America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By Colette

Today I have another guest post in response to my plea for readers around the globe to share with us their views of the U.S. in today’s world.  Colette has generously taken the time to write a thoughtful analysis of how the U.S. fits … or doesn’t fit … with the rest of the world today, and how our policies and leadership have affected the rest of the world.  Thank you so much, Colette, for this excellent and sobering analysis!


How did America Lose its Way in the World?

The USA, for many decades, maintained leadership in the world of economics, politics and living standards.

In 2008, that all changed when a poor economy, during the end of the Bush administration, triggered job losses and foreclosures on newly purchased real estate. The Prime Rate Mortgage scheme unravelled spectacularly, as people walked away from their homes. Financial Institutions holding the debt load across the world, fell like dominoes, crippling the world economy. The Bush administration had allowed for a scandalous mortgage scheme to exist. Outrageously, Senator John McCain exonerated Republicans by falsely pinning the blame for the financial fallout on the Democrats. Trust was lost in America.

Then, the rise of Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, and Indian (BRIC) economies created the global financial growth once enjoyed by the USA. They, and the fifth member, South Africa, have developed enormously. These nations are forming stronger inter-development alliances with interested parties and no longer depend on the EU and the US economies for survival.

America, despite the best efforts of Barack Obama to rebuild confidence, has lost the respect of other nations. With the loss of trust in America, came the loss of safety for political allies. America was no longer a major player in the World. Barack Obama was unable to adequately rebuild those fractured relationships. There were no viable Democrats waiting in the ‘wings’ who had a definitive strategy for bringing back jobs and rebuilding the economic status that the American public wanted. A political void existed.

I don’t like Donald Trump. I read his ‘Art of the Deal’ when it was first published in 1987. It didn’t take me long to realise that the man could use spin to sell any abhorrent idea to anyone. I also noticed how he manipulated officials to win planning permission for constructing his ostentatious buildings.

I thought Donald Trump to be the perfect TV host of the American version of ‘The Apprentice.’ His bullying, bellow of ‘You’re Fired!’ to contestants was an accurate personification of his real self. Donald Trump is not the perfect man for the position of President of the United States.

Trump, fresh from his instant TV stardom, rode in like a cowboy with guns blazing. Mowing down friends and foes alike, he boasted to his TV audience, “We’re gonna Make America Great Again!” It was a terrible ‘John Wayne’ imitation, but it was enough to mobilise poor-town Americans into lifting their heads up from dusty bars across the Nation. They recognised Trump from his appearances on their living room screens as someone who knew business and how to make money. As a collective, they put their fists in the air and said, “Yeah, we’re gonna make America great again! They were not seemingly aware of the debts that Trump had incurred in his own dealings, nor of his use of tax avoidance and double dealing tactics.

My husband, a financial man for much of his working life, saw a visionary Donald Trump providing hope for a better economy. His view, was to give the man a chance! He tells me that Donald Trump, whether you like him or not, has made progress on his pre-election promises.

I don’t really think my husband knows Trump’s full history, nor do I think that he cares, so that may also be true of Trump’s many supporters.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is full of old ideas, old philosophies, and old tricks. And he believes that he, ‘The Donald,’ is above the law, above the Constitution, and above any need to be diplomatic with other nations. He plays the Presidency as he did his own empire. He believes that his only hindrances are the Democrats and a few million Hispanics on his southern border. He does not personally like or feel any compassion for economic migrants because he is a covert racist and doesn’t want them in ‘his’ America.

The lack of trust in America has extended into the very real issue of world climate change. There is hesitation on global action as America, under Donald Trump’s instruction, has now left the bargaining ‘table.’ Other nations mumble verbal commitments, but their trust in American leadership has been abused yet again. Suspicion and hostility about how the Paris Agreement might work without US involvement has ground proceedings to a halt.

I watched a May 2018 interview with ‘Stephen Fry,’ a British actor. How did he see America today? He dropped his head saying, “Oh it’s terribly unfortunate! ” He also went on to say that Donald Trump used gangster and criminal tactics to force his agenda. He says Trump’s popularity is driven by ‘clickbait’ issues posted on social media, that is then reiterated over and over again, in televised news.

Stephen Fry also predicts that Donald Trump will run a second term, and so does my husband. Why? Because Donald Trump commands attention. He keeps his fingers working on his Twitter account so that he makes world news every day! A certain percentage of Americans see Donald Trump’s constant barrage of media blustering as ‘the real thing.’ They are fooled into believing that ‘America IS Great Again! ” So, they will vote him in again because Trump’s fake news fiasco is working!

