41

We begin the eighth year of this blog with the sad news most of you know by now. Former President George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday night at the age of 94. He is the fifth former President to expire in my 47-year lifetime and the first in nearly 12 years since Gerald Ford died in 2006.

I do feel a sense of sadness, though. He was the President when I graduated high school and made some tough decisions in his four-year term in office. (To show you what I geek for the news I used to be – I snuck in a radio to school on January 20, 1989, the day Mr. Bush became President. None of the classes I had that day had shown the inauguration on TV, and the school year was either in exam week or was close to it – so the event went ignored.) He is also, perhaps, a cautionary tale for the current President in one respect: after the first Persian Gulf War, his approval rating was above 90 percent – but he wound up losing the following year to an upstart governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton.

Around the time of 9/11, my mother worked at one of the St. Petersburg nursing homes (of which there are many), and one of her residents was someone who worked for “Poppy” Bush at one time or another. She (the patient) was upset with some issue regarding the aftereffect of 9/11 (or so I seem to remember) and went on a hunger strike, so former President Bush took the time to call this woman up and had attempted to talk her out of it. I don’t remember whether or not Mr. Bush’s talk was successful or not, but I admired the fact that a former President would go out of his way to support someone like that.

The outpouring of love for “Poppy” will no doubt surprise a few. In a nearly unprecedented move, the stock market will close this upcoming Wednesday, December 5th – the day of the former President’s state funeral. Like many leaders, he has his critics – but I always thought he had a quiet dignity about him, and there’s nothing wrong with being quiet or having dignity.

(CORRECTION, 12/3/2018, 4:40 pm ET: I was erroneous in saying Mr. Bush was the fifth president to pass in my lifetime. He was the sixth. I forgot that Harry Truman died on December 26, 1972 – and I was born September 6, 1971.)

Advertisements

You’re Gonna Have To Face It, You’re Addicted To News

It’s Thanksgiving week as I type this – kind of a disjointed week with Thursday being the Thanksgiving holiday. The day afterward, most of us go to the stores and get our Christmas purchasing started like we’re trained seals.

One thing I’m attempting this week is to go cold turkey on the news, outside of breaking news events, mind you. The way the news is given, it’s like they want to keep viewers around like we’re addicts waiting for that next big story or dispute. I think it’s all gotten boring under President Trump – he exposed the media as being fake news, and in a sense, he’s absolutely correct.

Again, maybe the news was always like this and I just haven’t broken the “conditioning” the news people put you into. It just seems nowadays that whatever the news story has no relevance. The Trump/MAGA followers are going to believe their own reality – the Democrat followers will understand what they utter, and if you’re in one “tribe” or the other, don’t dare get caught reaching out to the other side or you’re some sort of traitor.

I attempt to live in the word of one reality – but I do shudder at times that some of us want to promote the idea that there are many realities out there, which is what I think the news does. We are a long ways away from when Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America when half of us see Jim Acosta as a total quack.

The President And The Press

The good people at WordPress have again changed the process of how I post these entries up – so pardon my dust if things look a bit off, initially.

Last week, we had the familiar spectacle of President Trump sparring with CNN’s Jim Acosta. The President must have felt at some point that Acosta was filibustering him, so he had a staffer attempt to take the microphone from him when the cable reporter wouldn’t surrender it. A rather brief hand wrestling bout ensued between Acosta and the female intern, with Trump doubling down on his insults of the reporter. Later that night, Acosta was banned from the White House press pool – told to give us his “hard pass” to get on White House grounds.

There’s been a lot of furor over the move in the week that’s followed, with CNN turning around and suing the White House in response after the Veteran’s Day weekend passed. Some favored the move, but not surprisingly the media organizations, on the whole, berated it – saying it’s a bad sign for future White House/media relationships.

I guess you wouldn’t be astonished if I had a contrarian view. I often say that I don’t think Trump is hard enough on the media. By saying that, let me explain that I personally don’t want a bad relationship to exist amidst a president and the various media outlets. What I’m saying is that when the President called the media “the enemy of the people” and “fake news”, it’s hypocritical to turn around and give them press conferences and the ability to ask questions. If they are “the enemy” then why assist them?

The argument against doing that seems simple – that it makes the President look like a dictator. Maybe so, I’d submit. At the same time, there’s nothing in the Constitution (the last time I looked) that guarantees the media has the right to question the President as they wish. They can attempt it, but the President has no obligation to respond to it as he often does.

CNN cut off their nose to spite their face here. If they win the suit against the White House (for the purposes of this illustration), the White House could turn around and not hold press conferences or press briefings, or hold them and not call upon Jim Acosta or any CNN reporter. They could easily start something online to carry forth the news they want to present, or use one of the news outlets (most likely Fox News) as some sort of exclusive carrier.

If both sides stepped back and thought about things logically, they’d be a little more aware of the other side’s position. But Washington just seems like one of those areas where the “fog of war” never lets up.

Florida, Florida, Florida All Over Again

Well, a lot happened on the voting front between last Wednesday and today on the election front. A few prominent races have yet to be decided in Florida, nearly a week after the elections.

Many harkened back to the 2000 Presidential elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. (A note here – I often refer to the more recent president with the Bush name as “Sonny” Bush, and I often call the older president of the same name “Poppy” Bush.) Preliminarily, I tend to think that the discussion of the elections of 2000 somehow being comparable to 2018 is an apples and oranges argument. In 2000, there was much more at stake – and many more errors were made by the media to make things all the more confusing. This year, the pending results won’t change the outcome of what took place, though it may make things tighter for President Trump. Instead of a 54-46 margin of seats in the Senate to play with, he could have a reduced 52-48 margin, and only be one seat better than he was coming in.

