Saturday, September 19, 2015

Quintessentially Unsubstantial

I would describe myself as a moderate constitutionalist. On social matters, fairly libertarian - I believe government has little cause or standing to involve itself in personal affairs. On fiscal issues, I am a hawkish, face-painted tea partier - I stand with the words of JFK.

Go to and read his address before the Economic Club of New York in December 1962. He describes an America that sounds precisely like this country in 2015. The challenges are the same, though magnified exponentially, and his proposed solutions would get my vote today. There is not a democrat on the planet today that would identify with the policy pronouncements of their icon.

That is precisely what I am looking for from this group of Republican candidates. I would like one person to get up on a stage and say something to the effect of: If I'm elected President within my first 100 days in office, I promise you that I will (for example) reduce the size of the Department of Education by 10% (which is actually too small a number). If I cannot get Congress to implement this change, I will issue an executive order and fight any legal challenge that might arise from it.

Or perhaps he or she might say: If I'm elected President within my first 100 days in office, I will conduct an exhaustive review of the VA (and how about the IRS?) and I promise to take decisive action to streamline the overhead of this agency, hold accountable those bureaucrats who have failed to provide appropriate services to the American taxpayers and outline specifically the functional changes in the agency I will be targeting.

I am tired of platitudes. "Making America Great Again" doesn't cut it for me. "Breaking up the Washington Cartel" is catchy, but excludes any substance. The CNN debate had little to do with policy and much more to do with generating ratings and conflict. It was quintessentially unsubstantial.

On my way home from a dove hunt last evening (yes, bicoastals, I did participate in this Texas tradition), I happened to listen to Megyn Kelly's show via XM radio. She spent 20 minutes of her "news" program on an incident at a Trump town hall meeting where an unstable questioner told Trump we needed to get all Muslims (including the President) out of the country. Donald did not dismiss the questioner's absurd contention, and this apparently turned into a firestorm.

Kelly asked her guests whether all this media attention was warranted, but she was in effect positioning herself in this media slipstream by devoting so much time to this story devoid of substance.

And, so far, that is my assessment of the campaign so far: substance-less. I don't fault the candidates completely because they have to bend to the astounding throw weight of the media. When they're on the stump or appearing at events at which they can address voters without intermediaries, they do address issues and experience. They shy away from attacking fellow candidates and redirect their criticism to Obama and Hil.

Let us not ignore that in the face of the truly ridiculous numbers the first two debates on Fox and CNN have generated, The Hil is drawing hundreds on campaign appearances, even on college campuses. Her numbers are in tectonic slide, the DNC is in full protection mode by not expanding their debate schedule and her platform seems to be....indistinguishable from Obama's. Bernie's platform is: let's take that $18 trillion debt and freakin' double it! Hell yeah.

Somehow, we must return to some place and time where we can find some commonality between the Democratic Party of JFK and the Republican Party of Reagan. Maybe Lindsey Graham is right:
perhaps more drinking is in order. Short of that, we should demand that candidates who wish to be taken seriously must represent themselves with concrete positions of policy.

Believe it or not, Donald Trump has taken the first legitimate step on this golden road. He has outlined (or, more likely, his advisors have) a cohesive, rational policy paper on the Second Amendment. Agree or disagree, it is serious attempt to tackle the tricky question of how to control the legal and illegal possession of firearms.

Instead of analyzing the Trump policy statement - which is dry, wonky and too un-Trump-like to be taken seriously - the media would rather expend its oxygen on magnifying the inadequate Trump response to a questioner a bubble off plumb (Bicoastals - this allegorical phrase relates to a construction instrument that measures "level" with an air bubble in liquid. If you're a bubble off, you're way off center.) who is convinced Obama's a Muslim.

I'm not prepared to generalize about the media, but Megyn Kelly is clearly still fuming about Trump's reaction to her performance in the Fox debate. It was embarrassing and creepy to listen to her last night, encouraging her guests to agree with her assessment that Trump had midhandled this addled questioner. To devote more than 20 minutes to this inconsequential exchange was indicative of Megyn's inability to put the debate exchange in context and her desire to take down Trump with some professional patina. She appears more petty to me than Trump right now.

The next logical step is for debate #3 to be telecast by Bravo and moderated by some reasonable number of Kardashians. Kanye West, an avowed admirer of Donald and known Kardashian affiliate, would have to be barred from partication for obvious conflicts of interest. Ratings would be huge, substance nonexistent, media interest off the charts. Andy Cohen needs to moderate going forward with his Housewives in tow.

Let's cut the reality TV crap and get on with the substance. If CNN or Fox can't figure out how to manage this process professionally, let's find someone who can. And let's also get Hil into a situation where she's got to address legitimate questioning from unbiased journalists (ok, you're right - forget it). Until we get there, these candidates are nothing but ratings pawns in a TV drama and they suffer by sucking up to Roger Ailes and Jeff Zucker who are the ultimate winners.

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