The Professor and the Art of Governing

Two more days of taking these damn pills, mused the professor as he waited for the students of his honors seminar to arrive and settle down. At least I’m feeling better. A lung infection at my age is not a good thing. Today I’ll give my students something to think about in the world of governing, political commentary, and the royal opposition.

“Good Morning class. Today, I’ll do the work. After all, you are paying outrageous tuition to attend this university. So, this over-paid professor will try to earn his paycheck. I’ve been encouraging you to learn how to identify, approach, and solve problems. But problem solving is not done in a vacuum. It plays out against a backdrop of the requirements of governing.

“We’ve elected a president who is not an ideologue. At his core, he is a pragmatist who is very much at home identifying and solving problems. In his world, past and present, wins are counted by the number of problems that were successful solved.  By solved I mean problems where the primary parties walked away feeling they had gotten as much as they could from the negotiations. That doesn’t mean they won or lost. It means the solution to the problem is acceptable to their group, even if it was difficult for all of them to swallow the agreed upon solution.

“The process of governing demands the needs of the citizens be met as well as the resources available allow. At the center of nearly all solutions to problem solving in the national arena is the question of the existence and allocation of resources. A solution without the required resources, is no solution. That is why the big problems of health care and tax reform have, so far, proved to be elusive. President Trump is probably one of the best problem solvers in the country with decades of experience. But he is now working on problems that are far beyond the scale of problems that he has worked on outside the process of national governing.

“What his critics call ‘flip-flopping’ should be labeled reconsidering based on new facts and/or failed approaches. The President calls this flexibility and I can accept that terminology. Only ideologues stick with the same solution even when it has not worked or revealed several flaws in application. Changing your mind in the face of failure or new data is a very rational approach. His liberal critics don’t accept a conservative leader changing his mind. After all he said very different things on the campaign trail and now he is flip-flopping. Pragmatists look at such comments and can’t believe what they are hearing. The art of governing depends on leaders who can react to new information or the changing nature of the problem. Only hard over ideologues, of the left or right, and members of the media who need to find provocative comments to improve the size of their audience believe in raising alarm over leaders who react rationally to changing facts and environments.

“The Art of Governing requires leaders who can quickly adapt to changes and who do not feel they are bound by comments and positions they have taken in the past.”


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The Professor, Syria, and cruise missiles

The Professor liked to walk up the two flights of stairs to his office and adjoining classroom. He had used the elevator for the last month but feeling stronger today he took the stairs. At the top, he had to stop for a few minutes to catch his breath. Certainly, didn’t want to walk into his class until he could say a hearty ‘good morning’ to his honors students.

The students were all seated and talking about the airstrike on a Syrian airport used in a sarin gas attack a few days ago when he entered.

“Well, I see you are all into current affairs. With a little luck and hard work some of you will be part of future discussions and planning that go deciding to use lethal action in support of national subjects.

“Let’s continue with the discussion. Edward, what is your take on the president’s decision?”

“After seeing the images of the gas attack victims, I don’t see how President Trump could continue with his predecessor’s example of non-involvement or leading from behind. Strong words were not going to prevent Assad from committing more atrocities that are clearly war crimes or crimes against humanity. Add to that the fact that Assad and the Russians signed an agreement that guaranteed Syrian stocks of poison gas would be destroyed and a few days ago Russian supplied planes dropped poison gas bombs on civilian targets. That signed agreement turned out to be false and some decisive action had to be taken. Obviously, both the Syrians and Russians knew about the poison gas attack and didn’t believe there would be an American military response. I fully support the cruise missile attack.”

Several hands went up, and the Professor said, “Who wants to present a different argument? Okay Carlos, the floor is yours.”

“I don’t believe the Trump national security team was thinking beyond the mechanics of the airstrike. What happens now? Do they know what the Russians or Syrians will do in response? I don’t think so. Putin is not likely to give up his warm-water sea port at Tartus. Getting an ice-free sea port for their war ships has been a Russian national security objective for a few centuries. He will take more chances to keep Tartus. After all, he believes he is Russia’s latest czar.”

