SCRAMBLING FOR PRESIDENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Scramble

I really hate it when everyone starts to yell at each other. It’s like a big family squabble on Thanksgiving — the kind you see in the movies about what’s wrong with the holiday — and I can’t hear a thing. Maybe there was a time when I could pick individual statements from a mad clatter of voices, but if there was such a time (and I’m not sure there ever was), it has long since passed.

Overall, having spent two days watching both debates, I have reached a number of conclusions.

The first one is that this was an awful presentation, poorly thought out. It allowed almost no one to say anything clearly without interruption and was often a literal scrambling of candidates to get a word in edgewise or any other way.

Also, those who show the least likelihood of becoming a viable candidate (and you know who you are) should run for a different office. Senate, if possible because as much as we need a new President, we desperately need at the very least an evenly divided Senate. If your state has no available senate seat, how about Governor, or Mayor of the largest city that needs a mayor?

These are important offices too. They have a lot of clout. We can only have one president, but if the candidates spread out and get elected to the Senate, Congress, Governorship, Mayors races, we will have power in many different places and that would be a good thing.

Democratic debate – the second night

I was surprised at the intelligence of most of the candidates. To be fair, Trump has set the bar so low, it isn’t hard to step over it.

I love Elizabeth Warren, but I loved her before she took the stage. She is our Senator and I’m proud at how well she stands up for us. That Trump is always trying to cut her down to size is as far as I’m concerned, in her favor. If he weren’t pissed off, I’d have to assume she lacked sufficient status to earn his wrath.

First debate night

It is a sad commentary, isn’t it? We take the negative comments of our so-called president as compliments and relish them. If he hasn’t made up a fake name for you, you don’t really count.

Julian Castro surprised me. He was intelligent, clear, and collected. He was a good speaker — especially given the clawing and scratching the format required of all the candidates.

Beto O’Rourke seemed lost. On Colbert, Chris Christie commented (I hate agreeing with him) that he was like the kid who didn’t do his homework and hoped the teacher wouldn’t call on him. Oops. While he wasn’t a total embarrassment, he didn’t shine.

I understand that this was basically a 4-hour “say hi to the audience and say a few words” introduction, but it wasn’t well done. Aside from the multiple technical gaffs (shame on you, NBC), four hours was not enough time to even properly introduce each candidate. Not even enough time for each of them to have five minutes to speak on his or her own behalf — UNINTERRUPTED.

Returning now to Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Okay, so she was the second little black kid to be bused in California. What Biden never got to say, but which is the truth — and Garry has a couple of Emmys for covering this event in Boston — busing didn’t work. However well-intentioned it was, it did not succeed for black or white students.

Biden was against it and he was RIGHT. She got picked as one of the first children in that fight, but it was a bad fight. It was a losing fight for everyone. He never got to explain his opposition and she was busy being an effective prosecutor.

Do we need another prosecutor running the country? She might make a good U.S. Attorney General, but president? It’s not just about getting your best and most memorable jab in. That’s what we currently have. We need something better, more thoughtful, reasoned, and less single-issued.

What impressed me? That for the most part, everyone agreed on most of what I think are the important issues. From health care to treating immigrants like human beings to making sure that “regular people” can earn enough money working one job to support themselves and their family. There was minimal disagreement on the basics. I thought it was a pity we couldn’t run a bunch of them as a group.

Democratic presidential candidates from left, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney participate in a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Personally, I agree a combination of private and public health care works well in many countries. Once health insurers are required to compete with a vital public sector, it’s amazing how effective they can be and how quickly their attitudes change.

About half the “nominees” need to find other places to run for office. Of the remaining half, we need sensible debates where people can say something. Asking any candidate for office to sum up anything in a one or two-word answer is ridiculous. It was stupid from the get-go. The debates suffered and we (the audience) suffered.

The moderators kept promising they would get back to individuals, but they never did. These should have been spread out over at least four night, not two. It was unfair to everyone, especially me.

