-15

A grim anniversary


Fourteen years after a massive and highly sophisticated attack on multiple critical targets in the United States from a foreign invader, the outlook is grim:
The instantaneous rally of the American people in one voice after 9/11 demanding retribution and assurance of no repetition of these catastrophic events has been replaced with a cacophony of bickering about a confused and indecisive foreign policy.
The immediate response of the George W. Bush Administration to destroy the model for any sanctuary providing a base from which any such future attack might result has ended in two contentious, indecisive wars.
The possibility of a similar sanctuary being provided to new jihadists with the same intent not only cannot be ruled out, but in fact, seems almost inevitable given the continuing growth of radical Islam and new terrorist movements employing our own and most novel techniques for social interchange.
Mobilization for what must be seen as a long and complex war against Islamic extremism is beset with contradictory and failing effort. Perhaps most of all, there is a failure to identify correctly the ideological enemy as was done through an intellectual mobilization parallel to the arms buildup during The Cold War.
Worst of all is that even critics of current policies and failures suggest wholly inadequate remedies, if at all, such as Gen. David Howell Petraeus’ proposal that we play one Islamic terrorist faction against another, presupposing intelligence and Machiavellian prowess current U.S. leadership does not have.
This failure to cope with the continuing threat to the U.S. with a studied withdrawal from leadership wherever possible has led to a virtual breakdown of the post-colonial Arab and Muslim political structures. And that has led to a massive movement of displaced persons toward refuge in Europe. Their acceptance, however justified on humanitarian and economic grounds [with the catastrophic decline in Western birthrates and its labor force], is fraught. It is far from clear that post-Christian Europe, with its inability to muster a dedication to a new civic culture, including a failing European Union, can withstand this erosion of its traditions that will come with the onset of this new Muslim totalitarian infusion.
It is possible, of course, perhaps even likely, that the American people will reverse course in 2016, with a new visionary leadership. That happened, of course, after an earlier period of disenchantment and despair, with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s leadership was more psychological and emotional than highly evolved economic and political strategies despite all the attributes now accorded his rallying leadership.
That may not be necessary again. The U.S. is still the overwhelmingly superior power on the world stage with no likely immediate competitor. It still has abundant resources, and above all, a capacity for technological breakthroughs, that makes it possible to once again lead the kind of struggle against Islamic terrorism which eventually caused the Soviet Union to implode. But we are dealing with an old, if reactivated, enemy that always lurks inside the broader aspects of one of the world’s most important religions and its 1.3 billion nominal adherents.
Nor will abandoning “leading from behind” for a new leadership role work wonders quickly. The losses of the past decade will not be accommodated quickly, and to do so will require leadership and a new civil spirit to follow it that is not yet visible in American public life or in the beginnings of the campaign for the new presidency. Candidate Donald Trump may play on the long simmering frustrations and appetite for change, but he does not nor is he likely to provide the kind of informed leadership that is required.
There will be a great deal of oratory during the next few hours recalling the 9/11 tragic circumstances. But the country still awaits a clear and resounding call for a new understanding of our problems and a dedication to overcome them.
sws-09-10-15

.

