Category Archives: political class

Swapping myths


Enduring American political parties have always been coalitions. The country is too big and populous, with too many strong regional and other economic demands to meet the models of European-style ideological political configurations. In reality, the coalitions have often included absolutely contradictory forces making the fight for leadership of the parties in conventions and primaries more issue-oriented than the final election itself. We have seen that this year when the Republican primary candidates discussed every issue on the political battlefield but the general election is going to be purelu a contest of personalities, the cool, even cold, professional Clinton against the amateurish showman but attractive Trump..
These coalition-parties often have built myths about who constitutes the party machines and who votes for them.
The Democrats had been consistently as the party of “the people” – big city Irish-American machines, strong personalities with highly personal followings, not the least Franklin Delano Roosevelt for almost half a century, and Southern bosses with their solid, segregationist following. Then there was trade union support, and demagogic oratory backing up their claims which overwhelmingly depended on government legislation and intervention. The Republicans, on the other hand, were characterized as aristocratic with their “permanent” New to a New England constituency, their supposed strong links to Wall Street and the innocent rubes in the fly-over rural hinterland.
We may well be in one of those rare periods when even the myths are changing. One of the things Donald Trump is doing –- assuming he comes in a strong vote-getter if not the winner in November – is remoulding these traditional parties’ mystiques. In fact, he appears to be swapping them, one for the other almost intact.
His hard-core base of supporters are the proverbial “little people” who have lost their jobs to technology in the digital revolution or to overseas low-wage competitors, a large following that feel they haven’t got a fair shake from the system. In reality, Hillary Clinton’s Democrats have long since had uncelebrated stronger ties to the new Wall Street of the MBAs and widening international markets than the GOP. The South – look at the current loud battle for North Carolina – is not only less than solid Democrat but with strong Republican leanings since Richard Nixon’s days. Trade unions [except for the powerful traditionally conservative Teamsters] may still be Democrats but their numbers have melted except as government workers tied to the party in power.
Trump’s stream-of-consciousness oratory now often sounds like the old Democrat swan song. Democrat Hillary’s ties to the corporate world, particularly Wall St., were no more better demonstrated than tens of millions of dollars collected by her from the still to be revealed speeches to financial entities in the primary run-up to the general election campaign.
The old myths may hang on for a while in some benighted and less political circles. But what Trump is in the process of doing, if nothing else, is creating a new set of myths about the two great political coalitions – and, in fact, up to a point, simply swapping them as we go into a new political era.
sws-10-18-16

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Islamcist infiltration


The nacent ideological conflict over the nature of Islam and its relation to the current wave of terrorism is just coming into focus. The tardiness of the delineation of issues is not only regrettable but to a certain extent mysterious. Why has the nature of Islamic terrorism not been examined even by those who unlike Pres. Barack Obama and his minions refuse to even name it?
However much sincere Moslems who abhor the jihafists, their ideology and their violence, try to detach themselves from it or a less sophisticated Islamic mass simply tries to ignore the issue, a bond exists. The Islamic terrorists identify themselves as Moslems, not as Southern Baptists or Christian Scientists. They argue, and they can quote chapter and verse in original Koran passages and the hadith [the vast histories and commentaries on Mohammed’s life and his beliefs], to “prove” that that their barbaric actions are rooted in the religion’s tenets.
Unfortunately, this relationship leads to a second and more threatening problem for the democratic societies. That is the wide acceptance in our free societies of individual Moslems who echo these sentiments, but often in more august surroundings such as the universities or even in organizations devoted to multicultural understanding and acceptance of others’ beliefs.
The “revelation” this week, finally, by even the mainline media that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s long time closest collaborator and alter ego, has in fact been in the past a collaborator of radical Muslims. As the long kept “secrets” surface, it will be revealed that not only has Abedin written in the past supporting ultra-Islamic causes, but she is steeped in such ideology through a family long associated with those concepts. Her mother, in fact, widow of a prominent Pakistani Islamicist installed in what passed for a Muslim think tank iu Saudi Arabia, could well be considered the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s female auxillary. The Brotherhood, of course, is the latest manuifestsation of the old Islamic drive for total political power throughout the world. And Abedin escorted Clinton on more than one occasion to counsels in the Middle East with her mother.
There is a frightening similarity between the growing infiltration of such advocates of Islamic supremacy – the totalitarian nature of Islam as a political movement with religious trappings – and Communism for half a century. Much as Western intellectuals often were persuaded to accept if not Communist doctrine itself but its toleration because it theoretically advocated so many of the utopian concepts of the whole socialist left, Muslim advocates of ultimately equally disastrous concepts are being tolerated. Islam, after all, is said to preach equality before a complete “submission” to Allah with no prejudice of class, ethnicity or race.
It was, insiduslously, this infiltration of the Communist ideologues – particularly in the early post-World War II reinforced by wictorious Soviet armies in eastern and central Europe – that threatened to win through the ballot box all Western Europe. Only the overwhelming strength of U.S. armed forces backed by a giant economy which had not seen the destruction of wartime Europe and the democrats of the non-Communist socialists that turned the tide. Unparalleled American generosity in rebuilding Europe was as much a miracle as the event itself. Even that finale intellectual outcome had to finally wait on the implosion of the Soviet Union itself, once and for all confirmation of the utter nonsense of Communist economics and its heinous threat to civil liberties.
Islamic terrorist spokesmen have by no means reached the high tide of Communist influence in Western intellectual circles in the 1930s. But the very fact that the most intimate collaborator of Hillary Clinton, a nominee for president of the United States in a highly contested election, has reached that height is a dire warning. The time to discuss the nature of Islam as an ideology and its adherents in the world of politics can not longer be denied under the false rubric of “political correctness” — the inability to distinguish honest, straight-forward intellectual discussion, from prejudice and religious intolerance.

