The Death of Truth

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsTruth is dead…long live the narrative.

We have a very serious and destructive problem in America. Yes, we know, we have many.  But this one is different because it is widely tolerated and, sadly, carefully nurtured by our nation’s leadership regardless of party. Truth has become one of the lowest coins in the realm.  The narrative, carefully conceived, studiously nurtured, and determinedly communicated has, it seems, become the highest coin of the realm.

The concocted narrative takes on meme-like strength as it is transmitted throughout society, gaining momentum, confusing our national comprehension, sullying debate and devaluing the stuff of good judgment and good citizenship. It is the harbinger of divisiveness and it threatens much of what made America great. The lie, skillfully repackaged as the established narrative has become acceptable, even when few are fooled by it.

Early in the Obama Administration, the White House staff warned President Obama not to tell the nation that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would allow the people to keep their doctor if they liked him or her, and that they could keep their health insurance plan if they liked it. They urged him not to tell Americans that insurance premiums would fall by $2400 during his first term in office. They told him that wouldn’t be true. But the truth didn’t fit the well concocted narrative so the narrative trumped the truth.

Then consider President-Elect Trump’s pronouncement that, “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Both claims are preposterous.  In fact, in terms of electoral college wins, Trump’s election ranks 46th out of 58 electoral college contests. Nonetheless, a landslide, it seems, comports with his perception of his own popularity, so a landslide it is. Also, there is of course not a scintilla of evidence of any measurable vote fraud, let alone “the millions of people who voted illegally.”

A carefully crafted narrative, repeated ad nausiam by democrats for the past six years is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced at the beginning of the Obama presidency that his goal (and that of the Republicans) would be to assure that Obama would fail and that he would become a one-term president. President Obama himself stated, “When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”

Democrat Senator Richard Durbin intoned in September of 2012,  “…The senator from Kentucky announced at the beginning, four years ago, exactly what his strategy would be. He said, his number one goal was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.”

The allegation that McConnell’s stated “from day one” that his goal was to make sure President Obama would be a one-term president has been a democratic drum beat for years.

McConnell’s alleged declaration of war against President Obama has been repeated over and over again.  This past Sunday on CBS’s  Face The Nation, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker was the latest to echo the McConnell narrative saying, “When he, (Obama) came into position when America was in a financial freefall, there was a crisis all over this country, he (McConnell) announced to America that the number one priority he had was keeping President Obama from getting a second term.  That is irresponsible. And that is dangerous.”

Well, McConnell didn’t make that statement when President Obama was first elected to office in 2008.  In fact, it was two years later following the mid-term elections ending the Democrats control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the US Senate.  That was a two-year period when President Obama pretty much stiff-armed the Republicans, intoning that elections have consequences.  We won. You lost. He had used his control of both houses to successfully push through Obamacare without a single Republican vote.

McConnell’s remarks were actually made in an interview with the National Journal on Oct. 23, 2010 — nearly two years after Obama was elected president. The interview took place on the eve the of the midterm elections. McConnell said,The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

When asked if that meant constant confrontation with the President, MConnell responded, “ If he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him. McConnell went on to say in that same interview that he does “not want the president to fail” and cooperation was possible “if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues.” McConnell in fact cited an extension of the Bush tax cuts as an example of where the Republicans and the White House could cooperate — and, in fact, Obama did strike such a deal with Republicans shortly after the midterm elections.

Here is what the liberal Washington Post had to say about the endlessly repeated accusation that McConnell had stated from day one that his goal was to make sure Obama was a one-term President.

There is no doubt that McConnell said he wanted to make Obama a one-term president. But he did not say it at the start of Obama’s term; instead, he made his comments at the midpoint, after Obama had enacted many of his preferred policies. Perhaps, in Obama’s memory, McConnell was always uncooperative. But that does not give him and other Democrats the license to rearrange the chronology to suit the party’s talking points.”

During the presidential election campaign President-Elect Trump stated, repeatedly, that he had opposed the war in Iraq. Yet the only public statement on record was that he, in fact, supported the war in Iraq.  His first public statement expressing his opposition to the war was more than a year after the invasion, when opposition to a war gone badly was rather widespread.

We could go on.  There was President Obama’s assurance that many people had been fired at the Department of Veterans Affairs following 2014 scandal over manipulated wait-time data that contributed to the deaths of veterans. But, in fact at the time the President assured the public that heads had rolled, only one senior executive had been removed.

Hillary Clinton responded to questions about whether she had told the truth to the American people about her use of a private server by stating “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.  That, of course, was simply not true.  What Director Comey said was that she had not lied to the FBI. He did not say she had not lied to the American people.

Now we, of course, understand that politicians are not generally known for their candor. But the extent of unrelenting falsehoods uttered by our highest public officials seems, to us, to be unprecedented and, more worrisome, remarkably tolerated by the public. This does not auger well for the future of constructive discourse in America.

As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Half a truth is often a great lie.”

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Obama, Kerry, the UN and Our Post-Factual World

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt seems everyone is doing it—even President Barack Obama and our Secretary of State, John Kerry. It’s almost Orwellian.  Truth is devalued like so much roadside flotsam.  Say something often enough and stridently enough and the words become truth, no matter how ridiculous the utterance. Where have we heard that theory before?

So, according to the US-supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Israeli settlements are the paramount obstacle to peace in that part of the Middle East between the West Bank of the Jordan River and the line where the infant Israeli nation stopped the invasion of four Arab nations nearly seven decades ago—the so called pre-67 border (the land Israelis and biblical scholars call Judea and Samaria).

One needn’t be a proponent of settlements on the West Bank (we’re not) to be offended by such an assertion. Reality contradicts the assertion.

Reality was the original League of Nations Mandate (Mandate Palestine) later subsumed by the United Nations recognizing the so-called West Bank as inclusive of a new Jewish Homeland that would exist among other religious identities.

Reality was the acceptance by Israel of the 1947 UN partition plan, which replaced the Mandate and the simultaneous rejection of the partition plan by the Arab nations.

Reality was a vicious war of annihilation in 1948 launched by four Arab nations, terminating the UN partition designed to create a Jewish and an Arab state in what had been Mandate Palestine.

Reality was the expulsion of all Jewish residents of Jerusalem’s ancient Jewish quarter by Jordanian troops in 1948 and the subsequent recapture of the entire city by Israel in 1967.

Reality was the pillaging and destruction by Jordanian troops of historic Jewish religious sites in the old Jewish quarter (the quarter the UN resolution calls “occupied territory”).

Reality was the destruction of ancient Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives.

Reality is the world’s misapplication of Article Forty-nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention, rendering Jewish settlements illegal for the first time. There has, in fact, been no forced transfer of populations into or out of the West Bank.

Reality was the Palestinian Authority secretly forging a unity government with Hamas, which controls 40% of the Palestinian population, while simultaneously “negotiating” a peace deal with Israel.

Reality is the Hamas Charter which demands the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews

Reality was PA Chairman Yasser Arafat scuttling peace talks in 2000, and admitting to President Bill Clinton that agreeing to peace with Israel would cost him his life. This was after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak surprised Arafat by, essentially, agreeing to two states on either side of the ’67 lines with land swaps to adjust the border to compensate for Israeli settlements along the border. Prime Minister Barak also agreed that Jerusalem would serve as the capital of both nations.

