Category: Politics

What Now?

I’m not a liberal. I’m not a safe space, social crusader. 

I’m not a sore loser who can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected president. The notion that I had to put what lukewarm support I had for a candidate behind her was a source of great frustration for me. 

I am, at my very core, someone with conservative foundations. 

I believe that men and women, whenever possible, should be free to live their lives without government intervention. My family and my Christian faith are the center of my life. I like my guns. Chances are, I’m better than you at using them. 

I’ve worked with and for the toughest most dangerous men on the planet-men you’ve read books about, men you’ve seen movies about. I’ll never claim to be one. But I’ve proven myself useful in their presence. I share this with you so you understand where and who the message I’m about to deliver comes from.

I’ve been all over this planet. And there’s a troubling observation that I’ve made on my way. It’s that mankind, when left to our own devices, does not naturally accept different people. Whether I saw Sunni and Shia in Iraq refusing to recognize the humanity of the other because of relatively nuanced differences in their common faith, or tribal warfare and genocide in sub-Saharan Africa or racial oppression and modern slavery of East Asia, the ingrained need to divide and subjugate others is ever present. In mankind’s darkest moments, the most common culprit has been that division.

For most of the last seventy thousand years, since the cognitive revolution of man drove us to organize, we’ve programmed ourselves to trust and support those that are similar to us. The result is that there have been frighteningly few societies in the history of mankind which have not been separated by either race, class or gender. 

Where there is one race, we make caste systems. 

Where lack of structure provides no castes, we subjugate gender. 

It’s as consistent across time and region as the number of our limbs or the shape of our organs. 

Fifty years ago in America, we made the first real effort, at scale, in the history of man, to change it in a society as diverse as ours. And since then, we’ve made great but imperfect progress. The work isn’t done. But we’re further than where we were 50 years ago. When we get there and make good on the promise penned by our forefathers, it will be the greatest, rarest accomplishment in our history.

On Tuesday, we took one giant leap backward on the arc of our journey to one people. And over the last four days, I’ve been bombarded by explanations of why Donald J. Trump was just elected president. I don’t need any more. I didn’t need them in the first place. 

I know why he was elected. 

He was elected because the only message that matters for the American government in 2016 is a need for change. And when the alternative to that change was someone who moved into the White House when I was fifteen, (I’m 40 now) that choice was clear for some. 

But it was a choice. 

And the ultimate choice that was made, the one people will remember a hundred years from now, was a willingness to ignore personal decency and fair treatment towards people who are different in service to that change. That was the choice that the minority of the American electorate made. That was the choice that about a quarter of eligible American voters made.

I’m not here to argue the legitimacy of the results. And I don’t get to pick and choose whether I support democracy because of the outcomes. I won’t tell you that you are a racist or a bigot if you voted for Donald Trump. I won’t even tell you that you personally are indecent. But I will tell you what you just bought with your choice. 

You bought a very vigilant, sensitive and loud American majority who will cry foul at the drop of a hat for anything that resembles attacks on those we have fought so hard for these last fifty years. 

Because what you showed us with his nomination and your vote in the election, is that you can’t be trusted to do it without us.

Many of my devout conservative friends were remarkably quiet when their candidate trashed their personal values. And they were remarkably quiet when their candidate made inexcusable first hand remarks about minorities, women and disabled Americans. And they were remarkably quiet when the dark forces of white supremacists aligned themselves in support of their candidate. 

I understand why. You couldn’t live with the alternative. So you rationalized out of fear that speaking up would enable it. Well, that risk is gone now. You avoided the end you couldn’t live with. 

That excuse is gone. 

And now it’s fair to say that tolerance of that behavior from here on can only be seen as an endorsement of it. So when there’s a KKK rally in North Carolina to celebrate the election of the candidate you support, you no longer have any excuse not to condemn it with the same uncompromising vigor that you condemned Hillary. Let’s see the memes. Let’s see the Facebook posts. Let’s see the outrage.

Perhaps the rest of America can trust you to hold the leader of our government to the change you so uncompromisingly sought. But we won’t trust you to look out for our fellow Americans who are different. 

So, get ready for four years of vocal, loud, peaceful I pray, dissent. If you thought the core Trump supporters would be loud if Hillary Clinton won, what do you think is going to happen now that you’ve  marginalized a group that has much more to lose than freedom from background checks for guns and a ten percent lag in wage growth? 

At stake for them, is participation in our society. And if their vocal insistence on it is something you aren’t willing to tolerate, then perhaps you might consider a different path in thirty months when you get to choose your next leader without the looming evil of Hillary excusing your choice. 

You can’t point to her any more as cause.

If insistence on decent treatment of all Americans makes me a liberal in the eyes of conservatives, then maybe we should take some time to reflect on who our modern conservatives actually are. The world is watching.

So What Did We Learn?

As the exhausted, miserable people on my television reported that Secretary Clinton had conceded the election by phone and our new president elect addressed his constituents for the first time after the political upset of an American generation, I sat up in my bed, quietly trying to digest what just happened. My wife, a woman of Mexican descent, a mother to a special needs child and a military wife who suffered through three wartime deployments nodded off in disgust a few hours earlier. I’ve already started to make my peace with it though.

I’ve been about as vocal a critic of Donald Trump as anyone you’ll find. I can’t and wouldn’t revise anything I’ve said about him. But I make it a point to stay objective about things. And to deliver a level headed clear-eyed assessment of things that matter. And right now, before I make that peace, I’ve got to account for a few things that I know now, that I didn’t know four hours ago.

So here goes…

-Donald J. Trump is the most effective political marketing machine of our time. It’s not close.

-Crowds mean more than polls. In retrospect, that makes sense. But I was stone cold dead wrong on it.

-There’s still enough white working class men out there that if you make an election a referendum on their value as a part of America, you better have them on your side.

-No one gives a rip about third party candidates. No matter how much more qualified they are.

-Many white men-and women-are more comfortable with the idea of a black man being president than a woman.

-Hillary Clinton is un-electable.

-The message of change is the only one that matters.

-The people still choose the president.

-This actually wasn’t close. (Trump won every contested state)

-We know nothing. (I actually knew that one already.)

Tomorrow, in a few hours, the sun will come up in America as it has for centuries. And things will go on uninterrupted. We’ll get the kids off to school. I’ll sit in traffic forever and I’ll think about a few things. I’ll think about what it all means and about what’s going to change about what it tells us about ourselves as a people. I’ll think about what to tell my kids about our president. Big problems. Big thoughts. Big questions.

