An experiment in alternate history: part two

Play along once again as I try to picture how things could be different today….

Imagine a scenario in which Donald Trump won the election back in November 2020. Almost instantly challenges are filed in six states claiming that ballots were excluded because of minor discrepancies making them irregular and suspicious. Lawyers appear before judges demanding recounts and the reversal of decisions made by vote counters, but judges refuse to involve themselves in the election process. As a result, Donald Trump is certified as the winner of the 2020 election and is inaugurated for a second term on January 20, 2021.

Does Joe Biden fade into the background, as Al Gore did a score of years earlier, or does he remain in the public light, insisting that the election was stolen from him? If he takes the second course, how does the mainstream media respond to his accusations? Do they insist that the 2020 election was the fairest election in history, or do they cast aspersions on the election officials who discarded irregular and suspicious ballots? Do they label Biden’s position the “Big Lie” and repeatedly ask why anyone believes him, or do they support him with suggestions that somehow the democratic process was corrupted by a refusal to include ballots that were irregular and suspicious?

Imagine a rally supported by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party—I’ll pretend it happened on January 7 rather than January 6—questioning the official tally from the election and demanding that Congress refuse to accept the results of that election. How many people would turn out to protest in that case, and how calm would they be? If a small number of the demonstrators breached security at the Capitol and entered the building, how much damage might they cause? Would an investigation be held the summer after the demonstration? Would the patriotism of every American present at that demonstration be questioned by political leaders and by the media? Would Biden and other political leaders be held responsible for the actions of their supporters if federal property was damaged or if people were injured or killed?

After a close election, and with an evenly-divided Congress, how successful would President Trump be in continuing to pursue his policies? Would all his political appointments be meekly accepted by Congress, or would opposition be registered against advisors who were viewed as overly favorable to Trump and his policies? How much support from Congress and from the media would Trump be given as he continued negotiating agreements with China, with Russia, and with other governments, all designed to put American interests ahead of internationalism? Would Trump be able to generate a plan to repair and improve America’s infrastructure, a goal he stated during his first term and reiterated during the campaign? And what would be the effect of American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan be during Trump’s second term? Would he continue to withdraw American soldiers from those battlegrounds, or would he leave some of them in place to support the governments America helped to form in those nations?

How would your life be different today if Donald Trump was still President of the United States? I’m curious; I really want to know. J.

An experiment in alternate history

Play along with me here: picture this “alternate history” and describe, if you can, where you and the country would be today….

Recall that throughout the summer and early fall of 2020, President Donald Trump reminded voters that he was pushing for a vaccine to fight COVID-19, that American companies were working overtime to create and test this vaccine, and that it would be available before the end of the year—if possible, even by election day. This is not alternate history—President Trump repeatedly said such things during the campaign.

But imagine, now, that when the voters were counted, President Trump defeated Candidate Biden and won reelection. Complaints and challenges come, of course, from Biden’s supporters. Allegations are raised that, in half a dozen states, ballots were set aside as irregular and suspicious and were not counted. Voices call for investigations, and many Democrats refuse to concede the election (including Candidate Biden himself). But the election results are certified. On January 20, 2021, Donald Trump takes the oath of office and begins his second term.

Imagine now that the vaccine is distributed in exactly the same way as it was in our real history. The number of bad reactions to the vaccine is identical. The course of the disease and its variant strains is identical. But President Trump continues to claim credit for production of the vaccine, and many people even refer to it as “the Trump vaccine.”

Many Americans take the vaccine, just as they did with Biden in the White House. Many Americans refuse the vaccine, just as they did with Biden in the White House. Many Americans hope for victory over COVID through the Trump vaccine; many Americans warn of the risk of an insufficiently tested medication mass produced and grumble about the connection of big government with big business—in this case, the pharmaceutical industry.

Does America’s mass media report the news about the vaccine in the same way? If it is “Trump’s vaccine,” do they continue to minimize and ignore bad reactions to the vaccine. If it is “Trump’s vaccine,” do they still minimize and ignore the medical professionals who speak words of caution about the vaccine. As new strains of the virus appear, and as vaccinated people still get sick, does America’s mass media continue to support the vaccine? Does it continue to blame the unvaccinated people for preventing victory over the virus through production and distribution of the vaccine?

