The Nature of a Hero

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Three unknown Americans improved the relationship between our country and France more than a score of diplomats. The action of two military servicemen and their friend foiled the attempt of an Islamic terrorist to carry out a massacre on a train speeding from Amsterdam to Paris. Each American was a hero in his own special way.

The lone wolf Islamic terrorist was about to spray the train with an AK-47 when that familiar American refrain, “Let’s go” (variation on 9/11’s Let’s roll), spurred three Americans to move forward in the face of possible gunfire to tackle the terrorist, hit him until unconscious and then tie him up.

Three unknown Americans improved the relationship between our country and France more than a score of diplomats.

The Americans, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, were textbook heroes and were treated as such, appearing before the President of France to receive the distinguished Legion of Honor award. And like a true hero, they displayed the typical humility of the profession, downplaying their deeds and calling them “an act of survival.”

At a time when our sports legends lie and cheat, and our politicians seem even more questionable, it is refreshing to see the selflessness promulgated by our culture as a model for today’s youth. Their actions seemed even more predestined when they described their decision to move to another car because of poor wi-fi. That placed them directly in the terrorist’s path, and they acted accordingly.

It’s a rare piece of good news for our country that has been beset with such turmoil in foreign and domestic affairs.

Sanders Versus Trump

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Not to engage in a fantasy, but how would the American people react to a general election with Bernie Sanders representing the Democrats and Donald Trump the Republicans.

It’s not as wild as it seems: Mr. Trump is leading the Republican pack by double digits, and Mr. Sanders is becoming a bona fide contender against Hillary Clinton. And many pundits have mused upon this very possible match-up.

If either one of them could become just a little more like the other, they would be the perfect candidate.

There are some striking similarities among the two men: both are drawing large and enthusiastic crowds; both are non-establishment politicians; both have issues with their hair. But after the cosmetic matters are exhausted, the two men are so different that there could barely share the same stage.

Mr. Sanders has worked in Congress his entire life, and his campaign is purely issue-oriented. He won’t even touch Hillary Clinton with any negative advertisements; and he refuses to even mention the email scandal engulfing her campaign. As Hillary engages in more and more drama, Sanders eschews it and sticks to his message.

Mr. Trump on the other hand relies on his personal history, an area Sanders barely mentions. So the question becomes what’s more important, the message or the messenger. The message forces the candidate to honor certain commitments made during the course of the campaign while the messenger says, “Trust me. We’ll work it out.”

Trump is asking for a lot of trust, but his personal achievements are amazing. Anyone who can amass a couple of billion dollars, solely through the capitalist system, deserves an element of respect. Sanders has been on message for decades; his commitment to his policies deserves respect, too. If either one of them could become just a little more like the other, they would be the perfect candidate.

Tone Deaf Campaigning

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There was a reason that Hillary Clinton folded in 2008 after being the prohibitive favorite. She failed to find “her voice” until a near loss in New Hampshire where she broke down in tears and showed her human side.

That human side is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, it is very appealing. One of the main reasons why Hillary gained traction prior to her run for the U.S. Senate involved the poise she showed while the Monica Lewinsky scandal was blowing up all around her.

One of the main reasons why Hillary gained traction prior to her run for the U.S. Senate involved the poise she showed while the Monica Lewinsky scandal was blowing up all around her.

Simultaneously, she needed to handle her husband, the public, Congress and Chelsea. The way she bucked up under these extreme circumstances gained her worldwide admiration.

Now she is under the microscope again. It’s not a pleasant position to be in, but I have faith she will come out with flying colors. And the way she fights her way out of this situation, too, will rebound to her glory and eventually win the Presidency.

If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, it will be a hard fought contest. Mr. Trump would have given Bill Clinton a run for his money, and Hillary is a far worse campaigner. But the issues are on her side, and something tells me she has the grit to not only hold her own but to win the contest.

False News Stories

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Cable news stations are resorting more and more to false stories. That doesn’t mean they’re making up issues out of whole cloth; rather, the emphasis is off, creating a false agenda and misleading the viewer.

MSNBC and Fox News are the main culprits, though CNN dabbles in the practice as well. On Fox, every broadcast leads off with the “email server scandal,” declaring that Hillary is subject to prosecution and even comparing the story to Watergate. At MSNBC, the rise of Donald Trump is the lead, even though we are months away from anyone casting the first vote.

That doesn’t mean they’re making up issues out of whole cloth; rather, the emphasis is off, creating a false agenda and misleading the viewer.

