Op-ed: Cold weather, cold heart

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, January 26, 2016 3:19pm
  • Opinion

Just to set the tone, I despise winter. This is being written as I sit in my Washington house looking through the window at two feet or so of snow, snarling at anyone who says it’s a pretty winterscape. There is no such thing.

There are those who insist that they really like to live where there are four seasons, but not me. I’m a three-season guy — or less. But being imprisoned does give one time to think.

First of all, I have some sympathy for the municipal officials here who rarely get snow removal right. It’s not like we’re in an uninhabitable location, like Canada, Chicago or Cleveland, where frigid climate is routine. Those locations can maintain huge inventories of heavy equipment that are almost as large as the fleets of tanks and armored vehicles that their police departments receive from Pentagon war surplus.

In more temperate places like D.C. — and by that I’m speaking in meteorological terms, because there’s nothing else temperate here — it would be considered a waste of money to stockpile enough equipment to deal with the occasional deluge, or “Snowzilla,” as they’re calling this one. There are better ways to waste money. So the truth is, they can’t really be prepared for harsh weather, unless they turned these figurative law enforcement swords into plows. Which isn’t a bad idea.

The truth is, there are far worse examples of contemptible dysfunction by government, from both the elected officials and the bureaucrats who make things work or far too often, prevent them from working. I’m thinking of Flint, Michigan, where officials have poisoned the mostly poor, mostly minority children of that city because the powerful were too arrogant or too lazy to deal with the lives of the nonpowerful. Instead they were dismissive of repeated warnings. As a result, thousands of kids may face a lifetime dealing with the permanent effects of lead in their bodies, including developmental disabilities. And let’s face it, a reason our medical researchers have not found cures for these maladies is that they largely affect the underprivileged, meaning the voiceless in our so-called democracy.

This democracy is going through its quadrennial freak show right now, where we pretend that the people choose our leaders, It’s grotesque right now, with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump duking it out to determine the Republican standard-bearer along with an undercard of lesser candidates, some sane, some unhinged. Right now we’re hearing that in spite of their fears of a Donald Trump campaign that’s fueled by bigotry and enabled by those of us in media, the GOP elders are talking about embracing Trump. It seems that they find Cruz even more obnoxious, which is saying a lot. While they have been repelled by The Donald, they’ve determined that maybe they can deal with him if he becomes unstoppable. They might have to if they are going to maintain their privileged positions. Who cares about principle?

But now there’s another who might ride to their rescue. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire, ex-New York mayor has let it leak that he’s exploring the feasibility of his running as an independent, welcomed not just by our super-wealthy rulers in banking and finance, but by moderates in both parties who are put off not just by the Trumpster or Cruzmissile, but by Hillary Clinton and especially Bernie Sanders.

Personally, I don’t think he has a chance. On the right, he is despised for his aggressive advocacy of gun control and abortion rights. There also are reasons for those on the left to reject him. Besides being a champion of his fellow plutocrats, he was a big supporter, as New York mayor, of the city’s police “Stop and Frisk” police tactics thrown out by the courts.

Right now he’s just putting himself out there. The others are taking their ego trips through Iowa and New Hampshire for real. As cold as both states are, I’m certain the candidates, if they were honest, hate winter as much as I do. They won’t. They aren’t.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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