October 1, 2016


          The much anticipated debate between our two contenders for the highest office in the country came and went last Monday. Both had been “prepped” by their advisors but while Hillary took the advice to heart, her counterpart, “The Donald,” could only partially follow it.

For Hillary success was a must because her poll numbers were sliding. Among the reasons were the unresolved e-mail issues and the state of her of health. In the September 15 installment I had referred to the mishap at the 9/11 Memorial Service where she had to leave prematurely and then collapsed prior to entering the van that would take her to her next destination. If a bystander’s video had not caught the scene we would never have known about it, and this shows how important citizen participation and documentation of important events can be in the era of high technology.

Since the video raised serious questions about her health I consulted the Internet and found that the issue had already been raised by a number of physicians. Parkinson’s disease was advocated but I dismissed this presumptive diagnosis because coverage of her campaign events showed none of the classical features. More recently a left sixth cranial nerve palsy, which leads to a deviation of the eye towards the nose, as a result of the cerebral venous sinus thrombosis she had suffered in December of 2012 was suggested. I assume that this event was probably the reason that led to her resignation from the office of Secretary of State. I, therefore, paid close attention to the way she handled this obviously stressful test of a 90 minute debate with a formidable adversary.

          She passed it with flying colors. Her demeanor remained calm throughout, she frequently smiled in a genuine manner, her thought processes were coherent and her memory appeared to be good. She had carefully prepared herself, and as she said not only for this task, but that of the presidency. This should put to rest the diagnoses of Parkinsonism as well as sixth nerve palsy, for which I likewise found no evidence. But this leaves her intermittent “fainting spells” unexplained. She does seem to suffer from some type of episodic disorder which is not accounted for by “dehydration” or “pneumonia,” as advanced by her personal physician.

          Let us remember: she is 69 years of age and on Coumadin, a blood thinner.  This carries the risk of bleeding with hemorrhage in the brain as the most serious side effect. A person with this type of history should not be elected to the presidency of this country, especially in these perilous times. Americans don’t like to “look back,” but knowledge of history is essential to prevent future disasters. Woodrow Wilson was 62 years old when he suffered a stroke that incapacitated him for the rest of his presidency. The country was essentially run by his wife who ferociously guarded access to her disabled husband. This prevented Wilson from getting his pet project, the League of Nations, ratified by Congress. It is an open question how America might have changed the course of history had the League become a functioning organ for world health instead of a debating society.

           The 63 year old President Roosevelt was seriously ill at the time of the Yalta Conference in 1945 that sealed the fate of Europe for the next half century. Because of already existing health issues, beyond his poliomyelitis, he had been advised not to run for a third term. But with his stamina he thought he could, in Hillary’s words, “power through it.” These mental blinders even prevented him from informing his Vice-President, Harry Truman, about the major issues including the work on the atomic bomb. The office was thrust upon Truman unawares and he did the best job he could thereafter. Roosevelt’s conduct was irresponsible because all of us arrange our private affairs, especially in advanced age, for the benefit of our family and other heirs. Should this not be essential for the person who is not only responsible for the family’s well-being but the fate of the country and the world?

          From all the issues Hillary has deftly deflected attention, health is the most critical one and we, the voting public, need an accurate accounting. It was not brought up by the moderator but will undoubtedly surface in one of the two subsequent debates. To put all rumors to rest, Hillary should have a complete medical and neurologic work-up at one of our leading medical centers and all the results need to be published. Contenders for the presidency have forfeited the right to privacy because their actions directly influence the lives of all of us. This applies in equal measure to Donald Trump. A few days away from the campaign trail in a hospital, to accomplish all the necessary tests, would be time well spent and show that the candidates are in fact concerned about the well-being of the voters rather than just spouting pious phrases about the good they will do when elected. This would be the reasonable thing to do, but politicians are not known for putting reason above the will to power.

          Donald Trump had a different task last Monday. His poll numbers were rising, not necessarily because he was an attractive choice but probably because of Hillary’s woes. He needed to show himself “presidential” similar to his appearance with the Mexican President earlier last month. He was advised to stay calm, explain the reasons why a Hillary Presidency would be a disaster and not let her needling get “under his skin.” He was apparently also told to be respectful of her gender and refrain from bullying.