Donald Trump tosses out outrageous propaganda which the media just gobbles up and feeds to us wholesale. Stephen Fry said that if nobody listened, and nobody clicked on the social media links, all the propaganda would disappear, and so would Donald Trump’s success.

Brits in general, feel that they hear far too much about American politics, especially during elections. And in truth, not many ordinary people on this side of the pond care what Donald Trump does, but those same people lap up the articles written about Trump because they reinforce some parallel issues that arise with Brexit.

Trump’s firings of his staff, the withdrawal of troops, the detention and degradation of migrants, the threat to keep the government in lock down, and his never-ending tirade about the ‘wall,’ all invoke fear. Trump hopes to trigger a state of emergency in a paralysed nation fearful of attack. These are the ‘plays’ of a man desperate to have the rest of the world take notice of America and see her power. Trump wants to build the economy using the steel industry to build the ‘wall’ and to create an arsenal of new weapons (in the event of a war that he will likely instigate). It is so unfortunate for the American people who must endure the consequences of the lies churned out by Trump. They may see the economy build, but it is not building for them.

The sinister side to all of this, is that Trump may eventually use his bullying tactics one too many times with China. It could backfire spectacularly in 2019 as a China/Russia alliance becomes a mega joint strategy against the perceived US threats. Donald Trump is playing with fire. His military commanders know it, and so do his allies. Other countries are quickly backing away from Trump’s influence as he drags the good citizens of America down a very dark black hole whilst chasing his own empire.

 ‘Trust’ and ‘Safety’ no longer exist in my vocabulary for describing Donald J. Trump’s America. And the consequences of Donald Trump’s flawed plans could herald a change of leadership on the political world stage. If so, it will not be the United States of America in that lead role.

A Stark Contrast …

Donald Trump is spending his Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. However, rather than spending a nice, quiet weekend with his rather macabre family, he spent the day on Thursday doing his usual routine of criticizing people, places and things, while patting himself on the back.  Only this time he crossed a line.  During a series of phone calls with members of both the military and the media on Thanksgiving Day (what, does he think these people got nothing better to do with their holiday than listen to his mindless ramblings???), he was asked by a reporter what he is most thankful for.  His answer?

“I made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you won’t believe it.”

He is thankful … for himself???  To be sure, he has made a difference, but not one that he should be either proud of or thankful for.  He has, in two short years, taken us about 25% of the way down a path toward becoming a friendless, third-world nation where violence and bigotry in all their ugly forms run rampant.  The difference he has made in this country is not a positive one, either on an international, national or personal level.  If asked the question: ‘Are you better off today than you were two years ago?’, most would have to respond with a resounding NO!

Trump-phone2Not content to stop there, he kept talking …

“And I mean, you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it. When I see foreign leaders, they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago. Made a lot of progress.”

By ‘foreign leaders’, he is referring to the likes of Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman, not the leaders of democratic nations.  The remainder of the phone call was dedicated to Trump attacking … attacking anything and everything he could think of to attack:  judges, Mexico, military technology, and people seeking asylum.  Same ol’, same ol’, and it doesn’t even bear repeating.

But let’s take a look at what the last real president we had was doing on Thanksgiving …Obama-ThanksgivingBarack, Michelle and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at the Greater Chicago Food Depository helping serve Thanksgiving dinner to people in need, as they have done nearly every year:  In 2015, the Obamas helped feed military veterans at Friendship Place; in 2014, they were at Bread for the City; in 2011, they went to the Capital Area Food Bank; in 2009 and 2010, they chipped in at Martha’s Table.  Not golfing or feasting at some high-end country club, not spewing hate and venom, but simply volunteering their time for the benefit of others.  While Trump was tooting his horn about the ‘difference’ he had made, the Obamas were actually making a difference.

And what was Obama thankful for this year?

“I am grateful for the next generation of leaders—the young people who are tolerant, creative, idealistic and doing the work to create the world as it should be. Who understand that hope requires action. From the Obama family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.”

Oh, how I long to have our real president back!

Obama-oval-office

We’ve Come A Long Way …

We’ve come a long way from the civilized country we once were.  Our forefathers are either looking down groaning and holding their heads or laughing uproariously at what the United States of America has become.

On Monday, a pipe bomb was found in the mailbox of philanthropist (and democrat) George Soros.  Today, bombs were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and media outlet CNN.  Once upon a time, the United States was considered above such behaviour.  We were once considered “the leader of the free world”.  We were once a kinder, gentler nation, one that was looked up to, respected, and valued human rights, human life.  Today, we have sunken to the level of a third-world nation.

