Friday, July 22, 2016

Republican Convention: Winners and Losers


In accepting the Presidential nomination last night at the Republican National convention Donald Trump blew a big opportunity by delivering a boring, tedious speech that lasted 73 minutes. Instead of transcending the messages of previous speakers at the convention, Trump chose to go over the same ground over and over again.

One way to transcend is to show some sense of humor, especially if it is the self-deprecating type of humor. Tied to self-deprecation is a sense of humility that was totally lacking in Trump’s presentation. It was hard night after night to hear the Trump children speaking ad nauseum about the greatness of their father. If Trump really wants to wear the mantle of Ronald Reagan he should be able to laugh at himself and makes us laugh with him.

I thought the Republican Convention got off to a good start on Monday with Malania Trump’s speech despite the flap that ensued overnight about the lifting of two paragraphs from a speech by Michelle Obama. One of my relatives despises Trump and admitted that she watched Monday night waiting for his wife to falter, but admitted that both she and her husband thought that Malania had been “terrific.” I think her sentiments were shared by millions across the country.

However, any momentum generated Monday night was lost on Tuesday night. I am a longtime Republican but I found some of the speeches embarrassing and so difficult to watch that I repeatedly flicked away. I did listen to New Jersey governor Chris Christie as he did his assigned hit-job on Hillary Clinton. Christie bragged about being a former Federal prosecutor but acted more like a hanging judge. His rhetorical device of repeatedly inciting the crowd to render guilty verdicts on Hillary Clinton reminded me of the biblical trial of Jesus where the crowd was incited to repeatedly call out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

If Trump wins in November, Christie will probably be his Attorney General, a role that would seem to suit him. It now seems obvious why he did not get far as a Presidential candidate, or even why he was not picked to join the ticket as Vice-President. He is in his second term as Governor of New Jersey, a traditional Democrat stronghold, but seems to have failed in moving the State in another direction.

Wednesday night was full of high drama and three speeches stood out. Senator Ted Cruz, another failed Presidential aspirant, was given a chance to address the convention in the hope that he would rally his supporters in the crowd and in the country to the cause of Republican victory in November. As Cruz droned on in his usual colorless and humorless way, it became clear that he was just going to play the role of a sore loser and lecture the convention for choosing someone other than him. How arrogant and self-righteous is it to tell us that we should vote our own conscience? Eventually, he left the podium amid a loud chorus of boos.

Fortunately, Cruz was followed on the podium by Newt Gingrich who not only diffused the tense situation, but also gave a magisterial speech outlining the dangers facing America and the importance of the upcoming election. Many people do not like Gingrich but he is obviously a very talented and knowledgeable politician. If Trump is elected, I suspect that Gingrich will play an important role in his administration. It would not surprise me if he became Secretary of State.

Donald Trump’s decision to choose Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, to be his running mate would appear to be a very wise and astute one. Pence gave his acceptance speech in prime TV viewing time and he must have impressed the Nation’s viewers with his personality, and his manner, as well as with his words and record. His introduction of his family was touching in its simplicity and humility.

Unfortunately, his example was not followed by Trump in his acceptance speech. Trump prides himself on being a businessman but he should consider what kind of product he presented to the Nation during the Republican convention. Many of the speakers exuding a mixture of arrogance and rancor. Can anyone in the country not be aware of Hillary Clinton’s failures as Secretary of State, or her “carelessness” in using her emails? Her approval rating is incredibly low. Why continually beat this dead horse when Trump could have presented a better vision for America on Thursday?

Here is an example of transcendence that Trump could have used, with appropriate attribution, from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. The end of the terrible Civil War was only months away, and Lincoln would be assassinated shortly after giving his speech but his words should live forever.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Melania Trump Speech


Last night my wife and I both watched the first night of the Republican Convention mainly to hear Melania Trump’s speech. Although we worried that the beautiful but inexperienced speaker might somehow mess up, I have to say that that she hit the proverbial ball out of the park. It wasn’t just her striking appearance but what she said was simple, direct and a refreshing change from some of the harsh rhetoric of the preceding speakers.

She mentioned her Slovenian heritage but said that she loved her adopted country and was proud of her American citizenship. She praised her husband as a kind, loving man who was also a wonderful father to his children. But he was also a man who gets things done and never quits.

