Vietnam: The Longest War

Let me start by saying I am not a Vietnam Veteran, nor am I an historian or political scientist… but I am a veteran of the Vietnam era who was never shot at, nor did I ever shoot at anyone.   I served in the U.S. Army from February of 1966 to March of 1969, an span that history suggests was at the height of the war and a time in which public sentiment turned against the war.  I should also say that I’m pretty sure I would not be where I am today except for the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War is my war.  The war of my generation.  The war that killed and maimed, and psychologically damaged hundreds of thousands of men of my age.  The war that became known as the worst foreign policy disaster in the history of America.  The war that was fought by common men who fought with uncommon valor, and who thought that their sacrifice, their heroism was not only in our national interest, but also a critical element in a larger fight against the spread of communism.  Of course, sadly, they were wrong.

One might think it unusual that I would be writing of Vietnam when Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are dominating current news cycles and presenting serious new challenges for our policy makers and our military.  You’re right, I probably would not be writing this piece if our small town in Northeast Texas were not preparing to host an exhibit of the Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  I was asked to present a lecture on the history of the Vietnam War as a part of a month-long program honoring Texas Veterans of the War.  My preparations for this lecture stirred long dormant memories and feelings about the War and my small part in it.  I spent a year training to lead men in combat, presumably  in Vietnam and another two years in a classified project to field computer systems to support combat division in the field. Unlike most of my colleagues, my most dangerous assignment was safely navigating happy hour on Friday at the Officer’s Club.  Now all I can do is reflect on the meaning of what happened in a part of the world that few knew about, and even fewer cared about.

Historians would have us believe that the passage of time provides an opportunity to achieve greater clarity and deeper knowledge of important events, but in many ways the Vietnam War is not so far removed.  People are still suffering from damage done to their bodies and their minds by this War.  New information is being unclassified even today.  The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC wasn’t dedicated until 1982, and it was only in 1995 that the U.S. gave full diplomatic recognition to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  When I visited visited Vietnam in 2010, I was told by a member of the Vietnamese Parliament that the United States was only rated 11th in foreign direct investment in Vietnam.  Billions to fight a war and now only meager investment in their burgeoning free-market economy.  Now, in 2017, we are 7th after the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.  Go figure.  Perhaps, then, this is exactly the right time to look back at the ongoing tragedy of Vietnam, as we are yet again faced with strategic and military decisions for which the consequences will not be known for decades, and the costs will be with us forever.

One of the many oddities of what we call “the Vietnamese War” and the Vietnamese call “the War of American Aggression,” is that it has no beginning.  No official beginning, that is.  I’m tempted to say that at least the antecedent, if not the start, was in 1950 when Truman turned his back on Ho Chi Minh’s entreaties of alliance, and supported instead our friends the French who wanted nothing more than a return to the pre-war colonial domination of Vietnam.  Actually, it was in 1945 that we suffered our first casualty – an OSS officer killed by the Viet Minh.  Others would say the war started in 1955 when Truman established the Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam (MAAG-V).  Maybe it started when JFK sent the first organized U.S. military force to Vietnam in 1961.  Or did it start on August 7, 1964 when Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized Lyndon Johnson to use “conventional forces” in pursuit of our objectives in Vietnam.  Certainly the war was well underway when LBJ agreed with General Westmoreland’s request to commit forty-four combat battalions to Vietnam.  I’m not sure that the start date for the war makes much difference now, but the parallels with what has been happening in the Middle East are obvious.

The end date of the war is a little clearer, but not by much.  The Paris Peace Accords, for which negotiations began in 1968, were finally signed by the United States and North Vietnam on January 27, 1973.  Note that the government of South Vietnam did not sign, nor were the Accords ever approved by the U.S. Senate.  Another one of those pesky Executive Agreements that we’re still arguing about.  In June 1973, the Congress did pass the so called Case-Church Amendment, which prohibited further combat operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The legislation allowed us to continue bombing until August 15, which we did.   On April 29, 1975 two marines serving in the protection detail at the U.S. embassy were killed. On April 30, 1975, one day later, the last Americans left Saigon. You tell me when the war was over.  All of this just to try to get to the alpha and omega of the war.

CAUSES 

It’s a challenge to rationally discuss the cause of a war, when even agreement on when it started is so illusive.  But I must at least try.  Let me give you the punch line first.  As you might have suspected, there is no single cause of the war in Vietnam, but there were major events that contributed to the tragedy.

  1. The failure of French colonialism in Indochina. (1893-1954)
  2. World War II and the rise of Ho Chi Minh
  3. The Cold War, including the pervasive fear of communism, the Theory of Containment, and the so called Domino Theory.

