05 July 2016


One thing I like about the internet is that it exposes me to some people who are really, really smart.  Misguided, but really smart.  I try to bring them back to the true path, but alas…..

And occasionally—occasionally—they even make me consider that, as hard as it is to imagine, maybe I’m, well, not wrong, nevah hachee, GI, but maybe an order of magnitude or two from being as right as I ought to be.

One of those really smart people is Professor William (Beau) Weston, the Van Winkle Professor of Sociology at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. (If Centre sounds familiar, it is because it was the host to the 2000 and 2012 Vice Presidential debates.)

Now, before I go any further, I ask you to go on over to Professor Weston’s blog, Gruntled Center,  and read his 4 July 2016 piece entitled “Brexit Leaders Quit When They Realize What A Mess They Have Made” .  And remember how you got there.  You will probably want to go back from time to time.  As I said, he does his damnedest to keep me humble--which is not as hard as it sounds, because he is a really good writer, and wicked smart, to boot.  

Then c’mon back over here, because what follows is my reply and a whole lot more.

Welcome back, and awaaaaaay, we go!

I agree with Professor Weston in principle, which puts me in an awful quandary. 

First, I must say that I am not so certain that, concerning the British exit from the European Union, the alarmists are not just yelling fire in a crowded theater in which there is no fire.  Look how happy all the talking heads have been in the past two weeks.  To think that one can project the long-term results of the British exit in only ten days seems to me to be yet another example of punditry run amok. 

However, his cautionary note about the upcoming American elections is valid. Our political system is badly damaged. As an infantryman, I was tempted to say FUBAR, but that is probably excessive.  But it IS about about to leave us with no good choices to fill the office of President. 
I cannot imagine myself voting for Mr. Trump, but I will not vote for Senator Clinton, "wouldn't do it if you (well, not you, Prof--you probably do not have one), if someone had the apocryphal cocked and loaded pistol to my head."  And a vote for anyone else is almost assuredly a vote for the Senator.
I had the same emotional struggle in 1976, and made the worst mistake of my life when I voted for a man who delayed and delayed the plans to rescue our hostages because the Joint Chiefs would not give him a written promise that no Iranians would be killed or injured in the process!  

The late Professor Roger J. Champagne, my honors American History professor at Illinois State in 1964,  suggested that a major, perhaps the major, cause of the Civil War was the failure of the American political system to put real leaders into office in the 12 years prior to the election of 1860.  It is now 28 years since we have had such a President, and looking at what we have to select from this year, President Lincoln's reputation as the greatest President since George Washington is pretty safe.  Shoot, these two duds make Jimmy Carter and Warren G. Harding look attractive.   

So, where is the American political leader with the courage to stand up and say to the American people: 