There’s one other thing worth noting though. For the first time in my life, Donald J. Trump and I are on the same team. And I don’t know what to do with that other than hope like hell that he’s the best God damn president of my lifetime. Because there were dark and frightening powers that helped this come together for our new president elect. But there were also good and decent people who believed that this was their best option to drive change in our political process. And the only way that we get through this in one piece is for those good and decent people to help hold our new leader accountable for delivering on what they saw in his message-a  change for the better from the political status quo.

Democracy…warts and all.

The American System

Mass conflagration.

It’s one of my favorite terms. It’s a kind of training exercise on a naval ship. It simulates a scenario where everything has gone so horribly wrong in combat that the crew is no longer trying to focus on the military objective of defeating the enemy. Instead, they’ve shifted their resources to saving the ship and themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do. It requires lots of coordination and expertise. So you have to practice it. I did it more times than I can remember during the two years when that’s what I did with my life-serve on a ship.

I’m not on a ship any more. I’m not even in the navy any more. But I experience mass conflagration often-for about an hour, every morning,  in my house, when my wife and I are getting our children ready for school. If you have grade school aged kids, you know exactly what I mean. If you pretend you don’t, you’re a bald face liar.

No matter how hard we try, within the first 30 minutes of our day, my wife and I surrender all attempts at making this a “great” morning and instead are forced to focus on two things 1) getting them to the bus alive and 2) staying married. Save the ship…and her crew…Both are in question more times than I’m happy to admit. To be fair, neither are ever her fault.

The risk to #1 is caused by my kids. Every morning they appear to be both equally surprised by the existence of school and unaware of the any activities required to get them there. Again, if you have kids, you know exactly what I mean. The risk to #2, staying married, is more interesting-and also why I’m talking about getting my kids ready for school in the morning in a politics and society blog. Why my wife hates be by the time the bus gets there is really the issue.

I have what I like to call a linear approach to solving the problem of getting through the morning with school aged children. I like to think that waking up earlier, preparing lunches the night before, waking the kids up earlier, or limiting breakfast options are all things that give us more time to get out of the house. Yelling louder makes them move faster…gives us more time to get out of the house. My approach is more rigor, leads to more efficiency, leads to less time required, leads to less hurrying, leads to less stress, leads to a calmer, happier morning-a better outcome.

It seems like a common sense approach.  Many people like common sense, effort in-results out approaches. Because it makes us feel like we’re in control. But here’s why I’m wrong-and she’s right.  And here’s why my approach has the opposite effect of a calm, happy morning for my family. I’m not in control.  Neither is she. No one is. Because morning in the Hughes household is complicated.

My kids, are young. And their needs vary. Some are autistic and can’t really communicate-yelling makes it worse, not better. Some have very real medication needs. Others are simply a pain in the ass-yelling helps them-hurts others.  Sometimes my wife has clients she has to see early. And sometimes she doesn’t. And sometimes my job emails me in the middle of the night and an emergency is waiting for me when I wake up. So even if I wake up early, my attention goes there instead of making pancakes. And then I’m grumpy about work and no pancakes all at once.

Mornings in the Hughes household look a lot more like a living breathing organism then an assembly line. Living breathing organisms are hard to control. Assembly lines are not.  Assembly lines are linear. Input, effort and execution yields outputs. Organisms are systems. Sometimes inputs don’t match outputs the way you would think. Some things work with others better than others work with some.  Improving a single aspect (screaming at one kid) can potentially have a negative effect on another (an autistic panic in the one sitting next to him). Doing some things worse (waking up later) can actually make others better (more rest, less grumpy-but still grumpy-dad).

Mornings in the Hughes household are a system-a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole. And the goal of that system is to get our children to school fed, clothed and in a state of mind to learn. And when you apply a linear strategy to a system, well, you get yelled at by your wife for being stupid. Because it doesn’t work. Doing things that don’t work over and over again is stupid.

About the only time I don’t apply systems thinking is when I’m being an obtuse rock head dad or husband. I don’t really know why, but I know I’m not alone. Outside the home though, I’m a systems thinker. I’ve taken a systems approach to fighting wars and insurgencies. I’ve used it to build software products. I’ve used it to market this blog. Just about any problem more complex then brushing your teeth takes systems thinking. I live by it. Because its how you solve hard problems. Which are the best kind to solve.

America is a system-a giant system. Problems like poverty, job creation, racial inequality and terrorism take systems thinking-because they’re hard, complex problems with lots of overlapping and inconsistent inputs. Doing something logical and linear may sound like a good idea. (We have too many people from outside our country inside our country. We must build a wall.) Because it’s simple and it makes you feel in control. But it actually doesn’t solve the problem. Because it’s not actually designed to solve a problem. It’s designed to make people angry or happy. Because it’s politics.

The core difference between a political debate and a debate of any other kind is that other debates focus on differing opinions to solving an issue. Political debates focus on differing opinions of what the issue is. There are no solutions to political debates. And nowhere besides government do we focus the energy on the politics of something and not the solution. Good non-government entities usually use the word politics at the beginning of a sentence used to describe an effort or decision that didn’t make any sense. My wife and I never argue over whether or not its good if the kids get to school on time-only how effective me yelling at them is. See the difference? Spending a morning on the former would be stupid.

This is a round about way to get to the following fairly simple point.

Politics are stupid.  

Political cycles are a long standing dialogue that argues whether the problem at hand is making our country great again or keeping it great. Those are two very different problems. And it’s party agnostic. Whatever party owns the government, owns the burden of arguing to keep our country great. Whatever party  is out in the cold owns the burden of arguing that we must return the party to greatness. The problems you identify when your task is keep are very different then the problems you identify when your task is return.

Here’s my point again: Politics are stupid.

Systems thinking is not. Political thinking is linear. You are allowed and expected to make simple arguments that people can digest that have no chance at solving any material problem in politics. Political motivation and systems motivation cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You cannot solve hard problems without systems thinking. You cannot solve problems with politics.

Politics are lunacy. Political opinion is a waste of time.

So the next time you are about to engage in a political debate with someone or spend time listening to two gas bags argue about whether or not something is a problem by proposing simple bite sized ideas that won’t solve anything important, pause and say to yourself, out loud.

“What I am about to do is an absolute and thorough waste of time.”

If you must continue, realize you’re using the same part of your brain that argues whether or not Lebron James is better then Kobe Bryant-or whether or not the best Pebbles are Co-Co or Fruity. Political thinking is capable of solving one problem-maintaining or taking control of government. The less time you spend there-says the guy with the political blog-the freer you are to think about the things that matter.