Each of these has been the subject of hundreds of scholarly writings, and no, you will not be burdened here with more of the same.  I will only say that in looking back, what now appears to be irrational fears of communism, and that leading us to a strategy of stopping the spread of communism (Theory of Containment), were the principal villains in the decision to commit our country to a military and economic adventure that ultimately failed at such an  extraordinary cost.  You will be more familiar with the Domino Theory, which held that we must draw the line on communism in Vietnam, or else the whole of Southeast Asia might collapse under the nefarious weight of the commies.

I suspect, but don’t know, of many among us who could extemporaneously define the principle tenets of communism, but those of you of a certain age can certainly call to mind the John Birch Society, and Nikita Khruschev pounding his shoe on the podium at the United Nations and shouting, “We will bury you!” or words to that effect.  We can also call to mind the witch hunt for communists in the government, the Army/ McCarthy hearings which peaked in the 1950s,  and the blacklisting of artists who might have had “relationships” with some dirty commie organization or person.  Yes, we were afraid of the communists, and their rhetoric and their missiles in Cuba and elsewhere.  We hated the Berlin Wall, which was built by the commies, and what it stood for, and we knew that communism had to be stopped in its tracks.  And we would do whatever it took anywhere in the world, and evidently, regardless of the cost.

So the principle rationale for our “intervention” in Vietnam, as reported in a detailed foreign policy analysis by the American Institute of American History, and validated by every serious look at our strategy, was as follows:

  1. A communist takeover of South Vietnam would open the way to communist expansion elsewhere in Asia.
  2. This, in turn, would cause our allies and our adversaries (read USSR) to question the credibility of the United States’ commitments around the world, and
  3. Would invite further aggression and endanger other U.S. alliances.

So you see, we had to do it.  We had absolutely no choice but to commit the blood and treasure of our Commonwealth to the jungles of Vietnam.  Or did we?  A CIA report on the consequences of losing in Vietnam, published September 12, 1967 (we were already thinking about losing?), was finally declassified in December of 1993, and said in part: “Losing…would not permanently damage the U.S. position in the world by opening the way to a devastating chain of communists takeovers or destroying US credibility….further it would not unduly embolden the USSR to mount new insurgencies.”  

What?  Our own national intelligence service opined in 1967 that losing to the dirty commies in Vietnam really wouldn’t be such a big deal…tactically or strategically?  Yet still we forged ahead anyway  We spent more lives and more money; divided our country into war and anti-war factions; the Chicago convention riots; shooting college students at Kent State, and on and on and on.  All for a war whose rationale was fallacious and whose outcome was so disastrous for so many.  Even Robert McNamara, who some would say was the chief architect of the strategy of “containment,” commented with the benefit of hindsight, “…The ideology of a generation of policy makers and a flawed set of policies, more than anything else, explain why the U.S. intervened in Vietnam and ultimately failed.”  An understatement if I’ve ever heard one.

COSTS 

Oddly, the number crunchers who do so well in other endeavors, don’t seem to prosper in times of war, for the truth is that no one really knows how much the war cost.  Well, maybe it’s not so odd, given that the beginning and end dates of this war is rather a moveable feast.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen estimates of the direct military costs that range from $173 billion to $770 billion.  Hmmm?  Quite a spread, wouldn’t you say.  The indirect cost estimates range from $250 billion to $1 trillion.  Who knows what the bean counters put in the indirect pot, but I know for sure what they don’t include.  They didn’t include my brother Craig, who died thirty years after cessation of hostilities from a failed liver transplant necessitated by cirrhosis of the liver.  I’m no doc, but even I can trace his failed liver to the alcoholism and dope addition he brought home with him from eleven months in-country.  Btw, the numbers above are U.S. costs only.  Who knows what the costs were for our allies, much less our enemies.  We surely need another indirect cost category that would input all the lives lost and damaged in the war.  I’ll give you the particulars below, but suffice it to say that these costs, to me, are incalculable.  To put a number on it would be, well, so horrible that I can’t even contemplate it.  So I’ll not even try, but I will remind you of my friend, bunkmate and comrade-in-arms, Charlie Grizzle, about whom  I wrote in a previous blog entitled http://garyjfernandes.com/in-memoriam.

In short, Charlie was one of those people that you just knew would succeed at anything he did.  But Charlie was killed less than sixty days after he joined the 5th Mechanized Infantry in Vietnam.  Sadly, we will never know what he would have done in the life he did not lead.    There is clearly a cost to our society in his death, but I don’t know how to put a monetary value on it.