We refer to a number of nations, mostly in the Middle East, as ‘terrorist nations’, or ‘countries that harbour terrorists’.  The U.S. has now become just such a nation.  These bombs are acts of terrorism, and I would bet my life that they were not constructed and delivered by Middle Eastern terrorists, nor by Muslims nor Hispanics.  These were thought of, concocted and delivered by white males, unless I miss my guess.  White males who are angry for some reason that the majority of us cannot comprehend.

It would be easy to lay all this at the door of Mr. Trump, for he has been highly vocal in his rabid, vitriolic rhetoric condemning democrats and the press, Obama and Clinton.  And certainly, he must share some of the blame.  But the bulk of the blame is on We The People.  I have spoken enough times on this blog about the loss of civil discourse that I will not do so again today.

Today there are migrants from violent nations heading to the United States to seek asylum from the violence in their own countries.  Soon, I think, there may be caravans of U.S. citizens making their way to the Canadian border to seek asylum from the violence in our own nation. liberty-cries

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words, written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, once meant something.  They were words we were once proud of.  We have sullied the words, just as we have sullied the notion of democracy in the U.S. We no longer deserve to be known as a the ‘land of the free’, for we are not.

To Mr. Trump and to every person who has supported his hate-filled rhetoric, who applauds when he screams and incites violence, I hope you are pleased with yourselves today.  Understand that the majority in this nation do not feel as you do and that we have had just about enough.  We will fight back.  To whomever decided to make those bombs and attempt to murder good people like President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Mr. Soros, and the employees at CNN, I hope you are captured and spend the rest of your life in prison being beaten and abused in the worst possible way.

I am expecting a package to be delivered this week.  I wonder if I will hesitate before opening it?  Probably.  Isn’t this a sad state of affairs?

Let’s Raise the Bar …

I have an idea that I would like to propose: Any candidate running for federal office – either Congress or President/Vice President – should have to take and pass the U.S. Citizenship test.  It should be requisite.  If it were, I can guarantee you that Donald Trump would not be in the Oval Office today, for much of the citizenship test pertains to history and the U.S. Constitution, and Donald Trump is relatively illiterate in both areas.  A few examples of his grasp on historical details:

  • Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president [Macron], so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.
  • “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”  (Jackson died 16 years before the beginning of the Civil War)
  • “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”   

And those are but a few examples of Trump’s grasp of history.  Nada.  I knew more by 4th grade than he knows at age 72.  Why?  Did they not teach history in that fancy military school his daddy sent him to?  Or was he simply not smart enough to learn?  Sad.

Back in May 2016, I wrote a piece titled Why Goats Can’t Vote, about the U.S. Citizenship test and how only 62% of U.S.-born citizens can pass the test.  One of the comments on that initial post was from my UK friend Bushka:

“Always been amazed by this phenomenon…Even Presidents are known to lack such simple knowledge…..No Names!!!”

Fitting, don’t you think?  I was thinking about this tonight and I thought it might be interesting to see just how Trump would fare.  Let’s give him a few questions and see how he does, shall we?  The following are actual questions from previous citizenship tests. Trump’s answers are in his favourite colour, red.

What is the supreme law of the land?
the Supreme Court 
the Bill of Rights
the Declaration of Independence
the Constitution

The correct answer is “the Constitution”.

The idea of self-government in in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
We the Government
The President is
We the People
The Founding Fathers

The correct answer is “We the People”.

Citizenship Study Questions 1-20
What is an amendment?
a change (to the Constitution)
an addition (to the Constitution)
both a and b
none of the above

The correct answer is “both a and b”.

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
The Bill of Rights
The Ten Commandments
The Bill of Laws
The Preamble to the Constitution

The correct answer is “The Bill of Rights”.

What is freedom of religion?
Religion has power over the government
You can force anyone to participate in your religion
You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion
Religion should not exist, and all citizen should be free from it

The correct answer is “You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion”.

What is the “rule of law”?
Everyone must follow the law, except the leaders
Everyone must follow the law, except the government
Only Congress is above the law
Everyone must follow the law, leaders and government must obey the law, and no one is above the law.

The correct answer is “Everyone must follow the law, leaders and government must obey the law, and no one is above the law”.

