Ken Adelman: Reagan at Reykjavik

Ken Adelman (2014) Reagan at Reykjavik:
Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War


Howard Adelman

Yesterday, late afternoon at Massey College, I went to hear Ken Adelman discuss his book on the 11-12 October 1986 Reykjavik summit. (My late brother Al was born on 12 October so it is an easy date to remember as Al turned fifty that day.) At the two-day summit in Reykjavik, President Ronald Reagan of the U.S. and Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the two most powerful men in the world, failed to conclude a disarmament deal. They both initially thought it was a great failure. But Reykjavik set the stage for the deal they finally signed, the most important arms reduction program in decades if not in history.

Ken did not just give a talk about the contents of the book, but offered a very lively multi-media presentation with photos and videos, anecdotes and an articulation of both his feelings and his thoughts. It was one of the best and most interesting talks that I have ever heard. Further, it was a crucial turning point in history and the preface to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Ken followed his wife into the Commerce Department in 1969, but eight years later during the Ford administration, he had risen to become the assistant to Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense. Ken became the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for almost five years from 1983 to 1987 when he resigned just when the most widespread reduction of intermediate nuclear tipped missiles was concluded and 80% of intermediate ballistic missiles were sent onto the ash heap of history. Though he was central to the negotiations, he gives almost all the credit to Ronald Reagan, not for his intellect, not for any self-conscious critical reflection, but for a very clear vision and determination to end the arms race and a belief that America would win and the Soviet Union would lose, something Ken nor virtually any other expert believed could happen. For as a director of the arms control agency, the agency’s goal was simply to try to freeze the arms race, not end it.

What you have to know is that Ken is a neo-con (he calls himself a con-con), a cold war warrior who always, even at the Reykjavik summit, promoted peace through strength. When we chatted before the talk, he told me that he too majored in philosophy (and religion) at a very small college in the cornfields of Iowa, but he went on to write a PhD in Kinshasa in Zaire as a dependent husband while his wife, Carol, who worked for the U.S. Commerce Department, was in Kinshasa as a diplomat. We compared notes and talked more about Africa than his work on political theory.

Near the end of his talk, he claimed that at Reykjavik, Ronald Reagan brought anti-nuclear arms in from the fringes and made it legitimate. After the talk, I went up to Ken and told him that I had been head of the nuclear disarmament movement at the University of Toronto as a student in the sixties and that we did not consider ourselves outliers needing legitimacy from Reagan. His response was immediate: so you were part of the enemy, but it was said with a wry smile from a scholar and statesman who competed with Ron Reagan in being affable and personable.

Of course, I had to recall I had been his enemy when he believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and when he initially supported the war in Iraq, though only a few years later that “cakewalk” turned into a disaster as the Bush government dismantled the Iraqi army, decimated the civil service in Iraq and destroyed the possibility of creating a strong and unified post-Saddam Iraq. Even then, it was a surprise that this neo-con cold warrior voted for Obama in the 2008 election because of his dismay at McCain’s irrational response to the economic crisis and his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. He reverted to supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 and let me know that he thought that Donald Trump was despicable and surmised that Hillary would be a stronger President than Obama in foreign affairs. I did not have to ask him who he would vote for in this election.

He did not begin his talk with Reagan and Gorbachev, but with Roberson Davies. Though I knew about his Shakespeare expertise and his use of Shakespeare to teach politics, I had no idea he even knew who Roberson Davies was. Evidently, when buying his $150 worth of books to take to Kinshasa that he would need to write his thesis, the salesperson in the bookstore foisted on him Robertson Davie’s The Fifth Business: The Manticore – World of Wonders, the first in the Deptford Trilogy. Ken thought he was being given a present for buying so many books, but it ended up on his bill. Three months after his arrival in Kinshasa, with no other distractions from his academic life, this then non-novel reading nerd, picked up the Robertson Davies volume and could not put it down. He and his wife Carol devoured the whole Robertson Davies corpus. So he was especially delighted to give a talk at Massey College where Davies had been the first master.

Ken then went on to recall his socializing with Allan Gotlieb during the eighties when Allan was the Canadian ambassador from 1981-1989 and his wife, Sondra Gotlieb ran the most important Washington social salon from the Canadian embassy. Allan and Sondra were in the audience and Ken expressed his personal thanks to them, not for all the social occasions to which he had been invited at the Canadian embassy, but for a very intimate dinner to which he and his wife had been invited when Robertson Davies was Allan Gotlieb’s guest.

So this was the introduction to a talk that was very personal as well as being Ken’s contribution to diplomatic history. And he began with what could have been the beginning of a Robertson Davies novel. On the screen there was a picture of Hofty House, this two story relatively small mansion located on a windswept plane on the outskirts of Reykjavik and reputedly haunted. This impression was reinforced as the rain slashed against the windows, though in the picture when Reagan meets Gorbachev, there is no rain.

Ken never carried the haunted theme forward in his talk, so I was not sure why he introduced it. But he did convey the very small headquarters in which the politicians and their advisers worked with Reagan located in the upper room to the left and Gorbachev located in the upper room to the right and the small meeting room below Reagan’s rooms which had only room for a table and seven chars, one each for the two leaders at each end, one for George Schultz, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Foreign Minister. Beside each of them sat a translator. And then in the picture he showed, there was a seventh person crouching at the knees of Ronald Reagan, a much younger Ken and with a bushier moustache.

Ken explained that, whereas the previous disarmament summit in Geneva had been planned for six months, this one was a last minute affair with only ten days for preparation. When the U.S. delegation had to meet in private, they went to the American embassy to meet in the bubble or safe room, where they sat next to each other on narrow chairs in two rows with the knees of the ten of them rubbing against a counterpart in another chair. Ken also introduced the irony that the KGB and the CIA shared two bathrooms in the basement where the two groups were located on each side of the house.

So Reykjavik was a very weird place to hold a summit. There were very few hotels there, but over 3,000 journalists had been assigned to cover the summit, but all they were left to do was follow the sightseeing of Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa. The summit got off to a very propitious start as far as the Americans were concerned. Reagan was told that Gorbachev was arriving. Reagan did not bother putting on a coat, but ran outside to greet Gorbachev personally and, in the picture Ken showed, it looks like Ronald Reagan, twenty years older than Gorbachev, is helping Gorbachev up the steps.

Ken used his depiction of the talks to illustrate his general principles of diplomacy (with my rephrasing based on my memory):
1. Dream big;
2. Clearly articulate your goal;
3. Know how you are going to get there;
4. Be persistent when you are down.

I had heard Ken talk at another meeting about diplomacy and how it had changed. Reykjavik was a turning point in that as well. Ambassadors and trained diplomats used to carry the responsibilities for diplomacy. At Reykjavik, the ambassador was displaced even from his home, did not participate in the summit and seemed to illustrate the instantiation of a new era of diplomacy which no longer required an ambassador who was an expert in figuring out the politics of another country. What was needed was a media star capable of articulating and communicating that policy to the audience back home. A diplomat now was engaged in public explanation of goals, the reasons for the policy, media relations using social media, and defending the policy no matter how controversial.

The bywords of discretion, understatement, being quiet (as well as afraid of making a mistake), were no longer the hallmarks of high level diplomacy. Ambassadors did not know the policy and would be embarrassed if they made a mistake. The new diplomacy meant living with mistakes, not evading the risk of making them. So when Gorbachev and Reagan went head-to-head in 10 and ½ hours of unscripted discussion over two days without notes, this was a harbinger of the new diplomacy.

Gorbachev had arrived at the summit with a briefcase full of proposals. The U.S. delegation had presumed that the meeting was only a glad handing event to boost Gorbachev’s status in the Soviet Union. The discussions had their ups and downs, twists and turns, depressions and elations. And so much in the end fell on the issue of Reagan’s star wars vision, the ability to shoot down any enemy’s missiles. This was then simply a laboratory idea and a number of us, myself included, were convinced it would never work. We were wrong. But even at the time, the American delegation could not figure out why this was such a big issue for Gorbachev, especially since Reagan offered to share the technology.

