A Vote with Weight

Reality is setting in. With early voting already begun in parts of our state, the time has come to choose. The reality is this: either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. They have the lowest approval ratings of any aspirants to that office in the history of polling. Most Americans would rather have someone else sitting in the Oval Office, but here is what you must know. That is not going to happen. One of these two will be sworn into office in January. This is not some bad dream you wake from to find the comforting feeling that all is well with the world after all. We have a date with destiny, and it cannot be avoided.

I have heard people lamenting their choices here. Some have decided to write in another name (mine is spelled S-H-A-N-E  R-I-Z-A), others have decided to vote for a third-party candidate. The race is described as a choice between the lesser of two evils. Others say it is more about voting against someone than voting for anyone. Some have said this is an ethical dilemma that is too much to bear. They may not vote for a candidate for president at all.

Let me be clear. All of the above is a cop-out. It’s a dodge. It’s a shirking of our individual and collective responsibility. I will tell you what I used to tell young officers and enlisted men and women. There is no such thing as an ethical dilemma, only decisions in varying degrees of difficulty. Every vote counts in America, but not every vote carries the same weight. If you want your vote to both count and carry weight, you must vote for either Trump or Clinton. Yes, you must.

There are thousands of issues and political stances with near-infinite degrees of nuance. If one cannot find anything to disagree with in their chosen candidate or votes solely on a single issue, one is mercifully free from conceptualizing the totality of experience among the electorate and the complexity of the modern world, living as one does in a state of impermeable bliss. But for those tying themselves in knots because they “cannot support either one” or they “despise” one and cannot “trust” the other, I offer this. There is only one question that matters in picking a president. Who will do a better job?

The campaign is an extended job interview. There is no single list of qualifications for the presidency. Any discussion of qualification is inherently subjective. But then again, so is every job interview. Like anyone who has ever sought a job knows, the interview is where you try to convey how you will perform in what you seek. Like anyone who has ever hired anyone knows, the interview allows you an opportunity to judge the future utility of a candidate in a particular role. Our extended interview during this campaign has offered plenty of evidence of who would do a better job. If you were seeking a job, who would you emulate? Given all you know, if you were hiring, who would you rather be sitting across the desk from you about to be offered a coveted position in your company? There are no ethical dilemmas here. Do you see now? As I said to my officers and enlisted personnel, you know the right thing to do. All that is left is that you go do it.

Please vote. Your nation is depending on you.

Death and Taxes

As the saying goes, only two things are certain in life. As is clear now death is the only thing still certain if you have the means to claim a near billion-dollar loss in a single tax year. This week the New York Times, exercising that sacred duty of the Fourth Estate, broke the story that the GOP candidate for president claimed a loss of over $900 million in 1995, thereby setting up the probability, due to our famously convoluted tax law, that he paid no taxes at all for 18 years. That would have given him a pass through 2013, twelve years into the war in Afghanistan and through the entire war in Iraq. The candidate’s refusal to release his tax returns in the face of over forty years of tradition—including when Nixon did it while under audit—has brought questions about whether he has paid any taxes at all. A question he apparently answered during the first debate by interjecting, “that makes me smart.” Maybe. It also makes him a freeloader on those he claims to represent.

Not paying taxes for the years leading up the attacks of September 11th, 2001 means he took no part in helping to go “to war with the Army you have,” in the words of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. If, as anyone with any rationality left must now think, he has paid no tax since that fateful day, then he has not invested a single cent in the military force he now intends to deploy into the quagmire of Syria to “knock the hell out of ISIS.” It means he has not paid a single dime for the vast reorganization of the U.S. government which the GOP and surrogates say secured the country from even a single terrorist attack during the Bush administration. It means while he says other countries should pay for our “protection” he somehow believes the proposition in no way applies to him. It means he has not coughed up one coin for one of the largest expansions in immigration enforcement in the nation’s history when between 2001 and 2009 the Border Patrol grew from under 10,000 agents to over 20,000, increased fencing on the southern border six-fold, or when in 2010 Congress authorized $600 million for additional border protection in the face of increased drug-related violence in Mexico (Politifact). I know; it is ironic. It means that while he stands in front of his numerous veteran backers decrying the state of the Veterans Administration or a military in “rubble,” he has not paid anything toward their earned retirements, benefits, or health care. It means that the “law and order” candidate has not paid a nickel toward any federal law enforcement agencies partially responsible for the enormous decrease in violent crimes over the past decades (a fact the candidate disavows) or toward any programs that might have improved his dim—mostly untrue—characterization of minority and inner-city crime.

Now, ludicrously, he claims that he alone possesses the knowledge to close tax loopholes and would do so against his own best interests and that which makes him “smart.” Where, pray tell, have we seen any evidence whatsoever that the man has the propensity to do anything at all for anyone but himself? Certainly not in his charitable foundation which he as not contributed to in 8 years and which spends others’ money in order that he may take the credit, contribute (illegally) to political campaigns of those with his business before their court, or buy portraits of himself to decorate his own clubs. Certainly not in any exercise of empathy in the face of the tragedy of mass killings of which he claims credit for predicting. And certainly not in shirking the responsibilities of the 16th Amendment of the Constitution whereby he avoids all the implied duties of “We the People” in its Preamble.

No one should pay more than their fair share of taxes. Mitt Romney was right on that point. But working men and women, our friends and neighbors, do pay a fair share and have invested heavily in those things our Founders held dear. “…Justice…domestic Tranquility…the common defense…the general Welfare…and [to] secure the Blessings of Liberty…” The claimed billionaire champion of the working man (gender specificity intended) is happy to stand by and let us do so. That, to use a word he likes to tweet when most normal people are sleeping, ought to disgust them.