Well, well, well … looks like Bushka was right, eh?  To his credit, Trump got #3 half right, so I can give him a half point, which brings his score up to 8%.  This ‘man’ could not even become a citizen of the nation he is in charge of! I was pleased that I got them all right … I actually took 20 of them and got them right … so even I am more qualified to be president than Donald Trump!  Hmmmm …

Seriously though, folks … I understand why the framers of the Constitution set very few eligibility requirements for president:  one must be 35 years of age, a resident “within the United States” for 14 years, and a “natural born Citizen”.  That was in 1787, and the framers already knew they were writing the rules for George Washington to become the first president. Looking to the future, they set the age requirement in order to ensure a mature man (women weren’t even allowed to vote or own property back then, so they didn’t count) would be elected.  The citizenship requirement was simply to keep Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the West Indies, from becoming president.  Our constitution is an 18th century one developed for a newly independent British colony.  And it worked well for a number of years.  But this is the 21st century and times have changed.  Just as we amended the Constitution to allow women to vote and to abolish slavery, it is time we amend it to set a higher standard for the presidency.

Until the Trump presidency, we didn’t question the eligibility requirements, for we had men who were well qualified, who had studied not only law, but also English grammar and history.  But today that is not the case.  Take a look at a few recent presidents:

  • Bill Clinton had a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University, a Juris Doctorate (JD) from Yale Law School, and was a Rhodes Scholar. In addition, he had experience in government, having served as Governor of Arkansas for 11 years.
  • George W. Bush had a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in history from Yale University, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School, and he had served as Governor of Texas from 1995-2000.
  • Barack Obama double-majored in college, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and English Literature from Columbia University, graduated magna cum laude with a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, served as an Illinois State Senator from 1997-2004, and as a U.S. Senator from 2005-2008.

Compare to Donald Trump who has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wharton School of Business, four draft deferments, nearly 6,000 lawsuits, numerous sexual misconduct allegations, and six bankruptcies to add to his résumé.  No relevant education, no relevant experience.  What were people thinking when they voted for him?

There are portions of the U.S. Constitution that need to be updated.  The electoral college is one, and I will cover that in a future post, but the qualifications for the head of the government, the man with the most power, seriously need to be upgraded and brought into the 21st century, preferably before the 2020 election.  At the very least I would expect degrees in political science and/or international relations, and at least four years relevant experience.  This nation cannot afford another Donald Trump, or even another four years of this one.  Let’s raise the bar.

Two Men of Principles — Barack Obama and John McCain

Very rarely do I post anything over 1,200 words, and typically I try to stay around the 800-word mark.  I tried to find parts of this eulogy to cut out, to shorten it, but in the end, every word seemed relevant.  And so, in it’s entirety, this is the poignant eulogy given earlier today by President Barack Obama for Senator John McCain:

To John’s beloved family, Mrs. McCain, to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Biden, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore, and as John would say, my friends. We come to celebrate an extraordinary man. A statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.

President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents just as he made the senate better, just as he makes this country better.

For someone like John to ask you while he is still alive to stand and speak of him when he is gone is a precious and singular honor. Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I’ll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. After our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John’s essential qualities.

To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John’s disdain for self pity. He had been to hell and back and yet somehow never lost his energy or his optimism or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him. And he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end, too stubborn to sit still, as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all to his family. It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor, a little bit of a mischievous streak. what better way to get a last laugh than make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience? And most of all it showed a largeness of spirit. An ability to see past differences in search of common ground.

And in fact on the surface, John and i could not have been more different. We’re of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father. John was the stein of one of America’s most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool, John not so much. We were standard bearers of different American political traditions and throughout my presidency John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up, which by his calculation was about once a day. But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand the long-standing admiration that I had for him.

By his own account John was a rebellious young man. In his case, what’s faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny. Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. For John, that meant answering the highest of callings, serving his country in a time of war.

Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel. And it brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote, a book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book. “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

In captivity John learned in ways that few of us ever will the meaning of those words, how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test again and again and again. And that’s why when John spoke of virtues like service and valor they weren’t just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die. And it forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country? What might we risk everything for?

Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. In fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics. Some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.

John cared about the institutions of self government, our constitution, our bill of rights, rule of law. Separation of powers. Even the arcane rules and procedures of the senate. He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. Give shape and order to our common life. Even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.

John believed in honest argument and hearing our views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That’s why he was willing to buck his own party at times. occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That’s why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact it earned him good coverage didn’t hurt either.

John understood as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our blood line, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal. Endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

It has been mentioned today, seen footage this week, John pushing back against supporters that challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful but I wasn’t surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John’s instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. That in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign he saw himself as defending America’s character, not just mine. He considered it the imperative of every citizen that loves this country to treat all people fairly.

And finally while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform. Service members like Doug, Jimmy, Jack who followed their father’s footsteps, as well as families that serve alongside our troops. But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values. Like rule of law and human rights and insistence on the god-given dignity of every human being.