Reality was the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza over a decade ago, which resulted in the launching of tens of thousands of Hamas rockets from Gaza aimed at Israeli towns and villages.

Reality was Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas declaring that no Jewish communities would be allowed in a West Bank Palestinian State.

Reality was the Jewish communities that had once thrived on the West Bank throughout history.

We are not suggesting that we endorse Jewish settlements on the West Bank, or that we oppose a two-state resolution of this intractable dispute. We have strong reservations regarding the incorporation of a large, antagonistic, Palestinian population into territory perpetually controlled by Israel.  But the list of obstacles is long to an eventual two-state resolution of the conflict. Rejectionist voices are strong on both sides of this dispute.

Given that this disputed land has never belonged to any nation state other than, arguably, the Ottoman Turks (who, incidentally, welcomed Jewish settlement) referring to it as occupied land is ludicrous. The West Bank has been controlled by Jordan, Egypt, England and, today, Israel. Article Forty-Nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not comport with the circumstances on the ground on the West Bank. This has been disputed land since the end of the British Mandate, and, if anything, the British Mandate encouraged and anticipated Jewish presence on this land.  While the UN effectively replaced Mandate formulation with partition, the Arab nations clearly and resolutely rejected partition.  Only Israel accepted the UN partition plan. Israel controls the West Bank, because Israel was unsuccessfully attacked from the West Bank. Israel has always agreed that the West Bank is, indeed, disputed territory. To label it Occupied Territory as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention is ludicrous, even if the rest of the world considers it convenient to so label this land.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when proclaiming a lie often enough was considered sufficient to render it true. Much of the world seems to still succumb to such a formulation—to such larceny of language. Israel, however, is the wrong country and Israelis are the wrong people to target with such calumny.  They’ve been there before and they recognize it for what it is.

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UN Security Council Vote– Yet Another Obama Foreign-Policy Debacle

Of Thee I Sing Heading Authors“So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” (President Barack Obama, Washington, D.C., 3/4/12)

Well, that seems rather questionable.  Certainly, when the chips were down this past Friday, President Obama certainly didn’t have Israel’s back. Indeed, the long-rumored December surprise, turned out not to be rumor after all. Obama would have his petulant parting shot at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with barely three weeks left in his Presidency. And while the UN vote condemning Israel’s settlement policy will have no practical effect on the ground, it is a major blow to the mid-section of America’s strongest and only reliable ally in the Middle East, and it gives enormous cover, even a degree of sanction, to the growing wave of anti-Semitism across Europe and the odious, equally, anti-Semitic campaign known as BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement roiling college campuses, public forums, churches and even some corporate boardrooms.

Equally troubling—it was a flat-out wrong and poorly conceived exercise in foreign policy. But then again, flat-out wrong and poorly conceived public policy has been rather endemic to the Obama Administration. We’ll discuss why we believe the UN vote was flat-out wrong a little further down in this essay. But first we’ll focus on the poorly conceived foreign policy decisions that have been endemic to this Administration.  First, there was the Arab Spring that offered a brief moment of hope for the Middle East that was squandered by feckless policy in Washington. Our hasty departure from Iraq, the mind-boggling, red-line bluff in Syria and the lead-from-behind, air-power, meddling in Libya with absolutely no ground game to deal with the aftermath led to one disaster after another and a leadership vacuum that the Obama anointed JV team, ISIS, has been only too happy to fill. Even in Afghanistan, where the Obama Administration committed 30,000 troops, President Obama simultaneously announced the date by which the troops would be withdrawn.

Then there was the Russian grab of Crimea, perhaps the greatest take-over of another sovereign’s territory since the Nazi’s marched into the Sudetenland in October 1938.  We did absolutely nothing meaningful about that, which probably signaled to Vladimir Putin that Russia could move back into the Middle East with impunity, which they wasted no time in doing…with impunity.

We won’t belabor the Iran Nuclear pact, other than to say the Obama Administration deep-sixed every positon we and the international community had previously taken forbidding Iran to develop Nuclear weapon capability. Iran now has a legal, ten-year glide path to joining the Nuclear Club, and they make no bones about their right and determination to do just that.  We even released the previously sequestered funds to help them do just that.

The Obama Administration’s publicly acknowledged policy has been to pivot away from the Middle East and to refocus America’s priorities on Asia. How’s that working out? China has been rapidly building military outposts including missile launch sites on disputed islands in the South China Sea, significantly boosting its presence in the already tense region, according to a Pentagon report released six months ago. Since announcing our “pivot,” China has invested in military programs and weapons designed to project power, and has begun shipping missiles to the recently constructed island military bases.

Now, let’s examine a bit more closely the Obama Administration’s decision to cast an abstaining vote at the Security Council last Friday which, of course, was the same as voting in favor of the resolution to condemn Israel.  The primary justification is that Israeli settlement construction (largely increasing housing units in existing settlements) hinders an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Hog Wash!

Keep in mind, Israel did agree to a moratorium on any new construction while peace negotiations were on-going back in 2014, but those talks ended when the Palestinian Authority announced that it had concluded a secret agreement to form a unity government with Hamas, which has vowed never to agree to peace with Israel. The Palestinian Authority was pursuing its deal with Hamas unbeknownst to the Israeli negotiating team.

So, it is the existence of Israeli settlements, that cover about one percent of the West Bank, and which would require an equivalent transfer of Israeli land to a new Palestinian State if a peace agreement was ever concluded that the Obama Administration considers a hindrance to an eventual two-state solution.  One wonders what has really changed since Yasser Arafat walked out of the Clinton-sponsored Camp David talks in 2000 when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, essentially, agreed to all of the Palestinian Authority’s demands.  His reason? “I would be returning to my own funeral if I agreed to end the dispute with Israel.”

Israel faces Hamas to the South, Hezbollah to the North, and ISIS just across the Golan Heights and President Obama chooses this as the time to toss an ill-advised and unwarranted political grenade at the Israelis.

“Occupied” or “Disputed” territory?

There are two narratives about the so-called occupied territory, or, essentially, the land that has been in Israel’s hands since the 1967 six-day war. One narrative holds that the West Bank, the biblical Judea and Samaria, is occupied territory. The other narrative holds that the land is not “occupied territory”, but rather, “disputed territory” and, therefore, not subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The first narrative is widely embraced, and accepted by nearly all the world community. It is the convenient narrative. It shoehorns the territory into a legal definition that serves the interests of the current international milieu even if it doesn’t serve the interests of truth or justice.

The inconvenient reality is that the second narrative, the one that states the West Bank is “disputed territory” rather than “occupied territory” is, by any reasonable and emotionally detached reading, the far more applicable definition.

The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. A reading of the history of this Convention makes clear that the thinking and the writing was informed by Nazi aggression during World War Two and the Nazi practice of forcibly transferring populations into and out of territory it controlled because of its conquests.  The Forth Geneva Convention is also directed at what the treaty refers to as “High Contracting Authorities” or, more plainly the representatives of states who have signed the treaty.