sws-08-23-16

Media disaster


Perhaps not since 1936 has there been such a failing through prejudicial media reporting of a presidential election. Then, of course, the enormously popular weekly, The Literary Digest, predicted a strong victory for the Republican conservative candidate Kansas Governor Alf Landon against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR bidding for a second term was pushing a radical program against traditional opposition in his own Party, the Congress and the courts. The landslide victory for Roosevelt that followed – every state but Maine and Vermont that became something of a joke – so invalidated the magazine’s reputation that it collapsed and disappeared.
One has to wonder if such a fate would befall one of the many media sources today or whether it would just continue to blather on.
For what we see in a media today is so slanted that it has further alienated an already antagonistic general public which long since lost all respect and faith in it. CNN and NPR’s support of Hillary Clinton – but much more their tortured attempts to avoid any negative reporting about her many recent pratfalls – is outrageous. And they are followed by the rest of the mainstream media with the exception of Fox News whose effort to maintain some semblance of balance makes them appear pro-Trump.
It is hard to know what has given us this kept press. Is it that the members of the media – with their [often literally] incestuous relationships with the Democratic Party, the Obama Administration and the “Inside-the-Beltway” elite — simply is reflecting their own prejudices? Certainly were that the case they would be overwhelmingly antagonistic to Donald Trump’s politics as a matter of custom rather than reflective partisanship; his perceived gaucherie and outside the Beltway language would be enough to condemn him.
Or is it that the media, as part of a self-appointed elite, is ideologically disposed toward an anti-Trump position, even into support for Hillary Clinton if for no other reason than she seems to reflect the same attitudes? Trump, right or wrong, has ferociously attacked some of the shibboleths of the ruling national political machine for the last half century. He has fed everything from “free trade” to “international cooperation” into the maw and put them up for grabs, revision or disabuse. The outcome of any debate he has touched off is much less important than the dust he has kicked up by even bringing the issue to a question and deliberation.
There is genuine concern in some quarters, not those who accuse him of being another Hitler, that he is removing the foundations of the long period of relative peace which has endured since August 1945. The Korean War and the Vietnam War were bloody interjections in this era, of course, but however bitter was their warfare and the political conflicts around them, they did not represent the horrors of World Warr I and II with its virtually destruction of whole generations of young European men. And the prospect of an even more destructive World War III was held at bay.
The way the anti-Trump media have seized on what are obviously elliptical or misspoken bits and pieces of Trump’ endless stream of consciousness chatter is not only unprofessional but criminal. It was obvious, for example, that when he mentioned the complicated idea [in a phrase], he meant that the enormously powerful following for the Second Amendment possibly could neutralize a roster of liberal judges Clinton as president would put on the Supreme Court. Yet almost the entire media were determined to make the phrase an indication that he was calling for assassination using the constitutional right for individuals to bear arms. A sarcastic reference to the possibility that Vladimir Putin might release e-mails Clinton had destroyed since the Russians were presumably hacking her non-official server and her various devices was turned into an appeal on Trump’s part for Moscow’s intervention in a purely American political fracas.
These are petty offenses. But multiplied as they are almost daily by other inferences and innuendos they add up to a prejudicial presentation of the presidential debate.
It remains to be seen whether, given the low rating all polls attribute to the public’s respect and credence for the media, it will be more than a minor part of the growing circus that is our presidential election.
sws-08-12-16