We are in a mess.  I want to fix the mess. I need you to work with me.   Here's how we--you and I--are going to do it.  The first thing we say to our representatives and senators in Congress, is "Lead, follow, or get the Hell out of the way.  If you refuse to be part of the solution, then you ARE the problem."
Now, my fellow Americans, this is where your hard work comes in.  If you join with me in this Great Crusade, you are going to have to play fair with your representatives and senators.  You see, we are going to have to demand of them that they do some really scary stuff—for politicians.  What I am going to ask of you and of them is that we toss overboard a lot of the political wreckage that has littered the deck of our ship of state in the past 28 years.  And you have to let them know that if they take up the challenge, if they agree to work together to move us forward, you will resist the temptation to listen to the interest groups that have done so much damage to our nation.  That when some of the things they have to do will cause some temporary pain to you, individually and personally, you will not retaliate. 
It is time for the bankers and the union bosses and the talking heads of the media, and all the special interest groups who want to use us to test their latest wacky ideas—from unisex bathrooms to new forms of corporate welfare—to get out of our way as we start looking out for the citizens of this great nation. 
You know, it has always offended me that all the people who want you and me to sacrifice to test those ideas, especially those who claim to be interested in the poor, the uneducated or under-educated, the people with real illnesses and real disabilities, what those of us who practice the Christian faith will recognize as “the least of these, our brothers and sisters,” are commanding six and seven figure incomes.  You have to wonder--whose interests are they really furthering? 
And because I want to be your President, and the Constitutional Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, I’ll open the bidding.  If you elect me, I will accept no salary greater than the base pay of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  And because the highest possible pay of our most senior military officers is actually limited to about 75 percent of the pay table maximum, that is all I will take.  And you’ll be throwing in a pretty nice house, so I won’t need the housing allowance we give our troops. 
All in all, I figure that I’ll “struggle and have to live on” less than one-third of the well over half a million dollars of your taxes that President Obama is squeaking by on.  And I’ll make sure I pay taxes on every dime of it. 
And so will anyone who serves on my cabinet.  The idea that service to our Nation doesn’t require sacrifice is going to be obsolete.   Oh, I can hear my opponent calling me unrealistic, saying that I won’t be able to get “the best and the brightest” because they can make more in the private sector.  
OK.  The best and the brightest we have had for the last 25 years don’t have a very good track record, anyway.    I guess we will just have to muddle along without them, that I’ll just have to get by on the advice of people who are in it to serve you.  Your public servants should want to serve, not profit, from serving you. 
Now, what comes next.  If you elect me, my primary domestic programs will be fixing the economy so that people can get back to work.  
To do that, in my first 100 days, I will propose a re-institution of Glass-Steagall, the act that split investment banks from what you and I think of as banks.  It is time for the gamblers to gamble with their own money, not with yours.  
In the longer term, I will propose a complete revision of our tax laws; I will propose that any federal income tax will start at dollar one, so that every citizen has a stake in ensuring that federal spending is absolutely necessary.   If we can convince you that we need twenty-five percent of every dollar you earn to run this government, that is what everyone will pay.  But if you decide that we need a nice Chevy of a government rather than a big flashy Caddy, you will have to accept the fact that a lot of the bread and circus programs that have been placed on your shoulders since 1932 may have to go.
Entitlement programs may have to be cut--real entitlement programs, the gift of a generous people to its own citizens.  NOT SOCIAL SECURITY AND NOT MEDICARE.  These are not entitlement programs!  To every citizen who was forced to pay social security and medicare taxes every working day of their lives, I promise you that not only will those programs remain in effect--at current levels--but we will act as if every Congress since the 73d Congress in 1932 had done the right thing by treating the Social Security taxes as an investment rather than a slush fund. 
And the same goes for our military retirees.  Your nation promised you certain benefits you earned by serving.  We will treat our promises as promises and our well-intentioned gifts as gifts.  And, for those who say this is unfair, that we are discriminating in favor of workers and soldiers, I will say to them what I said to a law-school classmate of mine who admired the benefits that would be mine IF I survived 20 years (or more in my case) of military service.  "You are absolutely right.  Let's go see a recruiter so you can get the same deal."  It turned out that those benefits were not really all that great and his plans for his future did not include the possibility of being killed or wounded or sent to some really unpleasant places, populated with unpleasant people who were trying to kill him. 
 Let's keep going