Here, in our opinion, the embrace of the Fourth Geneva Convention utterly fails. There simply is no “High Contracting Authority” that is a party to this dispute other than Israel.  There is not now, nor has there ever been a state called Palestine. This is territory that has been administered by the Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire, the British, the Jordanians, the Israelis, and the Israelis in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority. West Bank cities most sacred to Jews, such as Hebron and Jerusalem have been home to Jews throughout history and into the twenty-first century. In fact, Jews lived continuously in Hebron for thousands of years until they were banished, temporarily, by the Crusaders and massacred by local Arabs in 1929.  History is strongly on the side of the Israelis.

Arab opposition to Jewish settlements is based on the last paragraph of Article 49 of the Forth Geneva Convention. The “Occupying Power” may not “Deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  It beggars the imagination to suggest that Israel, the only free and democratic country in the Middle East, used “deportation” and “forced transfer” of its own population into any territories, and no local Arabs have been forced from their communities since the six-day war.

The term “occupied territory,” which appears in the Fourth Geneva Convention, originated because of the Nazi occupation of Europe. Though it has become common parlance to describe the West Bank and Gaza as “occupied territories,” there is no legal basis for using this term in connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, categorically rejected the use of the term “occupied territory” to describe the territories controlled by Israel on the following counts:

(1) Article 49 relates to the invasion of sovereign states and is inapplicable because the West Bank did not and does not belong to any other state.

(2) The drafting history of Article 49 [Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War] – that is, preventing “genocidal objectives” must be taken into account. Those conditions do not exist in Israel’s case.

(3) Settlement of Jews in the West Bank is voluntary and does not displace local inhabitants. Moreover, Professor Stone asserted: that “no serious dilution (much less extinction) of native populations” [exists]; rather “a dramatic improvement in the economic situation of the [local Palestinian] inhabitants since 1967 [has occurred].”

Professor Eugene Rostow, past Dean of Yale Law School, and US under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and a key draftee of UN Security Council Resolution 242, concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable to Israel’s legal position and notes:

“The opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank also relied on a legal argument – that such settlements violated the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the occupying power from transferring its own citizens into the occupied territories. How that Convention could apply to Jews who already had a legal right, protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, to live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was never explained.” It seems that the International Court of Justice never explained it either.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 recognized that Israel would not be expected to withdraw from all territory it controlled after Israel successfully defended itself in 1967. The entire concept of land for peace was at the heart of resolution 242. President Obama successfully killed the concept of land for peace with his abstention at the UN last Friday. Now, according to the Security Council resolution Israel, legally, has no land with which to bargain.

It seems this Obama raspberry may be one of the last and one of the most memorable things we’ll hear from this White House.

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DNC-WikiLeaks Imbroglio and the Grand Pivot.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsRedirecting or deflecting the audience’s attention is an old slight-of-hand magician’s ploy as well as a political ploy to refocus an audience’s attention away from reality. This tactic to redirect or deflect is called a pivot.

Readers of our weekly essays know that we did not support Donald Trump, we did not vote for Donald Trump, and that we have been very critical of his campaign and various positions he has embraced. Nonetheless, he is the President-elect of the United States.  His Electoral College victory was impressive, and consistent with the method by which every president of the United States has been elected since George Washington.

Protestations that he lost the popular vote are meaningless.  Neither he nor Hillary Clinton campaigned to win the popular vote.  They campaigned to win the electoral vote. Otherwise Donald Trump would have campaigned in California, Oregon and Washington and the northeast, and would have certainly sliced into the Clinton vote in those states too. Donald Trump, more or less, won everywhere he campaigned.  Our concerns about Trump have not changed, but we accept the outcome of the election. Many others, it seems, do not.

The Democrats are working overtime to pivot attention away from DNC emails that demonstrated pro-Hillary hijinks leading up to the election by focusing attention instead on intelligence allegations that the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC in order to interfere in our election.  While we are certainly not qualified to judge who hacked or leaked information, the real scandal, of course, is that the DNC under both Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile (former CNN contributor) were working sub-rosa to elect Hillary Clinton, when it was their responsibility to be neutral with respect to Democratic candidates. Donna Brazile appears to have passed along to the Clinton campaign questions that were going to be asked to Hillary by a member of the audience at a CNN town hall telecast (while she was on the CNN payroll as a commentator/contributor). That’s a huge no-no.

In a well-coordinated effort, everyone connected with the Clinton campaign has been hammering away that the sources of the disclosures of the apparent skullduggery within the DNC were Russians; then that the hackers were acting on behalf of the Kremlin, and then this past week that Vladimir Putin himself was directing the entire WikiLeaks caper.

We, of course, play second fiddle to no one in condemning the widespread computer hacking that has become so commonplace throughout the world today.  We don’t think anyone or any government should, without extraordinary justification, hack into computers that don’t belong to them, and that goes for the United States as well. Yes, America hacks too. But we digress.

Much of the American intelligence community, it appears, has concluded that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC.  So far they have offered little evidence, other than that their conclusion represents the consensus of the intelligence community. So, that’s serious. The CIA says the DNC was hacked by the Russians. But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the Russians were definitely not the source of the material he published. In fact, he says the source of the DNC leaks wasn’t from any government at all.  Which means, almost certainly, if one is to believe Assange, that someone within the DNC leaked to Assange emails pertaining to the DNC’s internal campaign to sandbag Bernie Sanders. Assange says WikiLeaks obtained emails from both the DNC and the RNC, but that the RNC material was of less interest because it had previously found its way into the public domain.  It was, of course, no secret that leading Republicans were in full panic mode over Trump’s political ascendancy.

Given that the DNC’s mission is supposed to be non-partisan within the Democratic party, Pro-Clinton DNC skullduggery was big news. Few people, however, can recall with any specificity what, exactly, the DNC scandal was. Instead, everyone’s attention has been successfully redirected to the inner chambers of the Kremlin, where Vladimir Putin was apparently combing through DNC staff emails to see which ones he could forward on to Julian Assange. Really?

Actually, the leaked or hacked emails, while devious, were fairly benign.  They really don’t seem to constitute the type of skinny that would have Putin rubbing his hands together in anticipation of tipping the American election. Over-caffeinated, left leaning commentators are already referring to the alleged Russian hacking as the political equivalent of bringing down the World Trade Center.

Former CIA and NSA agents affiliated with the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes that “harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking – by Russians or anyone else.”

A hack, the group explains, is when someone remotely enters a computer system and extracts data. They conclude that servers allegedly hacked “were, in fact, not hacked” and that the emails disclosed by WikiLeaks and other sites were, instead, leaked. VIPS is a non-partisan group originally formed back in 2003 to protest the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq, stating that there was no evidence that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

With the CIA depending on NSA for communications intelligence, “it remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact,” the veteran intelligence officials wrote. The letter was signed by retired NSA technical director and whistleblower William Binney, former Senator and counterintelligence agent Mike Gravel, former CIA intelligence officer Larry Johnson, former CIA and military intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, retired CIA intelligence officer Elizabeth Murray, and former NSA SIGINT analyst Kirk Wiebe.  SIGINT analysts, according to NSA, specialize in gathering signal information involving international terrorists and foreign powers, organizations, or persons.

