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Election Day is Only 8 Days Away

October 31, 2016

“Where the search for the truth is conducted with a wink and a nod,
And where power and position are equated with the grace of God,
These times are famine for the soul, while for the senses it’s a feast,
From the edge of my country, as far as you see, looking east”

– Jackson Browne, from Looking East

Our time. When the lies became the truth.

When did our malignant political discourse start? When did the country start down this path?

Who’s to blame? Was it Mitt Romney in 2012 when he traveled to Las Vegas to court Donald Trump for his endorsement? Romney, who as you may remember, passionately warned his party and American voters to reject Trump, calling him a phony and a con man. I applaud him for making that speech, but Romney didn’t always talk this way. In 2012, with Trump at his side in a gaudy lobby of what Trump likes to remind us is one of his many “world’s best assets,” Romney beamed, “There are some things that you can’t imagine happening in your life. And this is one of them.” Did Romney need Trump’s 2012 endorsement so badly that he was willing to give this guy legitimacy with the Republican Party?

Or maybe the starting point for all this bitter acrimony was Romney’s successful restructuring of health care in Massachusetts, when he was the state’s governor. Without Romneycare, perhaps there would be no Obamacare for the country to fight over. We could have just continued to avoid the matter of healthcare for another eight years.

But wait, if the five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t decided that Florida State Law had no bearing on a careful recount of ballots cast by voters in Florida, then Al Gore might have been elected president, not George W. Bush. Maybe Gore would have handled matters leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks differently or had a different military response. If so, maybe we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to “unite” so tightly around our government institutions for that brief moment. Do you remember that short period, when frightened by the attack and uncertain about what lay before us, we seemed to be in this together.

If Bush hadn’t been elected, we’d have been spared from his hell-bent desire to start the $5 billion war, which was promoted and sold to Americans with lies. When the deceit surfaced, the country’s singular purpose dissipated and was eventually replaced with strong opposing views on the wars or the way that they were executed. The magnetic bumper stickers portraying an American flag and promise that we will “Remember Forever” were soon replaced with either an anti-war theme or the confused and confusing puerile message that we should “support our troops.”

If things had gone better with the wars, perhaps Barack Obama would still be a back bencher in the U.S. Senate. In that case, the country wouldn’t care about his birth certificate, his religion, or whether he wants to take away our guns.

Maybe you’d point to 1994, when Newt Gingrich, in a bid within his party for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, told people that Democrats weren’t just the party with different ideas about government’s role, they were “enemies of normal people” and even “traitors.” You know Gingrich, he’s still spouting out his loathsome messages any time someone offers him a microphone. You can find him most at home on Fox.¹ I don’t remember the last time I heard him say anything that contributed to a brighter future for the country.

Political scientists often point to Ronald Reagan's hypothesis that "government is the problem" as the cover that Gingrich and eventually, his modern day successors, needed to grind Washington to a stop. Reagan's success was sparked by Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. Neither Reagan nor Goldwater refused to work with those who didn't agree with their ideas. In fact, they even socialized with Democrats. Reagan and Tip O'Neil played cards together. Goldwater and Jack Kennedy were friends. Goldwater, a pilot, was planning to fly around the country together with JFK for a "whistle stop" debate tour.

Political scientists often point to Ronald Reagan’s hypothesis that “government is the problem” as the cover that Gingrich and eventually, his modern day successors, needed to grind Washington to a stop. Reagan’s success was sparked by Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. However, neither Reagan nor Goldwater refused to work with those who disagreed with their ideas. In fact, they even socialized with Democrats. Reagan and Tip O’Neil played cards together. Goldwater and Jack Kennedy were friends. Goldwater, a pilot, was planning to fly around the country together with JFK for a “whistle stop” debate tour.

And then of course, we have the Clintons. Aren’t they to blame for the start of this mess? During the 2000 presidential election, Gore was never able to get clear of the sordid stench that followed Bill Clinton. Bush won the affection of the Christian Right and others who were sick and tired of the debauchery Bill Clinton brought to the White House. If he hadn’t been so reckless and smarmy, perhaps Bush would have never had a chance. The Clinton’s tendencies were litigated in court and in the public two decades ago, but the Republicans are doing their best to keep the flames burning now that Hillary is running for office. It’s only expected.

Sometimes, I wonder if the vitriol from this year’s election would have been avoided if Hillary had been elected in 2008. But the answer to that seems quite clear. There’s no way that the country would have come together over health care, capital spending on our infrastructure, gun laws, foreign policy or much of anything had she received more votes than Obama and eventually, John McCain. We may not have cared about her e-mails or whatever else has the Republicans up in arms, but there would have been something else. There’s always been one thing or another with the Clintons and there always will be. Real or manufactured. At this point, it’s all the same.