“Whose wants to go next? Alice, you’re up.”

“I want to put this airstrike in a larger context. For eight years, America has perfected the use of words in place of actions. Our military has been severely underfunded. Our traditional allies don’t trust us to break out of our isolation. What’s worse, our enemies no longer respect us. We can be good at the use of diplomacy but without the resolve to use force when necessary, diplomacy is ineffective. North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran do not believe we have the will to use military force. The cruise missile strike last night has changed the rules. Our enemies must reconsider their aggressive actions and our allies can take heart that we now have competent leadership who will protect American national interests. Was it not noted that powerful Sunni Arab leaders came for a visit and went away with new hope for American backing against Iran? Do you not think those fearful of Russian and Chinese aggressive actions now have new hope that America will again be a force for peace?”

The Professor smiled at Alice’s comments then said, “Divide yourselves into two groups, one pro the cruise missile strike and one against. I’ll give you ten minutes to get organized for the team debate. I know from personal experience that people like us can’t function without fresh strong coffee. While you’re sorting yourselves into opposing groups, I’ll arrange for coffee and doughnuts.”

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The Professor and Obama’s not-so-hidden agenda

The last class member had taken their seat at the conference table. The Professor was seated at the head of the table instead of in his usual style of pacing around the room. He removed his glasses and said, “Sorry to have missed the last four sessions. Today, I feel good for a change and want to respond to any questions you have on the several short papers I sent to you. Who wants to kick off the discussion?”

All signaled they had a question. The Professor pointed at Allison and said, “Okay, you get us started.”

“One of your ‘things to think about’ made me wonder if you thought the Obama Administration was acting in concert with a hidden conspiratorial agenda. Do you think President Obama had a hidden agenda?”

“No. On the contrary, I believe President Obama was very clear about what he wanted to do. Remember, he told us in several different ways he wanted to redistribute wealth among individuals and nations. He clearly said his presidency would result in the ‘transformation of America.’ You can’t get much clearer. Most of us just didn’t listen or constricted our thinking along traditional lines such as President Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ or President Roosevelt’s ‘Fair Deal.’

“Neither of these presidents was as skilled in the use of the tools of government and the art of messaging as President Obama. I don’t believe his thinking was inhibited by American nationalism or traditional boundaries on the use of government departments and agencies. To him, the use of executive power was not constrained by the separation of powers doctrine or other bounds imposed by the Constitution.

“Instead, he came to office with a clearly thought out revolutionary ideology to move America from its past role of the world’s policeman that often used military and economic power to achieve imperialistic and capitalistic goals that allowed America to maintain its power and uniqueness, both domestically and internationally.

“I believe that when you and your peers get around to writing the history of the Obama era it will show a steady cutting back of America military power and a determined effort to spread American manufacturing throughout the world. President Obama also managed to shift international power in the Middle East from Sunni Arab nations to the Shia nation of Iran.

“In eight short years, he managed to capture and coordinated the previously apolitical civil service to supporting executive orders, written and unwritten, far beyond the previous limits followed by past administrations. His legacy may well be that he has changed the way America is governed forever. Certainly, he has converted the center and just left of center Democratic Party to a new Progressive Party that is socialistic in everything except the name. A rather remarkable achievement.

“You have other comments I’ve sent out. No subject is off the table. You don’t need to look at your watches. I know the period is not over yet. But I’ve run out of energy. See you all on Thursday.”

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The Professor: Political Opposition or Domestic Enemies?

.So much was happening in the early days of the Trump Administration, the Professor thought, Teaching this class takes almost no preparation. The daily news provides more material than any teacher could produce on their own, and there are so many interpretations. This morning, Alison told me she had a question she wanted me to answer. She is one of the brightest students and should go far after she leaves here. Time to get started.

“Alison, you have a question for us this morning?”

