Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

Hotspur versus Bonespur: Having the Right Stuff to Go in the Arena

Statue of Henry Percy "Hotspur" 1364-1403” Alnwick Castle (tripadvisor.com)

According to the Constitution, the American President is designated with one specific task: to serve as commander in-chief. In the 20th century, the title was expanded in the popular culture to include “commander in-chief and leader of the free world.” The expansion was due to America’s role in World War I, World War II, and World War III (the Cold War). We were on the winning side in all three wars and had a leading role in those victories. The abandonment of that role by the current President will be the subject of another post.

The phrase “in the arena” comes from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt on April 23, 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

One famous example of a story of a person going into the arena consistent with the popular image did not actually err again and again but proved quite successful against all odds. The story of David and Goliath has become part of the vocabulary in the American culture. Closer to home, another figure did go into the arena again and again, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. Rocky has become a mythic figure in the American Civil Religion. His iconic image has become a tourist site at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In America, even ordinary citizens can attain the heights once reserved for the kings.

The phrase “the right stuff” comes from a book by Tom Wolfe with that title. It later became a movie with the same title. It refers to the military pilots in Project Mercury when America began its journey to fulfill a presidential challenge to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Mission accomplished.

Together these terms and images call upon the American President and the American citizen to reach for the stars, to fulfill the American Dream, and in this instance at least, to risk one’s life to do so.

How does President Bonespurs measure up against this standard?

Unlike John Kerry and John McCain but like William Jefferson Clinton, President Bonespurs did not serve. As always, he has not told the truth when referring to this event in his life.

His first real experience of going into the arena was not even a real event at all. It occurred in the professional wrestling arena, still his favorite venue. Here he followed a scripted sequence and faked having the right stuff to go into the arena in the real world. Thus his combat experience is as fake as his hair.

His second experience going into the arena occurred during the second presidential debate in 2016 (Predator in Chief, Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood: A Presidential Election Retrospective). In this competition he was pitted against the champion of the opposing political party. If you heard the encounter on the radio, then you probably would conclude that the Democrat won the war of words on the debate stage. Democrats frequently conclude that their side won and that mistake contributed to their defeat in the election.

Simultaneously with the debate “war of words,” a second confrontation occurred. This was the reality game “Survivor.” In this battle, the fight is not with words. Instead, it is a physical struggle. During the Presidential “Survivor,” a large male predator stalked his smaller female victim. As he prowled the stage, he marked his turf and asserted his dominion over this domain. People who watched THE DONALD in action came away thinking that he was the real deal. They still have not caught on that THE DONALD is an act, a persona Little Donnee-Wanee developed precisely for the purpose of conning people into thinking he had the right stuff to go into the arena.

Later the Democratic victim acknowledged her mistake in again being the victim as she had been for decades. Democratic observers took her to task for not standing up to the predator and putting him in his place. Unfortunately for the Democrats it was too late. Even to this very day, there are still people, especially Republicans, who think THE DONALD is not only a successful fighter but a real one…even as he cannot say “You’re fired” in person face-to-face and hides behind tweets instead.

His third experience occurred on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, in a press conference with Vladimir Putin (Putin and the American President: Who Has the Right Stuff to Go into the Arena?). He can now legitimately claim to have participated in the most humiliating summit with a Soviet/Russian leader in American history. Under ordinary circumstances such a pathetic performance would doom a president. He came across less manly than Dukakis in a tank. But for him it was just another embarrassment before moving on to the next one.

Now Bonespurs is faced with a real political battle against NanChuck. For the first two years of his administration there was no direct challenge to him. No Day of Infamy. No Cuban Missile Crisis. No 9/11. And no politician who confronted him in a showdown at high noon. So far the only person who may do so is Robert Mueller but President Bonespurs is girding up to prevent Mueller from exposing him.

With NanChuck the situation is quite different. The television reality show he hosted at the White House blew up in his face. Without even trying to, NanChuck got him to accept responsibility for the government shut down over the funding to build his wall. In that one public failure, he proved why he should not be allowed to testify under oath under any circumstances.

When Bonespurs subsequently was willing to reach a deal with NanChuck he was undermined by his own team. Fox, Ann, Rush, and the RHINO Freedom Caucus read him the riot act. They put him on notice that if he caved on his signature issue there would be hell to pay come election time. Instead of calling their bluff (whom else would they support in 2020?), he caved and boxed himself in. They forced him to toe the line but offered no way to get out of this showdown.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN on December 20, presidential advisor Stephen Miller became quite agitated and intense in conveying the urgency of the current situation:

Right now as we speak there is a surge of illegal immigration heading toward our country that presents a national crisis now.”

