Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Sleaze versus the Traitor

Who expected Donald Trump to be a choirboy?  Wasn’t his past history of womanizing common knowledge?  Why then were so many people shocked when they heard his locker room banter?  Did listening to his words make such a difference?
My first reaction was to recall the movie Casablanca.  In it, the French police chief expressed shock that gambling was going on in Rick’s cafe.   Meanwhile he was collecting his winnings on the side.  Who among us was truly shocked by Trump’s words?
I also thought about the movie Patton.  One of the episodes recounts how Patton was relieved of duty because he slapped a soldier for cowardice.  The Germans, on the other hand, could not imagine that the Americans would hold back their best commander for so trivial a reason.
Nonetheless, there were calls for Patton’s scalp.  His affront to American democratic traditions was considered more important than winning the war.  Although our egalitarian heritage would have been destroyed if Hitler triumphed, this consequence was disregarded.
Next, I tried to imagine the repartee between Trump and Bill Clinton when they played golf together.  Would they have recounted their amorous conquests?  Would they have done so in pristine language?  I can even picture them laughing about these things.
Then I thought back to the nation’s reaction to the Nixon tapes.  Millions of voters were distressed to learn that their president used foul language in the oval office.  So offended were they that when the transcripts came out they were riddled with the phrase “expletive deleted.”
Apparently Americans are more concerned about the words people use than the deeds they perform.  No, let me take that back.  They are more troubled by what conservatives say than by what liberals do.  Thus, when Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down with a White House intern, we were urged to “move on.”
Back when Bill engaging in indiscretions, the liberal establishment told us this was a matter exclusively between the president and his wife.  If she was okay with it, so should we be.
So let us turn to Hillary.  It is now clear that she was aware the Russians and Chinese were hacking into privileged communications.  Nonetheless, she ordered that her official emails be transmitted by way of a personal server.   How could she not have known this was extremely dangerous?
Hillary currently tells us this was a mistake.  If so, it was a mistake she deliberately tried to cover up.  Let us remember that Nixon was driven from office for something more trivial.  He was scourged for eighteen minutes of missing tape, whereas she deleted over thirty thousand messages.
People have been calling Hillary’s behavior illegal.  It was much worse than that.  It was treasonous.  Had she hand-delivered her communiqu├ęs to the Russian embassy, this is exactly how it would have been branded.  Why then was intentional carelessness—about vulnerable secrets—any less treacherous?
So here we have somebody—in an official capacity—exposing our nation to peril and the pubic is more outraged by private peccadillos.  Trump’s temperament is deemed unacceptable, whereas her judgment is okay.
But it is worse than that.  Hillary has assured Wall Street insiders that her private beliefs differ from her public pronouncements.  What she essentially said was that she endorses lying to voters.  Because she knows that if she tells people the truth, they will turn elsewhere, she deliberately deceives them.
We already knew Hillary is a liar.  We knew it just as much as we did that Trump is irreverent.  But now we are stunned by the Trump revelations, yet take hers in stride.
Where is our sense of proportion?  Don’t we understand what is important for our national survival?  Shouldn’t treason and habitual dishonesty count for more than sexual talk?  As has been said, we are electing a president, not a pope.
Let me be clear.  I too find Trump’s behavior distasteful.  But Hillary has harmed our collective security and may do so in the future.  She is so corrupt that she might not hesitate to sell us out on the altar of her ambition.  This really scares me!
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Political Balance: Liberal-Style

