Tag Archives: Donald J. Trump

Clinton’s Campaign: Does She Have Credibility, a Creed and a Contest ?

Will Secretary and Senator and Former First Lady  Hillary Rodham Clinton be the first female President of the United States? It certainly seems likely. Here you can read my first post when she became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Since the very first version of this post came out the Washington Post has run an article saying that her credibility is damaged, that article is here and it may or may not represent political reality. But the contention made here in all versions of this post so far is that there appears to be a small chance that she will be indicted, arrested and charged in the email scandal or in any matter to do with Benghazi. By small of course I mean that there is not a large chance. There appears to be a miniscule chance that Bernie Sanders will mount a successful revolt or set up a powerful third party challenge which would derail her path to the presidency. There is more or less no realistic chance that she will be stopped from being elected except by the victory of Donald Trump as the Republican Nominee over her as the Democratic Nominee in the general election. Almost no chance is not the same as no chance. Any number of things could happen including death of physical impairment. But the odds seem to be better than fifty percents that she will be the next POTUS. Few people have ever had more relevant work or official experience when approaching the highest office in the land. To be a Senator is a lot, to be Secretary of State is a lot, to be First Lady is a lot — to be all three is a staggering degree of experience. Of course I physically stagger more easily than some more physically gifted readers and so I go to that adjective and the related adverb more readily than they might. But if one does not stagger one at least must take notice of the degree to which she embodies tremendous experience. Compared to her:

  1. Donald Trump has never held elected office,
  2. he has never lived in the White House,
  3. he has never lived in the executive mansion of a State,
  4. he has never held an office appointed by a President,
  5. he has never led a sustained policy discussion as Clinton did with healthcare,
  6. he has never been officially invited to sit at the table to negotiate  a formal treaty on behalf of the United States.
To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

On the other hand they do have some lack of experience in common:

  1. Neither on has held a major post in a religious institution,
  2. neither has served in the military,
  3. neither has served in the workaday world of the intelligence community,
  4. neither has lived on our borders or in border towns for any length of time,
  5. neither speaks Spanish of French well, official languages of our neighbors,
  6.  neither has lived and worked as a citizen in the way business people, missionaries, journalists and  volunteers do every day across this world as they forge an American identity abroad.

Ambassador Stevens was an unusually high ranking victim of violence abroad. In the last few days other Americans have lost their lives around the world but a glimpse into the kinds of decisions he faced is also a glimpse into kinds of decisions that Americans who believe in what they are doing abroad face every day.  The following excerpt is from the recent report on the Benghazi incident:

While the end of the fiscal year funding deadline was looming, the Diplomatic Security Agent in charge at the Embassy in Tripoli was, nonetheless,
concerned about Stevens’ trip to Benghazi. Although his first planned trip to Benghazi in the beginning of August 2012 had to be canceled because of security,14 Stevens was adamant, however, about going in September.15 The Diplomatic Security Agent testified:
Previous to this—to his decisions to going up there, there was— we would meet weekly to discuss the security situation in Libya.…[
T]here was a specific meeting regarding what was happening in Benghazi. In that meeting, we reviewed incidents and  probable causes, what’s initiating it. And a lot of discussion was that it was the conflict or the incidents up there were, you know, local population against local population and that that they weren’t specifically targeting Americans … up there. I expressed my concerns about the incidents that did involve us. And the basic response was that they … were anomalies.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

Romney was a missionary in France during anti-American times, Bill Clinton visited Russia as a student in the Cold War years and there are other connections to tat least the same world Chris Stevens lived in that can be found in other political lives outside the military but not in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald trump so far as I know. Both have traveled a great deal. both have been at some risk but the proportion of risk to resources has never been equal in my opinion to the baseline many Americans abroad have experienced every day all of my life.

The other thing that they have in common is access to fame, fortune, privilege and the people in power. This is not an even contest between the two of them but neither does it really matter who has had more of such opportunity. These opportunities have defined both of their lives for a long time. One big difference of course is that Trump like all previous American Presidents is a man and Clinton is a woman. I visited that in the post where her candidacy was all but assured but I am not going to deal with it much in this post.

