Congratulations, Mr. President

Way back in the 20th century, before journalists could write their copy on the commuter train, click an icon,  and have it arrive at the newsroom before they did, important, time-sensitive stories were written in advance.  In those days, the unforgiving mechanics of producing an early edition newspaper or the Evening News etched all deadlines in stone.   Miss a deadline, and your career could be written on a tombstone – sometimes literally.  So things like celebrity births, obituaries and most anything else that was invariably going to happen, were written, sometimes weeks, sometimes even months before the event.  In fact, one of the first assignments any junior, junior copywriter, with nothing to do, was given was obituaries (not writing them, updating them; the second-most boring job in the world*.)  Then, when the inevitable happened, the completed copy was hauled out, tweaked to reflect whatever current conditions applied, and published — as if it were fresh off the presses.    Even sports championships — and, yes, presidential elections results — were written long before the outcome was ever decided.  Obviously, since there are winners and losers to such things and two sides to every story, good journalists would have copy ready for whatever outcome.  Therefore, and with a tip of the hat to the Chicago Tribune, I wrote two blogs last week to cover yesterday’s presidential election.

In one of the closest elections in US history, Republican challenger Mitt Romney managed to squeak out a victory over President Barack Obama and take over the White House.  Even in a deeply divided nation, it’s clear that the American people did not trust President Obama for another four years.  Mitt Romney’s increasingly moderate stance was enough to unseat the incumbent.  Now, the real work can begin.

The president faces some severe challenges.

The American economy is still faltering.  The #1 priority must be jobs.  The unemployment rate is hovering close to double digits in some places: this is unacceptable.  There must be a clear and immediate strategy that not only kick-starts the market place but also instills long-term confidence.  Therefore, the first thing the president needs to do is author a budget that deals with the fiscal cliff that America now faces.  America can no longer think it can borrow itself out of debt.  It must control its own trade, reduce the trade deficit, abandon the worn-out smokestack industries of the 20th century and educate its young people to fill the needs of the 21st.  And right now, as of yesterday, the president must convince an overtly conservative congress to set aside its social agenda and resolve to solve this economic crisis — now.  If he doesn’t do that nothing else matters.

So, Mr. President, it’s time to get on with it.  Good luck!

In one of the closest elections in US history, President Barack Obama managed to fend off Republican challenger Mitt Romney to remain in the White House.  Even in a deeply divided nation, it’s clear that the American people trust President Obama for another four years.  Mitt Romney’s increasingly moderate stance was not enough to unseat the incumbent.  Now, the real work can begin.

The president faces some severe challenges.

The American economy is still faltering.  The #1 priority must be jobs.  The unemployment rate is hovering close to double digits in some places: this is unacceptable.  There must be a clear and immediate strategy that not only kick-starts the market place but also instills long-term confidence.  Therefore, the first thing the president needs to do is author a budget that deals with the fiscal cliff that America now faces.  America can no longer think it can borrow itself out of debt.  It must control its own trade, reduce the trade deficit, abandon the worn-out smokestack industries of the 20th century and educate its young people to fill the needs of the 21st.  And right now, as of yesterday, the president must convince an overtly conservative congress to set aside its social agenda and resolve to solve this economic crisis — now.  If he doesn’t do that nothing else matters.

So, Mr. President, it’s time to get on with it.  Good luck!

*To keep their insanity, one of the universal activities of junior, junior copywriters was to produce humourous future obituaries of the rich and famous, that got hilariously passed around the newsroom.  Unfortunately, sometimes these Twainesque gems found their way into print.  Once, in the 1980s, Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater, was admitted to hospital for routine surgery.  In the rush to make the Early Edition, nobody bothered to read the single-column, front page, puff-piece which erroneously reported that “Barry” had been eaten by a lost colony of hippies. The results were national embarrassment for a self-conscious desert newspaper and a spectacular career in investigative reporting stalled (Read “fired”) before it ever got started.

American Election: Finally

In less than 48 hours, the American election will be over – finally.  It seems like they’ve been campaigning in the US forever.  However, it hasn’t been that long, really.  In fact, with a few minor interruptions, they’ve only been going at it south of the 49th parallel since Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796.  That’s just a little over 200 years – nothing serious.

Actually, America is in permanent political mode because it is serious.  Like it or not, politics is what makes the world go round and when practiced properly, it is a wonder to behold.

