I have been slower than usual to post because I have been stuck, torn between two senses of reality. One is our presidential race as brought to us via our media, which covers it like a political version of The Hunger Games. In other words, it is a TV version of reality, not so much concerned with issues, but with entertainment and ratings.
The other is my sense of real reality, what is happening here and around the world that gets little attention because our media is transfixed on this presidential game show. Given the various story lines that have developed with the rise of the Donald the foremost, I have to say this is the most interesting election I’ve witnessed since that of JFK.
However, the interest is not due to the candidates showing an exceptional handle on a world becoming less and less predictable. The interest has come from the unpredictability that Trump has infused into the Republican primary and Bernie as well, to a less wide spread extent with the Democrats.
Such a far cry from months ago when it seemed a near certainty that the race would boil down to Hillary vs. Jeb.
All this excitement about who is going to win a job that I think is more impossible than ever. Why so impossible? Because the international order is changing rapidly and, in the case of the Middle East, unraveling. And it all has become so intertwined. Major shocks in one part of world send tremors throughout the globe.
Dealing with this kaleidoscopic complexity coherently is tough to do and not easily explicable, so presidential candidates come up with unreal bromides, slogans and tough talk. A candidate like Trump acts like the answer to our trade issues with China is that we stop making bad trade deals with them. Maybe we could make better deals. I don’t know. But the biggest problem with China is that its economy is slowing down, and without its rapid growth rate as an economic engine, the world economy will slow down. One major reason oil is so cheap is that China doesn’t need so much of these days.
And when Trump says he will get those good jobs back that we have lost to China and other low wage countries, he ignores the number of jobs that will never come back because technology has replaced them with computer systems and robots. Both here and abroad. We can’t control that any more than we can “control” the destruction of ISIS. In the latter case, we depend on other countries with different agendas than ours.
Even if many of our presidential candidates act like destroying ISIS only requires greater American force, decisiveness and “leadership”, our military sees this as a campaign that could take decades. Yes, decades. Read this report by David Ignatius.
While I have singled out Trump, Ted Cruz also acts as if solving the ISIS problem is as simple as turning much of Syria into one vast parking lot, ignoring that most of the Syrians we would be burying under the rubble are Sunni, just as are the dominant sects of most Middle East countries that we are more or less allied with. They could hardly be expected to welcome these “solutions”.
By the way, Bernie Sanders also seems to misunderstand the situation in Syria, as he along with Ted Cruz has said that we should concentrate on ISIS and not on removing Assad. The problem is our Sunni partners are more concerned with removing the Iran-backed Assad than in battling ISIS, so we can’t get their help in Syria if Assad stays. This is a point that Marco Rubio understands, even if the other Republican candidates do not.
In tonight’s debate between Hillary and Bernie I would like Secretary Clinton to push Senator Sanders on this issue, but I won’t be surprised if she doesn’t. She owes him for not pushing her lack of discretion in handling her emails.
I’ll get back to this after the Tuesday primary in New Hampshire, which should cull a few of the Republican candidates and give us a better sense of the relative strengths of the survivors.
P. S. – I hear that Jeb Bush’s mother, Barbara, will be campaigning with her son tonight in New Hampshire. While a well respected lady, I have to question if this is a good idea. My Donald Trump frame of mind envisions this: “Poor. Poor. Jeb. He’s doing so badly and is so depressed he’s having his mommy come and hold his hand.”