Do “blue states” still have higher vaccination rates than “red states,” or do red state citizens enthusiastically receive Trump’s vaccine? If some Biden supporters remain openly reluctant to receive Trump’s vaccine, are they accused of opposing science and of being selfish, hating their neighbors, and otherwise being terrible people? Do Facebook and Google go out of their way to support Trump’s vaccine and to undermine opinions, reports, and other information that questions Trump’s vaccine? Is the appearance of new virus strains still a reason to get the vaccine, or do the new strains become evidence for the mass media that “Trump’s vaccine” has failed to protect Americans?

What about you? If Donald Trump was still President, if he was claiming responsibility for getting the vaccine developed and distributed, if he was urging all Americans to be vaccinated against COVID, would your feelings about the vaccine be different? Would you be more likely or less likely to receive the vaccine if it were Trump’s vaccine?

Would politicians and the mass media continue to claim that 97 % of the people hospitalized for COVID did not receive the vaccine, or would they question the accuracy of that statistic if President Trump repeated it? Maybe, given Trump’s use of that statistic, people would question its reliability. Maybe they would want to know who determined that statistic and what measurements they used. Does it refer to people in the hospital today, or on some other day? Who asked the patients about their vaccination status? Why hasn’t the statistic been updated since it was first quoted? Could it be that it includes all people hospitalized for COVID since the disease was first recognized, including the many who were hospitalized before the vaccine was available?

I know these are a lot of questions. But I have changed only one fact, putting Donald Trump back in the White House instead of Joe Biden. How many news facts and scientific determinations are revised by that one political change? Tell me what you think. J.

Making lemonade

We do not know this yet, but let us assume for the moment that evidence of election fraud is not clear and convincing enough to cause judges to disqualify ballots and overturn the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. For conservative American citizens, that would be a sour lemon to consume.

Now some people say that, when life gives you lemons, you should throw them back and demand chocolate. We can try; life does not often cooperate with our demands. It would be better to pull out the sugar and the ice water and make lemonade. The election of Joe Biden is a setback for conservative voters and politicians, but it is not the end of America. The Constitution is still in force. Checks and balances remain in effect. There will be other elections.

During the last presidential debate Candidate Biden reminded us all that he won the Democratic nomination for President because he was different from the other candidates; he did not share all their bad ideas. We can hold him to those words. We can expect the conservative and moderate members of Congress to hold him to those words; with our encouragement, they will not allow the socialists and other left-wing idealogues to capture control of the government. Politics of cooperation and compromise will continue to function as they have functioned for the entire history of our country.

Traditionally, the party in the White House loses seats in Congress in the “off-year” elections. It appears that the Republican Party has maintained control of the Senate following this election. That control is likely to be strengthened in 2022, and Republicans may well earn a majority in the House of Representatives as well. This will not happen if conservative voters surrender and go into hiding. It will happen when we remain active in the political process, calling upon those in Congress now to remain firm in their support for the American way.

Meanwhile, we have about three years to find another candidate. Republicans should not make the mistake of rewarding a long-term politician like Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney with the nomination. Instead, Republicans need to find another Donald Trump—a political outsider, a candidate capable of capturing the loyalty of Americans by being better than the average politician. At the same time, this candidate needs to be another Ronald Reagan, holding unswervingly to the principles that make America great. Most important, this candidate must have a character and reputation of which no one needs to be ashamed. We should not have to apologize for our President; we should be able to hold our President in esteem and honor.

I have prayed for all our Presidents, whether I agreed or disagreed with their policies, and I have taught other Christians to do the same. I have respected the office of President even when I did not respect the man who held that office. I have also recognized that the power of the President is limited—that those I liked and those I disliked were unable to accomplish everything they promised, because that is not how our government works.

Some fear that America’s greatness is over. Over? It’s not over until we say it’s over. We, the people, still own this country, and we are not surrendering to its enemies overseas or its enemies within its borders. We are not surrendering to anyone who wants to turn the country into a socialist prison or a dictatorship of the left. We are not surrendering to anyone who says that America is not great and has never been great. The greatness of America depends upon the blessings of God and the greatness of its citizens. While we remain proud Americans, supporting what we believe is right and respecting those whose opinions are different, greatness remains in our grasp. J.

