The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”

The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”

by

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,

Turkey – Domestic Changes

Turkey – Domestic Changes

by

Howard Adelman

I begin with domestic matters because they help understand the direction of the Turkish leadership. Tomorrow I will take up foreign policy.

Sixty-year old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s current president and former prime minister for the last eleven years, and mayor of Istanbul before that, has transformed Turkey domestically and certainly redirected Turkey’s foreign policy. Erdoğan is to Turkey what Putin is to Russia. After founding his new party in 2001, that party in the Turkish elections of 2002 took two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. A year later, after his banishment from politics was overturned and his then ally, Abdullah Gűl, served as interim Prime Minister for a year, Erdoğan became Prime Minster. Only this year did he assume the role of President after converting the Turkish political system from a parliamentary to a quasi-presidential democracy by shifting the largely ceremonial role of president to the most powerful figure in the country. However, in contrast to his earlier victories, he only won the presidency with less than 52% of the vote. However, he has set up a shadow government of directorates to monitor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Cabinet who all come from his own party.

Control of the Media

Unlike Russia, where corruption and control of the media have allowed Putin to undermine the nascent democracy of Russia, Erdoğan has not achieved the position yet. Events, however, are changing the situation rapidly. Though Erdoğan seven years ago began arresting critics in the media whom he accused of being the propaganda arm of a coup effort, only in the last two years has he revealed himself to be determined to assert absolute control over the media. Yesterday afternoon I received news that Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s top-selling newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, the director of STV, a news channel, had been rounded up two days previously by Turkish police. The mysterious twitter account, Fuat Avni, had three days before that predicted these arrests and that of 150 or so other journalists. Some of these have gone into hiding. The charges: affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen movement, Erdoğan’s once erstwhile ally in overcoming the stranglehold the military held over the state, and an alleged conspiracy to undermine and/or attack a small rival Islamist group, the “Tahsiyeciler”, a group whose leaders Erdoğan had arrested only four years earlier who follow the teachings of the Islamic scholar, Said Nursi. Is it a wonder that Turkey ranks 154th on the world press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders?

The attacks on the domestic press were matched by a vicious campaign castigating the foreign – particularly Western – press of distortions, disinformation, ignorance, lying and even spying. Ceylan Yeginsu, a journalist working for the New York Times, that in its editorials had once lauded Erdoğan for his leadership role in the emerging Turkish vibrant democracy, had to flee the country for his life after being attacked in the AKP-controlled press and receiving multiple death threats. When Erdoğan himself was not deriding the Western press for being propagandists and undermining the new Turkey, that role was taken up by Ibrahim Karagul, editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdoğan newspaper, Yeni Safak, and the new English newspaper in Turkey, Daily Sabah, initially owned by Erdoğan’s son-in-law. And this is just the surface in this information war that permeates the electronic media as well.

Turkey’s Deteriorating Democracy

So much for the hopes for democracy in Turkey once the military had been removed from power in the name of rule by and for the people. That populism has been enhanced by the distribution of free coal to the needy. However, the crushing of the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 was just more public action in a coordinated effort to destroy any opposition in Turkey. The cronyism and corruption that is endemic and very widespread in Turkish society has permeated the AKP (one in five Turks and about 50% of businesses pay bribes to access public services). The effort to protect ill-gotten gains once that corruption had been revealed by the Fethullah Gulen movement have led the government to place a publication ban on the parliamentary committee looking into corruption. At the same time, Turkey has followed the lead of the Canadian parliament under Harper’s Conservatives of passing legislation through complex omnibus bills with relatively little time for debate. The bills in Ankara include provisions which infringe human rights protections.

The corruption scandal possibly accelerated the leadership’s plans to enhance its control of the media. Turkey has slipped from 53rd to 74th on Transparency International’s corruption index. Further, that corruption as well as increasing disparity between the rich and the poor are now being legalized as a new presidential provision permits young Turkish men to buy out their compulsory military service for $US8,700. Turkish writer and 2006 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk, has also denounced Turkey’s increasing climate of fear.

Educational Revisionism and Social Policy

In addition to its educational reforms that provided free textbooks for needy students, Erdoğan and his allies have pushed for making Ottoman Turkish compulsory in schools, introducing more and more elements of Ottoman culture into the curriculum, introducing segregation of schools by gender, and introducing Islamic religious instruction for students in fourth grade and higher, and planning to introduce such education at even lower grades in the face of EU demands that compulsory religious education requirements be scrapped. In the meanwhile, the educational authorities have eliminated human rights and democracy classes previously taken in fourth grade. These changes have taken place in parallel with the long term trend of religious cleansing of non-Muslims in Turkey as property disputes affecting the Armenians, Syriac church and the Yazidis drag out through the bureaucratic and legal process.

Unfortunately, at the same time, Erdoğan has pushed for technological modernization. Language, cultural and religious revisionism are difficult to blend with modernization that becomes self-propelling and innovative instead of simply copying from the West. Thus, Turkey ranks last among 44 countries on the English proficiency list, even though English is compulsory in Turkish schools. Raising a generation of devout Muslims may be at odds with encouraging technological innovation. Turkish pupils, along with other pupils from predominantly Muslim countries, are in a race for the bottom. Turkey now ranks 44 out of 65 countries in the measurement of 15-year-old educational achievements in mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving.

