GETTING UP FROM THE TABLE

One cannot say that the nation doesn’t pay attention to good suggestions…as far as they go.

After the shock of Bannon and Priebus situated to either side of our new president-elect in The White House, the country heard from all quarters that Thanksgiving should be a politics-free zone.  It was.  If by chance a guest or relative said “Trump,” he or she was closed down immediately, everywhere.

After the holiday, we tuned into the spectacle – and misdirection – of a new administration’s pick for Secretary of State.   Nightmare visions of Rudy Giuliani danced through our heads, like a long forgotten outtake from Disney’s “Fantasia.”  The other elephants inline were just as frightening to viewers of tender years: Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, Mike Mullin, Jared Kushner.

Miraculously, the Trump crowd also hired someone (unknown to us) who actually knew what he/she was doing, and the names that surfaced for other spots around the cabinet table may not have been more pleasing to many of us, but they were generally well-researched.  They fit perfectly with the Donald’s fear-mongering campaign…the one that threatened the Wall, mass deportations, tariffs, business, voting itself.   The height of this series of head-fakes came with the mention of Mr. Kushner as ambassador of some kind to the mid-East and to Donald’s new decision to find a way to make peace between the Arabs and Israelis.

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FOOL US ONCE…

During the primaries and the run-up to November 8, what America kept hearing was, “Let Trump Be Trump.”   The implication was that sooner or later, and probably sooner, Trump would implode.

That didn’t happen as we know.

Now, in the few weeks after the election, what America is hearing is, “Give Him a Chance.”  The implication now being that what people had hoped might happen during the primaries would finally happen now that he was the president-elect: he’d grow up.

This hasn’t happened yet, either.  (“But give him a chance!”)

We read that Mr. Trump is softening his stance on any number of issues.   This may not please his cohorts of followers.   And it may also not be true.

If we read the excerpts from his meeting with the editorial board of The New York Times, what we find is that while there is a little softening around the edges, Trump still expects to be king.

The public and the press made a lot of mistakes during the primaries.  They are making them now.

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WAIT A MINUTE!

We are not going to criticize the new kids in The White House for taking their time to find the right people to help lead the country to health of all kinds: fiscal, emotional, international.   Nor are we turning publicly purple at the thought of some of those mentioned as future holders of important domestic and international posts.

We will, however, ask the same question so many did during the primaries and the campaign: we’ve got more than three hundred millions souls in residence in the US of A.   Are these men and women the best and the brightest we can marshal to serve?

True enough, most alert citizens would want nothing to do with a political system as down-and-dirty as ours has become.  Nor would they want their private lives unearthed and microscopically examined.   But surely there are hundreds of pre-approved personalities – advised and consented to, “vetted,”  office-holders of old who had been confirmed overwhelmingly by earlier Congresses – who still believe a better world lies ahead.   Even if they are not that optimistic, at least they know how to get around in that world, how to maneuver, persuade, lead.

Two realizations for today.

Number One:  The Nation voted for change.   If possible, from top to bottom.   To many of us, the names “floated” as fillers of important offices and cabinet posts are unfamiliar.   How could this be otherwise?   Change means change, and not every voter knows whence cometh his deliverance…from standard Ivy League haunts or unknown industrial enclaves.   The former come with attachments and histories, not always good.   The latter come with their own set of baggage, about which we are struggling to learn but seem unable to unblock the dams of public information.

Number Two:  The Nation is going to get just about the same set of bureaucratic sweethearts it had before.    Congressional incumbents have been returned.  “Newbies” too often have already served, profited, retired, and decided to make a comeback.   Even The Tea Party, or the various caucuses, are populated by figures already dissected and discarded.

The one big change, of course, is at the top.  Here’s a guy who instinctively understood the country’s unrest and anger, played to them, wooed them, promised them everything including Arpege, now standing bug-eyed before the realization that what he wanted he got, and now he may have to make good on those promises.

On the other hand, the same character reneged on nearly every promise offered almost immediately, or at least – and certainly now – walked back the more impossibly decisive actions formulated that acted  as bait for the hordes of voters who felt their voices muted or simply ignored.   Here’s a guy who knows how to weasel better than almost any office holder who’s come before.    He’s a wizard at persuading his troops that what they feel as rain is really sunshine.   And of course, vice versa.

The Nation voted.   Will it be happy with the results?

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Hello, Venezuela?

Without making light of dear friends and readers in Venezuela, we have a question.  When you march in the streets, what exactly do you expect?    We understand there are shortages of foods of all kinds, shortages in take-home pay, and unhealthy environments.

For the past two evenings – after our recent election – we in this country have seen street marches in a dozen major US cities.   Clearly millions of voters here were not happy.

Our president-elect had been allowed to do nothing yet.   Our stock market had already recovered from a damaged set of nerves.   Poverty still exists in many places, but in the main Americans are blessed to have little enough to complain of but healthcare, gasoline prices (which is also true in Venezuela, despite being one of the greatest producers of gasoline and by-products), and an unresponsive government (also mirrored by you.)

In 1968, in universities especially, there were marches and small-scale rioting for change in many parts  of the world.  In the US, there was also a modicum of voter revolt, at that time against the Democrats.   Watching television in those days was disturbing because what we witnessed seemed to us un-American, not to mention futile.