Debate analysis

The setting for last night’s presidential debate was wrong. Donald Trump and Joe Biden should not have been standing at lecterns in a sterile auditorium. They should have been seated on stools at a bar. The moderator should have been serving them each a mug of beer every thirty minutes. The conversation, rhetoric, and debate would have sounded much the same, but the setting would have been more natural—two elderly white men discussing politics, sharing their opinions and perceptions, interrupting each other—a classic American scene.

President Trump was able to use the debate to make a few statements that have been ignored and unheard over the last several weeks. He was finally permitted to explain to the American people the distinction between solicited absentee ballots cast by mail and unsolicited ballots mailed out by the thousands. He had the chance to point out that worldwide figures for COVID cases and deaths are probably not reported equally—that many more cases may exist in China, Russia, and India than have been reported. He also indicated that the harm caused by the economic shut-down—as measured in drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, suicide, and depression—offsets the lives that may have been saved through the shut-down.

At the same time, Candidate Biden was able to appeal directly to the American people, repeatedly begging them to participate in the election. This reflects the concern of Biden and his supporters that Trump is more effective in motivating people to vote, while many of those who prefer Biden to Trump might not have the zeal to cast their ballots in this election. For that reason, Biden several times looked straight into the camera and addressed the voters at home, calling upon them to be sure to vote.

Some questions went unanswered. Did Donald Trump enter office following the slowest economic recovery since 1929 and turn the country around so that (before the COVID shutdown) it had its strongest economy ever? Or did the Obama administration begin an economic upturn that continued into the Trump years but was ultimately bungled by the Trump administration?

I found the segment on climate change particularly interesting. President Trump blamed the fires in California on poor forest management and refused to address the matter of climate change causing or worsening fires. Candidate Biden insisted that building new factories with lower carbon emissions would result in fewer storms and floods, ultimately saving money. In these examples, I believe that Trump’s statements were more scientifically valid than Biden’s statements.

If the format of the debates will continue to include two uninterrupted minutes from each candidate, followed by conversation, then the moderator ought to have a cut-off switch for both microphones to enforce that two-minute rule. Donald Trump and Joe Biden will continue to pepper each other with “that’s not true” and other exclamations; neither of them is going to change style at this point in the campaign. Enforcing the two-minute rule with muted microphones, applied equally to both candidates, might benefit the production.

On the other hand, serving beer and putting the candidates on barstools would also help define the nature of these presidential debates. J.

Updates and promise of a platform

First, I must say that the computer I use to access WordPress during the day seems to be malfunctioning. I am able to see posts but not to interact with them. I’m still out here, folks, but I’m not liking your posts for a reason that has nothing to do with my reaction to your posts.

Second, my analysis of Super Tuesday is this: the Democratic primary voters seem to be backing away from Bernie Sanders and his Socialist policies. But, with other candidates dropping out, the only viable choice to Senator Sanders appears to be Joseph Biden. This puts him in a place like that occupied by Walter Mondale in 1984 and Bob Dole in 1996. All three were long involved in politics (Mondale even being a former Vice President), well-known within their party, but hardly poised to overtake an incumbent President during an election year. Over the next eight months, attention will increasingly turn to the balance of Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. President Trump could win reelection but face an opposition Congress, as did President Nixon in 1972. Or, he could draw voters into the Republican column, as Democratic voters sit out the election, particularly after Candidate Biden embarrasses himself during his debates with President Trump.

Third, this week I took the time to visit the web sites of candidates Sanders, Biden, and Trump. I analyzed the issues each candidate presents, and I am drawing together my own 25-point platform on the major issues of this election. Over the coming weeks, from time to time, I will post portions of that platform. Not that I’m running for anything this year; it’s just good practice to remain informed and poised on all the issues. And, who knows? A platform created this year may be helpful as the 2022 election approaches. J.

Super Tuesday and the Presidential election

Who will win the presidential election this November? How will this week’s Super Tuesday shape the outcome of that November election? What can history tell us about the answer to those two questions?

Knowledge of history cannot provide certainty of the future. One thing history tells us is that things often change. But historic trends are helpful when preparing for future events. And historic trends say a lot about the November general election and this week’s primary elections.

