About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

History Must Not Repeat Itself: How the Democrats Could Lose the Presidency



by Walter Brasch

      The anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was being forged by the youth, energetic and willing to stand up to establishment values. They were the peace-loving environmentally-friendly hippies, the more radical but fun-loving Yippies, and those who held weekday establishment jobs and resented the structure and rules of an older generation that had survived the economic depression of the 1930s, the war years of the 1940s and early 1950s, and now wanted the “Happy Days” comfort of the 1950s.
      But it was during this decade that the Cold War emerged; the right-wing surfaced and declared anyone with non-establishment views were Communists. The witch hunts of the 17th century colonies had morphed into the fear, panic, and undermining of the Constitution by the demigods of business and government who decided that anyone with liberal views, especially those in the arts and sciences, were anti-American and needed to be condemned.
      A string tied the country to Southeast Asia where a civil war had begun, one that led Americans to believe in a false political philosophy known as the Domino Theory—if Vietnam fell to the Communists, then Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand would next fall to the Communists—and then, like dominos, one country after another would fall until the Red Menace would eventually invade and overcome the United States.
      John F. Kennedy sent military “advisors” into Vietnam to save the south from Communism. And then, Lyndon B. Johnson escalated the war. By 1968, the U.S. was digging deeper into the war, more than 400,000 Americans were in combat, and the majority of civilians were cheering what they believed would be a successful end of Communism.
      From Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a white-haired 51-year-old former teacher and college professor became the political leader of the anti-war movement, catching up to the political activism of the youth.
      The media, always behind the cutting edge of society, didn’t report about McCarthy—and largely ignored the increasing youth marches and rallies. After all, Johnson was president, soldiers were in Vietnam, and the youth—and the millions of anti-war, pro-civil rights, pro-environment liberals—were just rabble to be ignored.
      The establishment media were certain that McCarthy had no chance to defeat the incumbent president. But in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, McCarthy got 42 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 49 percent. That shook up the party and the media, and gave Robert F. Kennedy, an anti-war liberal, the motivation to enter the campaign. In the Wisconsin and Oregon primaries, McCarthy won even more delegates. Johnson, a Southerner who had pushed through Congress a liberal agenda, especially in Civil Rights, surprised the establishment by announcing that in the interest of the country, and because he didn’t wish to further divide it, he would not run for re-election.
      At the Democratic convention in Chicago two months after Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, McCarthy faced Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, a long-time liberal with strong ties to labor and the civil rights movement, but tainted by having supported his president’s war record. The largely peaceful anti-war movement clashed with the political establishment and the largely-conservative police who wanted people to believe that the hundreds of injuries to the youth were caused by the youth deliberately banging their heads onto police billy clubs.
      Humphrey won the nomination, but lost the presidency to Richard Nixon, who would resign six years later, enmeshed within scandal. Had  hundreds of thousands of McCarthy’s supporters not become disillusioned with establishment politics, and not been nursing their own injuries from the convention three months before the general election, Humphrey might have become president, the nation might have been freed from the war sooner than 1975, thousands of Americans would not have died or sustained permanent war injuries, and Nixon’s unconstitutional attacks upon the opposition would not have added a blemish to American history.
      Flash forward almost five decades.
      From Vermont comes Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old white-haired liberal senator who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Only the rabid right-wing, who believe lies are facts and propaganda is truth, doubt Clinton’s intelligence or her knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs. But, even within her own party, she is seen as the embodiment of establishment politics, with a moderate, even conservative, edge. Her wall of advisors protect her from the masses; she seems aloof, while Sanders seems to be the kindly, intelligent Jewish grandfather with a soul burning for social justice that liberals identify with.
      Sanders began drawing crowds of hundreds, and then thousands, mostly liberals and the youth who believe they are alienated from having a voice in the American system and who, like the youth of the 1960s, have an idealism that cries for social, economic, and political equality and justice, the same political agenda that defines Sanders.
      But the media of 2015, like the media of 1967, barely noticed Sanders. Although his rallies drew as many as 20,000, the media still ignored him, reporting about Clinton, the Democrats’ establishment candidate, while also acting as the megaphone for every ridiculous and absurd statement the Republicans’ eventual nominee, Donald Trump, uttered.
      Soon, like McCarthy, Sanders began winning primaries while also getting significant vote totals in those primaries that Clinton won. And the mainstream media still devoted significantly more air time and column inches to Trump than to most of the Republican contenders, or to Clinton, Sanders, or Gov. Martin O’Malley, who eventually dropped from contention.
      Hillary Clinton, not completely dissimilar to Hubert Humphrey, will likely be the Democratic party’s nominee, even though Sanders says he is in the campaign “to the end.” It’s probable that millions of Americans who would prefer to see Sanders become president will be justifiably disappointed. Many may vote for a third party candidate—perhaps, liberal Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee. Perhaps, they will stay home, disgusted by the process and not vote. To prevent that, the Democratic National Committee needs to incorporate much of Sanders’ political philosophy into its planks, the Clinton campaign needs to give Sanders and his senior campaign staff significant roles in the campaign and possible presidential administration.
      If that does not happen, and if history repeats itself because Sanders’ supporters vote for the Green party or sit out the election, Hillary Clinton will not become president, and Donald Trump and his Ego of Ignorance will occupy the White House for at least four years. This nation cannot succumb to the rule of the fool who is masquerading as a Republican leader.
      [Dr. Brasch has covered government and politics for more than four decades. He is the author of 20 books; his current one is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]


     


Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Art of the Double-Dealing Megalomaniac




by Walter Brasch

      Savannah State University in Georgia will offer a three-credit course this summer, “The Trump Factor in American Politics.” The professor is Dr. Robert Smith, who says the students will read Trump’s policy statements and excerpts from Trump’s books, and then discuss his political philosophies.
      Many people may believe this is a terrible waste of any student’s mind and tuition payments. Some may even claim there are other courses that have higher value in the American educational system. For example, Rutgers offers “Politicizing Beyonce,” Skidmore College offers “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” the University of Missouri offers a class to better understand Kanye West and Jay Z, and hundreds of colleges have courses that look at the lives and views of strange people known as philosophers.
      To understand Donald Trump, who may be the greatest political philosopher in recorded history, is as critical to understanding America’s future as it is to understanding the motivations and philosophies of the creature from the black lagoon.
      First, it is important to realize that Trump has gone beyond Freud in understanding the human mind. The father of psychoanalysis said the psyche has three parts—id, ego, and superego. Trump added The Donald as the fourth part, one level greater than the superego.
      Milton, Locke, and Mill believed mankind is rational and capable of great thought. Plato, Hobbes, and Machiavelli believed mankind is selfish and incapable of rational thought; they believed in the presence of a strong ruler to explain to the masses how wrong they are about the world and their own despicable lives. Trump, of course, the political genius he is, merged the two opposing philosophies—he listens to the far-right and usually-wrong masses, tells them what they want to hear, and then plans to subjugate them to the power and wisdom of Trumponian Law, a variation of Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism, which has humans weighing the good against the bad, and then selecting the good. Trump, of course, believes the Greater Good, a Trump theocracy, will always outweigh all other considerations.
      Another basic tenet in the Philosophy of Trump is that the affluent, with full access to all parts of the elite power establishment, lure the disgruntled masses to believe the philosopher-king, who claims to be an outsider, is one of them, thus solidifying the political base to rule and suppress the masses by continually flaunting his own superior knowledge of the universe.
      Most post-18th century philosophers believe ethics results from the rational mind, something not many Fortune 500 CEOs believe. Trump, as he explained in his major philosophical thesis, The Art of the Deal, believes all decisions do not come from the head or the heart, or from decency and a sense of justice, but must come from the gut. This is why he plans to make haggis and sausage the national dish after November.
      While pandering to the mass psyche, Trump believes in the divine right of kings, of which he is fairly sure he has been anointed by whatever god he currently has created. Thus, we can look forward to a new age of enlightenment, under the reign of Donald the One. There is no evidence he will select a vice-president since kings don’t have vice-kings. They do have courtiers.
      Trump’s advisor on the climate and energy is super-conservative Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who believes in fracking and doesn’t believe most scientists who say there is climate change. For his health advisor, Trump selected Ben Carson, a surgeon who doesn’t believe in evolution.
      Sarah Palin has already said she would not mind becoming Courtier for the Department of Education or the Department of Energy, both of which she says she would dismantle after playing with children and atoms. To those who don’t support the Divine Donald, Palin says she will wreak retribution upon their souls.
      Chinese philosopher Confucius believed political unity and stability must be at the core of any government. For most of his campaign to be king, Trump didn’t care about unifying anything; Trump’s philosophy is to upset DesCartes. But, the closer he gets to the coronation, the more he wants unity; his belief is that all elements of the universe must now unify behind his wisdom and power.
      Most dictator-kings develop a powerful military to protect their kingdom’s borders and to instill fear and compliance in their subjects. However, Trump has shown his wisdom by calling for more military while also calling for a lesser military, and then keep the military wondering about his sanity. His first attack was to declare that Navy pilots confined in enemy prison camps weren’t heroes. But, since America needs heroes, he plans to keep America in a constant state of war, mostly to justify increased spending for private business. Just in case the military decides that a four-year war isn’t good for anyone’s health and safety, Trump plans to destabilize the Veterans Administration by selling it off to private enterprise. (He also plans to sell off the national parks and forests to private enterprise, which would allow hunters to kill off all wolves, while neutralizing CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.)
      Trump wants to get the U.S. out of the UN and NATO, which almost every responsible politician and military commander says would destabilize the world. Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy captain, claims Trump is “uninformed and dangerous” when it comes to foreign policy and national security. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a retired Air Force colonel, says Trump’s philosophy is “gibberish.” None of this should detract from the reality that great minds, like the alchemists who turned lead into gold, may know more than all foreign policy experts.
      Many philosophers have expressed their belief in racial homogeneity, the need for people to be pure and, if possible, Aryan. To protect the United States against invasion of people who don’t have light skin and orange hair, Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, and then have Mexico pay for it. Trump doesn’t believe the $20–$50 billion cost would upset the Mexican government, which once owned much of the southwest until it was stolen from them. Although the Great Wall of China was breeched by the Mongols, Hadrian’s Wall was over-run by the barbarians from Scotland, and the Maginot Line was circumvented by the Germans, Trump is sure his wall will keep poverty-stricken Mexicans from invading the U.S., and stealing the remaining jobs as underpaid and exploited maids, cooks, and gardeners. To keep out Muslims, which he is sure are the root of all evil, he’ll nail a million slices of bacon to the wall; of course, it may also keep Jews out of the country, but since most of his followers believe Jews are the reason for every other problem in the country, it’s a side bonus. To keep Hindus and Buddhists out of the U.S., he’ll build a 2,000 mile moat filled with alligators, cattle, cowboys, and butchers. (Trump may one day decide to build a wall separating the U.S. and Canada, something the Canadians may be especially pleased to help build.)
      Trump plans to deport 11 million undocumented, and mostly Hispanic refugees, from the U.S. It will cost $150­–$300 billion, and destabilize millions of families, most of whom have parents and children who work, go to school, and have helped improve the quality of the work force. (To make sure people don’t think he’s a bigot, Trump rounded up dozens of news cameras to record him eating an $18 taco bowl, made by an Irish chef, for Cinco de Mayo.)
      To keep the population stable after he deports 10 percent of the country, Trump plans to contract with private enterprise to package fresh-frozen road kill, allowing the Southern Red Neck nation to prosper, reproduce, and own trailers.
      Trump’s brilliance in economic philosophy is best explained by the fact that since he amassed a billion dollar fortune by selling real estate and bankrupting several of his own businesses he is a better judge of how to spend everyone’s money.
      Prof. Smith’s students at Savannah State are fortunate to be at the forefront of studying the life and beliefs of this emerging mega-philosopher who has already shown greater wisdom than Socrates and Solomon, greater concern for the world than Schweitzer and Mother Theresa, and is at least as knowledgeable of economics as Scrooge McDuck, as competent in foreign and domestic affairs as Joe the Plumber, and shares as much empathy for tolerance, understanding, and human relations as Klan Grand poobah David Duke, one of his supporters.
      [Dr. Brasch has covered government and politics for more than four decades. His  latest book is Fracking America, the only comprehensive overview of the history, process, and effects of high volume horizontal fracturing. The book also looks at numerous social, economic, and political issues, including the relationship between the oil/gas industry and politicians.]
             