Gorbachev had conceded ten different times. Reagan conceded nothing. Gorbachev insisted the star wars research be abandoned. Reagan refused since how could a country’s desire and will to defend itself be surrendered. At the time, the summit collapsed in failure over this issue. Why was Gorbachev so desperate to get an agreement but so unwilling to give up on this issue? The Soviet Union was broke. George Bush, then head of the CIA, and Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defence, had had a head to head battle over whether the USSR was spending 11-13% of GDP on the military (Bush) or 13-15% on the military (Rumsfeld). As it turned out, the amount was 30% of GDP as the Americans learned later. Gorbachev could not afford economic improvement while pursuing armaments. Further, he was convinced that the Americans with their ingenuity and wealth could outspend them even if the USA shared its star war technology with them.

I was one of the ones who blamed Reagan at the time for the failure of the talks, but had to swallow those words when the two sides signed an agreement a year later. But then I took solace in the fact that Ken had to swallow his misbegotten support for the Iraq War. Further, in 1986, just before the Reykjavik, both Ken Adelman and Ronald Reagan had failed to get Pakistan to halt its nuclear program. In December 1982, Reagan had warned President Ziv of Pakistan against pursuing nuclear arms. In 1984, America drew a red line in the sand that Ziv was warned not to cross. But in 1986, it was clear that Ziv had called the American bluff and had enriched uranium over the 5% limit (sound familiar from the Iran negotiations?), had engaged in technological transfers and was probably in a position to produce one or two nuclear weapons. Pakistan was a recipient of large amounts of American aid so the U.S. had considerable leverage. But Pakistan was also the staging area for arming and training the resistance forces in Afghanistan fighting the Russians.

Ken had advised Reagan to counter-bluff Ziv, but recognized that given American dependence on Pakistan for the fight in Afghanistan, the U.S. was resting its policy on quicksand. The achievements of the Reykjavik summit pushed Pakistan into the background as Ken Adelman witnessed and was party to the most extensive disarmament agreement in history.

He clearly was not perfect in his own admission. And even though he supported the Iraq War and failed to reign in Ziv, his contribution to peace and diplomacy was enormous.

The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”

The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”


Howard Adelman

Of course, it was not a debate. It was more of a cock fight. And the town hall format only provided window dressing for the moderators to field question (mostly vetted by organizations) to the two candidates, while allowing a half dozen or so questions, usually mundane though one incisive one on jobs and energy, from the audience. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz perhaps did their best to reign in Donald Trump, but they largely failed and, instead, Trump trumpeted his charges that the debate was a three-to-one proposition. What the format did was to remove the lectern as a barrier between the candidates and the audience and, most importantly, from each other. While Trump spoke, Hillary Clinton tended to sit impassively on her stool, though occasionally smiling at another Trump whopper. Donald Trump used the time, when Hillary was speaking and when he was not interrupting and talking over her, to strut and cower as a hovering and glowering menace behind her as he paced and grimaced, snorted and sniffed, in belligerent displeasure.

So body language was even a greater part of this debate than the first. Prior to the debate, commentators pondered how Donald Trump would handle the audience questions and engage with them as individuals when they asked questions. Even though the opportunity was lost for most questions to come from the audience, Donald Trump simply used the queries to engage stridently as he did at his rallies to talk at the audience in general and never really address an individual let alone try to answer a question. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, did talk to the individuals trying to answer the question directed to her rather than at the audience in general. But she has never mastered the art of talking with rather than to the person.

An excellent opportunity was offered to both of them when a Muslim woman in the audience stood up and asked how each of their policies would make her feel as a Muslim American citizen. Donald Trump was asked to respond first. He approached the woman and, though his back was turned to us, there was no indication in his body language – leaning forward, facing her directly – that he made any effort whatsoever to speak to her. What he in effect said was that he did not have a prejudicial bone in his body, but Muslims had to understand that terrorists were Muslims and that he was not afraid to say it, that Muslims had a special responsibility to look for terrorists among them and not abrogate their responsibilities to America as he claimed had occurred in a specific case of terrorism where they allegedly failed to report the explosives and arms the terrorist was assembling. He would not make the error of being politically correct and would call them radical Muslim terrorists. Though he did not state that he had revised his policy of keeping out all Muslims from America until they could properly be vetted, he did exhibit the new version of that policy called extreme vetting to be applied to a number of countries that he claimed nurtured and harboured Muslim radical terrorists. Clinton, on the other hand, he claimed would admit them by the tens of thousands allowing Muslims to come in freely and did not have the courage to call them what they were, radical Muslim terrorists.

Hillary Clinton called them radical jihadists and insisted that Donald Trump’s nomenclature fed to the false notion that America was at war with Muslims and raised the spectre of Islamophobia. Further, those same terrorists used Donald Trump as their recruiting tool. Hillary Clinton directly addressed the woman and insisted that she was as equal a citizen as any other American, that there have been Muslims in America going back to the days of George Washington, and that America was at war with terrorist extremists who were trying to hijack Islam for their own nefarious purposes. She never addressed the issue of whether there was or was not any connection between their Islamic faith and their extremist ideology. At the same time, she never drew the questioner closer into her confidence by asking her if she had suffered any discrimination herself because she was a Muslim given the current international situation and the fear of terrorism focused on Muslims.

If victory was to be awarded based on posture, and if the pose of a bully matters more in a cockfight, then the much more self-assured strutting and conventionally belligerent Donald Trump would be awarded the badge. In other words, Trump’s deplorable and irredeemable supporters would remain his supporters and would continue to be unredeemed. But if civility counted, if scoring points on policy and strategy counted, if getting credit for answering and not evading questions are to be valued, then Hillary once again doubtlessly won, but not as clear a victory as when Donald failed even his most ardent followers in the first debate. Except for the independents and wavering Republicans! For them the debate was another perpetrated by Trump on himself.

Since I really want to write about the terribly debased state of American politics much more than the debate between Clinton and Trump, I will use this analysis of the debate to set up my next blog on that subject. Let me begin, not with the lowest points in the debate when Trump denounced his own Vice-President’s suggested policy vis-a vis Russia and Assad in Syria and his prophecy or promise that Hillary would go to jail if he becomes president, but with his reiteration of his only apology which came at the very beginning of the “town hall debate.”

This is the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Jews ponder and seek forgiveness for their sins. That search for redemption is called tshuva. Jews are expected to recognize, acknowledge and ask forgiveness for their sins before God for their sins against Him and to their fellow humans for their sins against them. Now there are many iterations of the meaning of tshuva, but it is generally thought of as consisting of at least the following qualities:
• Identification or recognition of the sin
• Identification of who was hurt by the sin
• Acknowledgement of responsibility for committing the sin
• Requesting forgiveness from those hurt by the sin
• Accepting the consequences for having committed the sin
• Determining with conviction never again to recommit the offence.

All of these must be conveyed with the most profound and deepest sincerity. What did we hear from Donald Trump in this third reiteration of his “apology”? He was dismissive rather than sincere. And he as quickly as possible pivoted away from the issue to discuss fighting ISIS, a much more serious issue he claimed. That is, his offence, if it was an offence, was trivial. In any case, both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had allegedly committed much worse offences because they did terrible things to women. He had only talked about women, admittedly in a way he now regretted and he now considered wrong, but it was only locker room talk.

Did he recognize what he had done, a requirement for the very beginning of tshuva? Most certainly not. For what he had done was not even just locker room talk. I would argue, purely on personal anecdotal evidence, that it was not locker room talk at all. In my days swimming, playing basketball and playing football (yes, I once did all of these), I can recall male teenagers, much to my self-righteous disgust, discussing penis sizes and the size and quality of women’s breasts – my teenage associates at the time had a laser-beam approach in locker rooms in focusing on the female chest at the expense of the butt, the legs, the ankles and most times even the face and certainly never personality. But I never once heard boys or men discussing forcing themselves on women and grabbing their “pussies”. Perhaps they did not discuss it because they were not famous and did not, like Donald, think they could get away with it. But I dare say that they never even considered it, not simply because such acts are unequivocally illegal and constitute assault, but because such harsh moves on women were well beyond even their imaginations.

