Quick Thoughts on Hillary and Trump before the Debate

Hail Caesar!

W.J. Astore

Sorry, I have no special insight into tonight’s debate.  I’m guessing Hillary will win based on points, but that Trump will also win by being present on the same stage.  More celebrity than politician, more showman than man of substance, Trump knows how to control his own image. Hillary will command the facts; Trump will command the audience’s attention.  It’s a win-win for them but a lose-lose for America.

I had a strange dream last night.  I dreamed that Trump arrived at the debate, riding a chariot and posing as Caesar.  And the audience applauded.  I was desperate to ask a question (yes, I was in the audience, don’t ask me how), and got the chance.  I said something like this: “I was in the military for 20 years, serving my country, yet you, Donald Trump, dodged the draft during the Vietnam War.  You claim to be on the side of veterans, but you arrive here dressed as Caesar, as a conquering hero, even though you yourself never served.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  Have you no shame?”

I swear: I rarely remember my dreams, and those that I do remember have nothing whatsoever to do with presidential politics.  In my waking hours, I don’t think of Trump as Caesar.  He’s more of a Nero, a deeply flawed narcissist who will fiddle while America burns.

Hillary raises different issues.  I keep seeing, both in print and on TV, the argument that Hillary is imperfect, secretive, compromised by special interests, a person of questionable judgment, but that we must vote for her simply because SHE’S NOT TRUMP.  Trump is so bad, such a hazard to democracy, the argument goes, that we must swallow the jagged big pill that is Hillary, no matter how painful that pill may prove, simply because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

It’s sad indeed that some people’s best (only?) argument for Hillary is that SHE’S NOT TRUMP. For me, I can’t get past the Democratic Party’s efforts to rig the primary process in her favor against a true populist with integrity, Bernie Sanders.  It’s Bernie, not Hillary, who should be running against Trump, but the Democratic Party establishment determined from the beginning that Hillary, not Bernie, would be its nominee.

Of course, both parties, Republican and Democrat, want to keep alternatives from us.  The shameful part of tonight’s debate is that Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green) are excluded.  In short, there will be no “debate” tonight in any meaningful sense of that word. Instead, we will get a narrow discussion of establishment views with considerable jousting and posturing (and perhaps some mugging from Trump), generating some heat but precious little light.

Yes, I will watch the debate.  I just hope some version of my dream of Caesar’s rapturous appearance doesn’t come to pass.

A Nixon Quote Explains the Root of So Many U.S. Foreign Policy Blunders

Giving war a chance
Giving war a chance

W.J. Astore

On 30 April 1970, 45 years ago this month, President Richard M. Nixon ordered an invasion into Cambodia.  Explaining his reasoning for widening the war in Southeast Asia, Nixon declared:

If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions.” [Emphasis added]

So much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, then and now, is frightfully worried about appearing weak, helpless, impotent.  The solution, then and now, is military action.  They all want to be Caesars, if only in their own besotted minds.  As Shakespeare had Cassius say about Caesar:

he doth bestride the narrow world/Like a colossus, and we petty men/Walk under his huge legs and peep about/To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

America, to its image-conscious imperators like Nixon, must bestride the world like a well-hung giant, while little foreigners gasp in awe at the shadow cast, especially when aroused.

Think about John McCain’s fervent desire to bomb Iran, as Dan White deconstructed here. Think about George W. Bush’s transparent desire to play the conquering hero in the Middle East, ending Saddam Hussein’s reign once and for all in Iraq in 2003.  Recall here the words of Henry Kissinger when he was asked about why he supported the invasion of Iraq, when it was clear that country bore no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. “Because [attacks on] Afghanistan wasn’t enough,” Kissinger replied.  Radical Islam had humiliated the U.S. at 9/11, and now it was our turn to strike back harder and to humiliate them. That simple.

As America’s foreign policy establishment continues to struggle with radical Islam and instability in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere, don’t expect any strategic retreats or retrenchment.  Don’t expect wisdom.  Don’t expect a containment policy that might allow radical Islam to burn itself out.  No.  Expect more military strikes, more troops, more weapons, more impassioned speeches about holding the line against barbarians determined to end our way of life.

Why?  In part because it’s far easier for insecure men to lash out as a way of compensating for their impotence and growing irrelevance.  Acting tough is the easier path.  Having patience, demonstrating forbearance, knowing when to sheath the sword, requires a quieter strength and a more confident sense of self.

You would think the “most powerful nation on the planet” with “the world’s best military in all of history” would have such quiet strength and confidence.  But remember that Nixon quote: No matter how big and strong we are, we can’t afford to look tiny and weak.

Bombs away.