Like how the hell your son can lose his shoes twice in one morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Intentions

The Vision

That’s how it starts. That’s how anything you do on purpose, that matters, starts- with a vision. The vision isn’t the work or the good breaks or the tough luck or the temporary successes and failures that you wander into along the way. The vision is the end. The end is the point. The end, is everything.

The Beginning

December of 2007 was where the vision started for me. I was staring out the window of a sprawling corner office on the top floor of the Merrill Lynch building in downtown San Diego. It wasn’t my office. It was the branch director’s office. I was waiting for him. I had bad news-I thought.

I’d been working in the financial industry for about two years. I was new, but doing pretty well. By the summer of 2007 though, I was worried. We limped through August with a sharp dip in the market that I hadn’t experienced before. It added uncertainty and stress-a notion that there were things in motion that were beyond my control. That was new for me. I was used to war. What you couldn’t control in war was often final. This was open ended, somehow more frightening. The housing market was starting to show cracks. There were concerns about the capital structure of the financial sector as a whole. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I knew we were in trouble, only that I was suddenly aware of the existence of trouble, when perhaps before, I wasn’t.

To be safe, I affiliated in the Navy reserves that summer to help minimize the risk for my family. That’s what I did before Wall Street. I served. At the height of the surge in Iraq, I figured it was still a smart bet. I had a wife, two kids and a mortgage and there was danger out there that worried me more than war.

That December, I was recalled to active duty. That was the bad news-I thought. I told my director. He thought I was joking. I wasn’t. The really bad news came later for everyone in that building. Within a year Merrill Lynch, in business for over a century, would be bankrupt. Within 18 months, I would be in Iraq. The America that I tried to assimilate into in 2005, after two tours in Operation Enduring Freedom, no longer existed. The free fall was on.

The stock market dropped 50%. Unemployment raised 100%. Real estate property values dropped by a third. Property foreclosures spiked 40%.  We were spending $15 Billion a month on war and losing 75 service members a month to combat. Two of the big three automakers, Ford, Chrysler, GM, the industry that built modern America, went bankrupt. Dozens of financial services firms representing hundreds of years of business and trillions of dollars of assets went under. Of the 11 largest bankruptcies in American history, seven happened within an 18 month period starting in March of 2008. The president, George W. Bush, had an approval rating of 25%, three points higher than the lowest ever recorded, one point higher than Nixon when he resigned. 83% of Americans believed that the country was heading in the wrong direction.

Globally, over $34 trillion of wealth was destroyed in 2008 and 2009. That’s twice the size of the entire economy of the United States. Gone.

Those are the numbers and historical facts. They mean little to most people though. What matters much more was the impact on their lives. For me, it was bad. The company I worked for went bankrupt. The industry I worked in folded. I dropped out of business school and went back to war in Iraq to support my family.  I left a four year old, a two year old and a four month old at home with my wife, in my house that was now worth a little over half of what I paid for it. Things were bad, not just philosophically, or morally. Things were bad materially. Lives were worse-many were ruined.

That’s the hole that America was staring out of in 2008. We weren’t staring up at a mountain to climb, to ascend to a different peak above where generations before us toiled to take us. We were staring out of a deep, dark hole, up at where we once were. We needed a vision. That’s how important things start, remember?  A view of what the end would look like if we all just agreed to start. The vision that gets you out of a hole isn’t necessarily the same one that gets you to the top of the mountains you climbed before. That one looks like strength and achievement. The vision you lean on when you’re in a hole, is hope and change. That’s the vision we got.

The End

So what did the end look like?  2,835 days into his presidency, President Barack Obama’s administration has overseen drastic change. I know what I’m about to say will be argued against heartily. There will be anger and disagreement at the facts and data I’m about to deliver. In advance of that, I’ll add two things. One: This data is accurate and inclusive and not different than the same economic data used to show the dire circumstances we were once in. It’s from original sources-as is. I know some of you still won’t believe it so I’ll offer my other point. The reason you won’t believe it is the point of the rest of this essay.

Here’s where we are. Unemployment has been cut in half. The stock market has more than doubled. American corporations have never been more profitable. 20 million people have healthcare that didn’t before. The auto industry just had its most profitable year in history. We are no longer spending and deploying large occupying forces to active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The man who planned and funded the 9/11 attacks is dead. We found him in an allied country. We flew a team in that allied country without permission, raided his home, killed him and dumped his body in the Atlantic Ocean like he was a Decepticon.

Right about now, you may have stopped reading and started qualifying all that data with points of your own about how they don’t tell the whole story. Go ahead if you must. You’re not wrong. It’s not the whole story. But even if it were inflated by 100%, it would still be one of the most drastic economic recoveries in history. So try to push on, because there’s more here than just a cheer-leading exercise for the president.

So, that’s where we are. Much better then we were eight years ago.  My family? Much better too. As are most of the families I know. There are bad things too, like wage stagnation, and ISIS and Donald Trump. But I emphasized the things that people 100 years from now are going to look at and assess to understand the impact of the Obama administration on America. Whether or not he’s the reason for it is a different question. But it’s fairly impossible to argue that we are in a worse place today then we were when I looked out that window on the 32nd floor of the Merrill Lynch building in 2007. The vision we were given then was hope and change. When we think about the end we hoped for, now that we can see it, in a material sense, in the ways that make American lives better, we’ve realized the vision, perhaps even better than we had any right to expect. Things need to continue to get better. We’ve not finished the march. But things are better. It’s not close.

The president’s approval rating is over 50%-not bad for a second term. Somehow, over 70% of the country believes we are moving in the wrong direction though. 2008 perhaps, feels a lot further away and better than the reality. Which actually takes me to my point. It’s not that I believe that President Obama is miraculous, though much of the trajectory of measurable data during his presidency actually is. My point is something else. It’s this: If you have a burning disapproval for our 44th president, 100 years from now, no one is going to understand why. And in absence of understanding, they’re going to assign a reason to it. It’s what we do. And that reason, if I had to predict it based on current trends, will be racism. And that’s not fair. Fair criticism is one of the most important responsibilities of a democratic populous. And we don’t get any right now. So, I’m going to do something to help and provide my own.

First, I’d like to add a disclaimer. I’m a fan and supporter of the President-mostly because I’m a fan of all of our presidents, while they’re in office. They’re on my side, and at one point, I even worked for them. But beyond that, the message of this president resonates with me. And his personal conduct has been exemplary. I believe that most of the social change that he’s ushered in was well over due and I believe that he oversaw one of the more important-all be it imperfect-financial recoveries in our country’s history. That’s the way I see it. As usual though, the way I see it is but a fraction of the story.