Donald Trump, after persistent questioning from Anderson Cooper, did finally assert that he had only talked that way and never acted that way – contrary to the claims of many of his staff members on The Apprentice – but even if no further solid evidence comes out that he did actually assault women in this way, he did so in his mind and to a media host – who was fired by his news organization as a result of the revelations. Does this constitute a conspiracy to commit assault on women? I doubt it, but I know too little of criminal law to offer an opinion. But one need not go into the legal issues. One can simply recognize that Trump never once acknowledged the seriousness of what he said and its character as he tried to reduce what he had uttered to the level of his usual trash-talk in discussing women.

He certainly never acknowledged that he had hurt all women and asked for their forgiveness. Further, as my wife Nancy pointed out, he never acknowledged that he had defamed American men who engage in locker room talk across the country, but I daresay very rarely if ever would discuss grabbing women by their pussies, let alone without their consent. An apology that diminishes and dilutes the sin committed, that fails to come to the first level of recognizing what the sin was, that is not addressed to all those, female and male, hurt by Donald Trump’s boasts about locker room talk and his supposed very recent claims of contrition, does not even make the grade of 10% of what is required by a true apology.

Did Donald Trump take responsibility for what he had done? Well you cannot if you do not know, recognize and then acknowledge what you had done wrong. When he said, “I was wrong. I apologize,” he was not even taking responsibility for what he had done even at the level of his failure of recognition, for his error in his mind may have been that he had been indiscreet in talking that way in front of an open mike. He never requested forgiveness from those hurt by the sin, a willingness to accept that consequences should follow for having committed the sin, never mind expressing a determination never again to re-offend. Even Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter, had said, Trump would have to realize that he had to reach deep within himself and indicate that he was capable of so doing and would have to live with what he had done and live as a reformed character. There is absolutely not a whiff of evidence of Trump’s willingness or capability of doing any such thing.

The problem of ISIS is a crucial policy issue. But the character and personality of the president is even more important because it is his character, whereas policy is a collective enterprise, even though Trump as president would have a disproportionate influence on such policy, though not as disproportionate as he believes he would have. His grandiose belief in the powers he would wield as president unlimited by a system of laws, checks and balances was articulated when he fell to the bottom of the pit of politicking and promised not only to appoint a special prosecutor, which a president does not have the power to do, but to jail Hillary Clinton when he becomes president, a power usually assumed by tin pot dictators when they succeed someone they overthrow and never by an elected president of the United States. To threaten to do so was a repetition at his rallies to “lock her up,” and, in my mind, the single-most important indicator that Donald Trump is totally unfit to be president. And when his surrogates insisted he was joking – when he was so clearly not – they proved they are as deplorable and irredeemable as they continue to demonstrate that they are.

But Donald Trump proved that he was certainly not a politically correct person and definitely not a politically correct politician when, instead of simply pivoting, he trounced his vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence and threw him under the bus for having said that the Trump administration would not only create a no-fly zone as Hillary promised (she is much more of a hawk than Obama), but would bomb the Assad military positions. Trump took an opposite tack. Aleppo was already lost. He would seek an alliance with both Russia and Syria (and, therefore, with Iran) in fighting ISIS. It is mindboggling. The whole international strategic thinking establishment of the United States must be shivering in their boots. Trump is simply politically stupid to the nth degree, but particularly in foreign policy. That was well in evidence in all the issues raised in that area last evening. And the result – the moral bankruptcy of much of the Republican Party was on full display when Mike Pence continued to back Trump in spite of what Trump had said, in spite of the ignorance of the Republican presidential candidate and in spite of the way he himself was treated.

What we saw and heard last night went well beyond Trump’s usual extreme mendacity, like his usual claim that the Iran deal was bad because America had to pay Iran $150 billion to sign the deal and his ignoring Clinton’s claim that the deal had reduced Iran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons without firing a single shot. The money at stake was at most $100 billion and probably more like $52 billion, but the money was Iran’s in the first place that had merely been embargoed. The money released from the embargo did not include monies embargoed because of Iran’s human rights record, its support for terrorism, etc. Further, deductions had to be made even from these funds to repay China. One big lie simply tumbled out and followed another.

Take one last point, his admission that he had not paid federal personal income taxes. Instead he claimed that Warren Buffet and George Soros, “Hillary’s friends,” had made similar deductions, not that they paid no taxes. Further, he lied when he said that it was really Hillary serving her rich friends when these very two friends had long advocated that America introduce a system that closed income tax loopholes for the rich and institute a much fairer tax regime. As Hillary insisted, Trump’s policies would reward the rich even more than they are currently rewarded while ratcheting up the deficit and creating large levels of unemployment by cancelling NAFTA.j

While admitting that the Canadian health insurance system is plagued with inordinate delays, it is far superior to the reformed American system under Obamacare and stratospherically superior to the previous American medical system. I will ignore his ignorance of and insults to Canada. After all, just last year he praised the single-payer system of Canada. If Trump is elected president, the whole American system – economic with respect to employment, finances, national debt, taxation; political; judicial, as well as foreign policy around the globe and domestic policies on education and especially health, would be, in one of Trump’s favourite words, a disaster.

Thnks to Alex Zisman for helingiling opponents,

From Generation to Generation Vayeilech Deuteronomy 31:1-30

From Generation to Generation
Vayeilech Deuteronomy 31:1-30


Howard Adelman

This section is read between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Most commentators focus on the need for repentance, the need for confessing one’s sins to God and one’s fellow humans, and to ask for forgiveness of those sins. But the text is largely about passing the torch from the generation of nomads and desert dwellers to those who now would become settlers in the promised land. Nine and one-half of the twelve tribes will cross the Jordan led by Joshua and settle in that land. Moses will not go with them. It is not only because he was very old, but because God said he could not. He was not permitted. His mandate had been taken away and transferred to Joshua.

But who is the greatest sinner by far? And He does not have to confess. For it is a promise that He has also already demonstrated that He can exercise on the east bank of the Jordan River. He now promises that He will do the same after crossing the river. Just as He destroyed the Amorite kings, Og and Sihon and the members of their tribes – men, women and children – so will he do after the Israelites cross the river.

גיְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ ה֣וּא | עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֗יךָ הֽוּא־יַשְׁמִ֞יד אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֛לֶּה מִלְּפָנֶ֖יךָ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֑ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ ה֚וּא עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֔יךָ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה:
The Lord, your God He will cross before you; He will destroy these nations from before you so that you will possess them. Joshua he will cross before you, as the Lord has spoken.

God promises to wipe out a nation, to kill every man, woman and child still living on the land. God promises to commit the ultimate in ethnic cleansing, genocide. Then the spoils will be divided among the nine-and-a-half other tribes. In accordance with God’s command, the Israelites not only will carry out these acts but they will not be “dismayed” in doing so – וְלֹ֥א תֵחָֽת. However, in spite of how God acts on behalf of the Israelites, in spite of His keeping His promise not to forsake Him, they will forsake God. God Himself makes this prophecy. God will keep His covenant with His people. But they will fail to reciprocate.

This nation will rise up and stray after the deities of the nations of the land, into which they are coming. And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant which I made with them. (31:16)

How will God respond? He already knows and so prophesizes. God will then abandon his people. God will hide His face from them.

My fury will rage against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will befall them, and they will say on that day, ‘Is it not because our God is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us? (31:17)

What sin would they commit? They would become idolaters, self-evidently far worse than being a géenocidaire. It is the people’s duty to obey and participate in genocide. Is God punishing his people because they care more about public opinion than God’s will? Have they lost the faith and the courage to carry out His commandments? That is one possibility. I suggest another. God perhaps hides his face because he was ashamed of what He did. He is even more ashamed that he cannot own up to such a horrible deed. So he takes the irresponsible option and blames the other, his own chosen people.

Yom Kippur is not only the time to own up to one’s own sins, but a time of waiting, waiting each year to see if God will confess His own transgressions. That time will not come as long as biblical commentators ignore these damning sections of the text. Rashi, for example, says not a word about the genocide. He elaborates on the meaning of words but cannot even spend a bit of time on a horrendous deed. Rabbis have generally followed that lead and pivot to other much less troubling sections of the Torah.

