I am usually a "glass half full" kind of guy. My wife thinks I don't take setbacks seriously enough but my standard response is just move on. As Woodrow Call tells Newt in Lonesome Dove, "The best thing you can do for death is ride off from it." I never saw the point in ruminating on bad events, except to try and avoid them. Of course, that never works and I head for them again like a heat-seeking missile.
But I think I am becoming a real pessimist. Part of that is being in the news business for the last 53 years. That's the nature of the beast. Nearly half a million airliners take off and land safely every year, but that's so boring. So, my dispepsia is partially job-induced, but it's also political. In short, why are so many people so puerile and simply dopey.
I'll start with Donald Trump, but it goes way beyond that. And as if my feelings aren't clear after all I've written, I think he was and would be again, a lousy and embarrassing President. And there are lots of Republicans I do admire.
But, four indictments, 91 criminal charges, colleagues who are ready to sing for prosecutors, a court in New York that has already found him guilty of massive fraud, and an infantile penchant for both lying and hurling 3rd grade schoolyard insults aren't apparently enough to get general agreement.
Trump Says U.S. Had ‘No Problems’ Under His Watch
Sure, if you don’t count Covid, and the $8 trillion added to our debt, alienating our allies, cozying up to dictators, ceding American influence by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, giving Iran permission to restart their nuclear program, starting trade wars with our allies, siding with dictators over our intelligence agencies, the increase of hate crimes, school shootings, the war on education, the war against freedom of speech, trying to overthrow the free and fair election in 2020, trying to extort a foreign government for political favors, etc. Not to mention being the only modern day President to lose more jobs than he created.
“He knew these indictments were coming, and he ran for president anyway, knowing full well he was taking the Republican Party down with him. It’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Oscar Brock, Republican National Committee member from Tennessee.
A couple of days ago, in Houston, he called Chris Christie a fat pig. Yes, the former Governor of New Jersey shops in the husky boys department, but I'm the kind of schmuck who says it, not a former President. You can add the insults for women, veterans (well, those who were POW's or dead), Asians, African-Americans, Mexicans, And seemingly everyone who ever worked for him. Again, to quote Captain Call...
I have been given a terrific book by historian Timothy Snyder called "The Road to Unfreedom." The last few chapters talk about the election of 2016. When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, Russian leaders "openly and exuberantly backed him." Konstantine Rykov, head of the internet department for Russian TV, ran a website promoting Trump for President. Russian media figure Dimitry Kiselev rejoiced that "a new star is rising, Trump!" Influential Russian far-right political philosopher Alexander Dugin posted a video entitled, "In Trump We Trust."
The chief oligarch who backed the invasion of Ukraine pushed Trump's candidacy in a series of articles. Alexei Pushkov, chair of the foreign relations committee in the Russian parliament openly hoped "Trump can lead the western locomotive right off the rails."
And, there were others.
Andrei Kozyrev, a former foreign minister said that Putin, "Realizes that Trump will trample American democracy and damage if not destroy America as a pillar of stability and major force able to contain him."
The Russian media machine went into overdrive portraying Trump positively and his opponent, Hillary Clinton negatively, and of course, the American media as untrustworthy. They even used the hashtag, "Crooked Hillary."
When Trump won, there was literal applause in the Russian Parliament. Kiselev said on his Sunday evening program that "the words democracy and human rights are not in the vocabulary of Trump."
Kiselev claimed on the air that during a meeting between Trump and President Obama, "Obama was waving his arms as if he were in the jungle" and at the inauguration, Michelle Obama looked like "the housekeeper."
Not technical "collusion," I guess, but they got what they wanted.
You can also include the absolutely invertebrate collection of toadies in the party who are so scared of a Trump-endorsed primary opponent, or a loss of campaign dollars from fat cat donors, they'd cop to the Lindbergh kidnapping if necessary. And yet, the latest New York Times poll shows him leading President Biden in four key swing states. This in an economy that has reduced inflation from 9% to 3% in one year, enjoyed GDP growth of over 4% when the previous one never got to 3%, created more jobs and we have unemployment down to 3.9% which is lower than it was in 2016-2020.
