1. It’s Monday, December 7, 2015.
2. It’s the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the air forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy. There are plenty of Americans who remember the day and the shock — it was the 9/11 of their generation — and it galvanized the people of this country to action.
With only an insignificant number of exceptions, people of all races, religions, ethnicities and political leanings united to defeat the common enemies — first Japan and then, a few days later, Germany and Italy.
Even with that strength of unity, it took nearly four years to win the war. President Franklin Roosevelt might have made some errors in judgment prior to Dec. 7 (and, yes, he made a big mistake afterward by interring Japanese-Americans). But, mercifully, there was no Twitter in 1941. Instead of sniping at each other, the nation came together and FDR was able to lead this country to victory. We established ourselves as a superpower, vanquishing the imperialists.
3. Contrast that to 2015. While there is no threat nearly as massive as that posed by the Axis powers, there is the insidious danger posed by terrorists. They are not nearly as powerful as the forces that sent a whole fleet of planes to bomb Hawaii.
But they don’t need to be. They can get a couple of nut cases willing to blow themselves up to attack people enjoying life in a Paris cafe or concert hall. And they offer inspiration to other warped minds, perhaps with a grievance against co-workers, to shoot up a holiday party in California.
President Obama tried to assure Americans last night that we’re the same nation that rebounded from a body blow at Pearl Harbor and from the devastation of September 11. He said this threat posed by “thugs and killers” is, in the end, no match for the strength that we draw from our diversity.
His problem is the America of 2015. It’s a country caught up in its own turmoil, a majority becoming a minority and not happy about it. It’s about demagogues preaching hate of people who are different and believing that tolerance isn’t strength.
People are angry about something, and the more that anger is stoked the better it is for political figures willing to give people their anger fix.
No one would take ISIS and the points if they were betting on a war between the thugs and imperial Japan. But that doesn’t mean we need any less of a unified effort in our battle against this “cult of death,” and the help of all Americans.
We especially need to be supportive of our fellow Americans who are Muslims, whose kin are dying at the hands of the terrorists at a much faster rate than non-Muslims, as they battle to keep the warped ideology of the jerks from poisoning their own.
4. As I said, Americans are anger-addicted right now. What stoked that anger was the financial crisis. Despite all they had been told about the safety of the financial system, Americans saw their banks fail, their or their friends’ homes foreclosed and their jobs disappear.
It was an attack on the fabric of this country, led to the same sort of insecurity that the generation growing up in the Depression experienced, and doesn’t go away easily.
Hillary Clinton understands the not-going-away part. She wrote an op-ed piece for today’s New York Times explaining what she’d do to get tough with Wall Street. Among her proposals is to get the authority to break up big banks if they pose a risk to the financial system and to increase the statute of limitations on financial executives who play a role in damaging the economy.
There are good reasons why Clinton feels the need to address this issue. She represented New York in the U.S. Senate for eight years, and was perceived to be a friend of the big financial institutions based here. And while it might seem unfair to blame her, the fact that her husband was President during the period of deregulation – particularly the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that separated banks and brokerages – is seen as a strike against her.
Here’s what’s most important: Hillary Clinton rates about the same as Donny Trump in terms of honesty and truthfulness, according to a recent CNN poll. That’s almost unfathomable. Trump is a compulsive liar and demagogue.
For all her sins, and I’m sure there are some, Hillary Clinton is not either of those. She has to get the idea that she’s somehow a duplicitous bitch (I’m sure her being a her is a factor in all this!) out of people’s minds.
The good news is that she understands that. Whether she can overcome it – by saying that she’ll be as tough on Wall Street as angry Americans still are – is what we’ll know a year from now.