And for heaven’s sake, whoever does the next debates, get your best technical people on the job. Our college radio station did better work than NBC!

DO WE WANT TO ELECT ANYONE? – Marilyn Armstrong

I was just glancing through another post on The New Yorker asking whether Joe Biden is electable.

I have read similar stories in the Washington Post and other newspaper, online and offline about every potential candidate. It’s almost as if we don’t want to find a viable candidate because there’s something wrong with everyone.


I have a hot flash for you:
NO ONE IS PERFECT.

There is no perfect candidate waiting to run for office. There may be perfect people — somewhere (though I’ve never met one) — but none of them are interested in politics. Personally, I doubt there is a perfect person anywhere and if there is, I’m sure he or she would run screaming in terror should someone suggest they run for office.

We have turned running for office into the worst job interview on Earth. We are dredging up everything and anything that anyone ever did, no matter how many years ago it happened. We are dredging this stuff up without any context, either. Without any attempt to understand what else was going on.

Let’s take Joe Biden. He was not perfect. He has been in office for 50 years and has done stuff about which I’m sure he is ashamed and embarrassed. On top of everything else, he is being picked on for being “too huggy.”

Too huggy?

Seriously?

We have a racist pig as president — and you want to disqualify a man who is too friendly in a non-sexual way?

Do you want to re-elect Trump?

Everyone has stuff in their past they would just as soon not make public. Me too. You too. My husband, my friends, my son. I’m sure even my dogs have something about which they would be embarrassed if they could remember that far back, but being dogs, they are more interested in right now and when is dinner?

At a time when we should be looking for reasons why a person might BE electable, we are doing that classic Democratic “let’s pick apart every possible candidate, disqualify all of them, then pick someone who offends nobody and also has nothing of value to offer anyone. Let’s run him or her for office and be shockedSHOCKED! … that he or she is not elected.

We’ve done it before and we seem to be ready to do it again.

Banning Kate Smith for a recording she made decades ago, probably because her record company told her to do it and in those days if your bosses said “Cut this record,” you cut that record.

Actors made movies they hated and about which they still can’t bear to speak. People said things they didn’t mean, or intended as jokes. Are bad jokes enough to keep you out of office? Meanwhile, no attempt is made to figure out what the context was that created what was done or said. We ask for perfection from candidates we never require of ourselves.

Are we going to hold every single thing that anyone has ever done or said against them?

I know if someone asked me to run for office, I would say “Not on your life.” Garry was actually asked to run — locally — and said “No way.”

No one wants to do it because they know they are going to be shredded. Torn to bits by their own party, the press, bloggers and for all I know, their own family. If we are going to turn all potential candidate into bad people for something that happened a long time ago, we aren’t going to have anyone worth electing. There needs to be a limit to anyone’s liability for things that weren’t even crimes.

Okay, if he turns out to have been a murderer or bank robber or treasonous … but that’s not what’s happening. We not looking to see if someone actually did something felonious. We’re just looking for anything, everything, even nothing.

Indiscretion is not a crime. Even bad jokes — 30-year-old bad jokes — are not a crime. If you look at some of our great presidents, they were far from perfect men. Both Roosevelts had plenty of lumps and bumps and a few shameful incidents to boot. It didn’t mean they weren’t great presidents.

Maybe some personal indiscretions should be left in the dusty closets where they have been lying all these years. Some of these folks have good ideas. Vision. They might be great if you give them half a chance.

If we are going to demand perfection, we will get the kids no one liked in school. Our candidates will all be losers. Not Trump’s version. I mean real losers.

If we cannot tolerate anything living people do in the course of life before we allow them to be a candidate for office, the only people who will run for office will be people no one wants.

The priggish. The voiceless. Those who have no opinions, no vision. The intellectual who doesn’t know how to talk to “real” people. The stupid and the unthinking.

We are approaching that stage now.

How else do you think we got Trump? And the rest of his party of bottom-feeders?