CONSEQUENCES

These run from the general to the very specific.  Let me give you a few you might not have thought of:  the draft was replaced with an all volunteer military; the voting age was reduced to eighteen; the War Powers Act was adopted; the monetary cost and related debt of the war initiated a cycle of inflation that plagued our economy; the morale of the military plummeted; our foreign policy tilted toward nationalism and isolationism; the Democratic party was split and its effectiveness undermined; Nixon was elected, leading ultimately to Watergate; the liberal reforms of the Great Society were weakened; trust in government institutions reached a nadir; and the massacre at My Lai and other acts committed in the name of war diminished the moral superiority of the U.S.  I’m sure you could think of others.  All of this before we even get to the KIAs, wounded, missing,   those with PTSD, agent orange victims, drug addicts, and those who suffered and still suffer from a potpourri of emotional and mental distress.  Not a pretty list to be sure.

The death toll of U.S. citizens in all our wars is difficult to contemplate, and toll of deaths related directly to combat in Vietnam is only fourth in a long list behind the Civil War, WWII, WWI, and just in front of the Korean War.  But for deaths related to a failed foreign policy to contain communism, and authorized by legislation relating to a fake event called the Tonkin Gulf Resolution,  the Vietnam War is the leader by far.  Pinning down the exact number of deaths is surprisingly difficult.  Should the death toll include “friendly fire” deaths (yes), suicides (no), training deaths in-country (yes), training deaths in the U.S. (no), ex post facto deaths, i.e. agent orange or other war-related wounds (no).  You see what I mean.  The Vietnam Memorial has 58,315 names etched on its granite face today, but it started with 58,191.  Another reputable source puts the number killed in Vietnam at 58,520.  And that’s just deaths for United States military.  We also suffered 303,640 wounded, of which 74,000 became quadriplegics or double amputees.  If you were to add the 6,000 or so of our allies that were killed, the military deaths of the Republic of Vietnam, Viet Cong and North Vietnam, and then topped it off with the Vietnamese civilians who died, you get pretty quickly to about 2,000,000 men, women and children who died as direct result of the war.

Was it worth it?  Of course, not.  Today, if you were of a mind and had some loose change or an unlimited credit card, you could  buy some fake or authentic Louis Vuitton luggage or a Mercedes Benz sedan in Ho Chi Minh City or even in Hanoi.  Or you could stay at a globally-competitive five-star resort at Hoi An or Nha Trang, or Danang…all of which were scenes of fierce combat not that long ago.  I looks much like the invisible hand of capitalism at work.  Is this what we spent our precious blood and treasure for?

So much for containing Communism.

N.B. I was in Washington, DC last week for a board meeting and was rewarded with a free morning.  After a trip to the Apple store in Georgetown to get yet another iWatch charging cable, I was drawn again to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  I was early so I didn’t have much competition in finding the wall location of several of my friends.  As I stood in silent sadness, a veteran volunteer approached me and asked if I needed help.  I tried to speak, but couldn’t.  He put his arm around my shoulder and shared my grief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Confirm a Supreme Court Nominee

I can safely predict that you will be more than sick and tired of originalism / textualism / strict constructionism / original intent / original meaning and judicial activism by the time that Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has been dispatched – or not – as the newest member of the Court for Life.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to persuade you one way or the other with respect to Mr. Gorsuch.  And it may come as some surprise to those of you who have rightly identified me as a left leaning, progressive Democrat of the rascal, yeller dog variety, that I believe the prez should be given quite a wide latitude with respect to his nominees to the Court…no matter how painful the result may be.  Yes, I got it that there has to be a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing as a part of the political theatre that has come to be the norm for this confirmation process.  And in light of the Repubs refusal to even give Obama’s last nominee a hearing, I can understand the need for more than a little grousing from the Dems.

I don’t want you to just trust me on this, so let’s go to the source.  Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution says simply that “He (the prez) shall nominate, and by, and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…judges of the Supreme Court.”  That’s it.  No qualifications required.  No age, no gender, no ivy league education mandated.  Not even a law degree.  Presumably the nominee would be a citizen, but as to the “advice and consent of the Senate,” I guess the prez could nominate pretty much anyone or anything, including a three-legged dog and expect to get him confirmed.  And that’s how it has turned out over the years…well, excepting Robert Bork.  BTW there is nada for guidance on what constitutes “Advice and Consent.”  But we do know this…the process by which Advice and Consent is arrived has become a torturous process that consumes an infinite amount of air time and column inches, as well as unmeasurable quantities of hot air expelled by the givers of said Advice and Consent.  Let’s see.  When William Brennan was nominated in 1956 by Ike, it took the Judiciary Committee three hours (barely enough time for opening statements today) to determine that he was qualified.  It took seven hours for the Judiciary Committee to vet and approve William Rehnquist in 1972, even though he had more than a little problem with the truth on some matters, but John Roberts and Elena Kagan required over twenty hours of mostly disrespectful grilling.  Hmmm?  Go figure.  Were Roberts and Kagan more dubious characters than, say, Clarence Thomas?  I doubt it.