     


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Slow-Learning Retired Admiral with a Ph.D.

    

     Joe Sestak, a liberal Democrat with a commitment to social and economic justice, is a slow learner.
     It’s isn’t because he’s dumb—he graduated second in his class of 900 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, one of the most rigorous colleges in the country; a decade later, he earned a Ph.D. in political economics from Harvard.
     It isn’t because he doesn’t have reasoning ability—as a Naval captain, he was director of defense on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton; as a rear admiral, he commanded a carrier battle group; as vice-admiral, he was the deputy chief of naval operations, with a specialty in warfare strategy.
     No, Joe Sestak certainly isn’t a slow learner when it comes to knowledge, reasoning ability, fighting for social justice, and helping people.
     The reason Joe Sestak is a slow learner is because he hasn’t learned to accept the floating rules of the political machine. He believes people in power should be able to justify their decisions, and he has a healthy attitude that dictates he should question authority when necessary. As a three-star flag officer, he listened to his staff and supported the thousands of enlisted personnel under his command, but he challenged those entombed within their own tunnel vision. Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chief of naval operations (CNO), with deep allegiance to defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, didn’t like his deputy chief suggesting that it was possible to tighten the budget without affecting naval efficiency and preparedness. Adm. Vern Clark, the previous CNO, explained why Sestak was quickly reassigned: “[He] challenged people who did not want to be challenged. The guy is courageous, a patriot’s patriot.” When Sestak’s daughter developed a brain tumor, he retired from the Navy to help care for her—and to fight for better health care for all people, not just those privileged to have as good a health plan as he did.
     When Sestak first decided to run for Congress in 2006, hoping to give better representation than the 10-term incumbent Republican to a Philadelphia suburban district, the Democratic party establishment said he needed the approval of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a group he didn’t even know existed. Rahn Emmanuel, the head of the DCCC, who would become Barack Obama’s chief of staff, explained that the retired vice-admiral with a Ph.D. wasn’t ready for such a run, and that he had no chance to win in a heavily conservative suburban district. Sestak didn’t listen, infuriated the establishment, and won the election with a 56 percent majority against an incumbent. Two years later, he won re-election with 59.6 percent of the vote.
     In the first of his two terms as a congressman from a Philadelphia suburb, Sestak sponsored more significant legislation than any other member. Unlike many members of Congress, Sestak read and responded to all communications from his constituents, dealing with more than 10,000 items, about four times more than the average member of Congress.
     While in Congress, he burnished his concern for social justice and liberal issues. He was a strong supporter of health care reform, the environment, and labor. He pushed for a better tax code that would help the middle class and close holes that benefitted corporations and the wealthy. He spoke out for improvements in public education, preservation of the environment, and reasonable gun control. A Catholic, Sestak spoke against evangelical and Catholic dogma by defending a woman’s right to choose, and for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, and had previously upset many in the military by opposing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that modified but still extended the ban on gays and lesbians from openly acknowledging and practicing their sexual preferences. He was also at the forefront of an investigation of anti-gay hazing within the military. He had a higher-than-average staff turnover because he pushed them hard and gave them little free time. But, he pushed himself even harder, not because of political ambition but because he wanted to help his constituents.
     Near the end of his first term in Congress, Sestak appeared on “The Colbert Report,” infuriating the party’s leaders who had decreed that no freshmen Democrats in Congress should appear on the late-night satire.
     In 2009, Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who had served 30 years in the Senate, frustrated at the takeover of the party by right-wing extremists, and the probability he would lose to the far-right conservative Pat Toomey in the Republican primary, became a Democrat. The Democratic establishment embraced the popular senator. Joe Sestak didn’t listen to the party elders and entered the primary. The establishment, represented by Gov. Ed Rendell, President Obama, and the Democratic National Committee, raised money for Specter and tried to lure Sestak from running by extending alternative possibilities. Sestak didn’t listen, won the primary, and alienated the party’s political leaders, many of whom did little to help him in the general election. Corporations and PACs gave Toomey a 3-to-1 spending edge over Sestak, who lost by only 80,000 votes out of about four million cast.
     Less than six years later, the slow-learning Sestak thought he had a chance to take the Democratic nomination and defeat Toomey in the general election. For more than a year, Sestak maintained an all-out campaign for the nomination. As in his previous Senatorial race, he went to every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, spoke to Democratic clubs, visited political gatherings, and filled most of his days listening to the people and discussing the critical issues that affected them. When it appeared that Sestak could again become the party’s nominee, the establishment panicked, and desperately tried to find someone—anyone—who could defeat the man who wouldn’t play the game by the rules the “good ole boys” wanted.
     The machine selected Katie McGinty, who had run for—and lost—the election for governor in 2014, and then became the new governor’s chief of staff. Her beliefs and views were not as liberal as Sestak’s but, more important, she was loyal to the party’s functionaries, especially Ed Rendell, for whom she had been secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Unlike Sestak who opposed fracking, McGinty, who was now working with energy companies, didn’t want a moratorium on a practice that had been proven to cause health and environmental problems.
     The establishment put its support and its money behind McGinty, and the Sestak campaign began to falter in the last two months of the race, unable to compete against a candidate endorsed by Tom Wolfe, the state’s popular new governor; Rendell, the former governor who now represented oil and gas companies; numerous Democratic politicians; Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. McGinty, in her eight-month campaign, had received more than $4 million in campaign contributions, about $1 million more than Sestak’s two year campaign receipts. In addition, The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spent about $2.5 million, most of it in the month before the election, April 26, in support of McGinty. However, the most damage to Sestak’s campaign was by Women Vote, a political action committee of Emily’s List, which spent about $815,000 for a TV ad that falsely claimed Sestak wanted to cut Social Security funds, increase out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, and raise the retirement age. Sestak contacted Pennsylvania TV stations, advising them the ad had numerous false statements; the stations refused to pull the ad or to run corrections. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires stations to run ads provided by candidates, even those with false information. However, the FCC also requires radio and TV stations to suspend or refuse to air commercial ads from PACs and other outside groups if the stations are aware those ads contain deceptive or false information. The Washington Post, the day after the election, fact-checked the ad and declared it to be full of lies, half-truths, and distortions, declaring it to be a “depressing example of how random statements can be twisted into sharp-edged attacks [and] a sleazy way to win a campaign.” Women Vote also spent almost $200,000 for a TV ad that specifically promoted McGinty’s candidacy.
     McGinty, who had trailed Sestak most of the campaign, won the primary, defeating not just Sestak but also Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman, a liberal and community activist who, like Sestak, was unafraid to speak out for social justice and protection of the environment.
     McGinty, who will receive massive financial and staff support from the Democratic National Committee, may not be able to defeat Toomey in the general election. However, one reality emerged from this primary race: Joe Sestak, the retired admiral with a Ph.D. and a strong social conscience, is a slow learner. Once again, he didn’t do what the political machine said he should do and, once again, he lost.
     Maybe, it’s time for more politicians to be “slow learners” and not bow to the dictates of a machine greased by money from special interests.
     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist, multi-media writer-producer, and professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking America:  Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]