“Yes, I’m concerned with the degree of violence in the anti-President Trump street demonstrations and the incredible opposition the Progressives are putting up against the most mundane of the Administration’s actions in the first month of the Trump Presidency. Everything the Republicans put forward is viciously attacked. First by spinning false messages to alarm the people and followed by using the traditional Senate processing of Presidential appointments to hinder actions of the new administration.  My concern is that this official opposition plus the widespread violent street protests are too closely coordinated to be the spontaneous actions of concerned citizens. I’ve read Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals. His political blueprint fits what I see happening.  Am I reading too much conspiracy into what is happening?”

The Professor stopped his pacing and said, “That question shows you are learning how to think outside the traditional box. The basic belief of those who follow Alinsky is that the struggle to transform America into a socialist society under the direction of an elite group of Progressives is more important than protecting our nation or solving the economic problems we have. The Progressives were startled they lost the election. They expected to win big and continue with President Obama’s destruction of America’s military, economic, and moral leadership in the world. How else can you evaluate his eight years in office? Our military manpower is equal to what it was before WWII, the number of naval warships is well below what most strategists believe is necessary, our warplanes that are capable of actual combat missions depend upon finding spare parts from plane graveyards and museums. Our economic growth is stagnant and the real unemployment rate is well above ten percent. Double or triple that rate in our inner cities. We are no longer the major player in the Middle East or the Far East. Is that a record for any President to be proud of?

“Believers in the Alinsky plan do not abandon it simply because they lost an election. They will continue the fight to bring their brand of socialism to America by attacking the Trump Presidency at every point. Civil Service members of the Obama Administration who believe in Alinsky’s principles will try to remain embedded in the Trump Administration and conduct open and covert opposition to all his policies. I believe President Obama is and continues to be a firm believer in Alinsky’s ‘community organizer’ model to bring about social change.

“For example, take the current uproar over General Flynn’s resignation over his pre-inauguration talks with the Russians and his failure to fully brief the Vice President. This is all part of the Progressive spin to discredit the Trump Presidency by tying his victory to Russian intervention. The Progressives’ end game is to bring about impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Even some Republican Senators are supporting the Progressive agenda.

“Reportedly, this is all based upon highly classified documents some members of the Progressive media have seen that detail General Flynn’s conversations with the Russians. Ask yourself where such documents could have come from? Let’s assume the reports of such documents in the hands of the media unfriendly to the Trump Administration are true. Now where could have they come from? I submit they only could have come from loyal Progressive members of the Obama Administration who have remained embedded in the bureaucracy of one or more of the intelligence agencies. Leaking of these documents is a serious crime and the Sessions Justice Department must find and stop this illegal process. All men and women who are employed to serve the nation take the same oath that includes “protecting the Nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Right now, I believe the greatest danger is from domestic enemies.

“The next class will be devoted to more discussion of Alison’s question. Remember, I am not saying President Trump’s policies should not be questioned by both the media and concerned citizens. Only that activities funded, organized and coordinated by the Progressives must not be allowed to break our laws and covertly attempt to overthrow a duly elected President.”

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The Professor’s Random Thoughts

The professor felt the intensity in his honors class had dropped after the election. As he sat in his favorite reclining chair and looked out over the bay, he admitted it was his fault his students didn’t seem to have any passion for their choice of study. They all were very intelligent but seemed to be unwilling to show any passion in defending their beliefs and opinions. His gaze fell on the brown spiral notebook he kept beside his chair to jot down his thoughts before he lost them. No question at 86 his short-term memory was becoming very short-term. He idly flipped through the pages. Suddenly he sat up. Why not? The pages of random thoughts he had jotted down might just be the thing to put some more passion into his class room. A couple of times a month he would select several of these cryptic entries and email them to his students. Maybe he could encourage them to jot their raw musings down and exchange them with their peers. Before he left his office, he had emailed his first batch.

RANDOM THOUGHTS:          Pick one of the thoughts  and be prepared to discuss your choice in the next few classes.