THE NEW TWILIGHT ZONE – Rich Paschall

Episode 1: The Campaign, by Arod Serling*

Opening scene:  Rural state rally, small town folks and area farmers in attendance.  A candidate for office is at the podium.  To the left of the stage are two of his aides.

Candidate: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell—I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

Cut to Narrator standing at undetermined location, presumably at the rally.

Narrator

Narrator: The man at the podium has recently announced that he is running for the highest office in the land.  The tall gentleman to the left of the stage is Michael who is attempting to control his candidate, a reality TV star.  Next to Michael is a young intern named Billy.  He wants to get some experience in political campaigns.  They all think they will be heading to the nation’s capital when in fact, they are about to enter “The Twilight Zone.”

Fade to opening credits, theme music. The scene will resume at the same rally.

Candidate (speaking on his own popularity): “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Billy (to Michael): Did he just say he could get away with murder?

Michael: All politicians are getting away with murder in one way or another.

Candidate (speaking about opponents): “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Billy: I am unclear. What is he saying?  The people of Iowa are stupid or the other candidates are speaking crap? (Pause) Both?

Michael:  If you are unclear, so is everyone else.  Don’t worry about it.  We can spin it whatever way we want.

Candidate (speaking on ISIS):  “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

Billy: What could he know about ISIS that the generals don’t know?

Michael:  Look, you ask too many questions.  Just watch and learn.  It’s all a television show and he’s the star. (pointing to the candidate on stage).

The candidate

The candidate is giving the cheering crowd two thumbs up.  Fade out for a commercial break. “The new Twilight Zone is brought to you by Preparation A, for those nasty flare-ups”

Episode resumes with quick shots of various rallies around the country.

Billy (to Michael in South Carolina):  Did he just give out the real phone number of the opponent?

Michael (laughing):  Yeah, that should generate some press.

Candidate (to crowd trying to eject protester in Missouri): “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

Billy: More violence?

Michael: Whatever works!

Candidate (at another rally): “Do I look a president? How handsome am I, right? How handsome?” (Looking smugly at the crowd) “I feel like a supermodel except, like, times 10, OK? It’s true. I’m a supermodel.”

Cut to Billy shaking his head and Michael laughing.

Candidate (in New Hampshire): “That could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.”

Billy: That can’t possibly be a Mexican plane and they certainly are not going to attack.

Michael:  The crowd doesn’t know that.  You can say anything, no matter how outrageous, as long as you are willing to stick with your story.

Quick cuts to various rallies.  The candidate is always looking smug and/or giving a thumbs up to the crowd.  The crowds always seem to love whatever he has to say.

Scene: Hotel room at debate site.  Michael and Billy our waiting anxiously for the event to begin.

Michael and Billy

Billy: I don’t have a good feeling about this.  I mean he would not even practice for the debate.  How can we get the message across if he is not prepared on the topics?

Michael:  Don’t worry, if he doesn’t have an answer, he will just change the subject and throw some dirt on an opponent.

Billy:  But some of those things he says are not true.  That will not work in a debate.

Michael:  Of course it will work.  These are not real debates, they are reality TV shows and we have the star.  Just watch.

Cut to the television studio where the debate is underway.

Candidate (replying to a Senator in the debate): “I never attacked him on his looks and believe me, there’s a lot of subject matter there.”

Cut Back at hotel room.

Michael:  See Billy, he did not have to actually answer the Senator.  And take a look at the Senator’s face.  This is hilarious.

Cut to television studio.

Candidate (referring to female primary opponent): “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

Hotel room:


Billy:  Do you think insulting a woman like that is good?  I mean, even if it is an opponent, people might get upset.

Michael:  His fan base will eat this up and who cares what the others think. We are well on our way to success.  A few more debates like this, a few more rallies and he will have the nomination.  From there it is just a few easy steps to victory.  I don’t think there is anyway we can screw this up now.  The fans love us, we are getting a lot of press and the ratings are good.  Best show in town!