Monday, April 25, 2016

Disenfranchising Large Segments of Americans



by Walter Brasch
     
      Several hundred thousand American citizens won’t be voting in presidential primary elections—and it’s not their fault.
      In Pennsylvania, for example, a registered voter who needed an absentee ballot had to submit the request at least one full week before the election, and then return the ballot no less than four days before the election.
      But, what if circumstances changed? What if that person became injured or had to leave the state after April 19, but before the election, Tuesday? If it was April 20, you could not receive an absentee ballot. You could still vote in person, but if you couldn’t get to the polls, you would be disenfranchised. There’s nothing you could do. In one week, you lost the right to vote because bureaucratic rules blocked you from receiving a ballot—even if you could get that ballot to your county registrar of voters by the end of the day of the election.
      Let’s say you were injured a day after the deadline to request a ballot, and want to vote in person on Election Day. If you’re now temporarily in a wheelchair, can’t drive, walk, or get into a regular car, you’ll have to use a medical transport. That’s a minimum of $150 round trip from your home to the polls.
      Politicians and their political parties say they want all American citizens to register and vote. There are voter registration campaigns at colleges, in bars, at fire halls, and street fairs. But, the politicians really don’t care about your vote.
      In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order to allow felons who completed their sentences to be again given the right to vote. This affects more than 200,000 persons. But, the Republicans are crying “foul.” They say that felons might vote for Democrats, and on that basis alone they want to keep felons from voting rights. Of course, the Republican establishment has no basis for its assumption—especially since there are a lot of Republican politicians who have been convicted of felonies.
      Currently, only two states—Maine and Vermont—allow incarcerated prisoners the right to vote by absentee ballot. Twenty-four states allow felons the right to vote after they complete their incarceration and end of parole. Fourteen states allow felons on parole, but who completed their incarceration, to vote. In 10 states, anyone convicted of a felony permanently loses all right to vote, even if it’s decades after completing their sentences, even if they are now model citizens.
      Giving the vote to Hispanics also annoys the Republican right wing. They believe people with dark skin and black hair must be illegal aliens and, thus, shouldn’t vote. Even those with legal status who are serving in the U.S. military should be banned from citizenship and voting, say the extreme right wing. Like the Republicans in Virginia, the Republicans in the Southwest vigorously object to citizenship and voting rights for anyone who might vote for those who aren’t Republicans.
      It’s the same Republicans who have gone to great lengths to require all forms of identification in order to register and vote. They claim it’s to prevent voter fraud. But, the number of cases of voter fraud in the past two election cycles is about the same as the chance of being hit by a torpedo while rowing in the lake in New York’s Central Park.
      It has become obvious in the past few years that voting is no longer a constitutional right—but a political football.
      [Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking America, the only comprehensive overview of the history, process, and effects of high volume horizontal fracturing. The book also looks at numerous social, economic, and political issues, including the relationship between the oil/gas industry and politicians.]