On March 3, fourteen states and American Samoa will engage in selecting preferences for this summer’s national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. Roughly one-third of those delegates for these conventions will be selected by the elections held in these fifteen places. The trend over the past several election cycles has been that the candidate for each party who gains the most delegates on Super Tuesday eventually receives the party’s nomination for president. Therefore, much attention is devoted to the results of this week’s elections.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, seventeen presidential elections have been held. In ten of those elections, the incumbent President was nominated for a second term. Incumbent Presidents have won seven of the ten elections in which they ran. Looking at those ten elections may provide insight into what to expect when votes are casted and counted this November.

1956: In the 1952 election, Republicans nominated General Dwight Eisenhower for President, and Democrats nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Eisenhower easily beat Stevenson, winning 55 percent of the popular vote and 39 of the 48 states. In 1956, the Republicans nominated President Eisenhower again, and the Democrats nominated Stevenson again. This time, Eisenhower won 57 percent of the popular vote and carried 41 of the 48 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE STEVENSON: Hillary Clinton, except that she is not on the ballot. Elizabeth Warren might be the closest candidate on the ballot to another Hillary Clinton.

1964: Lyndon Johnson became President less than a year before the election with the assassination of John Kennedy. With the legacy of Kennedy backing him, Johnson was nominated for a second term. Republicans chose Senator Barry Goldwater, who was a strongly conservative candidate who was unwilling to compromise his positions to attract centrist voters. As a result, Johnson won the election with 61 percent of the popular vote and 44 of 50 states, one of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE GOLDWATER: Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist.

1972: In 1971, Richard Nixon appeared very defeatable. However, the Democrats nominated liberal Senator George McGovern, and Nixon cruised to victory in the November election, with 60.7 percent of the popular vote and 49 of 50 states, another of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE MCGOVERN: Again, Bernie Sanders.

1976: Vice-President Agnew and President Nixon both resigned office, and Gerald Ford became President without having been on the previous ballot. He was opposed in the primary campaign by Ronald Reagan but won the nomination. The Democrats countered with Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia, a candidate outside of the national political stream, one who was presented as trustworthy and likeable, and one not as liberal as McGovern. Carter won with 50.1 percent of the popular vote and with 23 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia (giving him 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240). CANDIDATE MOST LIKE CARTER: Pete Buttigieg, who this past weekend withdrew from the primary race.

1980: In his second try for the Republican nomination, and with his teams in place from the previous election, Ronald Reagan achieved the nomination, while Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter (although he received a significant challenge in the primaries from Senator Edward Kennedy). Some Republicans feared a repeat of 1964, given Reagan’s conservative leanings. But Carter was faced with international crises (including the hostages in Iran) and a struggling economy. Reagan won the election with 50.7 percent of the popular vote, carrying 44 of the 50 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE REAGAN: Bernie Sanders.

1984: Reagan easily won the nomination for reelection from the Republicans. Democrats selected Walter Mondale, who had been Vice-President under Jimmy Carter. With a strong economy and no foreign policy disasters, voters favored President Reagan, giving him 59% of the popular vote and 49 of the 50 states—the third of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE MONDALE: Joe Biden, who was Vice-President under Barack Obama.

1992: Vice-President George Bush won the Republican nomination and the general election in 1988, only one of four sitting Vice-Presidents who ran for President and won in the modern era. (Vice-Presidents Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and Albert Gore in 2000 all won their party’s nomination but lost in close elections.) After the Persian Gulf War, Bush was seen as unbeatable for reelection, but the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas. Like Carter, Clinton was seen as a Washington outsider, one who was as likeable as Carter if not as trustworthy, and someone who was moderate rather than a liberal like McGovern in 1972. H. Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate. Clinton won the election with 43 percent of the popular vote, carrying 32 states and the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE CLINTON: Pete Buttigieg (but see above, 1976 campaign)

1996: Clinton won the Democrat’s primary for reelection. He was opposed by Senator Bob Dole, a long-time Republican leader who was expected to appeal to moderates who had preferred Clinton to Bush. Perot also ran again. Dole’s campaign never caught the momentum that had carried candidates like Carter, Reagan, and Clinton into office. Clinton won reelection with 49.2 percent of the popular vote and 31 states plus the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE DOLE: Joe Biden.

2004: Having won narrowly over Vice-President Gore in 2000, George W. Bush was nominated by the Republicans for a second term. The Democrats countered with Senator John Kerry, a war hero who challenged President Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The election was close, but Bush won with 50.7 percent of the popular vote and 31 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE KERRY: Similarities can be drawn between Kerry and Biden, Sanders, or Warren. Whoever wins the most delegates on Super Tuesday will probably be the best candidate to compare to Kerry.