Bratton goes, crime goes on


The departure of William Bratton as New York City police commissioner comes at a moment when police establishments all over the country are under extreme pressure.
Bratton, a veteran of not just New York City but Boston and Los Angeles police departments, represents the best of what being a policeman in American has meant. He is the refutation of the current campaign of calumny and destruction led by those who use the relatively rare incidents of police brutality and discrimination against minorities to condemn all law enforcers.
It was under Bratton’s leadership that New York City’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani dramatized the obvious but often forgotten necessity not to tolerate violations of the law, however minor. Any excuse of crime, no major how small [breaking windows for sport], was the beginning of the breakdown in civil order, they argued. And Giuliani’s campaign to eliminate minor infractions of the law as well as the more egregious crime was eminently successful.
Some of the methodology – the ability to stop and search suspects on the street without a warrant, for example – has been under fire from sincere guardians of our human rights. Yet it is clear that these methods, kept in their proper place and perspective by commanding officers such as Bratton, have been remarkably successful in eliminating what had become an environment of criminality of the 60s and 70s in the New York City.
Any fair minded observer recognizes that there have been police abuses in the past. Like any organization, the police have their “bad apples”. But the current campaign to use such instances, publicized by a sensationalist and often twisted media, is an effort to undermine all that Bratton has stood for in the crusade to maintain order and civility in our busy and complex urban culture.
Unfortunately, some of our public figures have lost their balance in confronting the issue. Courting such radical and pernicious groups as “Black Lives Matter!” is the most outrageous example. Its origins in Ferguson. Missouri in a supposed violation of a black man’s rights and death by a police officer is bogus. Witnesses, local authorities and the Department of Justice after extensive investigations have all confirmed that what happened was, instead, an attack on a policeman by a veteran criminal offender.
Even more destructive, marching through the streets by Black Lives Matter supporters calling for the death of policemen was rewarded by the Obama Administration with invitations to the White House. Responses from others who have fought for law and justice in policing that “all lives matter” were answered with insults and accusations that past racial discrimination was at the root of their argument for elimination of prejudice.
The continuing campaign against the police carried on by Back Lives Matter and its affiliated organizations threatens to contribute to the demoralization of our guardians of peace and security. The decline in major crime in the last several decades has already taken an upturn, presumably as police are prevented from exercising discretion in pursuing possible criminal activity. Blaming crime on poverty and inadequate public facilities is a [to coin a phrase] cop-out. The world and American life is full of instances of the majority of individuals strong enough to overcome the worst of these deprivations to live good and successful lives.
Baltimore has seen outrageous exploitation advantage by elected politicians and public prosecutors of the old wounds of racial discrimination for purely narrow political gain. Such outrageous behavior by public officials is erodes the whole concept of police responsibility and the fair application of law and order for all citizens, whatever their racial and ethnic background.
We can only hope that Bratton’s departure – and we are reminded he has taken his leave before and returned – is not now a signal of the a new era of policing in which attacks on police and their diminished activity is to be the order of the day.
sws-0806-16

Newspeak II


George Orwell, the brilliant political writer and philosopher of the 1950s, saw the possibility we might drift into a seductive totalitarian society. Orwell wrote that it would be with the help of a new language; “Newspeak” he called it.. That development, he prophesied, would require a new tongue disguising truth with subtle elisions from word to word, concept to concept, in a simplistic fashion that would be easily propagated. The new language was to become the common speech by 1950 preparing the way for the new homogenized tyranny that would descend by 1984.
Orwell’s timetable, mercifully, has turned out to be very wrong. We may still float into that gruesome emasculating society – decades later than his fiction predicted. Many pessimistic observers see many signs of the drift he outlined. But if the timetable is off, have we not begun to develop that remarkable language he hypothesized for the new authoritarianism? It turns out our public figures are so taken by their own egos that they can spin monstrous lies into accepted truth before our very eyes using much of the same old tired phraseology..
John Comey’s almost five-hour testimony to a Congressional committee on his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s alleged violation of the laws protecting national secrets is a dramatic illustration of the trend. The accusation that Comey, with his highly publicized reputation for probity and integrity, cannot easily be set aside. He may, indeed, have simply succumbed to Washington’s intricate political intrigues and is, so to speak, letting Hillary off the hook
But in his almost five hours of testimony before a Congressional committee, Comey mercilessly parsed every word. In the process, he was able to determine that Clinton – a woman who has already occupied highly and significant roles in U.S. political life — was nevertheless wanting in “technical sophistication” about guarding government classified material. He was able to draw a distinction between “reckless disregard” for the literature of American security and “extremely careless” handling of such material which is prohibited in the language of the law. Even a dictionary isn’t much help in making these not very perceptive distinctions between the words and their meanings.
Comey used this language as an escape from what many saw as the logical progression which had followed his revelations of the FBI investigation into whether Clinton had indeed violated the law protecting national security. After citing all the reasons why Clinton had violated the restrictions on access to these classified documents – including the possibility that by destroying some of the thousands of e-mails on her non-government servers she had committed an obstruction of justice – Comey made a convoluted argument for why he would not proceed with any action against her,. That included the argument that there was no “intent” to violate the law, always an extremely booby trapped discussion involving what is usually an even more ambiguous question of “motive”. He even more cleverly argued that although the law involved had existed for decades, the number of people successfully prosecuted under it was minimal. [But, Mama, Joe is doing it!]
At the same time, Comey has chosen to completely disregard the text of the law that specifically does not rule out inadvertence or lack of knowledge of it to free the violator of incrimination. That, of course, brings the whole logical argument back to the level of the language that is being manipulated.
This growing elitist language is being created at the time that the common speech of most Americans, and the rest of the English-speaking world, is becoming less and less specific and more given to trendy pieces of slang, quickly discarded for the next ones. These are often a popluar advertisement for a consumer product.
It also suggests why the growing separation of a self-appointed elite in Washington, New York and Los Angeles and much of the rest of the population is growing. That, in turn, had produced the somewhat amorphous but highly energized political revolt represented by Donald Trump and his “movement”. The Trumpets are reacting to what they perceive, somewhat incoherently, as oppression by a favored elite with their hands on the levers of power.
That division of opinion it is to a considerable extent inchoate, a reflection of the growing language differences between the two poles in the body politic. Furthermore, the polarization is increasingly self evident in all aspects of American life – once despite the earlier lower level of communication and transportation and equally massive numbers of immigrants – a much more homogenous society.
As the Trump phenomenon has indicated, however vague this new cultural divide is – or is recognized – it will have an enormous influence on future events in the fast moving world of the U.S. in the rest of the 21st century. It acts as a spur and indeed a complement of the enormous digital revolution affecting all aspects of American life through the increasing use of technology at every level of modern life.
sws-07-7-16

