"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Like Watergate? That was then, this is now

My father reminded me of some wisdom from time to time: "Analogies are dangerous." This is reflected in Godwin's Law: Do not compare anything bad today with Hitler and the Nazis. Sean Spicer had to backtrack on a statement because of this. It is an amateur's mistake in Washington D.C. to say that any current thing is like the Nazis. Hitler and the Nazis were unique.
I'm bringing this up now because of comparisons being drawn with Watergate. It's so easy to talk like this. An administration is on the ropes for lots of suspicious behavior. So the media begin spewing out this meme that it's rather like Watergate again. Except that it isn't, except in the obviously superficial way: an administration is in trouble. Watergate was what it was.
I feel as though I'm transplanted to the summer of 1973. Headlines peeled away all sorts of layers of Watergate in that distant summer. How distant? I was fresh out of high school, having crossed the stage to accept my diploma at the 1968 gym. The times were far less optimistic than they are now.
Our current scandal with the Trump people hasn't even put a dent in the financial markets. I theorize that the direction of the financial markets in the near future will do much to determine if the Trump regime will collapse. Here's another old saying: "If you wait long enough, the bears are always right." My father probably never said that because he was never into stocks.
America was dragged down severely by our experience in the Viet Nam war. Imagine having to worry about being drafted and sent to Viet Nam. We cannot predict how the current travail with the Trump administration - affinity with Russia - is going to turn out. We cannot be certain of anything. So let's tone down the parallels with Watergate.
David Brooks has been foreseeing quite bad things all along, since Trump got momentum in the campaign. He suggests that a "Gerald Ford solution" is likely. We need a calm, temperate and common sense leader with political credentials to steer the nation out of this frenetic pace where we are assaulted by daily "tweets." We are assaulted by absurdity. We wonder how this became the new norm. Brooks projects an ending with a sensational climax, like Nixon waving those "V" signals by the helicopter, after which we'll gently descend to a new normal with temperate political minds, all led by a Gerald Ford type.
It happened before, right? But here we're falling into that fallacy where "analogies are dangerous." Watergate was about mendacity. About a president drunk on power with so many years of D.C. experience behind him (or literally drunk on alcohol). Mendacity doesn't seem to be the point now. It's about the novelty of a president who seems to have arrived at the position by accident, by virtue of his sheer performance capability and vanity.
The greatest wisdom may have been projected by Howard Stern. Stern implored Donald Trump on how he'd be better off not running for office. Trump is guaranteed the happiest life possible by virtue of his vast assets. Why would he want the headaches and stress of high political office? Maybe that's what scares me: wondering why Trump wants all that power. It's not like he has a Bernie Sanders vision where he wants to improve everyone's lot, to guarantee the poor greater comfort and hope. I could understand this altruistic motivation.
Trump actually seemed sympathetic once to progressive ideas. But now he's so totally wedded to the far right of American politics. We should be scared about this. Attention David Brooks: Mike Pence is no Gerald Ford. Pence once supported a measure to require funeral services for fetuses. He is more ideologically pure than Trump. I wonder if Trump could even define an ideology with precision. He just comes up with buzzwords like "Make America great again." For who? Who will benefit from this purportedly greater America? The richest one percent of our populace?
I laugh as I ponder the Republican majorities having the responsibility of creating a health care bill. Republicans do not forge new and generous entitlements. They never do. There isn't a trace of this in their DNA. Democrats carry the load for this, and the Republicans eventually say it's OK as they now do with Medicare. Satisfactory health care reform will come when Democrats climb back into the majority, but can we wait?
Hillary Clinton annoyed us in some ways, to be sure. She was the loyal wife when her husband coaxed oral sex from an intern in the White House. But our personal thoughts about Hillary should not have registered much. It's not personal. Just think if Hillary were president now. The Affordable Care Act would be getting fixed and improved. Our international relations would be vastly better. The ship of state would be sailing in spite of the few stones thrown by Republicans.
Many of us would now want to reverse our vote and let Hillary in. Brooks thinks we need a Gerald Ford type. Where will that come from? If you expect a scenario like Watergate with a like resolution, remember what my father told me: "Analogies are dangerous."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com


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