The Limitations of Leadership
Everyone Doesn't Yet Love One Another
People from Chicago who visited the Chicago Historical Society (at least in my day) know full well that before the fateful night at the Ford's Theater, Lincoln was a newspaper subject of great mirth. Professional cartoonists had a field day. It lasted all the way through the Civil War right to his death bed. Well, that is the way people are. Or, maybe people who make their living in the media. It must have been hard to resist. Lincoln never quite looked right. It was as if he were part-primate, unevolved. Today, people say he suffered from a disease that disfigured his face. Then, there was the fact that he was tall and gangly, not, in today's terms, buff. The main fact about his administration was that the whole time the nation was literally divided. One can make faint, faded, outlandish, but arguably relevant comparisons to what Obama had to go through. He dealt constantly with "divisiveness". Eventually, it became apparent that there were many who hated him. Also, there were others for whom he spoke and acted. They are eternally grateful. Nonetheless, I am surprised he won a second term. Trump conferred upon Romney no end of derision for having let it happen, as though it were his fault. But what is becoming clear is that even if the power is there, as well as the money, not to mention the worthiness of the candidate, the votes might not. To win them is not easy. That is, I suppose, a great understatement. But it needs to be said.
If the White House were a classroom or a professor's lounge, I would promote Obama to either Valedictorian or teacher of the year. He speaks intelligently and compassionately. He is knowledgeable. I also prefer peace to war. I, too, want to believe that Islam, in any form, is not a threat. All the same, the world is truly falling apart. No global, peace dividend is in sight. Dreck. There are those from a previous generation who praised both Roosevelt and Churchill merely on the basis of their being able to talk to the masses, mostly on radio, and keep up their spirits. But there is no world war to justify a likeminded gabfest. However, one hastens to add that talk can be, in instances, far superior to bullets. At the moment, there is plenty to fight about. So much so that at some point in the near future the new president and the pentagon will have to prioritize America's interests. Since Trump is running a great deal on domestic issues, primarily sealing the open border in the south, I would expect it to get the most attention -- if he wins. All the same, I could be wrong.
The 2nd President of the U.S.
Speaking to a younger generation, the presidency has encountered little friction. Today he goes to Cuba, something no president in living memory would dare do. It has not been that long since the Cold War, and Cuba was never more than a chief exporter of hatred for America, as Castro's fulminations made clear. One can only ascribe to the president a sense of unearthly mission, to not just cross 90 miles to Cuba from the Florida coast, but storm the heavens as well. For a long time, Cuba has not been on the side of the angels. The main point is that his move is hardly an example of leadership. It is more the action of someone clutching a strong opinion, hoping to convert others to a futuristic ideology. Most of us will stay at home on the mainland, or up in Alaska, and, for the lucky, over in Hawaii. Our hearts and minds will not make the trip either. We shall wait and see. We are not all for one, one for all with a Cuban-friendly president. Only his key supporters cheer him on. Time will tell.
Fidel Castro has never been fully exonerated for the Kennedy assassination. His regime was likely involved in many assassinations. His penchant for high profile public trials and inevitable executions needs no proof. His complicity with the U.S.S.R. to undermine the United States, coming close to its destruction in 1962, is also a matter of record. But that was then. This is now. At present, Cuba is likely mixed up with drug cartels. Still, we cannot hold grudges. We must build bridges, not walls. I would not want to re-open wounds that are mending on their own rather slowly. What it comes down to is another viewpoint that is not Eurocentric or derived from traditional antecedents. Obama is probably not hard to figure were we privy to his slightly more Afrocentric inner circle. He cannot possibly be acting entirely on his own. Nor has he fully explained his brave, new program for re-tooling America, which, obviously, includes repairing relations with Cuba. But what for? It once sent us boatloads of convicts, and America has, admittedly, imposed sanctions on the island country for a prolonged period of time. Cuban involvement in 9/11 also cannot be ruled out.
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Tears For Our Persecutors
Hardest of all for Americans during the last eight years has been the appeasement of people who do not just want to kill us but make us suffer as well. It is all very nice to speak with sincere friendship to the citizens of hostile nations or formerly hostile nations. True enough, we bear them no malice. But is this Realpolitik? Israel, as much as it tried, could not root out Hamas from Gaza without injury to children and old people. Terrorists are particularly adept at the use of human shields. All this and so much else is being left to the next administration, unless there will be a continuation of what can only lead to the decline and fall of the United States. I also wish no harm on innocents. It is a terrible risk to take in the attempt to crush an enemy. The question is only how much longer can we adhere to a policy of see no, hear no, feel no evil?
