Bernie Sanders; Donald Trump

Would a Timeout Work in This Election Season?

1-time-out-timer-stoolTime for a timeout?

Yes, the presidential candidates are not children getting cranky or refusing to share.  Yes, they are adults.  But recent actions and behavior in the long and uber-crazy primary season lead to only one conclusion.

Hill, Bernie, the Donnie, Teddy-Boy and John-John need to go sit in their respective quiet spots for a while and think about how they are behaving.

Hill’s playmate, New York Billy de Blasio, needs to find a corner, as well.

This past Sunday, Hill and New York Billy appeared at a political event and tried to impress the crowd by laughingly employing a scripted comedy sequence.

And why not?  These are funny people, right?

Noting that the mayor took a long time to give the former New York senator his endorsement, Hill said: “Thanks for the endorsement, Bill.  Took you long enough.”

Inexplicably, and with extreme tone deafness, New York Billy replied: “Sorry, Hillary, I was running on C.P. time.”

The audience reaction underlined the offensiveness of New York Billy’s remark, given that “C.P. time” not only is a racially insensitive abbreviation for “colored people’s time” but also is a remark that many had hoped had faded from use.

“The controversy couldn’t come at a more inauspicious time for Clinton,” writes Adam Howard on the NBC News website.  “… Bill Clinton has been in the hot seat this past week for public, racially charged clashes with Black Lives Matter protesters. Both Clintons have been increasingly under fire for the past vociferous support for a 1994 crime bill which has not been faulted for sky high incarceration rates, which has disproportionately impacted African-Americans.”

Timeout!

And then there’s Bernie, who was blasted last week by former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for his claim that Israel has killed more than 10,000 innocent Palestinians in Gaza.  On Sunday, when being interviewed on CNN, Bernie dismissed the criticism, but showed — surprisingly — that he didn’t know who Oren is.

“Who is Mr. Oren?” Mr. Sanders said after being asked about the criticism.

Oops.

Timeout!

This came atop their earlier “qualified/unqualified” squabble that was reminiscent of two kids screaming in the street.

Did so!  Did not!  Did so!  Did not!

They questioned each other’s bona fides to be president.  Bernie wondered about Hill’s integrity and Hill suggested that Bernie is not a “real Democrat.”

Timeout!

As for the Donnie: he is getting very cranky because he doesn’t like how others are playing.  He’s probably hungry or needs a nap.

“You saw what happened in Colorado,” he whined after his most recent defeat.  “It’s a fix. … It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system.”

And then there are the other kids with whom the Donnie hangs.  Noted Kirstan Conley in the New York Post: “Trump was introduced by Jennifer Crisafulli, who was fired on ‘The Apprentice’ and lost a job in real life after being criticized for comments about ‘two old Jewish fat ladies’ who she said were ‘jaded old bags.’”

Timeout!

Teddy-Boy, meanwhile, the self-described outsider with whom no one wanted to play, has become acceptable because … well, just because.  “If they gave out a report card for first-term senators, Cruz would get an F for ‘plays well with others’,” writes Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times in a column titled “Ted Cruz isn’t Donald Trump, so he’s good enough.”

Goldberg notes the irony that Teddy-Boy spent years building his reputation as the guy who wants to tear down the system, “and now it’s the system, not necessarily the voters, that may put him over the top.”

And now Teddy-Boy has accused the Donnie of threatening delegates; this was part of his response to the Donnie’s claims that Teddy-Boy used “gestapo” tactics to win in Colorado.

“That is a tactic of union thugs,” he said during the interview with Glenn Beck, reports ABC News.  “That is violence. It is oppressive. The idea that Donald is threatening delegates, we’re seeing that pattern over and over again. Donald needs to understand he’s not Michael Corleone, Donald needs to stop threatening the voters. He needs to stop threatening the delegates. He is not a mobster.”

Timeout!

John-John, meanwhile, is getting punchy because he has been talking – and saying nice things – for months, but no one is listening.  So he’s decided to go in a new direction.

“The Ohio governor’s speech at the Women’s National Republican Club in New York had all the trappings of a presidential affair, with ‘Hail to the Chief’ piped into the room and American flags prominently placed behind him,” wrote Eliza Collins in Politico.

And John-John was very critical of his opponents … for the first time.  “Some who feed off of the fears and anger that is felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desire for fame or attention,” he said.  “That could drive America down into a ditch, not make us great again.”

He also said the other kids (ah, adults) are not playing nice and suggesting “disturbing” solutions and behavior, including religious tests for immigration, targeted neighborhood surveillance, draconian tariffs, and a dramatic rethink of NATO.

“I have stood on a stage and watched with amazement as candidates wallowed in the mud, viciously attacked one another, called each other liars and disparaged each other’s character,” he said.  “Those who continuously push that type of behavior are not worthy of the office they are seeking.”

Timeout!

But wait, the experts aren’t certain about the value of timeouts.

“Next time the need for discipline arises, parents might consider a ‘time-in’: forging a loving connection, such as sitting with the child and talking or comforting,” write Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne, Bryson, Ph.D., in Time magazine.  “Some time to calm down can be extremely valuable for children, teaching them how to pause and reflect on their behavior.”

Talking and comforting?  Maybe we can work that into the upcoming debates.