He did not do well. He came across as unprepared and thought that he could “wing it.” Apart from that he made several mistakes. First of all he stumbled on the gender issue. While he addressed Hillary first as “Madame Secretary” and subsequently as “Secretary Clinton” she did not reciprocate with Mr. Trump, but Donald. At this point he could have changed the tone of his address, called her Hillary, and stated outright that gender will not be a point in this race. This would have established equal turf and cleared the air once and for all. Instead he brought the topic up in a tangential manner at the end of the debate when he first said that she neither has the looks nor the stamina of a president. He quickly corrected himself on the “looks” issue but persisted with lack of stamina, which was clearly wrong because she has plenty of it. The issue is not whether or not we should elect a woman as president. Most Americans have no problem with that; it’s only this particular woman we have misgivings about. Character is and should be the issue, not gender. But Trump’s pretended respect for Hillary, as shown by the appellation of Secretary Clinton, was not genuine. Next day on the campaign trail it was back to “crooked Hillary.” 

Hillary’s body language was appropriate for the circumstances and she even attempted to portray Miss Sunshine. Trump’s was that of the person we saw on campaign events. The split screen images did him no favor. When Hillary was talking he tended to revert to his usual squint, which does not make him more endearing, and intermittently there was a smirk on his lips. He also kept interrupting Hillary’s allegations with “wrong, wrong.” This was ineffective. He should have made a note of each statement he objected to and if she went over her allotted time ask the moderator to give him the same amount for point by point refutation. He must have known that these issues would come up and should have been ready with the answers. His conduct was not “presidential” and regardless what the media pundits say it is not likely to win him undecided voters.

So far I have concentrated on the physical aspects of the candidates as they came across on the screen because these influence the judgment of viewers. The much vaunted “issues” play a secondary role. When it came to those both candidates merely rehashed their campaign speeches, with the few key words we have repeatedly heard. Trump was especially perseverative. He also made the mistake of readily taking Hillary’s or the moderator’s bait as for instance with the race issue for not renting to minorities in the 70s, and joining the “birthers” who claimed that President Obama was not entitled to the presidency because he had not been born in the United States. He tried to put the blame on the Democrats for the latter, but people don’t care about who started this particular piece of nonsense. In addition, as one of my sons pointed out in a recent conversation, it goes beyond race. It is a constitutional matter that was also raised for George Romney’s (Mitt’s father) presidential run, McCain’s and most recently Ted Cruz’s.

Racial bias is, however, a major issue that requires intelligent discussion above and beyond the “law and order” mantra. Different people will have different opinions on the topic which depend to some extent where they live and with whom they interact on a daily basis. Let me now provide a few personal examples. When we bought our first house in Grosse Pointe in 1957 the area was not only “Lily white” but even Jews could not move there. My Jewish physician colleagues had to buy either in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills or the “Village,” an affluent historic section near downtown Detroit. Sailors could not join any of the Yacht Clubs but had to found their own. The situation began to change for Jews in the late 60s and when we now say “race” African-American citizens are mainly meant. As a result of the riots in the late 1960s there was “white flight” to the suburbs, but for our family that was something one read about in the newspapers and magazines. The nursing staff at the Lafayette Clinic in downtown Detroit, where I was in charge of Neurology and EEG, was African-American and the head nurse had an additional dose of Sioux in her genes which made her an excellent administrator. All of us had mutual respect for each other and race was no problem.

Thus, I thought that we were above bias but it was not entirely true. On Saturdays we used to intermittently go downtown to a movie and I vividly recall the feeling of one evening. It was in 1971 and the movie was “Willard.” We were slightly late and the auditorium was already dark when we entered. When the lights came back on after the movie we found out that we were the only white family in the entire audience. People stared at us, we stared at them and I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Some unconscious deep fear of “the other” had come to awareness. Nothing happened, nobody bothered us, but it was a lesson for life. We were not aware that Detroit had profoundly changed and since we are not integrationists who are out to make political statements that was the last movie night in Detroit for us. I had learned the truth of the proverb: birds of a feather flock together.