I have decent, intelligent, friends that I respect, that can’t say the words Barack Obama without a grimace. It’s not just that they disagree with him politically-though they do. It’s more than that. They can’t stand the idea of him. And they’re not racists. And I fear that we haven’t done the work to understand why. If we do though, we might find that we come across the term generous orthodoxy.

What is generous orthodoxy?

If you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, his books Blink or The Tipping Point or Outliers or anything else he’s written, you may also be a fan of his podcast Revisionist History. Like most things he produces, it’s fantastic. This past week he introduced me to the term generous orthodoxy while I was in the middle of struggling to answer the question of why reasonable, non-racist, intelligent Americans can’t stand our president despite what most would agree is at least a “serviceable” effort in office.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, generous orthodoxy is a term coined by 20th century theologian Hans Frei. It means to seek the useful middle ground of generosity -being open to change-and orthodoxy-being committed to tradition. These are Gladwell’s words, not mine.  But they grabbed hold of me tightly.

He goes on to argue that the only true way to convince an orthodox group, one rooted in tradition, to be generous-open to change, is to show them that you actually care about their way of life, the way it is-not just the way you think it ought to change.  The idea is that even though you are driving for change, you are willing to acknowledge the value of what it is that you are going to change and acknowledge that you owe your very existence and your position to effect change, in some way to what that group represents. As only Malcolm Gladwell can, he uses seemingly disparate examples like a Mennonite pastor cast out of his profession for marrying his gay son to his partner or a black student at Princeton protesting the name of the overtly racist Woodrow Wilson to make his point. I won’t give it all away, you have to listen to it. It’s important stuff. But what I will tell you is that it occurred to me, halfway through his message, that he was actually talking about the greatest failure of the Obama presidency.

Remember now, I’m a fan. But all presidencies have their failures. Some are worse then others. This particular failure is nuanced. Because it’s not a failure of policy or tangible outcomes. Not all of his policies were winners of course. And the tangible outcomes aren’t perfect, but they clearly don’t warrant outrage-to reasonable people that is, at the level that any of us who’ve ever dared to say something positive about him in public forums have witnessed. But there’s definitely a failure here. It’s a failure of generous orthodoxy. The president and his supporters have effectively delivered the message of generosity-change.  But we didn’t spend much time acknowledging the orthodoxy. And that’s a problem. I’ll explain.

There’s a whole population of Americans that don’t give a rip about health care and gun control or marriage equality. It doesn’t make them right. But it also doesn’t mean that their entire culture and way of life is wrong. And I think, somewhere along the way, here in America, those of us sympathetic to progressive causes have forgotten the value of orthodoxy. We’ve gotten so wrapped up in what’s wrong with the groups that don’t share our point of view-the pockets or racism, the religious hypocrisy-that we’ve forgotten what’s right about them.  We’ve forgotten what we owe to our orthodoxy.

The heartland of America is a place where family and faith are still the center of the community. Those are good things, no matter what. It’s a culture where fathers and sons and daughters spend time in the outdoors, learning how to hunt and survive in the rugged territory their father’s father’s fathers settled. Those are good things. They value service to country and patriotism, and personal liberties and hard work. Those are all good things. Because most of them are good people who love their country and fellow man. They’re people who have made America, along with the bold intellectual progressives of the rest of the country. Without both, we would not be America. The push and pull of that debate has been making us strong since Jefferson and Adams quarreled about the roles of government. But somewhere, we’ve forgotten it. And that’s a failure because it makes it hard for us to get things right. And even when we do, it doesn’t seem to feel like we’ve gotten it right because someone, somewhere is being left out-the orthodox or the generous.

It’s the danger of losing that balance. And it’s failure that didn’t start with this administration. But when your vision is change-generosity-you bear the burden of balancing the orthodoxy.

This is what happens when you don’t: One side, focuses only on orthodoxy. And in doing so, does things like claim that President Obama is a foreign born Muslim who founded ISIS. The other, focuses only on generosity and it doing so labels all not in violent agreement with the change, a racist or a bigot. Neither is right. And neither is fair.  And no one a hundred years from now will understand that nuance. They’ll look at the data. And the wars that ended or started. The territory gained or lost. All of that matters. But those things are really just outcomes of a people in motion. It’s the lives and attitudes of those people that matter most.

So how do we find the balance?

I’ll take a lead from our 43rd President, George W. Bush. The fact that I’ve given credit to -W-, Obama and Malcolm Gladwell in the same essay shouldn’t be lost on you, if you strive to find the balance of generous orthodoxy.  A few weeks ago, at the heart wrenching memorial service for the eight slain Dallas police officers he gave us a hint.

Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

He’s right. And he’s saying in his own words, our failures are not acknowledging the values of others. So ask yourself, what happens when we focus on the others “best intentions”?  The answer is the sweet balance of generous orthodoxy.  We’ll forget that message a thousand times again as we have forgotten it a thousand times in the past.  But as long as we wander back to it from time to time, we’ll be alright.

Party of Dignity and Strength

Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight Blog reported this weekend that Donald Trump presently trails Hillary Clinton in the polls by a margin not duplicated since the 1984 election. Which means that the gap between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, according to the American people, appears to be about as wide as the gap between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. A candidate who more than half of the country views to be “unfavorable”, and who was only recently cleared by the FBI of criminal conduct, but not until being chastised by their director, is looking down on the Republican candidate for president, by the same margin Ronald Regan looked down on Jimmy Carter’s Vice President. That’s who Walter Mondale was-by the way.

Mr. Trump could still win of course. We’re 90 days out. And there’s really no telling what may happen. It would take a pretty drastic reversal of the trend though-the outcome of something dramatic. The current downward spiral is a result of Trump simply being exactly what he has been the entire campaign-combative, hyper-defensive vague and nonsensical. No Change, except the audience.

Lost in all the sensational headlines and the comical soundbites-kicking babies out of rallies, rambling about Iranian ransom tapes that don’t exist-is exactly where we are on the arc of the evolution of the Republican Party.  There’s a sinking feeling that there’s now no reasonable counter to the notion that the GOP, a party founded on the moral imperative of righting the wrong of slavery, has entirely yielded moral authority to the Democratic Party. It’s showing in the selection of their presidential candidate and now its showing in their appeal-or lack there of- to the general electorate.

That’s not a good thing. Not even for Democrats. After all, they’re Americans too. The two party system works best when our skepticism is fueled by principle, not hate and fear. When it’s not, we get what’s happening now.

