“It’s Not Cool To Not Know What You’re Talking About.”

The title is a quote from our president, when he spoke at commencement at Rutger’s (“Full Text of President Obama’s Speech at Rutger’s Commencement”, Mark Mueller, NK Advance Media for NJ.com, 5/15/2016).  You might want to read the whole transcript, as it’s positive and uplifting (and not boring – heck, I don’t even remember who spoke at my commencement, let alone what he said).

This quote just about sums up what a lot of people think, when they watch anything having to do with the presidential election these days.  I happen to think that a majority of Americans think this way, despite the heavy press that seems to suggest that most Americans are…well…stupid.

Turn on the TV these days, and you will see an astoundingly large amount of discussion about Donald Trump and his latest “news”.  But, most of the time, it’s not really news, it’s free publicity. Trump uses the strategy of “say or do at least one outrageous thing each week, so that your name continues to be bandied about in the press.”

There’s a reason he has spent less on ads than any other candidate – it’s because he uses the press and gets publicity for free.  According to the Huffington Post, Trump has received $1.9 billion in free media coverage, but has spent only $10 million on ads (“Donald Trump Has Received Nearly $2 Billion in Free Media Attention”, Michael Calderone, Huffington Post, 3/15/2016). 

The reason he can spend so little is because he is constantly calling attention to himself.  If he doesn’t make some kind of outrageous statement in a speech, he Tweets attention-seeking tidbits or even calls news shows.  He makes himself completely accessible to news media, seemingly at all times.

“But isn’t that clever?” you might be wondering.  Well, I suppose it is, in terms of how to “get stuff free”, but I am banking that this will hurt him in the long run.  For one thing, every time he has to answer for some dumb thing he’s said, he either denies he said it, changes the subject, or in some cases just ends the conversation.

The main reason it bothers me, however, is that I am seeing more and more bias in the media regarding Trump.  As other Republicans fall in line to back Trump – despite the fact that he really doesn’t have a lot of support amongst the general population and despite the fact that he has skewered and bullied every Republican who ran against him or questioned his ideas – I see news outlets doing the same, falling all over Trump (or at least not pushing the hard questions).

They give Trump hour-long interviews, they report on every tiny thing he says, while ignoring the issue-oriented statements and Tweets the two Democratic Party candidates make (Clinton and Sanders).  Then, sometimes, the pundits discuss amongst themselves how uninformed the public is, how “low information” they are (which some even equate to being lower in native intelligence), and so on, without admitting how much they themselves contribute to the problem.

Even if you see a reporter, say, on MSNBC disagreeing with a spokesperson for Trump (because I rarely if ever see them do this to the candidate himself) on a show, it takes the form of that reporter shouting over the other person.  I can’t count how many times I have yelled at my TV, “Let him answer the question!” as Chris Matthews or Joe Scarborough asks a question and then continues to talk when the person tries to answer.

No one learns anything like that.  It’s as if these reporters use Trump supporters to shore up their own egos, nothing more.  They are no more interested in educating the public than Fox News is.  Not that a Trump supporter answering a question would be particularly enlightening, but it might actually tell a voter something about the candidate.  If nothing else, it would provide fodder for the reporter to refute him or her with a fact-check of some sort.

Some might say this indicates a negative bias against Trump.  But I see it as a “wink wink” kind of attitude, the kind of fascination people can have towards celebrities behaving badly, almost as if being a total jerk is endearing somehow.  They’re still not taking him seriously.

He’s not just a celebrity anymore, he’s running for president.  If elected, he can do some real damage to this country, not only domestically but on the international stage.  And sometimes it seems as if the only people who are really worried about this are the Republicans.

Why the Republicans?  Well, they’re afraid Trump is making them, and their candidates for Congress, look bad.  They don’t want to lose control of the Senate and the House, and those with long memories or a knowledge of history do not want a repeat of what Goldwater did in 1964.

I was 8.  I remember this ad:

I remember the “duck and cover” stuff we had to do in school, and I remember adults talking about being scared.  I couldn’t sleep election night, because I was so terrified Goldwater would be elected and my young life would be over.   Even though the ad itself was only shown once (as an ad), the news picked it up and we saw it over and over again.

Goldwater wasn’t elected, obviously.  Also, the GOP lost 36 seats in the House, and dropped 2 seats in the Senate, giving the Democrats a majority in both the House and Senate (“The Goldwater Mirage”, Dennis Sanders, The Moderate Voice website, 2009).  

It was a disaster for the Republican Party.  Due to the extremist positions Goldwater held, particularly his opposition to the Civil Rights Act as “unconstitutional” and his suggestion that “low-yield atomic weapons” could be used in Vietnam (“Barry Goldwater, GOP Hero, Dies”, Bart Barnes, Washington Post, page A01, 5/30/1998), many people described him as a lunatic who had no business being near the “red button”.

In context, this was 3 years after the 1961 Bay of Pigs incident (which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis), which was another extremely scary experience (because people were afraid the Soviets were going to launch nuclear weapons at us from Cuba), and only 19 years after we dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which showed the horror those weapons could unleash.

People were very, very afraid of nuclear weapons.

The positive side of that is it spurred people to vote against Goldwater, and it also forced a political dichotomy on the American public (remember the Pete Seeger tune, “Which Side Are You On?” – a pro-miners workers’ union song, it was also sung at anti-war, May Day, and other demonstrations in the 60s and early 70s).

People were very much on “one side” or the other.  Riots were sparked over political stances.

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6 thoughts on ““It’s Not Cool To Not Know What You’re Talking About.”