One more anecdote and its counterpart are also revealing. While working at the University of Michigan’s EEG laboratory in 1957 its Chief, Dr. Bagchi, took a six month sabbatical to study the EEG of Yogis in his home country, India. I was in charge of the lab for that period and when the secretary left I had to hire a replacement. A pleasant, competent African-American applied and I hired her without any second thought. When Dr. Bagchi returned he was obviously miffed and I was not immediately aware of the reason. Later on I was told that Indians had at that time a bias against “Blacks.”

The corollary happened in the late 1980s when I was in charge of Harper Hospital’s Clinical Neurophysiology laboratory. In one particular year I had two physicians in training with one from Pakistan, who appeared white, and the other from southern India who was ebony black. The interaction between these two physicians was quite interesting, with the Pakistani looking down on the Indian. On occasion I had to intervene and remind the Pakistani that we are in America rather than Asia. But this was not all. The Indian, a very kind and compassionate person, had wanted to buy a house in one of the western Detroit suburbs but was rejected because he was taken for “Black.” Needless to say he was deeply hurt and gave up on the idea of staying in this country at the end of his training. 

These are inconvenient truths to which one must add another. The feelings described above exist on both sides of the racial divide and when they are exploited for political reasons, to gain special privileges e.g. reparations for slavery, the majority of white people automatically bristle. Conscious attitudes have changed over the decades and housing barriers have largely fallen, but for the unconscious ones it will require more time. If we really want to change ourselves, and thereby our society, we must not shrink from this truth but face it and resolve to improve our conduct. The past cannot be undone and harping on it without considering the reasons for past conduct is harmful. The future is what we should be concerned about. But it can only lead to improvement if there is rigorous self-inspection on both sides of the divide with the goal of mutual respect and the avoidance of past mistakes.

Due to my profession we have always lived in the somewhat more affluent suburbs rather than inner cities and I can, therefore, not render an opinion on what life is like for the majority of our African-American citizens who want to make a decent living under adverse circumstances. I have mentioned this issue in “Barack  Obama’s Problem” (July 2008). Since it is highly relevant for Trump’s law and order cure I’ll re-insert it here:


Malcolm [X] had once said: “What is the name of a black PhD walking at night in a white neighborhood? Nigger!” Or as Reverend Wright, who also has a PhD, had put it to Obama on their first meeting: “We don’t buy into these class divisions here. It’s not about income, Barack, cops don’t check my bank account when they pull me over and make me spread-eagle against the car.”  


          These day to day experiences of the black community in our inner cities are real and we must listen to reasonable voices for reasonable changes. The solutions advocated by either party have failed, and the inner cities are again about to explode with the furor of the sixties. It may well become worse because youth unemployment is rampant. Trump’s visit to black churches and listening to the concerns of the members was a good start but following up with endorsing the “frisk law” will not solve the problem.

          We can skip over the other domestic issues of the debate such as immigration because the positions of the candidates are well known and they simply repeated their campaign slogans. In regard to job creation Trump wants us to believe that lower tax rates for businesses and import taxes on American wares produced abroad will stimulate the overall economy and that this money can be used to repair our decaying infrastructure. This is likely to remain a fantasy especially if defense spending is increased as both candidates have promised to do. By exclusively blaming outsourcing by American companies to factories abroad where there are cheaper wages, no health insurance costs and no vacation or pension payments, he ignores another even more important outsourcing for which we have as yet found no cure. I am talking about automation where we human beings progressively outsource ourselves to computers. Their labor is likewise cost-free and their massive spread, that already has invaded all aspects of life, is bound to continue. Millions of jobs will be lost right here, unemployment will soar and with it social unrest. We won’t need Muslim terrorists to create havoc; we are creating a social scene that will make it inevitable. This is what intelligent politicians should address because this is the looming future, which inevitably has to impact on race relationships. But since there are no ready answers for this impending crisis, time is frittered away on political infighting.

