Campaign Foillies, and Media Questions

Sep 8, 2014 (San Diego) “What is Aleppo?” If you are not running for office, and have no interest in international affairs, I can understand not knowing the answer to the question, “what would you do about Aleppo?” This morning Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was asked that question during Morning Joe on MSNBC. The city, which once was in UNESCO”s list of word sites, since it goes back millennia, has become short hand for the Syrian conflict. If you are running for the presidency, you should know this. So Johnson said in a latter statement he did not understand the question It is possible, but still raises questions.

Will this end his run for the White House? No it will not. First off, his chances of getting elected are anywhere from when pigs fly to none, and that has to do with how the political system in the United States works, but his run could prove very disruptive to the two party system, and that is a good thing.

As far as follies go that was not even up there with Donald Trump saying that the generals have been demolished. Or the fact that he intends to fire these general officers, we presume 3 and 4 stars, and replace them with his people. Now if you are going to run for office and you have no idea what Aleppo is, that lack of knowledge could be fixed with a few briefings from the CIA and the Department of Defense, and reading a book or two. In fact, I believe that both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson should receive those briefings as well. They should be on the debate stage as well.

Not knowing how officers in the military get appointed or promoted, or who has that authority is far more serious. After all, this is a core job of the United States Senate, which approves the lists sent by the branches every summer. No, the president has almost no role in this, beyond signing off on the list. While presidents can ask for an individual officer’s resignation, it better be with some cause. We have had a few cases in history, such as President Harry Truman asking Douglas MacArthur to step down after the General questioned his authority. This is what civilian control of the military means. Most general officers who step down, do so after loss of confidence by their own chain of command.

This is not the first time that Trump betrays his dictatorial instincts. If he truly believes that there are no limits to the power of the president, assuming he is elected, he is in for a rude awakening. This is not as simple as The Apprentice and his famous phrase, “you are fired!”

To be fair, last night Hillary Clinton did not have a stellar moment either. Though the web exploded accusing Matt Lauer of being biased against her. While her handling of the emails might not matter to many partisans, and matter to others, yes your political party affiliation will matter, the fact is that the handling of this matter has hurt her. Negatives for her are high, and will make this election closer than it should.

The emails will continue to dog her and we expect to see them in debates as well. This is not an issue that the campaign has been able to handle in a way that raises confidence in her.

One thing that Clinton did this morning was to finally hold a formal press conference. She did pound on Trump, which was not unexpected. Which brings us to the major point here. As an observer of this race I have yet to learn any hard policy stance from either Clinton or Trump, for that matter Johnson and Stein.

But as far as the two major candidates are concerned, they have made this about the other. For Trump this is about President Barack Obama as well, and the Clinton presidency being a continuation of the failed policies of the Obama administration. I have yet to learn from Trump what are those failed policies in very specific detail. For that matter, I have yet to learn what are the specific policy prescriptions that he would follow to correct those problems. Generalities are not enough…

As far as Clinton is concerned, this is about Trump. I have yet to learn specifics from her as well. Her stump speeches are full of generalities, and yes Trump. To her credit, her website has specifics, but on the stump, and in media coverage I have no idea what she intends to do. I know what she is against, that being Trump, but not what she is for.

This raises alarm bells in my mind. Major media outlets have not asked either candidate what they stand for, and when they do, rare as this is, well generalities suffice in the answers. So are they so close at the macro economic level that asking these questions would reveal this? Or do they think the voter is that ignorant that really asking about quantitative easing, for example, and how to deal with employment and wage policies is too hard for most voters? This is not a beauty context. We are not electing a model. These people are running for a post that requires them to juggle macro economics, foreign policy, employment policy, military and infrastructure issues, just to name a few. It is time for the media to ask those questions. I for one, have no idea if Trump is a neoliberal or not. I suspect he is, just like Clinton, and that is why none is asking those questions.


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