Whistleblower and former NSA Technical Director Binney went on to criticize statements by anonymous intelligence officials for their equivocating phrases such as “our best guess” or “our opinion” or “our estimate.”  The veteran CIA personnel argued that the NSA has not produced evidence of hacking. Such evidence can be easily produced “without any danger to sources or methods,” he added.

 “In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a US election by hacking,” the group wrote. Their conclusion is that servers allegedly hacked “were, in fact, not hacked” and that the emails disclosed by WikiLeaks and other sites were leaked from within the DNC.

Neither we nor the rest of the American public really know whether the DNC’s dirty laundry was hacked or leaked, but the effort to deflect attention from the real scandal, that is, the dirty laundry itself is well orchestrated and it is intended to wound Trump, if not to nullify his election altogether. It is, indeed, a grand pivot.

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The Bully Pulpit…and the Bully

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWell, now we’re about to have a first—an actual bully at the Bully Pulpit. No disrespect intended. Really, we’re not making a judgment, just an observation. The Bully Pulpit is the 100-year-old name given to the power of the White House to influence and persuade. It was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Bully Pulpit was the place (the White House) where good presidents proposed and fought for good things. Bully had a different conotation back in TR’s day. “Bully for you,” one might say to someone who had performed a good deed.

Various Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have endeavored to use the prestige of the White House or the Oval Office to inform (or sell) the American public on their progams or visions for America. Barack Obama recently tried to do that by conducting a town hall tweet session on the White House Twitter account, which attracts more than two million followers.

So the bully pulpit had been used for most of the 20th century to win public support. Teddy Roosevelt regularly courted the press, and delivered major speeches, which were invariably covered by most of the press. He would focus on key legislation such as railroad regulation and food inspection. The Bully Pulpit was used to promote the public good, at least as Teddy Roosevelt defined the public good.

President Franklin Roosevelt, during the horrible thirties, used the Bully Pulpit very effectively. He tackled the Great Depression or went to the Bully Pulpit to sell a certain policy or assuage the fear of Americans about particular threats facing the nation.

President Harry Truman used the Bully Pulpit to sell his anti-communist policies, and he effectively used the Bully Pulpit to persuade Congress to provide assistance to Greece and Turkey, and to sell the Truman Doctrine, which committed America to support anti-communist forces wherever we confronted the threat of Communism or Russian expansionism. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg convinced President Truman to “scare the hell out of the American people,” which Truman effectively did when on March 12, 1947, he effectively used the Bully Pulpit in marshaling support for his sweeping policies designed to contain the Soviet Union.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, President John F. Kennedy stepped up to the Bully Pulpit with more than 50 million Americans watching as he explained the quarantine the United States was imposing around Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from bringing weaponry onto the island. Even the very conservative New York Herald Tribune proclaimed, “the people of the United States must and will unite behind the president in the course which Soviet aggression has made inevitable.” President Kennedy certainly understood the power of the Bully Pulpit.

And who can forget the way President Lyndon Johnson used the Bully Pulpit to appeal to Congress and the nation to pass voting- rights legislation following the physical attack on black Americans in Alabama back in March 1965. He used the Bully Pulpit to tell the world, “we shall overcome,” using the words of the civil rights anthem. The Civil Rights Act soon followed.

Perhaps President Ronald Reagan was the last president to effectively use the Bully Pulpit when he went to the public to sell his 1981 tax cut. Armed with charts and statistics, he explained why tax cuts could lower deficits and boost the economy. Unfortunately, he failed to understand that lowering taxes and increasing spending do not go hand in hand very well. Nonetheless, when President Reagan wanted to build support for his increased military budget, he returned to the Bully Pulpit, and in a number of well-publicized speeches he effectively warned of the danger of communism. And when he thought it was time to make peace with the Soviet Union, he returned, once again, to the Bully Pulpit to persuade the county that a new day had arrived.

Today, the Bully Pulpit, as we knew it, has changed. Social media has largely replaced traditional print and broadcast-based mass media. Reflective thought has given way to thought informed by tweets and Facebook posts. The age of thoughtful eloquence has given way to the age of Trump. Some have christened the new age as a new post-factual era.

The current structure of the media quite possibly has emasculated the Bully Pulpit as we knew it. When the current President-elect steps up to the symbolic Bully Pulpit to persuade, he does not think in well thought out expositive language, but rather in staccato thrusts confined to 140 characters.

On Mexico — “not our friend” “they’re killing us” “unbelievable corruption” “we get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money!” “Totally corrupt gov’t” “totally corrupt.” Well, we suppose that’s one way of discussing our issues with our southern neighbor, which, incidentally, also happens to be the second largest export market for US manufactured goods.

The Bully Pulpit has changed hands many times since Teddy Roosevelt resided at 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, it is President-elect Trump’s to use. The whole world is listening.

 

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Keep The Electoral College

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsHere we go again.

Once again, our unique system of electing a president is under attack as an antiquated, unfair anachronism, unjustifiable in our modern age. A growing number of Americans believe that the Electoral College should be abolished and that a national popular vote should replace our 230-year-old system of electing our President. We beg to differ.

The constitutional provision establishing an Electoral College (Article II. Section 1.) can, of course, be revisited by amending the constitution. Indeed, our governing document has been amended 27 times (including the Bill of Rights) in the past 230 years, including the twelfth amendment, which consolidated, within the College, the voting for President and Vice President into one ballot to avoid a reoccurrence of contests between President and Vice President.

There has been a movement to gut the Electoral College called the National Popular Vote Compact, which would require that all states adopting the Compact mandate their electors to cast their ballots in favor of whoever won the national popular vote— even if that vote conflicted with the outcome of the vote in the electors’ own state. We, and many others, see this movement as an attempt to emasculate the intent of the framers without going through the bother of an arduous amendment process, which could, of course, never succeed.

Theoretically, the National Popular Vote Compact would not have to be adopted by every state in order to change the way we have conducted elections since the founding of the country. The Compact would, theoretically, become effective as soon as enough states joined which, together, commanded a total of 270 electoral votes (the number required to win the presidential election.

We think such tampering with the Electoral College would result in even greater divisiveness than currently exists in the country. More on that later. Right now, let’s review precisely what the Electoral College is…and what it isn’t.  The Electoral College is not a physical place like a school.  It is simply a group of elected individuals in each state organized by the constitution to achieve a singular common goal – to express (by casting their ballots) the will of their respective states.  Each of our states does, in fact, conduct a popular, winner-take-all election. The number of each state’s electors (in the Electoral College) is equal to the number of representatives and senators each state has in the US Congress, so every state is represented in the nation’s Electoral College in a manner reasonably proportionate to its population. That is what makes every electoral vote so important, especially in close elections. In a very close election, small states with only two or three or four electoral votes can decide who becomes president. Thus, it is very consistent with our federalist system. It makes it impossible for two or three very densly-populated geographical regions to totally control a presidential election. Every state has someone at the table in the Electoral College. So why are some people so opposed to the Electoral College? Primarily, because (at first blush) a system in which whoever gets the most popular votes wins, seems very fair and very appealing.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, for one thing, it would pit regions with high population densities against less populated regions assuring that the big population centers could, essentially, dictate who occupies the White House. That is, to some extent, as true today as it was at the founding when the United States of America consisted of only four million men and women in 13 states spread along 1,000 miles of the east coast with the bulk of the population residing in four states — Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The creation of the Electoral College was essential to persuading the other nine less populated states to join the union.