So, why the poll numbers? Well, for starters, Joe Biden is an old guy, and it shows. I've written about this before, but his demeanor does not inspire confidence no matter how unfair that may be. His Vice-President is very unpopular, again, no matter how unfair that may be. Granted, the Democrats in the House look like a well-oiled machine right now compared to the Matt Gaetz herd across the aisle, but for every Freedom Caucus, there is a Squad, for every Boebert, there is a Tlaib, for every MTG there is an AOC, for every Santos there is...uh... well, OK, he is a one of a kind.
When it comes to political messaging, the Democratic Party makes "New Coke" seem like a stroke of genius. And now there is the Middle East. Democrats are so schizo on the subject that I'm not surprised that our policies have sent people to the streets and will cost Biden voters. I know not everything is black and white, but for the President, explaining nuance is apparently as easy as falling off a bicycle.
We are so polarized that sensible voices with a broader perspective just can't be heard. Can we acknowledge that the October 7th attack was pure cold-blooded evil, but that the response has killed thousands of innocents? Can you see the mistakes in Israeli policy toward Palestinians over the years without being labeled anti-Semitic? Can you criticize the miserable record of Palestinian leadership which constantly snatches defeat from the jaws of political victory, without being labeled Islamophobic? Reading the news stories I am tasked to broadcast, it seems not.
I appear to have lost an old friend in the business who is Palestinian and one of the smartest reporters I have worked with. She is rightly troubled and emotionally wracked by the latest turn of events, particularly as it affects her family in the Middle East. She has let me know that my writing, which I consider even-handed about the history of the region, left her not knowing whose "side I was on." It hurt, but I completely understand. Looking at the demonstrations in the street and letters to the editor, there appears to be no middle ground. All or nothing, for either side.
Adding to my pessimism is the climate. We watched the opening episode of a new Netflix series last night, called "Life on Our Planet." It is narrated by, of course, Morgan Freeman whose voice, I believe, simply makes evolution happen. It is also magnificent.
And the thought that we are endangering this miracle is frightening. But I am increasingly convinced, we won't do a damned thing about it. You see, we like our easy lives, and there is a whole branch of the media whose goal is convincing you that all is well and there's no need to change anything.
Now they said this when the cause celebre was the ozone layer, and science found that it was our AC refrigerant that was partially to blame. That transition, fought so vociferously by the Rush Limbaughs of the world, was pretty seamless, and the ozone layer has improved. But in the age of the internet, this nonsense truly has legs, and whether it's climate, about which the overwhelming majority of scientists agree, vaccines, or even the viruses themselves, they all produce a shrug and some mumbling about "fake news." Sales of EVs are down and the fishing industry is fighting windmills in the Gulf. We don't like them on land either because they aren't pretty.
"There is infinite hope, only not for us.”
I heard one climate scientist interviewed the other day who admitted, that we have no hope for reeling greenhouse gases down to a 1.5% increase per year, which is the Paris Agreement goal. So, he said, maybe 1.7%? Yeah, well, good luck, Dr. Poindexter.
We won't reach that because there are too many people invested in not rocking the boat. So I am inclined to frankly, give up. The forces of commerce and human inertia are too strong. Politicians on the take, the companies that take them, and our own reluctance when confronted with change, will doom it. I've posted this moment from the brilliant show 'Newsroom" before...
I have a birthday at the end of this week, and I'm getting up there. Other than bigger, nastier hurricanes, more and longer droughts and summers way worse than I knew as a kid, I probably won't feel the real effects of all this. But my 26-year-old daughter and her generation will.
I can only lamely apologize to her for my generation fumbling this like a Carolina Panthers running back.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.