Explaining Why Hillary Clinton Has Not Won the Hearts and Minds of Millennials

Media and Millennials –
II Explaining Why Hillary Clinton Has Not Won Their Hearts and Minds


Howard Adelman

Based on my son’s suggestion, I have what I believe might explain the strong reluctance of millennials not to support Hillary Clinton that goes much deeper than the surface reasons offered by them which I contend are often distorted. For my youngest son is even angrier at the media than at a nihilist and psychopathic liar like Donald Trump. He blames the mainstream media for creating Donald Trump. But which media? He watches television shows and follows the news on BBC, NBC and CNN, watches the debates and satirical news shows, but only online, and reads newspapers, again only online. Is there a difference between reading a newspaper online versus in print?

When he reads news online, he hates distractions. He wants his news to be factual, brief and to the point. He generally does not read my blogs, even when they are directly intended for his eyes (as in the Bernie Sanders series) because they are far too long and he regards my distributing them them as equivalent to his releasing his films incompletely edited. He would argue that they are unfinished and not just long. But are these the only reasons?

Four years ago, Liew Chee Kit and Gan Wei Teng wrote a paper, “Print Newspaper versus Online News Media: A Quantitative Study on Young Generation Preference.”
( In their study, millennials not only preferred online news to print media by a wide margin, but did so, not so much for convenience and saving money, but because online media is not only immediate but also interactive, even though most millennials do not respond with tweets. What matters is the ability to do so. What matters is that the millennials feel that they can at least respond to the “intellectual prison” and “handed-down frameworks” of the print media. It is this permissible use that goes far beyond printing a few letters to the editor in newsprint that most attracts those millennials who read newspapers online.

But look at the differences between print and online newspapers, at least as I experience them. Interactivity is irrelevant for me even when I read news online – which I do extensively. But I read differently. I read a print newspaper holistically. I read newspapers online intentionally, seeking out stories about which I am thinking. Reading online deepens my investigation of a subject. Reading a newspaper in print broadens my perspective. On the other hand, in spite of my very poor memory, I recall more, much more, from reading a newspaper and can usually place a story spatially on a page. I cannot do this with online newspapers, but what I can do is extract pieces that interest me and deposit them in reference files. This is probably another reason why I do not file these snippets in my memory; I file them in my computer. In newspapers, I skip over ads – with some exceptions – but they do not annoy me. I hate online ads.

Most important, I like the very thing that I believe many if not most millennials hate – being guided by what is on the front page, by the position on the page, in determining the salience of a story. Some even claim that they respect stories more if they are printed. I do not believe I do, but I may. But I certainly appreciate the aesthetics more. Of the three Toronto Newspapers, on the basis of aesthetic reasons, I think the National Post, the newspaper most on the right and the one most discordant with my own views, has the best typeface, spacing, margins and sizes of stories. For me, it is the most attractive newspaper to read. I do not read online news based on attraction, though, perhaps, I may do so subliminally, but I do not think so.

Further, unlike many readers of online material, length does not bother me and so I impose on my readers 2500 words on average even though studies indicate 1,000 word maximums – and even less – should be adhered to except for scholarly articles. Finally, the old-fashioned convenience of portability, especially for doing sudoku and crossword puzzles, ends up trumping online news. But I read far more online news that I get from newsprint, for online reading allows side excursions, checks and in-depth exploration.

So what is the difference between myself and my son, between my past-the-due-date generation and my youngest son, a millennial? It is not the media in itself, I believe, but the way we use it and the way we experience it. The alternative media sources and their characteristics do not determine preferences, but the questions I bring, the frameworks – intellectual and aesthetic – do make a difference. And millennials, I believe, now experience the world much differently than previous generations.

What issues bother him and many of his cohorts? I believe environmental issues are first and foremost on the agenda. Whereas my generation in the sixties faced down a nuclear arms race and feared Armageddon, we still believed we could get control of the nuclear threat. Millennials, on the other hand, prioritize environmental issues, but see their own behaviour and practices as frequently hypocritical, and the government policies attacking the problem as too little and far too late. The Armageddon they face is perceived to be even worse than a nuclear war.

There is another issue that made Bernie so appealing. Though many of their upper middle class friends who graduated from university do not bear the huge educational debts of their other friends who were not lucky enough to grow up in families that could support their education, those who are better off see the burden that their other friends carry who were not blessed with parents who could pay the costs of their education. They also see how that burden impedes their life prospects. Further, many of their compatriots in their mid-twenties still live at home and many of them believe they will never accumulate the capital on their own to buy and own a home – especially since the group he hangs out with are downtowners.

Because of the economic burdens they carry and the economic prospects they see before them, they can ill afford the disproportionate share of that money on media, electronic media in particular, compared to what we spent on all media when we were that age. And this at a time when house prices have increased twice the amount of the purchasing power of money! So they generally find ways to get the information and visual views they want in the least expensive ways, even if that way is at the expense of the producer. They take Uber drivers at the expense of the careers of taxi drivers who have their own families to support. So their social concerns are not with the undereducated working class. Though they might come from upper middle class families, their goals – and this is true of all the ones I know in my personal experience – do not include wealth accumulation as having a significant priority. Happiness and work satisfaction do. Millennials do not want to and are very reluctant to work in jobs they do not like. On the other hand, they see no inherent fault with wealth accumulation.

What unites almost all of them in my eyes is that they are products of the new electronic media age. They are not entirely enamored with that media. Although they are most familiar with and embedded in the electronic media with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., they also recognize that those networks are infused with crazy and outlandish beliefs and even prejudices. Further, they have all personally witnessed the transformation of these media from vehicles for enhancing communications among friends to tools for pushing products and services.

The new social media have, I believe, had a potpouri of results, assembled in no particular order and without elaboration:
• An emphasis on speed and immediacy of retrieval, a propensity not to be equated with narcissism and an indulgent emphasis on self
• An emphasis on originality and almost a visceral gut hatred of the repetition of traditional TV news, though, in contradiction, most watch shows with repetitive themes and storylines
• An emphasis on their choice and a hatred of anything fed to them
• They are very comfortable with the use of technology, but some of them, the critical ones, are also very uncomfortable with the results – when they see a mob chasing a Pokémon on private property, and that many in that mob may come from their age group, they are appalled
• The reason some are appalled is that they see within themselves and among their cohort an increasing inability to separate fact from fiction, a problem they all face; in fact, given the current age, all of us are prone to see reality as fiction and to take fiction for reality – Tina Fey’s comic sketch that portrayed Sarah Palin as able to see Russia from her house, was never uttered by Palin, but try convincing most millennials or even most older viewers of Saturday Night Live
• Donald Trump is at the extreme, an individual who cannot discern the difference between reality and the products of a fevered imagination; they hate Trump, I believe, because he represents the parts of themselves that they hate
• The nature of the media that allows instant communication undercuts the need for forward planning and social commitments, but that is replaced by valuing spontaneity and improvisation, on the one hand, and a permanency and consistency of belief on the other hand as the place to find solid footing in a very slippery world
• In spite of their resistance to fixed plans in the future, they almost all see themselves as living in the future rather than the present; that is why they are mostly not narcissists even though they take millions of selfies
• They are disgusted by their elders and with themselves for looking at politics as entertainment, but primarily hold the media responsible for enhancing the phenomenon when moderators do not moderate or hold politicians to time limits; these moderators do not turn off the microphones of their guests when they evade answering questions (the guests are pivoting), and when the guests tell outright lies; instead, rather than interrupt the drama of the occasion, they (and we) are forced to wait until afterwards for these egregious failings to be pointed out in fact checks “after the fact”
• The media rate winners on style and follow trends instead of providing much more leadership on discussions of substance
• In the name of balance, outright dissemblers are permitted on stage as performers
• They recognize that they live in a world in which imaginary friendships brought on through the accessibility of information with others seem to be as real as intimate relationships and that makes them long all the more for authenticity and the fixity of values and points of view
• They recognize that people live in bubbles, strengthened and reinforced by their exposure only to media that reinforce their own values whether liberal, conservative or anti-establishment
• They are not political institutionalists and totally underrate and even ignore the importance of institutions in preserving values and trust; instead, they tend to believe that those values are imbued in individual persons and are not protected but undermined by institutions.