The social indicators have been very bad. Child poverty has risen by 63.5%. With 301 minors killed in the disaster at Soma this year, Turkey had by far the worst record of workers’ deaths compared to any European state. On the gender front, the news is even worse. Although Erdoğan in 2004 passed a new penal code protecting women’s sexual and body rights, and although Erdoğan has promoted changes in the treatment of women in the army by increasing the number of female officers and NCOs to facilitate dealing with terrorism and to enhance the professionalism of the military, on 24 November he claimed that gender equality contradicted the laws of nature even though 22% of AKP seats were held by women.

Erdoğan, however, is a champion of motherhood rather than sisterhood. In spite of an enormous increase of almost 40% in GDP per capita under his rule, there was still only a 30% female participation rate in the workforce. His policies threatened to exacerbate the health, education and income disparities between men and women already deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Not to speak of honour killings! While not as bad as the situation in Pakistan, those murders still take the lives of 200 Turkish girls each year in spite of the 2004 law designed to combat such crimes. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women in Turkey went up 1400% and since Erdoğan came to power, 7,000 Turkish women have been murdered. On the UNDP’s Gender Equality Index, Turkey’s standing has slipped from 69th to 77th out of 187 countries.

When my brother, a renowned Canadian cardiologist, was invited to Turkey in 1996, and where they first diagnosed him with a blastoma after he had fainted on a golf course where he had gone to play with other Turkish doctors, Al had been very impressed with the advanced state of medicine in Turkey in the hospital he had visited. Now Turkey seems to be moving backwards in time to revive traditional medical practices including:
• acupuncture (the stimulation of specific points along the skin with thin needles)
• apitherapy (the use of honeybee products for treatment)
• phytotherapy (treatments based on traditional herbalism)
• hypnosis
• the use of leeches
• homeopathy
• chiropractic treatments
• wet cupping
• larval therapy (the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the skin)
• mesotherapy (the injection of special medications into the skin)
• prolotherapy (the injection of irritating solutions into an injured spot to provoke regenerative tissue response)
• osteopathy (nonsurgical treatments of the muscle and skeleton system)
• ozone therapy (the introduction of ozone and oxygen gas mixtures into the body)
• reflexology (massage-like treatment of pressure on reflex areas).

The issue is not the legalization of these treatments, but making them part of the education in medical schools. Some, like the use of leeches, are already part of modern medical practice. Others, however, have not been validated by science. So in addition to taking time away from enhancing modern medical practice, practices which have not yet been validated by science will be introduced into the medical curriculum. Further, the system of independence in educational decisions by qualified professionals is being undermined by state dictates in favour of validating traditional culture.

There are those who posit that this is merely a method of bringing traditional medical practices under state supervision. Then why are the costs of those treatments not covered by public health insurance? Some argue the expansion has been introduced to enhance medical tourism. Further, Turkey is far from unique in allowing and regulating such practices.

Standing in opposition to these rationales, one of the indicators to the undermining of scientific medicine has been the lethargic response to a rise in measles which has been blamed on the large number of Syrian refugees who have found a haven in Turkey, rising from very low numbers – 7 cases in 2010 – to over 7,000 cases last year. No provision in the Turkish 2015 budget targets contagious diseases like measles. Further, excluding Syrian refugee births, infant mortality and maternal deaths increased in 2013 for the first time since 1945.

Crime has also increased, much as a by-product of the Syrian civil war. Almost 500 high quality 4x4s have been stolen from Turkish car rental companies for transfer to Syria.

Kurdish Separatism

Erdoğan has to be praised for beginning the process of recognizing the Armenian genocide, enhanced by Pope Francis’ recent visit to Turkey, but with little sign of real progress. Erdoğan is perhaps best known for pushing reconciliation with Kurds who had been forcefully resettled in the thirties and banned from using their language. He has even entered into discussions with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) itself. However, while now allowing school children to be taught in Kurdish, would Kurds also have to learn classical Ottoman Turkish? Further, was Erdoğan strongly motivated to make peace with the PKK early in his national political career because he respected the group rights of the Kurds or because he wanted to undermine the rationale of the military for maintaining a relatively large army while, at the same time, solidifying his support with the Turkish public?

One very much suspects the latter given his subsequent career in national politics in Turkey and seemingly confirmed by the recent decision on December 10th in the face of the adjacent threat of Islamic State to enable middle and upper class military recruits to buy their way out of national service, a decision made without any consultation with the military general staff as required by the Turkish constitution. However, Erdoğan has never seemed to care about the constitution when it is to his populist advantage (currently an average Turkish citizen contributes about US$200 for each member of the family for defence) and when it undermines support for his critics on the left who were bound to vigorously oppose the move’s inegalitarian character. Further, if, as projected, 700,000 young men pay the state $8,700 each (men older than 30 pay US$13,300), US$5.7 billion will be added to state coffers from the men under 30 years of age alone, especially since parliamentary elections are to be held in June 2015. This is in addition to the monies saved on defence. The loans men are taking out to pay for the exemption in response to a spate of bank ads and the sales of unproductive capital (property, gold rings) has already acted within days to stimulate the economy. The greatly increased revenues to the state may be bad for the economy in the long run, but, in the short run it is much more than enough to pay for Erdoğan’s vain, enormous, lavish and enormously expensive presidential palace.

Is Erdoğan’s populist and Islamic program complemented by his foreign policy?