There are issues related to Clinton that have very little to do with the fact that she is a woman. Trump recently said he just knew very little about her religion and she responded by declaring her self emphatically enough to be a Methodist. My own take on some of the discussion of Clinton’s religion has been posted in this blog before and can be seen here. Of course there may be more to say as time goes on.  One fact about the election of the first Clinton to the Presidency is that the result was likely determined by the most credible third party candidate in presidential politics in my lifetime — Ross Perot. He made it more than possible for Bill Clinton to defeat George Bush Senior. Thus Clinton did not face the kind of intense contest he would have otherwise.  This kind of splitting is well established in British politics and may have been fostered in some way or another by the Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton as the biggest take home lesson from his time in Oxford. Some may see Trump as Ross Perot on steroids. He is the third party candidate who became the  candidate of a major party and the main obstacle to Clinton’s election. that would still be true even if Romney or someone becomes a real third party candidate somehow. So how does trump match Clinton on matters of faith?

To see Clinton’s faith in political terms this season means to examine Donald Trump’s faith as well. He seems to be a person, like Clinton, about whom one could say a great many contradictory things based on pretty good evidence. That is not necessarily because he is deceptive or a hypocrite but may be because of the place he comes from in his life context. Interestingly enough he has made it clear that he supports Christmas as a national holiday and seeks to preserve it. That was the narrow subject of my original blog post about Clinton’s faith and the faith of other candidates.    Christmas was of course never my only interest in the religious identity of candidates. I love Christmas very much and the Christian observance of it by this country is a tradition I think worth striving for and worth some sacrifice. However, it is interesting that the ugliest rumors and suspicions about Donald Trump involve the ways in which he reminds people of the NSDAP or Nazis and the Third Reich. While many Christians nothing like the Hitlerites have rallied around Christmas, there is also no doubt that the Nazis made Christmas and especially the control of Christmas tree sales and early focus of political activity.  In further clarification, it is interesting to note that the list of candidates in the Democrats poll I posted in that article did include Biden but did not include Sanders. Even more interesting is that Trump does not appear among the six Republican candidates who appear in the poll I posted and reviewed in terms of the religion of the candidates. Huckabee was the leader in the poll and he was of course a Baptist minister who claimed the same hometown as President William Jefferson Clinton — Hope, Arkansas. So where does that leave the discussion of religion as I saw it back in 2014? It is not a perfectly relevant post in every way  then.  But here is the principal quotation from that blog post as it pertains to understanding Clinton’s faith in very general political terms. The first paragraph below deals with how Americans likely to vote Republican were thinking about Republican candidates in 2014 and how that related to Christmas and it observance by the Christians of this nation . However the remaining paragraphs  relate to what Clinton’s religious identity is likely to be. It is perhaps best to look at the text:

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

I have just finished observing the Independence Day  holiday in a minimal sort of way. It is always a time that I like to think about what it means to be an American and posts about those thoughts can be seen here. But although those ideas have been posted here they have more often been shared in other places and my thoughts about America have been posted here on other holidays. Those holiday thoughts on Memorial Day have been  here and on Veterans day have been here. While I have in common with Clinton and Trump that I have not a day of service in the military in my past it seems to be the military holidays that most inspire my patriotism. My observation of the Independence Day holiday was not entirely minimal by every standard and I did post quite a few notes and the lyrics of the National Anthem on my Facebook profile but minimal my observance  certainly was  in some measures. Neither Trump nor Clinton were very visible in my own perusal of our nation’s birthday. But one of them will likely be the American Head of State by next Independence Day. Unlike Christmas these holidays are not specifically Christian. I am a Christian and for me Christian prayer is part of these national holidays. I am not sure how the faith of either major candidate informs  their celebration of these days.  But faith and the most gung ho kinds of patriotism are linked by many as can be seen at links here and here. What else does  America expect from a leader and does Clinton have it?

Clinton has a lot of government experience, but the range is not infinite. One of the big achievements of this week has been the placement of the Juno observatory in position as a satellite of Jupiter. Some of the reason many people around the world are interested in this project can be gleaned here.  Neither Clinton nor Trump seems to be the kind to play an extraordinary role in blazing a pioneering trail into space.  These kinds of brave explorations may shape the future or not but they do not seem to define the vision of either Clinton or Trump.

