Friday, August 30, 2019

Mayor Pete

A most remarkable exchange took place a while ago on Fox News. The network which appears to be starting to be take the "news" part of its name seriously, has held a series of "town hall" meetings with some Democratic presidential candidates, at least those who agree to appear on the network. Most notably, Elizabeth Warren has taken a pass on their invitation, calling the network a "hate for profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists"

In one such broadcast, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg took questions from Fox anchor Chris Wallace and some audience members. The part of the broadcast that got the most attention was this exchange between Wallace and Buttigieg on the subject of abortion, especially those that take place during the final trimester of a pregnancy, late term abortions as they have come to be called.

Buttigieg has proven himself to be far and away the most thoughtful and articulate of all the Democratic candidates. His calling out at the first presidential debate of the hypocrisy of Republicans who support the current administration's policy of separation of refugee families at the US/Mexico border, AND still call themselves Christians, has become the stuff of legend.

But here during the Fox broadcast, he raised the bar even higher when he addressed the most contentious, controversial issue of our time, taking the simplistic rhetoric of the president's pandering to the religious right, and turning it on its head.

It didn't start out well. As you can see in the clip, after fielding a question from an audience member and giving a lukewarm response about his support for a woman's right to choose, a position the left has been weary of, Wallace pointedly asked the candidate what is his stance on "late term abortions." Buttigieg muttered something about hypothetical questions which Wallace rightfully called him on. He indicated this is not a hypothetical question, there are 6,000 of these procedures that take place every year in this country. Then, pulling a rabbit out of his hat, Mayor Pete laid it on the line:
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation. If it is that late in your pregnancy, that means almost by definition, you have been expecting to carry it to term, we are talking about women who perhaps have chosen a name, women who have purchased a crib, families that get most devastating medical news of their lifetime, something about health or the life mother that forces them to make an impossible choice...
...that (terrible) choice is not going to be made any better medically or morally if the government is dictating how the decision should be made.
I've written in this space before about how I never felt comfortable with the absolutist ideologies of either the Pro-Life or Pro-Choice movements and struggled for years on how to come to terms with the issue of abortion. It's very clear from that dialog that Pete Buttigieg has struggled with the issue as well. Admittedly my conclusion is not a perfect one and neither is his, which from getting to know him for the past few months, I think he'd be the first to admit. I believe this because also at that first debate, when asked about the difficulties he is having in his city, specifically those relating to the relationship between the mostly white police department and the city's African American community, he responded by saying these problems still exist "because I didn't get the job done."

Imagine, a politician who takes responsibility when things go wrong.

What an idea.

If the primary were held today, I'd vote for Pete Buttigieg in a heartbeat.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Lipstick on a Pig

Housebound again for a week, looking after my ailing mother in the hospital and her dog while camped out at her apartment, I found myself alone with cable TV and a remote at my disposal. The timing was fortuitous as my hiatus from real life coincided with the Robert Mueller hearings last month on Capitol Hill. Being alone meant I could flip between channels to see what the folks on the alternate reality network of FOX NEWS had to say about the hearings, something that neither my wife nor mother can stomach.

Long before his testimony, Mueller made it clear that the entirety of his appearance before two congressional committees would revolve around his report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Everything else would be off limits. So his answers to questions that went beyond the scope of his intended testimony, as could be expected were , "I can't comment on that." This didn't make for compelling TV as many had hoped, but the former FBI Chief did confirm some rather damning findings of his report that implicated the President of the United States and his staff in having had if not exactly illegal, certainly unsettling, questionable, and unethical dealings with representatives of a hostile foreign government, by soliciting their help in securing his victory in the election. And the findings of the Mueller Report strongly suggested that the president in his firing of FBI director James Comey and other actions, indeed obstructed justice. Over and over again Mueller insisted that it wasn't his or his team's prerogative to indict the president, yet he also made it crystal clear that the report's findings IN NO WAY exonerated the president. What I just said is not personal opinion nor conjecture on my part, it comes from actually listening to Mueller's testimony.

To be fair, not all of Fox's reporting on the hearings missed the obvious in Mueller's testimony. But the usual suspects, the reliable go-to guys who will go to the ends of the earth to cover for all of Donald Trump's shortcomings, kept up the narrative that Attorney General William Barr set in motion last April when in his official summary of the Mueller Report, he insisted that there was nothing in the report to implicate the president in any wrongdoing. Despite comments to the contrary from Mueller himself, Barr who fought to keep the report from going public, insisted there was nothing to see there, and instructed us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The official Trump Fox mouthpieces, the hosts of Fox and Friends, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson to name a few, kept up the charade. A huffing and puffing, Dobbs couldn't have been more indignant when he spoke of how the evil Democrat (sic) Party will stop at nothing to destroy this very special president. And Carlson flashed his patented  incredulous reaction takes over and over again after showing highly selected clips of Mueller stumbling through his testimony, looking like anything but a credible witness. To be sure, Mueller didn't bring his A game to the hearings. It was clear long before the hearings became a reality that Mueller felt the whole exercise was unnecessary as his scruples wouldn't allow him to reveal any information that was not already disclosed in the report. He appeared as if he relished being in the hot seat in front of the two committees about as much as being in a dentist's chair perched upon the precipice of a cliff 500 feet above the fires of Gehenna. The Republicans on the committees, ever loyal to the president, tried ad nauseam to make the case that it was Mueller and his investigation, not the president and his administration that was suspect of malfeasance. In doing so they shamefully did everything in their power to attack the credibility of Mueller, a war hero who served this nation honorably in a career that has spanned over half a century.

Naturally Carlson and his like-minded Fox colleagues followed suit, and kept showing the rhetorical flourishes of the Republicans and Mueller's hesitating responses to them, as well as montages of his refusal to answer questions out of the scope of the hearings (making him appear like he was trying to hide something), to prove their point. Naturally they showed none of the questions of the Democrats who tried to get at the real point of the investigation, and Mueller's pointed responses that unequivocally suggested the president is guilty of wrongdoing.

It hardly surprised me their coverage did not seem to jibe with what I had actually seen during the live testimony, I've been through this before and Fox, especially the above mentioned celebrities, (it would be an extreme stretch to refer to them as journalists), have a reputation to uphold of not letting facts get in the way of their agenda. But I have to give them credit, they are certainly good at what they do. I can understand how folks who choose to only watch these alternate news guys truly believe that their opinions supporting this administration are justified.

But something seemed hauntingly familiar with watching their coverage of the hearings.

Then it dawned on me. If you've seen the movie The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of a Steven King horror story, you know that it is one of the most chilling, over-the-top, terrifying works of art ever to be recorded on celluloid. If you haven't seen it, this little clip should give you an idea.

Several years ago, some brilliant YouTubers put together an "alternate trailer" for The Shining. As you can see in the following, through the magic of editing, they made the film look like...

Well here,  you can judge for yourself:

So the lesson to be learned here is that by ignoring the stuff you don't want to hear, (the M.O of the lion's share of the current president's supporters), and a judicious helping of Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, anything, heck even the Trump administration, can appear tolerable.

My, the alternate world is such a lovely place.