Of course John was the first to tell us he was not perfect. Like all of us that go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us there was no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back.

It is no secret, it has been mentioned that he had a temper, and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold. His jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you. Not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you. But to know john was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws, his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self awareness made him all the more compelling.

We didn’t advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency John would come over to the White House and we’d just sit and talk in the oval office, just the two of us. We would talk about policy and we’d talk about family and we’d talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn’t go away during these private conversations. Those were real and they were often deep. but we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights and we laughed with each other and we learned from each other and we never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other patriotism or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched and fought and sacrificed and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals at home and do our best to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible. and citizenship as an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.

More than once during his career John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. I am sure it has been noted that Roosevelt’s men in the arena seems tailored to John. most of you know it. Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short but always relish a good fight. A contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Isn’t that the spirit we celebrate this week? That striving to be better, to do better, worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed. So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombastic manufactured outrage, it’s politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. but what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today. What better way to honor John McCain’s life of service than as best we can follow his example to prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few, it is open to all of us, and in fact it is demanded of all of us as citizens of this great republic. That’s perhaps how we honor him best, by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power, that the things that are worth risking everything for, principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding. At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt.

May God bless John McCain. May God bless this country he served so well.

A Tale Of Two Evil People — Part II

Senator John McCain died last Saturday, August 25th.  I already wrote a tribute, sans politics, but today I let other voices speak of their thoughts on Senator McCain.  Every former living president offered a tribute …

“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means.” – President Barack Obama, 25 August 2018

“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.” – President George W. Bush, 25 August 2018

“Senator John McCain believed that every citizen has a responsibility to make something of the freedoms given by our Constitution, and from his heroic service in the Navy to his 35 years in Congress, he lived by his creed every day.  He frequently put partisanship aside to do what he thought was best for the country, and was never afraid to break the mold if it was the right thing to do.  I will always be especially grateful for his leadership in our successful efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam.” – President Bill Clinton & Secretary Hillary Clinton, 25 August 2018

“John McCain was a patriot of the highest order, a public servant of the rarest courage. Few sacrificed more for, or contributed more to, the welfare of his fellow citizens – and indeed freedom loving peoples around the world.” — President George HW Bush

And across the globe, world leaders memorialized Senator McCain …

“John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self.” – UK Prime Minister Theresa May

“He embodied everything that we respect and value and love about our American friends.” – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

“Senator John McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions.” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of John McCain, a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel. I will always treasure the constant friendship he showed to the people of Israel and to me personally.” – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“John McCain was led by the firm conviction that the sense of all political work lies in service to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. His death is a loss to all those who share this conviction.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“The world has lost a great defender of liberty. RIP Senator John McCain. Prayers and love to your family.” – Former British Prime Minister David Cameron

“Senator John McCain had an illustrious military and public service career and was admired across the spectrum of US politics as a man of integrity and a champion of civility.” – Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

McCain-Germany

Seen in Germany …

And there were many, many more … but the one that was missing speaks volumes about the monster in the Oval Office, Donald Trump.  He said not a single word about Senator McCain, though he did interrupt his rant about “Crooked Hillary” long enough to offer pseudo condolences to the family:

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” – Donald J. Trump

Not a single word about John McCain, not a single word of praise or compassion. But even that is not the worst.  The worst was yet to come.  Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other aides in the administration wrote a statement, praising McCain for both his military service and service to his country as a long-term member of Congress.  The statement also referred to him as a ‘hero’, which is appropriate and true.

But Trump refused to allow the statement to be issued, instead insisting that his brief, vacuous Tweet (see above) would serve as the official statement from the administration.  This, my friends, is unacceptable.  This is NOT the way we expect the president to behave!!!  It is the way we expect a five-year-old child who didn’t get his way, who has to be the center of attention to behave.

Other White House officials, instead, released their own statements in tribute to Senator McCain. By Sunday afternoon, the vice president, secretary of state, homeland security secretary, defense secretary, national security adviser, White House press secretary, counselor to the president, education secretary, interior secretary and others had posted statements lauding Senator McCain.

Although President Obama ordered flags to fly at half-mast for five days after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009, Trump ordered the flags returned to full staff this morning.  The flag at the Capitol Building remains at half-mast. A few days ago, I used this quote:  “Those who want respect, give respect”. Need I say more?

Author Stephen King summed it up nicely, I think …

“John McCain: American patriot, war hero. Donald Trump: Draft-dodging weasel.”

