Developing Story

On October 24, 2016, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

I moved to Los Angeles many moons ago because I love a good story. I love being told one, and when I came here I wanted to learn how to tell one.

Decades, and many stories read, seen, lived and re-told later, it’s the love of a great story that motivates, inspires, and transfixes me. Still.

103968694-gettyimages-610463304-530x298At least 13 times since the story that begins, “Once upon a time, a billionaire horse’s ass ran for President,” began, I’ve sat down to make head or tail, divine fact from fiction, or just try to sort some sense out of it all. This makes fourteen. And hopefully it will be the second time I will get a complete, published column out of it.

What makes this time different? Unlike the last dozen or so, I’m not actually going to try to reach an understanding about any of this. First, as you know, that Donald Trump is one election away from the highest office in the world is insane. Although I think it’s also true that America is getting out of our government almost exactly what we’ve put into the political process. As a nation, and individuals. We don’t do politics well in the United States, and it shows.

Second, every time I’ve taken a guess at what will happen next, something totally and completely absurd takes place, usually within the 12 hours between first draft and publication. Rendering what I’ve written passé, or worse, wrong. Though it’s as challenging to discern right from wrong this election cycle as it is up from down in outer space. Not easy to be presci
ent and grounded when gravity is in a state of flux.

So this time around, I am going to step back and admire the show. We are being treated to a once in a lifetime (I hope) spectacle. The first democratically nominated woman is competing with the first bonafide imbecile nominee (for President, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle fans) to become the most powerful human being on the planet. Two firsts. Two distinctly different directions. A decision, respect to those who believe God decides all, riding on the free – such as it is – will of Americans who exercise our prerogative to vote.

How exciting!!

It’s a contest, much in the sense that the World Series, which begins tomorrow, is a contest. It’s a match-up brewing for months in a campaign marked by surprise performances, injuries, and no small amount of controversy. Barring a repeat of the 2000 vote, which failed to end on the Wednesday after Election Tuesday, we will likely know the winner of Clinton vs. Trump on Nov. 9 as surely as we’ll know who wins the World Series between the Indians and the Cubs on or before November 3, barring wildly inclement weather.

Of course it’s not the same. The comparisons and contrasts between these two contests for world dominion don’t come and go like a nine inning game, or a date on the calendar. But I love a good story. Don’t you? And in the next two weeks, we get to witness the culmination of two epic tales. So let’s get ready for a dramatic finish.

World Series Preview

It’s the Cubs vs. the Indians. Two underdogs of history battled their way to the top of the National League and American League Central Divisions, respectively, and through the playoffs to the World Series, Best of 7.

The Indians – managed by Tito Francona, who in 2004 as manager of the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in the 100th World Series – have a chance to spoil the Cubs’ happy ending. Cleveland, whose NBA team the Cavaliers won its first title this year in June, hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. That’s 68 years, a mighty long time. So they’re hungry. But not quite as hungry as Chicago.

Consider the Cubs, owners of the best record in baseball this year. Their General Manager is Theo Epstein, also GM of the curse-breaking 2004 Red Sox. The Cubs last went to the World Series in 1945, but their last championship was in 1908. That’s 108 years ago. So if you were born in 1909 or later, you’ve never seen the Chicago Cubs win a World Series. If you’re from Chicago, or an avid fan of baseball, the first World Series win in more than a century is a very big deal.

Plenty of other story lines to follow and enjoy here. You can root for whichever team has your sympathy. Or passion. And we can watch it all the twists, turns and crazy bounces un-fold in front of us. One long championship drought will come to an end on or by Wednesday, November 2. Barring rain or snow in Cleveland or Chicago.

Presidential Preview

What was originally billed as the Battle of the Century may be all over but the shouting. Alleged billionaire and actual reality TV show host Donald Trump has turned the U.S. Presidential election into a game of “I Know You Are But What Am I” versus bent but unbroken former First Lady, Senator of New York and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Trump rode “Celebrity Apprentice” and a racist conspiracy theory about our first African-American President Barack Obama to a Republican Party nomination by out-polling more than two dozen conservative politicians who let Trump beat them again and again to the bottom of the barrel.

