Friday, May 20, 2016


These days I’ll do just about anything to insulate myself from the election rhetoric and speculation and stay away from the cable news channels on TV. Thus I find myself occasionally watching shows like ‘Pit Bulls and Parolees’ or ‘Cesar 911’. 
I like dogs and I have had two dogs, Duke and Rose, as faithful companions in my life but, unlike my youngest son Michael, I’ve never succeeded in becoming a dog whisperer. I now know that showing your dog unwavering love, attention and respect while all the time asserting yourself as the ‘alpha leader of the pack’ is key to success in training a dog to be the companion you want to have. That, together with plenty of physical exercise and positive reinforcement of desired behavior (and absence of abuse and corporal punishment) will shape or rehabilitate the behavior of just about any dog that is considered aggressive, dangerous or unmanageable by their untrained owners and their community. It is amazing to see what a difference people like Cesar Millan (in Cesar 911) and Tia Torres (in Pit Bulls and Parolees) can make in the behavior of dogs who, by their owners and bystanders, are considered beyond control.

This, as a recurring nightmare, brings me back to thinking about the 2016 presidential election. It strikes me that the voters, who have brought Trump to the top of the GOP ticket and Sanders close enough to give Hillary Clinton and the DNC the jitters about a repeat of the 2008, are much like the misunderstood and mismanaged pit bulls of the dog rescue shows. If a dog’s aggressive and unruly behavior can be blamed primarily on bad treatment and neglect from its owner, so can the voters’ ballots in favor of unconventional candidates like Trump and Sanders and their disdain for conventional candidates like Bush, Clinton and Kasich, be blamed on near criminal neglect of the voters by the political establishment. So many constituencies that, together, form the American voting bloc have good reasons to be raving mad about the disregard for their plight and grievances demonstrated by the ruling political elite. It seems that all three branches of government are failing the American people at the same time, just like dog owners who don’t provide proper care and leadership to their pets are failing their ‘best friends’. None of the pressing issues facing the American public get resolved. Not the monstrous inequality, not the out of control national debt, not the immigration reform, not the addiction problems, not the cost of education or healthcare, not the unfunded future of Medicare and Social Security. The political establishment rather sticks its head in the sand than face the need for corrective action.

It is only logical then that people start looking for a dog whisperer, a pied piper, who gives them a voice and articulates their grievances. In different times and nations this would be a time for revolution, for forced quantum change in government like a military take-over or a dictatorship based in an activist power base. In contemporary America, people seem to be pinning their hopes on a dramatic change in control of the White House and are willing to place their bets on candidates that, in their words and politically incorrect behavior, promise a diametrical change in policy. That is why they flock in droves to the two populist demagogues this campaign has put forward.

But this is where the analogy with the dog whisperers ends. The dogs that end up in the care of Cesar Millan or Tia Torres are lucky to be in competent hands that have the expertise and means to rehabilitate the ones that were about to be given up on. The American people are not so lucky. If they follow the pied piper and put either Trump or Sanders in the White House, they are sure to be more malcontent and mad four years from now than they are today. And if the silent segment of the voting public prevails and brings Hillary and Bill back to the highest office in the land, the next four years will look much like the past sixteen and the frustration is likely to grow. It will make the dogs only meaner and more unruly.

What allows the dog whisperers to turn around a seemingly lost cause is the assertion of commanding leadership, supported by compassion, trust and respect for the beneficiaries of their leadership. All of that is sorely missing from this election campaign.

When, ever, has a populist demagogue become the salvation for a nation? Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines? Juan Peron in Argentina? Fidel Castro in Cuba? Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Abdul Nasser in Egypt? Lenin in Russia? Adolph Hitler in Germany? Benito Mussolini in Italy? Francisco Franco in Spain? They all found the words that soothed the pain of neglect and humiliation in their followers but they lacked the moral authority and statesmanship required to offer their people more than a band aid. To the ears of experienced listeners, the words of Trump sound so hollow, so phony, demeaning and biased and the words of Sanders, while genuine, sound so impractical and retrograde that I find it hard to believe that the voters in November will swallow them as gospel. Yet, if the voters do just that and put their trust in a modern day pied piper they put a nation at risk at a time that it needs to pull together behind a future oriented strategy to stay ahead in the global competition for economic strength and social stability.

