Some Thoughts About Some Things Not Trump

Donald Trump has done it again.    Just as I had become bored by his outrageous antics and his answer to every problem being how amazing he will be at fixing it, he has found a new way to grab my attention.  This morning he surprisingly acted like a normal candidate by offering a relatively detailed plan to change our tax code.   Boring out of the mouths of others but for him, Mr. Bluster, it works.  It is not what we expect and it doesn’t sound crazy like deporting millions.  He makes the plan sound attractive and possible to do by him alone, unlike those all talk and no action politicians.

This plan is a whole new shiny object to mesmerize the media this week.  I give him credit, but I’d rather think about some other things.  Not the big ticket items like the immigrant crisis in Europe, the unsolvable Mid-East mess, Putin’s machinations and the cap in trade “deal” with China recently announced.  All too much for me to contemplate right now.

And not the other half of the election, the Democratic primaries, either.  I’ve been spoiled by the Trump show.  The Dems are still in pre-production mode as far as a show goes.   I’m waiting for Hillary and Bernie to really start duking it out and for Hamlet, ur I mean Joe, to decide to be or not to be.  Or some really big, likely bad news for Hillary about her server, a word that has become synonymous with liar.

Thinking not Trump, how about the Pope, his polar opposite when it comes to craving attention.   The pontiff must make the Donald drool at the adulation accorded him in his stateside visit.   The difference is while the Donald craves attention, the Pope endures it.  It goes with his calling not something he deeply desires.  He sees his role as God’s will not his will.

Think of how endless his days have been of late.  All those events all day all the time.  What a heavy load he bears, and bears so well.  No wonder that he keeps asking people to pray for him.  A TV commentator seemed to sum him up best when saying.  “He walks in the footsteps of Jesus.”  Isn’t that as good as it gets?  Wonder whose footsteps Donald Trump walks in?

One person Pope Francis asked to pray for him was John Boehner and it changed the Speaker’s life.  At least it sped it up a bit.  He had been planning to resign at the end of the year, but felt so blessed by the Pope’s request, he resigned the next morning.  Somehow the Pope’s request set him free.  Thoughts of future anonymity made John joyous.  Of course he left the House in a mess, but his staying was not likely to improve anything.  To get a better sense of Boehner’s blessedness, check out this piece by John Costa, who talked with the Speaker the night before.

A story that rated more attention than it got (hey, it has been a super busy news period of late, I know) was President Obama selecting Eric Fanning, who is openly gay, to become Secretary of the Army.   Most surprising is the relatively little initial negative reaction, though the naysayers may just be biding their time.  Fanning has been a highly regarded military policy maker and manager for 20 years, so his credentials are strong.

If gays are to be completely integrated in the Army (“Don’t ask don’t tell” wasn’t that long ago and for most of my life being gay was basically a crime), a well qualified gay man at the helm seems a big step forward .   I like the reaction of Iraq war veteran Phil Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security: “My sense is that the Army is over this and has been over it for some time. The Army cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.”  (for more details go here).

A final not Trump item is Fareed Zakaria’s contention that Trump is wrong about China, Mexico and Japan killing us economically.    In his regular column in the Washington Post he argues “the reality is almost the opposite.  The United States is more dominant on the global economic landscape than at any point since the heyday of Bill Clinton’s presidency — perhaps even more so.”  

Unlike Trump he actually provides evidence to support his contention rather than simply asserting it as an unequivocal fact.  Zakaria, who also has a TV show on CNN Sunday mornings call Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square (GPS), is my favorite world commentator, though the competition for that honor is slim given the America-centric nature of our news.

Here is the general site in which the recent piece as well as many other interesting articles are available.

Donald Trump: King of the Birthers

I began to think of Donald Trump as a clown when he became king of the birthers several years ago.  Prior to that I thought of him as a publicity hound who got plenty of what he wanted.  But when he pushed the birther agenda he went beyond his own life and added to the distorted political consciousness of our nation.  And it was distorted aplenty before that.

That also raised my contempt for the Republican leaders who acted like innocents as to whether Obama was Kenyan born, as if they thought he might be. I also was disgusted with journalists who allowed Trump to get away with implications of what his crack investigators learned about Obama’s birth.  Always implying solid information, while never producing any, and never pressed to do so.

Now Trump refers to the great scholars who question that the 14th amendment really includes what he calls “anchor babies,” but once again the press doesn’t press for names.  That’s how falsehoods are allowed to stand and blossom into the “truthiness,” that Steven Colbert has mocked so well.

A recent poll concludes that 61% of Trump fans believe Obama was born in Kenya, while 62% think he’s a secret Muslim.  Other polls are considerably lower.  What seems more believable to me is is 30 to 40% in those categories.  (In these ornery times I can imagine some respondents giving false answers to screw with the pollsters).  Whatever the exact per cent is, it’s a lot of people who believe in nonsense, nonsense that is having a surprisingly big impact on our presidential race.