The American Exception


“American exceptionalism” is a term being bandied about a good deal these days by politicians and The Talking Heads. The Founding Fathers, of course, believed quite rightly that they had created a new and unique form of government even though they borrowed heavily on their English origins, and had, indeed, started their rebellion seeking to secure “the rights of Englishmen”.
But quite ironically the current phraseology if not the concept came out of Communist politics. In the early 1930s Josef Stalin was consolidating his role as dictator of the Soviet Union and arbiter in the international Communist apparatus, the Comintern, Moscow had built to bring Communism to other countries. Stalin had not completely achieved his totalitarian state which was to be the most oppressive regime the world had ever known.
Jay Lovestone, head of the then still semi-independent American Communist Party, told Stalin & Co. that a violent workers’ revolution would never come to America. Lovestone, then a loyal apparatchik, was not arguing on moral principles. but pragmatically. He argued that the American worker had too high a living standard – even in the worldwide Great Depression — and too much attachment to the American Dream of permanent progress to buy into Moscow’s violent revolutionary line.
Instead, Lovestone argued, to overcome resistance to socialism and communism, the Comintern should acknowledge that “the revolution” had to come to the U.S. through the ballot box. Stalin was having none of that, and Lovestone barely escaped Moscow with his life, returning to the U.S., first to lead a new “reformed” Communist splinter party, but eventually to become one of the most active and effective anti-Communists, with the international wing of the American Federation of Labor and CIA.
In most ways, today America is still the great exception.
Alhtough now the U.S. is in what the oldline Communists would have called “a revolutionary situation” with its institutions somewhat discredited, particularly its political class and the old political parties. The votes piling up for Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, most coming from the same kind of disaffected voters, are the result of this wave of opposition to the established politicians, on both sides of the aisle, and not that much unlike each other.
But Sanders even has gone so far, if softly peddled, to echo slogans of the 1920s and early 1930s calling for “democratic socialism”. As always has been the case, it is less than clear what Sanders’ democratic socialism means except for a further enlargement of the federal government and a further transfer of economic resources into government hands from the private sector and individual consumers. Perhaps some younger voters want that “free stuff” but for most of the protesters it ironically represents just the opposite of their goals of less government interference in the economy even where some contradictorialy would want enlarged social welfare benefits.
We reckon that America is still the venue it has always been for continued revolutionary changes. Thomas Jefferson had written, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” But the continuing American revolution must continue within that marvelous framework which The Founders laid out for a balance of power among the three arms of government, legislative, executive and judicial – and reserving the sovereignty of the states as a counter to an overanxious authoritarian central government. It is the erosion of the latter which has led to much of the current dissatisfaction. The ability of the 50 states to experiment regionally with new ideas of government has always been an essential part of the system. But it has recently been inhibited by the growth of rapid communication and transportation which has helped enhance the role of the feds.
We don’t need Sanders’ socialism which has proved such a failure in so many countries. And we could do with a little less histrionics from Donald Trump. What we need are candidates unreservedly committed to returning government – for example education and health – to state and local levels where it is most responsive to public opinion, and where, therefore, it would be most effective.
sws-06-03-16

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

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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

Polls, Pols and Poles


Opinion polls are becoming an insidious aspect of American political life.

Increasingly political leaders and the media are being guided to decision-making by the tasking and often publication of polls. Any attempt to ban or inhibit them would be a violation of the Constitution, a flagrant violation of free speech. Given any interpretation of the first amendment, it is obvious that they are not only going to be with us permanently but their influence is likely to increase. So American political life is going to have to live with them.
But their nefarious influence is becoming increasingly obvious for a number of reasons. Simply by calling them “scientific” does not make them omniscient. They violate, of course, the first principle of any scientific investigation, that is, the ability to control the conditions under which an experiment is made. Those of us who have polled know all too well such problems as the syntax of the question, the method used to select a sample, or even the tone of voice of the inquisitor if it is done verbally.