2012: Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain in the 2008 election, and Republicans felt that President Obama would be easily defeated in his campaign for reelection, viewing him as hampered as Carter had been in 1980. During the primaries, Governor Mitt Romney emerged as the Republican frontrunner, although he was challenged by several conservative candidates. Each conservative candidate prevailed in one state or another under the “anyone but Romney” umbrella, but none of them consolidated support to deny Romney the nomination. President Obama won the election with 51.1 percent of the popular vote and 26 states plus the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE ROMNEY: Probably Bernie Sanders, given the “anyone but Sanders” feeling of less liberal Democrats.

Conclusion: Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush all faced difficulties in their first terms that cost them a second term—for the most part, these difficulties involved economic weakness of the United States. The economy in 2020 is strong. While main-stream media has tried to create a sense of crisis regarding President Trump’s foreign policy decisions—most recently regarding the Coronavirus—most voters do not seem to agree with the media assessment of Trump’s performance in office. The impeachment attempt against President Trump only strengthened his support, while further dividing Democratic voters. About the only hopeful sign for the Democratic Party in this election is that Reagan was able to beat Carter in 1980 without making many compromises to capture centrist voters. Aside from that, Sanders and Biden both face uphill battles to overturn incumbent President Donald Trump, when comparing this election to previous elections.

What of Mike Bloomberg? He most resembles H. Ross Perot as a candidate, even though he has entered the Democratic primaries rather than running as a third-party candidate. While it is hard to judge whether his campaign will damage Biden or Sanders more, it is clear that he will not help either of them to win in November, and his chances of beating President Trump are even less than theirs. J.

Christ Jesus and President Trump

When I opened my email this morning, I saw that I had been tagged on Facebook. The tagger was a Facebook friend, someone I knew in college and have not seen since. Although we are Facebook friends, we do not comment on each other’s posts very often—far less than once a year. In this case, though, I was flattered that she chose me as one of several of her Christian friends. She wanted our reaction to a video regarding Christianity and American politics.

The video, which runs for several minutes, shows a man discussing the politics of Donald Trump and his supporters, comparing them to the teachings of Jesus Christ in an attempt to show dissonance rather than agreement. Although the speaker’s presentation is calm, he accompanies his message with stock media footage of the President—including two images of conservative Christian preachers praying with the President—interspersed with images of White Supremacist demonstrators, violent confrontations between individuals, and even the photograph of a high school student apparently smirking at a Native American speaker in Washington DC, even though that last event was quickly revealed to have contained no hostility between the student and the speaker.

The tone of the message left no doubt: the speaker believes that, because President Donald Trump is supported by racists, white supremacists, homophobes, and other deplorable people, real Christians cannot support the President, cannot vote for the President, and cannot even sit out the election if Trump is on the ballot. Jesus Christ is portrayed as loving, accepting all people, defending the rights of the poor (including immigrants), and opposed to any expression of hatred or disapproval. The other Christians who had commented were strongly supportive of this position.

I carefully considered how to respond. I wanted to be gentle. I wanted to be brief. I wanted to oppose the thought that no real Christian can support President Donald Trump. Here is what I said (as best as I remember):

“Interesting. Jesus Christ is far bigger than American politics. Sincere Christians can be right-wing, left-wing, or in the middle. There is plenty of room in Christianity for political conservatives and political liberals, for Democrats and Republicans. Jesus expressed compassion for victims of abuse, for the poor, for widows and orphans and foreigners. When he forgave sinners, he also said, “Go, and sin no more.” People on the right and people on the left have both sifted through the words of Jesus seeking support for their political positions. In both cases, this is wrong. Jesus came to be our Savior and our Redeemer, not to support our political choices.”

The speaker wanted to speak for all Christians in his disdain for President Trump. He wanted his audience to believe that Jesus would stand up today and reject President Trump. He severely undermined his case when he quoted Jesus as asking, “What is truth?” For it was a corrupt government official named Pontius Pilate who asked that question of Jesus and then did not stay around for an answer. And it was Jesus who allowed himself to be mistreated without fighting back, without calling for a change in government, without protesting what the Romans were doing in Jerusalem.