Media have indeed transformed the world and has transformed the millenial generation and the future of politics. So how could Patrick Caldwell two years ago in Mother Jones write that “Millennials Love Hillary Now”? ( ) Well then she had 58% of the 18-24-year-old population; now she has less than 32%. Then Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a heroine for millennials, ran almost 10% behind Hillary in the support she drew from them. The explanation – Bernie Sanders came on the scene in a big way and did what Barack Obama did in 2008, showed her up as both wooden and programmed, on the one hand, and a shape-shifter in comparison on the other hand. But Bernie did it as an ideologue rather than as a soft shoe salesman. Bernie spent months and an enormous amount of money that in part strongly served the agenda of the Republican Party in instilling that portrait of Hillary.

Millennials believe that an authentic guy like Bernie stands outside the accusations they level at advertisers. They seem to be uncritical of the degree to which their views have been infused by repeated exposure. So all the efforts Hillary put in to appeal to millennials were undermined by Bernie. It certainly helped that Bernie projects himself as a more authentic individual and authenticity is where millennials hang their petards. Bernie was double-digits ahead of Hillary among millennial voters. And the suspicions of Hillary continue because pragmatic politics, because shifting position in the face of changing circumstances, this great virtue among traditional politicians, is viewed as a disability on both the right and the left. And although Hillary Clinton managed to win their support for a period, she never won their hearts. She never won their minds. And without the allegiance of the heart, the heads of millennials tend to grossly exaggerate Hillary as simply a politician who changes just to meet the requirements of gaining votes.

The explanation again can be found in the nature of the media and in the shift to gender egalitarianism that Hillary Clinton surely represents, an explanation to which I alluded in my third paragraph of part I. Women are now the majority in medical classes (they were restricted to 10% when I was in medical school), in law classes and, over time, may even become the majority in engineering schools. Women come in all shapes and sizes. But a man like Trump still lives in the locker rooms of the fifties with an attachment to the superficialities of the greater sex. Ivanka Trump can be brighter and exhibit greater ability than her brothers, but she still conforms to Trump’s singular vision of a beautiful woman. So do most of his female surrogates. And many women, experienced with and having created shields to gender marketing, know that branding distorts women into a single mold to sell products. The revolt against this idolatry has been instigated by women and adopted by the millennial generation, except by white males who still cling to Trump’s artificial vision of the female universe.

Has Ivanka Trump altered her appearance by surgery? That is no longer absolutely necessary since photoshop can achieve the appearance of the same result; many if not most partners meet as a result of media images through dating services now. In my experience, women can spot inauthenticity in appearance a mile away. And authenticity is physical as well as emotional and intellectual for millennials. Hence, the reference to Hillary as wooden and an automaton. It is her body language that is primarily seen as inauthentic even when they claim it is her shift in positions. Millennials want to view the same body that avoids shape shifting mentally or physically. And constricted body movement are viewed as inauthentic even when they are the result of seven decades of institutional pressure and shaping.

The irony then is that millennials have this intensive desire for a firmament beneath their feet based on an anti-idol approach to humanity, but without a divine presence. This does not mean one is necessary. But like all religious seekers, including those who are absolutely secular, they are attracted to absolutes. They crave stability in the fleeting world of the media that veers between the attention span of a two-year-old and the equally compelling nature of repetition loved by young children. Hillary Clinton simply disappoints them and men, at least intelligent ones, now follow women in this revolt. That is why a seventy-five-year-old democratic socialist with fluid arms and a flexible visage could win their hearts and Hillary could not. Millennials are desperate for a very different kind of fluidity than the one Hillary offers, and a stability and security that the media fails to provide for a generation so dependent on that media.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Media and Millennials – I Their Support and Criticisms of Hillary Clinton

Media and Millennials – I Their Support and Criticisms of Hillary Clinton


Howard Adelman

It is too easy to generalize about millennials. What I write here is certainly not true across the board. But trends and proportions are important and require explanation. And it is difficult to write about an age group without introducing generalizations that are clearly false if one attempts to apply them to some of that population. With that important caveat, let me now begin to skate on very thin ice.

Tina Nguyen in Vanity Fair wrote that Hillary Clinton could lose the election because millennials don’t like her. (19 September 2016) Too many of them, it seems, have drifted from being Bernie supporters into the Gary Johnson and Jill Stein camps. A recent September Quinnipiac poll indicated that 29% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 would vote for Gary Johnston, the Libertarian candidate, and 15% said they would vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. That is 44% of the millennial population. Clinton only has the support of 32% of that age group, only slightly more than Donald Trump with 26% support. Given the margin of error in polling, the two major contenders are almost neck-and-neck in millennial support. That is amazing! When millennials generally find Trump to be a phony and a liar, a misogynist and a racist, an anti-environmentalist when, for most of them, doing something about climate change may be their highest priority, why won’t enough of them shift their vote to ensure Trump is defeated?

Hillary Clinton is a woman; Millennials overwhelmingly believe in gender equality. Hillary Clinton has appropriated many of Bernie’s social planks and seems to have toned down her previously relatively hawkish views in foreign policy. She is indisputably and has always been genuinely committed to women’s issues. Why is one of my sons, my youngest, who was a strong Bernie supporter, now grudgingly in the Clinton camp? Why is this bright, talented, terrific kid – not much of a kid anymore – who dances rings around me in analyzing movies, so put off by Hillary? If he was an American, he would vote for Hillary, but not because he believes that she would make a good president. He sees her as in the pay of Wall Street given the high priced fees she was paid for her speeches by Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Trump’s charges of “crooked Hillary” may not precisely resonate with him and a large number of other millennials, but he, for one, remains highly suspicious of her willingness to compromise and be beholden to interest groups that do not have the best values of society at heart.

Hillary is also seen as insincere and an individual who flip-flops when it is politically expedient to do so. She flip-flopped on her support for the Iraq War which Bernie always opposed. She claims now to be an environmentalist, but she is on record as supporting the Keystone Pipeline. Only when Bernie seemed to be beating her badly among millennials did she switch over and support reduction of tuition fees for students and a $15 minimum wage. My son’s biggest bone of contention was with Hillary’s shift in position on gay marriage. So let me concentrate on analyzing the justice of the charge of a flip-flop on this issue.

When her husband was president, Hillary announced that she opposed Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prevalent in the American military. In 1996, when her husband as president signed the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, she supported the bill, but insisted that “same-sex unions should be recognized and given the same legal status as a marriage between a man and a woman with all the same legal rights.” Thus, the only flip-flop was over whether the word “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexual couples. She has adamantly opposed making same-sex unions illegal and proposed legislation to that effect. When senator from New York, she defended the right of the state of New York to include same-sex couples under the category of “marriage,” though as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008 she joined Barack Obama and all other candidates in opposing the application of the term “marriage” to same sex couples in federal legislation that would force states to comply. She had already called for repeal of the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples. By then she was already using the word “marriage” rather than “couple.”

As she prepared her run for the Democratic Party nomination in 2013, she explicitly endorsed legalizing same-sex marriages even before the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. To call Hillary Clinton a flip-flopper on the gay marriage issue is a gross misuse of the term flip-flop when she clearly simply evolved in her use of language, not even policy. By 2013, well before she was battling Bernie, she had declared that, “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. I support it personally, and as a matter of policy and law.”

Another of the issues that infuriates my son perhaps as much is the perception that the Democratic hierarchy tried to rig the primary system against Bernie. As the cliché goes, I could argue myself blue in the face that these efforts, as misjudged as they were, were made after it was very clear that Bernie would not win the primary and were initiated out of a conviction that Bernie was undermining the Democratic ticket with his continuing attacks on Hillary when she was clearly going to be the candidate of the Democratic Party. But Bernie would not drop out.

We all know the polls that indicate that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most disliked presidential candidates in recent history, though Trump trumps Hillary in this category, but only by a few percentage points. Personally, my son sees Hillary as an automaton, a trained spokesperson for establishment Democratic Party interests, the very same political point that Donald Trump repeatedly makes though my son abhors Trump’s language use to relay his insults. Though he would vote for Hillary because Donald Trump is a lying demagogue, he joins the vast majority of millennials who are convinced that Hillary is inauthentic, that she does not say what she believes but only what is necessary to win the election. So even if a third of them will vote for Hillary largely to keep Trump out, even they are generally voting against Donald Trump and not for Hillary.

