First, ISIS revealed tonight on TV: If you have been wondering what the draw of ISIS in Syria is for thousands of budding jihadists, and what life is like in ISIS controlled territories watch: Blind Sided: How ISIS Shook the World on CNN tonight at 9 EDT and PDT (other time zones must fend for yourselves). Fareed Zakaria interviews former jihadists and reporters, such as a German news man who was allowed to visit ISIS held territories and lived to tell about it.
Second, a correction: I Indicated in my immediately previous post that hundreds of migrants have died in sinking boats while aimed Italy (mostly Sicily I think) in recent weeks. I had called them Libyans since they departed from Libya, but assumed way too much. Actually, they come from many countries in Africa, like Eritrea, and the Mid-East, like Syria. Libya has become the primary point of departure because political chaos there has allowed smugglers to operate easily.
Also, this immigrant wave, along with drownings, has been going on for years. More immigrants tried the trip during the same period last year (25,000) than this (20,000), but it has garnered more attention because the number who have died trying has increased nine fold. Don’t ask me why.
Third: Hail to the Comedian-in-Chief: You probably have seen high lights of the White House Correspondence Dinner Monday night, such as when the President said that despite not having that much time left in the White House he doesn’t have a bucket list, but he does have a list that rhymes with bucket. That got a good laugh as did some of his other jokes. He was a tough act for SNL’s Cecily Strong to follow.
I think this was his best W.H.C.D. performance, though he deserves the most credit for the one back in 2011, when he performed well while an operation to get Bin Laden was taking place at the same time. I think it the most amazing moment of his presidency. Can you imagine how his constant critics would have crucified him if the operation had gone badly? They gave him little credit for its success. And with so much on the line there he was out there getting laughs.
I often ponder what it must be like to make decisions every day that may well prompt the death of others, either from the interventions you make (like Libya) or the ones you resist making (Syria, until relatively recently). And trying to pay attention to your family amidst constant criticism in this 24/7 age. I’d fall apart in a day. As disgusted as I get with our presidential election process, I think it provides a necessary test of the stamina, resilience and overall self-integration being president requires.
Fourth, an observation about our politics: We often hear pundits and pollsters talk about how Americans are tired of the gridlock in Washington and want the parties to get something done, but the important point usually ignored is that while most of us our frustrated by our national government and want change, our visions of the changes to make are not only polarized but often contradictory. One example is pointed out in a recent column by E. J. Dionne in which he discusses the fracturing of western democracies in general:
“In a PRRI/Brookings survey I was involved with in 2013, two findings locked horns: 63 percent of Americans said government should be doing more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, but 59 percent also believed government had grown bigger because it had become involved in things people should do for themselves. We want government to do more about injustice, but we also seem to want it smaller.”
Helping to explain that divergence is our belief that government primarily serves special interest groups and that big government is in its nature wasteful and inefficient. Some of us are more willing to put up with those shortcomings than others, another aspect of the polarization, so while we might want government to play a bigger role, not this government, not as it works now.
So, the overall temper of the nation is that we might be able to come together on the idea that government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor, but only if it is not the inefficient pay-to-play government that we have now.
A much better government that we are not likely to ever have.
Fifth: I suggest you watch VEEP on HBO (or checked out from the library for cheap people like me: It provides booster shots of humor to make thinking about Washington more tolerable. I’ve only begun to watch the first, but this is the fourth season of a zany portrait of Washington politics focusing upon a vice-president played to gut busting perfection by Julia Louis-Drefus with funny-fine performances by the rest of the cast. Some Washington folks say it captures the gist of political life there better than other shows, which is a scary thought, especially as the VEEP becomes the Prez this year. Not for children unless the F-bomb is common in your house.