  1. Charlie

    Well said! Basically my feelings almost to a “T”. Great insight.

    In addition to all that, there is his treatment of John McCain’s POW experience, his statement that he had as much military training as “a lot of guys serving today”, (no, marching around and wearing a costume in high school absolutely does not make you a military expert.

    Probably the most disturbing to me was his total ignorance of the so-called nuclear triad. When asked in a debate about the nuclear triad, he started an incoherent pointless rant about nuclear power.

    This really, reall shook me. The nuclear triad referred to s land-based nuclear warheads on misses in underground silos, sea-based missiles on nuclear submarines, and nuclear bombs carried by bombers.

    As you know, I spent three years as a member of the 19th Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command (SAC), and we were an integral component of this triad. Our sole purpose to exist was to nuke the Ruskies before they did us. (Which caused several clever folks to call us all “baby killers”.)

    So I was very intimately involved with this whole program.

    For this dimwit not to know anything about this was beyond frightening. As far as I’m concerned, this in itself should have been enough to disqualify him. And then, for him to say he had as much training as some of the people currently serving is beyond insulting.

    And yet, as you point out, it doesn’t matter to his followers.

    There are so many reasons this d’bag is not qualified even to run for dog catcher. But he’s great for ratings. So, if by chance, and it is looking less and less impossible, he wins, then I suppose the big question is “What about the morning after?”

    Who ultimately will pay the price?

    I’ll get off my high horse now.

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    1. Victoria Post author

      Thanks for the comment!

      Yeah, it’s truly frightening, the things he says. He would be Commander-in-Chief, and the only reason I can think of that relatively sane people would prefer him to Hillary would be the ol’ “women are emotional” argument. Which is awful and untrue, but not insane (which is why I said “relatively”).

      I am fairly sure he won’t be elected. I don’t know what I’ll do if he is.

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  2. charlies5169

    I don’t know that the “women are emotional” is really quite that prevalent. No don’t, there is a segment that truly believes that, but don’t forget there is a fair number of those folks that believe Sarah Palin is a consummate, tough leader… Excuse me while I vomit…

    I think Hillary has a lot of (perceived) negatives, not the least is Bill. That’s especially true in respect to so many people who don’t like the whole “dynasty”, Bushes notwithstanding.

    Chuck Todd, from NBC refers to this as the “post-truth” election. Along those lines, the right has done a masterful job through innuendo, fabrication and manipulation … Or what we used to call LIES! .. of undermining her credibility and integrity.

    Add to that, the fact that most Trump supporters don’t care about the facts.. They know what they know.

    I am really afraid that not only is this not going to be a blowout, but I think the possibility of Trumptopia is not as far removed as we’d like to convince ourselves.

    Not trying to be negative, just realistic.

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    1. Victoria Post author

      It’s weird, I was talking to a Bernie supporter the other day (random young guy at bus stop) who told me that if Hillary gets the nomination, he will vote for Trump “because most world leaders are men who don’t respect women. She can’t be tough enough.”

      This astounded me. I tried to list many of the past/present world leaders who actually are/were women, but he was adamant, stating that he “meant the Middle East.” So he wouldn’t vote for a woman because Middle Eastern leaders don’t like or respect women.

      To me, this was not-so-thinly-veiled sexism. And I marveled at how someone who would consider himself “progressive” would see his stance on women as leaders reasonable. How progressive, too, could you be if you were even considering voting for Trump, just because the alternative is a woman??

      I believe it goes deeper than just a dislike for the Clintons. The very fact that people are using Bill as an excuse not to vote for Hillary tells me this – how many men can you recall had their wives brought up as reasons not to vote for them?? And, I remember clearly how badly Hillary was treated when she dared to speak up for universal healthcare – it was appalling. A lot of the response to her was about “keeping her place” and so on.

      Personally, I think Bill is someone she ought to have cut loose after he left the office. But he’s her husband, not mine, and she clearly did what she wanted to do there. He’s still pretty popular as far as his political views go, for mainstream Democrats, so I don’t think he’s going to hurt her campaign too much – and anyway, she’s the one running, so she’s the one people ought to focus on.

      And it’s up to progressive Democrats to move the platform to the left, so that there really is more choice involved in elections. For far too long both parties have been pretty much the same, and that’s the reason so many people support Sanders. I know that was a huge reason I changed my affiliation from “independent” to “Democrat” – they finally had a candidate who wasn’t the same old same old.

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      1. charlies5169

        Interesting comment about women not being tough enough, especially in the Mid-East…(Like Golda Meier, huh?)

        My sister lives in San Antonio, where she works for the Air Force at Lackland AFB. She teaches ESL to foreign, mostly Saudi pilots and mechanics who come to the U.S. for training.

        She is very aware of that type of attitude, so she starts off her first class introducing herself by telling them she grew up in a family with seven brothers and that she raised three sons. That immediately creates a level of respect from her students, I suppose they feel that if she can thrive under those circumstances, she must be tough. (She is!)

        She has never had a problem, and in fact still gets email from many of her former students.

        Of course, don’t take my word for it… Ask some of the female Israeli soldiers about being tough. Or maybe those American women who finished Ranger school at Fort Benning recently.

        My $.02.

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  3. Victoria Post author

    So many examples of strong women in the world – including your sister – that it boggles the mind that anyone would characterize women in such an old fashioned way as the “Bernie supporter” I spoke to. Maybe he doesn’t know any strong women? Though I wouldn’t call central PA women particularly “soft” heh.

    Sexism, like racism, seems to be something that is very hard to eradicate, unfortunately.

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