I’m a casual observer of national politics, hardly in a position to have access to all of the details someone would want before engaging in a national campaign of such importance. The Clintons, who have been in the public for decades, know the challenges of gaining the support of American voters. They know the particular barriers to affection and confidence that exist for them personally. They should. They’ve created many of them. Therefore, they should have also known that their time was up years ago. The patriotic thing for them would be to remain in New York. No matter how skilled, smart or experienced they may be, they need to be on the outside to have the highest positive impact. I’ve always had the feeling that this would never occur to them; that doing their work in the background, and therefore, staying out of the line of fire, would be the best thing for the country overall. Arrogance.

Should Hillary win. it would be good of George W. Bush, who has good relationships with the Clintons, to tell Americans to take it easy, "go to the mall" and go on about their lives. Leave the new president alone so she can get something done.

Should Hillary win. it would be good of George W. Bush, who has good relationships with the Clintons, to tell Americans to take it easy, “go to the mall” and go on about their lives. Leave the new president alone so she can get something done.

Should Hillary be elected, just what are the odds that the Republicans will rally behind our new president? Can anyone imagine a Republican in Congress working with her to solve issues? No matter how firmly any of them may agree with her on policy or value her insight and ideas (as many of them did when she was in the Senate or the State Department) there’s no political upside for them to work with her now. Just the opposite, actually. Our poisoned political climate makes their cooperation impossible. The Republicans are more comfortable supporting their candidate, the guy who talks fondly about Vladimir Putin. The guy who disgraces their party when he proclaims that the Russian autocrat is the capable leader that Bush, Obama and Clinton could only strive to be. These Republicans are the same folks who scoffed at Bernie Sanders and tried to defame him as a “communist” for talking about policies that have worked well in Northern Europe. (Imagine the uproar if Sanders had complimented Putin.)

It’s a dangerous situation when eleven days before an election an FBI Director sends a letter to bloodthirsty Republicans in Congress telling them that he has found additional e-mails that may have something to do with his previous investigation of Hillary. This letter is particularly troubling because it is so vague and devoid of details. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any stranger, something like this comes up.

The FBI Director also sent a memo to the bureau’s employees explaining to them that he felt obligated to report to Congress. He told the staff that even though he doesn’t know the significance of the emails, he felt like he had to keep Congress apprised. And after leaving everyone scratching their heads about what he found, he went on to say that he did not want to create a “misleading impression.” Well, sorry to break it to you Mr. Comey, but that’s exactly what you did with your blurry and inconclusive letter. Nobody could write a better script to cloud matters so close to Election Day.

For the moment, this whole thing with the FBI seems to me to be irresponsible. Maybe Comey thought he was doing the responsible thing, but he executed it in such an irresponsible manner that the impact was predictable from the start. This is just the thing that get voters’ attention. Crank up the social media merry-go-rounds. Keep the talking points constant. All talking heads report to the studios. You all know what we expect you to say. Say it with conviction. Yell it into the TV cameras if you like. Truth or lies, it’s all the same to us.

A year ago, Bernie Sanders told Hillary Clinton that “Americans were sick and tired of hearing about her damn e-mails.” I certainly am. We of course don’t have that option. That’s not the way things work. We’re going to hear about her damn e-mails for years to come, especially if she makes it to the White House. The force in our country that creates truth from lies guarantees it.


¹ You know Fox. That’s the place that brought us the fair and balanced reporting in the 2008 primaries, when Obama and Clinton ran for the Democratic Party nomination. To help us understand what was going on out on the campaign trail, Fox brought in an “expert” who told us that the reason Obama was doing better than Clinton with male voters in the primaries was that when he talked they heard, “Take off for the future,” but when she talked, they heard her a nagging woman voice telling them to “Take out the garbage.”


  1. I’m of the firm belief that Reagan is responsible. “Government IS the problem” was the first nail in the coffin of making government the enemy. There was always some enmity towards the government, there always is. But he made it main stream. He put into office — as heads of Executive Departments, people who believed in tearing down government. It never made sense. It never will.

    We need government. We need cooperative government. When Hillary is elected we won’t get it because of the neanderthals and children in the GOP. Personally, I think that “The GOP IS the problem.”


    • For all that Reagan believed about government, I do not think that he would be supportive of the current state of things. Cheap and meaningless to say, but I think that he would vote for Hillary over Trump. He loved his country.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree completely. I just heard his son, Ron Jr say exactly that on the news last night or the night before.


