Election 2016 – Rome is burning, and someone wants to be Nero?

by DR. ROBIN MCFEE June 29, 2016

2016 election

Definition of a politician: someone who is kissing your baby, or stealing its lollipop.

It takes a special kind of (I know the word you are thinking) person to run for office. OK, I will grant sometimes "special" does mean stupid.  But it can mean gifted, patriotic, or self-sacrificing....think Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, or Madison for starters. Sometimes "special," does mean someone who ought to wear a beanie or "L" on his or her forehead eating an ice cream cone out of their ear (as in the film Multiplicity, referencing the clone of a clone), think Harry Reed or Nancy Pelosi or Debbie Democrat (there are GOP members, too!). And sometimes "special" means ‘special' in all the good that word implies. An individual, a candidate, who if called upon, is willing to run into a burning building or fight the fights that need fighting, not merely pandering to partisans  - someone who understands a time of destiny, and the decisions we make will become the stuff of history and legend - earning posterity's adoration or condemnation -think two great Presidents....Truman and Reagan.

So what special kind of person are the three remaining major candidates who willingly will take on the challenges we face, one of whom we will as a nation select to lead "Rome" i.e. the USA, before the fires go citywide toast fest, and what are the challenges they face?

Challenges we have! For starters....

~ 10 million illegal immigrants within our borders, some good and contributing, some posing serious costs to our communities, some are felons (think the need for Kate's Law), some just trying to raise families. Both parties have foisted upon the middle and lesser classes problems without clear solutions that benefit America. The DNC considers illegals as undocumented Democrats promising them all manner of entitlement, counting on them to become their voters. The GOP consider illegals cheap labor, counting on them to enhance the bottom line, and in some purple haze of crazy, Republicans think they can gain these newly amnestied as voters, by not challenging the problem of entitlements. Both parties exhibit a special kind of stupid, and selfishness.

Then there are the disastrous domestic policies. Over regulation has gone beyond protecting air and water, becoming a Draconian creation. If you have insomnia, try reading the CFR! Then there is a poorly cobbled together health care law that has yet to address the fundamental problems it was purported to address. Though maybe well meaning (I counter it was another form of bribery to garner appreciation from an additional pocket of voters, and one more component of daily life government can control), it needs serious reworking or revocation.

Violence in the inner cities is rampant. Chicago is the US version of a killing field, and other cities face similar carnage, but without POTUS' leadership addressing it beyond the perennial gun control chorus. Accompanying this is a growing racial divide and levied from every direction, when racial unity would be far more effective at finding solutions. Sadly, racism has become a battle cry for the ultra-left to silence disagreement on policy, instead of a serious term better to be reserved for actual bigotry. The grievance industry capitalizes on this, is robust, and enjoying a resurgence on the heels of Missouri and Maryland. Several of our larger cities have zones that are tinderboxes waiting for the match. POTUS has a poor report card on this one, which is sad considering he could have been more of a unifier.

Now let's consider the disastrous foreign policies under the current Administration. Our leaders have allowed bad deals (Iran), catalyzed destabilization in the Middle East (Arab Spring, ISIS), rebuked our allies (Israel), emboldened our global enemies (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, China, North Korea), threatened an ally over EU policy (Great Britain), allied with UN interests instead of American interests - the next POTUS will either remedy these mistakes, or add to them. From director of the CIA to military, law enforcement and intelligence advisors, to a person, they have suggested our foreign policy efforts have not significantly degraded ISIS' capacity to harm Americans. You decide which candidate will be more of the same (America last), or perhaps change the direction (Americans first).

Political corruption - the number of candidates, local, and federal, who blur the lines in terms of influence peddling for money and favors, including one running for POTUS, is, hmmm, criminal. The ideologues and low information voters supporting the likes of them, makes the future look bleak. Just hand me the match and kerosene and get Rome burning now.

Make no mistake about it. We are modern Rome - the analogies are too frequent, too accurate, too consistent, and made in comparison to the USA myriad times since the first authors posited the thought. To be sure, there is burning in the empire. Think Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland not too long ago. Expect other cities to be awash in flames, as factions conspire to divide through violence.