Not a month from now, not a year from now, right now. And this president took an oath, like every lawmaker in Congress to defend the citizens of this country. How many more innocent people have to die in pursuit of an open-borders agenda?”

According to Miller and the various acolytes on the Bull Trump network, there is a crisis RIGHT NOW! Drug dealers are pouring across the border RIGHT NOW! Terrorists are pouring across the border RIGHT NOW! Criminals are pouring across the border RIGHT NOW! They are pouring across the border because Democrats believe in open borders so illegal aliens can vote not just once but multiple times by changing their hat and shirt as they run around the polling places.

Left unexplained in this emotional tirade about the desperate need to save the country RIGHT NOW is how a $5 billion spending bill will change anything RIGHT NOW! Will the $5 billion spending build a new wall RIGHT NOW! Will the $5 billion spending even build a teeny-tiny part of the wall RIGHT NOW! How will this authorization stop this NATIONAL CRISIS RIGHT NOW!

Do you Stephen Miller have a plan to stop this national crisis not a year from now, not a month from now, but RIGHT NOW?

Do you Fox, Ann, and Rush, have a plan to stop this national crisis not a year from now, not a month from now, but RIGHT NOW?

Do you RHINO Freedom Caucus have a plan to stop this national crisis not a year from now, not a month from now, but RIGHT NOW!

The advantage Bonespurs has during the shutdown is that he no more cares about the Americans than he does the Kurds or the Israelis whom he threw under the bus. Besides, the government employees who are furloughed or working without pay are Democrats and they support the shutdown for border security anyway. The very stable genius knows this because he is the smartest person in the room.

We have learned the hard way, from Charlottesville and Harvey, that Bonespurs is not capable of rising to the occasion. The difference now is that he has an actual foe in NanChuck. Plus he is boxed in. If the world’s greatest negotiator creates a deal and claims victory even though he has not won, Fox, Ann, Rush, and the RHINO Freedom Caucus will be there to call him out. He won’t be able to get away with conning his own side this time.

What then should he do?

What does an immature child do when cornered? He lashes out. “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’ll show you who is in charge! I’ll shut down the southern border.” The mind boggles imagining the world’s worst manager supervising the shutdown of the border. Can you imagine the chaos that would result? He does not even have 1% the managerial skills Herbert Hoover had. He lacks both the competence to shut down the southern border and the mental necessities to understand the consequences. Democrats should call his bluff just to expose his shortcomings and inadequacies for even Republicans to see.

There is a better solution.

How about asking China to fund the Great Wall of Trump? They would even build it too, if only Bonespurs would ask.

Ronald Reagan versus Vladimir Putin: Presidential Campaigns and the 2018 Elections

Reagan-Anderson Presidential Debate September 21, 1980 (https://quotefancy.com)

The countdown to the midterms is under 100 days. It still proceeds on a day-to-day basis but mentally a threshold has been crossed. A bigger one to come on Labor Day is only a few weeks away. The primaries are drawing to a close. The intensity of the showdown for control of Congress and various states will ratchet up.

The current president has vowed to campaign as much as necessary in targeted areas throughout the country. Indeed, he feeds on the energy of the professional wrestling arena just as we feed on food. But what message will he be delivering as he crisscrosses the country in his determination to stave off the dreaded blue wave and avoid being impeached?

In this situation it is appropriate to examine the campaign of another president. In 1984, Ronald Reagan, the incumbent president, campaigned throughout the land. At that time, Republicans could win at the state level even in California and the color on the TV maps for Republicans was blue. Times have changed.

Although the campaigns in 1984 and 2018 are not exact parallels, it remains instructive to examine the message Reagan delivered and compare it to where we are today. A lot of my information comes from the book The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army Second Ranger Brigade by Douglas Brinkley as excerpted in U.S. News & World Report in the June 6, 2005 issue, a year after Reagan’s death on June 5, 2004. Reagan’s speech on June 6, 1984 at Normandy was on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

According to Brinkley, the idea in the visit to England and France included showcasing Anglo-American unity between Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Needless-to-say, the contrast between the present president mocking the present prime minister of England or Great Britain or the United Kingdom or wherever, could not be greater. And our current president of course, then denied that he had done so as fake news, another example of the trouble he would be in if he ever testified under oath.

Turning back to 1984, one theme of Reagan’s talk was how the postwar coalition had kept the peace for the longest period in modern European history. One might add, that for Franklin Roosevelt who had grown up in a world where war against Germany was the norm (Franco-Prussian, WWI, WWII), the idea of decades of peace among the same nations was wishful thinking and inconceivable. Roosevelt understood the need for allies and why defending Montenegro was important.

