Saturday, August 8, 2015

TRUMPED UP

Golf is a wonderful sport. Particularly so because it always was a gentlemen’s game, built around civil values such as sportsmanship, integrity, perseverance, fellowship, respect and fair play.

My personal golf hero is Jack Nicholas. His achievements as a professional golfer are unequaled. His records are of historic proportions. But most of all, from my perspective, Jack is a real gentleman. A class act.

I have been privileged to visit Jack a couple of times. He has always been gracious and hospitable. We have chatted on the phone as well. On one such occasion, Jack shared a personal opinion that has stuck in my memory for many years.

He told me that he likes people. In fact, he said, he could think of only one person he had ever met that he didn’t like. That conversation came back to me as I watched the Fox News Presidential debate the other night.

It was obvious from the git go that front runner Donald Trump was going to be the center of attention. The Donald and Doctor Ben Carson were the only two men on stage who had never held public office. Trump stood out for another reason: he is blunt, outspoken, unapologetic, and forceful in describing his frustrations with and criticisms of the government of the United States. All of it. Both parties. All politicians.

His solution to all the problems in America; financial, political, social, economic; the entire panoply of challenges facing the nation is simple. “Put me in charge,” says he without hesitation. “I can fix everything.”

Are the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans getting the better of us in the world’s markets? Trump can fix it. How? He will negotiate with them. He always wins negotiations. He always gets his way. He is, after all, THE DONALD.

His notion of the power of the Presidency has little resemblance to the office of the Chief Executive envisioned by the Founders and written in our national constitution. As Trump sees it, a President can do whatever he wants to do. Just like he does with his money. Some pundits, searching for an explanation for Trump’s success in the opinion polls, have opined that he strikes a chord of popular frustration with big government, that he articulates the almost universal dissatisfaction of the American people with our post-constitutional oligarchy.

Perhaps that is true. But there is something else. Trump is the poster boy for the Howard Beale syndrome. Here’s what Beale, the fictional, demented, TV newscaster, famously said in the 1976 film “Network:”

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'   

Getting people mad as hell is an age old political strategy. Hitler did it in Mein Kampf. American politics have always been combative. Election to public office is all about deciding who gets to impose decisions on people at the point of a gun. It is serious business.

We will all be losers, as will our children and grandchildren, if we allow our political process to descend from discussion, to debate, to argument, to quarreling, to name calling and inveighing against anyone who disagrees. There is enough honest disagreement in America. We don’t need to get Trumped up.

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