All American political parties have had a serpentine path through their positions in the American political landscape. It’s not a straight line. What was once in favor of abolition was then in favor of segregation. What was once in favor of a strong union and executive authority, was then driven by the beacon of personal liberties. And during those times, there have been instances where they’ve gotten it wrong. There is not absolute relativism in politics. Meaning, the right conservative view and the right liberal view are not always taken by the conservative and liberal parties. The Democratic Party, for instance, got it wrong when it came to slavery. The result? For the next 72 years, the Republican Party was in the White House for 64 of them. The only thing that ended that run, was the Great Depression. If you were 90 years old in 1933, and you were a Democrat, you voted for one president in your life time. I’ll say it again. You can get this wrong with lasting consequence.

It’s important to be more specific than just pointing to Donald Trump as the description of what we’ve gotten wrong here though. What goes wrong isn’t really the positions or the candidate choices that the conservative base is dictating. Those are symptoms, really. And the problem itself is ill defined as simply, conservatism. Conservatism is good. You can go from Hoover’s principles of private enterprise to Nixon’s law and order to Reagan’s strong link economic policies-all way points on the conservative platform journey of the last 90 years or so-and not lose your way. In fact, you can prosper. But what you can’t do, is that thing that the Democratic Party of 1860 did. That thing that resulted in three quarters of a century out of the White House. You can’t publicly abandon human dignity. Not entirely, the way you would have to by declaring that the bondage of humans was a state’s right. Because when you do, things like bigotry and nativism start to drive the ship. And your policies start to look less like they’re grounded in moral authority and more like they’re grounded in fear. And one thing America has showed the world, over the last 240 years, is that fear, over the long term, is a losing platform.

Now, I’m not going to hold the droves of angry working class Americans responsible-those that flocked to the polls to express their displeasure in the state of their lives by casting a vote for a reality TV star/celebrity feud-er. I guess it technically is their fault. But they had a message and they delivered it. They believed their party had forgotten them. So they acted out like ignored children. Except the party hasn’t forgotten them. They’ve forgotten their party-which was never originally about fear and nativism. That’s not the true wrong here. Hurt people, hurt people. The true wrong here, is the failure in leadership that had no answer to their call.

I know it’s democracy and “the people have spoken”.  Except that most really haven’t. The Donald Trump discussion has been forced on us by a group that represents about 10% of American voters. He received less than half of the votes cast by a party of people that represents about a third of the American electorate. And yet, here we are, entertaining a level of nonsense in our executive election that we never should as a nation of power.  It’s a failure of leadership, not democracy.

Anyone who’s ever lead anyone through anything tough has heard the calls from those they lead to take the quick, reactive route through it. Someone somewhere is less concerned with honor and dignity and decency then they are with saving themselves some effort, or danger or sacrifice. Usually it’s the same group of people-seeing the world through only their eyes, rarely able to remove themselves from the moment enough to weigh the consequences of their decisions. Chances are if you made it through that tough thing, you had to address those people and either get them on board, or leave them behind. The former is desired. But the latter happens.

If we desire to have credible conservative participation in our American political discourse, then we should be completely comfortable leaving those fundamentally attached to the message of fear, bigotry and nativism behind. Because if we don’t, we’re going to be out of the White House for a long, long time. We didn’t elect “W” on that platform. We didn’t elect his father or Ronald Reagan on it either. I’ll say it again fear, is a loser. It’s the residue that’s left over when we fail to lead.

So what does strong conservative leadership look like? It doesn’t look like standing at a podium and spewing scared rhetoric about everything that isn’t you. Leadership in the face of dire threat looks different than that. It’s putting on a bullet-proof vest, walking out to the mound at Yankees stadium and throwing a strike six weeks after 3,000 Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack.  Just to show the world that we’re still here. We’re still playing baseball for God’s sake. And you’ll never change us. Not a racist, scared word in sight. It’s walking away from the table at Reykjavík because you didn’t get the nuclear arms deal that America needed. And then demanding to your mortal enemy that they tear down the wall that divided us before they folded and did just that.  That’s what conservative leadership looks like. And it’s been nowhere in sight for a long time.

Forgive me if that sounds incredibly naive to conservative political insiders. The ones that say things like, “What do you expect us to do?  Lose the Election? To Hillary? “ When I’m interested in rolling over and surrendering my principles to a demagogue, I know where to go for advice. But if I’m looking for leadership in the face of hard and trying times, I’ll go elsewhere. Perhaps to one of the founders of the great Party.

In 1865, months before he would surrender his life for the cause of the Union, with hundreds of thousands of Americans already laying in their graves and tens of thousands more yet to give there life, Lincoln stood at the podium in front of the American people.  Many wanted peace by then.  At any cost. Even if it meant union with slavery. Many wanted the easy path. They were tired. And scared. Lincoln, also tired, gaunt, looking broken from the years of war stared them down with these words.

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-men’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

We brought this war upon us with the sins of our unjust actions. And we’re ready to pay our debt, every last drop, if that’s what it takes to right our wrong.  That’s personal accountability. That’s human decency. That’s conservative leadership.

If there’s one good thing that has come from this train wreck, the truly weak have raised their hands to be recognized.  People like, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Scott Walker, Tom Cotton.  Orrin Hatch, Trey Gowdy, Duncan Hunter, from my neighboring district.  Speaker Paul Ryan, that one hurt.  The entirety of the political evangelical movement. And my personal hero John McCain,who somehow managed to forego early release from a prison camp in Hanoi, in order to ensure others in captivity before him left appropriately. But he couldn’t tell the American people not to vote for Donald Trump. I read his book. I lived in his room in Annapolis. His roommate was the Admiral in charge when I went there. He popped in and told me they lived there too. I idolized him and drew on his story for strength in times of personal crisis. That one hurt the most. It’s a hard thing to lead with dignity and honor at all costs. I get it.

There are many others. 38 Senators in all. Over a 150 members of the House, 19 governors, including Mike Pence, his running mate of course. But there were also others who didn’t.  It’s fair to call them out.  Because if we’re ever going to climb out of this failure, it’s important to take note of who didn’t fold.  Who didn’t roll over and go quietly into the night. People like Mitt Romney, the entire Bush family, John Kasich and Ted Cruz. Say what you want about Glenn Beck, but he’s about the only member of the conservative media that didn’t fold. Lindsay Graham, Christi Witman, Ben Sasse.  There are others who were neither afraid to lose the election nor afraid of the consequence in the event that their party had won, and they hadn’t bent the knee. That’s leadership. Even if Trump wins, that’s leadership. Right is right.

If you can’t read this without the feverish urge welling up within you to argue how bad and undignified the other side is, then go ahead. But perhaps you can take a moment beforehand to realize that you’ve stopped arguing that you’re party is dignified at all. And for me, that’s a consequence that lasts longer than the next four years.