Billy looks lost in thought for a moment.  Then finally speaks.

Billy:  I think I should leave the campaign now.  It is not really what I expected.

“You can not leave the campaign now. You know too much…”

Michael (angry): You can not leave the campaign now.  You know too much, and nobody likes it when someone can give away the magician’s tricks.  Our candidate has a way of getting even with people who cross him.  You are in this until the end. I wouldn’t bring this up again if I were you.

Camera settles on Billy’s astonished face as the Narrator speaks over this shot.

Narrator: Billy wanted to learn politics and make his way to the nation’s capital.  Instead, he found a permanent address in The Twilight Zone.

Fade Out.

*Arod Serling is also the Narrator and Executive Producer of this program.

Candidates quotes courtesy of: “The 155 Craziest Things Trump Said This Election,” Politico Magazine, November 05, 2016.

BAD GOVERNMENTS TEND TO GET WORSE

“It is a lot harder to get rid of a bad government than to elect one,” said my Tasmanian friend.

It sure is. We  elected Trump — though I take issue with including me as I did not vote for Trump or anyone in his party. Ever. We opened the door and let them in. Getting them out again is going to be one huge mess. I wonder how we will do it, what with all the gerrymandering in the various electoral districts and a broken Electoral College.

First, you get elected.

My father used to remind me — regularly, as if I were otherwise going to forget — that the German people voted for Hitler. He didn’t thug his way into power. He ran for office and they voted for him.

We — as a nation — voted for Trump. Some voted for him out of some bizarre but well-intentioned belief that he might do some good. Others were just pissed off and they wanted to make a loud noise — and they most assuredly have done exactly that. Many voted for him by not voting at all, or voting for non-electable candidates, effectively skewing the election.

It wasn’t a national sweep where we all got together and thought he was “the right guy” for the job, but  the weird statistics managed to get it done.

Trump is the man pushing through laws we thought we’d beaten off. All the positive things we thought we’d accomplished turning to rubble. It’s going to be long road back.

Then, you pass some really evil legislation.

Like the Germans, we did it freely. No army pushing us. No thugs at our backs beating us down. There was a hint of potential thuggery, of course, but few of us directly experienced it. Now, welcome to a new world. Our world. We bought it, moved into it, and are living it. Hell isn’t theoretical anymore. We are in it.

Look what we’ve got. Laws which will in short order make the poor more poor, the middle class a lot closer to poor and a several hundred filthy rich people ridiculously even filthier and richer.

Laws which will make most of us less healthy, will kill many who remain. Children will die of easily controllable diseases, as will their parents and grandparents. Old people will starve and live in poverty without a safe place to live.

The roads and railways will crumble. Our last remaining places of beauty will become sump holes of oil hunters and fracking companies. Pollution will increase, the air will get less breathable. Jobs won’t trickle down.

Because poor people don’t spend money and without a demand for goods, no one will hire new workers or raise the wages of existing ones.

Many of us will do our best to keep our spirits up and stay on a better course. We will never stop hoping that something will happen to get us back on the right track. Maybe Fat Orange Head will keep eating those fried burgers until his heart stops pumping. He’s old enough, fat enough, and sluggish enough. We can hope. Maybe in the middle of a Tweet, his brain will finally melt down.

We dream of a better future.

Where are the new Democrats? Why do I always see the same old faces? Assuming we have the will to drive the current assholes out of office — who are we going to elect? When do we see the new faces to will lead us forward?

Most of us still believe this country is a democracy. Is it?

CAMPAIGNING VERSUS GOVERNING by ELLIN CURLEY

Like many other Americans, I have been in shock and very, very depressed since the election of Donald Trump as President. I have been thinking about how this unthinkable thing could have happened. I have a small theory that maybe explains a tiny piece of the cluster fuck that is our government for the next four years. It’s not entirely new or original, but I feel it deserves consideration and attention.

campaign-poster-2016In our system, the qualities it takes to win a presidential election are different from the qualities it takes to govern as President. I could argue that what you need for one job is virtually antithetical to what you need for the other. For example, to be a successful candidate you have to be good at making stirring speeches in front of large audiences. To inspire those large crowds and excite the media, you need an outgoing personality, an out-sized ego, plus a charismatic speaking style. You must be larger than life.