Christians have an obligation to participate in the government of nations where that privilege is granted. We should vote, and we should share our opinions with our elected leaders. Christians also have an obligation to help the needy, to defend the oppressed, and to be kind to all our neighbors. That kindness does not include approving of their sinful choices. When the occasion was right, Jesus preached against sin. He did not focus only on the sins of the elite and powerful; he condemned sin in all cases.

We Christians should oppose hatred and violence. We should not be known for what we hate; we should be known for what we love. Because we love Jesus, we will not use his name or his words to advance a political agenda or any other worldly plan. Instead, by sharing his word and by living according to his example, we will make this sin-polluted world a better place while we await the Day when Jesus will complete his work of casting out all evil and making this world his kingdom. J.

Let’s talk about the Golan Heights

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability,” President Trump tweeted earlier this week. As with everything else the President has said and done over the past two years, Trump has been greatly criticized for those words. But is he right or wrong in what he tweeted, and how much does it matter?

Golan is mentioned four times in the Bible. It is in the region of Bashan, east of the Jordan River. Under Moses the Israelites captured Bashan, and the land was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. Golan was designated a city of refuge, where a person guilty of manslaughter (but not of murder) could live in safety according to God’s law.

As the kingdom of Aram (ancient Syria) grew in strength, the Golan Heights became contested territory between Aram and Israel. Even before the development of modern weapons, the Heights had significant strategic military value. Like much of western Asia, the land eventually became part of the Assyrian Empire, then moved through the hands of the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Eventually the land was captured by Muslims, under whom it was ruled first from Baghdad, then from Egypt, and finally from the Ottoman Empire. When the Ottoman Empire fell apart after the First World War, Syria (including Golan) was made a French protectorate, although the British seem to have been more involved than the French in developing the modern state of Syria. The country first declared its independence in 1941, but over the next thirty years several Syrian governments rose and fell before the Assad family rose to power in the 1970s.

After World War II, European governments gradually gave full independence to their Asian protectorates. The British divided the land along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Palestine, basing ownership of each section upon whether the residents were primarily Jewish or Muslim. (They had previously done a similar division of land between India and Pakistan, based on whether the residents were primarily Hindu or Muslim. Neither division has worked well for the residents of those countries.) Almost immediately war broke out between Israel and its neighbors. The result of that war was the end of Palestine as an independent nation: some parts were captured and claimed by Israel, and other parts were assimilated by Jordan. In 1967, almost twenty years later, a second war broke out between Israel and its neighbors. During that war, Israel captured two-thirds of the Golan Heights, recognizing their strategic value. After a third war in 1973, Israel and Syria were persuaded to negotiate their borders in the Golan Heights region and elsewhere. The negotiations, overseen by American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, involved a detailed study of the region. Kissinger spent nearly the entire month of May 1974 working with both governments. He describes the process as “grueling,” adding that “the long shuttle produced an accord that, with all its inherent complexity, fragility, and mistrust, has endured….”

Shortly after he wrote those words, in 1981 Israel announced that it was annexing its occupied portion of the Golan Heights. Syria protested, and the United Nations deemed the annexation null and void, without international legal effect. Until this week, all people speaking for the United States government on this topic have agreed with the United Nations ruling.

The involvement of the United States in the wars of 1967 was largely—but not entirely—conducted with an eye aimed at the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States was one of the first nations to recognize Israel in 1948, and the Soviets tried to draw Muslim countries in Asia and north Africa into the Soviet sphere of influence. Syria and Egypt particularly benefited from Soviet military equipment and advisors. When they nearly overwhelmed Israel’s forces in 1973, President Nixon did all he could to resupply Israel. One result of his action was an Arab boycott of petroleum sold to the United States and its allies, followed by a massive increase in the price of petroleum. This threw the United States into an inflationary recession for the rest of the decade. But Israel survived the war, and shortly thereafter Egypt threw out Soviet advisors and welcomed the United States as an ally.

The Iranian revolution of 1978 demonstrated that more is involved in foreign relations than a cold war between two superpowers, as the new government in Iran was equally opposed to both the United States and the Soviet Union. Of course, the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet government in 1991; but terrorist attacks on the United States ten years afterward demonstrated that America still had powerful and determined enemies. In response, President Bush announced a war on terror, one which included attacks upon Afghanistan and Iraq. The primary goals of those attacks were to confront terrorists on their home ground and to eliminate their access to weapons of mass destruction. Another hope was that governments could be established in those countries that would include western values of freedom and democracy. It must be noted that Israel, during all these years, remained the only true democracy in the region; all its neighbors, even allies of the United States, were under dictatorships.

