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David Nightingale: Politics 2016

Trump rouses crowd
Pat Bradley/WAMC

I am a registered Independent, and once in a while I cut out a political 'letter to the editor', or a commentary. Right now I have a little pile of such cuttings that I need to get rid of.

I continue to be astonished at the nationwide poll numbers for Donald Trump, and the rather low numbers for our current president. Comparing the two, I find myself observing on TV a man who flies around in an aircraft emblazoned with his name in large letters, who has made himself rich buying and selling real estate, and who, while in ignorance of world affairs, always gives simplistic answers, speaking in short cliches, and who throws insults at those who disagree with him. It's an unpleasant TV experience. One is reminded of a schoolyard bully who knows nothing beyond bragging and bad language. By contrast, when President Obama is interviewed on TV one witnesses a cool, sensitive intelligence, a man who considers words and policies carefully -- and a person that much of the nation and the world respects.

The nation respects? Well, maybe not quite. "You lie!" yelled Representative Joe Wilson of S.Carolina as President Obama was addressing Congress in 2009 (on health care). And:

"I do not believe the President loves America" stated former NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in March 2015. [Ref.1]

"To Make America Great Again" is the slogan that Trump has adopted. But I'm troubled: is this not what Putin, and Kim-Jong-Un, also desire?  To make their countries great?  And I'm skeptical: which is to be made great -- country or leader?

There have always been megalomaniacs in world politics. The Hitler example in Germany demonstrated how so many people, suffering poverty between the World Wars, followed him in the hope that he would relieve them all, and 'make Germany great again'. Kim Jong-Un is to bring North Korea to greatness, and those of his own people crossing him will be, and have been, executed -- even members of his own family. Is there any kind of parallel here? Is Trump going to relieve the lives of  people now holding placards, whose low education and poverty preclude their mortgage applications from being considered by banks? Whose lives have so little hope? I don't think Trump has offered any concrete hope for them, although Bernie has.

As for Trump's wall, doesn't Lowe's sell 22' ladders?

In contrast, I give credit to current President Obama and his handling of deep problems. Coming in during the Great Recession of 2008, I credit him for the stimulus, for slowly turning around the disastrous economy he inherited (roughly 10% unemployment, standing now at about 5-6% [ref.2], for saving the auto industry (have we forgotten already?), for re-establishing normalcy with Cuba, and for the beginning (albeit with a need for improvement) of medical care for millions more of the millions of previously uninsured. Could a Trump, or a Sarah Palin have achieved these things?

Although there was more that Obama did, there have been disappointments. One letter writer said Obama has had to compromise, which is (ridiculously, in my view) seen by some as weakness, and he has had to lead while Republicans worked without let-up to make his administration dysfunctional. The same letter writer concluded by saying that the party of 'No' has deprived the American people of good government [Ref.3].

Another letter about to be thrown says that we should eliminate 'job-killing regulations'. However, one thing that caused the housing bubble to burst was surely a lack of government oversight, i.e., regulation. And so it goes.

Finally, as I look at the political scene, and toss these cuttings, I confess that Obama is a leader that I have been, and am, proud of. Would that there could be a semblance of such excellence on the competing political side.


 1. "Giuliani's Fiery Rhetoric", Kingston Daily Freeman, March 24 2015, p.5.

2.  Various: US Bureau of Labor Statistics; The Wall Street Journal; US Fed.Reserve Press Release, and others,

3.  Letter to the Editor: "Obama is a President of Compromise"; New Paltz Independent, Feb 2016

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at New Paltz and is the co-author of the text, A Short Course in General Relativity.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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