President never had a quarrel with the workers of the intelligence agencies, only with their politicized and corrupt leaders who gave us Ben Ghazi, the ‘talking points’ and false intel reports on ISIS. Good riddance.

Unless the moderate Democrats weed out their socialist/progressive members, America will end up with a one-party system. Not a good thing for the long-term.

It is difficult to see any bi-partisan cooperation between the Progressives and the Republicans, now or in the near future. The Progressives know this may be their last chance in a longtime to push America into the socialist fold with them in charge. They will do anything, legal or not, to destroy the Trump movement. The uproar on the part of the Progressives over a temporary ban on unvetted immigrants from areas mostly or partially controlled by ISIS or its affiliated groups is a perfect example.

The power to control the flow of immigrants is and has been under the powers of the President. But a liberal judge from Washington State has ruled that Washington and Minnesota have standing to bring a lawsuit against the Federal Government, a very long stretch. This Judge has no access to classified national security reports and is in no position, Constitutionally or otherwise, to make a ruling on immigration that endangers the safety of people living in America. It is all about destroying the Trump Presidency.

President Trump ran on a program of ending UNVETTED immigrants from the areas of the world that are hotbeds of terrorism . (Incidentally the same countries the Obama Administration identified.) Now President Trump is carrying out his campaign promise. HIs order is legal, timely and will help protect American citizens. It is not a ban of Muslims nor is it a permanent order. The socialists, progressives and the political correct champions are up in arms against a needed legal order. They are still fighting the results of the ballot box. Guantanamo Bay was never a recruitment aid for terrorists and this Executive Order, temporarily stopping immigration from terrorist controlled areas, is not either. Jihadists are as angry with America as they can get already. Our actions do not control their drive to kill us regardless of what the RINOS like Senators McCain and Graham are trying to spread. These are the same Republican Senators that supported Obama in his effort to close Guantanamo Bay. America first is not an immoral slogan.

Water boarding and most other enhanced interrogation methods are not torture and are not repeat not illegal. Regardless of the whining by Senators Graham and McCain and members of the ‘cupcake’ generation, captured enemies of America do not volunteer information for free beer and cigarettes. The war against terrorism and radical Islamic jihadists cannot be won with law and order methods.

Don’t pay much attention to polls for a while. They have not recovered from their failures in the US election and Brexit and are still selling their old models. President Trump’s low approval ratings are probably due to the pollster’s failure to reach the audiences they missed so badly.

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The Professor: The Transfer of Power in America

“I had a different lecture prepared, but what I have observed for the last weeks has me so concerned, I have another message for today,” the professor said after his honors class had settled into their seats. He could tell he had their immediate attention. “There are several attributes of our way of government that are unique and commendable. Perhaps the most unique is our long tradition of the transfer of power following presidential elections. For a ruler and the ruling group to peacefully give up power to an opponent group is the most startling of all the benefits our country’s founders built into the Constitution.

“Since our independence, our political parties have often held contentious political campaigns. When the votes were counted, the party with the majority of electoral votes claimed the right to govern for the next four years and the losing party peacefully assumed the role of the opposition party and mostly assisted in the orderly transfer of power while the world looked on in wonder.

“This time, it is different. This time the stakes were very high. Either the nation continued the Obama/Clinton path to socialism or elected Donald Trump to lead us back to individual freedom, capitalism, and a free-market economy. There was another less visible choice: Give up much of our uniqueness and sovereignty for equal membership in a world government. Very basic issues. Another eight, or even four years, of progressive rule and it would be nearly impossible to return to the constitutional government designed by our founders.

“President Obama, progressive Congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the liberal media, ranking members of the civil service, many liberal university professors, and the hidden financiers and organizers of street violence are vigorously resisting the orderly transfer of power from one party to the other. They claim the Trump administration is illegitimate. He lost the popular vote, the Russians assisted him, the electoral college system needs to be scrapped, and all his cabinet choices must be fought with all the resources and energy the progressives can bring to bear to defeat this illegitimate Republican victory.