Obviously, politics unfortunately looms large on the stage of political theatre…which is what these hearings are all about.  And now we will have to suffer god knows how many hours in an effort to discern where Gorusuch lies on the ideological spectrum between the recently departed and sanctified Antonin Scalia (darling of the originalism crowd) and Ruth Bader Ginsberg (queen of judicial activism).  We should not be surprised when a president selects one with his own ideological leanings as a nominee.  Thus, when Trump nominated Gorsuch, we can be sure that it validated Trump’s judicial philosophy of original intent, or was it original meaning…or maybe it’s his penchant for textualism within the context of originalism…  Yeah, you bet.  I’m pretty sure Trump doesn’t know the difference between strict constructionism and a Swedish meatball.  And furthermore, he doesn’t care.  The Federalist Society – Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and a partridge in a pear tree – whispered, “Gorsuch” in his ear, and, presto-chango, Gorsuch it was.

Yes, originalism will get a lot of play in the upcoming hearings, if only because Scalia was its godfather, and, of course, we need someone in the image of Scalia to replace Scalia…maybe without the opera.  Oddly, the term and the judicial philosophy of originalism did not come into currency until the mid-1980’s.  These were the Reagan years, and lots of strange ideas were floating around.  Now we have a new poster boy for a judicial concept that almost no one understands and absolutely no one can explain.  But if you parse it down to the basics:  the Court should be guided only by how it (the Constitution) was originally written.  Huh?  Whazzat?  I don’t know if you’ve recently read anything written circa 1789, but it might just sound a little strange.  And then there’s the context of the times.  When TJ and a few other old white dudes were writing in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, that, “the United States Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states and with the Indian Tribes…,” do you think he really believed that commerce with the Indian Tribes would be a big issue for us going forward? For christ’s sake, they didn’t even have casinos then. Or how about the “great compromise” language, wherein our founding worthies agreed to count slaves (other persons) as 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportionment.  Did we get the “original intent” right?  Is there any question as to the “original meaning” and “strict construction” of “other persons”?  Oh, you say, things have changed.  Yep.  You bet.  We now have toaster ovens and no longer have slaves.

I’ve never heard the big lie put to the “original intent” discussion any better than a call-in guest to one of the NPR shows recently.  Cut me a little slack here, as I don’t have her exact words, but, in essence, she said, Why should she give a flip about the original intent of anything written by a bunch of old, white guys who constitutionally permitted slavery and denied the right of women to vote?  You gotta admit that she’s got a point there.  I’d loved to have been a fly on the wall when Madison and Hamilton, for example, discussed the “original intent” of the 8th Amendment, which says in part, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment be inflicted….”  I don’t know what was considered to be excessive then, but I’d bet a lot that what Madison thought was excessive then and what a young black man busted for selling some crank thinks excessive today would be considerably different.  I can just hear the echo:  Hamilton, “James, don’t you think that putting one in stocks and flogging them may be a bit ‘cruel and unusual?'”  Madison, “No way, we do it all the time down in Virginia and no one’s ever complained.”  Hamilton, “What about hanging?”  Madison, “Been doing it for years, it’s a good way to get rid of the bad apples.”  Obviously, something has changed.  The 8th amendment now is clearly understood to preclude flogging, and hanging is also out…but giving someone a toxic cocktail of chemicals to kill them while “witnesses” watch is now okay.  BTW, the last “judicial” flogging was mandated and took place in in Delaware in 1952.  So much for “original meaning.”  Just how did flogging, relying on the constitution in 1790, move from being accepted practice by the body politic, to now being determined to be “cruel and unusual,” when the 8th amendment stands intact with no changes?

But the best example of all is the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 which validated the concept of “separate but equal” as it applied to the attendant rights of the negro race. But in 1954, the ruling of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education found that Plessy was no longer valid.  Separate schools for blacks was contrary to the Constitution and would no longer be tolerated.  It was unconstitutional.  In the interregnum between 1896 and 1954, the Constitution did not change.  It was, in 1954, exactly what it was in 1896, yet Brown completely changed the rules of the road, with respect to race in America, that had been more or less constant since 1787…or maybe better said, since the end of slavery in 1865.  The Court had now determined that the “original intent” of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution precluded the use of the Plessey doctrine of Separate but Equal.  Hmm.  The “original intent” changed.  But how could it?  Original is original, isn’t it?  No, of course not.  What changed was the views of society regarding racial relations in America, and the Court’s view reflected that change.  In the view of the Court, what ever the “original intent” of the framer’s of the 14th Amendment didn’t matter.  What mattered was what was right today.  And thank god they reflected that in their ruling.

So perhaps the best we can do with Mr. Gorsuch, is to focus less on his judicial philosophy and more on him as a human being.  What kind of person is he?  Is he well educated?  Does he have the requisite experience?  Is the sum of his life, lived to date, reflective of the kind of person we should trust to render legal judgements on the construct of our government and on fellow human beings?  If we can figure out the answer to those questions, the vote ought to be pretty easy.