What do false news stories accomplish? Well, based on the viewership, they affect public opinion and can thus serve as a driver of future events, especially in areas based on polls such as political races. There is no doubt that the blanket coverage of Fox on Hillary’s “email problem” has affected her numbers on questions of whether she is honest and trustworthy. To the extent that coverage plays into existing narratives about a candidate, it can reinforce and solidify public opinion.

Generally, Fox and MSNBC balance each other out, except the larger viewership of Fox gives them slightly more power. But no one can dispute that the candidacy of Donald Trump is media driven, leading to higher poll numbers, with the higher poll numbers then leading into even more media coverage. And Mr. Trump knows how to stoke the fire when necessary to ensure this false story keeps on going.

The Superlative Donald Trump

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Donald Trump believes in superlatives. Everything is either “the best ever,” “huge” or unparalleled in one way or another. As such, Donald Trump is the quintessential American. In a land famous for its superlative viewpoint and indeed, a superlative country in itself, Mr. Trump just takes the prevailing viewpoint and magnifies it a couple of hundred times.

That’s one reason why it’s so pleasurable to listen to Mr. Trump. We’ve all been taught to think in superlatives about our life in America. In Amer

That’s one reason why it’s so pleasurable to listen to Mr. Trump. We’ve all been taught to think in superlatives about our life in America.

ica, anyone can grow up to be President of the United States. While that’s not exactly true, we’ve been trained to think that way.

Anyone who thinks they can actually become President of the United States has a healthy ego to begin with. So why not say out loud what the other candidates are thinking, their presumptuous belief they can do the hardest job in the world.

If you understand Trump’s superlative viewpoint, the rest of his comments fall neatly into place. Mr. Trump thinks of himself as the best person ever, and when you hold that belief, the remarks you make about others are not to be taken seriously. They are solely a way to assert that no one else is exactly like you.

So while it is uncertain how long the Trump phenomenon will last (all the way to the White House?), it sure is entertaining to listen to him talk.

How Trump Does It

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How does Donald Trump transfix the media, his supporters, and, yes, his rivals? One could point to his lead position in the polls, but that’s too facile an explanation.

Of course, anyone who thinks he or she can be President of the United States is expressing false humility in the first place. So Trump is saying what the other candidates are really thinking to themselves, and his audacity at expressing it so blatantly is shocking, yet kind of nice.

And it goes beyond being a reality TV star or an expert entertainer. Trump has mastered a cadence in his speeches that draws you inescapably in. He doesn’t talk in sound bytes, like most politicians, but instead, he speaks in teasers.

His teasers are outrageous statements, and not necessarily insults to other people, though he does feel free to hit back hard when someone hits him. Trump is the ultimate narcissist. Everything is great and huge. In a time when most candidates feel required to express some humility, Trump forgoes that emotion, and we are stunned by his self-confidence and very healthy ego.

Of course, anyone who thinks he or she can be President of the United States is expressing false humility in the first place. So Trump is saying what the other candidates are really thinking to themselves, and his audacity at expressing it so blatantly is shocking, yet kind of nice.

And his ultimate card — he did somehow conquer the U.S. capitalist system and earn $10 billion. And even if the figure is only $3 billion, it’s sufficient to show that he does have something going for him.

The Summer of Trump

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The phrase, “the summer of Trump,” is a remarkably condescending description of the man and his political potential. If you get behind the clearly narcissistic elements of his personality, the chauvinistic name calling, the thin-skinned need to retaliate against any attack, and try to consider the foundational components of the man, you come away with a positive impression of his ability to effect change.

It is both fascinating and a little disconcerting to watch Trump in action.

Aside from his nakedly conservative policy stances, if you can call them that, you find someone who truly believes he can make a positive difference for this nation, and he may be right. The ability to make a deal, his traditional business acumen, is unparalleled. He understands that any President must be able to negotiate and work to form a consensus, such as LBJ did in so many forms of political victory.

It is both fascinating and a little disconcerting to watch Trump in action. For example, at his press conference yesterday, he offered rapid fire responses to reporters’ questions, barely lingering over any issue for more than 30 seconds at a time. Despite all his supposed egotism, he is not in love with the sound of his own voice and is not presumptuous enough to put out 12-point plans that are rarely followed in any case.