It is true, of course, that with the enormous amount of talent and effort put into the development of polling techniques, they have improved over the decades in their ability to give us an image of opinion in an instant of time. But increasingly narrowing down the sample which is used, by “scientific” means, to get a representative opinion from a very small group is fraught. Therefore, first and foremost is the question of their accuracy. The recent total misreading of opinion in the Michigan primary indicates just how off the track a major poll can go whatever the skill of the pollsters.
Our second complaint about polls is perhaps even more important. They are, after all, a reading of a particular set of values of those polled at a given instant in time. In the increasingly fluid world of American public opinion on a growing variety of issues, it is obvious that even were such a reading accurate, it is only so for that particular moment in time. Within minutes or hours, the opinions of those polled – because of events or the progression of their own thinking – may, and indeed, are likely to change.

As important as the question of accuracy is, the even more problematical role of blow-back from the published results of polls is a more worrying consideration. One gets the feeling, and again it is difficult to evaluate, that increasingly our political leadership is being guided in their thinking about policy by polls. This presents a double jeopardy: with the accuracy of the polls always open to question, it is not certain that following the polls is the best way for a leader to appreciate the thinking of his constituents. But an even greater problem arises from the whole concept of leadership: a successful and valued leader must always in a democracy such as ours balance his decision-making. He has to coordinate the duality of being a representative of the people and their opinion but also with what is generally his particular and more extensive knowledge of the subject under consideration. That means at times he must exercise his independent judgment. Leadership, after all, has an obligation to lead, particularly during periods of crisis and public indecision.

All this speculation comes to mind after recently listening to a Fox News interview of their accredited pollster. He repeated the results of recent polling on the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. But rather than leave it at that, he then went on to strategize what would be or, indeed, should be the future actions of the candidates by establishing conflicting poles of opinion on the subject. There is something in the water, apparently, that leads any successful pollster – that is, successful in the sense he gets his bills paid – to go on to attempt opinion-making. That is, as the current language goes, crossing a red line.

Obviously, again, no government legislation should try to restrict political [and commercial consumer] polling. But it is time that a campaign against the too easy acceptance of polls and an extrapolation of their results to indicate policy was begun.
sws-03-24-16

The media and the election


 We are a bit puzzled – and annoyed if truth to tell – with our colleagues in the media and their reporting and analysis of the election procedures.

They seem to have been dazzled by the emergence of the charismatic figure of Donald Trump. He not only gets maximum coverage, but much of it when it is on a one for one basis, is obsequious. At times he is permitted to rattle on, often without substance, for long periods without interruption. Granted that he is a popular figure, an an unusual one, and an important one, the disproportionate coverage appears to cover a lack of knowledge of the history of our electrion process – and the profitability of ratings and advertising revenue.

The analysts – many of whom obviously do not know the specifics of elections at their crucial ward level – keep talking about the resentment and hostility of a large number of voters expressed in the Trump candidacy. But we rarely get a look at any of these people or hear their complaints in person. Nor is there any technical examination of an obvious element in the Trump success, the movement of traditional nonvoters, Democrats and independents, into the Trump campaign what have until now been largely open primaries” in which one could cross over with minimum difficulty. That takes the kind of depth of understanding of the local scene, again, which many of our freewheeling analysts do not have.

There has been a tendency, too, of the mainstream media to call for a winnowing out of candidates among the Republicans to give us a more pointed contest between one or two candidates. That is not, to say the least, the role of the media. It may well be that that winnowing out won’t come until the convention. And that would neither be a disaster nor a malfunctioning of the system. The “concern” expressed over the possibility of a decision of the Republican candidate in a convention is misplaced.. Muddleheads talk without distinction of “a brokered convention:” and “a contested convention” They are not the same.

Leaving the choice of a candidate to a convention is, after all, the way we chose candidates for some 150 years until the last few decades.

If the candidates approach the convention without the necessary number of votes for a plurality, it is not stealing it from the highest bidder if delegates are then asked to vote. GOP convention rules have been changed somewhat, as they have been in the past. But the old rule of committing delegates to their promised candidate in the first round of voting, but then turning them loose to vote for whomever they want if that first round does not produce a candidate with the majority, is an old and honored procedure.

The talk of a “brokered convention” is totally bogus. The old days when there were political machines in cities and states, in which large blocks of votes were held by individual political leaders is long since gone. There is no possibility of a small group of politicians retiring to smoke-filled backrooms to choose the nominee. The new digital world of internet with its easy and cheap access to promotion has changed the whole dynamic. Then there is the Supreme Court’s decision that constitutional requirements for freedom of speech permit anonymous contributions to campaigns has changed the role of money. Nor is it likely that a well-oiled PR camp[aign which saw the balconies organized to overwhelm the floor and nominate a utilities executive, Wendell Wilkie, until then a Democrat, as in the 1940 GOP convention could take place.