Former Presidents and World leaders are paying tribute to John McCain today, but the son-of-a-bitch who calls himself “president” cannot be bothered, and not only that, but he won’t allow anybody else to, either.  Every person in this nation should be crying tears of shame that we have no person of conscience, no person with an ounce of humility or compassion in the highest office of the nation.  I hang my head in shame and sorrow.

Remembering John McCain

I was writing an email to a friend last night when a ‘breaking news’ update flashed across my screen:  Senator John McCain had died.  Just two days prior, the Senator had announced that he had discontinued his treatment, and I knew then that it was a matter of days, but still, the news stunned me.

Many others by now have written posts dedicated to McCain, and anything I will say has almost certainly already been said by others who said it at least as well as I can.  For that reason, I debated about writing this post, but I felt I had to.  While I may not have agreed with much of his ideology, many of the views he supported, never once did I question his honour or integrity.  I always believed that whatever his view, he believed that what he proposed and supported was for the good of the people he represented, and he understood, as few do, that he represented the entire nation, not just those who voted him into office.

When John McCain was asked, in an interview with Jake Tapper last September, how he would like to be remembered, he responded:

“He served his country. And not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope, could add, honorably.”

Yes, Senator, I believe we can add ‘honourably’.

John McCain served his country honourably for almost all his adult life in one capacity or another.  He began his military career in 1960 after completing flight school, but his combat career began in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War.  It was on 26 October 1967 when, while flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, his plane was shot down by a missile over Hanoi. McCain fractured both arms and a leg when he ejected from the aircraft, and nearly drowned after he parachuted into Trúc Bạch Lake. Some North Vietnamese pulled him ashore, then others crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt and bayoneted him.McCain-10.jpgSeriously injured, he was shown no mercy by the North Vietnamese, and received daily beatings and interrogations.  In mid-1968, still recovering from his serious injuries, the North Vietnamese offered McCain early release because of who his father was:  commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater.  McCain refused unless every man taken in before him was also released.  Kept in solitary confinement, McCain was subjected to a program of severe torture. He was bound and beaten every two hours.  After five-and-a-half years, he was finally released on 14 March 1973.

McCain went on to enter politics, serving in both the House of Representatives and later, the Senate.  Since this is a tribute, not a biography, it is not my intent to outline his long service in Congress, but rather merely to note that, while he had the reputation in Congress for being a ‘maverick’, his was often the voice of reason.  He was often the one who reached ‘across the aisle’ to work through compromises, and because of this, in recent years he often came under fire from his own party.  But through it all, McCain followed his conscience, and though he wasn’t always right, he always fought for what he believed was the right thing for the nation and its people.

This nation and every citizen, both republican and democrat alike, lost a friend and an advocate yesterday.  We need more like him, and he will be missed by so many.  Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will give the eulogies at McCain’s funeral.  Even in death, he reaches across partisan lines.  You did more than your share here on earth, Senator McCain, and you will be sorely missed.

Friend or Foe???

Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Foe: an enemy or opponent.syp-v-spy


Shouldn’t be too hard to tell the difference, should it?  Sure, sometimes we think somebody is a friend, only to learn later that they weren’t at all, but most of us are pretty fair judges of character and we don’t often make serious mistakes in choosing our friends.  Donald Trump is the exception to that rule.  But then, Donald  Trump is the exception to most every rule in the book, so why are we surprised?

On Saturday, Trump was interviewed by CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland.  The full interview will be broadcast on Monday, but a few snippets have been released. Asked who he thinks is the biggest foe the U.S. has right now, he replied …

“Well I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe.”

President of the European Union Donald Tusk had a good comeback: “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”

I imagine Trump considers Canada and Mexico among the other foes. Lest you fall into the trap of believing a single word this man says, allow me to clarify.  The European Union and the countries that comprise it are our allies – our friends.  The UK is also our friend and ally. North Korea, China and Russia are not.  They are foes.  They are our antagonists.  They do not seek an alliance where both sides stand to gain.  Russia, in particular, has a goal, an endgame in mind whereby Russia dominates a large portion of the globe, and because of the ignorance of Donald Trump, Russia – specifically Vladimir Putin – views the United States as a pawn in their game.

Typically, a president has many advisors, each an expert in his or her field, and the smart president will listen to those advisors, process the information they are given, then make what seems the best decision at the moment.  By ‘best decision’, I mean that which will keep the world safest, and benefit the citizens of the U.S.  That style of leadership went out the window the day Trump took office and because of it, the world becomes a little less safe every day.

In the past week, Trump has been rude & crude – his trademark – to the Queen of England, to Prime Minister Theresa May, and to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – all are leaders of nations that are our friends, our allies.  On the flip side of that, he has praised DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, saying, “He’s very smart, great personality, he’s funny and tough, good negotiator.”

