Not the first, nor the last…

Politics is one of those wonderful lands where how it looks is far, far more important than what it really is. As much as we like to think of our presidents as paragons of health and virtue, our history is filled with examples of dire medical conditions that were kept from the public because admitting the seriousness of their various conditions would have been an admission of weakness. 

President Trump’s forging ahead to return to the White House despite ongoing treatment for COVID-19 is hardly an exception to the age-old rules of American politics. Wilson’s debilitating stroke was hidden from the public through the last year of his presidency. While campaigning for a 3rd term, Theodore Roosevelt was literally shot in the chest, but refused to surrender the podium. Jack Kennedy was regularly jammed full of painkillers to relieve a chronic backache. Franklin Roosevelt was dying of heart disease when he was elected to his 4th term. 

There’s nothing new going on here, with the obvious exception of 24-hour professional and social media coverage that the American president receives day in and day out. Donald Trump might like to sell himself as the businessman president, but in the end he’s as much just another professional politician as the rest of them now… and in the last 30 days of an election, in a tight race, you’d be hard pressed to find a professional politician who wouldn’t rather die on the trail than stay in the hospital.

This isn’t the first time a president has pushed their health way past the breaking point in pursuit of their brass ring and I dare say it won’t be the last.

Trumped up…

Let me go on record as saying I am in no way on the Trump bandwagon. I think what he said about Senator McCain is damned near inexcusable. Regardless of his virtues as a politician – and he has plenty of positions staked out I have problems with – the man is a real, living war hero. Just the fact that he was give a free pass out of North Vietnam and refused tells me that if nothing else, the senator is an honorable man. Questioning his service, and by extension his patriotism, made Mr. Trump look foolish and small by comparison.

That being said, the power players in both major parties were aligning against him long before the latest dust up over the uses of the word “hero.” The Republican Party hates him. The Democratic Party hates him. With enemies like that, I’m not completely ready to dismiss Mr. Trump. Say what you will about the guy, but unlike Republicans who fell over themselves to run away from controversies surrounding a flag, or Democrats who rand towards the cameras to apologize for saying “all lives matter,” Trump apparently has no filter between his brain and his mouth. He doesn’t talk like a typical mush mouthed, pandering politician trying to take both sides of every issue. It’s almost fun to watch him crash around amid a political class whose primary mission seems to be to offend as few people as possible.

Being fun to watch, of course, doesn’t necessarily translate into someone I’d want running the free world. If this bull stays in the china shop through November 2016 – most likely as a 3rd party vanity candidate – the Republican party can pack it in for the foreseeable future… which makes me wonder, why aren’t more Democrats piling onto the Trump for President team? Or is that too cynical even for American politics?

A lick and a promise…

We were told ebola wouldn’t come to the United States, but it did. We were told its spread was easy to prevent, but as it turns out trained medical personnel are the ones who seem to end up getting it. The whole issue is a grand demonstration of one of the major problems with politicians. In their pursuit of 50.00001% of the votes, they speak in generalities too often tailored to what the best research tells them people want to hear. Even where people want a world of black and while, I find the shades of gray are far closer to the universal constant.

So far in America we have two cases of Ebola being transmitted, It’s hardly a national epidemic. It’s frightening mostly because until a few weeks ago Ebola was far away nightmare that happened “over there.” Now it’s a real thing. It’s in at least one of our cities and apparently on our planes.

This isn’t a call to ban international travel or to mandate we all take our temperature before leaving the house for the day. It is, however, a statement of opinion that the country needs more than a press conference and repeated assurance that our standards of care and facilities can handle anything. That the two most recent victims are healthcare workers themselves gives lie to the notion that we are in any way prepared for something even a town or two over from “the worst.”

Far more people died in America today driving themselves to work than contracted Ebola, so I want to keep that in perspective. Even knowing that’s a fact, it would be nice to see more than a lick and a promise from the smart people who are in charge of keeping this shit from happening.

What I did on my Furlough Friday…

I really should just be staying home, conserving resources, and bitching online about the monumental contempt in which I hold the elected “leaders” of this country, but instead I cooked an actual breakfast this morning and knocked around with the dogs. Washed some clothes, did some dishes, and made myself presentable. I trolled around a few of the local pawn shops looking for deals on a couple of specific items and found out that grocery shopping at 1PM on a Friday is every bit as good as 8AM on Sunday. I’ll be keeping that little secret in mind for the next nine weeks. I cut the grass and decided even I’m not obsessive enough to do an hour’s worth of trimming in 100 degree heat. No worries, this weekend still has two more days and I’m sure obsession will trump heat at some point.

So now that everyone else has started their weekend too, here I sit, nursing a Red Stripe, trying hard to coax a few hundred words onto the page. If I’m bluntly honest with everyone, the beer is disappearing far faster than the words are showing up, so there probably won’t be much to salvage by the time it wraps up this evening. Maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. Fortunately, the words always seem to show up eventually, even when I don’t know exactly where they’re coming from. However it happens, I’ll take them all.

So yeah, Furlough Friday #2 (or Saturday Part 1 if you prefer) was as much of a success as one can reasonably expect under the circumstances. It’s still new and different. Ask me a month from now and you’ll likely hear a different opinion.

Default and disfunction…

Watching the nightly news or reading the newspaper headlines is something of a lesson in dysfunction. If the two major political parties that have run the country for the last 100 odd years can’t come to grips with the fact that the thought of the US Government defaulting on its debt should be unthinkable, perhaps it’s time to consider the value of having either of those parties around. The men who founded this republic literally risked their lives just by signing a document proclaiming themselves free from Great Britain. Today’s politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are so entrenched in ideology and in playing to their base that they seem willing to let the ship of state sink with all flags flying and their hands around each other’s throat. So much for heroics. So much for for their obligation to the republic they were elected to serve.

I’m not a mathematician, but the formula seems obvious. For the staggering debt this country labors under to come down, spending must decrease and revenue must increase. Yes, some social programs will go away and that will hurt some people. Yes, some taxes will go up and that will hurt some people also. It’s going to be painful for many of us to adjust to a world more austere than then one we think we’re entitled to. It was painful for our grandparents, too, when they went though the “economic adjustment” of the Great Depression, but they emerged from it and worse to be recognized as our greatest generation.

Where are our great leaders today? Where’s our FDR with his Hundred Days? Where’s this generation’s Reagan standing toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union? Where’s our Kennedy calling on men to reach the moon? Where’s our Nixon opening China? Maybe such men don’t even exist anymore. Today’s politicians aren’t fit to carry the water for those giants of the 20th century and shouldn’t be in the same history books with the leaders of our distant past like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

This current crisis doesn’t have to end in catastrophe, but only if the men and women we’ve elected start behaving more like statesmen and less like common street thugs. How optimistic are you?

“Other…”

No one should be surprised that I watched the debate last night and now I’ve watched the morning spin on all three of the major news channels. I’m actually a little disturbed by the repeated line from the talking heads that last night was a contest between “two great politicians at the top of their game.” Were they watching the same debate I was? At best, both of them seemed tepid in their responses. Had one of them stepped up and presented an air of command, of certainty, I think this election would basically be over. Is a little passion too much to expect from those who would be king? Rather than increasing my interest in either of the candidates, it made me more likely to check the “Other” box on the ballot. The trouble with democracy is that the people tend to get the government they deserve. Given my level of confidence in the people to make informed decisions, I’m not optimistic.