This morning I did some googling in search of an understanding of how so many people could still be convinced Obama was born in Kenya.  Well, there is plenty of information on the net to support that idea if you want to find it.  Nothing that I find credible, though.

My favorite is a video which claims to be Obama admitting to his Kenyan birth, which actually is Obama mocking the idea at a White House Correspondents dinner. There he said he had a birther video of his own and then played a segment from The Lion King.  I’m sitting here wondering just how low an I. Q. level it takes to miss the joke.

There is also a Kenyan birth certificate which upon examination seems to have the authenticity of a three dollar bill.

The most convincing bit of evidence that I could find was that: “A 1991 literary client list booklet listed Barack Obama as having been born in Kenya.”   I checked it on Snopes.com and they said it was “true”.   But they said much more, that the folks at the (right wing) Britebart News prefaced their providing the information by saying that while they believed Obama was born in Hawaii, they wanted to share the information as an indication of Obama’s misrepresentation of his ideology.

As if to say:  It’s not our fault if others use this to distort the truth.  As Snopes goes on to detail, the woman who edited that bio-pic later said that the Kenya birth was a “fact checking error” by her tied to her having little information on Obama at the time.   I suggest you read the Snopes piece as the details illuminate how truthiness is generated.

So, for those who can’t stand President Obama, you can find “evidence” he was born in Kenya, as long as you take the spurious information at face value.

By the way, I have long wondered why neither side of the birther debate has tried to establish where Obama’s mom was at his birth.  I have never seen anyone try to prove she was in Kenya at the time, only that he was born there.   Wouldn’t she have had to be there, too.?

THE TRUMP SHOW CONTINUES: The Second Republican Debate

Donald Trump’s unique achievement has been to turn politics into entertainment by being the most entertaining of the candidates.  Tonight figures to be another big show.  If it is, I think the Donald’s numbers are safe.   Trump’s support will not go down until his fans have become tired of his shtick, just as fans of any popular TV show drop off over time.  The novelty loses its magic.  The tension now lies in our not knowing how long he can keep the show going.

The curiosity for me is which other candidate or candidates jump up their poll numbers tonight and how they do it.

If I were in a position to ask the Donald a question, I’d ask him to explain what he meant by saying he was an “entertainer”  in response to criticism for his comment about Carly Fiorina (“Would you vote for this face?”)  Is he implying that an entertainer should be judged differently than a politician?

I think he revealed much with that comment, surprisingly so, like an actor in a movie who gives an aside to the audience and then returns to character.   He and the character are not one and the same.   Trump’s authenticity isn’t as authentic as it seems.

I think many of his fans see the actor in Trump, but it doesn’t matter as long as they like the script.

But enough of that……   To go beyond the entertainment factor, how should we judge these candidates as presidential timber?  According to conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin there are seven things to look for in candidates who are not ready to be president .

Though I seldom agree with her on other topics, like her estimation of Obama (“feckless”), I think she’s an astute critic of her own party.  It might be interesting to read the list below and guess who she might be referring to and then go to her column for elaboration and her suggested culprits:

  1. If you plead on a major issue that it is a hypothetical ….. you are not ready for prime time.
  2. If you say you will have “advisers for that” in reference to major policy decisions or a basic understanding of the world, you are not ready for prime time.
  3. If you delight in creating chaos, you are not ready for prime time.
  4. If you make a martyr out of a government employee who refuses to do her job in compliance with the law (common law, statute or constitutional decision), you are not ready for prime time.
  5. If you declare you are in favor of a constitutional amendment to address some issue, you are not ready for prime time.
  6. If you attack the questioner or the question, you are not ready for prime time.
  7. If you promise to “abolish the IRS,” build a wall along the entire Mexican (or Canadian) border, get rid of the National Security Agency (instead only gather information on known terrorists) or start a trade war with China, you are not ready for prime time.

THE TRUMP SHOW: The Surreality of Politics as Reality TV

I’m beginning to tire of Donald Trump, but not of the process that has made him a wrecking ball to the campaigns of other Republican candidates.  Not true of all those candidates – Ted Cruz, for example, always says nice things about the man while positioning himself just close enough to siphon off fall away voters later.  Like Nascar drivers, Ted is drafting behind the Donald in good position to make his move when (if?) the frontrunner falters.

The others, though, seem on a tight rope, careful to show how they are both like him (to attract his supporters later) and not (to also attract his detractors).  Sometimes these lesser sorts dare cross from the prick of wit to the sting of insult in Donald’s eyes, which prompts a verbal whack, such as his pointing to Carly Fiorina and asking:  “Would you vote for this face?”

This, I surmise, in response to her saying that in dealing with foreign policy it is important to have some sense of the major players, playing off Trump’s confusing the Quds Force of Iran with the Kurds of Iraq in an interview.   If you criticize the Donald better expect a pie in your face.