And, of course, he is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow, just three days after indictments were handed down for 12 of Putin’s henchmen who are accused of having acted as agents to sway the 2016 election in favour of Trump.  Many things are concerning about his meeting with Putin, not the least of which is his insistence that the meeting take place without advisors, staff, note-takers or other witnesses.  This is highly unorthodox and should not be allowed.  Presidential conversations are a matter of record – documented.  Period. One might speculate that Trump has an agenda for the meeting that is not in the best interest of the U.S.  Yep … one might just speculate that …

Trump is very angry over the indictments of the 12 Russians on Friday … angry, but not at Putin, not at Russia … no, he is angry with his own people, angry with Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein.  He says he may ask Putin about the data theft conducted by the 12, but will absolutely not ask for their extradition to the U.S.  Ask yourself “WHY?”

Trump claims the data theft was solely the fault of the Democratic National Committee (DNC):

“I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked.”

Oh yes, I forgot … the democrats are also a foe.  And it was all Obama’s fault for letting it happen.  Barack Obama is also a foe.

The world should be concerned about the Trump-Putin meeting without credible witnesses or documenters.  Trump says he has low expectations for the meeting, but that nothing bad will come of it.  Sorry, folks, this man’s ‘word’ has about as much value as the rotten milk in my refrigerator.  He cannot even tell the difference between a friend and a foe, and in truth, the U.S. may not have many friends left after the past week.  Think about it.

Protest ahead of Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki

Protesters in Helsinki, Finland, ahead of Putin-Trump ‘summit’

Wise Words From A Wise Man …

Last night President Barack Obama spoke at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser in Los Angeles.  He has stayed largely, and wisely, out of the public limelight and has had almost nothing to say for the past 17 months about the disaster known as the Trumptanic.  Obama is a professional in every way, a man of heart and courage, a man who has always had  the best interests of this nation and its people in mind.  He is, however, planning to be a presence in the build-up to the November mid-terms, attending fundraisers such as the one last night, and helping democratic candidates in competitive races.

Let us take a look at some of the things he said last night:

“The simple message right now is that if people participate and they vote, that this democracy works. And if we don’t vote, then this democracy does not work.”

“The majority of the country doesn’t want to see a dog-eat-dog world where everybody is angry all the time. To a large degree, we are seeing a competition between two stories. . . . There’s the story that is based largely on fear, and there is a story based largely in hope. There’s the story that says we’re in it together, and there’s the story that says there’s an us and a them.”

“Fear is powerful. Telling people that somebody’s out to get you, or somebody took your job, or somebody has it out for you, or is going to change you, or your community, or your way of life — that’s an old story and it has shown itself to be powerful in societies all around the world. It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.”

“I would caution us from extrapolating too much from a bunch of special elections and starting to think that, ‘okay, this will take care of itself.’ Because it won’t.”

“I’m giving you the executive summary: Vote. Participate. Get involved. And do not wait for the perfect message, and don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote.’ Because that’s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much. Politics, like life, is imperfect. But there is better, and there is worse.”

“If what you are doing requires no sacrifice at all, then you can do more. If you are one of these folks who is watching cable news at your cocktail parties with your friends and you are saying ‘civilization is collapsing’ and you are nervous and worried, but that is not where you are putting all your time, energy and money, then either you don’t actually think civilization is collapsing … or you are not pushing yourself hard enough and I would push harder.”

“I am not surprised that instead of replacing what we had done with something better, they just have done their best to undermine and erode what’s already in place. Of course people are going to be angry about that, because if you had health care and suddenly somebody who says they’re going to make it better comes in and makes it worse, you’ll be pissed. You should go out and vote.”

“Reality has an interesting way of coming up and biting you, and the other side has been peddling a lot of stuff that is so patently untrue that you can get away with it for a while, but at a certain point, you confront reality. The Democrats’ job is not to exaggerate; the Democrats’ job is not to simply mimic the tactics of the other side. All we have to do is work hard on behalf of that truth. And if we do, we’ll get better outcomes.”

I think that no matter what your party affiliation, you have to admit there is a 180° contrast between the speech of Obama and that of the current occupant.   Professional vs. clownish, quietly impassioned vs ridiculously vulgar.  Listen to what he is saying, please, be proactive,  work toward a better future for this nation than what we are currently facing.  Most of all, in a word:vote-3

 

A Question With No Answer

A few days ago, our friend Hugh asked a question:

“Apropos of nothing in particular, but I wonder if Trump’s popularity, not to mention his election, is a cultural reaction to the fact that America had a black president for eight years. If this is even a possibility, it would suggest a racism that is endemic to this country and goes much deeper than I had imagined. Just asking…?”