For many years, I routinely attended sociology conferences.  I went to the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, the Southern Sociological Society, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Sociological Practice Association. 
When I was a novice, I found these gatherings interesting and informative.  But then as the years rolled by, my grievances accumulated.  Instead of being exposed to uncontaminated sociology, many presentations were accompanied by growing doses of political correctness.
Ever since my graduate student days, I was aware that a majority of my colleagues tilted left.  This was a fact to which I grew inured.  Nonetheless, I expected a fair hearing for my dissenting outlook.  Eventually, however, it sank in that this was never destined to happen.
At first, the jokes about how Ronald Reagan was a dumb actor struck me as shallow, but harmless.  Then, when I was castigated for suggesting that Karl Marx might be out of date, I was offended.  Nonetheless, the last straw was being told to shut up when I offered a non-liberal perspective.
You may thus understand why I have been reluctant to attend such meetings.  Yet last week I did.  I went to the Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology conference in Denver.  This was because I wanted to promote my book “Unlocking Your Inner Courage” and thought this would prove a suitable venue.
For the most part, nothing untoward occurred.  But then I attended a plenary presented by a local newspaper reporter.  She was actually rather entertaining.  Even though she began her career working for National Public Radio, her stories were largely straightforward.
Not unreasonably, she encouraged this room full of sociologists to provide social science data to support her journalistic impressions.  If they could supply facts to put her pieces in context, this would surely help her readers.
This, however, provided an opening for one of the other attendees.  Why, the speaker was asked, did so many reporters strive to provide balance in their accounts?  Didn’t they realize that they should be writing about the truth and not what right-wing partisans believe?
From the follow-up, it became evident that the questioner assumed that the liberal point of view is consistently true.  Whereas it is based upon science, conservative assertions are unenlightened opinion.
In recent years, I have heard many liberals quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan to the effect that although everyone is entitled to his of her own opinion, no one is entitled to his or her own facts.  Liberals, because they assume they have a monopoly on facts, use this as a way of putting conservatives in their place.
Still, at no point during this discussion did anyone suggest that there was such a thing as liberal bias.  The word was never mentioned.  The current political campaign may have brought forth a raging torrent of left-wing prejudices, but this is not how these sociologists saw the matter.
They assumed they were objective.  All they wanted to do was to protect the public from conservative misinformation.  This was part of their responsibility as scientists and concerned citizens.
It never occurred to them that they were asking for censorship.  Had someone suggested that liberal arguments be left out of journalistic accounts because they are slanted, they would have been outraged.  This would have been regarded as tyrannical.
The point is that liberals are so arrogant that they are unaware of their biases.  From their perspective, they are only good people who are trying to reveal social realities.  If others come to different conclusions, it is either because they are malevolent or dim-witted.
It was easy to see from whence liberal preconceptions derive.  These folks are always surrounded by like-minded associates.  They never hear a nonconforming voice and so they assume there is no such thing as legitimate disagreement.
Perhaps I should have said something.  Perhaps I should have pointed out that they were endorsing dishonesty.  I did not.  Maybe this was cowardice on my part.  Or it could have been a realization that nothing I said would have made any difference.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Kennesaw State University

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

They Do It Too!

Have you noticed that during this political season when one side gets caught in an embarrassing moment, the other side is soon accused of something similar?  For example, when the Clinton Foundation came under attack, it was not long before opposition research zeroed in on the Trump Foundation.
The idea is to make two problems equivalent so that they cancel out.  Although they might be of an entirely different magnitude, if they are treated the same rhetorically, the voters may not notice the difference.  In fact, this technique works depressing well.
Consider the Foundation controversy.  The Clinton Foundation is a political slush fund.  It has collected billions of dollars that have mostly gone to subsidizing Clinton hangers-on.  The idea was to finance a campaign team-in-waiting until it was needed.
The Clinton operation was also a way of laundering money.  Foreign nations that wanted favors from the Clintons could make donations to this ostensible charity, while collecting their payoffs from another door.  This way if the public watched one hand, it would not notice what the other was doing.
This is flat out corruption.  There is no other word for it.  The Clintons put their public offices up for sale just like they once rented out the Lincoln Bedroom; just like they sold pardons to felons when Bill was leaving the presidency.
Compare this with the Trump Foundation.  First of all, Trump’s is a much smaller operation.  Second, it was not primarily political.  Until recently, he was not a politician and therefore did not have favors to sell.  If anything, he was in the business of purchasing special treatment.
Trump has also been criticized for not financing his Foundation with his own funds.  This ought to be laughable in that virtually all of the Clinton money came from outsiders.  Although Trump has not exactly been altruistic, his alleged generosity was never a major selling point.
What really needs emphasis, however, is the lies.  Trump is no saint.  He has not always taken the high road.  But compared with the Clintons, he is a paragon of virtue.  When it comes to misstatements, his are typically exaggerations.  Indeed, they are sometimes so hyperbolic as to be silly.
The Clinton fabrications, on the other hand, are ruthlessly self-serving.  Whenever they get into trouble, they deny, deny, deny.  This is not a recent development.  Hillary and Bill have been at it from the beginning of their political careers.
Do you recall Bill’s fib about marihuana.  When caught in a lie about whether he indulged, he obfuscated by claiming that he never inhaled.  And when it was discovered that he misled the public about his draft status, he again told half-truths.
As for Hillary, when Bill’s dalliance with Gennifer Flowers became public, she flat out repudiated it.  It never happened.  This failed entertainer had made it up.  She was probably going after cheap publicity.  Of course, we now know there was an affair.  Flowers was telling the truth.
Over the last year how many whoppers has Hillary told?  Remember, there was nothing classified on the server.  The FBI gave her a complete pass.  She believed the Benghazi tragedy was due to a video.  She never claimed that the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership was the “gold standard.”
So what does she do when caught?  She points a finger at others.  She tries to divert attention by maintaining that they are worse.  It doesn’t matter if they are; she jumps up and down and swears it is so.
But isn’t this what teenagers do when they get caught doing something wrong?  Don’t the try to get off the hook by saying that everyone does it?  Nevertheless, most parents don’t buy this.  They quickly ask: if Johnny jumped off the roof, would you jump off too?
Hillary’s lies are so egregious that they deserve reflexive dismissal.  Donald may have lied about some things, but the difference in degree is so great as to be one in kind.  She is a habitual prevaricator.  She is so routinely counterfeit that other’s sins ought not absolve her of her own. 
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Kennesaw State University