Yes, voters have good reasons to be raving mad, but they are barking up the wrong tree.

Monday, May 9, 2016


The overriding promise that brought Donald Trump triumph in the GOP primary season is that ‘he will make America great again’. With that slogan he nailed down, with precision, the popular sentiment that so many Americans are harboring these days. It satisfies a yearning that resides deep inside the American psyche. That, of course, is what politicians do. Obama, in 2008, promised a much desired ‘change’ from the Bush attempt to lead the world. And Trump just carries this a step further and promises to make America great again. What is wrong with that? It has caught on like wildfire and upset all the conventional wisdom about American election politics. The problem is in the presumption implied in the message.

This presumption, that Trump builds his whole campaign on, is false. America is a great nation by any yardstick or measurement. It is just the American political system that stinks and—if that is the problem—Trump is the must unsuitable candidate to do something about it.

For a world power to be called a ‘leading nation’ in this age of globalization there must be a flock of sympathetic nations to lead and Trump has been doing a terrific job of alienating just about every ally we have. Admittedly, there was a time, like when Britannia ruled the waves, that a nation could lead the world simply by extension of power, but that era has come and gone. The world now looks for real, substantive, leadership in world governance, in advancing the world economy and improving the living conditions for the whole world population now and in the future.

America will safeguard and preserve its status as a great nation not by the hollow, boisterous and outrageous pronouncements by a demagogue presidential candidate but only by leading by example, by being better than any other nation in creating wealth, in protecting the environment, in attracting the world’s best talent, in respecting everyone’s culture and religious belief and in giving all of its inhabitants a fair shake. A great nation also accepts responsibility for maintaining world peace and prosperity.

A man should be taken at his word. A true leader will say what he is going to do and will do as he says. The only saving grace in the Trump ascension to the GOP throne is that, to the critical thinker, it should be clear that Trump cannot and will not, probably does not even have an intent to, deliver on his more provocative promises.

Build a wall between the USA and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it? Are we finally going to take revenge for the Alamo?

Deport 11 million undocumented aliens and then allow them to come back through the turnstiles of the INS? A sure way of wrecking the economy by taking out the workers, on the farm, in our yards and kitchens, we rely on to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do anymore.

Refuse people of the Muslim faith entry into the USA? Apart from the dubious constitutionality of such measure, do we really need more hatred, disdain and animosity from and towards the Islamic world?

Put all the mineworkers back to work? To produce coal with nowhere to go than up in the air to give nature an uninvited hand in the speed-up of naturally occurring global warming?

Bringing back waterboarding and a whole lot worse? Apart from the flaunting of American values and the dubious reliability of intelligence gained from these methods, where is he going to find the operatives in our intelligence and security forces, who have already moved beyond such counterproductive techniques, to apply torture in defiance of rules of conduct applied to them?

Revoking NAFTA and other major trade agreements? Can we really afford to ‘go it alone’ in a globalized environment and leave it to China to sign up the trade partners that we now reject? Do we simply ignore the overwhelming evidence that free and fair trade, as a rising tide, lifts all boats?

Reject the nuclear deal with Iran and give the Iranians a clear, unimpeded path, to deployment of their own nuclear arsenal?

It is true that, by the wisdom of our constitution, there is only so much that the President can do on his own and, if elected, Trump will find that he will have to eat crow on most everything he has declared he will do when in office. But, if people are concerned about Obama constantly testing the limits of executive power, wait until you have Trump, who is used to getting it his way in his empire, in his place. And, just by his ‘policy’ statements he can do a world of harm if he does not change his tune once he would occupy the White House.

Ultimately, for the USA to remain the leading nation, it will require a functional system of government in which the executive and legislative branches come together to address the real needs of the nation that are currently unattended to, even as they are at the root of the restlessness of the voting public we see in the emergence of unconventional candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.