Not for the first time, I revisited this question, for it is one I have asked since well before the election, when Trump’s popularity seemed to rise in direct proportion to his level of obnoxiousness.  My answer to Hugh was …

“This is the question I have wrestled with for more than a year, and I have concluded that yes, indeed, the “Trumpian revolution”, if you will, is naught more than a push back response to the election of an African-American president. Much of our nation is, indeed, extremely racist. That anybody could condemn Obama for wearing a beige suit one day, for trying to ensure that everyone is able to seek medical assistance, and at the same time support a ‘man’ who calls white supremacists “fine people” and proves time and again that he has no morals, no character … to me, that is the proof. I think there are more in this country like you and I, who are appalled by the current climate, but the racists, for the moment at least, own the stage. Some say Trump’s win was a response to economic frustrations among the middle class, but that argument doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons. Others say they were tired of the corruption in Washington, but look at it now! So … sad to say, but blatant racism, hatred for any who is different, seems to be the only answer.”

Each time I revisit this question, my conclusion is the same, and in my mind, I have often likened it to a pendulum that swings to the left and back to the right.  Or vice versa.  But the thing I have never been able to wrap my head around is the answer to the next question:  WHY?

Last night I came across an article on NPR:

Why More White Americans Are Opposing Government Welfare Programs

“A new study shows that since 2008, more white people in the United States oppose welfare programs, in part because of increasing “racial resentment.”

One of the reasons for this opposition, according to the report, is white Americans’ perceptions that they might be losing their financial and social status while people of color make gains in those areas.”

According to the findings of the study, while white American’s perception is that minorities are the biggest recipients of safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance, the reality is that 52% of the recipients are actually whites.  African-Americans are fewer than 25% of the recipients.  But even when these statistics were pointed out to them, whites were against safety net programs that they continue to perceive as helping minorities.

Another study in 2016, by the same researchers, linked racial bias to the Tea Party movement.

Kevin Boyle, an American history professor at Northwestern University, says that white supremacy has always lurked in America’s shadow, and …

“Donald Trump gave them permission to come out into the real world.”

There is some agreement among scholars as to how the widening racial and ideological divide took root: Some white Americans began feeling left behind by progress. The decline of the white working class coincided with drastic cultural changes, like quickly diversifying demographics and the election of the nation’s first black president.  According to Steven Hahn, a history professor at New York University …

“With the election of Barack Obama, there was so much talk about being this post-racial moment, and on some levels it was extraordinary. But it didn’t take long for the really vicious racism to surface. It turned out to be an instigator of an enormous amount of rage, and I think Trump both fanned it and inherited it.”

All of which is intended to explain, but in my mind, it doesn’t.  Decline of the ‘white working class’?  What, exactly, is the ‘white’ working class?  In a factory or an office, there are people doing a job.  If you do the better job, perhaps you will be promoted, given a raise.  It doesn’t matter whether your ancestors hailed from Africa, Northern Ireland, Samoa, Argentina or Germany does it?  It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or an atheist, does it?  And it doesn’t matter whether the partner you go home to at night is of the opposite or same sex, does it?  What matters is that you are dedicated and enterprising at the job you do.  Or at least that is what should matter.

Last night I spent nearly three hours reading articles, studies, OpEds and the like, seeking an answer, and I still do not understand.  Yes, Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office today because Obama sat there for the previous eight years.  But WHY?  Obama was intelligent, well-educated and soft-spoken, and the majority of his policies were for the betterment of the nation and its people.  Obama’s presidency saw no scandals … not a single one.  His daughters did not appear drunk in public, he did not engage in extramarital affairs, and he and his family were the epitome of grace and dignity.  His policies were humanitarian, seeking to help people from all walks of life.  He was not perfect and did not always make the best decisions, but what president does?  If one considers the many foibles of his predecessor … and his successor … well, enough said.

So yes, the fact that a racist, ignorant, ill-spoken madman was elected to the highest office in the land is a push back, a response to the fact that we had a black man who was the opposite of all those things in office for the previous eight years.  It is, but I do not understand why, and likely never will, for I think the explanation defies logic.  That our nation is heavily racist is no longer in doubt, and the current climate that gives permission to such racism is setting this nation back in time.  As I said in the beginning, it is like the swing of a pendulum and I do wish somebody would take the battery out of the damn clock so the pendulum might come to rest.