Trump knows he will appoint the best and the brightest to his cabinet, and he knows how to listen to the consultants he trusts. But his style brushes up against the self-importance of other candidates, and that may be the reason why they feel threatened by him. Oppose him for the conservative nature of his ideology, not for any inherent weaknesses, or time limitation in that belittling slogan, “the summer of Trump.”

Politicians, Self Discipline and Donald Trump

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Self discipline is a fundamental component of everyday life. It is the primary capability that distinguishes adults from children, and without it, most of us would not survive.

But the same lack of self discipline that makes him refreshing also carries the seeds of his doom.

The ability to delay gratification, to submit ourselves to others and to lead productive lives all require an element of self discipline as well as faith. Successful politicians have so much self discipline that they can look inauthentic to others — the inability to just enjoy oneself and have a good time with others becomes unreachable if you are calculating every vote.

Then along comes Donald Trump. His refreshing quality comes from his lack of discipline, making him seem more authentic than most politicians with their lists of talking points and memorized sound bytes. But the same lack of self discipline that makes him refreshing also carries the seeds of his doom. At some point, he will go too far and alienate the same people he has attracted.

The other Republican politicians know this story — it’s one of the things that made them so disciplined to begin with  — and, at this level, they have all learned the value of self discipline  — otherwise, they wouldn’t have ascended so far.

It may have already occurred. As a liberal Democrat, I have little in common with Megyn Kelly. I’ve only glanced at her show a few times. But I was aware of her tendency to ask tough questions, a journalistic integrity unusual for Fox News. And I admired her as a driving force among her otherwise pusillanimous colleagues. Her questions were entertaining, relevant and hard hitting … for all the candidates.

Mr. Trump’s attack on her tarnishes much of his luster. If he ever wants to be a force, even at a Republican convention, he really does need to exert more self discipline.

 

Megyn Kelly Shines for Fox News

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The recent debates on Fox News had been described with a number of sports analogies, but the ones referring to boxing were the most accurate. The first debate was the undercard, and the second one was the main event. The Fox News staff deserves considerable praise for the way things were handled.

Skipping the candidates, for now, the moderators for Fox underwent considerable preparation, perhaps as much as the candidates, and it showed. The questions were relevant, entertaining and hard hitting. The reactions they spurred largely resulted from that preparation, and all the moderators deserve praise and kudos for the journalist integrity they displayed for all the world to see.

… the moderators for Fox underwent considerable preparation, perhaps as much as the candidates, and it showed. The questions were relevant, entertaining and hard hitting.

Megyn Kelly deserves special commendation because she seemed to be the driving force behind the scenes. She had a lot to gain because the listeners went beyond Fox’s normal viewership, and she hit a home run. No reporter anywhere could have done a better job.

By doing so, Ms. Kelly burnished the reputation of the entire network. She transformed Fox’s image from a loyal propaganda machine of the Republican Party to a rigorous news network, albeit still with a Republican tilt. And that translates for Fox into increased viewership and a willingness to consider their point of view.

At a time when CNN is pandering after plane crashes and MSNBC comes with its own bias the opposite way — with the possible exception of Chris Matthews for Hardball and Chuck Todd for Meet the Press — the journalistic rigor Ms. Kelly displayed last night will rebound with financial advantage for her media company as well as her own personal career.

 

 

The Joe Biden Story

coVice President Joe Biden has undergone more than his fair share of tragedies, and we can all picture his dying son pleading for him to run for President. Unfortunately, time and tide affects all men, and sometimes, it is simply too late to change course. How many of us are affected by similar, albeit more plebian, situations. When we realize, it is too late to change careers. When we are committed (what a pleasant fate) to the needs of our family. When we realize we must simply accept our circumstances and work within them for the things we believe.

Mr. Biden, it is now time to cede your place on the world stage. Please go with dignity and don’t be like that aging ballplayer who doesn’t know when to quit.

Mr. Biden has served as a loyal lieutenant for President Obama through thick and thin. By every indication, he stabilized the new young President and guided him in the ways of Washington. At 72 years old, his accomplishments and influence on the world stage has been greater than anyone except the President.

At this point, he should sigh about the election that got away and accept his position with the dignity and respect he has earned throughout Capitol Hill. Mr. Biden is an object of admiration and respect from both Parties, and his instincts have proven right again and again. It was Joe Biden who said that Iraq should be divided into three parts: Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. And his insight could have saved us from thousands of unnecessary American deaths.

Mr. Biden, it is now time to cede your place on the world stage. Please go with dignity and don’t be like that aging ballplayer who doesn’t know when to quit.