 

 

 

NPD to a T

For those of you who have allowed your subscription to the American Journal of Psychiatry to lapse or, like me, who engaged in some light napping during Psych 101, let me remind you.  NPD is the working abbreviation for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The “to a T” part you will have to figure out on your own. NPD has been getting some play on the net lately, in fact, a friend of a friend just sent me an interesting piece applying NPD to a current political celebrity.  I, of course, would never do that.  Consider this, then, just an intellectual inquiry to an interesting, long ignored subject.

First let me deal with the etymology of the term “narcissism”.  It is derived from Greek, or Roman or some other mythology of antiquity.  Surely you remember that Narcissis was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope.  One of the many character flaws of Narcissus was that he refused to return the love of those who loved him.  His Nemesis, another god in the making (sound familiar) lured him to a pool of water at which Narcissus became infatuated with his own reflected image.  To cut to the chase, he ultimately did the dutch act presumably because he was so enamored of his own beauty.  He came to realize that no one would ever love him as much as he loved himself, and he lost the will to live.  And as you all know, those who had a greatly exaggerated opinion of themselves came to be known as narcissists, and voila, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder was born.    Yes, I know this is a much abbreviated version of the story, but I’m just getting to the important part and I wanted to save the space.

It doesn’t take a lot of research to determine that there exists a fairly well agreed upon definition of NPD.  It runs something like this: “NPD is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding the feelings of others.  Dr. Steve Bressert, PhD wrote in a recent article that “the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include: grandiose sense of importance, preoccupation with unlimited success, belief that one is special and unique, exploitative of others, lacks empathy, is arrogant…He went on to opine that while the resultant behaviors may have been appropriate for a king in the 16th century, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.  Hmm.  I’d say that is an overwhelming understatement.

Of course, you know that I would not leave you with only this superficial understanding of the subject.  I did the proverbial deep dive.  I went directly to the source for all things on the mentally deficient.  The well known and much appreciated DSM-5.  What?  You aren’t familiar with this tome.  DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  I dunno what the 5 is for, but if you’re in the trade and want to figure if the bizarre behavior of your patient has a name, this would be your go-to book.  So here it is, from the horses mouth…

“People with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are characterized by their persistent grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, and a disdain and lack of empathy for others…In addition, people with NPD may exhibit fragile egos, an inability to tolerate criticism, and a tendency to belittle others in an attempt to validate their own superiority.” The emphasis is mine.

It goes on, “…individuals with NPD have most or all of the following symptoms:

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  2. Fixations on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc
  3. A self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing constant admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve persona gain
  7. Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs
  8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor.

Wow, what a list.  I wonder if all symptoms are weighted equally.  For example, do you get an 8 for needing constant admiration, but only a 2 for being pompous and arrogant.  Maybe you just check the box, if you have, say, more than 6 checked you’re it.  I suspect, but don’t know, that like so many things while it may be hard to define precisely, you’ll know it if you see it.

There’s a lot of other stuff in the learned research that is referred to as associated behaviors of NPDers.  I wont try to discuss them all but one that that jumped out at me was the assertion that those with NPD “use various strategies to protect the self at the expense of others.  They tend to devalue, derogate, insult, blame others, and they often respond to threatening feedback with anger and hostility.”  Emphasis also mine.

I spent a lot of time and read what seemed to be a lot of gibberish about causation.  Let me give you an example, “Experts tend to apply a biopsychosocial model of causation, meaning that a combination of environmental , social, genetic and neurobiological factors likely play a role.”  Huh!  I think Roger the artful dodger nailed it when he said, “that ol’ boy, he was born on third base, but thought he hit a triple.”  I suspect that we’ll never know, and I’m not sure it matters.

Let me say a few words about megalomania.  It wasn’t listed in the research as an “associated behavior, but it seems clear to me that it should be.  Simply put, a megalomanic is one who has delusions of grandeur, or who believes that one is or is destined for greatness.

Perhaps my hero Bertrand Russell said it best, “the megalomanic differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved.  To this  type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.”

What worries me is if we wind up in the clutches of a megalomaniacal narcissist.  A charming power monger who will do anything, who will say anything, who will promise anything to be loved (elected).  Hmm.  Know anyone who fits this bill…to a T.

 

 

 

Why I Would Never Vote for Trump.

I’m sure that the last thing any of you, discerning readers, want is more, any more, about the presidential election, or Hillary or the Trumpster. And yes, I know that I promised that my last posting on him would be my last. But like most politicians, I lied. I cannot help myself.