Years later, while the United States was still struggling to build democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, citizens of Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets and effectively overthrew their dictators. In what was being called the Arab Spring, it seemed at first that a wave of freedom was moving through the Muslim world. When the people of Libya rose against their dictator, Khadafi used his armed forces to try to remain in control. In response, the United States intervened with military force to keep Khadafi from killing his own people, and he was overthrown and killed. Assad in Syria seemed to be the next tyrant to topple, but the United States did not help the people of Syria as it had helped the people of Libya. Even when it was demonstrated that the Syrian forces had used chemical weapons against citizens, they received from the United States little more than a frown and a scolding.

What makes Syria different? One difference is that Assad has maintained ties to Russia in spite of the change in government there since the 1970s. Vladimir Putin does not want the Russian people to hear of dictators being overthrown, so he has provided much support and help to Assad’s government in Syria. While the United States under Barack Obama temporized over Syria, pro-American forces were weakened and an Islamic State was declared. Problems also arose in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, as western freedom and democracy did not emerge as expected.

Donald Trump promised that he was going to do things differently. He showed this after the election but before his inauguration when he spoke with the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Ever since Mao’s revolution in the 1940s, American leaders and diplomats have joined the rest of the world in maintaining the fiction that China is one country and has only one legitimate government. From Truman to Nixon, the Communist government was treated by the United States as the illegitimate government, but Nixon opened communication with the Communists, and President Carter recognized the Communist government as legitimate. (All American Presidents, including Nixon and Carter, have made it clear to the Communists that a military taking of Taiwan would not be permitted.) President Reagan once spoke of “two Chinas,” but backpedaled from that position. Not speaking to the President of Taiwan was part of that diplomatic fiction which Trump chose to eschew.

Now he has recognized the reality that the Golan Heights belong to Israel and not to Syria, something which has been practically the case since 1981 (and since the occupation of the Heights began during the 1967 war, fifty-two years ago). As he does on many matters, President Trump has openly recognized reality rather than clinging to polite fictions. After all, the United States has no reason to appease Syria; its government is no friend of our government. Describing reality in blunt terms sometimes is the beginning of solving problems between nations. About the only reason to protest Trump’s statement about the Golan Heights is the reflex assumption some people make that, if Trump did it, it must be wrong. J.

Can Trump be defeated?

CNN wants to be known as the child who observes that the emperor has no clothes. Instead, CNN is increasingly acting as the boy who called wolf. Every week we receive shrill warnings about the end of the Trump administration. Investigations will reveal terrible things that happened in the White House over the last two years, or that happened during the presidential campaign in 2016. Those who have left the administration have secrets to share, and those secrets will topple Trump’s government. Congress will Impeach him and convict him, or else he will resign before that happens. President Trump has no future.

So many Democrats believe this that those in Congress are prepared to open new investigations. They are eager to question every former Trump advisor and assistant. Meanwhile, dozens of Democrats are opening campaigns to run for President. Each of them is convinced that he or she is the one who can defeat Donald Trump in a one-on-one election. They are prepared to battle each other for that privilege. They are convinced that, by November 2020, the country will be so tired of Donald Trump that they will accept any replacement.

“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” Richard Nixon was very unpopular in the early months of 1971. Many people, even in the White House, assumed that Nixon would be a one-term President. This, of course, was before he visited China and the Soviet Union. More important, it was before George McGovern was nominated by the Democrats. Nixon won the electoral college votes of forty-nine states in one of the most one-sided elections in American history.

Ronald Reagan was unpopular in the early months of 1983. The country was still struggling from inflation and unemployment. Many blamed Reagan’s economic policies for the nation’s woes. But by the summer of 1984, the economy was strong again. This time the Democrats nominated the bland former Vice-President Walter Mondale, and Reagan repeated Nixon’s accomplishment of winning forty-nine states.

Bill Clinton was unpopular in the early months of 1995. The Republicans had just taken control of both houses of Congress. Clinton’s efforts to change the national health care system had been defeated. The White House appeared to be ready for a Republican to move in. But once again, a strong national economy and an uninspiring opponent gave the incumbent President a second term in the White House.

