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Posts Tagged ‘PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES’

WHY FASCISTS WIN AND LIBERALS LOSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

It was September 26, 1960. The date of the first—and now legendary—Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Robert F. Kennedy, who was managing his brother’s campaign, offered some blunt but effective debate-prep advice: “Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

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John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

As a result, Kennedy came out fighting—and stayed on the offensive throughout the debate. At one point, he said flat-out that the United States should overthrow the year-old Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

Nixon knew there was a secret CIA plan under way to do just that, but couldn’t afford to say so in public. So he came out hard against such a proposal, saying it would alienate American allies throughout the Caribbean.

Nixon had been warned by Henry Cabot Lodge, his Vice Presidential running mate, to tone down his “assassin image.”

During the 1950s, as a colleague of Red-baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Nixon had made himself immune from the damning charge of “soft on Communism.”

And yet, pitted against a surprisingly aggressive Kennedy, he came off as decidedly second-best in standing up to the successor of Joseph Stalin.

The Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Commentators generally agreed that Nixon lost that first debate—the most-watched of the four. And it may have proved fatal to his electoral chances that year.  

Kick him in the balls, Jack.

It’s advice that someone should have given to President Barack Obama. Not just before his October 3, 2012 debate with Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, but at the start of his Presidency.

Romney came on strong from the outset and never let up.  He attacked the President relentlessly. And he repeatedly ignored calls by the alleged moderator, Jim Lehrer, to stop because he had exceeded his time-limit.

The Obama-Romney Debate

But, surprisingly, Obama:  

  • Never called out Romney on any of the lies he had aimed at the President throughout more than a year’s worth of campaigning.  
  • Never demanded that Romney produce specifics about the programs he would cut.
  • Never mentioned Bain Capitol, Romney’s private equity firm, as a job-killing corporate predator.  
  • Never attacked Romney for having personal assets in Swiss bank accounts.
  • Never mentioned the infamous “47%” videotape in which Romney contemptuously wrote off almost half of the electorate.

Obama was a supremely decent and rational man. He seemed to believe that if he was decent and reasonable toward his sworn enemies, they, in turn, would treat him the same way.

They didn’t. And Obama repeatedly failed to learn the only possible lesson from it.

As a result, he endured relentless personal insults and the stonewalling of his legislation by Republicans in the House and Senate.

But it did not have to be that way.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine patriot and statesman, offered this advice in The Prince, his primer on political science:

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Niccolo Machiavelli

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.  

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them they are entirely yours.  

They offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.

For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose.

But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Obama should have put this truth into practice at the start of his administration, through the example of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson. 

It was Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at the President during his September 9, 2009 health care speech to Congress.

Wilson later apologized, and Rahm Emannuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, accepted the apology on the President’s behalf.

Instead, Obama could—and should—have sent this directive to all Federal agencies: “If you have to make cutbacks, make them first in the Congressional district of Joe Wilson.” 

When military bases and hospitals and highway projects started disappearing from Wilson’s district, word would have quickly gotten around: Don’t screw with Obama. 

And Republicans would have behaved accordingly.

During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman said of his Confederate enemies: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”

General William Texumseh Sherman

Obama won the election. But, for all his brilliance as a Harvard graduate, he failed to learn and apply this most essential lesson.  

And that failure haunted him throughout his eight-year term.

A TALE OF TWO TALIBANS

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9 when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban has a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

The Taliban has reportedly decided to suspend all its current operations and activities in Pakistan.  And it has momentarily directed field commanders and fighters to target media organizations instead of the government and security forces.

According to unnamed sources, the militants dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  They especially wanted to target the electronic media and some foreign media organizations and their workers.

The Taliban is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of a free press.  The American Taliban equally shares their passion for going after “troublesome” journalists.

One of these is radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh–America’s successor to Senator “Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy as a slander-monger.

Limbaugh is furious with Candy Crowley, the moderator of the second Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley

During that debate–held on October 16–Romney accused President Obama of not calling the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya a “terrorist attack.”

Crowley–CNN’s chief political correspondent–immediately pointed out that Obama had, in fact, referred to it as an “act of terror” just two days later in a White House Rose Garden speech.

The effect on Romney–caught flat-footed in yet another slander on the President–was that of a man caught with his zipper open.

For the American Taliban–as personified by Limbaugh–Crowley’s daring to point out yet another Romney lie was simply too much.

“She committed  an act of journalistic terror last night,” Limbaugh said the day after the debate.

