Tag Archives: election

Government by Tweet

BY STEVE BATES

We have entered the age of government by tweet. President-Elect Donald Trump has already perfected the strategy of cranking out a 140-character message at any hour to change the way that the wheels of power spin.

What if great leaders of the past had been forced to communicate in this manner? Would they have found Twitter too restrictive? Or could they have adapted to the format?

As it turns out, a few great men and women were ahead of their time in this regard. Consider the short message that Julius Caesar dashed off to the Roman Senate after he had achieved a quick victory in the Battle of Zela.

 

JCaesar                                             47 BC

I came. I saw. I conquered.

 

What could be more concise? By the way, historians still debate whether Battle of Zela was an actual military conflict or a prototype video game.

Nearly two millennia later, a bunch of rebels hunched over a wooden desk in sunny Philadelphia crafted the following missive.

 

JAdams                                             4 July 1776

When in the course of human events…. Hmm. On second thought, let’s get right to it. We’re mad as hell, Great Britain, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

 

Soon thereafter came the task of writing the U.S. Constitution. This effort required great thought to preserve important rights and establish effective governance. However, our Founding Parents were able to compress the document quite skillfully.

 

TJefferson                                                  13 Sept 1787

Free speech and religion. Lots of guns. No self-incrimination. President, Congress and Courts (please try to get along). We’ll figure out that slavery thing later.

 

Alas, that last part turned out to be a mistake. In the midst of the Civil War, one of our greatest presidents journeyed to Gettysburg, Pa., to lament the loss of life and to give this inspiring speech.

 

ALincoln                                           19 Nov 1863

87 years ago we became a country. The men buried here died so we could keep it one. Let’s stick together, people.

 

Of course, we continued to fight war after war. Yet one of the biggest threats to our existence came not in a declared war but in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Who could forget President Kennedy’s stirring message to Nikita Khrushchev.

 

JFK                                                     20 Oct 1962

Get those missiles out now, Niki, or Fidel’s little island will glow in the dark for the next 10,000 years.

 

Life in the U.S. was pretty sweet after that until some folks tried to change health care and enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Here’s how they put it into effect:

 

DCDems                                            21 Mar 2010

Health insurance for everybody, or pay a fine. Pre-existing conditions covered. Get financial aid for premiums–well, some of you. Have lots of choices for plans and doctors–except in most states. But it’s really good, trust us.

 

What can we expect in the future? Maybe something like this:

DTrump                                             1 Feb 2017

My laptop won’t boot. I’m getting Mister Rogers reruns instead of CNN. Everything’s been hacked. Get Vlad on the hotline!

 

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Campaign Survival Guide

BY STEVE BATES

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have been bombarded with news and propaganda about the Nov. 8 elections. It’s only going to get worse during the final days. Here are tips to survive the remainder of the 2016 campaign:

DON’T WATCH TELEVISION

It’s not just the headlines on the evening news. The commercials are offensive as well. For example: Trump tried to have sex with all 37 Radio City Rockettes. Hillary emailed secret Coca-Coca formula to Pepsi executives. Shadowy organizations with indecipherable initials like the DCCCCC spend millions to bombard us with dubious claims about the other side—especially at this point in the campaign, when it’s too late to deny or counter the charges. If you must watch the tube, record your shows and fast-forward through the commercials.

trillary

DON’T READ NEWSPAPERS OR THE INTERNET

These days, the papers are filled with shock-value headlines. Perhaps that’s because, if they weren’t filled with such headlines, no one would read them anymore. Recognize that the papers are likely to give you heartburn while you eat your Wheaties. Trump plans to deport all residents of Blue States. Hillary invites alien civilization to settle in North Carolina. Similarly, the internet is filled with wild, unsubstantiated claims—with the exception of this blog, of course. If you venture onto the web, expect to encounter some really absurd fantasies. Trump fired contestants on The Apprentice. President Obama fathered two black children.

DON’T LOOK AT YOUR MAIL

Campaign mail is particularly nasty, but it is easily avoided. Treat it like bills. Stick it in a drawer for a few weeks. Trump: I’d like to punch the Pope. Hillary: I thought Benghazi was a pain-relief cream.

DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE

Campaign staffers are trying to get you to go door to door to get out the vote, or simply to persuade you to vote for their candidate. And pollsters are trying to figure out who you are voting for. Some people who identify themselves on the phone as pollsters are actually campaign staffers pretending to be pollsters. Others are insurance salespersons pretending to be pollsters. Let the phone ring and go to voicemail until Nov. 9. Would you still vote for Trump if you knew that he fantasized about having sex with Mother Teresa? Would you still vote for Hillary if you knew that she gave our secret nuclear codes to North Korea?

VOTE, BUT BE CAREFUL

Please do vote. But as you approach your polling location, avoid being intimidated by people trying to talk to you or hand you items such as fliers, sample ballots, money, guns and drugs. If the weather permits, wear a heavy coat and gloves, and keep your hat pulled down over your face. Talk to no one. Look straight ahead. If it’s too warm for a coat, cover yourself in bubble wrap and ignore the handouts and shouting. Trump plans to install a casino in the West Wing. Hillary is considering Satan for Secretary of State.

BRACE YOURSELF ON ELECTION NIGHT

It could be a long night. It could be a disappointing night. Even if your candidate wins, it probably won’t be a particularly cheerful night.

But at least it will be over.

The Media: Down in the Mud

BY STEVE BATES

The role of the news media in the 2016 election troubles me.

Maybe after the dust settles it will be easier to judge our mistakes and excesses. We are in the heat of a campaign that is completely unprecedented in so many ways. Both candidates have negative ratings with the electorate. One party is in danger of being torn apart. Allegations of sexual assault are flying left and right. The media feeding frenzies that have accompanied these events have been fascinating—like watching a train wreck–but disconcerting nonetheless.

trillary

Most of the extreme media treatment has been directed at Donald Trump, of course. In a sense, the media created Trump as a national political figure. Thank “The Apprentice” and Trump’s birther claims. During the early stages of the 2016 Republican primary contest, journalists interviewed Trump almost nonstop. He was “good copy”—the kind of entertaining interviews that sell newspapers and boost ratings. Because almost no one took him seriously as a candidate, it seemed harmless.

Then came Trump the frontrunner and Trump the nominee. Calling immigrants “rapists” and attacking family members of opponents was judged by the media to be outrageous, and with good reason. Trump’s rallies got ugly, with the candidate failing to urge restraint as his supporters punched protesters and yelled that Hillary Clinton should be jailed or executed. Trump barred some news outlets from attending his events, increasing tensions between the candidate and the mainstream media.

Clinton has been under less of a microscope, in part because she has refused to double down on her own indiscretions. The revelations about her misuse of email accounts were a little too weak for the Trump campaign and the media to make into an earth-shaking scandal. Issues regarding her foundation were also tough to pump up. Her public description of Trump supporters as “deplorables” did not get as much traction in the media as some of Trump’s middle-of-the-night tweets, however. The WikiLeaks release of Clinton emails that some people said proved that she would coddle Wall Street came on the same day that the “Access Hollywood” Trump dirty-talk video surfaced, so it was barely noticed. Timing is everything.

Now, about that dirty-talk video. When I was a reporter for The Washington Post, I covered state and local politics. My editors and I did not have to deal with issues that were this big or this sensitive, so it’s difficult for me to criticize today’s national campaign reporters. Back then, we didn’t have the plethora of blogs and social media that we have today. Instant information sources are competing with traditional print and TV media for the hearts and minds and dollars of Americans. Decisions about what to publish or broadcast are influenced by what people are saying online. News is history in a hurry, and there is immense pressure on editors. Go too far or publish prematurely, and the public and the campaigns condemn you. Get beat on a juicy story—well, that’s not an option.

I get it. But some bits of coverage have been particularly inexcusable, despite this pressure. On a recent Saturday, I watched a CNN anchor pummel a Trump supporter with nonstop “How can you defend…?” questions, so much so that the supporter could not even speak. Another unfortunate practice is the prominent use of question headlines such as “Will Trump Quit Race?”–especially when he said that he would not. And don’t get me started about huge headlines with terms such as “Piece of Ass.”

Meanwhile, legitimate debate about taxes, jobs, immigration, foreign policy and other key issues gets lost. Moderators on the televised debates have raised some of these issues, but these moderators have also gotten down in the mud with Clinton and Trump by asking them to respond to each other’s allegations and personal flaws. And the moderators wonder why they have a hard time getting the candidates to behave like adults.

Trump has done himself a lot of damage this year. Clinton has shot herself in the foot as well. We don’t need the news media destroying them—and the media’s own credibility–at the same time.