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Our 2016 Candidates: Is This The Best We Can Do as a Country?

democrat-donkey-republican-elephantFor a moment, let’s step back from Hillary vs. Bernie, and Trump vs. … well, Trump, and address what might be the more important question – at least as it pertains to all of the rest of us.

Are the 20 candidates who started this presidential-election process the absolute best we can come up with? Or, as one friend recently said to me: “We’ve having a presidential election and the roster of candidates is worse than the Lakers’ roster.”

There are quick, talking-point answers to that question, of course: For the Democrats, the prospect of the Clinton coronation was proffered as a foregone conclusion and likely tamped down expectations. Understood, in theory. Maybe not so much in reality.

And, cutting across both parties, there’s this other interesting phenomenon – namely, that the candidates generating the most excitement and attention as well as significant support – Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – can easily be seen as “primary candidates” only. You know, intriguing “diversions” who could never get elected in a national election.

A momentary aside: Despite the fact that many commentators link these three to voters’ “never-before-seen” disdain and disgust with the status quo, the respective manias we’re experiencing with each aren’t necessarily new. Think Gene McCarthy …

From the Los Angeles Times:

Sanders’ ideas have stirred the ideological fervor of old progressives and young millennials, just as Eugene McCarthy once did when those old progressives were young students protesting a war.

… or George McGovern, Ronald Reagan (the first time around) or Howard Dean and others.

From USA Today:

Dean himself has jumped into the comparison game.

“There’s certainly an insurgency,” Dean said of Sanders in a recent Washington Post article. “An attractive candidate is basically calling out the Democrats, much the way I did in 2004.”

But, stepping back, one (at least this one) still can’t get away from the fact that the weakness of the overall field is startling in a country of 320 million-plus people. (Look, Canada, with its population of less than 40 million, now has Justin Trudeau and … uh, never mind.)

Moving back to the U.S. …

On the Democratic side, we’ve addressed the Bernie phenomenon above. As for Hillary, short and sweet might be best – damaged; defensive; feeling of entitlement; doesn’t connect with a large proportion of people … including those who probably will end up voting for her.

From The Hill:

“Her challenge remains the same as it always has been — show voters who she is and reveal the person beneath the candidate,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University. “To win people’s trust and to generate enthusiasm, she has to let some of her character come out.”

“She has so many qualifications: experience, knowledge, partisan skill,” Zelizer said, adding that the likability factor “is what she needs to work on.”

And then there’s Martin O’Malley. Could O’Malley have been a more-compelling figure, given that he’s been angling for this opportunity for eight years? Or is Martin O’Malley, unfortunately, simply who we always thought he was – and nothing more?

Are Gavin Newsom, Deval Patrick and Andrew Cuomo simply too damaged?

Is Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service,” unfortunately John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service.”

Is it too soon for Corey Booker and either of the Castro twins from Texas?

Did Jerry Brown shed his Gov. Moonbean  too late in life?

From the Los Angeles Times:

To watch Jerry Brown is to marvel at just how many political lives he can squeeze into his years on stage.

This Brown, who Thursday put on a conservative suit and tie to read his speech, was inconceivable in 1992 when he was storming the country in a black turtleneck — his ranting and ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign spurred by anger and little else.

On the GOP side, the dearth of candidates was not a problem. But, similar to the Democrats’ issue, the Bush coronation that many expected got derailed because the candidate has warts – or simply was doing something he really didn’t want to do.

Quickly, working through most of the group: Ben Carson leveraged his 2013 National Prayer Breakfast evisceration of President Obama into a presidential run that mystifies many; Marco Rubio is doing well at times but still seems as if he’s on the stage four years too soon; Cruz is busy being Cruz, and arrogantly believing his shtick will translate into a national campaign; Bush is flummoxed; Carly Fiorina quickly rose to prominence and then quickly disappeared; Chris Christie and John Kasich, representing the GOP’s grown-up lane, are at the respective edges of the stage screaming and trying to get attention; Rand Paul is not understanding that his attention-getting antics on the Senate floor were years ago and he isn’t being noticed. (I’ll leave out those who sat at the kiddie table at the debates. Nothing new to say about that other than George … George Pataki?)

So a vacuum was created and Trump was more than happy to jump into it, full throated and with a clever strategy in his pocket. The strategy: play to people’s emotions with bumper-sticker proclamations, jingoistic talking points worthy of the old No-Nothing Party.

From The New Yorker:

He is the latest representative of an anti-immigrant, nativist American tradition that dates back at least to the Know-Nothings of the eighteen-forties and eighteen-fifties. On the other hand, Trump is a twenty-first-century celebrity politician who ruthlessly exploits his fame and his insider knowledge of how the media works to maximum effect.

He also possesses a dedicated avoidance of real issues. All of this buttressed by a vapor-like debate strategy that emphasized the message that he is positioned at the center of the stage because his poll numbers are the best.

(Another aside: One can’t help but wonder when poll numbers became a credible substitute for credentials, as in, “Of course, I’m qualified, my poll numbers are higher than anyone else on the stage.”)

And, so, we move forward with the expectation that Iowa and New Hampshire will start to bring us clarity. Unfortunately, as things become clearer, all we will find out is that the final two unfortunately came from the original list of 20. And, unlike the Lakers, we won’t even get a draft choice or be able to sign a free agent.

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