We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Policy Papers

Like many folks, I’m a bit confused by the rise and persistent success of Donald J. Trump as Presidential candidate. People, supposedly smarter than I in these matters, say that without specific policy positions Trump will soon take a nose dive in the polls.

When I heard this theory on the car radio today, I had an epiphany. How many voters read policy papers? How many voters know the nitty gritty details of their favorite candidate’s positions? I’m not saying there aren’t some well informed voters out there but as I discussed in a recent essay, most American voters can barely find their way to the polling place.

Long before Barack Obama’s cult of personality, presidential candidates appealed to voters for purely emotional, cathartic reasons. We had Reagan’s grandfatherly, sunny optimism. We had Kennedy’s youth and (apparent) vitality. Eisenhower was a war hero. Most of these folks had experience in politics. That’s just the nature of the game. But their voting record as a Senator? Puhleeze. The only change we are seeing in 2015 is this:


For once, the populace is saying “we don’t need no stinkin’ policy papers”. Those who like Trump like him because he seems to shoot from the hip. He ignores the “rules of politics”. He doesn’t pretend that you are going to study his ideas. He simply says, “don’t worry, I’ll handle it, and it will be terrific!” Seriously folks, what more does the average American need to know? Want to know how to handle China? Don’t worry about the specifics. We are gonna send Carl Icahn over there to get the job done. DC doesn’t know crap about negotiation. Icahn is a “killer”.

Here we have a candidate who has busted the myth of the functional president. Trump’s an entertainer and he is letting us all in on the truth that the President’s primary job is to be an entertainer … an entertainer who gets the right folks around him to get the job done. Trump is down on Obama (to put it mildly) but what is one of his chief complaints? He complains that Caroline Kennedy is our Ambassador to Japan. He calls it a joke. And of course, it is kind of a joke, isn’t it?

My theory is that Trump is laying bare what fringe elements have been saying for some time, namely that the presidency is largely ceremonial, largely a puppet show with special interests’ hands shoved up the ass of the puppet. And again, how appealing is it to hear a candidate say “I can’t be bought. In fact, I DO the buying.” Trump is defying pundit’s expectations because he’s showing the emperor to be naked in a way no candidate has done. He is changing the rules of the game and none of his opponents nor the media in general know what to do with him.

A Side Note about Bernie Sanders

Because Trump is still seen by many as a side show and spectacle, he is being used to discredit the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Just about no one is making the comparison between the two as a compliment to Bernie. The fact is Bernie and Donald share one key trait. They are telling their audiences a truth that their opponents cannot do convincingly, Hillary Clinton is a phony populist. Martin O’Malley is an old school pol. It’s hard to tell if Jim Webb is even really a liberal. And Lincoln Chafee is … Lincoln Chafee. When it comes to the message of income inequality and that we are all getting the short end of the stick, Bernie is the real deal. And when it comes to exposing the charade that is our presidency and government, Donald is the real deal too.

What do you think? The bar is open.

What Petraeus Reminds Us About Bill Clinton

When you bring up the impeachment of the 42nd President, Bill Clinton, you will likely get the following vulgar response from the average progressive: “Puhleeze, he was impeached over a blow job.” Heck, I don’t consider myself a radical leftist and this has typically been my response. Of course, I’m wrong and so are my fellow liberals. Unlike Andrew Johnson, impeached more than a century earlier, Clinton actually committed a crime, perjury. However, recent events cast the Monica Lewinsky scandal in an entirely different light in my opinion.

Last week retired General David Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA after he revealed that he had been in an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Some folks consider it a non-starter and wonder why Petraeus felt he needed to resign. Well first of all, he did not honorably fall on his sword. He was asked to resign by his direct superior, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and had this not happened, we have no reason to doubt Petraeus would have tried to salvage his job. The affair supposedly ended months before he was caught by the FBI so where was his honorable conscience in the interim? Even if we buy the notion that he resigned because he felt he dishonored the CIA and even if most of us agree on the immorality of his infidelity, his resignation was necessary for a far more important reason.

