Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Franklin’

UNCERTAINTY

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “…nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Mark Twain repeated that. But the real author was Englishman Christopher Bullock in 1716. Recent decades have supported Bullock and Franklin (and Twain) with the dictum that the only certainty is change. Look around.

The President of the United States fills each day with uncertainty. Will policy indicated in last night’s tweets be overturned in this morning’s tweets? This afternoon’s? Probably. So how do we as a nation plan for tomorrow?

Last Tuesday, the Federal Reserve sought to counter economic uncertainty. The economy’s tax cut-fueled sugar high is wearing off and our trade war with China continues. The dreaded “R” word (recession) is making the rounds. So the Fed lowered interest rates to 2.00 percent, its second cut of the year. I’m not betting that investors and economists are reassured.

Uncertainty is keeping us in the dark regarding the recent attacks on Saudi oil processing facilities. Directly or indirectly, the finger points to Iran. But where’s the proof? Washington hasn’t been terribly forthcoming. And how to respond? The president wants more information and a sense of direction from Saudi Arabia. Isn’t that turning things inside out? Shouldn’t the Kingdom be getting guidance from the United States? I’m uncertain, although I suspect some American and Saudi leaders have common financial interests.

I’m sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks an act of war. But on whom? Will the U.S. place more sanctions on Iran and Iranian leaders? Will we strike limited Iranian military targets? Sit on our hands? Of this, I’m certain: Whatever we prepare to do could change in a heartbeat. That happens in international matters, so let me be more accurate. America’s response may change on a whim (or Fox News editorializing).

The Middle East being a region of great uncertainty, let’s turn to Israel. Last April’s election was so close, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t form a government by assembling a coalition requiring 61 seats (a majority) in the Knesset. A new election took place this past Tuesday. The Blue and White Party, headed by former IDF commander Benny Gantz, seems to have a seat—or two—advantage over Netanyahu’s Likud party. Not yet certain since final results won’t be announced until next week. Who will President Reuven Rivlin charge with forming a new government? Also uncertain.

Uncertainty in Israel can bring grave consequences, as it can in the United States. At the last minute, Netanyahu pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank. That would bring one certainty: the impossibility of a two-state solution. But few Israelis—even those who support that position—believe Netanyahu will do what he said. Still, Israel, the Palestinians and the rest of the world remain uncertain about where things will go.

Let’s be honest. People talk about loving adventures. That’s fine for a road trip or getting off a plane overseas and winging the experience. But it doesn’t work well for managing an economy. And it’s particularly dangerous for maintaining peace and stability anywhere in the world, especially in the volatile Middle East.

So I’ll paraphrase Bullock/Franklin/Twain: Nothing is as certain as the danger of uncertainty. Will world leaders take heed? I’m not sure.

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THE 28TH AMENDMENT

The 2016 presidential race was the most unsavory in my memory, which goes back to Eisenhower-Stevenson in 1952. The future remains uncertain. But one thing we can do now is amend the Constitution. And I’m not talking about the Electoral College.

I propose the 28th Amendment: No person may be elected or succeed to the office of President of the United States, who is the husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, former spouse, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law of anyone having served as President regardless of length of term.

Having voted for Hillary Clinton, I’d still have been glad to see the 28th Amendment passed years ago. Now Chelsea is being promoted for Congress. Fine if the party and the voters in her New York district say yes. Groom her for President? What a travesty! The same goes for Donald Trump, Jr. and his siblings.

Granted, a president’s immediate relatives may possess sterling qualities. If so, let them pursue other opportunities to serve the nation. In the (possible) words of Ben Franklin, “If we wanted another King George, we wouldn’t have elected a President George.”

The problem? Members of “royal political families” tend to assume that their name or connection entitles them to office. Somehow they possess inherently favorable genetic characteristics and judgment. Or they’ve soaked up all the qualities needed to effectively hold office just by proximity.

Unfortunately, family members tend to avoid downplaying the progenitor’s mistakes and uphold a carefully crafted image along with what they deem a superior legacy. Political inbreeding advances policies that ignore past mistakes and fail to keep up with changing times while risking downright incompetence.

Why am I concerned? Some Americans believe that Michelle Obama should run against Donald Trump in 2020 or someone in 2024. I think Michelle is terrific. But being First Lady provides no qualification for office. She was never elected to her post in the first place. Some folks may peg Malia and Sasha Obama for future roles in the Oval Office. A name is not enough. And they’re kids!

Trump supporters may push Donald, Jr. for President. (First Lady to-be Melania Trump is a naturalized citizen and ineligible.) Grave responsibilities should rest on broad shoulders, not crowns on heads turned backwards. As for providing son-in-law Jared Kushner with the highest classified security information while the Trump offspring run the family business—that poses a dangerous conflict of interest.

Had this amendment passed decades ago, Bobby Kennedy would not have mounted a run for the 1968 Democratic nomination after Vietnam-war-stressed Lyndon Johnson passed on a second full term. Teddy Kennedy wouldn’t have been a presidential hopeful, either. Fine be me. I’ve had enough of Kennedys. George W. Bush would not have run in 2000, and Jeb would not have run in this year’s primaries. One Bush was enough. In the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders or someone else would have represented the Democrats. The country would have been no worse off and perhaps would face a brighter future.

What are the chances of the 28th amendment passing? Slim. Still, the presidency of the United States is far too important to become a matter of dynasty. And if you’re expecting a clever line to wind this up, forget it. The matter is just that serious.

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The blog will take off for Thanksgiving. May you be thankful for all you have.

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