Saturday, August 8, 2015

The “Debate,” The “Donald,” And Other Detritus

     Yes, yes, I know alliteration is considered passé. I like it anyway.

     Success, as I’ve said more than once, is its own best justification. (Political version: “The victors write the history books.”) That makes it hard to emit a complete and justifiable condemnation of Donald Trump, one of the most successful men in the United States in his proper field. But it’s quite easy to see and enumerate his flaws as a politician...which is why I’ll close that subject right here.

     Debates of the conventional sort have disappeared from politics. The question-and-answer format favored by television has displaced them completely. That was for the mental and emotional health of the candidates: in the new format, rather than straining their brains to answer a competitor’s arguments, they can relax and spend their camera minutes reciting memorized talking points.

     “Do we really have to endure fifteen months more of this?” – The C.S.O.

     In his blockbuster The B.S. Factor, Arthur Herzog covered (among other things) the many ways in which the American political dialogue had become a torturous experience. One of those ways came to mind during the “prime-time” debate Thursday evening as I marveled at the candidates’ fixed determination not to respond to the questions being asked of them, in favor of whatever talking point they feel would be most constructive to their support.

     This is actually a step down from the sort of gaseous rhetoric Herzog cited in his concluding segment:

     The only solution to the Attica tragedy...[is a] genuine commitment of our vast resources to the American people. – Senator Edmund Muskie

     Organized religion—regardless of denomination—is an institution possessing a moral-ethical mandate – Vice-President Spiro Agnew.

     But let me say one other thing. I think it is important that out of this mission we realize that it was not a failure...the three astronauts did not reach the moon, but they did reach the hearts of millions of people in America and in the world. They reminded us in these days when we have this magnificent technocracy that men do count, the individual does count. – President Richard Nixon

     We have learned from the students—from you and your contemporaries—that we must come up with better answers to larger questions – Transportation Secretary John Volpe

     Mind you, those were samples of PolSpeak from the late Sixties and early Seventies. See how fast the lingo can deteriorate?

     The Permanent Campaign appears to be well and truly fixed upon us. While “journalists” celebrate – it relieves them of the need to go looking for actual news – the rest of us should review the consequences more soberly.

     Consider how little has actually been done, at least in domestic American politics. Ponder how posturings, promises, and denunciations have risen to replace substantial developments. Now, in one way at least, this is a good thing (“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.” – Gideon J. Tucker, 1866), as the politician at work – at anything other than campaigning – is a destructive force of incomparable power. In another, it reflects poorly on Us the People: we have accepted the posturings, promises, and denunciations in lieu of actual performance.

     Panem et circenses was the formula the Roman Caesars applied to the placation of the masses. Well, the Omnibenevolent Welfare State was already supplying the panem. That compels me to consider an ugly possibility: Is it possible that the GOP solicited a Trump candidacy for its entertainment value?

     In the midst of all this, Barack Hussein Obama, peeved that yet again he wasn’t commanding 100% of the world’s attention, simply had to toss a turd into the punchbowl by suggesting that the Republican Congressional caucuses were in some way collaborating with the “Iranian hard-liners.” He did so not once but twice. Rest assured that it wasn’t because he thought he hadn’t been sufficiently clear the first time, but rather that it struck him as the best way to keep the cameras focused on him. Chuck Schumer’s brief intrusion into their field of view, temporarily demoting Obama to nineteenth place, must have pissed him off big time.

     There isn’t much that Obama hasn’t done to pollute the political environment. He’s usurped powers belonging to the legislative and judicial branches, or to the states and people. He’s forced millions of Americans into dependency or the underground economy. He’s divided the country along ideological, racial, sexual, and ethnic lines. He’s used various agencies of the federal government to harass and impede his opponents. He’s alienated America’s allies – in one case, allowing his “legacy” to trump the national survival of a longtime friend – while giving aid and comfort to powers that hate us and want to see us vanish. What’s left, apart from nuking a Super Bowl on the grounds of “national security?”

     I can think of only one man likely to take any pleasure from the Obama presidency – and Jimmy Carter will be off to that Great House-Raising In The Sky soon enough.

     All that having been said, and by many other commentators as well (though hardly with such dazzling eloquence), we must turn to the truly central question of the day: the one which we must face before so much time has passed that a critical situation has become unsalvageable:

     Will the New York Rangers be able to contend for the Stanley Cup again this year, without Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis?

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