What else was there to say? As so often happens, the messenger was more important than the message. Her appearance on stage made every one else, both male and female, in the huge convention hall seem like they were on the second team. Her confident, assured delivery matched her appearance. Her smile was winning. My wife put it best when she said that despite Melania’s wealth and glamour, she could not help but like her.

We were certainly surprised afterwards when the commentators on PBS could not bring themselves to admit that Melania had done a good job. They all believed that she should have revealed more personal information about her husband, but it was her reticence in this regard that appealed to us. Not one mentioned how the speech was received by the crowd in the convention hall, or how it might have been received by the millions watching on prime time.

I have to admit that the preceding speeches were a mixed bag. Although Rudy Giuliani was on fire, I thought that Senator Cotton from Arkansas was the best. I was a little embarrassed by the speech of the Italian immigrant who gained wealth and fame in America as a model for Calvin Klein underwear. Like most immigrants he loves America but does it ever occur to him to wonder why it was legal for him to come to this country from Italy but illegal for other Latins to come from Mexico?

Stay tuned to the Weekly Bystander for more reports on what promises to be an interesting and exciting convention. After last night’s speech one friend wrote to me and said that he now prefers Melania to Hillary. I replied that I suspected his feelings might be shared by Bill Clinton.

I was born today 77 years ago. Here is a picture of Miss America from 1939. A lot has changed since then but the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Then, as now, a pretty girl is still like a melody. ###

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Careless" Clinton

Now that the investigations into the alleged crimes and misdemeanors of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State have been concluded, I still have two questions. It would appear that both the exhaustive FBI report of her emails, and the 800 page House committee report into the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi contain all the who, what, when, where, and how.

But for me the most important question is still unanswered. Why? Why did she do what she did? Why did she create a separate server for her own use while Secretary of State, or why did she or her advisors think she needed it?  Secondly, why after the attack on the Benghazi embassy did she and others in the Obama administration see the need to mislead the American people about the real nature of the attack? Maybe it does make no difference in that it will not bring the dead back to life, but why did the Secretary of State insist publicly that the attack was an impromptu demonstration caused by an Internet video, when she knew that it was a planned terrorist attack?

I doubt if we will ever know the answers to these questions. I will offer my own conspiracy theory. In the case of the emails I suspect that Secretary Clinton wanted a site that would only be available to her closest advisers. Despite lip service to transparency I think that she wanted her correspondence off the record. It is clear now that her advisers, although on the government payroll, worked for her and not for the State Department, or the Obama administration.

Indeed, I suspect that she wanted communications that would not be available to the State Department’s own Inspector General, or people from the CIA or NSA. Indeed, I wonder if she also was afraid that enemies within the Obama administration would be listening in. After all, how could it have been a big happy family? Her defeat in 2008 at the hands of a young Senator from Illinois guided by the likes of David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel must have made her feel much like Lady Macbeth.

After years of serving in the shadows of her philandering husband, she would easily have beaten, especially in light of the financial crisis, the inept John McCain in 2008 and become the first woman President. But it was not to be. Instead she was offered the position of Secretary of State where once again she would serve under another charismatic man. It is hard for me not to believe that Obama and his advisers were not totally in charge of foreign policy and that Secretary Clinton was little more than a figurehead.

After all, who was really in charge after the Benghazi attack? Who concocted the story about the inflammatory video and made it the official administration position for days? Although she knew better, Secretary Clinton was forced to play ball and go along with the fiction. The 2012 election was only a couple of months away and President Obama was being run hard by Mitt Romney.  

After FBI Director James Comey declined to recommend that Hillary Clinton be prosecuted for the damning evidence discovered in the agency’s exhaustive investigation of her emails while she served as Secretary of State, his boss at the Justice Department quickly agreed with his recommendation and dropped the case like the proverbial lead balloon. At the same time, very few people will take the time to read the 800-page Benghazi report. Democrats immediately threw it in the trash bin of history claiming that it was a total waste of time and money.

I believe that the failure to prosecute Clinton will do her election prospects more harm than good. It is now evident to even her true believers that she was careless, even reckless in setting up and using her own personal server for her emails. It is also evident that anyone who advised her to do so was equally careless and reckless.