 

 

A Rational Criticism of the Candidacy of Secretary Clinton

I’ll admit it. I’ve been pretty lazy in my criticism of Secretary Clinton. I find her opponent so personally objectionable that I haven’t been able to focus enough of my outrage and disgust on much else. It’s not that I’m enamored with her candidacy. I’ve even gone so far to state that I think Gary Johnson-Libertarian-is the best candidate in the field. But I’ve also been pretty clear that I think she’s better than Donald Trump. And in doing so, I’ve done that thing that I hate that Trump supporters do. They site Hillary as their reason for supporting Donald. I don’t accept that response when I get it from them. But I’m more than willing to give it back. So I owe the political universe an explanation. And I’m here to pay up. So here goes.

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It starts with question that my wife asked me.

“Why do people call Hillary Clinton a murderer? And a rapist? And a criminal?”

It’s a fair question, I think, for the potential leader of the free world. People do call her those things. There’s a pretty loud, vocal group that call her a murderer, or a rapist or a criminal-regularly.  We don’t usually call people running for president those things in America. So something’s different here. Instead of dismissing them as crazy misogynists though-a lot of them are actually women-I’ve tried to see the game from their seat, in an attempt to give voice to their concerns, perhaps more rationally than they seem to be able to on their own. In order to know the true value of a candidate, after all,  you have to be willing to know the value of their shortcomings too.

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So how about those claims. The ones like the ones you’ll see scattered about this article from posts on my site’s Facebook page.  The truth about those claims is pretty obvious. In a literal sense, those specific accusations are baseless. People dying as a result of your decisions while leading functions of government is not murder. Murder is murder. Your husband being a serial philanderer is not the same as you being a rapist. Your husband being a rapist is not the same as you being a rapist. Defending a rapist as a court appointed public defender is not the same as being a rapist. Only raping someone makes you a rapist. Only murdering someone makes you a murderer. So, hopefully we’ve gotten the first two cleared up without much argument.

As far as the criminal accusations, this is what the facts say. She’s 68 years old and has been married to a man that was Governor of Arkansas or President of the United states since she was 31. Under the scrutiny that comes with that, she has never been convicted of a crime. She’s never been indicted. She’s never been charged with a crime. She’s never been arrested. There’s been plenty of investigations-we’ll get to that-but she’s not a criminal. Not by any literal measure of the word.

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Now, I understand that I’m being purposely obtuse here and using literal definitions to judge the accuracy of the claims against her. But I’m doing it for a reason. Because those are defined terms. And she gets called them a lot. And they’re not true. I could stop there and dismiss them all as nuts. End of article, balloon drop, celebration. But I can’t. Because there’s just too much of it to ignore. So I’ve got to go a little further.

Stated again for posterity, Hillary Clinton is not a murderer, a rapist or a criminal.  But that fact doesn’t really address the more interesting question that was asked. Why do people think that it’s acceptable to publicly call her those things, when she is not? That answer is a little more complicated and much more telling about the true problems of a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.

One thing is clear to me by now though. When it comes to swaying the opinion of people who don’t already hate her, Secretary Clinton’s opponents tend to overplay their hand. They do it because of the ease at which they can use it to fire up their base. Unfortunately for them, in doing so, they’ve missed material opportunities to point out why she actually could be considered unfit to be our next president. There are ways to do that without sounding like a bunch of crazy people to the rest of us though. The rest of us need real things-not made up exaggerated or offensive ones. So I’m going to give them some help. Because those who haven’t decided yet, but are rationale and understand that she’s not a murderer, a rapist or a convicted or even soon to be tried felon, are left with few actual criticisms. Which isn’t accurate either.  So I’ll give you one of my own.

Electing Hillary Clinton will be bad for America.

Damning enough?  It’s certainly vague enough. So we’ll need to unpack all that goes into that statement.  But first, we need to understand why it is that some people hate her so much. And I won’t use the easy button either-the fact that she’s a strong progressive woman, and people don’t like that. I’ve seen too many women saying horrible things about her to assign the motivation to that. There’s more to it. And it becomes pretty obvious once you force yourself to get past the noise.

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Unlike the Republican nomination process for the 2016 cycle, which could best be described as democracy gone mad, Hillary Clinton’s nomination and potential presidency, is the opposite. Not that it’s not crazy-for some it clearly is. It just doesn’t feel particularly democratic. And it didn’t start with the hacked emails revealing Democratic Party preference for her over Senator Sanders. It didn’t start with the silly super delegate process. It didn’t start with anything that happened in the 2016 election. Or even the 2008 election. It started much earlier-about the time that her husband was elected president.

In America, there’s a pretty clear path for how things work when it comes to ascending to the top of the power and influence game in politics. One gains some level of local success and then becomes “eligible” to start thinking about running for national office. Senators, congressmen, governors-that’s where we get our presidents. From time to time, we can pull one straight from the military, but frankly that doesn’t really happen often-twice in the last 150 years. Once elected, you sink or swim, though these days we tend to keep presidents for two terms irrespective of performance. So maybe float or swim is a more appropriate description.

When you’re done, you ride off into the sunset to use your massive power and influence for a good cause-and also to get rich-if you’re not already. You spend a few decades doing that, and maybe providing sound bites for the media from time to time or out on the campaign trail for an old ally. And then you die and become a library. That’s how it works. That’s the American political dream.

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Except that’s not what happened with the Clintons. The first part did. But then things got different. President Clinton left office over a decade before he was eligible to collect social security and started to do his part-peddling power and influence for a cause and for personal income. Neither one, by the way, should be anything any of us have much of a problem with. That’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s harmless and it’s how we attract anyone worth doing the job to a life of permanent captivity. But, for the Clintons, something fairly unusual happened next. And by fairly unusual, I mean, never before in the history of our country. The First Lady decided it was her turn.

The path to political Valhalla begins to wobble a bit when one of the participants decides to enter back into government after ascending to the height of it. That mountain doesn’t really feel like much of a mountain any more. It starts to feel like more of an on ramp. It starts to feel, well, undemocratic. Because power in the political sphere is really just access. When you leave the oval office that access doesn’t evaporate. It just becomes used for mostly harmless or benevolent causes. But when it gets thrown back into the political fray, subconscious alarm bells start to go off in our democratic DNA.

Now, I’ve never really been able to muster up the kind of disdain that I see Hillary Clinton’s true detractors bathe in. I can probably chalk that up to the fact that, politically, we are fairly close on our principles. I’m a centrist. She’s moderate progressive. So for me, this isn’t that hard to accept. And I’m probably unfairly excited about the prospect of a woman president. There’s a little of that in there too.

