My Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Race
PART 1 of 4 PARTS
Modern politics and My View of Presidential Characteristics
READ ME FIRST: This is a very long piece but I think it needs to be. I’ll probably (certainly) say things some of you won’t agree with. But, that’s what blogs are for, aren’t they? I plan to post this blog in four parts because the complete piece is 15 pages long. Each part, though, is only about 4 pages long and I’ll publish the next parts each within a day or two, so hang in there.
I have emerging thoughts about the presidential campaign. It’s early in the process, and I don’t have to exercise my single pathetic vote for several months. I’m less interested in who’s running for president than I used to be. A friend of mine who is only a little older says he’s “just an observer now.” I can see how that happens. I’m a little tired of the endless political process. Despite this, I’m going to blather on about my political thoughts and try to decide who I may vote for, if the candidate gets that far. I can change my mind if I want to. Voting, like religion, is a personal decision, so you certainly don’t have to agree with me. I’m doing this because my brother asked me to. Good for him. It helps me keep my own thoughts organized. But as I said, my own thoughts may change as time goes on. Even today, Arlyne and I sometimes have opposing views as to who we believe is the best candidate for President in 2016.
About Modern Politics. If you’re a highly political person, you attend campaign rallies, donate heavily to your favorite candidates, put posters in your yard, work the telephones at headquarters, talk with like-minded people and watch your favorite TV stations, where opinionated commentators tell you what you want to hear and bash the opposing party and their candidates. Some commentators do this nicely and some are viciously one-sided. I’m not one of these highly political people. Campaigns aren’t about issues anymore. Besides, how can any citizen decide about a specific issue when one “side” says the whole thing is a non-issue and the other says it is vitally important and should be investigated? It seems like everything is sexist, racist, demeaning, an attack, etc. It also seems that we have to closely watch the words we use now too. I didn’t have these feelings some years ago. What has happened to our society? What has happened to me? In our current era, most citizens go straight with their party instead of looking at the character and experience of the candidates, including the candidate he favors, regardless of the issues. We don’t know the truth about anything political anymore. We only think we do. There’s so much fake outrage now and everybody takes offence. We have to tease “news” out of the rhetoric that washes over us. I’m unable to watch “news shows” as much as I used to, particularly when I know the actual truth is rarely available to me. TV personalities are highly opinionated commentators and network shills now, not journalists and certainly not objective reporters of the news. Their jobs are to attract viewers, increase advertising returns and make a name for their network and themselves. The debates have proven it..
Politics has changed. Remember the talk years ago about “smoke-filled rooms” and “kingmakers?” That’s how candidates were selected in the old days. Now, in the days of twitter, facebook, Instagram, linkedin, instant news and instant communications, smoke-filled rooms are gone. Every rumor, factoid or misstep by a candidate is instantly placed in the universe and tossed around like it actually meant something. Now, don’t get me wrong. If a candidate actually does something, then I tend to pay attention. Can you imagine the fever pitch of this campaign a year from now?
What characteristics do I want in a president and Why? Right off, let me say I don’t care if the president is divorced or single or man or a woman. There were and are women running other countries quite successfully. Why not here? Being a woman, however, isn’t a qualifying factor.
My age has something to do with my preferences in politics. That can’t be helped. So, since I haven’t indicated exactly who I’m going to vote for yet, I’ll go back in recent history and look at previous presidents and politicians that helped form my presidential likes and dislikes. I’m mostly conservative but not entirely by any means.
I liked President Dwight Eisenhower, for example. Yes, that was a long time ago and I was young. Even so, it’s most everyone’s opinion that he was the last president who understood government. He was steady, trustworthy and honest, besides being a war hero. Of course, one war had just ended and the next one hadn’t started yet. He had relatively peaceful terms in office. He did, however, understand that other wars were coming. I think that’s why he agreed to create the interstate highway system to rapidly relocate military equipment and troops.
The days of war heroes are totally gone now and nobody understands government. It can’t even be managed. Our Government is a bloated bureaucracy, with corruption, cronyism, secrecy and evasiveness everywhere. For most, it’s a way to become wealthy. And this is just the legal stuff! It reminds me of the Roman Empire. It reminds me of a saying we had in the defense business: “We used to have wooden ships and iron men…..now we have iron ships and wooden men (and women).” Longevity in political office is considered an accomplishment now. We’ve created royalty in Washington D.C. and that’s not funny. When a new candidate does make it to office (Senate or Congress), it’s usually because the incumbent retired or died. New office holders are virtually shunned until they’ve been in Washington several years. I’ve read that almost 98% of incumbents are automatically re-elected. Government officials are elected now because of their smile, their haircut, their longevity in politics and their ability to promise, promise, and promise. This is the voters’ fault. I’m old enough to understand that political promises are rarely kept. I’ve learned that much. Nobody is my dream candidate.
Other Memorable Politicians. I can look at the ex-governor of California, George Deukmejian, as a possible example of the kind of characteristics I want. He was not a single issue person. He was a moderate conservative, but look up his record before you judge him. In bad years, he selectively cut state spending, creating a surplus. A couple of years after that, another recession hit California and he again managed the state government to overcome a deficit. I think he had political courage and was well liked (76% approval), albeit reluctantly by some of course. He was almost boring. He was almost picked by George H.W. Bush as his running mate but declined. History has treated him well, even if he has more or less disappeared from public view.
