For guy whose job largely involves writing about politics, I'm really coming to dread elections. Take the 2016 presidential race...please. Of course, all kinds of crazy things ($1-a-gallon gas, ExxonMobil filing for bankruptcy) could shake things up between now and the '16 conventions, but it's hard to avoid the dreadful feeling that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton will be our major-party nominees. I'll already beginning my research on which countries offer political asylum to Americans.
Today, Bush (do we just call him Jeb? John E.? Bush 45?) took his nascient campaign to Facebook, and it was a bad day at BlackRock. Literally...as he made his pitch to the common man by posing in front of a Wall Street investment house called BlackRock. He also said that income inequality is a problem (ya think?) but that it can be solved with "conservative principles." Perhaps -- I mean, conservative principles caused income inequality in the first place, right? I'd say Clinton 45 had a better day, but who knows what she's up to...probably speaking at some university that pays her $300,000 and sorts out the green M&Ms for her.
A part of me wants to do something that goes against every ossifying bone in my body...which is to say, "Thank you, Chris Christie!" Why? I think we can all agree there's been a lot of grim news in recent weeks, but for a few glorious moments on a Sunday night, New Jersey's Big Orange Machine did the seemingly impossible: He made politics fun again. As painful as it was to see the Cowboys win a seemingly rigged NFL playoff game, that anguish was quickly subsumed when Christie went all Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show-finale with Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones and some other dude inside Jones' posh luxury box.
Open a window and you could hear the curse words shouted from here to Parsippany, loud enough to drown out the giant sucking sound of Christie's New Jersey approval rating going down the toilet. That's because there are two NFL franchises that are beloved by Christie's constituents, the Eagles and the Giants (the Jets are actually a Long Island team that was placed in the Witness Protection Program) and the only thing the Eagles and the Giants share is a mutual, intense loathing of all things D, as in Dallas.
The New Jersey governor says he's just being true to himself, that he started rooting for Dallas as a kid in the 1970s, when the Super Bowl-going Cowboys branded themselves "America's Team" (and when the Birds and the Giants shared something else...suckiness). He says he's that rare, true-to-himself pol who won't pander and lie to voters about his sports allegiances. OK, then. Of course, one could also say that rooting for a team 1,000 miles away simply because they are winning is a callous, immature act, the sign of a kid who will grow up to be a spoiled, front-running bully. Whatever...
How do you spot a brand-new police chief? Consider the case of Cameron McLay, who was named police chief in Pittsburgh on September 15, less than four months ago. A former police captain in Madison, Wisconsin, and an expert on police leadership issues, McLay's specialty is fostering better ties between cops and the communities where they walk the beat. In Madison, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper, he was known for getting personally involved in tense incidents, and for meeting frequently with local non-profits and other community groups interested in better relations.
In these times of unrest over police-involved deaths from New York to Ferguson, Mo., to L.A., Cameron McLay sounds too good to be true for the citizens of Pittsburgh, another large city where policing issues have sparked controversy.
Maybe he is too good to be true.
I already know what you're thinking...not another piece celebrating the midway point of the 2010s. You know -- our crazy decade. The one that everyone calls the Terrible Teens. Or is the Roaring Tens -- I'm not sure. The decade we'll always remember for that song. You know, that one that you heard in the supermarket aisle a couple of times. And that magical night that everyone in America stayed up late to all watch the same movie on Netflix.
OK, who am I kidding? We just killed off half of this so-called decade without a single person noticing. Even on social media, where I spend way too much of my time, I didn't see any mention of the 2010s passing the five-year mark, or any listing of the best songs or films or Twitter one-liners of the half-decade, or whatever. That's no surprise. How often does anyone mention "the 2010s" -- period?
The death of decades isn't a new phenomenon. Much was made during the 2000s about that decade's lack of either a defined identity or even an agreed-on name. (The English, it should be noted, sometimes call that decade "The Aughts"...a phrase so fingernails-on-blackboard-y British that any American who ever utters it should have his citizenship revoked.) I commented on this once and several folks emailed to insist that this same awkwardness happened in the first two decades of the 20th Century. Perhaps that's true. You certainly hear more about the Gay (18)'90s and the Roaring '20s more than the years between them, even though stuff happened (remember World War I? -- it was in all of the papers.)
It was September 2002, and the American body politic seemed gripped by a kind of madness. Even as workers still struggled to clear the remaining rubble from the World Trade Center, the Bush administration -- aided and abetted by a compliant news media and Beltway establishment -- seemed determined to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11: Iraq.
That only amplified the few remaining voices of reason -- including one that dropped on the streets of Philadelphia every Thursday, a cartoonist known as Tom Tomorrow.
"Whatever happened to Osama bin Laden, anyway?" asked a befuddled moderate citizen in Tomorrow's strip of "This Modern World" for 9/11/02, the one year anniversary of the attack. "Oh, never mind him -- haven't you heard that Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction?" replies a typically self-assured conservative.
Last Friday, what with Christmas and all, I found myself behind the wheel for a longish drive to visit relatives. In fact, it's just long enough that I felt compelled at one point to turn away from the bubble gum and acid rock of the 1960s to make sure that the rest of the world hadn't blown up since I'd left my house. So with my satellite radio, I tuned into CNN, Your Leading News Source for Finding Out If The World Has Blown Up™. In fact, its 5 p.m. newscast is called "The Situation Room" -- to suggest the kind of place where people stare at screens monitoring incoming nuclear-tipped missiles and assorted lower-grade terror threats.
This is what the world looked like from the CNN "Situation Room" on Dec. 26, 2014 (transcript via Nexis):
Happening now, new terror threats -- why are they coming from countries that President Obama points to as examples of where his strategy against al Qaeda is working? Emptying GITMO -- we are learning details about a new push to relocate dozens of detainees. Will they end up right back on the battlefield?