There can be a contested convention for the Republicans in which no one comes forward initially with the required votes. And that, as we say, is in an old and honored tradition. In fact, we think it would not only be a useful and deliberate way of choosing the candidate, but it would be an exciting one. It would restore some of the old enthusiasm for politics that has gone astray in recent times. It might well become the kind of spectator sport that would draw young voters into the arena, in recent times so reluctant or simply bored with participation.

So back off, colleagues!

It’s a free for all in an old style, And as far as we are concerned, it is a welcomed one. Americans have every right to choose their rulers in combat. That’s what we seem to be getting. Let’s get on with it on those terms.

sws-03-10-16

 

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

Incest in the media world


 

Contrary to the general current hubbub among the talking heads, conflict over policy and its irresolution is not new nor a sign of the near collapse of our society. If some of these people who rant and rave over the current level of acrimony in our public life had a tidbit of historical sense, they would hark back to the early history of our Republic to find that such has always been a part of its nature. Look back at the accusations thrown at our second Pres. Thomas Jefferson, whether true or not, and get a taste of what it has always been like to enter public life in America.

This cacophony arises, of course, from the very nature of our Republic and its democracy. The Founders carefully wrote conflict in terms of competition into our fundamental law. For one of the original concepts of the American constitution was that unlike other European regimes which preceded it – including Britain’s representative government – it attempted to categorize legislation, implementation and arbitration as three distinct branches of government, carefully balanced but always in conflict with each other.

What is new, perhaps, is that the basic premise on which the Republic was built, a small government conducted by part-time politicians, has been lost of the complexity of modern life. Added to that has been the tendency in some quarters to always see government intervention as the way to solve problems. Add that to a self-appointed elite, product of a few universities which may already have seen their heyday as academic institutions because of their snobbery, and you get the current situation. That may be in fact different from earlier times.

A symptom of the distorted new imbalance in the Republic is the overweening role of the media and its manipulators. It is ironic that at a time when print media, long the monitor of government, is dying. But now ironically you have not only have a greater emphasis on the media but an inordinate concern with the superficialities of its functioning. There are almost as many non-profit outfits critiquing the media today as important centers of news and information themselves. But their analysis largely falls short because they examine the nitty-gritty of every day reporting rather than its overall substance. It is alas! these days too often an attempt to instruct the public about where it should go rather than where it is going.

A symptom of this self-adsorption is a series of motion pictures about the media. Since Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 film “All the President’s Men,”, ostensibly about how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dug out material leading to Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, there have been a series of movies about newsmen. Without exception, they have presented them in their best light, noble fighters for freedom against the powers of evil in the modern world.

Last year we were blessed with two examples of the gendre. Just as they presented a generally false picture of what really goes on in the bowels of reporting and editing, they actually celebrated notorious failings without identifying them. One can only gasp at their inadequacies. “Truth” purports to tell the story of the newsmen who went after a story of how Pres. George W. Bush had shirked his duty while serving in the national guard. But it does that despite the fact that the two principal newspeople involved used forged documents and both lost their staff jobs as a result. Hardly a paen of praise for the media, or indeed, one wonders why worthy of a movie which in this incestrous elitist environment is given huge praise and forced on a largely unsuspecting public.

Then the Hollyooders brought out “Spotlight,” a tale of how The Boston Globe’sintrepid reportrts exposed pedophile priests and the accusations of child-molestation were protected by the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese. But in the end, the whole story is something of a bore except for those with a more than a detached interest in the mechanics of pedophilia,

We think this concentration by our friends in the theater in our somewhat routine effort to smoke out facts and figures is misplaced. We wish they would go back to romance and adventure, the real raw material on which our movies should be built and which their fertile imaginations can always build.

sws-01-0116

 

Overintellectualizing by Underintellectuals


 

The Obama Administration’s utter strategic confusion, particularly in foreign affairs, was nowhere more exhibited than in Sec. of Defense Ashton B. Carter’s recent statements at the Reagan Defense Forum. Irony was added to insult when Carter equated the Obama policies with those of Pres. Ronald Reagan.

How quickly it is forgotten that Reagan’s forthright stand against Soviet totalitarianism and Communist China’s tyranny was not only an object of derision by his critics at the time, but also by those like Carter who claim they are more sophisticated in their attitudes toward an acknowledged enemy. Luckily, for all the reasons we know, logical and illogical, Reagan won the hearts of the American people, their ballots, and he succeeded reversing earlier policies contributing to the final implosion of the Soviet Union and the death of Communism.

It is remarkable that in his remarks, Carter should identify exactly those elements of the Reagan strategy which are missing in the Obama Administration’s approach. For example, he says, quite accurately, that “[T]he Reagan era saw a generational revitalization of American defense strength.” But, in fact, the Obama Administration is retreating in the face of what he correctly labels: “Russia appears intent to play spoiler by flouting these principles and the international community. Meanwhile, China is a rising power, and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.”

Carter uses the usual artifice of saying he cannot discuss measures which the Obama Administration is taking to oppose what he calls “xxx most disturbing, Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.”