Even today, with a population of 320 million, 52% of Americans live in coastal counties and 40% live directly on the shoreline of the United States. That means about half the country lives in the immense 3,000-mile divide between the coasts.  Of the nation’s 3,144 counties, only 22% (691) are coastal with the remaining 78% located inland.  While Clinton won the popular vote, she lost in over 3000 of the nations 3144 counties. That’s why the electoral map is so red, even though Clinton won in areas with heavy population densities. Our federalist system was created to assure that every state was, politically, important.

The Electoral College also  makes it very difficult for fringe party candidates to win a national election by cobbling together pockets of votes in many states that could add up to a majority without carrying any single state.  The way our Electoral College works, if a candidate doesn’t carry a state, he or she isn’t entitled to any of that state’s electoral votes. We like that a lot! (Nebraska and Maine are exceptions in which electoral votes are apportioned by congressional district).

While the founders changed history by meticulously constructing the world’s first constitutional democracy, they never lost sight, or fear, of the potential tyranny of the majority.  They constructed a number of safeguards to give every state, large or small, a place at the proverbial table. Every state, large or small, having two Senators is one such example.  The Electoral College is another.

Twice in fairly recent history, fringe candidates were able to accumulate an impressive number of votes (here and there) without carrying a single state.  Consequently, they received no electoral votes. For example, Ross Perot, in 1992, ran as a third party candidate and cobbled together nearly 20 million votes, but he failed to carry a single state and, therefore, was awarded no electoral votes.  John Anderson of Illinois ran for President as an Independent in 1980 and won nearly 7 million votes.  He, too, failed to carry a single state and was relegated to obscurity, winning no votes in the Electoral College. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, combined, won millions of votes scattered throughout the country , but no electoral votes.

The Electoral College has stood the test of time, and has served the nation well. Let us, however, acknowledge that the Electoral College represents an imperfect process that has, on five occasions following very close elections, resulted in the elections of Presidents who had not won a national majority of the votes cast. They would be George Bush (43), Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford Hayes.  John Quincy Adams also won the presidency when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives after neither he nor Andrew Jackson received the necessary number of electoral votes to ascend to the Presidency.  The House gave the nod to Adams. And, of course, we now have Donald Trump with a plurality of 74 electoral votes and a deficit of two million popular votes.

Nonetheless, the correlation, over time, between the popular vote and the Electoral College vote remains extremely strong notwithstanding the 2016 election. Three interesting research papers co-authored by Andrew Gelman, Professor of Statistics at Columbia University, along with other prominent statisticians, demonstrate that whoever wins 51% of the popular vote has a 95% statistical probability of winning the Electoral College.

Both large states and small states can, depending on the circumstances, be the beneficiaries of the Electoral College system.   In a close election, there are many small states whose three or four electoral votes could carry the day for a candidate.

On the other hand, the prevailing winner-take-all (electoral votes) system, of course, favors the large states.  For example, no matter how tiny the margin of victory in California, the state awards all 55 of its electoral votes to the winner. That represents more electoral votes than the 15 smallest states combined. The Electoral College can provide (in very close elections) an ever-so-slight tilt making the outcome in an individual state critically important, and the federalist oriented founders would, unquestionably, have been very comfortable with that. We are too.

In our unique presidential voting system the Electoral College does help assure that large voting blocks do not necessarily dictate the outcome of our Presidential elections and that is what the founders intended and, in our opinion, that is a good thing.

If ever the national will is to amend the constitution and do away with the Electoral College so be it.  But there are those who want to do away with the Electoral College and who have devised an alternate scheme for accomplishing that. Here’s how. The US Constitution allows each state to decide how to apportion its electoral votes. In 48 of the 50 states all of the electoral votes in each state are awarded to the winner of the popular vote in each particular state (winner takes all). Two states, Nebraska (5 electoral votes) and Maine (4 electoral votes) allocate their electoral votes taking into consideration how the vote went in each state’s respective congressional districts.

The so-called National Popular Vote Compact movement would establish a Compact wherein every state that adopts the Compact agrees to allocate all of its electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote, even if that candidate does not carry the particular member state.  In other words, if a candidate who won the national popular vote got clobbered in any states that had joined the Compact, those states would still be compelled to award all of their electoral votes to that candidate.

Ironically, those who are pushing this corruption of the Constitution will succeed if they can secure the passage of the Compact in any combination of states that, collectively, have 270 electoral votes (the number of electoral votes needed to win a national Presidential election).  Those who are promoting the so-called Compact are using the language in the constitution that delegates to the states the determination of how to apportion their electoral votes to make the case that the electors can be required to cast their votes in support of a candidate that didn’t even carry their state. This political slight of hand negates and undermines the process of election designated by the Constitution. The Constitution most certainly intended that electoral votes cast in each state reflect the vote outcome in each state.

How far fetched is it that such a bastardization of the framers’ intent could ever become reality?  As of this week, eleven of the most liberal states in the nation have legislated in favor of the Compact. Together they account for 165 of the needed 270 votes necessary to do away with the framers’ intent.  Legislation supporting the Compact is pending in six other states. We expect to see this debate rekindled in the aftermath of this presidential election. We believe, however, that the Founders, once again, had it right. The effort will fail–as it should.

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An Open Letter to President-elect Trump

 

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsDear President-elect Trump,

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a centrist American (sometimes center right and sometimes center left) who did not vote for you, or for that matter, for your Democratic opponent. I am, however, writing to you because I appreciate your stated determination to be the President of all Americans whether they voted for you or not.

You have expressed a decision to appoint Supreme Court justices who are committed to overturning Roe versus Wade. I appreciate that ending a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, even under the limitations established by Roe, is a bedrock position of some of your strongest supporters. I think you also appreciate that respecting a woman’s right and a family’s right to privacy with respect to highly personal and intimate judgments is also a bedrock position of most Americans. For many years, that was your position as well.

I urge you to try to put aside labels and slogans and the support of this group or that group and focus, presidentially, on what is really at stake here—the personal and private judgment of a woman, or a family, regarding one of the most personal of all decisions. Many, who call themselves conservative, view this as a defining battle between political conservatism and political liberalism. It is not. The father of the modern conservative movement, Barry Goldwater, bristled at the thought that political conservatism might devolve into religious conservatism. Goldwater believed, and frequently expressed, that politicians sticking their collective noses into such personal, individual reproductive decisions was the very antithesis of political conservatism. As the late senator told the LA Times over twenty years ago, “…A lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word (conservative) means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.” He was, of course, correct and we think you know that.

Not surprisingly, he also became a strong believer in gay rights, especially the right of gay men and women to serve openly in the military. He stated, correctly, that gay men had served and died for our country in every war since the Revolutionary War. You have also opined on this issue, stating that gay rights (the right of gays to marry) was now settled law. That was a correct judgment on your part. It was presidential.

A woman’s right, within certain limitations, to choose whether or not to bring a child into the world is also settled law. At least conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Conner thought it was, as did conservative Chief Justice John Roberts when he testified at his conformation hearing. Specifically, he was asked by Senator Arlen Specter, “Judge Roberts, in your confirmation hearing for the circuit court you testified: ‘Roe is the settled law of the land.’ Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?”

