For a minute I felt like Sherlock Holmes, or, maybe like Humphrey Bogart playing Sherlock Holmes. My wife and I and another couple were having lunch at a restaurant. “Darling,” the man said to his wife, “Would you please hand me that menu?”
She handed him the menu with the attitude of a German submarine commander “handing” a torpedo to a fat, overloaded British merchant ship. Oh, she did her best to conceal it, but there was a submerged energy and hostility I was proud I detected. I told my wife later, “That marriage doesn’t have much of a shelf life.” And I was right.
Watch what we see. Subtract all the way down to what we were supposed to see. If you’re subtracting more than decency would normally allow, run like hell; an explosion is sure to follow. More simply put, when too much effort and energy is spent trying to make things look “OK,” things are not OK!
President Obama has had three secretaries of defense. The first two, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, sat together at a forum in Dallas last week, and their emphasis was not on the weaponry of pre-Renaissance Estonia. Hold that in stationary orbit while we examine tradition.
Tradition teaches us that those who serve a president and have un-revealed disagreements with that president may, between 25 and 50 years later, write a sophisticated book detailing their disagreements with their former boss, putting forth their case; telling the world, “Look how right I was and how wrong he was!” And here we had Robert Gates and Leon Panetta not merely disagreeing with Obama while he’s still in office, not just criticizing him, but actually excoriating the sitting president and flagellating the smoking wreckage of his rule, over his handling – make that his egregious mishandling – of the Syrian conflict.
“Please pass that menu!” An over-abundance of negative energy of this magnitude is not what you normally expect when two recent former high officials of an administration get together in a forum. How abnormal is it? It’s abnormal enough to make you examine the entire stability of this presidency. If there is a little bit of that kind of energy showing, it means there’s a lot more bubbling underneath.
Administrations usually have shining stars, outstanding personalities, like rich folks’ Christmas trees have expensive ornaments. Where are the intellectual stars like John Kenneth Galbraith, Henry Kissinger, James Baker? In fact, where is David Axelrod? Can you name one figure in this administration whose presence in our national line-up gives you comfort? Every time the TV moderator introduces the “administration spokesman” in a debate on Obamacare or Syria or the economy or Benghazi I see unknowns who seem to have memorized their talking points from three-by-five cards. Shining stars? This administration doesn’t even have glowing embers.
Lou Chesler was a Canadian industrialist who was enthusiastic about investing in Cuba just after Castro took over. If only Castro had listened! A Florida firm, General Development, had a plan to build retirement communities in Cuba where Americans on Social Security could live in relative luxury. Considering the traffic in younger family members coming to visit, the income to Cuba could have exceeded their Communist payoffs from the Soviet Union! At Castro’s “inauguration” his hand-picked “president,” Manuel Urrutia, spoke. He was a country judge from Camaguey and rather dull and unsure of himself. After his talk. Chesler asked, “How do I arrange to sell short?” And Chesler didn’t even understand Spanish!
My guess: darkness, implosion, losing it, bad trouble. Don’t prod me for a more detailed prediction. Jews and Italians haven’t yet shaken off centuries of superstition. Italians have the “malocchio,” the “evil eye.” Jews counter with the “ayn horeh,” ditto the “evil eye.” I feel like we’re living in a troubled province of the Hapsburg Empire prior to World War I. I don’t know which is the bigger problem, a leader prone to cosmic blunders or a population too under-informed to get emotionally involved. Ignorance is the sperm of apathy. If you don’t know, you can’t care.
Whenever I write a column about “my” America, America the winner, America the liberator, America the prosperous, America where one bread-winner can support the brood, I get slapped with copious comments razzing me that “my” America is over and done with. That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the commenters themselves seem glad of it! Perhaps Clemenceau, former French prime minister, had a point when he said, “America is the only nation which has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization!”
Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang advises us that when a small man casts a long shadow, it means the sun is setting.