  2. Now I am depressed, Bruce. I told Peggy I wanted to play ostrich, to go bury my head in some nice B&B along the coast that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, that doesn’t have TV, that doesn’t subscribe to newspapers — where I could listen to the timeless waves pound against the coast and read a good novel, a long novel that captures me and doesn’t let go. I am in Mendocino now. There is television and Wi-Fi and newspapers… but I am ignoring them… –Curt


    • Curt, playing ostrich isn’t as easy as it once was. To pull it off, one might have to start out on a 10,000-mile bicycle tour. Then, that person would be in remote areas and oh so busy getting to the next marker.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Backpacking in a remote wilderness; it’s even better Bruce. 🙂 You want to be far away from an Internet connection as well as the media. –Curt


  3. Good column that articulates well what I am feeling! I have just re-blogged it.


  4. So many things to comment on…

    1. I think it started with the election of Bill Clinton after the Republicans had controlled the white house for 20 of the previous 24 years. I think the core of the GOP had come to believe they were entitled to the Presidency. Their response to their loss in 1992 and again in 1996 to the lecherous Bill Clinton of all people was something they could not handle and they set out to destroy him and everything he stood for … you know, things like a balanced budget that produced a federal budget surplus and the greatest peacetime economic boom in our history. Things have never been the same.

    2. You describe perfectly why I cannot vote for Hillary. The Clintons as participants in the national political scene are a story that is past its sell by date. Yes, much of what has been alleged about them has been manufactured. The reality, however, is also that they have made decisions and engaged in conduct that has played directly into the ability of the right-wing and its media overlords to manufacture those allegations. For all of their “intelligence” they have mastered the art of foolishness as well and sought to enrich themselves in a way that has disqualified them from being suitable for the position of leader and uniter in this country. (Truth is, however, that no Democrat would ever be suitable in those positions from the perspective of the GOP.)

    3. All of that said … Trump is a catastrophe of epic proportions. And the FBI’s actions raise serious questions. I think that agents and others within the FBI don’t like the Clintons and they were disgusted by Comey’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary and they set him up with this latest bit of email tomfoolery. Meanwhile, apparently the FBI has a wealth of information about connections between Trump and the Russians and they have not done anything at all with that information and advising Congress or the public of it.


  5. kdk permalink

    Comey’s letter takes the cake. It’s so irresponsible. What a swirl of madness. (and, btw, iOS autocorrects Comey to “comedy” which, you know, might be fitting if wasn’t all so wrong).

    This campaign has been long and trying, but one of these imperfect candidates will be elected and it will come to a conclusion. I worry more about the ongoing divide in the country. Redistricting may be as much symptom as cause, but I don’t underestimate its role in driving the DC right and the left to wider extremes.

    Famine for the soul. Do you have an encyclopedic recall of lyrics? You always find the best quote or lyric for your posts.


    • kdk, speaking of autocorrect, “kdk” automatically moves to “idk,” which as ymk (you may know) is the way we are supposed to say, “I don’t know.” I would not know that unless one of my sons used in text messages (along with “omw” and such).

      Redistricting and gerrymandering will lock in impasse and divisiveness. No benefits to the country. None.

      As for the recall of lyrics, none of them come back as quickly as I would like. (Or who knows, maybe that’s a good thing.) But there are so many I’ve heard that there’s bound to be something good to float to the surface now and again.


  6. Enough with the emails! I agree. Maybe I’m naive, but I never saw the personal server as a way to sneak some conversations under the radar, whatever their content. Being a federal employee, I assumed it was to have some control over technology. My required employee equipment is outdated and sluggish. Software updates come as soon as our harried IT staff gets a chance, which is not often. Hardware upgrades are rare, and rely on taxpayer’s support. I call my home office PC “Old Bessie.” She takes about 22 minutes to get up and running each morning (I know because I’ve timed the process). We use outdated browsers, that give a warning message every time “This page would work much better if you upgraded.” But I can’t do anything about it, because I do not have the administrative authority to touch a thing. So when I heard about a personal server, I thought, “Brilliant! What I wouldn’t give to bypass my own archaic government system.” And deleting, for gosh sakes. I want just one person to ask Trump if he has deleted an email in the past 4 years. Deleting an email is good administrative hygeine, in my humble opinion. Why are people so freaked out about this?


    • I’ve read the stories about the antiquated systems most government employees endure to complete a days work. I wish she had done things differently. I’m not sure what the battle cries would have been had she kept her Sec of State emails on the government server. I guess Benghazi. The record shows that she attracts less hostility when governing than she does when she hold office. If she wins the election, I don’t think people will give her any leeway to discharge her duties. The fact that this doesn’t seem to be a concern for the Republican party is a real problem.

      Be nice to Ol’ Bessie. It seems she’s all you’ll likely get.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, and the Jackson Browne lyric was just painful. Brought tears to my eyes.


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