One question many people have about religion is whether or not someone who prays for help should be President. Perhaps prayer means one cannot do the job. But some contend Clinton had private emails because she did not want to disclose the degree to which she could not do her job. That story can be seen here. It is to be noted that this not entirely clear story comes from a publication as biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump as one can get. But the point is here only that Buzz Aldrin, a rocket scientist, astronaut and space planner is a noted public prayer promoter in his own life and not being known for religious acts makes nobody a scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presidential Politics and the Current American Mindset

So will the US ban all Muslims from entering the country for a time? Will it seek to get along better with North Korea and not so well with the UK? Will it deport tens of millions of aliens to Mexico by relative force across the country? Do those visions fairly represent Donald Trump?

Will it lie, deny, distort and obfuscate as long and as much as can be imagined when challenged on any wrongdoing in the White House? Will it sing the official praises of those who who sell human body part of members of our species deliberately dismembered? Will it find ways to blame working class white men and unidentified big businesses for larger and larger parts of the country’s problems no matter what the evidence may be? Is that a fair vision of a potential Clinton presidency?

This blog post does not attempt to answer any of those questions.  This post does assert that while I am doing other things I am still committed to the political commentary in this blog. It is a little different than the commentary any where else. It is very much my own.  Some of that commentary begins just now.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

It looks like there will be a race for the White House between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There may be surprises or a third significant candidate but it appears that those two will lead the charge for the major parties in this country. This post is a chance to simply link together a few thoughts and references for this blog which began during the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama. I still have a few more posts in my series Emerging Views but this post is about the developing presidential election and what all of that will mean for this blog and other aspects of life, culture and politics. While this blog is obviously a particularly small voice in the world of news and information it is not clear that America has the kinds of voices today which Time and Newsweek represented in the 1980s and 1990s. Those were far from perfect times and those two famous weeklies were far from perfect media outlets.  Perceptions of bias and the wrong kinds of selectivity were often stated and were justified.  But these news and culture magazines did seem to capture a sense of where American political energy and interest were in a way which no handful of media outlets do today. Rush Limbaugh, the ABC, NBC,Fox, CBS, Yahoo and Google News programs taken together cover a lot waterfront. I am not sure they bring together a sense of the country as those two magazines and handful of their peers once did. I wonder where and how this great debate and discussion will play out.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

Before there were blogs forming a blogosphere there were letters to the editor in journals and magazines and I had quite a few published. That includes on published in Time. I recently wrote two long letters to Time although they really do not publish much in that way. Here they are reproduced nearly in entirety. The first discusses the state of political discussion in America from a particular point of view.

 

