COMPREHENDING THE NEWS

April 28th, 2008

COMPREHENDING THE NEWS

Here we are in year nine of the 21st century and my eighth decade on this planet. Living in the United States for all of that time you’d think that by now I’d have a handle on the day-to-day issues that we Americans must deal with. At any rate, if you too are feeling confused and discomforted reading newspapers, watching television news and worst of all those grabber headlines on the Internet: relax it’s not your fault, we’re all suffering information overload. Take a few topics as examples:
GOP POLITICS: Senator John McCain has a lock on the Republican Party’s nomination. When sworn in at age 72 he would be our oldest president ever. I read this week that the average American male lives to 74, so McCain’s Vice Presidential choice looks critical.
THE DEMOCRATS: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are so close in appeal that they’ve turned the Democratic nomination from a race into a marathon. Either Barak or Hillary will set a precedent as the first woman or first African-American nominated for president by a major party. They’ve generated electoral excitement from coast to coast. People are donating funds and working hard to elect their candidate of choice because the extensive list of errors by the Bush administration is affecting us all, old and young.
Let me count a few of their wayward ways.
WAR: “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside America” headlined President Bush’s August 2001 Daily Intelligence Report, prompting no reaction from our Vacationer in Chief. Following 9/11 he declared war on every nation who wasn’t “with us.” Everything that could go wrong since then pretty much has done so. We missed getting Bin Laden at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. Next, we marched into the neighborhood to invade Iraq with the goal of replacing its leader, Saddam Hussein, who did not attack us on 9/11. Hussein was found, tried, and hung by the neck until dead. Bin Laden is still on the loose. No noose is good news for him anyway. 180,000 of our regular and National Guard troops are still in Iraq, 4000 have been killed, over 30,000 severely wounded in body and mind, and our exit strategy is non-existent. The TalIban that we defeated and displaced in far off Afghanistan has regrouped and is killing our troops and others. We’re borrowing and spending billions per month with no end in sight. One consequence has been a drop in the value of the dollar, and a startling increase in the price of a barrel of oil to near $120.00.
GASOLINE: Our economy runs on petroleum. The price of gasoline is up two-thirds since Bush became president in 2001. The net effect is inflation at the grocery store where everything has been transported to its point of sale by a truck. 5.3% overall inflation on groceries alone this year, but milk and bread are double that. Heating oil in New England has gone from being expensive to ruinous to household budgets large and small. Many families will still be paying for last winter’s warmth when the next one comes around. Slogans like “Yes we can,” and “Solutions for America” will ring hollow next year if the new administration doesn’t quickly find ways to lower key prices.
“Stay the Course” is what got us where we are, way off course.
BARAK OBAMA: Is getting flak for being unable to “close the deal” and lock up the Democratic nomination before the convention. Every time that he looks inevitable she comes back wins a big state primary. Obama’s voting record is staunchly liberal, which will be liability with those who have turned liberal into a four-letter word. He is a first term Junior Senator in from Chicago, a lawyer by training, with a degree from Harvard where he headed up the law review. His energy, upbeat oratory and message of hope have caught on with voters of every stripe encouraging them to register and vote. He has been less successful in winning over older voters, women, and blue-collar workers. His pastor’s racially tinged outbursts against America’s unequal distribution of its blessings is hurting Barak’s barrier breaking message of hope and inclusion. Words, as every writer knows, are sticks and stones of a kind when freighted with loathing. If he becomes the nominee in fact, Barak Obama has his work cut out for him as he makes his case across America and its mishmash of outlooks.
HILLARY CLINTON: I, for one, have no time for those talking heads on TV and radio shows who call for surrender on Hillary’s part. As a newspaper letter writer said recently, “If Gore and Kerry had run tougher campaigns maybe we wouldn’t have had to suffer for the past eight years under Bush.” I am constantly amazed by Hillary’s resilience and fresh approach to each day. On her schedule I would have been yelling “uncle’ long before now. She is a tireless campaigner with a consistent message of being ready on “day one,” with a competent cabinet and staff willing to grab hold of the economy and the war, and moving quickly to pull consumer confidence out of the doldrums.
If she gets her chance America will be saying: You go girl!
THE POPE: Benedict XVI came and conquered a lot of hearts by his willingness to meet with victims of past abuse, promising to encourage “good priests not more priests” if that was his choice. He brought a pastoral message of care to the American church, preached to thousands in Washington and New York, his leaving words: God Bless America!
THE RED SOX: When politics become too much, the campaign too long, the messages garbled and repetitive, and Chris Matthews a total pain of conjecture interruptus, we still have “Da Sox.” Manny is hot, Big Papi is coming around, Jacoby is a will of the wisp on the base paths, J.D. isn’t waiting until September to hit, Dustin is dusting the ball every day, pitchers are behind the hitters and the manager’s somewhere between calm and catatonic. Who will win it all?
To find out you have to play all nine innings, in politics and baseball

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