What might have been wasn’t

The primary tornadoes are over and now we go on to the November hurricane. The right has the man they wanted but the left didn’t quite make it. They are stuck with Hillary, the new wine in old bottles candidate dragged from what is the sweet spot in the middle her husband cultivated with such skill. Look for “pivot” to be used to the point of nausea by the commentariat as she repositions herself to best advantage. Her P.T. Barnum adversary won’t bother. He has his inimitable brand, which can be reduced to “It’s gonna be great again, believe me, and I’ll get back to you with the details.”

It’s not too soon to be wistful about the people we would rather be voting for in November. In my case, it would be the freshman senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse, a 44-year-old former college wrestler, policy adviser in the Bush administration, and university president. After his election two years ago, Sasse waited a year before making his maiden speech. He spent the time studying the failures of the Senate, interviewing other members of Congress, and following the debates with their sound bytes and straw man arguments. He told both parties “the people despise us all.”

Anybody doubt that?

That is why most Republican voters want the wrecking ball taken to the whole smug, isolated, self-enriching GOP party establishment. Whether Trump will comply with that hope is one of those details he’ll get back to us on later, but his vengeful nature is an encouraging sign. Democrats had a similar opportunity but fate delivered an elderly Jewish socialist with a Brooklyn accent to take on the smug, isolated, etc., party establishment personified by the all-powerful Clinton machine and blabbermouth Debby Wasserman Schultz, one of the most accomplished liars on the political stage today. She has advanced from minor evasions to who do you believe, me or your lying eyes? That takes a lot of self confidence, overweening you might say. The fix was in and Birney never had a chance. Elizabeth Warren might have been another story, but like Joe Biden she didn’t want to get chewed up by the machinery.

Mao had a solution when the establishment became ossified and corrupt in China. He sent young fanatics into the classrooms, businesses, cultural and bureaucratic institutions and had them cleaned out. Thousands were killed, imprisoned or sent to the countryside to work as peasants. In the end, that didn’t work either, human nature being what it is. After a few decades passed, the problems returned. The Chinese president Xi Jinping is trying to shape things up by returning to the Mao-style strongman model of governing. Like the Russians, the Chinese are used to authoritarianism. The Russians even welcome it.

The other candidate I would prefer is another from the university president ranks, retired Admiral William McRaven, the former commander of the SEALS who organized the raid that sent Osama bin Laden off to the arms of the 72 virgins. He literally wrote the book on special operations. Now at the University of Texas at Austin, McRaven gave what was regarded as the best commencement address of 2014. It consisted of ten tips for how to become successful, starting with making your bed perfectly every morning. “It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” If you have a bad day, your bed is waiting and maybe tomorrow will be better. That is wisdom distilled. A six-year-old boy wrote him once to ask who was more silent, a SEAL or a Ninja. McRaven took time out of his busy day to write a personal letter. A ninja was probably quieter, he said, but a SEAL shoots better.

The D.C. establishment will tell you Trump doesn’t have a chance, but they assured us he would never win the nomination. The best description I’ve heard of Hillary’s campaign style is “medicinal,” although wooden comes close. My money is on the showman over the second banana.

***

Judy and I walk along a golf course mornings and we see people I nickname if they become familiar. There was Slow Walker for years, the Merry Couple, Nurse Black Car (it has a bumper strip that says I Stop for Turtles), Crooked Lady (she had a spine problem that bent her sideways and made every step look painful) and Jolly Man. He lost his wife in December and now is a tragic figure. He told my wife about her death and began weeping so she gave him a hug. He still walks, but for hours now and in a driven way so my new name for him is Hard Walker (it’s actually Bill, but I get stuck in my ways). He is haggard and emaciated from the endless miles and his clothes hang on him. He is a retired military officer like so many in our sleepy village. I think he walks to impose some kind of order on his life, blown to smithereens when his wife died.

The weekly newspaper, owned with scores of others by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson—though I seriously doubt he has ever seen a copy or would want to—runs obituaries I mow take an uncommon interest in. You come across people who were married 60 and even 70 years before one of them passes away. The suffering of the survivors, almost always women, is unimaginable to me. Why go on?

 

 

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