ROBERTS: “Well, beyond that (emphasis added). It’s settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis (the principle that legal precedent should, with rare exception, be respected). And those principles, applied in the Casey case, explain when cases should be revisited and when they should not. And it is settled as a precedent of the court, yes.“

SPECTER: “You went on to say then, ‘It’s a little more than settled. It was reaffirmed in the face of a challenge that it should be overruled in the Casey decision, so it has added precedential value.’”

ROBERTS: “I think the initial question for the judge confronting an issue in this area, you don’t go straight to the Roe decision. You begin with Casey, which modified the Roe framework and reaffirmed its central holding.”

Now, we fully appreciate that the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy within the limits established in Roe is not a universally accepted view. It has become one of the most politically charged issues in the land—a litmus test for many seeking public office, especially judgeships. We understand that highly respected jurists have widely differing views on the subject, and that you as President will have substantial latitude to appoint judges who will alter what many consider to be settled law. That is your right—your decision to make.

But we implore you to think this through carefully—presidentially. Women may face the decision to terminate a pregnancy for a variety of reasons, but it is invariably an incredibly stressful decision often driven by very complex realities. No one should sit in judgment of those realities other than the individual—the woman who is confronting them.

Sloganeering and wordsmithing crafted by political strategists have sullied rational discussion. The word fetus has been excised from politispeak. A just-fertilized ovum becomes an unborn child. That ovum may have been fertilized during a rape, but, nonetheless, that ovum would be viewed by many as an unborn child that the victim of the rape must carry and to which she must give birth. That is not a moral decision—it is a political decision. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Institutes of Health over 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year in America. Let’s continue to leave the decision about what to do in such cases to the woman who was raped.

Of the 4.4 million confirmed pregnancies in the United States each year, close to 1,000,000 end in miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, during the first twenty weeks of pregnancy. Add to this the number of spontaneous abortions that occur in unconfirmed pregnancies before the mother is even aware she is pregnant, and the number of miscarriages or spontaneous abortions is estimated to be much, much, higher. These early spontaneous abortions are generally caused by chromosomal abnormalities, and they represent nature’s way of terminating a serious, and invariably deadly anomaly in the developing pregnancy. Sadly, nature’s surveillance of these anomalous pregnancies is imperfect. Advances in medical science have, however, made it possible to detect fetal anomalies that escape nature’s purview. Expectant parents can be informed, if they wish to be, very early in a pregnancy of equally anomalous fetal development that will, with absolute certainty, produce seriously abnormal, and often fatal outcomes—sometimes involving months and even years of horrible, unremitting, infant or childhood suffering.

And yes, sometimes decisions driven by extreme poverty or emotional stress, or the pregnancies of expectant mothers who themselves are children also all become part of the right-to-life versus the-right- to-choose political debate. The sad thing is that this complex and highly personal issue should not be a political debate at all. It belongs in the realm of protected privacy.

To blithely pronounce that overturning Roe, in today’s hotly-charged environment, would merely turn this issue over to the States fails to recognize the undue burden on the women (and their families) such a decision would create. Sadly, many politicians in many states have no hesitancy at all in constructing undue burdens—near impossible hurdles for women (and families) dealing with this most private and stressful decision.

For example, the State of Texas passed a law three years ago that required that all clinics providing abortion services be retrofitted to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, which caused about half the clinics in the state to close before the courts stepped in. When it finally reached the US Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer aptly laid bare the sophistry inherent in the Texas law noting, “nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in death, but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient’s own home. Colonoscopy, a procedure that typically takes place outside a hospital (or surgical center) setting, has a mortality rate 10 times higher than an abortion. The mortality rate for liposuction, another outpatient procedure, is 28 times higher than the mortality rate for abortion.” In other words, protecting the health of the woman had nothing to do with the Texas law. Creating a stumbling block, an undue burden, had everything to do with the Lone State’s legislation.

Vacating Roe will plunge this issue back into a maelstrom of political posturing that will rage for years. The varied circumstances that inform a woman’s judgment with respect to continuing a pregnancy are complex and often heartbreaking. Every case that makes its way to the Supreme Court deserves to be heard, but not by jurists who, by their own admission, have made up their minds before hearing the case.

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Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsSound familiar? Readers old enough may remember the original, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” the story of a hopelessly naïve Jefferson Smith (played by James Stewart) who is thrust, unprepared, into the US Senate only to find Washington a cesspool of corruption. We’re not suggesting that the old 1939 film, which many consider one of best in the annals of film making, was a prologue to the present. President-elect Trump isn’t hopelessly naïve, although his degree of preparedness, well, that might be another story.

In any event, Mr. Trump, ready or not, will be going to Washington, and any similarity between Mr. Trump’s sojourn to the nation’s capital and Mr. Smith’s will, for sure, be purely coincidental. The unprepared Mr. Smith was in a position to do little harm nor little good. The unprepared Mr. Trump can do a world of both.

To do a world of harm, all he has to do is spend a lot of time, money and credibility delivering on many of his crowd-pleasing but nonsensical campaign promises. To do a world of good, all he has to do is think presidentially—not just act or behave, but think presidentially. That’s one thing all of our great Presidents had in common— They were great thinkers. Be a great thinker, President-elect Trump.

That means President-elect Trump will have to stop antagonizing and marginalizing millions of our fellow citizens and neighbors. Seal our borders as tightly as necessary, but we have higher priorities than rounding up millions of undocumented men and women who have been here a long time, and the 380,000 children who are now protected by the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals executive order.

Like it or not, for the entire history of our country, anyone born in America is an American citizen, regardless of how their parents or grandparents arrived here. Leave those families alone. Leave them intact. You have more, much more important things to do than hunting down and deporting or breaking up law-abiding families. You will have prosecutorial discretion just as your predecessors have had. Accept your predecessor’s discretion regarding undocumented, law-abiding families that are here, most having been here for a long time, and then deal with immigration policy going forward as you deem appropriate.

We have written extensively about the sausage making that became the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Until you can figure out what to do about fixing it, we suggest you stop talking about it. There is no way to repeal it without throwing twenty million people to the wolves. Announcing (post-election) that people with pre-existing conditions will still be covered, and those under the age of twenty-six will be allowed to remain on their parents policies, was a wise thing to do, but it is the universal mandate that makes that coverage possible. It has been estimated that covering pre-existing conditions without the mandate would add $25 billion to the federal deficit.

Our guess is that defeating ISIS will take time. We understand that it played well to the crowd to promise that ISIS will be gone once you were elected and that they would be gone quickly. We know you promised a fool-proof plan for quickly defeating ISIS and taking the oil currently in their possession, but it’s probably a bit more complicated than that, and we’ll probably need considerable support of Muslim countries to do that, unless we plan to invade and occupy what’s left of Syria and what’s left of Iraq.

Thousands are marching in cities across the country to protest your election. So far these protests, with very few exceptions, have been peaceful. They’re protesting because of the divisiveness and closeness of the campaign. You’ll have your job cut out for you to unite the country now that this election is over. Let them know you don’t plan to prosecute your former opponent and throw her in jail as you promised to do during the campaign. Or if you intend to prosecute her, let President Obama know that so that he can pardon her now, and spare us the spectacle. Yes, we think her carelessness was mind-boggling, maybe even criminally so. But if you really believe the nation “owes her a major debt of gratitude for her years of service” as you said the night you declared victory, put an end to the speculation about prosecuting her.