A story that opened with Trump as loud-mouthed bigot, launching semi-calculated attacks against Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, women and virtually all immigrants in a country of immigrants was enough to convince the Republican Party to give him its nomination and endorsement. The national election has devolved into a scorched-earth campaign, with the candidate inciting violence at rallies, making fun of the physically disabled at his rallies, and exposed on tape in 2005 denigrating women and espousing unwelcome sexual assault while his wife was pregnant with their son.

The ghostwriter of his book, “The Art of the Deal” estimates Trump’s vocabulary at 200 words. He is ego-driven, hubris-laden, intensely humor-less (have you ever seen him laugh?), and anti-everything. Handed a gift horse – leaked e-mail, a vague policy point that manages to stick – he returns to the vitriol that won over his Coalition of the Angry or finds a new axe to grind. Either he secretly wants to lose, or he’ll only lead those who buy into his rhetoric as President (increasingly unlikely), or the head of an anti-establishment media juggernaut that he will have ample money and constituency to build post-election.

Meanwhile, the aspiring first female President wants to win so badly she will cop to that goal in a world where the only way to be perceived as trustworthy for the job is to profess disdain for it. Running the old-fashioned way: establishing credentials, building a national organization, and delineating specific policies, Hillary Clinton has spent 8 years in the White House, 8 years in the senate, 4-ish years as Secretary of State, and nearly 20 years beating back partisan attacks which have landed her in the hot seat (but not the slammer) where she has shown grace under pressure.

After two decades of scrutiny she’s accomplished a great deal as first lady and as a politician, and otherwise fared pretty well. Unless you count low approval ratings in spite of being one of the most accomplished female politicians in the history of the country and one of the most experienced candidates in the history of the Presidency. You can hate her policies, but can’t deny she has gobs of experience.

If you believe in polls, and I do, though not as much as I believe in math and science, Trump was closing the gap until they debated on the same stage. Secretary Clinton ran rings around The Donald. Every. Single. Time. Since Donald started scaring sensible Americans and global markets that he might be able to win, he has made a series of miscues, misstatements, angry pronunciations, and legitimacy destroying assertions that rank somewhere between implosion and full-scale meltdown.

But like the World Series, it ain’t over till it’s over. In this case, the end may not come with a sportsmanlike concession, but a procedural counting of every vote, individual and electoral. Like any contest with something at stake – and this year, clearly more is at stake than ever – there’s a dazzling array of last-minute spoilers that could tip the outcome one way or another. In case the undecideds haven’t decided already.

Here are a few hypotheticals: a hacked e-mail or Wiki-Leak that links the Clintons with the Mussolinis. A stunning last minute display of sanity from Trump that convinces voters he wouldn’t bring on the apocalypse; all evidence to the contrary. Trump’s character arc takes him from loud-mouthed bigot to anti-establishment statesman, turning the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse. Fat. Chance.

How about a Bob Roberts-inspired assassination conspiracy attempt blamed on a liberal gunman to evoke sympathy for the orange-faced blowhard? So much voter apathy – perhaps the point of Trump’s scorched-earth strategy – that the anti-Trump vote stays home, covers its ears, and leaves the voting to his Deplorables. We’ve got to get a song out of that “basket of deplorables” line. Perhaps a “rigging” conspiracy causes Trump supporters to turn up at the polls armed to the teeth, discouraging Hillary supporters from pulling the levers.

Like the Curse of the Billy-Goat, or the legacy of Steve Bartman, will force majeure lend a hand? Or will experience, depth, preparation and competence prevail? The World Series is decided between the lines by the Indians and the Cubs. The election is up to us. Here’s hoping that the best team wins. And by the best team, I mean Hillary Clinton. Putting Donald Trump within one election of the U.S. Presidency is one of the worst games America has ever played with itself.


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