Democrats thought that the narrow election of George W. Bush would make it easy to defeat him four years later. They failed. Republicans thought they could make Barack Obama look like Jimmy Carter and limit him to a single term. They also failed. In the 1970s, due to the turmoil following the Vietnam War and Watergate, voters resisted the reelections of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. But Carter was largely overturned by the popular appeal of Ronald Reagan. The elder George Bush was held to a single term in spite of his popularity in early 1991. That popularity was due to victory in the Persian Gulf conflict, but by the end of 1992, the struggling postwar economy and the centrist policies of Bill Clinton denied President Bush his second term.

If, in the next fifteen months, the Democrats are able to identify a candidate with the personal charm and middle-of-the-road politics of Bill Clinton, they might remove Donald Trump from the White House. But if the voters in the Democratic primaries favor a left-wing candidate, they will lose the general election. If they choose the candidate who promises the most from government, the candidate who offers to tax the rich in order to take care of everyone else, Donald Trump will repeat Richard Nixon’s comeback of 1972. President Trump has positioned himself well to maintain his base. He can say that he has tried harder than any recent President (indeed, than any recent politician) to keep all his campaign promises. When he failed to deliver, it was not his fault. So long as Trump can point to a strong economy, to improved trade agreements with other countries, and to similar successes, he will have the support of enough voters to keep his job.

Congressional investigations and shrill news stories about suspected corruption will not overturn this presidency. Americans are already bored by these stories. We are ready to move on. So long as opposition to the President keeps playing the same tune, fewer and fewer American citizens will join them on the dance floor. History says so. And some people have forgotten to study their history. J.

Three questions about President Trump (from Doug)

In a comment on another blog, Doug asked these three questions:

  1. If your affinity for Trump, in part, is because you have a wish to return the country back to what once was (the idea reflected in MAGA)… what period of time would that be/have been when you felt the most comfortable?
  2. In what way have you suffered personally in the past that contributes to your favoring the President?
  3. If by some chance Trump gets impeached from office, resigns, or loses the 2020 election, are you willing to accept that and move on.. or would you want to strike back in some way, be it peaceful or not? (Understanding your answer could be different for each condition)

 

Those are excellent questions, which is why I decided to share them here. Even though I did not vote for Donald Trump in the primary or the general election of 2016—and, depending upon who else is on the ballot, would probably not vote for him today—I have been outspoken about the need to support him because he is President of the United States—not just President of the people who voted for him, but President of all the people. The shrill opposition to Donald Trump from many media sources is bad for the country and bad for the world. Disagree with his policies, sure, deplore his personality, yes, but honor the office in which he serves and stop predicting which week he will fall from power.

That said, I offer these three answers to Doug’s three questions—and I invite additional answers from others, because like Doug I am interested in what others have to say.

  1. I believe that America is great, not that it was great and needs to be made great again. I have no particular time in American history that I consider ideal. We’ve made progress in some areas and have lost ground in other areas. I do understand the purpose of the slogan “Make America Great Again.” It recognizes that we could be doing better than we are. But your question is very appropriate—when did America lose its greatness? I say we haven’t lost it.
  2. My personal suffering has very little to do with the federal government and its policies. On the other hand, our previous President (for whom I did vote) made some mistakes in domestic policy and in foreign policy which caused me some dismay. I think he tried too hard to get the government more involved in the life of citizens, which means loss of freedom and personal rights. I think he acted poorly as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. (When you are involved in a war, never announce to the world what you are going to do or when you plan to leave.)
  3. If Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, I will accord the same respect and honor to whoever wins that election that I give Donald Trump and that I gave Barack Obama. If he is impeached by the House of Representatives and is convicted by the Senate, I will respect and honor President Pence. Based on the evidence I have seen thus far, I do not think he would be convicted by the Senate even if he was impeached by the House. In fact, I would discourage my Representative in Congress from pursuing any attempt to impeach the President, unless some new evidence of a high crime is produced. Likewise, if President Trump were to resign, I would honor and respect his successor. When Trump was elected, I thought it likely that he would become frustrated by the lack of power in the presidency and would resign before 2019. At this point, it is clear that he is determined to stay the course, run for reelection, and spend eight years of his life trying his best to make America great.

Doug, I’m interested in your  reaction to these thoughts, and I invite others to join the conversation. J.