That is the puzzle. Why?

With the help of Alex Zisman

Impressions of the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine Debate

Impressions of the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine Debate


Howard Adelman

Can you stand another missive from an American presidential race junkie? I watched the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine debate last evening. My general take was that Mike Pence won on style and Tim Kaine won on substance. But it wasn’t much of a victory from either side. The Pence strategy simply worked better because throughout he remained on message and was unflappable under attack. When Mike was clutched in the corner and the jabs kept coming at Pence’s waist, Mike pivoted very well by often throwing his presidential candidate, Trump, under the bus. Tim Kaine, on the other hand, threw himself under the bus for Hillary.

Kaine was mediocre to poor as an attack dog, interrupting too often at the beginning, repeating points too many times – on Donald Trump’s taxes – and took too long to find his stride and let the true Tim Kaine emerge – the nice polite guy with excellent principles and a substantive record. He had the opposite trajectory to Donald Trump in the latter’s first debate with Hillary; he improved enormously, with some fallbacks, as the debate wore on. Mike Pence, on the other hand, always remained smooth and unruffled, but in the last one-third began to reveal himself as a self-righteous moralistic schoolmarm rather than a politician capable of empathy and compromise.

As an aside, I thought that Elaine Quijano has been the best moderator if the three occasions are compared – last night’s debate with the presidential debate and the previous occasion when Trump and Hillary were on the same stage but were not debating. On the other hand, in spite of generally being an improvement, Elaine did not fact check, did not prevent the debaters from running on well over time, especially Mike Pence, allowed total pivoting away from her excellent questions and allowed far too much crosstalk that almost made it impossible to follow the discussion. Clearly, moderators are harpooned if they stand too far back and allow the debaters to confront one another but might be doubly harpooned if they actually tried to referee the debate, holding each of the candidates responsible when they lied and delivered low blows.

Most of all, I thought Tim Kaine missed a number of opportunities to undermine Mike Pence as he clearly delivered his over-rehearsed punch lines in executing the Democratic Party strategy decision to focus almost exclusively on Trump and letting Pence off the hook on a number of issues. Let me illustrate with the issues where he pinned Mike Pence on the ropes. Kaine did it best on the issue of abortion and, in the process, linked Trump with Pence’s reactionary policies. As Tim pointed out clearly and unequivocally, both he and Hillary were pro-choice candidates, even though he personally was a believing and practicing Catholic who was against abortion. Mike Pence, on the other hand, not only admitted but defended his belief (and Donald’s) that the state should interfere in the wombs of women who get pregnant and not only would not provide medical insurance for abortions, but prosecute women who sought an abortion. Kaine alluded to but did not exploit the fact that, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law this year which obligated women to have funerals or cremation for aborted foetuses. As well as he did, I thought Tim missed an opportunity to highlight this issue more, but it is easy enough for spectators to second guess political candidates.

I thought Mike’s honesty and critical self-reflection came through best when he was asked about his most difficult choice when he had been governor of Virginia. He opposed the death penalty, as did his church, but the laws of Virginia mandated the death penalty. So when he could find no extenuating circumstances to remit the death penalty in a specific case, he allowed the execution to go ahead. Mike Pence, in contrast, seemed to pretend he was humble and torn in a case of justice, but came across as disingenuous. After all, he was not torn at all when he said, “I support the death penalty.”

At the end of September, Mike Pence stated that he would refuse to pardon Keith Cooper who had served 10 years of a 40-year sentence after eye witnesses recanted their testimony and there was proof that there was no Cooper DNA at the crime scene. Pence took this stand in spite of the unanimous recommendation of the Indiana parole board. Why? Because this wrongly accused and convicted man, in his view, had a duty, not only to prove he was innocent, but had to, at great personal expense, exhaust all other remedies before Governor Mike Pence would consider a pardon request. However, for legal reasons that sped up his release from jail, Cooper could not use the courts to win a pardon. Cooper was caught in a Cath-22 of Mike Pence’s making. Therefore, a felony conviction, remains on record limiting Cooper’s job prospects.

Where government financial relief should have been immediately forthcoming for the wrongfully convicted, Mike Pence threw this innocent man under the bus once again as he often did to Donald Trump in the debate. Mike Pence appears on the surface as a Trump loyalist, but Trump demands absolute loyalty and there is no sign that Mike Pence is willing to go down in flames with Donald Trump and instead is focused on his own campaign to be the Republican candidate for president in 2020.

There was a good debate on the justice system and policing in general, but the two explicitly differed on stop and frisk, a policy which Trump also promotes. Tim Kaine missed an opportunity to push Mike Pence on this issue. It was on the justice system issue on which Mike Pence appeared to be most self-reflective, but why did Tim Kaine not puncture Mike’s righteousness by pointing out how Pence as governor of Indiana refused to pardon an innocent man after he had unjustly been incarcerated for 10 years?

What was lost in the debate, except on the abortion issue, was the fact that Mike Pence is a religious troglodyte. He is homophobic and anti-LGBT, arguing not that a governor is there to enforce the law of the land, but to enforce his own personal moral code whatever the law. So he defended a bill to protect civil servants who, as a matter of conscience, refused to deliver state services in Indiana to same-sex couples. Can you imagine that if he happened to be a racist or anti-Semitic, he would defend the right of civil servants of the state to ignore their legal obligations and not provide services to Blacks or Jews if those acts assailed their consciences. But, of course, in Pence’s mind, being homophobic is ok, but anti-Semitism and racism are not.

Tim Kaine could have pointed out how such a stance was so antithetical to the American constitution in a much clearer and more forceful way if he was not determined to keep on script and focus almost exclusively on attacking Trump. So he also omitted to point out how Mike Pence’s policies led to declines in tourism, in cancellation of conventions in the state, a state that may have balanced its budget under his governorship, but a state which also ranked lowest in economic growth in the Midwest, a state where average wages dropped from $53,500 in 2000 to $46,900 in 2015. No wonder that he and Trump believe the economy has been driven into the ground. In Indiana, Pence’s trickle-down economics which he shares with Donald Trump, was a major contributor to that effect. Tim Kaine could have skewered Mike Pence on this specifically instead of just reiterating general criticisms of trickle-down economics. Kaine did succeed in pointing out repeatedly that Trump’s tax policies would benefit the rich like himself and punish the middle class, and at the same time, would add far more to the national debt that any of Hillary Clinton’s policies would.

Two other areas in which Mike Pence was very weak and got off the hook were issues on which Tim Kaine could have pierced both Pence and Trump with the same thrust. Both the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidate do not, at heart, believe in science. Trump focuses on climate change as a liberal myth while Pence argues that climate has changed as a result of human activity. Tim Kaine could have had Mike Pence throw his boss under the bus on this as well as on the six issues in which he did. On the other hand, Tim Kaine could have gored Mike Pence on his stand on cigarette smoking while also revealing that he had been in the economic pocket of the tobacco industry from which he has received over $100,000 in campaign donations.

After all, did Pence not write an op-ed that said, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill”? After all, “9 out of 10 smokers” he insisted, “do not get cancer.” In fact, the correlation is the exact reverse – in cases of lung cancer death, the death of 9 out of 10 men and women is caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking kills almost half a million Americans each year. SMOKING DOES KILL. Has Pence not consistently opposed legislation to retard tobacco use, even opposing an agreement to which the tobacco industry had signed on in a suit with opponents of big tobacco? Mike Pence said it was more government regulation and Tim Kaine missed an opportunity to impale Pence’s cool but rigidly Republican anti-regulation dogmas.

