The Presidential Candidates and Me

Podium before GOP Debate Las Vegas
Podium, Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

Oh. You didn’t ask what I think about the current political scene? Well that’s certainly never stopped me.

In the wake of the latest GOP presidential candidate debate on CNN – the one on foreign policy and homeland security – I’m thinking of going into deep hiding. The rest of the 2016 presidential race  – only just getting started really with the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary coming up in February – should be a doozy.

And it’s not just the Republicans.  I’m not exactly thrilled by anyone who’s running on either side. I’d like to see a third party.  Drawing from the country’s majority moderates. And supporting  less “required” dogma for the parties’ base.

The problem as I see it is the whole primary system. It encourages what we’re seeing in the GOP – a lot of outrageous, “I’m in charge”  comments with no real actionable  policies behind them. Senator Rand Paul – the Libertarian – sometimes seemed the only reasonable voice in the tough-guy babel. Mildly pointing out that one candidate after another would violate the Constitution. Or take us into World War 3.

On the Democratic side – there’s Senator Bernie Sanders. With his well-meaning but costly and unrealistic ideas which have never worked. It’s unfortunate but the relatively unskilled jobs paying middle class wages – beloved by the unions – are not coming back. Nor are the big corporations going to stop combining and getting bigger. What can happen is better, more targeted education for today’s young people. And more targeted retraining for workers left behind in the rush to the internet of things.

That leaves Hillary Clinton. Who seems at this point an overwhelming force headed toward the Democratic presidential nomination. Right now – paired against any of the likely GOP candidates – Clinton is the only candidate on either side who has the real world experience to (perhaps) deal with the highly complicated mess the world seems to be in now. She’s been in the White House, she’s been a Senator, she’s been Secretary of State.  Of the Republicans, only Senator Marco Rubio seems to have any understanding of the world outside the US. He sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. And at least from what I’ve heard in debates and interviews he seems to be highly  intelligent.  Once he gets past the primaries controlled by the evangelicals and tea party  types –  he might come up with some reasonable ideas.

No Republican is going to stray far from the party line on macro issues like guns, abortion, education, immigration (total reform of which may be beyond any politician) etc. But I’m much more concerned with geo-politics and the migration crisis. How to deal with China’s rising prominence. How to handle Russia – who’s seeming “Leader for Life” Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most dangerous man on the planet right now. And of course how to destroy ISIS.  Before it completely destroys the Middle East.

Unfortunately ISIS or its successor (and until the core problems of the Middle East are solved there will be a successor) will keep radicalizing some Muslim citizens of countries like France, Belgium, Britain and the US as long as we – the dominant society – make those other citizens feel like outsiders. And having a presidential candidate talking about registering all US  members of the Muslim faith and closing the gates to all other Muslims doesn’t help.

Internal (homeland) security is not why I will ultimately vote for a candidate. We’ve been living with this same  threat since 9/11.  Actually well before but intelligence agencies were (and maybe still are) incapable of connecting the dots. It always takes something bad to wake us up.

I’m really afraid some of these issues are just unsolvable. By anyone in the West. How you get the Saudis and Iranians to agree to actually do something constructive about the Middle East?

No, you didn’t ask what I think. But I’m as angry as everyone else. And as afraid as everyone else. And I’m mostly afraid we’re about to have a Presidential election season which can only make everything worse.



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Paris Attacks – Friday the 13th

photo of Paris Police at hospital from Daily Telegraph -UK
Paris from The Telegraph – UK

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here. Travel, home remodeling, work, inertia. You know. I was finally about to write a couple of news-based stories on Friday.

And then came Paris. Those horrendous, inhuman, coordinated attacks against perfectly ordinary people. Who went to dinner or for a glass of wine or to a concert. And never came back. Like those thousands of people on 9-11 here in New York City who went to work in the Twin Towers. And never came back.  Or the Russian tourists who flew toward home from Sharm el Sheikh last month. And never came back.

I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend reading and listening as the experts explain how ISIS developed and why Paris and the nation of France was, has been and will be again targeted. Much of it makes sense. But it’s been said before and still ISIS grows, recruiting often well educated young men – and some women – from every country where Muslim people live. Working painstakingly through the internet and messaging apps where intelligence agents can’t as easily follow. It’s seems quite clear that the  carnage will not be limited to the Middle East and France.

As for all the reasons and explanations — in the end… what’s done is done. We can’t undo it. Can’t rerack the disastrous war in Iraq. Or the intelligence inadequacies never corrected after the Cold War ended. As I am fond of telling myself when I feel trapped  – it is what it is.  We the civilized nations can only try to devise a strategy to deal with what we now see. I am not wise enough to know what that strategy should be. I only know half measures won’t work now and didn’t work then. They never do of course. Senator Lindsey Graham – running almost invisibly for the GOP Presidential nomination – wants to bomb ISIS into smithereens. Well actually he wants to solve every foreign quagmire that way. Others talk of feet on the ground, safe zones, education, integration — too many ideas to list them all. Maybe they all have some value. But we don’t have the time.  That was lost in the years we allowed ISIS and the civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites to grow. Something big has to be done right now. Immediately. Not just by us, the US, but by all nations who value our (relatively ) free way of life.

And what about the migrant crisis spawned by Syria’s inner battles? I haven’t even mentioned that. But with one of the Paris terrorists possibly coming through Greece, then Serbia and other Balkan states with the river of migrants – using what authorities now say may be a fake Syrian passport with a fake name and then moving on to France — what now?

These questions and issues are what the presidential candidate debates on both sides should be focused on. Along, of course, with President Obama and the current Congress who have the unenviable burden of doing something. Now. The West needs a leader. Some country has to produce one. It should be us.




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