Secretary Clinton has claimed that Donald Trump is totally unqualified for the position of President of the United States. She has argued that she is the responsible candidate with the knowledge and experience that the job demands. Yet, the only executive position she has ever held in government was Secretary of State during the first Obama administration. The foreign policy mistakes of that Administration should rightly be blamed on the President but the evidence of a poorly run State Department that was incompetent in handling highly classified information belies her claims to competence in government.

She was the CEO in charge of the State Department and FBI director called her “careless” in handling top-secret information, and her agency “incompetent.” If she had been a CEO in the private sector, she would have been fired for her performance, and not given a chance to run for the highest office in the land.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rights of Englishmen

Although a day late I reproduce my essay on Independence Day. It seems particularly appropriate this year because of the recent vote of the English people to sever their ties with the European Union. If we look carefully at our Declaration of Independence, we will see that many of the grievances that the American colonists complained about in 1776 still exist today. Governments everywhere seem to be getting further and further away from the governed.

Fortunately, the English people were able to vote on whether they should be governed by bureaucrats in Brussels or by their own elected representatives in Parliament. Whatever one thinks of Brexit, it is good to see the English exercising their rights as Englishmen. That is what the American colonists believed they were doing when they declared their independence in 1776.

Every July 4 we celebrate Independence Day, the anniversary of the promulgation of our famed Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Most of us have heard the famous opening lines of the document. 
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
However, few have ever read the entire Declaration and even fewer have any understanding of the nature of the actual grievances that led the colonists to sever their ties with England and seek independence. Most readers don’t get past the following words.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
Even though King George III of England was one of the nicest, most benevolent rulers that England ever had, the colonists portrayed him as a tyrannical despot. No one was a more determined supporter of representative government than this young King, who though descended from German ancestors prided himself on being an Englishman.

The real conflict between England and her American colonies was not between Monarchy and Democracy but between the rights of the British people represented as they were by their own Parliament, and the rights of the American colonists represented as they were by their own colonial assemblies. In this conflict no one was a greater supporter of the rights and authority of the British Parliament than the King.

For the most part the Declaration of Independence does not complain about violations of individual human rights but concentrates on what it claims has been a systematic attempt on the part of the government in England to violate the rights and privileges of colonial representative assemblies.

The founding fathers believed that these assemblies that represented the leading citizens and property owners in the various colonies were the sole bulwark against monarchical tyranny on the one hand, and democratic anarchy on the other. They claimed that the King and his colonial governors have repeatedly refused to put into operation laws passed by these assemblies.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations till his assent should be obtained;He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature,…He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
In some cases the English government has even gone so far as to dissolve some of these representative assemblies and leave particular colonies without any form of self-government. The legal system, military defense, and tax collection have been taken out of the hands of the colonial representatives.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions of the rights of the people.He has refused for a longtime, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected…He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
•He has made the judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.•He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.•He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.• He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.
In the end the Declaration claimed that it came down to a contest between their own local representative assemblies and a faraway legislature that did not represent them. Because they had come to deny the authority of the British Parliament, they never used the word Parliament in the document but the following words are unmistakable.
•He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.
 These acts included the following:
•For quartering large bodies of troops among us:•For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment•For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:•For imposing taxes on us without our consent:•For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:•For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:
There are elements in the Declaration that might seem offensive to modern ears. Jefferson and others in America opposed the efforts of a reforming British government to permit religious toleration of the large Catholic population in newly conquered Canada. For them Catholicism went hand in hand with despotism.
•For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example…for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.
The Declaration also complained about attempts on the part of the British government to prevent colonization of Indian territory. Indeed, it claimed that England was encouraging the native tribes.
•And has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
Nevertheless, the leaders assembled in Congress insisted on their rights as Englishmen to govern themselves. They wanted government to be as close to home as possible. They would make their own laws, vote their own taxes when necessary, and be responsible for their own legal and military systems. They did not want to be governed by a faraway government that had little concern for their interests or welfare.

It was true that the founders were men of property and status. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Franklin were not common men. Democracy would come later. For the present they wanted to protect their right to self-government. The British government had declared itself “invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.” To resist, they were prepared to risk all that they held dear.

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” ###