But repeatedly the Obama Administration has challenged both Russia and China – whether in Syria or East Asia – and then retreated on announced positions. At the same time, while it is true that the American military is by far the strongest in the world, produced with budgetary commitments larger than the other major other world’s military combined, the Obama Administration is seeking to reduce that commitment.

It is, of course, true that the American public is weary. Two long and inconclusive wars in the Middle East have sapped the will to lead a worldwide alliance for peace and stability. But the role of leadership is not to adhere to momentary popular trends, but to  undertake and sell politically the longterm strategies and tactics necessary to maintain this country’s defenses, the first among all the roles of the commander-in-chief

Pres. Barak Obama campaigned on an ideology that the U.S. was overcommitted abroad, that American.policy had made too many mistakes in the past, that withdrawal was the most important element in his international strategy. He has followed that course. But whether in Cuba, in Ukraine and the Baltic States, or in the East and South China Sea, it is now abundantly clear that this effort to pull back on American power has not produced a lessening of pressure from our opponents or a more peaceful world.

In the final months of his presidency, Obama has been forced to change, reluctantly and incrementally, these policies. In the Middle East, the Administration is being forced to accelerate a modest effort to destroy Daesh [ISI or ISIL], a barbarous attempt to create a worldwide aggressive Islamic caliphate. In the South China Sea, the preservation of a basic American goal from the beginning of the Republic, freedom of the seas, has been reluctantly upheld by challenging Beijing claims. But in neither case, have these measures had a forthright Reaganesque thrust. Nor will they, therefore, contrary to Carter’s plea for a more nuanced understanding of the complicated world situation [was it ever otherwise?], succeed.

sws-11-09-15

 

 

 

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

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

The more, the merrier: Bring on the clowns!


The scram for the Republic nomination for president in 2016 is beginning to look like a three-ring circus. And with the entry of Donald Trump, we have our clowns too!

The good sense of the American people can be counted on, in the long run, however. It’s amusing that one of the plethora of polls says Trump is #2 on the interviewee’s list. But then the same poll says a good 60% think he isn’t serious. I guess we know what that means: the Republican voters want him to stir up the animals, but not for a moment do they take him seriously.
Some will decry the obvious waste of resources and the general noise level of so many in the race.
But we enthusiastically endorse the widest possible exposure of candidates. It goes without saying, perhaps, that the presidency of the United States is not only the single most important executive position in the world, but also the most powerful.

Pres. Bark Hussein Obama, who came to it with less experience than any recent successful candidate, has presented us with a constantly conflicting modus operandi. In international affairs he has been obsessed with the left’s criticism of U.S. past policies –- what Jeane Kirkpatrick called “the blame America first crowd”. That has led him to a general strategy of withdrawing U.S. power, or at least choosing to be one of the less conspicuous members of the old alliances in crisis decision-making – the famous “leading from behind”.

In domestic affairs, he has refused the often torturous but necessary constant negotiations with the Congress, whether majorities from his own party or from the opposition. There have been no Reagan-O’Neill quiet conferences over a beer that solved so many impasses. In fact, Congressional visits to the White House have been few and far between. On the other hand, Obama has used the personal prerogatives of the office to rule by proclamation and regulation, perhaps to a degree that no president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
That’s why, more than ever, in the presidential campaigning season now starting, it is important to get the issues out on the table and examine them one by one in detail and in their macro effects. Unless presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton falls even more in public favor, and teases other Democratic candidates out of the woodwork, there will be little discussion of moment on that side of the aisle. Clinton has the difficult task, indeed, of putting distance between herself and an increasingly unpopular Obama Administration if she is to win and that is limiting her forthrightness

It is already clear that differences among the nearly two dozen or more hopefuls on the Republican side may be as great as those between any future candidate and the rapidly shifting policies being articulated very slowly by Clinton.

That’s why former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s launch was so refreshing. Whether you agree with another candidate, curiously from Bill Clinton’s hometown, Hope, he refreshingly laid out a rather specific list of positions. It will be hard for him to back away from them – as some of his fellow Republican opponents already have as they try to compromise the positions of the Republican Establishment “moderates” and the grass roots Tea Party “radicals”.

