Friday, September 18, 2015

Second Debate: Trump's advantage, trimming the field, history mangled

Three observations about Wednesday's marathon GOP debate:

Trump wins again on his ‘Home Field’

In true celebrity style Donald Trump lives by pictures. His split persona is made to order for the split screen.

Someone playing it straight, like Jeb Bush, is inevitably undercut by Trump with his simultaneously shown grimaces, flailing arms, frowns, fake sincerity and winking dismissals.

And so while we are vaguely listening to one (Bush), we are entranced by the other (Trump).

What message gets through? The indelible ones, Trump’s visual reactions. Who today can remember anything that Bush said last Wednesday? Something about Casinos in Florida….

Looks deceive, and Trump is nothing if not a deceiver. He maintains that what he says isn’t what he means. So which are we supposed to believe? He wants us to believe both although they are diametrical opposites. So we end up believing what we want to.

Trump is relying on a whole demographic steeped in media of the rapid, thoughtless, often rude, responses. They are the same group that listens to and admires the smarmy attacks of Rush Limbaugh.

Even Bernie Sanders, with his hashtag comments throughout the so-called Republican debate has bought into it, until, with a half hour of the “debate” remaining, he gave up and went to bed.  He realized that he had joined a fool’s game.

I often yearn to resurrect the late media guru Marshall McLuhan to get his take on Trump and the current level of political discourse. McLuhan pried apart the Nixon-Kennedy debates by describing Nixon as a “hot” politician trying to use a “cool” medium, television. Kennedy had mastered TV cool.

Now the terms “hot” and “cool” have taken on entirely new layers of meaning, but at the time, McLuhan hit the mark.

Trump is beyond hot and cool and has been successful because the dominant medium today is neither hot nor cool. It is fragmented, insincere, spontaneous, and unfair.

Those are characteristics that exactly define Trump.

Trump’s opponents are simply no match for him on the playing field he has mastered so well.

Time for GOP candidates to self-cull their herd

If those in the Republican presidential field are worried about the skyrocketing candidacy of Donald Trump, why don’t all but two or three of the 15 simply get out of the race and quit dicing up Republican voters into candidacies with minuscule support?

One thing about Trump, he’s a polarizing figure. You are either vehemently for him or repulsed by him. The repulsed need one or two candidates they can rally around.

This isn’t to say that the anti-Trump candidates are in complete agreement on the issues as was evident in Wednesday’s “debate.” But it does mean that they have common ground in realizing that Donald Trump would be a disaster for their party, to say nothing of the nation.

A grateful party and nation would salute those candidates with the wisdom to withdrawn in order to save Republicans and the Republic.

The problem is that the candidates are in the race to affirm their egos, rise to their level of their incompetence, and seize power for their own special interests…or all three.

If they could see beyond those motives, they would realize that any remaining, dominant candidate other than Trump would certainly share the spoils of victory, should he or she attain it.

One way or the other they will benefit.

Rest assured that Trump will not share the spoils of victory with his competition. Even if he did, who would want to work for the likes of him?

When History is the victim so are we

It is said that history is what we make it. But there is more truth in the statement that history is what we make OF it.

The Republican candidates at Wednesday’s debate mangled history. Is the Iran of today the product of the Iranian Revolution? Did that revolution emerge out of thin air, with no involvement by our own CIA with the Shah’s regime and the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government? Apparently.

Did George W. Bush protect this nation by toppling Saddam Hussein in order to retaliate for 9/11, an event in which Hussein and Iraq had no role? Could our dependence on and ownership of oil in Iraq have had something to do with our “salvation”?

Did the rise of Al Qaeda happen for no reason? Were training camps in Afghanistan there simply by chance? Or could the US support of anti-Soviet “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan, including the leadership of Al Qaeda, have had something to do with the history that followed?

Does anyone remember Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about this nation’s “Military-industrial Complex” as candidates on Wednesday called for more and more defense spending. Would someone please remind this nation that America spends nearly as much on defense as all other nations combined?

Oh, and while we are at it, it’s time to officially and repeatedly “out” Israel as possessing nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear policy might be seen differently if we added that fact to the mind-bogglingly complex situation in the Middle East.

History will show that ALL the great religions of the world have at one time or another produced brutal terrorists. If ours is a Judeo-Christian nation, as candidate Mike Huckabee maintains (pointedly excluding Islam), what are we doing torturing people? What are we doing killing defenseless citizens in drone attacks? Why are we allowing “law enforcement” in this country to terrorize citizens based on their skin color and their religious beliefs?

I recommend to Huckabee and any other self-proclaimed Christian the book “Constantine’s Sword,” written by a Catholic journalist James Carroll. War and atrocities (including those of war) seem hard-wired into all religions — the teachings of their sages not-withstanding.

Finally, we are developing a history with Global Warming (it started with the Industrial Age) and we can see where we are headed. Addressing the Climate Change issue will not be a job killer as Marco Rubio maintained. If anything, it will create entirely new industries. In fact, under the do nothing scenario, plenty of jobs will be created, but they won’t be the ones that we want. The jobs will require massive government spending as a huge work force builds the dikes needed to hold back rising waters in order to save coastal cities. Whole new communities for climate refugee will need to be built. And on and on it goes.

The old line about those ignoring history being destined to relive it needs amending. Those who distort or “cherry pick” history’s lessons are delusional and destined to fail.

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