 Nancy Gibbs and Colleagues

Time Editorial Staff
225 Liberty Street
New York, New York 10281-1008
Ms. Gibbs (not to insult those who actually read this),
I am responding in part to the cover of the May 23 issue on Rana Forohaar’s careful rendering of her book into a lead article on capitalism. There is some alarming material in the article in the sense that it raises concerns that pose a threat to all of us. But the tone is perhaps other than alarmist. The cover was sort of evocative of covers that have appeared over times past with a contemporary take and for whatever mix of nostalgic and critical reasons I liked the cover and its kind of conversational approach to saving the U.S. economy. I also saw much of the same use of concepts of gate-keeping, source identification, making comparisons between varied crises and challenges for perspective and all these little traits reminded me of Time over the decades. But this time my reading was influenced by another experience that I will only mention and leave to any reader’s imagination as to how it influenced my reading of Time. The experience involved an interaction with an institution In some ways not at all like Time, yet both have played a role in the great and American intellectual commons which is distinct from a world or civilization based heritage or any regional or sectional intellectual ferment. That institution is one of the officials in the particular sport of television. I published a review in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television in the early nineties and since I have no plethora of academic publications that is yet another reason for me to be more interested in the NIelsen process than most. Thus I found it stimulating.  
Just about the time your issue was hitting stands and libraries I had a chance to participate in the Nielsen ratings. It gave me the opportunity to think a bit more clearly about the ways in which all that we know as mass communication is changing and about how our society is changing. I deal a good bit with issues of social change and and communications and I do it in my blog, Facebook profiles and other places which are possessed of much longer comments on these events than you have time to read from an over the portal source. A look at my Twitter feed and profile would quickly tell you two things: I do have some influential followers although the number is small and I just added Time to those I am following as I started typing this email. It is not that I never viewed your tweets — I just don’t remember to add people and institutions to my list.  My Linked In profile which should be available herealso show some other connections. The relatively long and bizarre path through life depicted there is not a fiction, doubtless there are some errors and some of longstanding.But every thing in it is at least close to the truth or has simply evaded my limited attentions as an editor of the profile.
Time has bigger fish to fry than my little corner of the media world. Your recent issue of May 23 seeks to address Capitalism, feminism with Megan Kelly, mental health with Kristen Bell, Jodie Foster discussing the meaning of her movie and how Sadiq Khan hopes to combat extremism. You do this in a way which is fairly coherent, clever and informative and makes someone like me want to write you a letter even though no letters to the editor appeared in the issue about which I write. But it is clear is it not that there are forces almost of the type found in YA literature which challenge Time’s capacity to marshal an argument, stage a debate and aid in the creation and dissolution of any consensus in these United States. Much of this is blamed on Culture Wars by some who keep up with news from the eighties and nineties. However, this year it is notable that energies channeled into supporting Hillary Clinton, Donald trump and Bernie Sanders all find focus in places near your offices in New York City. They really do not seem to be cultures at war. More like a single culture not able to deal well with the people who make up the culture. I on the other hand am one of the real outsiders compared to New York and D.C., Jackson’s demise as a face on currency in favor of a Broadway promotion of Hamilton will hurt tourism associated with the Battle of New Orleans and I will feel it more than most  — although being too disadvantaged to feel it much.   I did live in New York for a year as a child and in a vague and general way I am part of the numerous constellations of enclaves the best of New York journalism used to seek to stay in touch with but I think finds it more difficult to do these days. I believe Time  is bringing to bear a great number of important questions and people are reading Time and yet I am not sure the influence on a national dialog is very great.  The recent past was not perfect but there was a conversation going on about its imperfections when your mentors were young. But the costs are not trivial, I care about fur trappers, cowboys, loggers, oilmen and stevedores. Most of all farmers and fishermen have made up large parts of my life and I consider myself an ardent environmentalist. Likely any relationship with New York journalism would experience plenty of frictions from that area of tension alone.   
The magazine you lead is really defined in part by a set of relationships with Newsweek, Life, Business Week, National Review, U.S. News and World Report and a handful of journals just as much as it is defined by its relationships with readers, advertisers, interviewed talent and newsmakers. It is easy to see that  Life andNewsweek are relatively defunct, National Review is less than it was under the leadership of the late William F. Buckley and the others are struggling at least as much as Time to find their way forward in the current era and into the future.  
I am fifty-one years old and had a letter to the editor appear in Time in the days when voice mail was means of communication that was in vogue. That was sometime around 1993 and I was more optimistic, less bitter and more hopeful of a positive future for myself and the people, communities and values I care about in an emerging American society. I think the tone was perhaps more strident and angry than the tone of this email but I was less alienated. This year is a special year for many observers of and participants in American culture, with its communication focused at actual vocal human beings in attendance at the excited and seemingly burgeoning rallies for Trump and Sanders and the coverage of those events. This makes this political season a year about a different kind of dialog. But this is not coming out of nowhere,Black Lives Matter, Occupy, pro and anti Confederate Flag rallies, Hispanic identity rallies, anti-immigration rallies, the rallies at the Papal visit and with the Pope near the border all form a compelling national dialog. In addition David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump reaffirmed that the pure blogosphere ( in which Duke is a player) can make a difference at least for a moment in the news cycle. My own blog is right here. Or you can drag and paste https://franksummers3ba.com/ into your browser. Isn’t it also time to admit that many of the mass shootings are acompanied by political statements which are fairly serious, reasoned attempts by Muslims, White Supremacists, East Asian Americans, military veterans, African Americans and the victims of bullying. They feel alienated and that there is no real recourse in our major social and political process. The  focus on guns and mental illness to the exclusion of everything else these people are expressing is perhaps a real sign of profound bankruptcy as regards our national conversation. I myself would like radical change and I outline it in my blog.  But how change is achieved matters almost as much as what changes one seeks.