“Today, the traditional Democratic Party has been captured by the far-left wing of the party and is in danger of becoming a party of both coasts. California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and a handful of other northeastern coastal states. It is hard to imagine a democratic system of government based on only one viable party. The socialists/progressives won’t give up resisting an orderly transfer of power. Not only they, but all of us will suffer from the collapse of America’s ability to celebrate a peaceful transfer of power every four years. Our democratic republic is at risk today. My generation and America depend upon your strength and wisdom to save this great and unique nation.

“This subject is so important to me that I want to devote the next class period to discussing this problem. Please reflect on what I’ve said and be ready to discuss it further.”

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The Professor: America’s Great Pillars

The Professor looked up as his small honors political science filed in through the door and took a a seat around the conference table. He let them get settled before speaking.

“I’ve looked over your papers on the staffing of the Trump Administration. You’re making progress,” he said, giving a slight smile. “I’ll select a few of them to be presented before the class. Today, I want you to reflect upon why America is such a different kind of place than most of the rest of the world. What happened? Was it caused by circumstances, sheer coincidences, divine intervention, or some other phenomena? To help you open your minds, I’ll tell you what I think. Recognize that what I’m going to say is, at best, thoughtful conjecture. Please don’t ask me to lay out proof. Most of recorded history is slanted to meet the views and limited observations of the writers. Recorded history is such a small percentage of what happened in the passing of time that, I believe, it should only be used to help you get your analytic thinking started.

“Individual freedom and justice are the two pillars upon which our system of government has been built. From those two pillars come the rule of law and individual freedom of choice. I believe what we were in the 1600s and what we are now is due to the freedom individuals had to seek their own destinies. America is a great nation, the greatest nation in the history of the world. But we are not great because of what the early settlers brought with them. Rather, we are great because of what they left behind in Europe and Asia.

“Our black citizens from Africa never had that same opportunity. Whatever impediments to progress and individual freedom they left behind, they found no advantages when they got here. They did not get off the slave ships into a land of individual freedom and opportunity for them. Instead, they found slavery, and slavery is as far from individual freedom as you can get. Their freedom of choice did not even begin for centuries, until after the Civil War.

“For others, the cultures, rulers, and religions their ancestors sailed away from did not recognize the individual as the basis of society. Conformity to the culture and religion and obedience to the monarch was the code to survival. Nowhere was empowerment of the individual encouraged or tolerated. The genius and drive of individuals to seek their potential and, in the process, build the nation and give the opportunity for masses of people to rise above the subsistence level was never allowed in Europe or Asia when America was being settled. The concept of equality in Europe, Asia, and most of the rest of the world is still not based on the freedom of the individual. To achieve the control necessary for the centralized management of goals, individual freedom is discouraged.

“In those lands, equality is achieved by pulling down or penalizing individual success for the good of the many, instead of encouraging a general uplifting of society. The Fabian socialists, until now mostly in Europe, would argue that approach is simply sacrificing the few for equality of the many. This approach has not worked so far, but its adherents seem to have difficulty recognizing the lessons of history and the costly record in human terms of centralized social engineering from the left or right.

“We have just elected to abandon another quest to level the playing field via social engineering led by a progressive elite. Instead, we need to work toward equal opportunity for all citizens by understanding that equal opportunity does not mean everyone gets an equal share of earned wealth. We all have different levels of ability, motivation, discipline, and luck. To have true individual freedom, we must let those factors play out with little or no meddling by bureaucratic centralists with the ‘best of intentions.’

“It is the people who built this great nation. Not as directed by the government, but by the individual efforts of Americans striving to improve themselves and the country they lived in. For sure, America has natural resources, a good climate, and a protected strategic location. But those are not the reasons we are and can remain a great nation. Greatness is from the work of a proud and free people.”

The Professor paused for a moment to let his words sink in.

“There, in some 700 or so words, I’ve covered hundreds of years, maybe many more. Now it’s your turn. Take the rest of the class to write down your thoughts and reflections on what makes America great, then and now.”

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