I recently read an interesting piece by a reporter for that reportedly liberal rag, The New York Times, wherein he posed a question to himself. It went something like this, “Will I be able to explain to my kids that I did all that I could to make sure Trump did not become president?” For those like me who are aghast at even the remote possibility of Trump as the leader of the free world and President of the United States, this was a form of a wake up call. Have I done all I should have done? Probably not.

Yes, I’ve made my thoughts on Trump known to all who will listen, and many who won’t. I’ve written two pieces posted on my blog web site detailing many, but not all, of the negative aspects of Trump. I’ve got two Clinton, Kaine yard signs posted at my farm. I’ve hosted a fund raiser for the Fannin County Democratic Party, and cheered on down ballot candidates for the  Party. As an aside, at the aforementioned fund raiser, Glenn Maxey who is the Legislative Director of the Texas Democratic Party and who bills himself as the first openly gay Texas state legislator commented with only a hint of tongue-in-cheek that in this part of Texas it’s often easier to be openly gay than openly Democrat.

So this is my last shot at Trump. I promise. I do this advisedly, knowing full well that some who read this will be Trump supporters for reasons of their own. And in this democracy, everyone has a right to vote…for reasons of their own. I respect that. But let me tell you why you should reconsider.

THE THREE (of many) REASONS WHY TRUMP DOES NOT DESERVE YOUR VOTE :

  1. Trump discriminates.  Trump has discriminated against blacks and other racial minorities his whole life. He and his father, Fred, purposefully set up a system keep blacks from renting apartments at their properties in New York.  They did this, presumedly under the theory that the presence of “people of color” in their apartments would diminish the value of the properties.  In short, he engaged in racial discrimination to make money. Plain and simple.  Yes he settled the discrimination suit that the Department of justice brought against him without a formal admission of guilt.  But that does not change the facts of what it is clear that he did.  His on-going discrimination against Latinos is in some ways more subtle but more evil.  He conflates one undocumented  Latino who commits any crime with all Latinos and concludes the only way to solve it is to build a big, beautiful wall, and send them all home.  He discriminates against those of a different (non-christian) religion by denying them entrance to the United States.  He discriminates against the physically disadvantaged by mocking them.  The discriminates against the weak and impoverished by paying no personal income tax for needed services.  He discriminates against some women by using his celebrity to sexually abuse them.  He discriminates against all women be demeaning their humanity while focusing on their sexual attributes. More on this later.  He discriminates against the small business owner and employee for refusing to pay their legitimate bills.  He discriminates against large financial institutions by repeatedly hiding behind the bankruptcy laws to avoid repaying legal debts.  In short…Donald Trump discriminates against those he has or can get power over.  He discriminates against pretty much everyone.  Character counts.
  2. Trump objectifies and demeans women. If you do one thing before you enter the voting booth, listen again to the Access Hollywood tapes, or take a look at the video.  I’m a 73 year old male of the species and I’ve seen and heard some pretty nasty stuff.  Nothing I’ve heard even approaches these casual statements by Trump.  When caught, he passed it off as “locker room talk”, and even his wife, Melania, said in an interview it was only “boisterous” talk, you know, boys being boys.  Are you kidding?  Straight from the mouth and mind of Donald Trump…

…..”I did try to f*#k her…I moved on her like a b@#ch”

…..And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.”

…..”Grab ’em by the p@#sy.  You can do anything.”

There are only two explanations for this behavior.  Either he said it and meant it, or he was bragging.  I don’t really know which is worse.  Worse, I mean as a reflection of the depravity of his character.  If I had to bet, it would be on the first of the explanations mainly because of the supporting evidence of the twelve women who have publicly revealed his behavior towards them.  Who knows how many more there are?

Is this what we want from a president?  I think not.  Would you bring him home for dinner? I think not. Invite him to your next church social? I think not. Represent you to the world at large.  Surely not.  Character counts.

3.  Trump mocks and demeans people with disabilities.  What, you say, does this have to do with his qualification to be president.    It may say nothing directly, but it says everything about his character, or lack thereof.  Let me give you the details in case you missed it.  Serge Kovaleski, a reporter for the New York Times had commented on Trump’s assertion that there were thousands of Muslims in Jersey dancing in the streets in the aftermath of 9-ll.   Trump took his comments as an affront to his personal veracity.  Which it certainly was.  What Trump then chose to do was not to argue the “facts”, he attacked the reporter.   Kovaleski suffers from a congenital disease called arthrogryposis.  Which, over time, causes joint contractures of one’s limbs. It can be a horribly disabling and disfiguring disease.  At one of Trumps rallies in July of this year, in an apparent effort to discredit the journalism of Serge, Trump gives his own mocking impression of the aforementioned reported. He contorted his own arms and tilted his head in an effort to portray the disfigurement of the reporter. When asked later about the mocking Trump said, “I’ve never met the guy so I couldn’t be aware of his condition, if I did (ever meet him) he should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper.”  Someone who will use the physical disability of another person to their own advantage is, well, I can’t come up with the right word for it.  All I can say is that for me this behavior represents an astonishing lack of character…particularly in one who has had every advantage in life.  As the old curmudgeon said, “this ole boy was born on third base, but told everyone he had hit a triple.”  Ok.  Everyone uses hyperbole to their advantage.  We all tell a few whoppers.   Some of us more than others.  But as Obama would say, “come on now…”, no one, and I mean no one has the right to demean another human because their body isn’t perfect, or their mind isn’t sharp.  Character counts.  Character counts a lot in a president.  And Trump doesn’t have any, or what he does have, as evidenced by the recitations above, is of pretty low class.