Monday, April 4, 2016

What Lies and is Orange All Over? The Republican Finalists, of Course



By Walter Brasch


Donald Trump, whose ego is larger than Trump Towers, called  Sen. Marco Rubio “Little Rubio,” a derogatory reference to the Florida senator’s height.

Rubio responded by saying that Trump’s hands were too small for the size of his body. “And you know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio counterpunched, adding that Trump “doesn't sweat because his pores are clogged from the spray tan.” Trump, said Rubio, “isn't gonna make America great, he's gonna make America orange.” The pro-Rubio crowd in Salem, Va., loved it. Unfortunately, Rubio wouldn’t be able to zing Trump much more, dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination less than a month later.

During the past two weeks, just when the people didn’t think politics could sink lower, Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proved the people wrong.

Lyin’ Ted was behind the latest attack, said Trump.

“Was not.”

“Was so.”       

“Was not!”

The media circus had left Rubio in the Everglades and rolled onto the elementary school playground where Trump and Cruz, now the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, were squabbling and jabbing at air over pictures of their wives.

A photo of Trump’s wife, nude and alluring, first appeared in a 2000 GQ photo spread, and was widely spread by social media 16 years later, challenging voters to decide if that’s what they wanted in a First Lady. Later evidence revealed that a Cruz SuperPAC, officially unaffiliated with the campaign, was probably behind planting the salacious photo in front of the voters.

Retaliating, Trump tweeted side-by-side pictures of his wife and Cruz’s wife; the glam-photo of Melania Trump, a former model, was something that models send to agents to get photo shoots; Heidi Cruz was seen in a photo that made her look to be too ugly to even be a stand-in for the Hansel-and-Gretel witch.  When Cruz called Trump “classless,” the man once known as The Donald threatened to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife. The beans, coated with the ink of the National Enquirer, sprung the news upon a public that salivates at every sordid allegation in the presidential race, that Cruz had multiple extramarital affairs. Cruz, as expected, denied the allegation and claimed Trump and his “henchmen” had planted the story. Trump denied it.  

About the same time the national media and every blogger in America had published the 75th rerun of the same story and were looking for something else to amuse themselves when ISIS terrorists killed three dozen and injured more than 150 persons in Belgium. The “Barnum & Bailey It Can’t Get Any Worse” political media circus took center stage, and the elephants began talking. President Obama was in Cuba on a diplomatic mission when the terrorists attacked. After the obligatory comments by the Tea Party wing of how the U.S. needs to turn the desert into glass and attach a monitor to the back of every Muslim who survives the genocide, even those who are U.S. citizens, they attacked President Obama, condemning him for being in Cuba when he should be in the White House leading the destruction of ISIS.

The right-wing, more concerned about TV lights and sound levels than reality, is unaware that the president of the United States doesn’t make policy and defense decisions for Belgium or that the president has full communications and dozens of civilian and military aides wherever he is, not just in an office in a building in the nation’s capital. It really doesn’t matter what the candidates and their own staffs believe, the reality is that the blathering was recorded by the media and then channeled to the public who are waiting to hear every syllable of every word that Trump, Cruz, and fellow politicians are spewing. The voices also follow the dictate that whatever President Obama or any Democrat says or does is wrong. Jimmy Carter stayed at the White House for six months during the Iran hostage crisis, and the Republicans said he was wrong to do so. George H.W. Bush vacationed in Maine during the beginning of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the Republicans backed the one-term Republican president for not being in the White House, knowing he had just as much capability to function in Maine as he did in Washington, D.C.

But, Obama is different. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell so decreed in 2008 that the primary function of the Republicans would be to block whatever Obama wants, even if it is good for the country.

So the past two weeks, the clowns were juggling attacks not only on a sitting president who isn’t eligible to run for any more terms, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two leading Democrats for the presidential nomination, but also on their own leading candidates, who are daily proving that hype will always trump the truth in a presidential election.

In Wisconsin, Trump demanded that Ohio Gov. Kasich drop out of the race, arguing that Kasich couldn’t get the nomination, even if he won every one of the remaining primaries. Kasich, a conservative who appears to be a moderate in a party that has been skunk-sprayed irrational by its Tea Party wing, declined Trump’s offer.  

So far, Clinton and Sanders have focused primarily upon policy issues and not resorted to bar room politics. If either expects to win the election, they now need to focus upon the greater issues of a campaign—their opponent’s appearance.