But what about the big issues like immigration, foreign and economic policy? On the latter, I have already referred to the fallacies of trickle-down economics which Tim Kaine pointed out, but without pinning the specific tail on Pence as the donkey. On foreign policy, Kaine held his own on getting rid of Iran’s nuclear stockpile, on Hillary’s dealings with Russia, on Hillary’s Middle East policies. But he repeated over and over again Trump’s possible ties to Russian economic interests. The issue is not, however, as Eric Trump pretended it was, Trump’s investments in Russia, but Russian oligarch loans to the Trump organization. Kaine focused on Trump’s and Pence’s praise for Putin as a strong leader contending that if Pence did not know the difference between good leadership and dictatorship, he was wearing blinkers. But on this issue, both Trump and Pence said that Putin was a strong, not a good, leader, so Kaine’s jabs missed their target even as Pence denied he (and Trump) explicitly admired Putin as a leader when both unequivocally did. Because Trump and Pence both believe in strong, not good leadership – and many Americans for some reason seem to be longing for a Turkey-like, for a Philippines-like – you name the country – for we are in an era where disastrous strong leaders but not good leaders are everywhere.

The exchange went as follows:
PENCE: “That is absolutely inaccurate. I said he’s been stronger on the world stage.”
KAINE: “No, you said leader.”
And Kaine was absolutely correct.

Mike Pence clearly came out as a hawk on Syria. but Kaine failed to explore the huge gap between the policies he advocated and the very restricted foreign policy involvement of Donald Trump, his boss.

Tim Laine did point out that Pence’s policies differed radically from Trump’s on six other different issues, but the format of the debate prevented him from expanding on that observation in any detail. After all, Pence may be ardently anti-abortion, but unlike Trump who has been pro-abortion and then converted to support the so-called pro-life position to advance his presidential candidacy, Pence does not come across as Trump does as guilty of misogyny. Pence refused to grab the bait and try to defend Trump’s absolutely scurrilous remarks on women. Kaine could also have pointed out that Trump’s misogyny extends to men who change diapers, for Trump openly mocked such behaviour by men.

Going to another aspect of foreign policy, Pence insisted it was Hillary’s fault in letting Russia get away with the invasion of Georgia and Kaine’s epée slipped off its mark when he correctly said that Russia’s invasion of Georgia took place in August 2008 under Dubbya Bush’s administration when Obama was running for president, but had not yet become president and had not yet named Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. But Kaine did not push back strongly on this issue. Kaine also did not point out how the Obama administration has rolled back ISIS significantly without the commitment of large numbers of American boots on the ground, but for some reason or other – and I cannot figure out why – Kaine’s defence of the complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the failure to conclude a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government did not seem to register or disclose how badly Pence was misconstruing what had taken place.

On immigration, Pence managed to pivot away and obscure in a cloud of rhetoric Trump’s repeated assurances that he will deport not only 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but 4.5 million native-born Americans whose parents were illegals. Pence managed that, not only by shifting from Trump’s revisionism that this is but the final stage of a longer term program, by simply wiping such a policy out of the discussion by side-stepping the attack. In another case of such deftness on the part of Pence, when Kaine repeatedly challenged Pence to defend Donald Trump’s not only abandonment of nuclear proliferation but its promotion, Pence simply lied and said that Trump never said that.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ignored. Turkey was ignored. Egypt was ignored. North Korea was brought up and Pence seemed to favour an attack, as did Kaine as well. But on this very important issue, they both came across as much more hawkish than Trump as well as Obama. I could go on. I generally appreciated the debate much more than the presidential encounter for it was far more serious, but the Democrats will have to sharpen their game strategy much further if Trump learns from his first debate failures and the way Mike Pence handled himself.

Trump and Heidegger

Donald Trump and Martin Heidegger


Howard Adelman

After a short bout of the news last evening, we took a break from my current obsession with the American election, the outcome of which I believe is so crucial to the future of the world. We first watched Tom Hanks in A Hologram for the King. Though we always enjoy the acting of Tom Hanks, this updated and light comedic version of Death of a Salesman (Alan Clay) in both a career and a life crisis that is set in Saudi Arabia, and that is also an updated version of a road movie with Yousef (Alexander Black), was a movie in which the delays and frustrations Alan Clay experiences as he tries to meet the king in a scheduled appointment matched our own frustrations as we waited for the movie to get on with the story. It turned out that Alan Clay had more patience than we did, and we finally turned the movie off to watch a documentary.

Being adrift in a strange place in an encounter with others outside your normal experience can be discombobulating, but imagine this experience taking place, not in a man entering a world which is a marriage of tradition and ultra-modernity that is really a modern version of a culturally arid desert, but by a tribe in the Amazon rain forest reserved for non-contact tribes as the tribe emerges to test contact with a perimeter of the civilized world with its cameras and its guns, its clothes and its medicines? This is the theme of the documentary, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes.

The exploration of the ideas and presumptions in protecting such tribes in their natural environment in the reserve area on the borders of Peru and Brazil as a tribe emerges to make contact with “civilized” society is explored with sensitivity, nuance and honesty in this film. If you think Tom Hanks trying to sell a 3-D hologram system for convention meetings to Saudi Arabia is an exploration of the interaction between one world and another, an exploration of interculturalism in a 3-D way, imagine what it is to live in a small isolated tribe in the Amazon jungle and make your first steps into “our” world. The most important lesson we learn from the gentle and sensitive work of the Brazilian medical doctor and anthropologist is how the Rousseauian fantasy of the noble savage untouched by civilization living in a Garden of Eden of moral innocence is such BS.

This is what it is like to live in a state of nature. They are often cold. They never sleep well. They often go days without food. They are deathly afraid of panthers. Yet they encounter the same discomforts of infidelity exacerbated by the continuing fear and experience of death of their children, their friends and their parents. Though pleasant, curious and often smiling, they are NOT happy campers. Except for the contact with germs to which they have no immunity and voracious businessmen who have aspirations to exploit the natural wealth of the reserve, escaping the isolation of the rainforest is not so much a seduction by modernity as an escape from a raft of insecurities and a very short life span.

The effects of the clash of cultures is apparent as the Trump world of unreason and resistance to reality, of incoherence and the conviction that personal opinion is superior to considered opinion, as it comes in contact with the uncertainties of a world of compromise and cooperation, of caring and compassion that has to be realized through very imperfect governmental and bureaucratic institutions. Monday evening’s presidential debate was, indeed, surreal. It had both a nightmarish, disorienting quality of a bad dream in which unreal fantasies clash with realities along with the exhilaration and delight, in spite of cynicism, in the tremendous benefits of an ameliorative society of civility.

The first unreality encountered is how the Trump forces tried to spin a clearly disastrous debate from the Trump side into a victory, citing unreliable online polls as contrasted with polls that make an effort at scientific objectivity. According to one example of the latter, two-thirds of Americans thought that Hilary won. Less than one-third, 27%, thought Trump won in a poll that seemed to confirm that one-third of the voting public is immune to counterfactual proofs and detest theories of evolution, conclusions by science of climate change and dislike the benefits of good governance. This is the core of the Trump support as it expresses the gradual deformation of the Republican Party as it increasingly compromised with the voices of unreason in an effort to retain a popular base. This was akin to the compromises the Democratic Party once made with the Dixiecrats that retained American institutions of repression for so many decades.

In a perverse world, doing one’s homework and being prepared are equated with acting that is rehearsed and scripted. This conclusion is not only drawn by Trump supporters, but by liberals who, like Trump supporters, prefer raw authenticity to studied argument. Trump was expressive – sometimes aloof and at other times stressed and irritated, sometimes smug and at other times condescending, but at all times increasingly irritated and somewhat out of control. As one strong but intelligent Trump supporter expressed it, Trump, in winging it, may have appeared more genuine, but his performance was more “tangle and rumble,” more jangle and less humble so that the “authentic” Trump was onstage without the energy of a mass following in a mass rally cheering him on and reinvigorating the performance artist that he had become. The format was truly rigged against him to help bring out who he is when placed in a very different context not under his sole control.

So how did Hillary perform. From the perspective of those who opt for authenticity, whether from the right or the left, she was intelligent and sharp, but also rigid and mechanical. But Trump failed because he had tried to marry his own bluster and indifference to truth presented as telling it “like it is,” with a weak and unconvincing effort to appear presidential, and I stress “appear,” for leaving the panther and going for the throat only left Trump stranded in the desert of Saudi Arabia with all its glitz of modernity but none of the underpinnings. The result – an inability to hit where it hurts as he was caught in the headlights of two clashing cultures and expectations.

