Before We Pick the Horses, Let’s Define the Race

Before We Pick the Horses,
Let’s Define the Race


Leonard Zwelling

         In early May of 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky, thousands
will gather to sip juleps, wear gaudy hats, dress to the nines and watch the
most exciting two minutes in sports. It’s called the Kentucky Derby. It’s a
horse race.

all horse races, there will be horses that are favored and those approaching
the starting gate with very long odds of winning. But everyone there is sure of
one thing, the game is getting to the finish line first. It’s about speed,
tactics and execution, but mostly, it’s a horse race. And all the four-legged participants
will be three years old. The prize is money and roses. Oats for the horses.

         Six months later, all over the country, a race of another
kind will conclude. It will take a bit longer to run and cost the two-legged
contestants way more to compete. It will start with lots of entries and end
with just two. By the first Tuesday evening in November of 2016 it too will
end. The winner gets to live in the White House for at least four years.

         In the May race, none of the starters will have ever run in
the race before.  In the November race,
that is still up for grabs. It is likely that none of the contenders for the
Presidency will have ever been President before or even Vice President although
that isn’t yet certain. It is likely one will have been First Lady, but no one
voted for her for that title.

         So now you think I am going to launch into a discussion of
the potential finalists and a winner. Wrong.

         I want to talk about the issues that really matter this time
and they are not as obvious as the economy or health care reform was in 2008 or
the “missile gap” that didn’t exist in 1960 or even the invasion of Iraq looking for non-existent WMDs in 2004.

         Issue number one in my opinion is: what is the purpose of
the United States in the world? There are basically two positions here.
Position one is the typical post-WWII “exceptionalist” role of world policeman,
largest economy, strongest military and richest group of spoiled
individualists. The other is “I am not quite sure anymore.” Position two makes
more sense and should be topic one of discussion among those wishing to occupy
the Oval Office. How much are we willing to spend on the defense of the rest of
the world? If we are “the greatest country in the world”, why are we
exceptional? We learned how to build an interstate highway system from Germany,
why not learn how to build a health care system from some of our Allies? We sure
need one.

         Topic number two is the economy. Isn’t it always? Position
one is more, more, more. More jobs, more wages, more billionaires and anything
goes. Let’s increase the size of too big to fail to too big to care. Position
two is maybe a little individual resource redistribution will prevent social
unrest by making sure every one has enough to eat, access to decent health care
and a roof over their heads. Position two is very worthy of meaningful
discussion. Means testing of Medicare and Social Security now that we are all
not dropping dead at 65 makes a lot of sense. Figuring out what to do with the
three or so million Americans whose first end organ to fail is their mind also
requires some discussion. The next person with Alzheimer’s you forget about
could be you!

         Topic three is over-partisanship and the sad mediocre
character of our political class. Position one is: it’s always been this way
and if even half of what we saw in the film Lincoln is true that may well be
the case. Position two is how do we recruit young people to believe in our
political system, participate in it and get rid of the morons who currently
have many of the seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives (don’t
argue with me here, I’ve met these guys and they are not the sharpest knives in
the drawer. I am not sure if Tom Coburn is leaving for health reasons or he
just wants to half the IQ of the Senate for fun for on IQ points he’s in
another realm and so are Jack Reed, Richard Burr, Dick Durbin, Lamar Alexander,
Mike Enzi, Chuck Schumer and several others. The bottom of the class shall go

         Topic four for each candidate is why do you want to be President
and what the hell are you REALLY going to do if you win? This one is
particularly aimed at: Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee
and the host of previous horses who still haven’t convinced me what they have
in mind. Mrs. Clinton spent 4 years as Secretary of State and her major
accomplishment is the accumulation of frequent flyer miles. Mr. Bush was a good
Governor, a long time ago. What’s new? Mr. Romney is old news, but we know he can sell his car
elevator if he needs campaign money and strap his dog to his remaining car’s
roof to garner attention. I don’t think the Republicans can run a punch line
but they won with one in 1968. Ooops!

Huckabee I completely do not get, so I am listening. At least he seems pleasant and amusing and not overly taken with himself. How refreshing is that!

         Other potential horses are Chris Christie from the IN YOUR
Face party, Rand Paul from the “Libertarian but not like my father” party, Ted
Cruz from the “how crazy can you get” party, and Elizabeth Warren from the “school marm, scolding aunt” party. You get my drift. Let’s stop worrying about
the horses for now and decide what the race is about.

         Are we heading to World War III with the Muslim extremists? I believe this to be true.

         How will the Israeli-Palestinian problem progress over the
next four years if at all? Does the US even have a role beyond military support
for the only democracy in the region?

         Do we really believe that Saudi Arabia is an ally just
because it has cheaper oil? They seem to do a pretty good job of training
terrorists who kill Americans and Frenchmen.


what about reinvesting in the infrastructure of America? Its roads, bridges, internet,
cell phones, and people all need some help and the path to citizenship needs
some repaving especially for those with advanced degrees (staple that Green
Card on the PhD diploma from Berkeley?). There are more students in the top 10% of
India’s high schools than there are high school students in the US. Get it? The
numbers are not in our favor. Education, education, education and no more
debates about Darwin. The Scopes trial settled that 100 years ago. Yes, we are
descended from ape-like creatures. So what? The apes do not appear to be
offended and the world is not 5775 years old despite some of my Orthodox Jewish friends believing that dinosaur fossils that are carbon dated to be over 70 million years old are a trick G-d is playing on us because He can.

         So as we all sing My Old Kentucky Home in May of 2016, let’s
consider what the race in November of that year is really going to be about.
Either it is going to be about something (rare) or the track at Churchill Downs
will be covered with the same stuff that covers the trail to the White House
and we cannot afford another Obama-like campaign of horseshit.

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