So these, then, are my disqualifying three.  There are many more.  Most of you know what they are too.  But with only these three…I would be embarrassed, even horrified to have Donald Trump as our president.  No, if, on the off chance that he wins, I will not “pick up my musket” or encourage others to exercise “their second amendment rights”.  I will bite my tongue and encourage all elected officials and citizens to make the best of a bad situation.

Our democracy is strong enough to carry on.

 

Bloviator in Chief

Given that those who trouble to read these blogs are of inordinately high intellect, I’m sure that you not only know the definition of the key word in this title, but also could easily suss out to whom I refer.  However, in the off chance there are some small few for whom the word does not ring a bell, I offer the following definitions:

BLOVIATOR

1.  A public figure, such as a politician or an actor, who makes outlandish, strident statements on issues, thinking that the average man will care about their opinions.

2.  Someone who pontificates about issues of which they are uninformed, yet pretend to be expert.

3.  A pompous blowhard who uses their celebrity to speak about topics on which they are totally unqualified.

Yep, you got it.  This could only refer to The Donald of which much has been made of late. It’s been suggested by my editor-in-chief, with whom I share a bed, that I should not be writing about Trump for at least two reasons.  First, he is such easy pickings that to dis him is far beneath my lofty aspirations not to mention, my dignity.  I might even be accused of dog piling. Secondly, given his predilection for legal remedy, he might just sue.  The first I reject on the basis that if you can’t pick on someone like Trump, who can you ever pick on.  The second I also reject primarily; because if he didn’t sue Rosie O’Donnell….you see what I mean.

I actually know Donald Trump. Well, know might be stretching a point.  But I have  only supped with him, and during this time at table, I had a lengthy conversation with him about the state of affairs in Trump world.  Perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that I listened while Trump talked.  That’s what passes for a conversation with Trump.  I’m pretty sure though that he wouldn’t now know me from Adams house cat.  The occasion was a dinner at his private club, Mar-a-Lago for which he was trying to sell memberships so he could pay the rent.  I was accompanied by my darling wife, S.   The Donald, or Donny as his good friends call him, was in the company of his second wife, Marla Maples Trump.  S. sat at the table with Marla and I was stuck with Trump.  I was asked later what I thought, and I replied that I thought someone had really screwed up the seating chart.  No, really, I did have one important takeaway about Trump.  When he is in full charm mode he is amazing.  That, and the fact that he can talk for fully three minutes without taking a breath.

There are those small minded few who opine that Trump, who has never held elective office, is in no way qualified to be president of the US of A.  Let me offer some evidence to the contrary.  He’s rich, he has built tall buildings, he had his own TV show, and, he has a demonstrated knack for marrying really good looking women.  Still not presidential you say.  Well, let’s take a look at some of the ways he is qualified.  Take foreign policy for example.  Unlike Sarah Palin who could see Russia from her kitchen window, Trump actually has some chops in this area.   He has (at least he says he has) several hotels with International in the name i.e. Trump International Hotel and Tower  (New York City), Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago), and Trump International Hotel and Residence in Phoenix.  Plus I know he has a hotel with the Trump name on it in Panama City, Panama, as well as a hotel and golf course in Scotland.  So I guess you could say so long as we’re conducting foreign policy with the Panamanians or the Scots, he’s our man. And he’s pretty good at working International in to everything else he owns or is associated with..  The topper to his foreign policy creds is much closer to home.  His first wife, Ivana, was from the Czech Republic.  In fact, Ivana Zelnickiva Trump, who is pretty sharp in her own right, didn’t even  become a citizen until 1988.  Then there’s the current Mrs. Trump, the former Melanija Knavs who then became Melania Knauss before she became Mrs. Trump 3.  She was born in Sevnica, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, otherwise called Slovenia.  She didn’t get her US citizenship until 2006. So you can see that The Donald has had close, even intimate, relationships with foreign nationals.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that Donald’s grandfather who emigrated to America in 1885  was named Friedrich Drumph, Like many of his era; however, he was determined to Americanize, and renamed himself Fred Trump.  Hmm.  Just think, if old Friedrich had not been anxious to become more American, at least in name, we might now have Drumph International Hotel and Tower.  So you see what I mean, no one can say that The Donald lacks foreign exposure and experience.