Lessons to be learned


When the highly deserved praise for our three American heroes the French fast train attack dies down – and we hope it won’t for a while, given all the bad press U.S. uniformed figures have been getting lately – there are some obvious lessons to be learned.
What’s worrisome, again, is that these deductions from what we already know about a complicated situation are not new. As we move toward commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the initial attacks from [the unnameable to the White House] Islamic terrorism, we are beginning to see self-evident measures that need to be greatly reinforced.
They are:
• We are going to need more help from the great majority of the 1.3 million Moslems around the world – and especially in the U.S. where we know there is more integration and identification of immigrants and native born with our own cultural norms. To make this suggestion is not Islamophobia. After all, the terrorists are not coming from Southern Baptists or little old ladies who are stopped and made to take off their shoes in the airport security gates.
• This standard cliché of the quiet boy whom nobody suspected is beginning to wear thin. Either parents are looking the other way, rationalizing aberrant behavior, or there is an epidemic of acting and pretense among young Muslim radicals which would tax the best of Broadway and Hollywood. And we don’t accept the latter. It is incumbent on Muslim parents and relatives to be alert to the seduction of their young by the radicals, whether here or abroad. And when there is any hint of association with the wrong internet sites, wrong companions and too much attendance to the wrong imans in some mosques, it ought to be brought to the police’s attention.
• But perhaps even more important and more obvious that these complicated personal relationships, it is that the Moslem devout must do something about imans, religious leaders, who are spouting hatred and even jihad in some mosques. Among those who follow terrorism – and we suspect among the Muslim faithful – those mosques and those imans are readily identified. Again, religious bigotry which is constantly being purveyed on a scale in some mosques is not occurring in our churches and even in our synagogues where the Israel-Arab solution is a delicate one..
• Something has to be done about not only about better intelligence pursuit of evidence about better exchange and cooperation. Apparently the Spanish, French and Belgian police were all aware of the inclinations of the young Moroccan terrorist on the train and had even had him on various watch lists. Granted that with the vast numbers of young Muslims in Western Europe, the problem of identifying terrorist suspects or candidates for such radicalism is not an easy one. That, of course, has been intensified by large numbers of these young going off to fight one side or the other in Syria. But again, returning to our earlier points, we think there can be a vast improvement in our intelligence and our ability to deal with such loan wolf attacks.
Perhaps Pres. Barack Obama was right to identify Daesh – ISIL, ISI, Islamic State – as a longterm problem for American diplomacy and for the military operations which will be needed to bring it down. But to anticipate a long war is not to prepare to fight one. We think these episodes – apparently this young terrorist had been in Syria and had some relationship with Daesh, emotionally if not through digital communication – prove that the Administration must speed up its mobilization to take on Daesh and destroy it. Their continued success, and their very existence with calls for a new caliphate, only breeds a bandwagon effect among young Muslims who may have other emotional problems but who latch on to jihad as way of expressing them.
Nor can we Americans sit back and assume that the smaller numbers of American citizens and residents of Muslim heritage are going to lessen our own immediate threat. Copycat imitations are bound to come. And it is important that we integrate more thoroughly our own intelligence operations with those of our European allies at the same time we button down local intelligence with the methods apparently used so effectively by the New York Police Department before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s shut them down. There is circumstantial evidence that they had been so important in intercepting numerous plots, although intelligence prohibits listing or numbering them.
For all these reasons, time is of the essence in mobilization against future lone wolf jihadists as the French train incident has once again proved.
sws-08-22-15

Anchor Babies


Anchor Babies
It may be a new nomenclature – odious to some — but it is not a new phenomenon, far from it.
In Sol Sanders’ Mexico: Chaos on our doorstep, 1989, he records how Los Angeles medical services senior officials reported their budgets for prenatal extension clinics was being impacted by growing numbers of Mexican illegal women birthing their children from free. They came then temporarily, they reported, to take advantage of free and better services not available in Mexico, and then returned home, waiting for the time, then, when at 17 under U.S. law their offsprings could choose his or her citizenship. In fact, the practice was even older than that: Sanders’ researcher and translator for the book had a teenage son, whom she had given birth to in California even though she was a Mexican citizen and resident at the time.
Like all the other “undocumented immigrants”, the statistics on how many children are born of illegal migrant mothers – either those in permanent residence or hospital-temporaries – are going to be vague. They will be exaggerated in some quarters and diminished in others for obvious reasons. They media is throwing around 300,000 annually. But since we are even skeptical of the current 11-million figure being tossed about by the media as the number of undocumented here, we wonder.
There, again, there are vast complications: what part of the mothers are have overstayed legitimate visas. [You get a stamp at the immigration cubicle, told to report – if when and and how your presence becomes a real question. But many, probably most, do not report.] And in the past, many of not most of them ha not been Mexican or Central American citizens, but Europeans, Middle Easterners and Asians. That would seem to be all the more so these days with many more migrants coming from those parts of the world – excluding Europe – than in the past.
It is here, of course, that Obamacare, and the growing difficulties of Medicaid and Mtdicare. collide with the problems of the undocumented, perhaps even more than the accusation that the illegals are using other parts of the social welfare system. Hospitals, some supposedly nonprofit but gobbling up private practices at high prices in order to fund their own probably extravagant officials’ salaries and rising medical costs, are carrying a heavy load through the Emergency Room open-doors.
We note a small hospital, probably overexpanded in the past, in a small Virginia village we know, keeps a doctor and nurse on 24-hour standby although rarely used except for the occasional traffic accident or heart attack, together with standby ambulance and first providers.
All this only begins to suggest the real “transformation” which is going to be needed come a new presidency in 2016. The Obama Administration has talked grandiloquently of curing the nation’s long term problems, but there is no reason to believe that Obamacare – whatever its qualities – has done much to attack such basic issues in the medical system. And the growing insurance premiums and increasingly whopping deduction provisos certainly add weight to our argument.
Mr. President 2017, we are waiting with baited breath!
sws-08-28-15

Who’s Obama’s candidate?