Recently, I received a comment on Facebook asking me if I blamed Obama for just about everything. I don't. I think the revolt against America as we once knew it began with the Clinton administration. It was during this period of time that it became fashionable for politicians to apologize for the United States. Incidentally, I do not blame Clinton. But he made it possible for a successor to go even further, and now, as can be seen on television, we have the unique opportunity to sympathize with people who supported a dictatorship accurately defined as thoroughly anti-American. Just now I read on the BBC that Russia has issued the U.S. an ultimatum regarding Syria. Putin has taken the next logical step. Such a thing was once unthinkable. It comes as Obama promenades down a primrose path with Raul Castro. I could go farther, but this is neither the place nor time.
2009 Interview of President Obama
Today is not yesterday, and so on. I know for certain that the United States of 2016 bears only a passing resemblance to the United States of twenty-five or fifty years ago. Its values, however, should be exactly the same. They are independent of technology and fads. But people have changed. Events, life-styles, issues, and so much else besides, have altered their behavior and various dispositions. Just as Rome evolved from a high-minded Republic into a low, predaceous Empire, so has America become new again, as well as different. In fact, compared to Rome, it has gone the other way. I has retreated from what was considered imperialism. Over the past eight years, it deliberately refused to be aggressive and became more passive, talkative, and stoical. Right now, it would be surprising if it could fly, sail, or land anywhere on distant soil and overwhelm an army sufficiently equipped and indoctrinated. Small armies have frequently overcome larger ones, especially adding in to the equation the key advantage of knowing the terrain. An undesirable outcome would not be anything new. But domestic defense is perhaps another story.
As an increasingly isolated country, by choice, America has the means to repel invasions of many kinds. We have Homeland Security, the NSA, as well as other organizations with both intelligence and materiél. Supercomputers and sophisticated databases can keep track of the ordinarily chaotic flux and flow of life. We can stop massacres, both homegrown and imported. All that is needed is the go-ahead, since the means to accomplish as much require extraordinary measures. Why not monitor armed citizens? Why not deny privacy to international communications, usually harmless and routine? Why not focus on defending the nation? Belgium has failed. So has France. The U.S.A. must entertain not only the possibility of an externally staged attack, but the likelihood of numerous, diverse protests getting out of hand, and internal discord erupting into sectarian violence. Neither Trump nor Clinton are unifiers. There are tensions up ahead whichever way the wind blows.
Anti-Trump Rally in Chicago
Leadership is Dead, Long Live Leadership
Leadership in America generally sputters out. With some leaders, it never quite catches fire. With most, leaders must be content with followers and detractors, if he or she is lucky, in equal amount. It is fashionable to criticize men and women of high office. They are parodied on Saturday night. Late on weeknights, their words and deeds bring peals of laughter. America is the entertainment capital of the world. It is peerless. So, Obama (who has a fine sense of humor, too) is on the way out. Only a few on either side of the aisle compete for the top spot. Things are in limbo. A supreme court justice awaits appointment. The Middle East and defense of Israel are academic subjects for speechwriters. Will wages be increased? Will the Federal Reserve raise rates? Will the housing market finally recover? Will the stock market collapse? How will the dollar fare? Will China create economic panic? Education, homelessness, immigration, pipelines, ecological protection, or toxic destruction . . . you name it. These are some of the topics that live on. Leadership dies only to be reborn.
It seems as though Obama has begun his post-presidency a bit earlier than expected. That is the way it is today. Things happen faster than in the past. He has already become an excellent ambassador of good will. Very useful, since most sitting politicians cannot mingle openly with vile and oppressive leaders. It makes sense to keep up a dialogue, even with fiends. Trump, by now, would already be celebrating, except that his steep rise in popularity has met stiff resistance. We must have leadership. No formidable nation goes without. But for a while there will be a lull. It happened to just about every administration within memory. The presidency is not made to last. People tend to get mad at the end, too. A lot of the talk, on screen and off, or electronically or not, is negative. It might also be true that we never know who was good or bad until the years go by and re-evaluations and revisions hit the presses.
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