At this juncture it is dangerous to make the slightest prediction about where all this will take us next year. But while Huckabee may again find a winning following among his like-minded traditionalists in Iowa, it doesn’t seem too likely he will get the nomination, and if he did, he could defeat the looming image of another Clinton [with all her baggage]. But you can count on Huckabee to stick to his guns, to lay out rather clearly where he stands on all the issues. Too bad the mainstream media, with its sagging love affair with Obama and the Democrats haven’t given them the publicity they deserve.
sws-05-05-15

The North Korean powderkeg


While the world’s attention is largely focused on the chaotic Mideast events, a timebomb is ticking in northeast Asia. Mysterious but heavily armed North Korea is a largely silent threat.
But central to the dangers Pyongyang poses for its neighbors and the rest of the world is the role of Kim-chung Un, the 32-year-old third generation Communist monarch. Kim has neither the experience nor the training for a totalitarian leader, now armed with intercontinental weapons of mass destruction. He was, after all, the second or third choice of his father, Kim-chung Il. And it is not clear whether his elder brothers eschewed the throne did because they wanted less onerous and dangerous lives. One at least may be in Beijing’s pocket as a possible replacement, if and when.
The notorious secrecy of the regime was revealed again with the announcement that young Kim will not be attending Moscow’s celebration May 9th of the Allied World War II victory. South Korean sources said Kim chose not to participate in “a freak show”. By that was meant Moscow’s isolation for what is the most heartfelt Russian cause, the memory of its 20 million military and civilians who died fighting Hitler. The Soviet Union’s old Western allies are boycotting because of Near-Dictator Valdimir Putin’s continuing aggression in Ukraine.
Moscow announced Kim’s change of heart was “related to [North] Korea’s internal affairs.” But there had never been official North Korean information on the visit, and in its not unusual routine, Pyongyang was mum on cancellation. There had been speculation that Kim – or whoever is running the regime – were hoping the Moscow visit might usher in a new period of closer relations with the Russians. Playing Moscow against Beijing in Stalin and Mao’s day for handouts, in fact, had been the source of headier times in Pyongyang.
But those “internal affairs” could be more spectacular. South Korea sources report 15 senior officials have been executed this year. That followed the disappearance last year of Kim’s uncle and a formidable wife who reportedly had been his chief advisers.
The Moscow trip would have been Kim’s international debut. Although he has been photographed inside his private jet, he is said to dislike flying. It was also considered strange that he would visit Moscow before Beijing, what with North Korea almost totally dependent for food on China for is 25 million people, always on the verge of starvation because of the diversion of resources to its massive arms projects.
More important, Beijing is virtually Pyongyang’s only friend. China tries to shield the North Koreans from the continual criticism and sanctions of the international community — even at the UN with its strange sympathy for rogue regimes. Beijing fears a regime collapse would send a flood of refugees into northwest China where at least two million ethnic Koreans help keep its Manchurian border a running sore with corruption and illegal crossings. Perhaps more important, the general assumption is that a Pyongyang collapse would result in a reunited Korea with strong ties to the U.S. [and Japan]. The Korean War, in part, reached its still inconclusive truce because of China’s entry on just that sort of speculation.
What the world might very well have in Pyongyang is that greatest of nightmares – a fragile and unstable regime with its hand on nuclear destruction.
sws-05-01-15

When is a Thug not a Thug


Thug, noun, pronunciation: /THɡizm/ [Early 19th century (sense 2): from Hindi, hag ‘swindler, thief’, based on Sanskrit sthagati ‘he covers or conceals’.
One of the footnotes to the postmortem on the rioting in Baltimore has been an argument over the use of the word “thug” to describe the mostly young rioters, sackers and arsonists.
The city’s African-American mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, used the term, though she later backed away from her earlier comments. In uncharacteristically strong language, Pres. Barack Hussein Obama used it too when he denounced the Baltimore violence.
Megan Garber, in an article in The Atlantic, writes that “thugs” “are [seen as] both victims and agents of injustice, they are both the products and producers of violence, and mayhem, and outrage”. Some of the media, muddling the argument even more, has trotted out arguments for excusing behavior which brought the city to near chaos. CNN has spread a clever piece of wordsmithery, “Rioting is the voice of the unheard”, when its interviewers court dissident and inflamatory reactions..
The fact is that young hoodlums [“a person who engages in crime and violence; a hooligan or gangster”] broke the peace of one of largest and once most prosperous American cities, burning and looting. Furthermore, their action did not elicit from the city’s leadership the kind of response for which a city’s police force is dedicated. It was only luck that there was not major loss of life.
That is why it is incumbent on the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn J. Mosby, now that she has quickly brought forward an indictment of the policemen involved in the death in custody of Freddie Gray, to go after these young miscreants. There is apparently yards of video taken during these violent acts from which the perpetrators can be identified.
Just as one mother, Tonya Graham, took the responsibility for her son when she caught him joining the mob, the Baltimore authorities now have a duty to bring the other delinquents to justice.
That won’t be easy.
There are already many voices arguing that they are victims, that they need help, that they have to be forgiven for their acts of violence against civilized society. Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes has what he sees as their case. “It’s not the right word to call our children ‘thugs’. These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us.”
All that may be true and must be considered if justice is to be served. But identifying these young people, naming their criminality, and bringing them before a court to have their actions explained is necessary if real peace is to be reestablished in Baltimore.
Without the rule of law, no civilized society can exist. Respect for the law has to begin in childhood. And without an attempt to bring these youngsters to justice – for their families’ sake if nothing else – the confidence that is going to be necessary if the destruction of Baltimore’s reputation [and livelihood] is to be restored will not be forthcoming..
Sws-05-03-15