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Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in 2016 Elections, Politics | 19 comments

Of Trees, Forests and Debates




He calls her a nasty woman – tree

She jabs him on not paying taxes – tree

He refers to ridding the nation of bad hombres – tree

She raises Alicia Machado to goad him – tree

He can’t focus his concentration for more than 30 minutes – forest.

After the third and final debate, the talking heads were all over Trump’s unwillingness to commit to accepting the election results, with side dishes of nasty woman and bad hombre. And each of those things are interesting trees.  Some are bigger trees than others, but each is a tree and we fail to see the forest for those trees.  The failure to see the forest for the trees has been a consistent error in election coverage this cycle.

What I observed during this debate was a pattern of Trump’s inability to hold focus beyond 30 minutes. The pattern held true in all three debates, and it’s evident in the day to day of the campaign.  Scripted for a while, but wandering off script or tweeting in the wee hours to scratch an off script compulsive itch.  As I watched Trump unable to maintain adulthood longer than 30 minutes, three words came to mind: Cuban Missile Crisis.  Thirteen days with the world on the precipice of nuclear destruction.  Requiring steadiness and clarity of thought, the ability to hear and understand facts, evaluate and calculate every move, with everything on the line.  No cruising into mental petty grievance based pre-adolescence at minute 32.

Get my point? That’s not a tree.  That’s existential.  That’s the forest.  In Trump’s case it’s a forest populated by few full grown adult trees and littered with an underbrush of egocentric petty grievances that guide his decision making and choke out logic, calculation, clarity and open mindedness.  None of the talking heads are talking about the 30 minute egg timer that defines Trump’s ability to feign adulthood.  It’s been mentioned, yes – almost in passing.  But it doesn’t sell Viagra like “Miss Piggy” or “Little Marco” or the latest disgusting comment caught on tape or the battle of sexual finger pointing one at the other.

Yeah, I know all of that other stuff is important. It’s character and decency and respect for others.  That does matter, and I don’t mean to diminish it.  But it’s really about the Cuban Missile Crisis and who we will have to decide for us when the next one comes.  It could be soon.  It could be later.  But it will come.  That’s the forest, and we cannot have Donald Trump as our woodsman.

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  • Brownies girl

    Good post, ES — and your analogy is a great one. Especially since I can well remember the Cuban missile crisis and the fear and horror we all felt then.

    Please excuse if I ask what may seem a stupid question. I heard Hillary say (at least I THINK it was Hillary) that there’s only 4 minutes between the President sending out an order for a nuclear missile strike — and it being put into operation. Is that right?!!

    If so, is there no one who could stop it happening if a President (of either party) went completely nutso, and hit the red button? I’d always believed that military leaders would also have a say as well in any such decision.

    When I heard Hillary say that, all I could think of was that movie “Dr Strangelove”, (my fave movie of ALL time) …. and Slim Pickens riding the bomb down — all to the tune of “We’ll meet again”. Surely the US is smart enough to have a back up plan, beyond a nutty prez hitting the red button. Please tell me Americans do!

    • The Ohioan

      I think that’s one I would trust Hillary on. Both as first lady and SOS, she should know the routine. The bigger threat is cyber security manipulation and that is beyond any human’s control when it is in play. Which is why both Russia and the U.S, are slowly eliminating more nukes all the time. It’s too dangerous a toy for the immature species.

    • Bob Munck

      Surely the US is smart enough to have a back up plan, beyond a nutty prez hitting the red button.

      I think our back-up plan for that contingency is the Electoral College. The Founders may not have taken Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles into consideration when they came up with it. They had a similar problem with guns.

      And don’t call me Surely. (Joke doesn’t work so well in writing.)

      • KP

        I agree with Shirley.

  • dduck

    Thanks ES: “I think that I shall never see. A poem lovely as a tree.”

  • JSpencer

    The root of the problem (as we are finding out) is the effectiveness of propaganda and demagoguery in a dumbed-down citizenry. The problem will remain, regardless of who wins this particular election.

    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” – George Orwell

    • KP

      The root of the problem (as we are finding out) is the effectiveness of propaganda and demagoguery in a dumbed-down citizenry.

      My two cents, some are feeling/experiencing what they feel is something similar to a circular firing squad. Having said that, I am guessing some men and women also feel they have their backs against the wall and that the firing squad is not circular.

      The stars are out tonight in SoCal.

      Wishing you the same experience in your close by.

      • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

        the sunrise is but an hour and some away, the stars are swaying across the sky KP. Sanity … who ever thought it would be retained by looking at fiery lights in the sky. Thinking of you and your dear family.

        • KP

          Much appreciated.

      • Robert P. Coutinho

        It’s raining here. Wishing you the same experience, KP. You need the rain even more than we do (in Massachusetts).

        • KP

          Robert, we have had off and on thunder, lighting and showers in San Diego for 48hrs directly following your comment.

          What the heck?(!)

          Like Billy Starbuck, brother 🙂

      • JSpencer

        Thanks Kevin. It’s a new day now and a cool one, but the sun is out and it’s crisp and fresh October in Michigan. I have a lot on my plate today, but think I’ll start by going out to the flying field and throwing some RC airplanes up into the air. We’ll see how it goes from there, but my goal is to enjoy it and not ruminate on the myriad follies of our species.

        • KP

          JSpencer: that is a fine strategy for life.

          It reminds me of a passage in Ursula K. Le Guin’s English translation of Lao Tzu’s “The Way”.

          “Do your best. Then stand back.”

          I think (don’t let me misinterpret) that you recently shared you tend to like women more then men. That is true for me as well. Like you, I have close friends of both sexes; but Le Guin’s translation is different from others I have read by men. Maybe worth a look.

          If you find the idea interesting ==>

          • JSpencer

            Thanks Kevin, I’ll check it out. I’ve always liked her writing.

          • KP

            You may have used the word ‘like’ but I interpreted it to mean ‘more often resonate with’.

          • JSpencer

            Yes, a better phrase. I read much of her writing when I was younger than I am now, all the more reason to catch up.

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