Rush Limbaugh, American Taliban leader

“If there were any journalistic standards,” said the man who regularly shuns both fairness and objectivity, “what she did last night would have been the equivalent of blowing up her career like a suicide bomber.

“But there aren’t any journalist standards anymore. And she’s going to be praised and celebrated, probably even get a raise, give her another half hour on that show she hosts.”

Nor was Limbaugh the only right-winger to be furious that Crowley had exposed Romney as a serial liar.

John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and a Romney campaign co-chair, said Crowley was “terrible.”

“She had no business trying to be a fact-checker on the stage, because she was dead wrong,” Sununu said.

Of course, the fact that Sununu–a longtime specialist in political slander–said Crowley was wrong does not make it so.  She wasn’t wrong.

There are some differences between the Islamic and American versions of the Taliban:

  • The Islamic Taliban are followers of Muhammed.
  • The American Taliban are (nominally) followers of Jesus Christ.
  • The Islamic Taliban speak variations of Arabic.
  • The Taliban in the United States speak English.

So much for some of the differences.  Now for some of the similarities.

  • Both Talibans want to control the most private aspects of a woman’s life.
  • Both Talibans believe they have the right to hold absolute power over their fellow citizens.
  • Both Talibans believe they have a God-given right to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with them.

Above all, both Talibans–American and Islamic–fear and hate being exposed for the despots they are and support.

Harrison Salisbury, who covered the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin for the New York Times, said it best:

“The truth, I was ultimately to learn, is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

MACHIAVELLI WOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER

In History, Politics on October 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

It was September 26, 1960.  The date of the first–and now legendary–Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Robert F. Kennedy, who was managing his brother’s campaign, offered some blunt but effective debate-prep advice: “Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

As a result, Kennedy came out fighting–and stayed on the offensive throughout the debate.  At one point, he said flat-out that the United States should overthrow the year-old Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

Nixon knew there was a secret CIA plan under way to do just that, but couldn’t afford to say so in public.  So he came out hard against such a proposal, saying it would alienate American allies throughout the Caribbean.

Nixon had been warned by Henry Cabot Lodge, his Vice Presidential running mate, to tone down his “assassin image.”

During the 1950s, as a colleague of Red-baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Nixon had made himself immune from the damning charge of “soft on Communism.”

And yet, pitted against a surprisingly aggressive Kennedy, he came off as decidedly second-best in standing up to the sons of Joseph Stalin.

The Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Commentators generally agreed that Nixon lost that first debate–the most-watched of the four.  And it may have proved fatal to his electoral chances that year.

“Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

It’s advice that someone should have given to President Barack Obama.  Not just before his October 3 debate with Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, but at the start of his Presidency.

Romney came on strong from the outset and never let up.  He attacked the President relentlessly.  And he repeatedly ignored calls by the alleged moderator, Jim Lehrer, to stop because he had exceeded his time-limit.

The Obama-Romney Debate

But, surprisingly, Obama:

  • Never called out Romney on any of the lies he had aimed at the President throughout more than a year’s worth of campaigning.
  • Never demanded that Romney produce specifics about the programs he would cut.
  • Never mentioned Bain Capitol, Romney’s private equity firm, as a job-killing corporate predator.
  • Never attacked Romney for having personal assets in Swiss bank accounts.
  • Never mentioned the infamous “47%” videotape in which Romney contemptuously wrote off almost half of the electorate.

Obama is a supremely decent and rational man.  He seems to believe that if he is decent and reasonable toward his sworn enemies, they, in turn, will treat him the same way.

They haven’t.  And Obama has repeatedly failed to learn the only possible lesson from it.

As a result, he has endured relentless personal insults and the stonewalling of his legislation by Republicans in the House and Senate.

But it did not have to be this way.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine patriot, offered this advice in The Prince, his primer on political science:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours. 

They offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote,.  But when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined…. 

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.  For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. 

But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Obama should have put this truth into practice with the case of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson.  It was Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at the President during his September 9, 2009 health care speech to Congress.

Wilson later apologized, and Rahm Emannuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, accepted the apology on the President’s behalf.

Instead, Obama could–and should–have sent this directive to all Federal agencies: “If you have to make cutbacks, make them first in the Congressional district of Joe Wilson.”

When military bases and hospitals and highway projects started disappearing from Wilson’s district, word would have quickly gotten around: Don’t screw with Obama. 

During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman said of his Confederate enemies: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”

General William Texumseh Sherman

If Obama loses the election, the reason will be that, for all his brilliance as a Harvard graduate, he failed to learn and apply this most essential lesson.

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