This week we learned of various instances of lawlessness about which we should all be concerned. Swastikas painted on storefronts with the slogan, “Make America White Again,” and school children surrounding and taunting an immigrant classmate with shouts of “Build the Wall!” And children handing out faux deportation orders at a school at which children of Latin American ancestry were classmates. Everyone responsible for these calumnious, offensive insults will, we assume, be properly disciplined or otherwise rebuked. Well, maybe not everyone President-elect Trump. Truth be told, President-elect Trump, you share much of the blame. We don’t think you envisioned, nor do we think you condone such behavior, but words matter. Dog whistles matter even more. You’ll have to pick your words more carefully now.

We are strong believers in the Electoral College, about which we’ll write more in the next week or so. This election will give impetus to a movement to do away with the Electoral College or to require electors in each state to vote for whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. This election will cause many Americans to support such a movement. Many Americans wish our elections were decided by a national popular vote. Following this election, many more may feel the same way. After all, as of now, Hillary Clinton has polled over 600,000 more popular votes than you did President-elect Trump. And given that most of the remaining uncounted votes are on the west coast she may beat you with close to a million popular votes. While that wouldn’t affect the final Electoral College vote (this plurality seems to be in states she has already won) it will startle many Americans.

You are not, however, the only candidate to be elected President while failing to win a majority of popular votes nationally. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote in 1824, but couldn’t win in the Electoral College. In fact, with four candidates running in 1824 (Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William Crawford and Henry Clay) no one achieved a majority in the Electoral College. The House of Representatives finally elected Adams. Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden, but became President of the United States with a plurality of one vote in the Electoral College. Then a decade later, Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison) beat Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College after losing the national election count by 90,000 votes. And, of course, George Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 by ultimately winning Florida’s electoral votes after losing the national election tally. So President-elect Trump will be the fifth President of the United States who failed to win the national popular vote. It happens.

So on January 20, 2018 the real Mr. Trump will go to Washington just as the fictitious Mr. Smith did in 1939— seventy-eight years ago. We hope there is more to the real Mr. Trump than we saw during this election campaign. Every tough decision imaginable will wind up on your desk Mr. Trump, some of them literally life and death decisions. Some will be decisions that define who we are. You are now the President-elect of all the people—even those who say you are not. You will be one of forty-four men who have led this nation.

The premise of our essays has always been that America’s best days are before us if we hold true to our founding principles. Prove us right Mr. Trump.

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Our Venerated Two-Party System: The Road Kill Of The 2016 Election?

Of Thee I Sing Heading Authors  Who would have believed it?

Hillary, as we’ve observed, has been pulled by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren irretrievably to the left forcing her to oppose some major initiatives—even measures she had previously supported. And Donald Trump is, well, continuing to be Donald Trump.  Neither Party will be quite the same after this election because neither Party has nominated a candidate of whom their own rank and file largely approves. In fact, both Parties largely disapprove of their own candidates.

Now, in a bizarre turn of events,  we learn the FBI is reopening it’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and non-government and non-secured texting and email devices.

Earlier today (Friday, October 29) FBI Director James Comey informed lawmakers the bureau is reviewing new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, which has disrupted her campaign 11 days before the election.  The Bureau is focusing on newly discovered emails to see if they are relevant to the investigation into Clinton’s server that we all thought was closed earlier this year.  FBI Director Comey issued  a letter to eight congressional committee chairmen explaining  that the newly discovered emails “appear to be pertinent” to the email probe.

Apparently, while investigating the contretemps of Anthony Weiner (husband of Hillary Clinton’s most trusted aide, Huma Abedin), the FBI learned of the existence of the emails.  “I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”

Nonetheless,  staunch Democrat voters will almost certainly stay with Clinton simply because they can’t embrace Donald Trump. She is pulling more Democrat votes than Trump is pulling Republican votes (although some of that support is probably getting flushed away with the steady torrent from Wikileaks).  What makes the impact of all of this so unpredictable is the fact that so many voters are voting for the candidate they dislike the least.  Those voters may be far more ambivalent about whom they dislike the least and, thus, late breaking news might be more impactful then would ordinarily be the case. “Yesterday I disliked Hillary the least, today I dislike Trump the least,” many may be apt to think.

The Grand Old Party will most assuredly never be the same. There are simply far too many “never Trump” Republicans, and, perhaps, an equal number of “forever Trump Republicans.”  The very fractured Republican party may, in fact, become the wellspring of a new political party just as the Whig Party was the wellspring of the Republican Party in 1854.

The American body politic has never been more poised for the emergence of a viable third party. And that’s really saying something because in our system of elections it is extremely difficult for a third party to gain any real traction.

Here’s why. Now, stay with us here. It’s called Duverger’s Law. Maurice Duverger, a French sociologist, observed in the mid 50’s that when an electoral system is based on plurality-rule, as is the case in the United States, wherein only one person can be a winner even when that person’s opponent received as many votes — less one. In other words, we have a winner-take-all system that controls congressional elections, senatorial elections and “elections” within the Electoral College. So, a third Party candidate must win more votes than the two established primary Parties to win anything at all. A very strong showing by a third-Party candidate in the United States, but not strong enough to outpace either of the two major Parties in an election, wins absolutely nothing.

The exception, of course, is when one of the two major Parties implodes because a major slice of its core ceases to identify with the Party leadership, and cleaves off and forms a new Party. That really only occurs when there is an issue that severely polarizes a political Party. But it does happen. In 1854, such an issue — slavery, fractured the Whig Party. Dissident Whigs met in Ripon Wisconsin and from that meeting evolved a new political Party. Six years later that new Party’s candidate, a former rail-splitter-turned-politician named Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President of the United States.

Today, the Party of Lincoln is split over another burning issue — it’s very identity. Many in the Republican Party including many of the Party’s most respected leaders no longer identify with their Party’s standard-bearer, Donald Trump, nor with the positions to which he has committed himself, and, thus, the Party. It is no secret that George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Cara Hills, and many others all probably plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats have a similar problem. Millions of young Democrats and blue-collar Democrats really can’t stand Hillary. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may be the two most unpopular candidates ever to run for President. That fact, in and by itself, wouldn’t mean much. Elections end, candidates and their supporters brush themselves off and stand to fight another day. But this time, it may be different. Tens of millions of American voters are not just seeking a change in their Party—they’re seeking a new Party altogether. Current research strongly suggests that Americans are more eager to see a new third Party than at any time in over a century.

The Gallop organization says that 57%, of voters say that a third major U.S. political party is needed, while only 37% disagree This poll was conducted last month, and found that Americans’ views of the Republican and Democratic Parties’ are near historical lows. The two third (and forth) party candidates are polling four to five times higher than third Party candidates traditionally poll.

The Politico-Morning Consult poll reports that most voters are dismayed at their major-party choices. More than half of voters think the Republican and Democratic parties could have nominated better candidates than Clinton and Trump. Only one out of four Republicans think Trump was the best choice for Republicans, compared with one-third of Democrats who think Clinton was the best Democrat for the job.

