Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Off with the gloves...

Donald Trump is a horse's ass, of that I'm certain. Heaven knows what makes the guy think he could possibly be elected President of the United States, given his temperament, the ostentatious way in which he flaunts his wealth, and his propensity for making unbelievably stupid comments. He's a joke to the electoral process, at least according to the Huffington Post who has vowed to relegate their coverage of his campaign to the entertainment section rather than their political pages. Referring to his own resignation from his daily TV show called appropriately enough "The Daily Show," comedian Jon Stewart christened Trump: “the patron saint of topical comedians who are just running out the clock.”

But if you look at the polls, the numbers are no joke. Trump leads his closest rival in the Republican race for the party's nomination by a factor of two. Well at least he did before his latest bout with foot-in-mouth disease, his comment that Senator John McCain was not a war hero. My first reaction, (in cleaner, texting jargon) was WTF??? After all, McCain is not a candidate this time around, so why in the world would Trump waste his time with the Arizona senator?

Well it turns out that Trump's hair-trigger anger got the better of him, yet again, after McCain called a thousand or so of his own constituents who turned out for a Trump rally in Phoenix, a bunch of "crazies." The subject came up in a TV interview where Trump jokingly said he didn't like McCain because he lost the (2008 presidential) election to Barrack Obama. The interviewer then said (for reasons unknown to me) that McCain is a war hero, to which Trump retorted, "he's not a war hero." Then a back and forth ensued, "he is too a hero, is not, is so..." Trump suggested that McCain is considered a war hero only because he was captured by the North Vietnamese. He then added, (for reasons only he can tell you), "I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you."

This brief tête-à-tête went viral and Trump has been excoriated from all sides of the political spectrum for what amounted to nothing more than a meaningless hissy fit.

In response, The Washington Post published this article addressing the issue: "What Donald Trump was up to while John McCain was suffering as a prisoner of war." You can read the article to find out but I'll save you the time and tell you that Trump was not suffering, in fact, far from it.

It's a feel good article for anyone who thinks The Donald deserves his comeuppance, but when you stop and think for a minute, the content of the article begs the question, so what?

John McCain, the son and grandson of four star US Navy admirals, was destined for a military career. Donald Trump had a different destiny, following in his father's footsteps as a real estate developer. Despite all his foolish rantings during the interview and in subsequent explanations, I didn't hear Donald Trump once claim himself to be a war hero. He like countless other American men of draft age in the sixties who could afford it, avoided military service by getting college deferments. Then in the draft lottery, Trump happened to receive a very high number, meaning that his chances of being drafted were incredibly slim. As if that weren't enough, he was found to have a bone spur in one foot (he couldn't remember which one), making him physically ineligible for the draft if all else failed. True, he did make sure all his bases were covered, but you'd be hard pressed to find any wrongdoing along those lines.

There's a lot of hypocrisy these days as we pass judgement on those who did and did not serve in the Vietnam War. While I was a young teen in the early seventies, I was very conscious of the most unpopular war in this nation's history and had absolutely no intention when the time came, to go off and fight in it. Had push came to shove, I probably would have done everything possible to avoid going into the armed services, even moving to Canada if necessary. I might even have had the support of my parents, well at least my mother.  Frankly, everyone I knew at the time felt the same way. Well it so happened that dumb luck intervened, the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973 when I was 15, and for my contemporaries and me, avoiding the war never became an issue.

I'm not proud of that, nor am I ashamed. Feel free to judge me, but I was simply the product of my highly skeptical, cynical generation, and the urban, liberal community in which I lived. Given all that, I don't consider myself to be in any position to judge people who chose not to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War, not even Donald Trump. Nor do I feel any right to stand in judgement of people who did serve.

Donald Trump apparently doesn't share that feeling.

As much as it pains me to say it, unseemly as Trump's comments about McCain were, there might be a hint of truth to them; it all depends upon what your definition of hero is. Lately, that word has been bandied about quite liberally, being used to describe everything from sports stars, to reality TV contestants, to a former Olympian who changed his sexual identity. Personally I'm quite happy allowing everyone his or her own definition of the word, but there are some among us who insist that the term hero has very specific requirements. There are those for example, who refute the claims that the folks inside the Twin Towers and Pentagon when they were attacked on 9/11 and the people in the planes that slammed into them, were heroes. No, the naysayers insist, those people were victims, not heroes, as they did not willfully choose to be in the tragic situation they found themselves in. The first responders on the other hand were unquestionably heroes because they entered the burning buildings of their own will in the hopes of saving others, with little or no regard for their own well being.

Likewise that line of thought goes, John McCain who was doing his job at the time, flying in a bombing raid on Hanoi in 1968, was a victim of the missile that shot down his aircraft. Now one could argue that the very act of flying a bombing mission across enemy lines is heroic, but of course that depends which side you're on. I'm sure the people of Hanoi didn't regard the fighter pilots who were dropping bombs on their city to be particularly heroic.

As for McCain's five years as a guest in the infamous prison dubbed the "Hanoi Hilton," there is unequivocal agreement that his was a harrowing experience. However there is a difference of opinion over whether he did or did not under duress, hand over military information to his captors. The Washington Post article from the other day in no uncertain terms claimed he did not. An article that appeared in Rolling Stone during the 2008 election claimed he did. That article suggests McCain has character flaws of his own, including a volatile temper, a boundless ego, ceaseless ambition, and an insatiable appetite for the pursuit of members of the opposite sex. In other words, he's not all that different from Donald Trump, minus the hair.

Like him or not, given that McCain is now an elder statesman who is no longer likely to run for president again, that Rolling Stone article today reads like a vengeful, unnecessary case of character assassination. But when it first came out, just like the Washington Post piece on Trump vis-à-vis McCain, it was read with relish by opponents of the McCain/Palin ticket, myself included.

In the end we all believe what we want to believe and the truth gets lost somewhere in the margins.

It remains to be seen whether the McCain comments will have a detrimental effect on Trump's presidential bid. The people who respond to his message actually relate to his other foolish rants such as the one about Mexican immigrants being rapists or how he prefers little guys wearing yarmulkes handling all his money, But dissing a vet and a five year POW is a whole other matter.

I have a friend who insists that Trump is a shill for the Democratic Party as he is throwing the entire Republican Party into damage control. Perhaps he's right. Maybe as a return volley, the Republicans had McCain make his "crazies" remark to provoke Trump into one of his forays into foolishness.

Conspiracy theories aside, I believe Trump doesn't really care what comes out of his mouth, as long as it gets him attention, which is what his campaign is all about. Unlike all the other candidates, he has the money to bankroll his own campaign with plenty to spare, so he doesn't have to worry about offending his benefactors. If he's right about his followers being a "silent majority" of Americans, as long as he doesn't piss them off with too many POWs not being heroes gaffes, he'll probably do OK. Despite his big lead and endless supply of cash, I can't see him winning the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency, but this country has surprised me over and over again in what it capable of achieving, both good and bad. A good example, never in my life did I think I'd live to see a black president.

On the flip side of that, as unlikely as it may seem, the thought of a President Trump depresses the hell out of me.

Come to think of it, once again, Canada's not looking so bad.

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