 One of the mysterious casualties of Hurricane Katrina and a host of other troubles was the loss of a daily New Orleans newspaper in the Times Picayune. The Advocate from Baton Rouge seeks to make up the slack, but I do not think this will be without some dire consequences down the road.The decline of newspapers has been discussed all my life. I worked for or with and have been published in a variety of papers that there is only  a small chance anyone in the initial review of this letter will know. Among these newspapers are the Abbeville Meridional (principal voice of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana since the 1850s), Gannett’s Daily AdvertiserThe Vermilion ( student paper for UL now then USL)and Bonnes Nouvelles ( the Vermilion Parish edition of a  chain owned by connected members of the Dardeau family). 

My Facebook friends list has the publishers and journalist of many Catholic and also of many regional outlets. The  list also includes the principal editor of the Queer Times and a number of space related blogs. Yet I cannot help but wonder if I am more alienated from the center you represent than ever before. Would it be to risky for Time to interact with me given perhaps some position or other in my blog?  The question is not purely rhetorical. I admit I would still love to have a byline in Time. I do not pretend that I am the only and best qualified person wanting to publish in your pages. I think your recent issue did a credible job. I enjoyed it although less perfectly than in the past and did not read every word. But I do wonder is Time very committed to a sort of national conversation? Committed in the way so many others are to so many other things? If not, then who is?   

— 

Frank W. Summers, III
Frank “Beau” Summers

The next letter I wrote to Time was related to an article I had read in their pages related to the  South China Sea and the brewing tensions there.  It is less to the point of this post than the first but it is not irrelevant:

 

Timelords (is that the correct form of address?),

 
Fiery Cross Reef is vital to Chinese military interests. There artificial island should be expanded with a more naturalistic artificial coastline. We need a very civilized rival somewhere in the world to justify maintaining our investment in traditional military assets. We need traditional military assets to have a long term future. The Philippines and the United States have a vital interest and real claims in the region are indeed held by several powers as described in the article.
 
The total story is a complex one. But where are the calls for the kinds of dispute resolution which the vast and costly international legal system and the United Nations could possibly actually resolve?
 
There are not yet any real bad guys in this story. It may turn out in the long run that a real belligerence must arise in this region. I wish that were less likely than it is… However, if the United Nations, the various systems of mediation and other institutions are worth anything then many people should be calling for them to be fully used here.
 
I also believe artificial islands must become major priorities for many of the world’s great powers. Learning to address the issues related to such projects ought to be both an American and a global priority.
 
Sincerely,
 
Frank Summers
Foreign Expert
People’s Republic of China
2004 to 2005
Students & in English Corner meeting on Campus SDIBT Yantai.

Students & in English Corner meeting on Campus SDIBT Yantai.

America has a lot on its plate right now. It is not mostly China which challenges us in the world. Our policies from Syria, to Iraq, to Israel, to Afghanistan and on to Europe are at least subject to serious question. This blog has been questioning policies throughout the Obama presidency. It has also been the place to put forward some policy proposals — many of them radical which may be up for discussion or may be ignored but are not being deleted from this site.  It has also made many correct predictions and some dire predictions about the possibilities of the Obama Presidency that may not turn out to be the case. While that was always hoped for by me and others around it nonetheless does undermine the credibility of the blog if things do not get significantly worse than they are before January.  My own life in these years has arguably been more and more ineffective with a few bright spots and counter trends not disproving that general direction. But while I  have problems and many others do as well I am not sure mine are the problems that resonate with the electorate per se. At least they are not likely be determinative of the outcome of the election. Yes I need better opportunity and more money but not in the same way as some other people whose needs better represent more voters.

America has many challenges to face and this blog is full of my thoughts bout meeting those challenges. but so far there is little evidence that this blog will be a major factor in shaping the key discussions of these matters at the heart of our political discussion.  I myself am more than a little weary and the worse for wear.  But I began this blog to express a point of view and influence the American mindset and I will continue to try to do that.

The earliest post on this blog was provided by Word Press but I could have deleted it. I am not sure if I edited it at all it appears here. 

It is reproduced here:

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

My next blog post was a kind of manifesto lifted from a series of Facebook notes just a few months earlier in its release on Facebook. You can read it here if so inclined. The idea of a very personal blog with a political view is quite manifest but not so much presidential politics. In fact specific politics as the term is often  are not much in evidence in that post.