In 2000, the argument that “all votes should count” had a logic to it. In 2018, the legitimacy of some votes has been suspected, thanks to some questionable tactics in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Palm Beach County was also a tremendous part of the 2000 electoral scandal with an immoderate number of people voting for Pat Buchanan based on what many believed to have been a poorly constructed ballot.

In one sense, the mantra doesn’t change – the Democrats want all votes counted and the GOP wants all votes to comply with the agreed upon rules. But the new wrinkle into this happens to be the origin of these votes. Did they come from the voters, as they should have – or did they come for nefarious places, such as these elections offices?

Here we have Democratic operatives (such as Dr. Brenda Snipes of Broward County) at work dickering with elections. Gee, weren’t they the group that insisted the past two years that President Trump colluded with the Russians? Weren’t they the ones clamoring for integrity, or did I miss something there?

Anyways, I think you’ll see some big changes in voting law by the time 2020 rolls around – and that in itself will be quite a fight. The Democrats, who have been demanding for such reforms all this time, might change their tune – though I guess that depends on what is proposed.

Purple Reign

The midterms have now come and gone. Media estimates have it that somewhere around 100,000,000 of you went out and voted yesterday, or earlier, or by mail – so before I dissect what happened like I’m some sort of Karl Rove, congratulations to you all for taking the time and taking part of the process.

The night didn’t offer the surprises a few were expecting. The pundits were correct in thinking the Democrats would take the House of Representatives – they need a 23 seat gain, and they’ll get somewhere around 34. The math that worked upon President Trump in terms of the popular vote in 2016 (Hillary Clinton had nearly three million more votes, but Trump won on the weighted state system to take the Electoral College) worked against him here. He set keeping the Senate as his goal, and he accomplished that – boosting the Senate Republican tally to an estimated 54 as opposed to 46 for the Democrats.

Locally, the GOP did much better than expected in the two big races here in Florida. No one had Ron DeSantis winning the governor’s race – but that happened, as was the case with Rick Scott obtaining the Senate seat from Bill Nelson. Here, I think the “hidden Trump voter” came into play – or the media perhaps gave too much credence to Puerto Rican refugees moving to Florida due to Hurricane Maria last year.

Easily, my favorite moment of these past few days took place in Missouri on Monday night. A woman had fallen ill at a Trump rally in Cape Girardeau, and the President brought proceedings to a halt so that the medical staff could get to her. The arena that held thousands of Trump supporters fell still as the paramedics quickly went to work. Then some members of the crowd broke into an impromptu rendition of “Amazing Grace” for the fallen woman. Even typing the story now, two days later – it puts a noticeable lump in my throat.

The political dance in our country goes on – but it wouldn’t hurt if those who attempt to divide were met with such amazing grace. We need it now more than we ever have in our lifetimes.

 

Go Out And Vote

i voted sticker lot
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Today is the big day here in America – the midway point in the Presidential cycle. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as is a third of the Senate (actually, there are 35 races with a couple of special elections), and most of the states find or keep new governors.

Today is not the day to do an analysis of what happened or is occurring. Today, if you’re in the USA – I advise you do one thing: vote! There’s never been this much interest in the “midterm elections” in my lifetime, so regardless of how and who you vote for, you will part of something historic.

May the best people win, and may all the votes count.

Interview Interruptus

black crt tv showing gray screen
Photo by Burak K on Pexels.com

With now five days to go until we get to the 2018 midterm elections, there’s been a lot of talk about how civility has left the political arena.

A lot of people blame the current occupant of the White House for the breakdown. Honestly, and maybe this is my private partisanship showing – I don’t think he’s done a damn thing wrong. It was a seminal moment in early 2017 when he and CNN’s Jim Acosta traded points and Mr. Trump proclaimed the reporter “fake news.” It was a time that, depending on how the rest of this century goes, will be right up there with (sadly) 9/11 as one of the sound bites this time will be known for.

Instead, I look at three areas where civility eroded away at a slower, perhaps more unrecognizable clip. First, there was the failed Clinton impeachment of the late 1990’s where a President clearly broke the law, but anyhow not to the extent where 67 senators could believe that it warranted removal from office. About half of the Senate believed it was not a high crime or misdemeanor to perpetrate perjury in a court of law.

Secondly, I think the continued use of negative campaigning has hurt the country – the use of organizations with the sole design of trashing candidates. It’s a very rare thing to hear what a candidate can bring to the position he or she wants – but more often than not, you often hear from “Candidate X” why “Candidate Y” would be a harmful choice for “Position Z.”  If you want to go negative, fine – do that during debates. But attack ads should cease. I want to hear why I should “hire” you, not why I shouldn’t “hire” the other man or woman running for the same job.

Then, we have those cable news outlets – and stop if you’ve heard this one before.

A cable news outlet brings on a guest to talk about – whatever their expertise is. The guest expounds on his or her premise, but he can’t go 30 seconds without the interviewer cutting off the guest and proposing a redirecting question. I see this take place all the time on all the cable news outlets – CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, it doesn’t matter. They can’t let someone make their point – they always have to butt in.

Soledad O’Brien was a champion at this at NBC, and then later on CNN. Leland Vittert of Fox News is the king at doing this today, from what I see.

Maybe the problem is the producers of a given news show not letting a longer form conversation take place, and I can recognize why said producers would want to keep a show fast-paced and moving. But when you beckon a guest on to one of this shows, I figure it’s the least you can do to let your “guest” talk for a bit before jumping in with the follow-up questions – but that’s just me. When these shows teach disrespect, it’s not surprising that those who watch wind up emulating that.