It’s a question that may be just over the horizon.
There’s been a lot of talk about Pres. Barack Obama’s concern with his “legacy”. Some of his more robust recent controversial stretches of executive power have been seen as a reaction to six years of less than effective liaison, first with his Democratic controlled Congress, then with a Republican House, and now with both chambers in the hands of his political opponents. It hasn’t left a great bundle of monuments, especially with Obamacare under constant attack.
There’s a general consensus, too, that Obama won the presidency, particularly in the second term, with a unique political machine, maximizing the new digital revolution. There is agreement, too, that much of this was outside the purviews of the once mighty Big City Democratic machines, and that while eroded, that bundle of knowhow could constitute a force in the 2016 elections if resuscitated
All this to say that Obama can be seen as could play an important role in the coming campaign as it gains momentum, even though he keeps saying he has had his last election and no one yet takes seriously hints about the UN Secretary-Generalship coming up shortly.
At the other end of the ballpark, the candidacy of Hillary Clinton is rapidly loosing steam. She originally went for a strategy of coronation, as a former First Lady, Senator, and longtime political insider But she has little if any of the charisma of her husband who comes across even to his enemies as a somewhat quintessential Peck’s bad boy. Nor, especially after the Obama presidency, does she have his appeal to the black voter, traditionally always lax at the polls, or the purported Hispanic vote with two prominent Cuban Americans thrashing it out on the other side of the great divide.
This week’s explosive denials of accusations of her manipulation of government e-mails, however unspontaneous, are an evidence that the coronation strategy has worn thin. It may have to give way to old-fashioned electioneering with all the possibilities of missteps which her wooden public personality exaggerate. With so many young Republican contenders, it is too easy to label Hillary as yesterday’s candidate. Of course, there is Vice President Joe Bidden, the crazy uncle from the attic, but with two failed campaigns under his extended belt, that doesn’t seem too strong a possibility.
But it was from the White House that the first leaks, apparently, came about Hillary’s own personal server carrying her e-mails from a closet in a toilet. [To flush them down, just in case.] And then that FBI investigation? Yeah, we know the FBI is nonpolitical, that this investigation is limited to whether the celebrated e-mails can be released publicly. But the FBI reports to the Attorney-General of the United States and the Attorney-General [with no mention in the Constitution nevertheless] reports to the President of the U.S. …
That brings us to the issue of how far Obama, who has after all had his past differences with both Clintons — Hillary on the campaign trail — will want to go in pushing Hillary’s candidacy given its current lackluster. Or, would he, in the kind of “evolution” many if not most of his policies have taken, shift his weight to another candidate, and if so, who?
There is some puzzlement for why so many Democratic possibilities have not already thrown their hat into the ring. One speculates on Gov. Andrew Cuomo or even that ageing “Moonbeam”, Jerry Brown, the still popular governor who even at 77 could probably carry California’s 55 electoral votes toward the magic 270. Then there is the young Hispanic star, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former San Antonio mayor who might pull a big Texas vote. If Hillary’s standing in the polls continues to drop, there are likely to be new entrants even contrary to speculation that it is going to be a Republican year, whatever – not the least because Obama leaves too much ugly debris.
The fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders has become a rock star for the Democratic leftwing base putting Hillary to shame, is a symptom. His “democratic socialist” label in addition to Vermont effetism is a no-no for too many voters whose granddaddies [great granddaddies?] racked up almost a million votes in 1920 for socialist Eugene V. Debs, from whom Sanders descends when the U.S. had less than a third its current 320 million.
Maryland’s Gov. O’Malley, once a bright young Baltimore mayor – ouch, Baltimore! – hasn’t stirred up much dust. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who keeps issuing Shermanoid statements, shares many of Obama’s politics, but if it is one woman down, another with a too professorial demeanor and a serious violation of affirmative action, doesn’t seem to fill the bill either.
So has Obama got some one in his barn he will trot out? Looking back when a young, unknown, Illinois senator by happenstance, challenged Hillary Clinton, it might be we should go looking for Obama’s candidate.
sws-08-18-15