David Petraeus was America’s top spy. He had access to highly classified information. An extramarital affair puts him directly in the line of fire of a potential extortion. He could have been blackmailed by any third party that became aware of the affair. He also could have been blackmailed by Broadwell herself if she perceived herself the scorned lover. Clearly it appears that Broadwell sent emails to another woman (Jill Kelley) warning her to stop flirting with Petraeus so Broadwell herself seems to have been slightly unhinged. So Petraeus’ conduct goes beyond just poor judgment or immorality. His conduct put our entire national security at risk. He absolutely had to resign.

And that brings us back to Bill Clinton. As President, Bill Clinton had access to classified information, not the least of which were the codes to the nuclear arsenal. While history may record Monica Lewinsky as a harmless naive intern, Clinton’s consorting with her made him vulnerable to extortion just as it did with General Petraeus. We have a tendency to look the other way when presidents misbehave sexually (see FDR and Kennedy for starters) but the Petraeus affair should make us rethink this tendency. Just as there is a zero tolerance policy for adultery within the CIA, so should it be for the presidency. In retrospect, Clinton should have resigned. Perhaps the next president who cannot control his libido will set a proper precedent and step aside if he gets caught with his pants down.


Photo of Petraeus by Darren Livingston (Central Intelligence Agency) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Clinton by Bob McNeely, The White House [1] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Health Care Reform — Now It’s Personal — Obama Video Address: August 22, 2009

In this week’s video address, President Obama takes another stab at calming fears about impending health care reform legislation. The basic points:

  • The new bill will federally fund abortions — BUNK
  • The new bill will make it easier for illegal aliens to get free health care — BUNK
  • The new bill will incentivise euthanasia — BUNK
  • The new bill is a total takeover of the health care system — BUNK

Obama repeats another statement that he has been making consistently and that up until recently I felt was misleading. He stated that if you like your current insurance you’ll get to keep it. I have always argued that your insurance choices are dictated by your company and if they dump all choices but the public option, then you will indeed have to make a change. I tuned into Obama’s meeting with Organizing for America (OFA) at the DNC headquarters last week and finally someone asked him how this statement could be true. For the first time I heard an answer. The bill will contain what Obama referred to as a “firewall” which will explicitly make it illegal for companies to “dump” their employees into the public option. With this measure in place, my only major misgiving about the legislation has been answered.

In the days since Obama recorded this message, the fight for health care has become even more personal. Of course, for Obama it always was since his mother spent her final months fighting with insurance companies to pay for her cancer treatments. But the latest event to make the matter more personal was the passing last night of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts. Kennedy spent decades fighting for universal health care and it was a prime imperative that he thrust upon the new President, even before Obama was elected.

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about the politicization of Kennedy’s death. There seems to be a theme emerging among politicians with a pro-reform agenda, that to oppose the new health care bill is to dishonor the memory of Senator Kennedy. I consider this emotional blackmail and to some degree, disrespectful of the late Senator. Be that as it may, Kennedy himself would probably be quite pleased if his death “guilted” the opposition into cooperating with reform. We shall see what the impact is in the coming weeks.

And now the President of the United States of America:

The Kennedy Paradox

While we’re on the subject of Kennedy’s passing, one cannot let the event go by without discussing the unusual paradox that is the Kennedy clan. Legend has it that John and Robert Kennedy were voracious philanderers, even going so far as to “share” Marilyn Monroe. Ted Kennedy’s own presidential aspirations were ruined by his own detestable handling of an automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in which a female former campaign worker of Robert Kennedy was killed. We live in a forgiving country (can anyone say “David Vitter”?) and had the accident at Chappaquiddick happened last year and not 40 years ago, I still think the ultimate reaction would have been of forgiveness.

Yet the paradox remains. Embodied in the Kennedy brothers was at once an unsteady moral compass, at least in matters of sexuality, and a dogged commitment to public service. Few men have served this country so long and with such dedication as Ted Kennedy. There are those for whom Chappaquiddick erases any good deeds Kennedy did before or since. For me, the Kennedy’s teach us how complicated it is to be a human being and how readily good and evil can co-exist within us all.


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