          There were other key aspects of the debate where both candidates missed the boat. They deal with an American fact of life that is known but not allowed to be talked about. Hillary as well as Trump agreed that the nuclear issue is an overriding concern and even more urgent than climate change. While the latter proceeds slowly but inexorably, a nuclear disaster can hit us tomorrow. It could be inflicted with a “dirty bomb” by a rogue terror unit that is unaffiliated with a recognized nation state or we can drift into it in the way Europe drifted into WWI. The dirty bomb, would be a local issue and although hundreds if not thousands may die it would not alter the structure of the country unless we permitted it. As I said in regard to 9/11, it was not the event itself that caused the subsequent misery of millions of people but our response to it. A rational approach would have been to immediately start a criminal investigation, but instead the tragedy was exploited for ulterior purposes thereby unleashing much greater disasters. When one extrapolates from this event it is safe to predict that if a major terrorist attack were again to occur, with significant loss of life and property, martial law would be declared and the last vestiges of our freedom would be gone. There exists a faction within our country that aspires to despotism and it will exploit whatever opportunity may arise.

          The dirty bomb may initially be the lesser of the two evils the nuclear issue presents, although it is likely to lead subsequently to the grater one: outright nuclear war between us and our adversaries. Kim Jong Un of North Korea is an international pariah and we are told that his nuclear tipped rockets are about to hit our West Coast. I regard this as propagandistic nonsense because he has not shown suicidal tendencies. To the contrary he seems to love life and it appears that he uses his nukes to warn us off from our favorite task of “regime change,” which we repeatedly promised him. He learned from Saddam Hussein’s as well as Muammar Kaddafi’s example what we do with countries that give up their nuclear ambitions, or actual arsenal, when they subsequently don’t toe Washington’s line. In my opinion Kim wants to keep his job and the good life. If we were to continue with the status quo for a while longer his regime is likely to implode similar to the Soviet Union. Starving one’s people forever, does not succeed forever.

          These considerations lead to the key question of “first strike” that was brought up at the end of the debate by the moderator. The question was directed to both candidates:


HOLT …. On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation's longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current policy? Mr. Trump, you have two minutes on that.

TRUMP: …. We are not -- we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table.

CLINTON: Well, let me -- let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America's word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I've talked with a number of them. But I want to -- on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good….

For the rest of her two minutes she went on in a similar vein without ever answering the question. Yet we need and deserve an answer because it is crucial and has to do with preventive war. Uncertainty should not persist because our adversaries will take note and may employ the first strike option before we do. This is literally a matter of life and death for humanity. Our current policy as enunciated by the Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, on September 27, 21016 is: “The doctrine of nuclear deterrence that leaves open the possibility of launching a "’first strike’" before an enemy attacks, will remain the basis of U.S. policy even as new generations of nuclear weapons are introduced. This is not “deterrence,” but the road to mutual suicide because Russia has already responded in the same manner. This situation puts us one accident away from disaster and it should no longer be allowed to persist. While we can do nothing about rogue factions and their dirty bomb, the first strike option should be completely off the table for nation states and this position should be anchored in law by the United Nations. The survival of civilized humanity is at stake.

Hillary’s reply brought to mind, however, the crucial problem which American diplomacy over the past half century has bestowed on us. We have ignored the farewell advice of our Founding Father, George Washington, who had admonished us to stay out of European entanglements. Through NATO, SEATO and other treaties we now have defense obligations for a host of countries that can involve us in a major war at a moment’s notice. These are the implications when Hillary said that “our word is good.” We also have ignored President Eisenhower’s warning in regard to the dangers the “military-industrial complex” presents to our society. It now has assumed proportions, which not only no longer enhance our security but instead threaten to destroy us. We have allowed a monster to grow in our midst that can no longer be tamed and is bound to grow further, regardless of who wins in November.

This brings me to Trump’s mantra of Making America Great Again. He seems to have the country of the 1940s and 1950s in mind without realizing that the world has profoundly changed since that time. These years were an anomaly because the major industrial centers in Europe and Japan had been destroyed, China was involved in a civil war and Israel had not yet assumed the role it plays today. Trump brought up the fact that he had met with Netanyahu and the latter “was not a happy camper,” probably over the Iran nuclear treaty. But let us be realistic who feels threatened by Iran’s nukes if and when they decided to get them? They won’t send them against us, Russia, China etc. If they were to use them at all, which is not necessarily likely because they may want them for defense rather than offense, it would be against Israel who is, as we are repeatedly told, our staunchest friend and ally. But is this really the case?