Imagine if  you were not like me though, as many people aren’t. And that you didn’t support her much warmer, dynamic, communicator of a husband. And you didn’t vote for her in New York, because you’re not from New York. And you didn’t vote for the man who appointed her Secretary of State. Imagine if you had no interest in supporting her at all because of her politics. For you, Hillary Clinton seems to have happened to you instead of for you. For you, there’s a word that I think is appropriate and unique to Secretary Clinton’s rise to the nomination:

Inevitable.

Inevitable is an undemocratic word.

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And when your candidacy feels undemocratic in America, you’re going to make staunch enemies of those people that don’t agree with your politics. And when you make staunch enemies, you need to live exceptionally clean-professionally and personally.  Just ask the current president about that. He’s been exceptionally clean. And people still call him a Muslim terrorist on my website regularly. And though she’s not a killer, a rapist or a murderer, Secretary Clinton has not been clean-in ways that frankly, weren’t that hard to avoid. In ways that would lead you to believe that she too, thought this was inevitable. That she had appointed herself.

That’s the way that it looks, if you’re not a fan. Now you can see where some of the frustration starts to ooze out of conservative middle America. It’s real. And it’s not wrong, even if their methods of expressing are.

I cannot begin to express to you just how much of a departure from the norm running a department of the United States government and sending emails to people that come from an address that does not end in .gov is. That probably sounds trivial to outsiders. But to insiders, they know exactly what I mean. It’s bizarre. And not something that you would assume would be happening for a good reason. I also cannot begin to express the gaping credibility gap that anyone else would have been forced to acknowledge if they were serving as Secretary of State while their spouse was leading a foundation receiving millions of dollars from foreign entities. Both of those things happened on the road to her nomination. And there’s been enough noise over forty years in the public eye previously to lead you to believe this is a pattern. Living exceptionally clean means that you did none or very little of that. And if you did, at a minimum you would be expected to be honest and forthright in your explanations. She was neither.

Those are the things that look and feel really dirty. And if they’re not actually dirty, then man, she just doesn’t give a rip at all what you think. Because she’s inevitable.

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Get it yet?

I’ll take a second to point out that I didn’t include Benghazi in that critique. That’s on purpose. The Benghazi attack is one of those spots where the opposition overplayed their hand. I know we lost four people there. And that’s tragic. We lost 36 in a day in Iraq. And about 40,000 more were killed or wounded. There’s cemetery plots full of them out here in San Diego. I served there with a bunch of them. And we elected the administration responsible for that for a second term. If -W- were running today, you’d nominate him again.

The investigation for the Benghazi attacks went on for 815 days-longer than the investigation into the Kennedy assassination, longer than the investigation of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, longer than the investigation into the response to hurricane Katrina. And they’ve largely found that the deaths of those four Americans were avoidable. And that there were multiple failures of government by multiple agencies. And it cost us four great Americans. If that makes her a murderer though, I probably need to turn myself in too. And so do a whole lot of other folks because there’s a war going on.

If we want to broaden the criticism to foreign policy at large, specifically in the Middle East, and we wanted to be honest about it, we’d better be prepared to spread that blame to every western leader since Winston Churchill discovered Iraq by drawing the boarder between it and Syria in the wrong place in 1921. So let’s move past both. There’s real stuff here. Black and white, inarguable deficiencies, not rhetoric and hyperbole.

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Here’s the unfortunate truth. We are in a period of troubling division in our great country.  And we desperately need a leader that will unify us. Unfortunately for her, and us really, Secretary Clinton has given her opponents such a strong case for mistrust and suspicion, that it’s not likely any unification of purpose, spirit or function will be possible while she serves as the head of government. And it’s too bad. Because it didn’t have to be this way. She’s led a life of service. And is smart enough and tough enough to do it. She just couldn’t stay clean enough-intended or not.

That’s why electing Hillary Clinton will be bad for America.

So go ahead and ignore what the nuts are saying. But don’t ignore why they’re saying it. Their frustration is real and warranted. But their claims usually aren’t. And we need to be very honest about what we’re  about to get into if we elect her.

I can see it now as if it already happened. Mostly because it just did. Four years of nothing getting done. Four years, minimum, of ham handed legislators getting their base horny by telling Hillary to shove it. Four years minimum, of giving voice to the crazy people that wrote those fun manifestos of stupid hate woven into this article. Four years of old cooky white guys calling her KILLERY. Good stuff. Get ready for all of that. When you get right down to it, through the noise, through the overplayed hands of opposition, the real problem we’re going to have if we elect Hillary Clinton is a continuation or even a progression of the division we have now. But I’ll say this. The only candidate that solves that problem better, is Gary Johnson. Donald Trump is no remedy. Not by a long shot.

Johnson’s at 10% of the vote now. And we’re about 100 days out. For those of you that haven’t decided, you’re going to have to decide if it’s Hillary division or Trump division. It begs the question.What’s better? A life of service with clear failures of judgment and transparency. Or a life suspiciously devoid of service or sacrifice with clear failures of judgment and character brought to power by a nationalist movement with an undercurrent of authoritarianism or hate. I know which bad outcome scares me most. Maybe that’s just because I’ve seen this go wrong in other places up close.

Learning to serve and sacrifice isn’t easy when you’ve never done it. Then again, learning to be forthright and transparent isn’t that easy either. But there’s one clear thing that the two conventions showed me about our two front-running candidates that I found extremely helpful at determining who absolutely could not be president. Whatever their motivations may be, whatever level of trust you have in them, you can perhaps try to find some guidance in the words they actually say-true false or otherwise.

Whether or not you believe that they believe their own words is entirely up to you. But the words a candidate chooses to say are the words that candidate believes stir the heart of the people they seek to serve. Some choose fear and suspicion. Others choose hope, togetherness and inclusion. I know what stirs my heart. And so I know what voice I’m willing to follow.  And what voice I never will. You’ll have to decide for yourself what moves you.

But remember, if you can’t get this right, it’s important, not to get it too wrong.

Running Scared

So there you have it. The Republican National Convention is underway. The conservative conscience of our country is speaking-at least some part of it.  And though it may be easy for those of us outside the walls of the gathering, both literally and figuratively, to go after the low hanging fruit and poke holes in the message, perhaps we should take a moment of pause. And listen to it.

So try, if you can, to ignore what doesn’t matter. Ignore the nominated first lady plagiarizing the sitting First Lady’s convention speech. Ignore the angry retired mayor screaming at everyone. Ignore anyone from the cast of Happy Days. Ignore the mother of one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi. I feel for her. We lost 36 in a day in Iraq. And over 8,000 total in the war. It’s war. I was there when it started. And when it ended. I get it. It sucks.