Brinkley then turned to Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s speechwriter. She would become most famous for her “thousand points of light,” a vision our current president mocks. Brinkley reported that Reagan was at his best when he told heartfelt stories about real people. He was blessed with a genuine showbiz gift for a lively narrative and fabulist history. These last words of Brinkley strike us differently today now that we have a president who resides in the artificial reality of Trumpietown.

But Noonan suspected that during the speech Reagan would choke up. He would be overcome by the experience – its setting, the audience, and his words. I suspect Reagan did not feel your pain to exploit it but more drawing on his actor background, he internalized it. The emotion of his audience became his genuine emotion as well. In other words, his own ability to bring out the emotion in others created a feedback loop to himself. He was a person of empathy who helped create the very emotions he was to feel.

D-Day then became a metaphor for the campaign message of 1984. The Americans in the audience had helped reclaim the European continent. Americans had fought for freedom against the Nazis in the past; Americans had an obligation to fight for freedom against communism and the Soviet Union in the present. Others would express the sentiment that “some people are communists, some people are capitalists, why can’t we all live together”, the Soviet Union will endure forever. Reagan felt differently. The Evil Empire must be defeated if we are to be free. As it turned out, the clueless elites had no idea the Iron Curtain would fall, Putin’s worst day in history, one he wishes to reverse today.

Shortly after Reagan’s death in 2004, staff writer Roger Simon for U.S. News &World Report, wrote “Sunny Side Up, Always” (June 21, 2004). He wrote of Reagan knowing that movies were fantasy and that Americans loved fantasy. Fantasy was a world in which Reagan like to dwell. According to Pat Buchanan, “For Ronald Reagan, the world of legends and myth is a real world. He visits it regularly.” It was a can-do world of optimism, smiles, and a can-do attitude.

Reagan expected everything to work out because it always had for America. What Americans needed was a leader who could give them a sense of confidence, inspiration, and hope.

“’LET’S MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’ HE SAID.”

Simon reported that Reagan’s “morning in America” and “city on a hill” were designed to stand in marked contrast to the gloom and doom of President Jimmy Carter’s malaise.

Simon closed his article with two quotations, one from 1994 when Reagan announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I am combining them here.

And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will recall that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.

When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for the future. I know begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright light ahead.

In the same issue, David Gergen, advisor to multiple presidents and regular talking head today, wrote:

Last week, as we heard so often, Regan repeatedly told audiences that America’s role was to be “a shining city up on hill.” He spoke lovingly of that vision in his farewell address, as he prepared to leave the White House. What should not be forgotten is the farewell address to Massachusetts that a fellow member of his generation, John F. Kennedy, gave as he was preparing to move into the White House. “I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella 331 years ago, as they too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider,” he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill-the eyes of the world are upon us.”

Gergen closed with a sigh that “We mourned last week not only for Ronald Wilson Reagan but for the spirit we miss so much now.” How much more must he miss that spirit today?

One last “city on a hill” citation by an American before turning to a Russian. In his eulogy, former Senator John Danforth said:

Winthrop believed that the eyes of the world would be on America because God had given us a special commission, so it was our duty to shine forth. The Winthrop message became the Reagan message. It rang of optimism, and we longed to hear it….

If you have had your fill of this sunny optimism and the vision of America as a city on a hill that the eyes of the world are upon, then now let’s turn an alternate version. This dismissal comes from someone familiar with the concept of American exceptionalism and who strongly opposes it. It was written shortly after then President Obama had delivered an address to the American people in the tradition of American presidents up until our current one touting America’s place in the world and in human history.

Here is what Vladimir Putin said in an op-ed piece printed in the New York Times on September 12, 2013 following Obama’s address:

I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation….We are all different, but when we ask for Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

“Amen,” says American President Donald Trump. When Putin and Russia are accused of evil deeds, Trump is the first to say we have done bad things, too. He never exclaims on American exceptionalism or its role in history except to denigrate it.

Donald Trump does not share with Barack Obama a belief in American exceptionalism.

Donald Trump does not share with Ronald Reagan a belief that we are a city on a hill that the eyes of the world are upon.

Donald Trump does not share with Abraham Lincoln a belief that we are the last best hope of humanity.

Donald Trump does not believe in the American Dream.

When Donald Trump campaigns in the 2018 midterm elections, he will espouse the vision of Vladimir Putin and not that of Ronald Reagan. And he will do so to cheering Republicans. Who would have predicted a generation after the Iron Curtain fell, that Republicans would have abandoned the sunny optimism of Reagan for the dismal deception of Putin’s Trump?