The next post, which appears here, lays out some geopolitical ideas, visions and policies. It takes tongue in cheek a limitless ambition and scope as part of the nature of this blog.  I had nothing much to say about presidential politics in the manifesto.

The first post dealing with presidential politics in this blog links here. It was a reposting from a now long neglected or abandoned user blog I had on Politco.

I reproduce the long introductory segment of it here below. I cannot say that none of my views have changed or evolved but many have not:

I feel a certain amount of sympathy for Barack Obama. I choose to start with that line because I consider myself to be one of the people most opposed to Barack Obama within the spectrum of legitimate politics. However, I don’t think that there is any doubt that we have reached the point where Conservatism can be looked at as something which has merited the term “crisis”. America is in a crisis and I believe that it will prove to be a very grave crisis. However, conservatism is in a far greater crisis. For argument’s sake let us say that the terms right and left, Democrat and Republican describe a real political dynamic which matters in this country. I would argue that on the right in this country we have lots of politicians who use the label“conservative” but actually we have a collection of Libertarians, Tax Avoiders,  Moderate Neo-Fascists , Ultra-Reformed  Protestant Theocrats, and Anglophile Antiquarians who collectively squeeze a weak and demoralized conservative group of Americans who hardly matter at all.  Some of these five never discussed groups would be Conservatives if there really was a Conservative Movement for them to be part of , on the other hand many fundamentally despise Conservatism.I voted for George Bush the first time and almost certainly would have voted for him the second time if I could have made it to Beijing’s American Embassy in time to vote. However, I missed that election. I voted for McCain-Palin in the most recent election. I also voted for Mary Landrieu a Democrat this year. Through my life I have voted for a collection of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  My sympathy for Barack Obama comes into play in this regard. Like Obama (and a lot of other people)  I have had to make the best choices I could at any given time. By the time I was old enough to vote I had forged a lot of bonds and relationships which included fundamentalists, communists in other countries, resentful Moslems, white supremacists, black radicals and lots of other people who don’t fall into the neat safe categories that President mills like mid century Yale Law normally produce in quantity.  If I were to have made a run at the US Presidency there would be people some folks would like as little as I like Rev. Wright and David Ayres. Despite all that colorful background I have lots of self-respect and more oddly yet, I think of myself as an authentic American Conservative. Arguably, I am one of the only American conservatives who could be optimistic about the Obama example. Because if such an oddly positioned person of such a background as Barack Obama can be President of the United States then maybe I could at least get elected parish assessor, city dog-catcher, county councilman, water-district representative or something else somewhere in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Somehow I don’t think Obama’s election signifies anything nearly that hopeful for someone like me.  I am able to accept that there is not likely to be a government paycheck in my future. That is unless you include the kinds of fellowships and part-time job checks form school boards and universities which I have gotten in the past. I don’t hate liberalism but I know that Liberals are more likely to take a political interest in those with odd and quirky backgrounds than conservatives are. I am able to say that I have won a few elections. I won a seat on Dorm Council in College, I was elected as Outstanding Graduate in my department , college and university for that particular commencement exercise at a different school. Then In China  a few years ago I organized elections among my student for various class and subgroup offices. Then there are a couple of elections where I was elected to post that I can’t discuss here by groups that like their privacy.  None of those races seem very much related to the Presidency or even a governorship however. In most of these races my political philosophy was not a central aspect of what people were electing me for or voting against. Many people hold office for other reasons than political philosophy. People vote for friends, members of their race or class, to keep seniority in a legislature or because they are personally opposed to the candidates opposition. But in  the big leagues there are always some questions of political philosophy that become important. I would argue that Conservatism is usually not on the menu.I think that a coherent expression of American Conservative political philosophy would require at least one very long book. If someone hasn’t read any of the books which have helped to from my opinions then an article or two would not make the great sweep of ideas stand clear. Here I am going to do something very different. I am going to propose ten unthinkable planks in a platform in an aggressive conservative movement. I don’t think that conservative means passive. Some of these would even require constitutional amendments. I believe that these planks would probably unpopular and are largely undemanded but that is because Conservatism is largely dead. I think that passing something along these lines would be essential to setting our country on a good conservative path. I believe struggling for something like this would be essential for rebuilding a conservative movement.