[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist who has covered politics at all levels for more than 40 years, is also the author of 21 books. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Donald Trump: A Problem Even for Conservatives




By Walter Brasch

      The bully of the playground continued to be in the media spotlight and charging ahead to the Republican nomination for president.
      In the 11th Republican debate, Donald Trump, bold and arrogant as always, kept up the attack against his three remaining opponents. To the man who once delighted in being called The Donald, Sen. Ted Cruz was “Lyin’ Ted,” a reference he made more than just a few times. However, several political fact checkers over the past three months have dismissed Trump’s claims as little more than half-truths, exaggerations, and lies. Politifacts, which checks candidate statements, revealed that about three-fifths of what Trump said during the campaign are incorrect. Among some of the errors Trump has made are that some of the families of the 9/11 suicide crews were in the U.S. prior to taking the lives of almost 3,000; that five detainees at Guantanamo Base, Cuba, whom Obama released were back on the battle field attacking Americans; that Mexico sent its citizens, especially criminals, into the U.S.; that the U.S., under the nuclear ban treaty with Iran, would be required to defend that nation if there was an attack by Israel; and that several polls show him ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Several times over the past two decades, Trump has flip-flopped on issues,  and then later claimed he hadn’t.
      Sen. Marco Rubio, said Trump during the debate, was “the little man.” Rubio, however, got in a penetrating remark about Trump’s small size of his hands possibly being the size of another part of his body. There was no fact-checker present to verify if Rubio was accurate on that statement.
      Sens. Cruz and Rubio, both far-right conservatives and political rivals, have banded together to denounce Trump, each hoping for the Republican nomination, each facing a storm of Trump’s blustering that has led voters to place him firmly in command of getting that nomination.
      Ohio Gov. John Kasich, more moderate than each of his three rivals and sharper on foreign policy than them, has tried to remain above the bickering, but the debate and the campaign have deteriorated into little more than a bar room brawl, with name-calling dominating a voice on issues and Trump, Cruz, and Rubio interrupting and talking over each one numerous times. In contrast to the Democrats’ debates, which focused upon issues, this one in Detroit was more like a heated session of TV’s “The View” than a true debate, with Trump’s profanity-laced debate points duplicating his profanity-laced campaign speeches.
      A few hours before whatever the Republicans wanted to call it, Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ nominee for president in 2012, called Trump a phony and a fraud. “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession,” said Romney who argued that Trump’s proposal of a 35 percent tariff-like penalties “would instigate a trade war and that would raise prices for consumers, kill our export jobs and lead entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes to flee America.”
      Turning to foreign policy, Romney plainly stated, If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.” Romney said that Trump, who believes he’s “very, very smart,” is not “very, very smart.” In response, Trump numerous times before, during, and after the mock-debate called Romney a loser, adding that Romney’s campaign was a “catastrophe” and “an election that should have been won by the Republicans.”
      One part of Trump’s not so smart knowledge of the issues was when he declared he could save $300 billion from the federal budget solely by a regulation of drug prices, an outlandish claim with no substance. However, there have been numerous examples, other than his demeanor, of Trump not being qualified to become the president.
      Although he blares constantly about his $10 billion bank roll and how smart he is as a businessman and entrepreneur, while refusing to release any documents to substantiate his business income, Trump has declared bankruptcy of properties four times. Several of his companies—among them Trump Airlines and Trump College—have failed.
      Before his campaign Trump ostentatiously claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya not Hawaii and questioning Obama’s right of the presidency. The truth, upheld by newspaper notations, a birth certificate, and the federal courts, proved Trump and the “birther movement” wrong, but yet they have been consistent in throwing out their nonsense. He claimed that Sen. John McCain, subjected to torture by the North Vietnamese, was not fit to be president because of that imprisonment. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” said Trump.
      During the campaign, Trump mocked New York Daily News reporter Serge Kovaleski’s muscular disorder; he mocked Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance.
      He has HHH  unleashed numerous policy proposals, most of which have little foundation of reality.
      He has repeatedly stated that if he was president he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and require Mexico to build that wall. However, he never addresses how he will get Mexico to fund that 2,000 mile wall. He has claimed that President Obama plans to allow about 250,000 Muslims from Syria to emigrate to the U.S., a claim that is about 11 times larger than reality. More important he doesn’t publicly look at the expense of additional border patrol agents and staff to patrol that wall, or how to keep illegal immigrants from tunneling under the wall, or going around the wall by boat or air, especially since he has proposed no new budget for the Coast Guard.
      He now says he had spoken out against invading Iraq after the 9/11 attack, but the facts are clear that he never supported going into Iraq. He claims he has seen thousands of Muslims on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River cheering when the planes from Al-Qaeda, but again, experts and eyewitnesses dispute those claims.
      He says he wants a moratorium on all Muslims entering the United States, which is allowable under the Constitution, but doesn’t negate innumerable arguments of the logic or morality of banning those who pose no threat to the U.S. nor why he is singling out one religion other than the fact that some radicalized Muslims, less than .001 percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, pose any clear and present danger. He also doesn’t address how to fund an increase in the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and staff to enforce stricter immigration rules set by executive decree.
      He was slow to renounce the endorsement of David Duke, former hrand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
      Although he viciously attacks his last three opponents, he has thin skin. When anyone challenges his opinions for any reason he bellows back in superheated hyperbolic attacks. When Fox News anchor Megan Kelly posed tough questions to him, his response was to refuse to show up for a debate that she later hosted. This past week he dropped out of as a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting, unwilling to accept the few boos and jeers that would surely be sent to him, and not needing C-PAC for support.
      Several Republican leaders have spoken against Trump; many conservative talk show hosts agree, hoping for a Cruz or Rubio nomination. But this time they are solidly in the minority as Trump, using a $100 million campaign of misinformation, has unleashed his inner soul of demagoguery upon voters, to make them believe that a billionaire is just like a lower middle-class citizen who does go to bars, has a few drinks and sometimes engages in verbal profanity to argue his position.
      If the Republicans have a contested convention or if Trump has captured enough delegate votes to be the nominee it could mean a continuing decline of the Republican party that would diminish the prospects to retain their Congressional majority and also affect local races.
      [Dr.  Brasch is an award-winning journalist, professor emeritus of mass communications, and author of 21 books, His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit. The book is available through www.greeleyandstone.com or amazon.com]


Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Trump Tower of Egotistical Exaggeration and Lies


by Walter Brasch

      When the presidential primaries began more than a year ago, the two leading candidates were Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans. It seemed at that time that there would be another Clinton–Bush race in the general election.
      That, as any voter knows, has changed drastically.
      Sen. Bernie Sanders, officially an independent but running as a Democrat,  has shuffled off his one-digital support to being about equal to Clinton among Democrats, tying with Clinton in Iowa, beating her in New Hampshire, but losing in Nevada. Sanders’ supporters tend to be younger and are energized by his presence and persistence in pushing a liberal agenda that focuses upon individuals and how government can assist a broad spectrum of the population. His campaign is similar to the support for Sens. Gene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 and Sen. George McGovern four years later, both of whom energized those in their 20s and 30s and older voters who identified themselves as liberals. Sanders could still win substantial support from Super Tuesday, March 1, when voters of 11 states cast their ballots. However, several states are in the south and southeast, which lean heavily conservative, even among Democratic voters. Although Sanders has pushed Clinton more to the left, she might be able to go into the Democratic convention with a substantial lead and the nomination.
      Sanders is helped by the Republicans who have hammered Clinton’s failure to separate her personal and federal emails during the entire time she was secretary of state. The problem got traction from Clinton’s weakness early in her campaign to adequately defend the use of personal emails and not using an encoded federal system. Since that time, she has faced a Congressional hearing and had not only explained her reasoning for using one phone but managed to erase any doubt of her violation of federal laws. But the Republicans continued their attack, spreading distortion and half-truths, using the media to channel their message. A couple of dozen emails were classified confidential or secret, but only after Clinton left office.
      On the Republican side, the race has evolved from Bush as the leader in early polling to the presence of 15 candidates, all more political sounding than presidential. By the end of 2015, the candidates were shown in editorial cartoons as clowns clustered in cars. Donald Trump was portrayed by almost every stand-up comedian and in the media as just your average ordinary boisterous and egotistical billionaire with a hilarious hair-do to being the chief clown to being the possible Republican nominee.
      The nine Republican debates were mostly random acts of personal attacks rather than true debates. Several times Trump called out “liar” to Sen. Ted Cruz, but several political fact checkers point out that about three-fourths of Trump’s statements are half-truth, exaggerations, and outright lies. This would be the same Trump who numerous times said that President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya, and has challenged Cruz’s citizenship, which has been constitutionality affirmed by having an American mother.
      Among his more outrageous proposals, he has repeatedly stated he said he would deport all 11 million undocumented foreigners in the U.S., and build a wall along the entire U.S.–Mexican border. But, Trump doesn’t address the issue of cost—and how a conservative could justify that cost for building and then monitoring it—or the more realistic probability there will be innumerable problems to round up even a fourth of the illegal immigrants and separate them from their parents, or ways to tunnel under, climb over, or just go around that wall by entering the U.S. by boat on two coasts or by planeloads of immigrants and refugees who would land in desolate air strips with no control towers. This, of course, is the same Trump who used about 150 illegal immigrants to help build the Trump Tower.
      He has played to the fears of a radical terrorist Muslim invasion by arguing for a moratorium on any Muslim trying to enter the country, an inane proposal that would require several million dollars to enlarge the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and support staff, already at 20,000, and would ultimately be shot down in the federal courts.
      Among all his boasts and braggadocio, with his name in giant letters on office buildings, hotels, casinos, and a questionable failure at Trump College, he has defaulted into bankruptcy four times. Trump’s speeches are accepted and applauded by voters who believe bar-room profanity laced into ignorant chatter is just the kind of speaking that they do, and see the billionaire as one of their own.
      By Super Tuesday, most of the Republican candidates and all of the moderate Republicans will have dropped out of the race, run over by the Trump express, fueled almost entirely by Trump’s own money and more media coverage than any other candidate. With the moderate Republicans out of the race, it appears the most conservative ones—Sens. Cruz from Texas and Marco Rubio from Florida have the best chance to defeat Trump. Trump has shown enough strength to capture the delegates in the conservative south and southeastern states on Super Tuesday, possibly making his nomination inevitable.
      Trump’s message appeals to those who see him favorably as an outsider to Washington politics and to those whom Trump has managed to play to their fears and paranoia.
      But none of that matters because he spews out what a traditional base of conservatives want to hear, and his rhetoric supersedes how he plans to carry out any of his proposals, but gets him the votes he needs to be the Republican nominee.
      Far more important, his rhetoric sounds as scary as anyone who began as a small voice of the people and then became their dictator.