Under normal circumstances I would suggest Carly produce a poster of Trump with the caption: “Would you vote for this face?”   But then I fear Trump would hold it up in some mass rally, and his fans would cheer wildly “yes.”  It’s not politics as usual since the Donald hit town.

I happen to know one of these fans who just emailed me:  “The more he takes cheap shots, the more popular he becomes.  Amazing. ”  Like so many others, he likes Trump’s unfiltered side, a sign of how mind numbing our politics have become that anything that actually seems unscripted is cheered no matter what it matters.   There must be some limit, right?  He can’t say something like “stone them to death” and still get cheers can he?

Well, perhaps.  Afterwards he could say he didn’t mean “stone to death” literally, as later he said he wasn’t criticing Carly’s looks but her “persona,” and later still that his comments were made “as an entertainer,” ….which means exactly what?  Is he saying his comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously, for after all, he’s just entertaining us.  Who knows but the not knowing further fuels interest as if it really matters what comes out of his mouth.

That we might further ponder the issue is evidence of his wiliness.  See how much coverage he gets from saying something contemptible and then changing what he said and then getting coverage for that and prompting fools like me to further ponder?

That’s the joke folks.   What he says doesn’t matter.  It’s his jabbing politicians and the politically correct police that matters to his fans, not exactly what he says.  It’s the rest of us who don’t get the joke.

People like me need to kick the habit (addiction?) of wondering out loud what Trump is up to now?   I have high hopes I can, and even think many of Trump’s fans will tire of his act or think more seriously about whether they actually want a person for president whose “primary” goal is to entertain us.

But my Trump-fan friend indicates I may be wrong.  When asked whether he would actually vote for Trump for president, he said he would if he got the nomination..

While typing I’ve been thinking of Bette Midler’s singing:  “Let me entertain you.  Let me make you smile.”

“The Science Behind Trump-Mania”: The Bloomberg Poll

Regular readers know that my disdain for Donald Trump of only a couple of months ago has given way to the excitement of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I just can’t wait to see more.   How far can reality TV go before it is our collective river of reality, not just one of many tributaries?  All the way to the presidency?

When can I laugh at the man again and not worry about it?

Although the Donald is riding a great wave right now, the waters figure to get more and more choppy in the months ahead, something I will speculate upon as time goes by.   But I’m riding his surf board piggy back until the upsurge.   No matter how it eventually plays out, the future of The Candidate reality show is secured.   It’s a big hit that figures to remain big for months to come.  Perhaps the great greatest success of this consummate narcissist.

There has been endless theorizing how Trump has pulled this off, but the recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll breaks it down as well as anybody, so let’s take a look at what they have to say:

“Donald Trump‘s startling transformation from reality TV star to serious presidential contender in the eyes of some key Republican voters happened because he’s been able to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be, a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.

A look underneath the poll’s headline numbers, which put Trump atop the GOP field in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating caucuses on Feb. 1, suggests the New York real estate mogul is making the sale in large part because of qualities that aren’t part of the average political résumé. Everything that conventional wisdom says would torpedo his candidacy is instead making it stronger.

Penchant for brash pronouncements: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say the billionaire’s willingness to “tell it like it is” is the most attractive feature of his candidacy, according the poll.

Lack of political experience: Trump’s next best-scoring assets, at 18 percent each, were his success in business and the fact he’s not a career politician.

Ostentatious lifestyle: His outsized wealth came next in the list of qualities that voters find attractive, with 12 percent saying they like it because it might free him from outside influence. Seven percent said Trump’s most attractive quality was that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.

“I think he would be a good change to have the government run more like a business,” said Trump supporter Garrison Reekers, 43, a deputy sheriff from Belle Plaine, Iowa, who participated in the poll. “He can afford to pay his own way so he doesn’t have to take special interest money.”

So there you have it, or much of it.  Go to the poll and you can find caucus goer mentality sliced and diced in numerous ways.  Two points stick out in my mind. First, that of these projected caucus goers, 35% of them don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States, with the number rising to 46% of Trump supporters.   OMG! Are they still around in such numbers?

Funny, as the birther movement was forging my image of Trump as political clown, it was planting the seeds of his present campaign.  I lose. The Donald wins. (So far).

Second, while Trump gets a favorable response in terms of most campaign issues, especially the economic ones like world trade and job creation (in the 80’s), his worse two ratings are in “working with congress to get things done” (43%) and “improving race relations” (42%)…….

If predominantly white Iowans (over 90% in the state), many of them supporters, see Trump as weak on those last two issues, can you imagine the rest of the country giving him higher marks?

How do you become elected president if race relations and working with congress are your two weakest suits?

Well, it depends on how frustrated and angry we are down deep with our present collective circumstances.  How desperate we are to find a simple solution in the form of a savior.  As shocking as it would be here, it wouldn’t be the first time in history a dictator has been elected.