Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The President's Speech

The President tried to get us back into the Christmas swing with his speech Sunday night, but that didn't appear to calm too many persons' nerves.  Many Americans still seem to be in a red state of alert, with Trump calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, as he stated in his tweets on the President's speech that we are at war with radical Islamic terrorists, using caps to drive the point home.

The folks at Fox were also upset with the President's speech.  Ret. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters called Obama "a complete pussy," and "Clueless" Stacey Dash said Obama doesn't "give a shit" about terrorism.  Both were rebuked by Fox and given two weeks suspension.  Trump was chastised by Dick Cheney no less,, but at this stage of the game it will have little bearing on his candidacy, as it seems a large segment of conservatives have shut out the media and politicians, preferring to live in their own fundamentalist world divorced from reality.

To his credit, the President stressed unity at home, outlining the military and diplomatic efforts being employed abroad to bring ISIS to heal. But, to read the media reaction, his speech largely fell on closed minds.  Even David Axelrod, his former campaign strategist and political adviser felt the speech offered nothing new.

Personally, I don't think ISIS is occupying the public's mind as much as it is the media's mind.  I doubt that many Americans feel anymore threatened by what happened in San Bernardino than they were bby Sandy Hook three years ago, or the roughly 1000 mass shootings that have occurred in between.  We've become inured to this "new normal," the same way kids become inured to violent video games.

Obama made his case for tighter gun control, which Democratic candidates have echoed on the campaign trail.  California has put in place tougher gun controls, but if you bought your AR15 before 2013 these assault weapons were grandfathered in.  Any governor, even in a liberal state like California, has to take into account the high number of gun owners, estimated at roughly 80 million nationwide, who aren't willing to give up their guns at any price.  That number indicates that there is a gun in at least one of every three homes in America.  That is a very powerful lobby.

The Republicans, as usual, went after the roughly 3 million Muslim-Americans living in this country, along with any potential new arrivals.  By comparison, there is roughly 1 Muslim-American to 120 Americans, less than one percent.  Yet, these persons are seen as a far greater threat to society, despite their very few violent crimes, than other Americans wielding guns in public places, which we far more frequently see.

Sadly, we appear to be living in a heightened state of fear, made so by political demagogues like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who are going out of their way to stir up this fear to garner support among the base of the Republican Party.  This exceedingly paranoid base seems to be living in underground bunkers watching The Walking Dead as they await the End Times while the rest of us go on living our lives above ground.

Nate Silver tries to place these panicked folks in perspective to the broader electorate, concluding that Trump has the support of somewhere in between 6 and 8 per cent of the overall electorate, or roughly the same number of persons who believe the Apollo moon landings were faked.  In other words, Trump's appeal has been greatly overblown by the media, which is mostly interested in beefing its television ratings and on-line circulation by focusing so heavily on the reality show king.

With all the television stations covering the President's Speech, it is safe to say that Obama drew a far bigger audience than the GOP debates or Trump's quickly forgotten SNL appearance.  If nothing else, Obama's political opponents used the speech to fire off their own rhetorical tweets, hoping to elicit "likes" on twitter and facebook, Donald Trump among them.

This is why Trump so badly wants that seat in the Oval Office.  This is the greatest bully pulpit there is.  Only the President can pre-empt regular television programming to make everyone listen to him, whether they want to or not.  Of course, one can always turn off the tele, but there you are the next day with his speech plastered all over the Internet daily feeds.  This is power.  This is absolute power!  Donald will stoop to any tactic in his effort to attain it.  For those, like myself, who thought Trump was just playing a game, he is not.

What we heard from President Obama is what we should be hearing -- calm, reassuring words that appeal to our better nature.  In response, Trump offers up the same demagoguery that has sustained his campaign for the last six months.  The last person any sane individual would want in the White House is Donald J. Trump with his itchy finger on the trigger, ready to strike at any persons, group or nation he deems a hostile threat.

Maybe after the dust has settled from the Presidential primaries we will realize what a great President we have in Obama.  Not so much for his actions, as for the order and calm he has restored to the White House.  If Donald Trump is too much for Dick Cheney, he is too much for the nation.

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