Monday, March 28, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures.” James E.  Faust

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Transaction vs. Action

Listening to Pastor Rich deliver his Easter sermon yesterday morning, he began with a reference to Dan LeBatard of ESPN Radio. In a recent show, LeBatard said that the Transactions of the sports world now outweigh the Action. That the sports industry spends more time on draft buzz and potential trades, Deflate-gate and HGH offenders than covering actual sporting events.

The same dynamic has fully engulfed the political world. Since 1996 and the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, networks have a never-ending need to feed their content machines and drive advertising revenue. And while media have provided the outlet for the endless speculation of minutiae, rumor and conjecture, the punditocracy (guilty here) is more than happy to provide the fodder for them, if only to keep our heads talking on the magic box.

And we do it because we as an audience take the transitory, shallow information provided to us and use it to make decisions of monumental importance. We keep ourselves plugged into the machine and allow ourselves too little time for reflection or even the most remote example of a more than skin-deep thought. We’ve got too much going on. Too much to do. Too much to worry about. Rather than pumping our collective breaks on what we see before us, and ask “Really? This is what we’re doing?” Instead we double down.

The “Real” Candidates of Pennsylvania Avenue

If the entirety of the 2016 presidential cycle has been a reality show, last week it jumped its own shark. Between Donald Trump’s unexpected and unnecessary attacks on Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi and Cruz’s alleged extra-marital affairs, we’re just missing the ladies of Beverly Hills offering us their opinion. We’ve dumbed down our discourse so much, Cruz can’t even come up with his own indignation; he had to crib it, badly, from a 20-year-old movie. And Michael Douglas delivered the line a hell of a lot better than Cruz did.

Bravo's Andy Cohen. Courtesy E Online

Bravo's Andy Cohen. Courtesy E Online

We’re so far afield from what we should be talking about that a horrific tragedy as we saw unfold in Brussels is secondary to what Donald Trump tweets from his 10,000 thread count sheets. We don’t need debates anymore. We don’t need the podiums or the silly countdown clocks. We just need Andy Cohen, an open bar and the candidates sitting on couches screaming at each other about the horrible things they say about one another.

“You have no foreign policy!” Cruz screams at Trump.

“That’s enough, Lyin’ Ted.” Trump rolls his eyes and waves a hand.

“Ted, how does it make you feel when Donald calls you a liar?” Andy taps his blue TV cards on his knee.

Cruz points at the camera and sneers. “It makes me angry, Andy. May I have another appletini?”

And scene.

Mandatory Minimums

It is sad that in a time when the country needs a transformational leader, one that will actually bring the people together, that we’ve reduced the minimum threshold for actually being leader of the free world. Take a look at our current field:

Donald Trump, successful in business yes, but is either unable or unwilling to construct a thought that contains more than 10 syllables. He rouses the rabble better than anyone since George Wallace and offers his dismissal of the system as the salve to your anger. He is not stupid. But his is uninformed and reckless.

Ted Cruz is a first-term United States Senator. We’ve done this dance. Whether you believe Barack Obama to be the great president we’ve ever had or the worst, the country is at its own throat. Obama will ultimately take his share of responsibility for the current state of affairs. Do we want another too-smart-by-half Constitutional scholar at helm? Think Obama was stubborn and difficult to work with? Wait until President Cruz sits in the Oval Office.

John Kasich actually has a case to make for why his combined experience in government – on Capitol Hill and as governor of one of our biggest states – makes him a prime candidate for president. But in 2016, this actually works against him. The things we claim to care about: balanced budgets and strong defense, he helped make happen in Congress. But he’s neither a true outsider nor a member of the Establishment. So he finds himself a man without a country.

Hillary Clinton has a long history in Washington: First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State. Normally, these would be impeccable items on a White House aspirant’s resume. But scandal and terrible judgment have followed she and President Clinton around since their days in Little Rock. That she is under Federal investigation for sloppily handling Top Secret government information would appear to dash her chances. But no, not in 2016. She and President Clinton have built up a bulwark of voters, cronies and donors over 25 years. They and her platitudinous, first-do-no-harm campaign are likely to deliver her the White House in November.

And Bernie. Feel the Bern. A 74 year-old, back-benching, socialist from Vermont is giving American political royalty a run for her money. Is he qualified to be President? By the constitutional definition, yes he is. The tens of thousands of angry people that come to see him at his rallies believe he is. But on January 20, 2017 when the next president takes the oath of office, do you believe that Sanders has the temperament, the understanding or the flexibility to do the things Americans expect? Will he keep us safe? Being President means life and death decisions on a daily basis. Is Sanders up to that challenge?

Existential Threats

Last week we again saw horrific scenes of what a few twisted minds can wreak on innocent people. First in Brussels and then this past weekend in Lahore, Pakistan, young men willingly, knowingly and eagerly walked into crowded places and blew themselves up. Dozens of men, women and children lay broken from the blasts. And the President danced. If someone had offered him a fiddle, would he have played?

Since last year’s Paris and San Bernardino attacks, President Obama has assiduously sought to downplay the meaning of these attacks. And while terrorism should not be the basis on which we tarnish a religion with one billion adherents, the attackers continue to share a common trait. The Lahore bombing specifically targeted a place where the killers knew Pakistani Christians would be gathering to celebrate Easter. Throughout history peoples around the globe have clashed with those that hold opposing worldviews. ISIS is the latest and most pernicious example. They hate us. They. Hate. Us.

Injured flight attendant Nidhi Chaphekar in the aftermath of the Brussels Airport bombing. Courtesy AP.

Injured flight attendant Nidhi Chaphekar in the aftermath of the Brussels Airport bombing. Courtesy AP.

After Brussels, President Obama said the bombers don’t represent an existential threat. If you lost a family member in any of the ISIS-led attacks over the last six months, or had to watch in horror as your loved one was beheaded for all the world to see, you sure as hell see their threat as existential. Existence as you knew it is over. Maybe seven years in, any president is too worn out from the job to rage against the terrorism machine. But for the next 10 months he is responsible to all Americans, those at home in Iowa or a brother and sister in Brussels, to do all he can to keep us safe. He could at least act like he believes it.

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AuthorReed Galen