Ignore the fact that on the second day, when they were supposed to talk about the economy, Chris Christi, instead conducted a mock trial on Hillary Clinton.

It’s all quite easy to poke fun at. But none of that matters. Not a bit of it.

What matter’s is the singular message reverberating off of the walls of Quicken Loans Arena to the corners of middle America. It’s not subtle.  It’s this:

We are scared. And we want to be protected. And we want our government to do it.

It’s a simple, concise, unifying call for a people bathing in fear. It’s a collective that fawns over strong acting men and leaders who talk tough. A people tired of talks of diplomacy and complex solutions to simple-we think-problems.  It’s a hard message to counter.  And it gets harder with every act of violence. If I were in opposition to that group, it would worry me.  And I would be focused on my own message, whatever that is.

I don’t know what the Democratic response is going to be. I’m sure they’ve got rooms full of people crafting it at this very moment. I’m interested.  And I’ll be listening.  But I’ve got one of my own to give in the mean time.  It’s this.

I’m sick of the bullshit tough guy act. It’s a sham. It’s devoid of strength and lacking in conviction. And I’m not scared enough to buy it. And if the other side comes out and tries to follow suit, I’ll tell them the same thing.

I have a few years before my experience in the military is no longer relevant to the specifics of our national political discourse.  And when I get there, I’ll retire my opinions to a bar stool at the VFW with the rest of the old guys down there and tell war stories. But until then, I’m happy to whip it out when it’s relevant. When people with no experience running for office talk tough about keeping people safe from terrorism, it’s one of those times.

I was a junior officer on my first deployment when 9/11 happened and a reasonably senior one when my team wrapped up combat operations in Iraq.  When we left there, I was a part of a group that was as effective at hunting down and destroying terrorist networks as just about any in the world. So I understand the mechanics of keeping a population safe from complex terrorist networks. It’s why I know that the tough talk, is just talk.

I don’t do that work any more-or anything like it. My time was up. So I serve America in a different way now. With my words as a private citizen. I’ll take this opportunity to give you some of them to make two points.

The first is this.  Be wary of people who fight for a living telling you what’s good for the country.  Don’t discount it.  But be wary.  Because when you’re a hammer, the world looks like a nail. People trying to stoke the fires of fear have been using them through history as shining castles of safety to run to. Sometimes it’s the right call. Sometimes it’s not. So be wary.

The second is that I hope I never, ever have to see it come to the point where we actually need to get “tough” on terrorism here, in America.  Stopping terrorists, the way you need to in order to make us measurably more safe then we are now, is actually a pretty simple game. It’s really just about making the holes in your net small enough. Right now, the groups responsible for keeping us safe, inside our borders at least, have pretty big holes in their nets. It’s not their fault. It’s by design.  Because those holes let Americans live their lives, the way American life is intended. And if you make them small enough, so small that we can pretty much guarantee no one ever gets killed by terrorism, I can tell you what that looks like. It’s not American.

Be warned. This is going to get specific. And hearing toughness and specificity can get confusing because those two things tend to diverge on the path of political rhetoric. So here goes. Here’s life with no threat of terrorism:

Every American has no expectation of privacy on any types of communication other than face to face, in their own private residence. Even that is suspect if anything bad ever happened anywhere near there. All immigration into our country stops. Not just from certain places. Borders are closed. From everywhere. Specific religious groups are profiled and watched more closely than others.

Some of you may be starting to like this. Sit tight.

Guns?  No. No one has a gun except the government-legally.  If you get caught with one illegally, I’m assuming you were part of a group that was up to no good and you’re going on a list. If your money ever ends up going anywhere near someone involved in any terror related activity, you’re going on a list. Intended or not. You’re related to anyone who ever did anything that smells like terrorist activity? You’re going on a list. And that list?  Guess what, due process is modified for people on that list. You do the wrong thing and it’s possible you’re going away to a facility for as long as is required to ensure you’re not a threat, without a trial.

We don’t torture. We don’t murder. But we do just about everything else we have to in order to keep America safe. And a lot of us, those willing to sign up and do it, may give our lives.

I could go on. Because there’s more. But you get the point. That’s what “tough” on terrorism looks like. That’s what you have to be willing to do in order to stop all of it. And if you think that none of those things are possible-that it could never happen in America-we’ve done every single one of them as a country to our own citizens, at some point in our history in service to an extreme threat. And every single time we have, we wish we hadn’t.  We did it during the first decade of our existence as a country when most of our citizens were born citizens of a country we just fought. We did it when half of the country seceded. And we did it during the largest, deadliest armed conflict in the history of mankind. Those are the times we decided to get “tough” on things that we thought made us unsafe.

Now, you could make the argument that perhaps we don’t need all of that stuff. Maybe we just need to do something.  I’ll respond with the fact that the last two terror attacks on our soil were conducted by American citizens, with no criminal record with weapons that were purchased legally. If you’re going to stop that, your net better not have any holes.

You could also make that argument that these are dire times.  And dire actions are required.  That’s certainly what I heard on the first day of the convention. Consider the following:

Over the past decade, Americans were twelve times more likely to drown in a bath tub than to be killed by terrorists.

While you’re chewing on that, consider this. In 2014, 48,000 people died of drug overdoses. 32,000 people died in car accidents last year. Over 12,000 non-terrorist related murders were committed with a firearm in 2015 alone.

Over the last ten years, we’ve had less then 200 deaths in America from terrorism. I will mourn for every one of them.  And I will pray for their families. But I will not fear.

It appears to take incredibly little to scare some incredibly tough sounding people.

“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” said Alexander Hamilton.  Let that one hang for a bit.

If you need to feel tough, then show some toughness.  And stand in there fearlessly against the minimal threat of terrorism and live your life like a damn American-the way generations of Americans before you stood in there against much greater threats to defend our way of life during much more dangerous times. Over the beaches at Normandy, on Little Round Top, at Lexington and Concord, etc, etc…

Here’s my tough talk.  Leave my rights and my liberties alone. Stop being so damned scared. I left my wife with tears in her eyes in the middle of the night on the beach behind my command in San Diego three weeks after our son had been diagnosed with severe autism. And I did it to go put boot to ass for God and country.  I’m not entrusting that type of sacrifice to either one of those frauds from either party.

There’s one other thing I’d like to add.  Johnson/Weld 2016.  That’s my vote.  Give me one honest reason why anyone is better.  They may not win.  But I’ve given too much to this country, parts of my soul, parts of my family, years gone in shitty burnt out places to go quietly into the night with my vote.  It starts now.

CC: Libertarian Party, for distribution to whoever the hell you see fit.