Hillary Clinton said that she wanted “to invest in you’ [the middle class], “to invest in the future.” Clinton wanted to expand the welfare state. Trump was still stuck in the belief of living in the abundance of a rain forest and trickle-down economics, in relieving the rich from their onerous tax burdens so they could invest (and accumulate) even more as evidence by his own non-payment of any taxes through the use of tax loopholes that indicated, in his own words, that he was “being smart.” Trump saw the world from a one-dimensional perspective, fretting about the jobs lost in the industrial belt of America through trade agreements, NAFTA in particular, described with Trump’s usual sense of absolute hyperbole as the worst trade deal in the history of mankind, as if he had ever demonstrated any knowledge of or interest in that history. Trump ignored the huge job gains in other areas and the huge trade benefits to the U.S. which Clinton deftly ignored lest she alienate the workers abandoned in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio even more.

So the debate started with two opposed views of the economic world. In one, jobs are “stolen,” ignoring the huge increase in jobs and employment over the last eight years. In the other view, jobs are “created,” ignoring those lost in the process. So Trump, immersed in a world of contradictions and representing a party opposed to more taxes and bureaucracy, proposed more taxes and bureaucracy on companies that import, all in the name of preventing the loss of jobs without calculating the cost of new jobs left uncreated. Trump was a spokesperson for the voices of anti-globalization and for building barriers to the connections of people and goods in an increasingly interconnected world. And this was the advocate who insisted that Hillary was regulating companies out of business with more taxes. But coherence has not exactly been Trump’s forte.

Trump defended “stop and frisk” even though the studies of criminologists and sociologists have overwhelmingly indicated that the practice is inefficient, ineffective and counter-productive, and an exercise in micro-management gone not only awry, but into unconstitutional terrain. But Trump as an exemplar of faith in “authenticity” as he creates modern monuments to the gaudy and contemporary versions of baroque suitable for visions that see the world from a decadent end-of-empire point of view.

So what does this all have to do with Martin Heidegger, reputed to be one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century? (If you want a brief but less antithetical version of Heidegger that is a more subtle version of separating Heidegger from his racist past, there is a relatively short and well-written article by Adam Kirsch called, “Heidegger Was Really a Nazi,” in the 26 September 2016 Tablet. A warning. Before I ever knew that Heidegger was a Nazi and a cultural, though not biological, anti-Semite, he was the one philosopher I read in graduate school that I viscerally despised. I belong to the small minority of philosophers who argue that Heidegger does not deserve his preeminence, not because he was a Nazi, but because, in the world of thought, he is as big a blowhard in the intellectual realm as Donald Trump is in the material realm. And that is quite aside from his being a Nazi, though there is a connection between being the kind of performer who advertises and presents himself as being better than anyone around.

Like Trump, Heidegger when he joined the Nazi Party exalted the effort to marry populism with a new national beginning. As Kirsch begins his essay, “In the spring of 1933, a few months after Hitler took power, Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and was elected rector of Freiburg University, where his expressed goal was Gleichschaltung—the ‘alignment’ of the academy with the new party-state. At his inaugural ceremony, the audience gave the Hitler salute and sang the Horst Wessel Song, the anthem of the Nazi party, before Heidegger spoke about “the glory and greatness of this new beginning.” Trump says the same thing in much simpler terms: “Make America Great Again.”

What does making America great again mean? Sacrificing the middle class for the wealthy in the name of collective greatness and the acquisition of wealth by the few. Ignoring the protection of human rights and the constitution in favour of what Mao Zedong called “masslining,” but which I call mass lying. It means never acknowledging and admitting, let alone apologizing for when you are wrong. If anyone thinks that high and lofty thought cannot be reconciled with crude populism, read Giovanni Gentile, the Italian neo-Hegelian [NOT Hegelian] philosophical apologist for Mussolini’s policies. Just as the sweetness and light of the pure Platonic life cannot be so easily separated from crude barbarism as butter can be separated from whole milk, so too the philosophy of bitterness and resentment cannot be so easily separated from the unworldly realm of authenticity and alienation.

For Heidegger as for Trump, the world is depicted as a horror show, a dark and dank place where everything has gone to hell. We do not understand this through science, through evidence, through intellectual analysis, but through our gut. The texture and make-up of the world is only grasped directly by our emotions. Though called a “state-of-mind” by Heidegger, it is really a mindless approach to existence, one in which the intellectual workings of the mind must be deliberately bracketed. Then existence reveals itself, as it did for Rousseau, as a state of submission and slavery, in Trump to the state and “liberals” and the media, in Heidegger, to the entrapment of modernity altogether.

The world is not of our own making but we have been cast adrift in this world – except for those who realize this and rise above it to take advantage of it in a distorted version of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “will to power”. Humans are just there. They are no longer, as in Kant, autonomous agents in making their own history. They are not, as in Hegel, participants in a collective effort of spirit to move beyond current absolutes into a new world. Subjective agency has been removed from humanity, and in Heidegger it has been removed absolutely. This justifies the need for the one great leader who can lead the masses out of the wilderness into a great new world, or, as in Heidegger, back to an authentic world, his version of a “state of nature” even as evidence clearly indicates that the reality of such a state is an illusion while the illusion of such a state deforms reality.

In the Heideggerian “hell,” we are imprisoned in the illusion of Sorge, of a version of care and compassion as the delusion that prevents us from examining how we have been used and thrown onto the dustbin of history. In the Heideggerian world, the only foundational reality we face is death, a world in which a supersalesman like Donald Trump can exhibit and exemplify the illusion of escape. Trump offers us his lived experience of triumph in contrast to the lived experience of betrayal, a triumph of his personal will to acquire and expand the possessive individualist that he is. Both Heidegger and Trump demand we face and challenge this world of despair into which we have been cast. Trump would, if he could, own the world rather than have it owned by the masses to whom he appeals who get caught up in his prescription for escape.

One cannot see this world from the inside, from the bureaucrats who dominate Washington, from the intellectuals who lead and manipulate it, but only from the outside, and best by one who is outside, but who has personally participated actively in its corruption and taken advantage of it. Trump is the smart one because he uses the rules of the system to escape his obligations, to pay no taxes; this is a badge of honour not a moral confession. The world is inherently corrupt and Trump at the peak of Trump Tower has the singular ability to both see it and take advantage of it and even to promise a way out for the masses as he creates a new political and economic delusion.

Heidegger and Trump, in an intellectual and a visceral way, both depict the world as inherently a place of alienation. The reality is that it is not the ones outside the establishment, but the ones who are outside society altogether who have been cast in the role of the “wandering Aramean,” those who live in the world of the cast-outs and refugees at one end of the spectrum of true outsiders, and those imprisoned in a sanctuary, a no-contact world,” who can actually see the wonder of modernity. That is why they pose the greatest danger for both Heidegger and Trump.

If Trump is the exemplar of superficiality and Heidegger is the exemplar of one who wants to return to a real authentic world, a cursory examination reveals them to be two sides of the same coin, head and tails respectively in an illusionary two-state world seen as authentic, or, in Trump’s words, as “beautiful.” That is why cooperation with others for mutual benefit, cooperation with allies to confront evil, why dialogue and diplomacy are perceived as shams. If the world is cast as one of violence and suspicion, of deep irredeemable divisions, then following the Führer might be the only way out.

What about the followers of Heidegger that exalted freedom and individual expression while putting Stalin on a pedestal like Jean Paul Sartre? This libertarian-communist version of Trump’s capitalist delusions is but the Janus face of the core identical philosophical assumptions. The good, the right, truth and falsification, all can be sacrificed on the altar of authentic existence. Is that authentic existence depicted in a material sense of abounding wealth and health, or is it to be depicted as a return to nature, or Heidegger’s updated version of that naturalist thesis? In either world, the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda, of Azeris and Syrians in the Middle East, of Jews in the Holocaust, can all but be ignored in the greater task of saving America or Germany from the despondency and desperation of the pictures they paint either in plain and simple English or in convoluted and esoteric German to camouflage the world in the name of revelation and unveiling.

Heidegger and Trump are just both false prophets.