However, the fires are also metaphorical. Barbarians are at the gate. The Huns threatening us are not just Radical Islamists, although they represent a significant danger. Russia, and soon China, will be vying for territory we have long relaxed upon the notion it was either ours, or international. Putin has already demonstrated his opinion on Santa's workshop and the Arctic. China is increasing their military for offensive purposes; give up the notion the Red Dragon only wants to protect itself from us. Their growing navy is a projection of their power, and acquisitional appetites.  The southern border is the back door to America, and a whole bunch of folks are refusing to lock it. Until we do, the level of unwelcome houseguests will continue to enter unabated. Think heavy weapons transports, criminals, members of adversary enterprises - nation-states, and Jihadists, drugs, human trafficking, kidnapping; we are talking more than sick kids and migrant workers.

Barbarians are within the gates, too. Our counterterrorism experts are not wrong; there is a major fifth column that cannot be colored pink, dismissed as minimal threats, or nonexistent, as some politicians would have you believe. Nor can they all be corralled or exported by fiat, magic wand, or wishful thinking, as others politicos have suggested.

As our nation becomes increasingly dependent upon pleasure, expect growing drug (legal and illegal), alcohol, prostitution, domestic violence, human trafficking, and crime problems. One can already see it playing out.

If trends continue, bread and circus will predominate as prime drivers in growing mass of society, which suggests a larger proportion on welfare, and greater reliance on entertainment, pleasure, dare I suggest sloth. Great nations die from within! Sadly, such behaviors have become salves to sooth difficult times of unemployment for some folks. For others it is the result of multigenerational laziness and dependence upon others for income (unbridled welfare give a ways), without having to exert effort for such largesse. In the process, we allow a waste of great human capital, and loss of manpower hours in community service that could benefit many. For my tax dollars, why not bring back WPA? Moreover, those isolated on welfare lose one of the best aspects of work - socialization; being part of something worthwhile. Beware! We are at a tipping point to be sure, where more and more will expect, demand, and fight to keep welfare benefits; at some point even democrats will have to face the reality that there is no free lunch, even if you get someone else to pay for it. Regardless which party gets ultimate power, the United States is not a giant ATM machine.

The economy is not robust. That is being kind. Economic statistics are a lot like bikinis; what they reveal is interesting, and what they hide is essential. Our GDP is sad! Financial experts could spend a lifetime debating the US economy, but I would defer to Main Street for the most accurate fiscal health meter. Main Street in many towns is dying. Costs are rising, and incomes for middle class Americans have not kept pace. The average person has taken a haircut on their household balance sheet. THAT is the economic indicator. So is the reality many people are underemployed. And some remain perennially unemployed. The factors are many, starting with our youth. There are too many failing public schools not preparing our kids to be competitive in a technology driven world in spite of high per capita spending on students. Part of that is the erosion of the family unit. Part of it is children raising children. Ageism is also a problem in employment. So are the Obama healthcare requirements. It is a cost that many companies wish to avoid. Therefore, layoffs and part time employment offerings replace full employment.

In spite of the issues that portend a Rome that can potentially burn, supposedly sane people are willingly, exhaustively, and passionately campaigning to become Nero. Moreover, they have to buy their own fiddle, on top of running for office!

Let us try the names on for size, and wonder about their ability to fiddle:  Nero Trump - not sure how musical he is, but the Donald knows how to conduct an orchestra. At least a real estate empire! Nero Hillary - she may not know how to play an instrument, but her husband was one of the best political tap dancers alive. Then there is Nero Bernie - well since he and the actual Nero were classmates back in the day....Seriously, as I wonder about the three viable candidates who are still in the mix, what drives them, and what commends them to such a position? Let's take a quick look.

Bernie is a true believer. That is why his supporters are more passionate than partisan. He is authentic and unvarnished.  How refreshing. For the most part, he seems to have a longstanding concern for income inequality. We will overlook his real estate holdings, which if liquidated, might put him in a much higher tax bracket, and go with the middle class Bernie. On the credentials side, he is mostly a one trick pony - the economy, and has not had the most stellar career as a legislative catalyst, in review of his sponsor to becoming law ratio. Thankfully, we tend to overlook spouses for the most part. In addition, one would hope Senator Sanders overlooks his wife's financial advice; based on her record of accomplishment as a college president, I would not take her recommendations to the bank. However, Bernie energetically has shed a bright light on issues facing America that require serious debate. He may or may not have the right answers, but his questions are often right on.