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NO REASONABLE EXPLANATION

Tomorrow we’ll have some fun.  Today there are a few loose ends to be tied.

We’ve not seen this in the press, or heard it among our friends. But it’s our contention that James Comey, soon (we hope) to be “late of the FBI,” will resign. If not today or tomorrow, then Wednesday at the latest.

Apart from dynamiting Hillary Clinton’s last two weeks of her campaign, not to mention the months that came before, starting in mid-summer, Mr.Comey has put the once honored and respected Federal Bureau of Investigation back into J. Edgar Hoover’s closet.

This is no mean feat.   Since Hoover’s death, the Bureau has had to dig itself out of its sewer-like trenches year by year to achieve trust and admiration from the American people. Before Mr. Comey’s letters (One and Two), the Bureau was regarded with gratitude and something like awe for keeping the country safe from terrorism (along with other national security groups).   It had come to the fore in Boston, in Miami, in New York.  And in Paris.

Ignoring custom which worked hard to keep the Bureau from being politicized, and the advice of departmental historians and Federal agents and attorneys, Mr. Comey fell prey to the narcissism of the 2016 election battle and did more than place himself in the front rank of unreliable characters.  He o’erleapt both candidates and current office holders to dominate the front pages of tabloids and serious journals alike.

The loose end we face is why?   We sincerely doubt that Comey had partisan skull-duggery in mind during the summer when he back-handedly brought Hillary out from the undergrowth of whispers, conspiracies, and Congressional investigations to announce his operation could not find adequate evidence to either charge or indict.   (Staggering thought:  perhaps he imagined his imprimatur would help Mrs. Clinton!)

We also find it difficult to imagine Mr. Comey as a candidate in the future for a Federally elected or appointive office.

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REFLECTIONS

It occurred to us this morning that we ought to take – if possible – a moment to think without emotion about the avalanche of votes to be unleashed Tuesday.

We’ve tried (and failed, we know) to adopt a distant sense of fairness about our two major candidates.  And we admit in advance that we’re going to fail again here.   We simply cannot adopt the “fair but balanced” position the nation expects from pundits, commentators, casual press.

Horrified by Mr. Trump since his announcement of availability, and – as she stumbled her way through months of dutiful, purposeful campaigning – increasingly impatient with Mrs. Clinton,  we turned today to The New York Times to read what others may be thinking.   (Ah hah! we hear you scream.  You think the Times is impartial, not in Hillary’s pocket?  What we think is that the newspaper has been brutal to Trump, and not much less so to Mrs. Clinton.  But we also believe The Times tries to present conflicting viewpoints, and often does it well, printing screeds from all quarters and as many intemperate letters to the editors from one side as the other.)

Reading the lead editorial – no matter that its main thrust was to catalogue the fear-mongering and machinations of a man who may be the worst candidate ever offered to the voters of America – stunning thoughts crossed our mind.

What if Trump really is some weird sort of electoral genius who adopts positions of others just to see what happens?  Isn’t there a chance that his entire campaign has been a test of his own charm and strength of personality rather than his positions?   It’s not just us here in the upcountry wondering whether what he says has any truth to it, reflects what he personally espouses.  We doubt very much whether anyone – including his children and wives – can separate the theatre from actuality.

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THE DOWN TICKETS

The presidential contest will play out however it does.  There’s little enough one person, or half a dozen, can do about it.  We wait, some eager, some fearful.   But notice one thing: we still hear people planning their lives for the days ahead: school, jobs, dinners out, a trip, a new film.

There is a certain decompression around us all this weekend.  Anger has been transmuted into mere impatience, partisan enthusiasm (reasonable and un-) has become quiescent, almost civil.   Millions who heretofore have believed the end is coming, or that salvation awaits, are cleaning garages, buying snow shovels, racing 5Ks for charities.

This weekend’s inaction, or ceding to gods whose moods we cannot know, can be seen as a necessary breath, a big one.  Few people who plan to vote believe that when the election is over life will return to “normal.”    They are not confiding in their neighbors or even to family members that we’re going to get more change than we ever dreamed.

And one weekend’s holiday from enthusiasm for a kind of terrorism, or its counterpart – confidence that the world and the bureaucrats who run it will be playing first base in Cleveland – gives voters time to reflect and to understand that the tools they use for daily living have been modernized.

But they know, perhaps today just subconsciously, but later more definitely, that their personal arsenals are being replenished, warheads are being installed, hand-tools honed.   With what we have all learned this past year we are ready to, once more, go into battle.

Congress has been examined microscopically.   It is clearer than ever before that our cherished representatives are in this game not for us but for their parties and their pocket-books.   House members and Senators have made their choice: the party over the country.

Understanding this as clearly as we do, how are we to combat greed and self-preserving loyalties?

What Representatives and Senators may not yet realize is that this campaign has been a seminar in political warfare.  Most of its lessons have been learned by the public rather than the politicians.  The latter are wedded still to the ideas of obstructing progress, or gridlock, or investigations and studies that prove mischief-making.

The public, however, is now sniffing along the trail, following the maharajahs of make-believe, and planning to pass the caravans in order to dig deep spiked traps for the royal beasts of burden.

Some of those pits will be ready on Wednesday, November 9th.

Some are ready now.

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