Op-ed: For crisis’ sake

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, January 16, 2016 5:57pm
  • Opinion

In the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Of course, he’s moved on from Washington power broker to broken mayor of Chicago, where he’s becoming a walking, talking crisis himself. He’s fighting for his survival in the midst of a police controversy that even by Chicago standards has become a scandal. The difference between the murderous cop abuse this time and that of generations past is the video that makes it impossible to sweep under the rug, like they’ve always done. But still, the advice to never miss an opportunity to kick your opponents when they’re down, no matter what the consequences, is sage wisdom for any politician.

Of course, first you must have a crisis. Otherwise, you look pretty foolish if you’re screaming bloody murder. Case in point, the Iranian takeover of 10 sailors on those two ships that had lost their way in the Persian Gulf and beached on the Iran’s Farsi Island. Even though it was obvious early on that it was an accidental incursion and Tehran’s leaders knew that, there was an overnight lag time before the crews could be released. That was enough time for the usual suspect Republicans to pounce.

John McCain, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee and who always can be expected to erupt in a hard line of thunder, criticized President Barack Obama for not mentioning the situation during his State of the Union address. That’s when some delicate diplomacy was going on (is diplomacy ever anything but delicate?), and POTUS probably didn’t want to, uh, rock the boat. Besides, the president was otherwise focused on delivering his “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” speech.

Is that too sarcastic? His message about the country was largely glow, not the gloom that dominates the campaign rhetoric from the other side

“There will be voices,” he declared, “urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.”

Speaking of the Republican candidates, they had another of their “Be Very Worried, Be Hateful” debates. Ben Carson was the most apocalyptic of all, warning of nuclear attack: “They explode the bomb, we have an electromagnetic pulse,” he warned “They hit us with a cyberattack simultaneously and dirty bombs. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue at that point?”

As for the non-chaos over the sailors, they were back from their overnight. When captured, they had been taped briefly on their knees with their hands on their heads while Iranian sailors searched their boat. The video was probably released to please the country’s hard-liners. Ted Cruz was quick to identify himself as a hard-liner: “Any nation that captures our fighting men and women will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.”

Cruz has got his own problems. He insists that the law is settled and that he’s qualified to run for president, even though he was born in Canada. True, his mother was American, but is that enough to meet the Constitution’s natural-born-citizen standard? There’s a genuine legal debate about that. Many experts don’t think it’s settled at all. It’s fair to say that Democrats are chortling about his dilemma, given all the grief Obama got from the “Birthers” even after he showed conclusively he was born in Hawaii. Donald Trump was one of those sleazy leading voices, although in a show of consistency, he’s now raising doubts about Ted Cruz. Still, let’s be fair: Has anyone heard Cruz end a sentence with “eh?” I don’t think so.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the campaign silly season is well underway. Do not worry. No one will let a crisis go to waste — even an imagined one, though one could argue our absurdly dismal political choice is the real crisis.

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

More in Opinion

Kate Troll (Courtesy Photo / Kate Troll)
Opinion: The real ‘at last!’ on climate change

In Alaska, the Inflation Reduction Act offers come game-changing features.

The official ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Division of Elections)
Voices of the Peninsula: Check out the ballot before you vote

This kind of ballot is not something you have seen before.

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party

Michael Heimbuch attends a memorial service for the late Drew Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005, at the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Point of View: King salmon: The clash of culture and science

People do some pretty awful things to king salmon stocks

State Sen. Josh Revak (Photo provided)
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote

Lieutenant governor candidate Edie Grunwald speaks at a Charlie Pierce campaign event at Paradisos restaurant in Kenai on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Election Integrity: An Alaskan question with an Alaskan answer

A needless round of feel-good meetings and what-if conversations will be a thing of the past

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

The cost of health insurance will rise substantially next year for about 13 million Americans

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)
Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell (Courtesy)
Opinion: UAA’s career certificates are helping to fill Alaska’s workforce pipeline

At UAA, we are announcing a new suite of certificate programs responding to some of the state’s most critical needs