So, let's now take a look at foreign relations, I am all for free trade.  In the first 100 days, I will propose a Trade Reciprocity Act in which we will effectively adopt as our own the trade regulations of each of our trading partners.  If they impose discriminatory conditions to the importation of our American goods, services, products, businesses and, ultimately, workers, we will apply their very own rules and schedules to anything they want to export to us.  Or if they sell to a third party for sale to us, we will consider the third party to be the same as the originator.  What could be fairer?
Each nation's products will be welcome here, so long as they understand that if they subsidize their farmers and manufacturers so that our goods are more expensive to their own people, we will ensure that there is a tariff on their goods will make their goods as expensive as our own.  But not a penny more.  No protectionism, just fairness.
If they decide to pay their workers substandard wages, we will add back in the added cost of the fair wages we pay our own people. 
Next, when I was a young officer of Marines, there was a stretch of time when the national pastime of many Middle Easterners was kidnapping American citizens and holding them for months or even years.  A classmate of mine was serving in the Middle East on a joint US-Soviet peacekeeping force.  He told us how, one night, a couple of thugs who we had been assured by the host government  they could not identify made a mistake.  They kidnapped a Soviet citizen.  Soviet assets promptly tracked the kidnappers down, killed them, and got their citizen back.  They had to “use  up” a couple of the host government’s people to get the information they needed, but, by golly, it turned out that the host government knew exactly who the bad guys were and where they were hiding. 
Therefore, I will also announce as a new American Doctrine the following:  an attack on this Nation or any of its citizens, whether at home or abroad, by any person, entity or group that has any connection whatsoever, no matter how minor, with any foreign nation will be considered an attack on the United States by that nation and we will respond with the full power of the United States.   Get your houses in order, control the terrorists in your midst, or we will not only do it for you--we may have to level your house in the process!  Your choice.
Finally, the American frontier closed nearly 130 years ago.  As the great American historian Frederick Jackson Turner predicted, we are at a point in which, as historians, we can see that our spirit as a nation has withered and begun to devolve into a balkanized society of hyphenated Americans. 
We, as a Nation, have always had the blood of misfits flowing in our veins.  We are descended from people who said, “We can do better, we'll start a Country of our own”--and we did it!  But we have been resting on our laurels and that can only lead to the end of the American Dream. 
Accordingly, in my inaugural address, I will announce that it is the policy of the United States to put American pioneers on the planet Mars and bring them safely home by the end of the year 2030.  To do so, we will ensure that our colleges and universities have the wherewithal to provide a federally funded education in any field of endeavor that will further meeting that target. 
Understand, fellow citizens, any young American who wants to study some arcane field of study that may further general knowledge—Medieval French Literature, any of the  “Studies” degree (pick your own adjective), Sports communications-- will be free to do so, at his or her own expense. But we need engineers, and scientists, technicians, and doctors and nurses and educators and social workers and historians to bring our Nation back to where it can be a leader in creating our own experts, rather than robbing other countries of their best and brightest. 
The benefits to our Nation will be tangible.  The miniaturization that led to computers such as the i-phone, cardiac pace-makers, artificial joints and limbs that are more than a peg leg or a hook, was developed to get us to the Moon.  We got Teflon and new fire and wear resistant fabrics, and MRIs and CAT scans from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  And we will use federal aid to elementary, secondary, and college education. to create a society that will take us to the next frontier.
Finally, I will direct the Department of Education to do two things. 
First, it will present to me, within 60 days of my inauguration, proposed model legislation to transfer its functions to the individual States.   Second, it will present to me a plan to disestablish itself within one calendar year. 
We cannot afford to spend tens of millions of dollars each year on a Department of Education that does not educate a single child.  From our earliest days, from the days of the Articles of Confederation which preceded the Constitution, education has been a State responsibility.  The Northwest Ordinance actually provided an incentive to State and local control of education.  It is time to give that back to the people who know best what is needed to properly educate their children.  Oh, the Teachers Unions and the Government Employees Unions may complain, but folks, you and I are going to take the education of our children, the citizens who will govern our great Nation when we take our well-deserved rest, out of the hands of the Union bosses and put it back into the hands of the parents and neighbors of our children.
It will not be easy.  It will require sacrifice from each of us.  A dear friend of mine once observed that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago.  The next best time is today.”  Likewise, because no one planted the necessary trees for us 25 years ago, we have to work in the open, with no shade. We may not see the final greatness that this Great Crusade can bring because it will take time, but if we do not take the first steps together, now, who will.”
Join me, as we take the first steps into the great future that can be  ours.

1 comment:

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