What is the mindset or set of mindsets which will shape American destiny in the coming election cycle?  Where are we headed as country?  This blog will still be involved in tracking these questions and any answers that it can find.

Presidential Politics and the Crises Shaping American Life

I am writing this blog post in a fairly low energy state in my own life to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump’s discussion of JEB (or Jeb Bush).  I have a certain amount of accumulated wear and tear that is getting me down just now.  In my blog and in other writing I have done I have dealt with and discussed issues that are troubling and involve the serious troubles of the world. I have been careful never to evoke specific acts of violence or to encourage people to take violent means to address their problems. I have argued for armed vigilance, for scrutiny and support for the military and law enforcement and I have told the tales of violence in the past. I live an often fairly solitary personal life now. However, I have lived among many people who were  prone to say things like “we ought to kill those bastards until the rest of them get the message”, others who said “the only good (fill in enemy here) is probably still a dead (repeat descriptor)” and many people have as far as words go threatened to kill me. I have also seen a lot of real violence but I could always believe that I could usually tell the difference between, on the one hand, someone warning that eventually the current course would leader to bloody conflict with me or some other specific group or person and on the other hand someone advocating homicide. That has been one of the luxuries of Americanism and American life. We remember Reagan’s joke on the microphone about abolishing the Soviet Union. We also know that not everyone around the world who screams “Death to America!” really means it in the worst way. Yet we are sure that none of them mean it in a way we could possible call good. Today as a clerk sits in jail for not issuing marriage license to same sex couples, the feds sue the Governor of Louisiana for defunding Planned Parenthood and there are other signs of American cultural transformation we know that  people are feeling aware that while they really feel threatened it may be riskier than ever to have ever tried to oppose or threaten in return any of the forces rolling across American society. This is a set of feelings related to evidence and fact but it remains a matter mostly of feelings. A lot of Americans are feeling both pressured and depressed.  I certainly feel some of the those feelings myself. Like a lot of Americans and other people I feel that every year for a long time my life has gotten worse, a little or a lot worse. Year ago among other things I led a worldwide discussion on what it would take to colonize the Moon and Mars. It was a serious and patient discussion and it is hard to imagine leading that kind of discussion today.

Today the Moon is a remote place I merely photograph with my phone at home...

Today the Moon is a remote place I merely photograph with my phone at home…

There no doubt are people who are doing a lot better than before but many feel alienated and stressed about the place things are and the place they will be.  Little seems certain except that they do not fit in to the world emerging around them and their plans and dreams are not relevant to what is actually happening. Obama’s Dreamers are the children of migrants who have not been born here but have grown up in this country and have human needs and aspirations. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” has struck different chords with the audiences over the decades and hardworking Americans believe still in the lure of the American dream that is a little better than any life they have actually known but is related to it as an ideal is related to a decent approximation. I recently discussed how there is a luxury in coolly discussing political ideas. You can see that post here. The environment on the campaign trail has not really gotten all that hostile so far and yet there are signs that many sources of stress are turning the dreams that frame our national dialog into a framing set of wake-up calls, nightmares and sleepless nights.  I certainly feel close to that state of mind.

The popular mass street politics of the left may yet be telling ...

The popular mass street politics of the left may yet be telling …

There are lots of little factors in creating my case of the blues that I will not include in this post. I do believe that we are in a complex situation as a society, as the United States of America. Catholics in the United States see the Pope coming to the United States, they wonder about the collision of Hispanic Catholics  and the movement to control migration which is finding a voice in Donald Trump and they worry about what the fallout from the Gay Marriage laws will be. You can see some of the commentary about migration here. But this is in the context not so much of a great trial for American Catholicism but a time which tries many American souls and consciences in a variety of ways.  Jewish Americans have less of a unified voice or even organized quarrel than Catholic Americans but they are troubled by disagreements in their ranks over moral issues, new and transforming threats to Israel, potential threats in the growing Christian Identity aspect of the Conservative movement and political spectrum in this country and a number of other issues that seem to affect them deeply. Law enforcement officers and their friends and families are troubled by the framing of organized deadly assaults on police officers across the nation. There does seem to be a diverse and widespread response of people, groups and governments getting together to show support for the police as well. One example of that is right here.   But there is a St. Martin Parish Friends of Law Enforcement rally going on as well  near me and many other things.  This is all to the good but does not change the fact that there are real problems with policing in this country and that some of the chaos and violence stems in large part from real fears, frustration and chaos for which various parts of our law enforcement institutions share some responsibility.  When I was younger I both supported the police in various ways in some of the hotspots where they lived and supported the inmates and their families. What has happened to the idealism, charity and energy that could do both things? Perhaps it is just one more example of how I like many others have grown tired. The police get tired as well and there is plenty to tire us all.