The Donald - he must either want to create the ultimate reality show of all time - "Trump, Presidential Apprentice," or is a patriot. A man of such wealth and privilege - who needs the scrutiny, the risk, the lack of sleep? The Donald is a wild card. No party has ever encountered someone like him.  He, too, is unvarnished. He makes no pretensions to be middle class, yet espouses many of the virtues and actions that can take someone to the American Dream. His bankruptcies add grist for the media mill, but in reality, unlike any other current candidate, he still has created more jobs than most people. Some of his statements have been controversial; but honesty compels us to recognize competing in the world is not a pillow fight, and the issues we face require difficult choices. We are beyond a spoon full of sugar to make the medicine go down.  Is he the right man to doctor the country? Apparently, his loyal supporters think so. His party may call for a second opinion.

Hillary - some might suggest she consider changing her first name to "alleged." Do not hold your breath. As a believer in innocent until proven guilty - regardless of the possible perpetrator, partisan or not - she remains a free citizen running for office. If she runs on her titles - attorney, activist, former first lady, US senator, and former Secretary of State, she looks impressive. To be sure, law school, marriage to Bill, doing damage control for Bill, being in Congress, and serving our nation as a Cabinet member are not easy. However, if she runs on her record - uh oh! Her legislative report card is better than Bernie, but not stellar. Meeting with Russians, mistranslating the reset button (it didn't say reset), which was just the start of her foreign policy problems - Benghazi, the Arab Spring, Russian conquests - not inspiring. Nevertheless, her party is all in with Hillary. Is she running out of duty, or desire for her historic moment, or feeling she is entitled as payback for getting Bill to the governor's mansion, and the Oval Office? You decide.


Many years ago, a group of businessmen in the city asked me if I was interested in running for political office. I burst out laughing. I figured they would as well. They were serious. So was I. In spite of my great admiration for the statesmen we have had throughout our history, we have also been burdened with the corrupt, and untalented.  I thanked them then offered as my rationale, I don't lie well enough to be a politician, I can't be bought; and I would vote conscience not party (I never did ask what party they represented). Truth be told sometimes I regret it. In the highest iteration, politics can be a noble form of public service. That notwithstanding, we are no longer the nation of citizen statesmen, and it is rare indeed to find someone who can fit such a description. More is the pity.

Trump may be as close to the citizen statesman as we have in this race. He has a full time job, and once the campaign is over, he will go back to it. If taken on face value, it seems he wants to serve. Hillary and Bernie are career politicians. Not a criticism, just a difference. The Framers did not envision politics as a lifetime employment gig. They viewed it as public service.  The political arena was a place where you could use your skills to solve problems, then hop on your horse and gallop home to your real job. Politics was the art of the possible.

Today we have a handful of people willing to run for the highest office in the land. To that, each ought to be commended. It is not an easy experience, even if you are the darling of your political party, or massively powerful with a populace movement. The challenge we face as voters, and contributors is simple, and difficult - which individual is the best possible choice, even if you think it is the best of a bad lot. Who among the candidates can, and will unify our nation, address the daunting challenges here and abroad imperiling our nation? Who can reignite or at least allow the economy to move forward? For each of us to do this honestly, patriotically, and smartly, we ought to review the candidate's record of accomplishment, their life's record, their health, personality, intellect, level of compassion, and ability to get things done over time, and pay less attention to the candidate's party, or media hit pieces - for better or worse. We have become too loyal to party; and the party bosses know it, take it for granted, to the detriment of all citizens. Perhaps that is why the Sanders and Trump phenomena continues. Candidly, except for history buffs, and policy wonks, in the end few people remember the party Nero, Churchill, or Chamberlain, even Truman or Teddy R belonged to. But history got their name right, and their track record wasn't too far behind.

Election 2016 - Rome is burning, and someone wants to be Nero? It is up to you and me to decide who that someone is. Vote wisely. Perhaps only one of the candidates can bring the right fire extinguisher. 

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Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is a physician, and clinical toxicologist. As medical director of Threat Science - and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press    


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