Pew Research has determined that an unusually high share of under-30 voters are saying they’ll vote third party. What makes the under-30 vote’s flirtation with third-party candidates especially interesting is that this group, today, is the most diverse ever. These are traditional safe Democrat voters who, in large numbers, have a poor opinion of both candidates.

An ever-growing number of American voters now consider themselves to be independent voters. Party loyalty seems to be on the wan. As John Kennedy famously said when he first ran for Congress, “Sometimes Party loyalty demands too much.” No one wins an election in America without winning the independent vote. So just what is the mood of America’s independent voter today? Well, rather anti Democrat and anti Republican. Now, independents have always, by and large, been receptive to third Party candidates, but never so much as today. Today a whopping 78% of independents consider a third Party to now be necessary.

There are, of course,  millions of strong Trump and strong Hillary supporters.  Many of them  are not apt to move back to the political center where moderates dwell.  Moderates, therefore, may begin to coalesce and form the nucleus of a new political Party committed to  moderation and a willingness to work together to solve problems rather than to stymie progress.

Not surprisingly, there is growing interest in a new centrist party made up of moderate Democrats and Republicans.  A new political movement that calls itself “No Labels” held its first convention a year ago and attracted eight presidential candidates and over 1500 delegates. Two recent books, “The Centrist Manifesto” ( Charles Wheelan) and “A Declaration Of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream (Greg Orman) are gaining traction as this election season spins and stumbles toward election day.

Hold on to your hat. These political winds will be blowing long after election day.

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GOP: A Party In Desperate Search Of Itself.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt’s a mess, this election. One candidate will, of course, win and become President of the United States. The other candidate will, of course, lose. We believe, as we last opined, that Hillary Clinton will win this election and become the 45th President of the United States.

All things considered the alternative, that is, the election of Donald Trump would, to us, represent an unacceptable turn in American politics—a hail-Mary pass into a strange, dark and risky labyrinth. Great nations have, from time to time, found common cause with shallow, blustering, demagogic politicians, and those flirtations have never ended well. We do not believe the vast majority of Americans have made common cause with either candidate, but we believe the discomfort with Trump will trump the discomfort with Clinton.

We are not, however, among those who thrill to the prospect of a Hillary Clinton Presidency. But we’ll hope for the best, and for better alternatives to emerge by 2020. Hillary Clinton is committed to positions that abandon the political center for the siren call of the far left. And, according to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, her pursuit of that siren call will increase federal spending $1.65 trillion over the next decade, raise taxes by $1.5 trillion and increase the national debt by $200 billion. And anyone who thinks the resulting tax squeeze will be limited to the proverbial one percent should stay away from people with bridges to sell.

We will not excess over her lack of foreign affairs accomplishments or her policy and management missteps or her other flaws that simply don’t commend her to the oval office. Suffice to say, she has a seriously convoluted notion of candor. But then again, her opponent in this election has not made virtue the cornerstone of his campaign either. In fact, other than bumper sticker pronouncements we’re not sure what his governing policies would be. He is, unquestionably, the most divisive personality ever to seriously seek the Presidency of the United States. All of which brings us to the purpose of our essay today.

The Republican Party is in serious trouble. The substantial, and to us troubling, number of Republicans who are devoted Trumpsters will not go away when this election is over. Most, we believe, will not be chastened either. The center will not reconstitute itself, and, indeed, the Republican center has been steadily eroding for years. This is not the party of Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Dwight Eisenhower, or Jack Kemp or Richard Lugar, or William Ruckelshaus or, Bob and Elizabeth Dole or, for that matter, Ronald Reagan. This is, today, a largely angry party—sent to Washington by a largely and understandably angry electorate—angry not just because the national debt has grown so large, but angry because no one seems to care. Their constituents are angry because slow-to-no growth seems okay to our elected representatives in Washington. They are angry because student debt now exceeds almost all other “consumer” debt— even more than all credit-card debt combined. And they are frustrated that fewer and fewer of our workers have the skills to command the decent salaries that our technology-based, information economy pays.

This is not the sole fault of either Party. Both Parties have stultified with representatives who are more focused on re-election than the hard work of legislating and governing. They have, much too often, focused on their own business rather than the Peoples’ business.

To be sure, both Parties have migrated away from the political center, but the Republican Party has, generally, drifted to the right further and faster than the Democratic Party has drifted to the left — at least until 2016. The influence of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, however, is changing that. These self-styled political purists have large and very active constituencies that Hillary Clinton will have to satisfy if she is not to be a one-term President, and rest assured, Hillary will have no intention of becoming a one-term President.

America has generally been a centrist nation, always more moderate than extreme. That has been our greatest strength—our unique true North. America’s secret, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, “lies in her ability to repair her faults.” It is not hard today to discern our faults, either from the left or from the right. We are bereft of moderates in government. Moderation has become a term of abuse on both sides of the aisle, but particularly on the right. Too many Republicans, in particular, today eschew moderation as though it were synonymous with capitulation. But it is no such thing. Governing requires problem solving, and, barring autocratic rule, problem solving requires moderation—a willingness to work together and an understanding that problem solving is, or should be, the business of politics and governing.

Ours is not a perfect system. Indeed, it is rather messy. In 1787, the 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin harbored many concerns about the proposed Constitution and had argued vigorously for provisions that did not make the final draft. Yet, in the final hours of debate at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin urged his colleagues “who may still have objections to it … to doubt a little of their own infallibility” and adopt an excellent, if imperfect, document. That advice, when writing legislation, is as sound today as it was at the founding. Making good the enemy of the perfect in a democratic, two-party system is a disservice to the country. It is foolish, even stupid.

We suspect a functional third party may emerge from this election consisting mostly of those disaffected Republicans who simply will not be able to identify with many of their post-election colleagues.

 We understand the frustration of serious men and women who are frustrated by the extreme positions of their party’s standard bearer, and we would not be surprised to see scores of them coalesce around more moderate leadership. The criticism hurled by many talk radio and cable television personalities that moderates lack principles is, of course, absurd. We have huge problems to solve including our long-term fiscal challenges, global terrorism, a broken immigration system, escalating health care costs and many more.

A more moderate Republican Party will build on the Party’s historical fiscal conservatism while remaining highly skeptical of ever expanding, ever encroaching government. But it will also remain committed to civil and personal rights, providing a safety net for those citizens who are struggling to gain their footing in a rapidly changing economy and a realistic commitment to environmental protection.

We believe a growing number of Americans will support sensible positions emanating from both parties, and that many will, of course, reject certain ideas from both parties. We recently quoted from Charles Wheelan’s Centrist Manifesto, “that the time has come to take the best ideas from each party, discard the nonsense, and build something new and better.”

All of the founders feared the rise of political parties, because they knew how divisive they would become. They also knew that the rise of political parties would be inevitable in the democratic system they were creating. Well, our Parties have, indeed, become as divisive as the founders feared. The remedy, the only remedy, might just be a new third Party that serves to ameliorate the extremes to which both Parties have migrated.

The Eden Legacy now available at Amazon, Kindle, Apple ITunes and leading book stores.

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Ideas and commentary with allegiance to neither the left nor the right, but only to this sweet land of liberty.