But, to govern and be an effective executive, none of these traits or skills — while occasionally handy — are critical or even necessary. Instead, you need to be good at dealing with individuals and small groups. You need to convince, cajole and compromise to get things done. Keeping your ego in check is a prerequisite for working well with others. Flamboyance is a minus, not a plus.

dwight-david-eisenhower-quote-i-do-not-believe-that-any-politicalAs a candidate, you have to strip complex, nuanced ideas and situations down to a few catchy slogans or sentences. You need to be prolific in distilling ‘sound bytes’ from complicated issues. Those ‘sound bytes’ are what will represent you to the general public via the media. The big picture is what matters. Details and subtleties be damned.

As President, you have to master a myriad of detail on every issue. You need to weigh the pros and cons of competing interests and groups, then come up with viable policies. Next, you have to ‘sell’ these policies to friends and foes, up close and personal. Complexity and contradictions are your meat and potatoes.

The person best suited to win the presidency in America may be the least suited to governing well. Trump was an effective candidate but there’s no indication he can govern. At all. Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate but I believe would have been a great President. Is there a resolution for this dichotomy?

I’d argue that the English parliamentary system can teach us something. The English have the Royal Family as their “national celebrities” and tabloid fodder. Their Members of Parliament are supposed to be boring, nerdy, policy wonks. No one expects their MPs or even the Prime Minister to be a dazzling public speaker or TV personality. (Justin Trudeau of Canada is a rare exception – he has it all!)

I’m not advocating a monarchy for America. But maybe we could have the President and Vice Presidential candidates run as a real team. The Vice Presidential candidate could be the crowd pleasing media star for the election cycles. The President could just be the back office guy who crunches the numbers and gets things done when its time to govern.

I’m not sure whether or not this system would work in practice, but it sure as Hell couldn’t be worse than what we have now!

THREE NO-TRUMP

I don’t know the name of all the candidates trying to run for president of the U.S. in 2016. I recognize some names. I even know what some of them are reputed to have said. But I haven’t been paying close attention. It’s early yet. I doubt any candidate has shown his or her true colors.

So far, they seem a rather sad lot. When the field thins out, I’ll get more serious. Politics is the grandest sport of all, and the U.S. Presidential election is the Olympic games of politics.

GOP_2016_Debate-0537f

Then, there’s The Donald. Trump.

He’s the top of the list of candidates who scares the daylights out of me. Not because he is outrageous or ridiculous, or is such a clown, but because he plays the fool so well. He has most people — including some opponents — believing his act.

It is an act. Trump is nobody’s fool.

donald trump make america great

He’s a smart guy. Powerful. Rich. He is not owned by any party or lobby group. He plays by his own rules, whatever that means. Since he has never revealed the rules by which he plays. I’m not sure he has any. I know he wants power and I’m sure he’d be very happy to wield it. But what he believes in … if he believes in anything … is anybody’s guess.

No matter how hard you listen, he never says anything. At least not anything you can pin down. He deflects questions by saying outrageous — nonsensical — stuff. The press eats it up.

What a rich harvest for the media! A cornucopia of sound bites! A bonanza of headlines! Film at 11!

DEMOCRATIC-PARTY-CANDIDATES-2016

Donald Trump is the jackpot for stand-up comedians, news departments, bloggers, and comedians. He knows it. Plays to it. As long as he keeps everyone talking about his latest gaffe, no one forces him to answer hard questions like “What do you stand for?” and “Why do you want to be president … really?” In this 10 second sound-bite world, he has mastered the art of giving them what they want.

If Trump didn’t exist, the media would have to invent him. I don’t think the American people are dumb enough to actually elect him … are we?