Ok, you say.  He passes muster on the foreign credentials front.  What about the economy?  What about budgets?  Finance?  Hah!  This may, in fact, be his strong suit.  First of all he’s worth billions.  No one can seem to agree on how many billions, but come on, even one tinsy billion is proof positive that he know something about money.  And if that’s not enough, what about his four bankruptcies.  Yes, I know that they weren’t personal but rather corporate bankruptcies, but they did have his name on them and he did control them at some point in time.  Lot’s of business guys have been through or associated with a bankruptcy, but four…that’s the thing of legends.  So let’s put this to bed.  We can safely claim these were Trump’s bankruptcies, and they, as much as anything shows that Trump can travel in the financial fast lane with anyone.  Hell, he can even go nose to nose with another republican candidate, and a woman, who ran a really big company and got fired for it. Some might say that bankruptcies aren’t necessarily proof positive of Trumps’s financial knowledge, but that just shows what the average joe doesn’t know about big business and high finance.  Big bankruptcies is how America got built.  Look at the evidence.  General Motors, American Airlines, to name but two recent examples.  Those deals didn’t get done by a bunch of rubes.  It took real skills, real vision, real energy and real leadership. Just like we need in Washington to Make America Great Again.

I haven’t looked real close, but I’m pretty sure we would find that The Donald has an equally impressive background in other pressing national issues like Social Security, Health Care, Immigration, and Income inequality.  Well, maybe not Income Inequality.  He does know what it’s like to be rich, but he may lack a little insight on the other end of the pay scale.

You, of course, know that most, not all, of the foregoing was offered with tongue-well-in cheek.  Let’s return to reality and refer back to the definitions above.  Is Trump a bloviator?  You bet he is?  In fact, I was surprised that his picture didn’t appear in the dictionary beside the definition.  He targets angry people with great success, and he stokes their anger.  Trump can say less, by saying more with no substance and great pretense of anger, but with great panach.  Go figure.  I wanna know where these people in the polls come from.  Who are these angry people and why are they angry? And why would they raise their hand in public for a certified megalomaniac.  A friend who has done business with Trump over the years told me that there’s not enough room in the room for Trump and his ego.  Look, he’s not stupid, and he’s gotten a lot of complex deals done over the years, and he’s married some really good looking women.  But does that qualify him for the presidency?  Of course, not.  You know it, I know it, and I think that even the people who are raising their hands for him know it.  Hell, he probably knows it too.

Why do they do it then?  Fawn over Trump that is.  Why to they give him standing ovations at even his most inane remarks.  Lemme give you a theory.  It’s, in part, his celebrity, but the real reason is political anger.  Political anger in the raw.    It looks to me like about 25-30 percent of our voting population at any one time is so angry about something or everything having to do with (big) government, that they would vote for anyone, regardless of qualifications or positions on the issues if he/she convinced the audience that their anger was shared.  The smart guy on the fringe does it by throwing what we used to call “gorilla dust” in the air.  Stir the pot, obfuscate with ultimatums, denigrate the status quo, recall the good old days with fervor, speak only in generalities with what passes for passion, castigate the establishment, speak of destroying the elite, ruling class, and while you’re at it, get the socialists too.   Solutions aren’t necessary.  Specifics are avoided.  The undocumented immigrant problem…build a big fence.  Secure the border.  Never mind that 40 percent of all illegals in the country got here with a legal visa in hand.  The threat of ISIL…send more troops to Iraq.  Prevent a nuclear Iran…use more sanctions or bomb them and take their oil.  And above all, guns.  Guns for everyone everywhere.  Shoot first.  It’s all self defense.  The 2nd amendment says so.  I wrote about political anger in a post I”m Mad as Hell…on November 15, 2010.  In it I concluded that “…anger is closely related to paranoia, it’s the handmaiden of fear, and a first cousin of hate.”  The other conclusion I reached that political anger is less useful than it might appear because anger, even political anger is not sustainable over a long period of time.  It loses steam at some point even for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

The slice of America that has pushed Trump to the top of most polls thinks it’s a good thing that he has no experience in government. It’s good that he’s not “sweating the details”.  It’s good he will say or do anything to get attention.  The more angry Trump is, the more they like him.  That’s why he won’t be there at the end.

I’d be truly morose if I didn’t know it won’t last.  Some form of the anger will last, but Trump won’t.  Like Perot in ’92, he will sooner or later add up the numbers, and having gotten all of the notoriety he can use, will do the math and figure out that spending large chunks of his own money in a losing cause isn’t worth it.  Then he will go back to his more comfortable, normal state of fleecing investors…a truly happy man.  A bloviator to the end.