Thursday, May 30, 2019

Everybody Knows

What brings us together as Americans is far stronger than what divides us. The right-left, conservative-liberal narrative clung to by mainstream and social media moves society in the wrong direction.

It’s time—perhaps way past time—to understand that America’s naked, with its pants around its ankles politically and socially. Here’s a bucket, folks. Everybody bail.

The lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows come to mind.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded and that’s never been more true than today. It’s not right-wing left-wing, liberal against conservative. Both our national political parties co-conspired in loading those dice over the past forty years.

It began with Ronald Reagan, the great communicator. Running on “Let's make America great again," his first move was to destroy the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union, the opening gun in a successful attack on unionism in general and the decline of the middle class.

Rumsfeld and Cheney cut their political teeth in a Reagan administration so marked by scandals that over 138 officials were indicted or convicted, the largest number for any U.S. president. CIA abuses were legend and everybody knows, if only they care to look.

Then came George Bush the elder, a quite remarkable man with a sterling military career. He saw compromise as a necessary element of public life, crossed the aisle to pass important legislation, sometimes breaking with the base of his own party to accomplish what he thought was right.

We honored those principles by limiting him to one term, because he dared to raise taxes.

Before we get to Bill Clinton, just for the fun of it, just for the pure theater involved, let me take a moment to chat about a private individual who was never elected to any office, yet drove a stake through the heart of American governance. It’s an extraordinary story and everybody may not know this one.

Grover Norquist, a private man, a zealot, publicly admitted his hope to shrink government to a size where he could drown it in the bathtub. Norquist extorted congressional Republicans into signing his Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Now when I say extorted, I mean it in the literal sense of the word—to threaten and intimidate an elected member of congress. How the hell could some idiot off the street do this? Should you not sign (and 95% have since 1990), he had (and has) access to unlimited right-wing money (read that Koch Brothers and their ilk) to defeat you in the next election.

If that threat was done with a gun, the man would be in prison for life. But it’s laughably legal. Everybody knows you can’t possibly run a nation on that basis. Even Republicans know it, but they’ve been trapped like animals for nigh on to thirty years.

Onward and upward (?) to Bill Clinton.

Clinton captured the national imagination in a presidential primary debate when he walked to the edge of the stage, dropped to one knee to reach out to a welfare mother and told her “I feel your pain.” Well, that was a crock of shit, because as president he cut the welfare state to ribbons, but it worked.

If there is a theme to this somewhat lengthy exposé, it’s that rhetoric works, but it’s all song and dance. When the circus barker rolls out his pitch, the rich get rich and the poor get entertained until they go home and search their pockets.

George W. Bush, remember him? The mission accomplished guy and president everyone wanted to have a beer with.

Bush was made president by a Supreme Court decision of which they were so ashamed that they failed to put it in writing and declared that it formed no precedent. A no-precedent President, the Alfred E. Neuman of the Oval Office.

He got us into the longest wars ever fought by Americans, destroyed most of the Middle East and, along the way, embarrassed his own father by his actions and served two full terms. Internationally accused of war crimes for creating Guantanamo and Abu Graib, he ushered in the era of torture as a method of interrogation. He never saw a tax cut or social welfare dilution he didn’t approve.

But joke around or have a beer with him and it was fun.

Barack Obama promised change we could believe in and I’m sure he meant it at the time, but the times overwhelmed him.

Taking office during a national disaster not of his own doing, he was unprepared to do what needed to be done. The advice of his economic advisors (all of them with Wall Street backgrounds) was dead wrong, but the national interest was at stake and he was too new to the job.

The too big to fail banks should have been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). There is precedent for this and no banks are too large to be taken over. The process would have kicked out the banking fraudsters who got us into this criminal mess and replaced them with experienced bureaucrats. It could have and should have been done.

But instead, Obama chose to bail out the fraud and allow the fraudsters-in-charge to have another go at the crap-table banking had become. As a result, millions lost their homes and jobs, becoming prisoners of debt and interest charges while the banks (along with Wall Street) soared to new record earnings.

If you see this commentary as a liberal diatribe, you are wrong. More on that later, but we are not yet done with presidential administrations.

Donald Trump’s election was a shock, but for me it was no great surprise. 

The powder had been building there for forty years and needed very little spark to explode. The one positive I see out of his election is that he touched off that powder-keg and we now have a national emergency, rather than an armed insurrection (although Trump has threatened just that). His historic overturn of the national conversation came just in time.

Sitting in the presidential chair we have an ego without control, a fraudster, liar, practical ignoramus and possibly the most dangerous man ever to preside. He sets foreign policy on Twitter, with no sense of consequence and a thought-process entirely conceived from right-wing news. He holds no daily briefings from the intelligence community, in fact he dismisses them as well as the military as being inferior to his own ‘great intelligence.’

Donald Trump degrades the office he holds and must be removed for the sake of the republic and its traditional separations of power.

There is a process for this, but no political will to enforce it. Impeachment, so easily (and trivially in the Clinton matter) the fate of two modern presidents remains out of sight. Neither even came within a country mile of the high crimes and misdemeanors of our sitting president.

Yet Mitch McConnell, the smirking Majority Leader of the Senate has publicly announced he will not bring an impeachment article to the floor of the Senate. For blatantly political reasons, this president can do no wrong in the eyes of his party, no matter the disdain of the press, the nation as a whole and a quite panicked international community.

Thus, the House of Representatives hesitates because an election is coming up and Trump will hail no conviction as proof of his integrity and honor. We are shackled to the wall by the most dangerously incompetent president in American history.

Beyond that, my worry is that we have come to normalize Trump’s behavior. 

Well past Trump’s 10,000 confirmed lies, lying is accepted these days in an office that impeached both Nixon and Clinton for just that reason. Late Night hosts joke about it. The press accepts it as a news event.

Everybody knows it is not acceptable.

I will be accused of left-wing partisanship for having written this article and have no excuse other than having written in the much softer terms of coming together as a nation to heal our social wounds.

It simply did not work in that context. The soft, beating around the bush context in which it was written rang false and we are drowning in pretending otherwise.

I’ve personally lived in part or all of nine decades. We assassinated John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy for their truths. 

Lies fly around the world at light-speed, while truth slogs along behind, but its light never dies.

Everybody knows.

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