Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Trump Rolls Along / The 'Big Lie' / Woodrow Takes a Bullet

The Clown Car Keeps Chugging – Mr. Gripes has seen parts of all the Republican debates, and, after each one, as he resides on the sofa with mouth agape at the silliness, the infantilism, the imbecility, he wonders aloud, ‘How did what was once the most vigorous and successful democracy in world history get to here?’ It feels like we’re descending into a yawning abyss.

Suddenly it hits me, ‘Of course…it’s Sarah Palin!’ I remember the exact moment: in the middle of her debate with Joe Biden in 2008, she turned to the camera, and winked at all of us in the TV audience, as if she was letting us in on the hysterical farce that is American politics these days.

That moment was the catalyst for the increasingly irrational political discourse we’ve observed ever since. The debate catapulted Ms. Palin into national prominence, becoming an instant celebrity among Republicans. The truth we found out later was she really had no interest in governance; her overweening goal was to get rich, which she did, extravagantly so. [Two months after the election, she quit as Governor of Alaska, becoming a TV pundit [!!], writing a book which generated a huge advance, and embarking on a very lucrative career making speeches before adoring conservative audiences. She’s now a millionaire, a few times over.]

Which brings me to the present and the 2nd coming of ‘Sarah Palin’: Donald Trump. One thing, though, Mr. Gripes does give Mr. Trump credit for: like the leopard, he does not change his spots. While every establishment Republican politician and conservative think tank wonk would give their left arm to make Trump disappear, he continues to be at or near the front of the pack. [An aside: nothing pleases Mr. Gripes more than seeing the smug, rodent-esque Bill Kristol, one of the neo-con advisors exhorting George Bush to invade Iraq in 2002 so democracy would ‘flower’ in the Middle East, eat crow on ‘Morning Joe’ every couple of weeks after he’s assured us once again of a Trump collapse …Wrong again and again and again, Billy Boy.  If Trump triumphs, there’ll be no more easy-money, think-tank speaking fees coming your way for a while.]

But, Mr. Gripes simply doesn’t believe that Mr. Trump, not now nor four months ago when all this began, wants to be President of the United States. Oh sure, maybe he suffers at times from delusions of grandeur, and thinks he’s got a shot, but, in more rational moments, that prospect probably scares him to death. I think he ran for one principal reason: his ‘brand’ would be exponentially augmented by a few months of campaigning. And, that certainly has occurred: every building, every golf course he creates, every book he writes have greatly enhanced value due to his enormous notoriety. As well, any canned speech he presents in front of trade associations, corporations and the like from now on will go for $250,000 and upwards a pop.

Mr. Trump, lately, appears to be making more frequent outrageous --destructive, even –  blunders out on the campaign trail that seem to ‘Dr. Gripes’ to be collectively an unconscious wish to sabotage and terminate his Presidential run. [Although maybe I don’t give Mr. Trump enough credit; he may be very conscious of what he’s doing.] What’s the motivation, after all, when he actually called out, ‘How stupid can Iowans be’ when he was campaigning in Iowa, no less? Very strange behavior if he really wants to be President.

The other reason that I think this endeavor is a short-term move by Donald Trump is that he’s not spending any money on his campaign. Oh, sure, he promises he’ll be spending ‘millions very soon,’ but presently he’s acting like a cheapskate: his campaigning seems to be solely functioning through TV appearances, news spots and debates. [The networks drool over Trump and his attendant ratings, and give him essentially as much air time as he likes, all free of charge, of course.] There have been no advertising expenditures, and where are the paid staffs he needs to hire for the primary states he’s running in? Mr. Gripes senses that Mr. Trump knows damn well this campaign is ultimately a loser’s game for him, and he’ll hold on to every dime of his billions, thank you very much.

‘Mainstream Media’ – It’s the Big Lie, as Orwell so accurately called it. Definition: a falsehood so often and so loudly exclaimed that eventually people come to believe it’s the truth. Well, the Republican Party has trumpeted its own ‘Big Lie’ for a long, long time: it’s Republican scripture that the established media outlets – national television and radio networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others – are ‘left-wing’ – with maybe a wisp of ‘commie’ stink, too -- and always slant the news against the Party of the Right; they can’t be trusted to tell the poor, misinformed citizenry the real facts.

What a crock of horsesh_t.