The Tag Team: Two Against One

By most accounts, Hillary Clinton won her first debate with Donald Trump.  She has been described as more professional, whereas he was blamed for becoming too defensive.  As a result, there has been no end of suggestions as to how Trump can recover.
But several things have been overlooked.  The first is that Trump was in a tag team match.  It was him against Hillary and the moderator Lester Holt.  Whenever Hillary needed a breather, Holt picked up the slack; whereas she did the same for him.  In other words, it was two against one.
When Candy Crowley took sides against Mitt Romney, she was roundly criticized.  She made a serious mistake in defending Obama and was later fact-checked.  Although Holt attacked Trump five or six times—and doubled down on several occasions—he was essentially given a pass.  Even conservatives described him as a nice guy.
Yet consider this, when Crowley put down Romney, Romney was critiqued for shrugging his shoulders and letting her get away with it.  This time Trump did the opposite and was faulted for that.  In other words, when the moderator is lined up against you, it may not be possible to win.
Granted that Trump overdid it.  His thin skin often gets him in trouble.  Had he pivoted to Hillary’s weaknesses, he would probably have been better off.  Nonetheless, there is a good chance that it would not have mattered.  When it is two to one, the one has to spend more time on the defense—which always looks bad.
There is, however, a silver lining to this cloud.  Well, there is if Trump takes advantage of it.  The nature of the attacks against him provides a glittering opening for the later debates.
Among other things, Trump was called out for the birther controversy and his business practices.  These became the subject of extended discussions.  If Donald is smart, should they come up again, he can dismiss them as old news.  This strategy works for the Clintons.  Why not him?
Meanwhile, Hillary got off lightly on a raft of subjects.  Trump was rightly decried for leaving low hanging fruit untouched.  Her attack on hackers should have been turned against her.  She should have been asked, if hacking is such a problem, why did you open yourself to foreign spies with a private server?
The good news is she can still be asked.  With more emails set to be released, the question remains relevant.  It is also possible to bring up Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, and a whole host of lies—big and small.  What has not previously been scrutinized should be fair game, even if subsequent moderators refuse to bring them up.
Trump has already been suggesting that voters “follow the money.”  How, it may be wondered, was it possible for an ex-president and his wife to amass hundreds of millions of dollars in few short years?  What did they have to sell that was worth so much?  It is a pretty safe bet there was some pay-for play.
Corruption is corruption and sleaze is sleaze.  Pandering is also pandering.  When Hillary accused every American of implicit bias, alarm bells should have gone off.  In an effort to avoid insulting the police, while simultaneously fawning over African-Americans, she demeaned everyone else—except herself.  This was at least as bad as her basketful of deplorables comment.
For the moment, Hillary has scored a few debating points.  Moreover, the media megaphone revved up to make the most of them.  But how long can the glow of a perpetually smug candidate last?  Donald can be abrasive.  He is certainly no choirboy.  But do we really want four more years of Clinton slime?
The really good news is that while first impressions matter, last impressions make more of a difference.  In the end, the only ballot that counts is the one on election day.  If voters go to the polls with a bad taste in their mouths for a specific candidate, this may determine their choice.  I am hoping that Trump and his people understand this.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University