RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR A MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
You’ll have to excuse me, my loyal readers. I find myself inside of a 10-day period when, instead of going to the office and toiling away for pay, I’m attempting to make some progress on writing a third book. As a result, virtually all of my intellectual efforts at the computer will be devoted to that task.
So, please allow me to take this opportunity to utilize the following crutch: I will briefly opine on a number of topics, rather than addressing only a single issue in any great depth. This approach isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but in a society dominated by texting, cell phone-driving, multitasking, tweeting … let’s just say it’s “Age appropriate.”
1. Does anyone in America care what’s been happening in Syria? Does anyone in America even know what’s been happening in Syria? Or did that story effectively end once we decided that it wouldn’t have a quick and happy ending?
Please, do us all a favor and follow the awful nightmare that is befalling that country. I realize it’s not a feel-good story like the rest of the so-called Arab Spring, but it is no less important than the other popular uprisings against Arab dictators. If nothing else, the Syrian experience will tell you something about the kind of neighborhood Israel plays in, so next time a peace activist tells you that they support boycotting Israel and only Israel, you can laugh your butt off.
2. Please don’t tell me that while you weren’t paying attention to Syria, you were instead following Mitt Romney’s statements about what’s ailing the American education system. From what I can tell, Mitt has virtually nothing to add on that topic. So why did he call attention to that fact?
Back in 1992, Clinton’s War Roomers coined the motto “It’s the economy, stupid.” If Romney wants to win, he better repeat that mantra at least 20 times every night before he goes to bed. From what I can tell, the economy is the only issue in which Mitt can gain any traction. And fortunately for him, it’s the most important issue to the American electorate So … why even bring up civil rights, education, or foreign policy? The economy is the one area in which the President is vulnerable, and the one issue in which Romney is comfortable touting his experience. Any word he utters on another topic is a win for the President.
3. Speaking of the economy, did you hear that Romney recently said the following: "If you just cut, if all you're thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you'll slow down the economy.” And he also said, "Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I'm not going to do that, of course.”
Wow! I guess the primary season is over, and we’re already taking that great Etch-a-Sketch journey to the middle of the road. This is so potentially reminiscent of 2008, when Obama seized his party’s nomination by arguing for a roll back of the Bush tax cuts, only to decide at the critical time of his Presidency that such a move would do too much short-term damage to the economy.
Tell me, what do these politicians really believe -- (a) The way they campaign for the nomination? (b) The way they campaign for the general election? (c) The way they govern? (d) Who the hell knows?
That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t overthink the answer.
4. And speaking of not believing what a politician says, what do you all think of Cory Booker’s performance last Sunday on Meet the Press? Booker, the mayor of Newark, came on to that show ostensibly as a surrogate for Obama. But then he proceeded to trash the Obama campaign for running negative ads against Mitt Romney regarding Mitt’s conduct at Bain Capital. This resulted in the Republican National Committee hailing Booker and some other Wall Street Democrats for defending private equity firms like Bain against demonization by Democratic operatives.
Once again, there’s a trust issue here. Was Booker defending private equity because he hopes to raise lots of money from Wall Street, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from his perch in New Jersey? In other words, was this a politically calculated attempt at a “Sister Souljah” moment? Or was Booker making his point because he truly is offended by the idea of demonizing an entire American industry which, the last time I checked, wasn’t breaking any law?
I can’t read Cory’s mind. I have no idea if he was more truth-teller or panderer. But this much I can say: long before Obama started airing negative ads against Romney, Mitt’s boys were running ads against Obama that were completely misleading. And you can believe that this entire campaign season will be marked by both sides running one misleading ad after another. If you don’t like that, fine. Be a journalist. Be a political scientist. Be a statesman campaigning, more or less, as an independent. Just don’t show up, ostensibly as a surrogate, and then slam your guy for doing what both sides do, and what would be political suicide if your side stopped doing it while the other guy didn’t. Because if you want to show up as a surrogate and then act like you’re more-principled-than-Thou, people will think you are phonier than the ads you’re criticizing.
5. Don’t look now, but we’re about to have a playoff series in the NBA between two teams that feature basketball skills more than outlandish egos. If you want to watch a hard-fought series between two talented teams that do their talking only on the court, and speak with their arms and legs instead of fists and elbows, San Antonio versus Oklahoma City should be your cup of tea.
By the time the series is over, you might actually find yourself rooting for one team more than you were rooting against the other. How’s that for a change? Then, when that series is over and it is time to watch the Finals, you can go back to the norm and passionately root AGAINST His Royal Cockiness LeBron James and his Miami Heat.
6. This has been the first spring my wife and I have spent as empty nesters. That means, in part, that we did things together we might not have done in the past.
She watched the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time, and I even heard her shriek a few times when the Caps scored some goals. As for myself, I found myself not only watching more of American Idol, but wondering if one of the contestants might actually make some music I could enjoy hearing.
Truth be told, even though American Idol has just finished its eleventh year, the show hasn’t produced a single singer who I don’t turn off when they play his or her songs on the radio. Not one. This year’s winner, Phillip Phillips, might be different. He didn’t suck up to the Hollywood mavens that the show trotted out. He didn’t treat winning the competition as if it meant winning the Nobel Prize. He just stayed true to what he was – a Dave Matthews clone. And personally, I think you can do a whole lot worse. I’d much rather listen to a poor man’s Dave Matthews than to just about any country music star or to a big-voiced pop diva like the ones Idol seems to lionize.
As a result, when I hear a Phillip Phillips song come on the radio next year, I will actually allow myself to listen to it without changing the channel.
As for the idea that Idol is “sexist and racist” because for the sixth time in seven years a “white man with a guitar” has won the competition, I don’t think there’s much mystery here. Voters on Idol can cast their ballots an unlimited number of times, and as a result, voting tends to be dominated by young people who text in their ballots repeatedly. In addition, reality shows like this one tend to be more popular among girls than boys. Also, we still live in a country where the vast majority of the people are white … and heterosexual. As a result, the voting is dominated by heterosexual, white girls … and they are most likely to vote for the cutest white boy who can sing relatively well. There, mystery solved.
7. Speaking of demographics, for the first time in American history, the majority of babies who are being born in America are non-white. How would you like to be a Republican reading that news for the first time when you’re drinking your morning coffee? Must be pretty sobering7.
If the GOP wants to continue to hitch its wagons to the Rush Limbaughs of the world, it is going down faster than a skyscraper elevator. Just look at Mitt’s numbers among Hispanics and African-Americans. Brutal. Absolutely brutal.
8. Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the brave men and women who gave up their lives in the service of my country and its values. For their sake, let’s all think a bit about what those values are and how fortunate we all are – whether or not we’re Americans -- that those values dominated Independence Hall as far back as 1776.
Have a long and great weekend from the Empathic Rationalist.