When we look carefully, we find that this friendship is predominantly a unilateral one on our part. The Israeli government needs our support, but is perfectly willing to pursue its own policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. They live by Moshe Dayan’s maxim: “The Americans give us money, they give us weapons and they give us advice. We take the money and the weapons but ignore the advice.”  In the 1950s Eisenhower could pressure the Israelis to give up the Sinai and return to the pre-June 1967 borders. This changed in 1967 under Lyndon Johnson’s aegis when our naval intelligence ship the “Liberty” was attacked in international waters with significant losses of American lives. The event was hushed up by the press and there were no adverse repercussions for Israel.

Officially our government has continued to decry the steady continuation of West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law, but we still give Israel’s government money, supposedly for defense, which promptly goes into further settlement building. This policy of Israel, which has persisted since the 1967 war, has unleashed the killings during the Munich Olympiad and the hijackings of planes by Palestinians who tried to raise the world’s awareness to their plight. The efforts were useless and the Israeli government continues to paint itself in the colors of innocent victimhood.

Over the years AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and some of our Jewish billionaires have successfully hijacked Congress as well as the election for major office to an extent that candidates, including presidential ones, now have to tailor their policies to the wishes of the Likud government and its local supporters in our country. The Israeli position is perfectly understandable from their point of view, but why we should give up our freedom of action for their sake is not. While it is noble to help a friend in need, it is silly to provide an alcoholic with drink even if he is one’s friend. Instead, one has to show one’s friend the error of his ways and if he persists in his conduct, for whatever reason, it’s time to part ways. Not a single one of our presidents, starting with Johnson, had this moral courage. It has become even more difficult now as the $38 billion Obama promised Netanyahu last month prove. It seems likely that he may actually have been blackmailed by Netanyahu who may have threatened to “go rogue” with destroying Iran’s nuclear program.

Hillary as well Trump also have shown their bona fides to Bibi by assuring him that Jerusalem is indeed the eternal  capital of the Jewish people und our embassy would be moved there from Tel Aviv where it currently resides with that of other countries. This move would add fuel to Muslim anger at us and is a sure recipe for the continued growth and well-being of our military-industrial complex. I would greatly appreciate it if Mr. Trump would explain to us in one of the forthcoming debates how he intends to Make America Great Again in the foreign arena when we have allowed our country to be tied down like Gulliver by Lilliputians, but this is not going to happen.

In regard to national security the moderator had also raised the question of cybersecurity which will indeed become an increasingly important issue. We no longer need bombs to inflict serious harm on other countries; we can do it in cyberspace. The candidates agreed that this is a problem and as usual blamed Russia for nefariousness. They should have talked about the documentary Zero Days which demonstrates that we, jointly with the Israelis, started cyberwar with a computer virus that blew up the Iranian centrifuges. While we were still perfecting the method the Israelis put a cruder version to use that infected not only the Iranian targets but other installations around the world. The documentary ought to be watched by everybody because cyberwarfare will affect all of us and “Stuxnet” was simply the beginning. This type of warfare by nation states needs to be outlawed just as chemical weapons were and atomic ones should be.

In summary: Trump has not only lost the debate but probably also a significant portion of the American people. I am saying this, although there are still two debates during which he could rectify his mistakes. But his post-debate conduct, including an interview with Bill O’Reilly, showed that he seems incapable of learning. He suffered from logorrhea, where ill-considered words came streaming from his mouth in a torrent, and he appeared to be under such internal pressure that he ignored the wishes of the interviewer to stay with the question at hand. Instead he kept reciting what we have heard a dozen times. We witnessed, what I believe, is the “real Donald Trump.”

As it stands right now he is going to lose the election because it is not a two but a four person race. The voters who are disenchanted with both of the leading candidates are going to endorse either Gary Johnson’s Libertarian or Jill Stein’s Green Party, unless they stay home altogether. Since neither Johnson nor Stein can win outright this will give the race to Hillary Clinton and, barring unforeseen circumstances, we are likely to see a replay of 1992 when Ross Perot became Bill Clinton’s enabler.

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