Let’s pretend for a second you’re Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican Majority Leader of the Senate, and you’ve just sat down for the usual breakfast bowl of oatmeal, coffee, and a slice of toast. You were appraised last night that another city has been ransacked and conquered by Isis in Iraq. What is the first newspaper you turn for a more detailed report? There’s only one: the ‘New York Times’. Do you actually think that Mr. McConnell will turn on Fox News for astute, accurate, objective analysis? Not in a million years. [‘Fair and Balanced’, my ass.] And what works for the Kentucky senator works for every other Republican senator. Each one of them will read the ‘New York Times’ during the morning, even as that paper is trashed all the time as leftwing propaganda by these same Republicans. It’s a corollary of the Big Lie.

Deriding and ridiculing media such as the NY Times or CNN serves another purpose for Republicans and Conservatives. When faced with an issue they have no genuine answer to, they simply assert the question is nothing but garbage promulgated by the mainstream media, so it’s not worth even discussing. The constant, lamenting refrain of ‘Mainstream Media’ is nothing but empty demagoguery. 

Here’s an example: Mr. Gripes observed in one of the Republican debates Senator Marco Rubio puff out his chest and declare, ‘We need a much stronger military; I’ll increase the military budget by $1 trillion to accomplish that.’ Governor John Kasich, a Rubio debate opponent that evening, counters by asserting, and I paraphrase, “Without increased taxes, which you’re going to have to implement, how are you ever going to afford that? You’re dreaming.’ 

Senator Rubio then blurts out, as his counter-argument to Mr. Kasich, loudly, ‘That’s the same non-sense line we get from the mainstream media.’ That was his only answer to a very valid question. Mr. Rubio had no substantive reply at all to the $1 trillion gap, so he avoids the whole issue by criticizing the media. And this ploy is done all the time, when politicians, especially conservative ones, don’t have a clue about solutions to problems. It’s all chimera, and posturing, and pandering to a rabid, angry base, with no connection to reality.  And these politicians know exactly what they’re doing.
‘Mainstream Media’ is a very useful tool for politicians. However, its utterance always represents a refusal or an inability to confront, honestly, the very difficult issues of a very complex world.

Leave Poor Woody Alone, OK?? Now it’s Woodrow Wilson who’s taking some bullets. This is the honorable Woodrow Wilson I’m talking about: initially, President of Princeton University, then New Jersey Governor, and finally President of the United States for two terms. During his Presidency, the country entered World War I and, in short order, Mr. Wilson and America managed to finish off Germany and the Axis powers. After the Armistice, he basically worked himself to death attempting to create a World League, the predecessor to the United Nations. Mr. Wilson, who indeed may have held racist views regarding people of color, was nevertheless an exemplary public servant, and should be lauded.

Instead, students at his school are now trying to get his name erased from the ‘Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs,’ an extremely well respected institution, among a host of other demands. What would Mr. Gripes say to these students, if he were running the university? ‘Forget about it, boys and girls. Whatever honoraria Mr. Wilson might have garnered on these sacred grounds will not be touched. There’ll be no chiseling out his name from any of our buildings, and there’ll be no historical erasures among the books in our library. Friends, he was a great man.’

Mr. Gripes may sound like a curmudgeon on this issue, but, let’s be real, students – their youth certainly has a lot to do with it – lack context. Woodrow Wilson’s era was blatantly racist – hell, lynchings went on continuously at the time, unimpeded by any local, state or national officialdom. Blacks were indisputably second-class citizens in this country. So, let’s be real -- Mr. Wilson’s race beliefs were most likely very much aligned with those of the vast majority of citizens.

Of course, Woodrow Wilson held Neanderthal views on race relations. So what? A lot of our presidents made huge mistakes, harbored backward beliefs, and took despicable actions. Abraham Lincoln wanted originally to deport black American citizens back to Africa [to establish their own country, Liberia]; Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned American citizens of Japanese descent in remote areas of Nevada and California, as World War II commenced, and didn’t allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter the United States at all during the war. But, should the monuments of both presidents be torn down and their great deeds erased from history books? Of course not. They were flawed human beings, like the rest of us.

Way back when, I was a student at one of the ‘elite’ colleges that resembles Princeton. And, I’m more and more appreciative of the great education I received there. Sure, I grumbled sometimes about school, but I was very cognizant of the gift my parents gave to me. It was an enormous privilege to attend a college of that caliber. These Princeton students, instead of wasting their time besmirching the reputation of their magnificent university, should take a long look at what they’re protesting. After all, there are so many other pressing issues – how about the systematic enslavement and raping of thousands of Isis female captives, for one – to focus their energy on.

Woodrow Wilson’s been dead for 91 years. Let the man rest in peace.

Jim Israel
Mr. Gripes                                                             December 7, 2015