America’s Cartoon Election
America must choose between two political parties that are really cartoons.
The Democrats are the party of the smartass, the smooth-talking donkey in Shrek, while Republicans are Dumbo, the clumsy elephant that may or may not fly.
Yes, it’s a generalization and even a bit of an exaggeration, but here’s the rule: Democrats pick people to get the job; Republicans pick people to get the job done.
Democrats prefer candidates attractive enough to get the job: tall, good-looking guys with good hair (though not always with much inside the head) Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, or “identity candidates” like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, who can be counted on to bring a certain voter bloc.
If the looks and the hair are a little weak, they can always “get a little help” from plastic surgery, Botox or hair-transplants etc. Just ask Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
Republicans usually go for the Dumbo factor -- the somewhat ponderous even clumsy guys who have bad hair or no hair but can think and even “think outside the box,” like Donald Trump or Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney or Donald Rumsfeld.
GOP pachyderms often pick unpolished politicians like George W. Bush or John McCain, honest and decent men, who have a sense of service.
They do not pick sweet talkers for top executive posts but guys who were governors, held jobs in industry, or commanded men in battle: people who get results. Sometimes, the GOP selectees make mistakes, but they do not whine like a bunch of overpaid lawyers or former law professors (e.g. Obama, Clinton, Clinton, Kerry, Edwards).
Terror and national health care are classic examples of how this pattern plays out:
Barack Obama has a fine appearance and great voice, but fighting terror or building new health care takes more than a national narrator. Obama and his crew think it’s all about the narrative -- about talking the talk, not walking the walk.
George W. Bush, who often spoke in mangled sentences, and Cheney (who, sadly, rarely spoke) had many accomplishments. They brought the country together after 9/11 and helped keep America safe from additional terror. Bush also kept the economy in shape after a terrific blow to New York and Washington, using a tax cut stimulus.
The market meltdown of 2008 has many fathers, but pumping the housing market with easy mortgages for people who could not pay -- Democratic Party policy -- was a major cause. Yet, reporters did not ask Barack Obama about the tremendous donations he and other Democrats got from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who sparked the crisis.
Despite criticism of the war in Iraq -- much of it justified -- George W. Bush, in his own plodding, pachydermic manner, won the war and established a nascent if imperfect democratic process in Iraq. This was not a miracle, but a hard-won victory. Bush made mistakes, but compare the costs and the results to, say, Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam.
We saw what a “surge” looked like under Bush in Iraq: it got the job done. We saw what “surges” look like under Obama in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Obama wanted to please his voters and keep his job, not get the job done. The hollow president surged in, then surged out, with a bang and a whimper.
Hillary Clinton likes to speak of an “intelligence surge,” whatever that means. One hopes she is not referring to a torrent of secret data from her communications.
If Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, or John Edwards had been president on 9/11, they would have dealt with the attack on America the way they dealt with issues like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, domestic terror and immigration reform. They would have launched an army of slogans and a platoon of platitudes.
Then, after failing, today’s Democrats would blame Republicans, rapidly deploying an extrication force of excuses and euphemisms. That is far cry from the way Democratic presidents Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson governed during their crises: WWII, Korea, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam.
None of them “passed the buck,” or “kicked the can down the road.”
Truman lived with his tough decision to use the atomic bomb in Japan, and he took the heat for the stalemate in Korea. Kennedy admitted error in the Bay of Pigs. Lyndon Johnson really took responsibility for Vietnam by leaving the White House. Compare that to the way Obama-Clinton “take responsibility” for Libya or anything else.
Obama-Clinton-Kerry have dealt with their debacles in a different way. Just listen to Obama’s warped and illogical claims about health care or terrorism. The world and America are better than ever before, says Obama, and when he is shown that things are not as he claims, then, says the Big O, it’s the fault of the Republicans.
When Russia invades Ukraine or Syria, enabling the use of chemical weapons by the brutal Assad regime (killing hundreds of thousands), that’s not a red line for Obama, but when Democrat emails get leaked, then it’s time to go to nuclear alert against the sinister Russian plot teaming up with a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”
In this season of media hypocrisy, where debate moderators demand apologies from all who doubted Obama’s credentials and background, I am waiting for Obama, Clinton, and “Saturday Night Live” to apologize to Sarah Palin who correctly warned in 2008 about Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Obama-Clinton have not apologized to Mitt Romney for ridiculing him in 2012 for concern about Vladimir Putin, to whom Obama promised great “flexibility.”
Yes, the current election has become a cartoon experience.
Electing someone should demand more than scanning their marital or sexual history, but if you study Barack Obama’s campaign for Senate in Illinois in 2006, you know that is exactly how Obama beat his primary opponent and then his election opponent. Chicago Rules. So much for the Michelle Obama claim about taking the high road.
If you want a project completed, let’s say national health care or rebuilding a modernized army, and you want it done on time and under budget, would you put your money on the carefully coiffed Nancy Pelosi or John Edwards of the $600-haircut? Or would you bet on a Trump, a Rumsfeld, a Romney, Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina?
Would you bet on Obama, a good-looking and great-sounding “community organizer” who touts going to Columbia but hides his grades, who brags about going to Harvard Law School and being on the “law review” but who never wrote an article?
If Americans chose their presidents with as much care as they choose their plumbers or dentists -- based on professional results -- they might pick a person the media love to hate or to caricature: a Romney, a Palin, a Cheney, or a Trump (the butt of the late-night comedians and media outlets some of whom even compare them to Hitler).
No politician is free of error, and no human is free of mistakes, even sins, but voters have to decide whether it is a better bet to choose a person or party who learns from mistakes or the one that ignores them and repeatedly tries to cover them up.
This year’s cartoon election brings us the Democrat smartass versus Dumbo the Elephant. Let’s hope Dumbo -- the party and the candidate -- learn how to fly.
And a message to all conservatives or Republicans who want to stay home or throw their vote away on a marijuana candidate: if we end up with the donkeys again, let’s not cry out loud and say “Ain’t that a kick in the head.” That would be so Hillary, or maybe Hillary-ous.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat (Threshold/ Simon and Schuster). He teaches at Bar-Ilan University, was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ’s Ministry of Public Security, and was the Schusterman Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis 2007-8 and at the University of California, Irvine for 2013-14.