As I’ve said before, democracy is one of the few things that puts purple in my prose.  I can’t help it.  I love being able to stand up before God and everybody and say what I think.  I like knowing that nobody — NOBODY — can shut me up without good and sufficient reason.  I like to wax eloquent on a Thursday afternoon on the perils of progressive thinking — simply because I can.  My political system – democracy – let’s me do that and more.  It makes me, just another skinny kid from the hood, a political wiseass as equal as everybody else in the halls of power.  My voice is not a hesitant whisper; it’s spoken-word arrogance.  I can, and do, say and write things, that half the world would be imprisoned for – probably without a trial – and I do it boldly.  My democracy allows me that luxury and just about every other luxury I enjoy.  Not only can I think as I please and speak as I please, but, within recognized social limits, I can do as I please, eat as I please, dress as I please and go wherever in hell I want to.  I can work, learn, teach, fart and fornicate in any manner I so choose; nobody’s going to cut off my hands or stone me to death because of it.  I can Google my leaders and, with one mighty click, find out who they are, what they are and whether they’re scoundrels or not.  No self-important party apparatchik can stop me.  But most importantly, I can incite my fellow citizens to join me at the ballot box and, in a single afternoon, calmly and quietly change the political landscape faster and more effectively than any revolution every could.  That, boys and girls, is the pure unadulterated power that every wannabe dictator or demagogue fears and respects.

Tomorrow the great tribes of America will gather together and demonstrate that power.  Despite what many Americans think, the USA is not the only democracy in the world, but, despite what many people outside the US choose to believe, it is the most effective.  American elections, constant as they are, fuel democracy.  They continually force public servants to account for their service; to stand before their employer, the American people, and explain themselves.  As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

Whatever happens tomorrow, it is the election itself that is a testament to the tenacity of democracy.  Of course, in a country so clearly divided as America is right now, the results (whatever they are) will bring out the worst in somebody’s sour grapes.  Ironic, isn’t it — that people would complain about the very thing that guarantees them the luxury of that complaint?  But that’s how democracy works; that is the beauty of it — the very essence.  It applies itself to everybody — whether they appreciate it or not.

Election 2012: The Real Debate

About the only talking point worth talking about from Monday night’s presidential debate, was nobody played “Beat Up the Moderator!”  Given the amount of flak Jim Lehrer and Candy Crowley took in the first two debates, I’m surprised.   I was looking for Bob Schieffer to show up wearing Kevlar underpants — especially since he’s a known associate of the ever-demonized George W. Bush.  However, Bob’s boy bits remained safe, and that set the tone for the evening.  Neither candidate went for the goolies, although both could have and probably should have.  In the end, it was Obama’s “horses and bayonets” zinger that carried the day, and nobody but Romney partisans is saying the Republican won.  However, the only thing the American people actually learned Monday was President Obama can still argue heaven is hell with the devil and end up with Beelzebub bringing him a cold beer.

In an increasingly war weary America, it’s no wonder both candidates stayed away from talking foreign policy during a foreign policy debate.  In a race that’s this close, nobody wants to be the guy bringing the bad news – especially if your name is Romney.  It’s too late now to do chapter and verse (Barack Obama has left the building) but Mitt missed just about every opportunity he had to score points on the Commander-in-Chief – up to and including the recent debacle in Benghazi.  I don’t think either candidate mentioned President Obama’s drone war on terrorism, and hypothetical or not, Israel is not going to go quietly into an Iranian nuclear nightmare.  These things are real and immediate, and they’re not going to go away (jobs or no jobs in Ohio.)  They need to be talked about.  Certainly by the two guys who think they can handle this kind of action for the next four years — especially since the last four haven’t exactly been a Golden Age in American diplomacy.

The problem is American foreign policy means a lot more to the rest of the world than it does to anybody west of Kennebunkport.  It’s a common fallacy that America wants to beat the rest of the world into submission.  They don’t.  They want to barbeque and watch the ballgame.  (Bless You Boys!)  Actually, especially in times of domestic crisis, Americans don’t worry about what goes on outside their borders.  Throughout most of their history they’ve been confirmed isolationists, trying (as Washington and Jefferson told them) to avoid foreign entanglements.  They don’t honestly care about Syria or Pakistan or even Afghanistan. The only reason it even comes up on the panel is voters have relatives “somewhere” over there getting shot at.  To the average Joe (and Jane) on the American street, the world outside the U. S. of A is either a tourist destination or a wretched place full of angry people who hate them – and they’re not far wrong.  Besides, contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t hold a grudge (they don’t have the attention span) and now that they “got” Bin Laden, they could care less about Aleppo, Abbottabad or the Khyber Pass.  Their major concern is when are Dolores and Delmar coming home?

I think it was James Carville who helped Bill Clinton coin the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” and that’s squarely where this election lies.  It’s all about Alvarez’s job, not Ahmadinejad’s bomb — and rightly so.  The fact is, unless one of these guys can stop the economic hemorrhaging in the next four years, foreign policy won’t even be on the agenda, because somebody else will be running the world.