Grand  Theater Shooting police presence  days later

Grand Theater Shooting police presence days later

I provide a link in this paragraph to what is an article by a young man who has been my eldest niece’s boyfriend since they were in high school together. It seems to me to be the kind of thing a young man ought to be writing. He enthusiastically profiles the work of an academic in the university he attends. I wrote for my college paper too but didn’t have a piece like this there, but the writing reminds me of other pieces I wrote about 30 years ago.
I wrote and acted in pursuit of ideals similar to the set he espouses when I was young. I still care about torture. However, I am in a different place now. I can’t help questioning the results of the new professional standards but as I am now I remain very glad new young men find the pursuit of public decency as compelling now as I once did. You can see Aaron Credeur’s article here.

 

We presume that there will be a new President of the United States elected in 2016. The Constitution requires this and there seems to be no way that it can be amended in time for any other result. So if that is the case then it seems that the new President will be faced with a good number of serious challenges. These are unusual times with a high degree of uncertainty. It may well be that the forces behind groups like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Democrats, Black Block, The New Black Panther Party, and less obvious groups have not come behind a successor to Obama and do not have a plan for his succession.  They have come to believe in power on the streets and  may plan to really try to draft Obama directly for a third term. These group alone are a tiny sliver of the electorate but what would the impact be if they sparked a real crisis demanding that Obama stay in office?

This year is a crucial year for the United States in a number of ways. I believe that we will find more and more evidence of the dangers and opportunities of the current moment as the Presidential year unfolds. I am impressed already at the number of shakes and jolts our society is experiencing in all sorts of different directions. The number of protests, mass shooting, police shootings demonstrations of open carry organizations and calls for gun control have al reached heights that are impressive. The availability of two dollar gasoline at pumps in the nation’s cities and towns and the great state visit of the King of Saudi Arabia combine to cast an interesting light on things. The crisis in the Chinese stock markets and especially the Shanghai Stock Exchange form our perceptions of America’s situation in the world. The escape of El Chapo Guzman and the fact that he is still at large with billions of dollars and hundreds of armed men combines with the images of the refugees flooding into Europe to frame the questions related to borders and migration in a somewhat different context than would otherwise be true. The fact that so much has changed in the country and the fact that Biden is not yet running for President makes some people listen more attentively to those who have said that Obama intends to manipulate a crisis to seek an additional term in office under emergency powers.

Would that constitute that kind of lasting change Obama promised? Is that part of what he suggested as a possibility of lasting change all along? See his vision here.  I know that I am easily convinced we could face real emergencies and am really sure Americans are not unified around a love of constitutional legitimacy right now.

The Congress is deeply unpopular and it is hard to see how they could effectively oppose such a bid for unconstitutional power if it was properly initiated. The Republicans present what is arguably the most institutionally divided image in their party’s history. If Obama’s administration were to provoke and declare a state of emergency to  remain in power then who would stop such a thing from succeeding? I am not saying here that a third term crisis will in fact be the crisis that sweeps the nation. But I do expect more crises to come and soon enough. In my own life I feel the strain and threat of change and rising challenges from many directions.

This is a time when many of us turn to our faith, political ideals desperate need and fears and all of those are legitimate places to turn. But electing a President as we have done from the time of Washington comes from another place. It comes not from a sense of crises or unified crisis but from a sense of belief in constitutional process. I hope that the months remaining will not diminish that aspect of our nation very much. I am still writing and still not doing more than writing as the changes sweeping our country develop. There is a lot more that could be written. The refugees pouring into Europe and those not pouring in affect us. The heroes on the French train affect us. The crisis in understanding the merging geopolitical situation affects us. The question is whether any of these will lead to a stampeding crisis that will remake America and if that does happen how will America be remade?