I eventually liked Ronald Reagan, in his second term. I had reservations of course. I first saw him as an actor, rather than the political animal he was. But, being in the defense industry, I was delighted when he appointed a Blue Ribbon Committee to analyze and reform a screwed up defense procurement process. I was involved in this procurement process and it was terribly inefficient, boneheaded sometimes. The Blue Ribbon Committee was comprised of smart, senior, experienced people. A year or so later, the results of the Committee were finally published. I thought every one of the ten or so recommendations was terrific and needed to be implemented. I waited a long time and eventually learned that not one single recommendation was ever put in place. What a disappointment. I wish I had that list today. I’d bet those recommendations are moldy and forgotten. What happened, Ronald?
Still, Reagan was personable and had principles that I liked. The US had a monumental enemy during his time in office and that made it easy to like how he handled the Soviet Union and eventually whittled them down. Did I mention that he thought the U.S. was an exceptional country? I liked that. I’m sorry that half the country doesn’t think so anymore. Reagan at least got us through a shaky period. Sure he had some foibles made a few poor decisions. Regan’s “Star Wars” missile defense system never really got completely off the ground, (no pun intended) and his now forgotten Arms-for-Contras deal seems microscopic from today’s perspective. He was fairly decisive about things as well, and I liked that too. He spent money, like all presidents do but did some tax cutting as well.
Bill Clinton was a decent president as I saw it during his terms. Of course, I didn’t know anything about his behind the scenes escapades. I only knew him as a political animal and he was a good one. Of course, his terms in office were, like Eisenhower’s, between major wars and the country was riding the crest of the internet boom. Believe me, the internet boom was a monstrous influence. Many local, state and government spending and union pension problems we have today are the result of giddy spending during Clinton’s period in office. This was done by states, the federal government and even cities. Everyone thought the good times would last forever. I didn’t know that Clinton was building an empire. He reformed the welfare system through a compromise with the Republicans. No one does that anymore that I’ve heard about. I didn’t vote for Bill the first time, but I voted for him the second time around. Sorry, I never liked Hillary during that time. She wasn’t likeable. (Arlyne does not like Bill for his disrespect of the White House and his family, but recognizes that he was at least a so-so President.)
Sidebar: Of course, like everyone else, my choice for president has as much to do with me as it does any current issues. Most political issues just go around and around, over and over again. Tell me, which candidate doesn’t talk about reforming education, reforming welfare, creating jobs, shame on the rich, eliminating poverty, eliminating hunger, reducing foreign debt, solving the gun problem, solving the illegal immigration problem, fixing Social Security, fixing Medicare, fixing Medicaid, fixing society’s gender issues, etc., etc.
Oh, yes…….fixing climate change, cleaning our air and water, cutting down on TV watching, solving the mental health problem, reducing crime, reforming presidential election funding, reforming tort law, cutting back on (or increasing) foreign aid, raising or lowering defense spending, making us safe from terrorists, repairing infrastructure, closing or opening the border, helping the middle class, and all kinds of other things? The gay marriage and LGBT issues are fairly new at least. Just don’t promise me you’ll do everything for everybody. Yes, many of these issues are important, but some aren’t that important and nothing substantial will be done.
I want to vote for someone who can actually think and analyze and evaluate and weigh options, listen to others, decide and take logical action. Appoint people around them that can actually think and analyze, evaluate and weigh options and decide and request logical action. I want a president who at least understands the business world and who is not a career politician who only makes political decisions that benefit his own party.
I want a president who can change the way the government does things if their own policies don’t work. Almost every government program or policy that was implemented and failed is still around, with more and more money being poured into it. It doesn’t help that government workers can’t be fired – either because of civil service rules or “negotiated” union agreements. In fact, that’s probably why many failed policies and programs are still being funded and operated. Government doesn’t have to worry about losses or falling stock prices. Government asks taxpayers to give it money, either the same amount or more. And taxpayers continue to do it. Government is, of course, financed by the taxpayers. There has to be a way to ensure accountability and resolve the chaos we have in government. The solution isn’t to make government bigger, please.
I want someone who understands science, at least to the extent that he/she can appoint an appropriate person to advise him properly. I don’t want someone who claims he/she will change the educational system. Every presidential candidate I can remember said he would fix education. If education has to be overhauled every eight years, it must have been horrible when I was in school. I liked school and had a fairly successful career because of it. Students should dig in to the material presented to them. I went to a class C school (not around anymore) with Native Americans, blacks, poor whites, kids who didn’t have shoes, who could barely read, who were unhealthy and had no future to speak of. I was interested in school and the stuff I learned. Is it any better now, with all the changes? The changes that are typically made in our educational system are those that make education easier, not harder. This isn’t good.
The optimal President of the U.S., particularly, shouldn’t always act strictly down party lines, like senators and congressmen do. I can’t stop them but I can at least be selective when I cast my single pathetic vote. We don’t have a pure democracy. We have a representative form of government, where our elected representatives can do whatever they want. I find that in recent years, elected officials want to make a mark, make a name for themselves and create a legacy. I don’t want my president to be like this. Legacies should be determined much later, after politicians have left office. Let us decide, let history decide. Recently, even the Nobel Prize committee publically expressed their disappointment that the peace prize was awarded to Barack Obama. It didn’t work out as they had hoped. I could have told them that. You shouldn’t award prizes to people who haven’t done anything except make promises. Do schools give out grades at the beginning of the year?
End of Part 1
Note: Part 2 will discuss each of the 2016 Presidential candidates