      

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sick of Presidential Politicians Grubbing for Votes

by Walter Brasch

      Like millions of Americans in the middle of February I have the flu.
      Unlike millions of Americans I have a deadline.
      Forced to stay at home, sucking Vitamin C drops, I have read newspapers, listened to radio, and watched television as a source of diversion.
      Dominating the media is the campaign for the presidency.
      In Iowa, all of the candidates went to fairs, restaurants, and anywhere there was any sign of carbon-based organic life to grab votes. Because hogs and corn stalks haven’t yet been granted the right to vote, the candidates resorted to talking with humans, and making sure that everyone got more useless swag than the presenters at the TV awards shows. The newspaper reporters were doing their best to report interactions between candidates and humans; the TV reporters were reporting on the polls. Very few were asking the tough questions.
      When the votes in the caucuses were finally decided, Hillary Rodham Clinton barely edged Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket. However, it was a victory for Sanders who was getting single digit acceptance a few months ago; for Clinton, it was a hit in the head that she needed to revitalize her campaign.
      For the Republicans, Donald Trump, as expected, continued spewing insults at his rivals, shouting about immigrants and building something along the U.S.–Mexican border that would make the Great Wall of China look like a picket fence. Sugar-coating his own rhetoric, he somehow convinced Iowans that America was no longer great, but in his hands, which were holding up his ego, he would make America great again. One of his solutions was he “would bomb the shit” out of them. He never explained how he was going to do that with a nation and military that he thought wasn’t so great. Nevertheless, Iowa Republicans swooned over his carnival squeals and delivered him a blue ribbon victory.
      Minutes after the election results were announced, the candidates, trailed by a horde of byline hungry reporters, began their rapid descent upon New Hampshire, where they shampooed, rinsed, and repeated their assault upon anything with a heartbeat. The Republicans increased their attacks on President Obama, renewed attacks on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and erroneously called Bernie Sanders a Communist. Underlying their vitriol for Democrats was a pile of vitriol of each other, invoking the legacy of Ronald Reagan while grossly violating his 11th commandment that Republicans should not be attacking each other. For Clinton and Sanders, their own debate was more like a sharp discussion of issues rather than personal attacks. When the votes came in, Trump again got the plurality, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich surprised the media and the poll analysts by coming in second. Two candidates dropped out of the race; the rest scrambled their positions and staff trying to figure out why they no longer were second or third, and what to do to body-slam Trump who was scoring points by pretending to be an extreme conservative by launching an even greater fusillade of insults at what he believed were a bunch of wannabe losers.
      By the time the candidates and reporter menagerie made it to South Carolina, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were basking in a love fest while Nikki Haley, governor of the third state in the primary shuffle declared her support for Marco Rubio and not Jeb Bush. To account for that insult, the former Florida governor brought in the heavy artillery—his father, the 41st president and his brother, the 43rd president, a reminder to the voters that the Bush genetic markers called for another Bush to surround the White House.
      Somewhere during the campaign, the candidates stopped long enough to pretend they were in a legitimate debate. For the Republicans, it was a case of Trump vs. The Other Guys, all of whom seemed to be trying to get media attention.      Sometime between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, Supreme Court associate justice Antonia Scalia died. Within minutes, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declared he would block any nomination that President Obama presented for confirmation. The other Republican leaders and presidential candidates picked up the message and ran with it, declaring that a president in the his final year should not nominate a Supreme Court justice, fearful that any nominee would be a liberal whose presence on the Court would turn it from a 5–4 conservative majority to a 5–4 liberal majority. Barack Obama, backed by most elected Democrats, said he was still the president and would fulfill his constitutional responsibility to make nominations.
      By the time the gaggle of reporters and what’s left of the candidates limp into Super Tuesday, March 1, the public will be burdened by the last of the presidential swag and hoping that everyone—candidates, on-air reporters, and bloviators—get
laryngitis.
      As for me, hopefully my flu will be over and I’ll be able to find amusement in something other than a flush caused by high volume egotistical hyperbole laced with half-truths and statements, all of which are enough to inflate my blood pressure.
     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning columnist and author of 21 books; his latest book, published this week, is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit. Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch.]



      

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Marching Bands and High School PE



by Walter Brasch

      The Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Neb., will not allow its students to substitute marching band for its requirement that students take three semesters of physical education.
      The proposal would save about $75,000 a year, according to the administration. But, the administration also said if the proposal was implemented it would negate the district’s emphasis on wellness and promoting physical fitness.
      There are two issues here.
      First, as almost everyone who ever was a member of a marching band knows, it’s physically challenging. Every member must not only march, sometimes at a rapid pace, but also read music, do maneuvers and play an instrument at the same time.
      Some parades are a mile; the Rose Parade is 5.5 miles. Students train not just to march, but to march the entire distance.
      For majorettes, it means marching, throwing and catching batons, a feat not many can do if they are not physically fit.
      Waiving PE credit is reasonable.
      But, the second issue is physical fitness.
      Many school districts, dating back many decades, required physical education every semester. Exceptions were made for athletes.
      The reason for PE dates to the ancient Romans—Mens sana in sano corpora—a sound mind in a sound body. Until the past few years, junior high and high school students took PE classes every day for all semesters. For many, it meant frustration at not being able to climb ropes and accepting being hit and possibly injured by participating in dodge ball; it could also mean embarrassment and towel snaps in the locker room if the teachers weren’t paying attention.
      However, for a nation fixated upon iPads, smart phones, and video games, requiring PE makes sense. The classes also helped acquaint students with recreational sports—bowling, volleyball, swimming, and other activities they could enjoy long after high school.
      Requiring only three semesters seems to be a compromise between requiring PE every semester and not requiring it at all. Schools should require students to take PE, possibly every semester, just as they require students to take English, math, and history classes.
      However, requiring physical education classes in college may not make sense for students who are now adults. These classes—some colleges require three or four classes as part of graduation requirements—may sometimes be nothing more than a place to put varsity coaches who are better at blowing a whistle than delivering academic content in a classroom.
      But, give the high school students in marching band a break—they already are physically fit and contributing every bit as much as varsity athletes who get waivers from taking PE.
      [Walter Brasch was in his high school marching band and orchestra and was also a tennis player before beginning a career as a journalist and college professor. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit, available through greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and local bookstores.]