Thursday, May 15, 2014

At one time, when a president made partisans of all stripes mad, the conventional wisdom was that he was doing his job well by giving and taking a little from everyone to find a middle ground. But as politics has turned into a blood sport -- conservatives call for another full investigation of Benghazi while liberals question President Obama's secrecy and a lack of transparency in how government operates under his administration, can we really be so sure?

Headlines in highly partisan websites raise the question if a Republican strategy to clog up vital functions of government would hurt the president's standing with the public, would that be reason to pursue that strategy?

In the upcoming "Dog on a Rope," an alternative reality in presidential politics comes into play -- both parties seek only to grab power for the sake of holding it, which is the ultimate quest in blood sport politics. The Republicans hold power through superior fundraising and continue to place candidates who will look presidential without considering reaching out to Democratic, Libertarian or Green parties. And the Democrats decide that the time is ripe for following a Ronald Reagan strategy -- elect a familiar figure who looks presidential, talks presidential and will deflect any criticism with an anecdote rich in simplistic takes on values. All the while, party hacks behind the scenes debate on how they will reward their financial backers, once they are elected.

The only flaw is that the Ronald Reaganesque Democrat tries to drive home a folksy image by chopping some wood on a warm spring day at his Missouri Ozarks cabin and suffers a stroke, incapacitating himself as the final primaries are in progress. And the current TV-handsome Republican president -- bogged down with bad decisions about the Iraq War as the 2008 election approaches reverts to his 1980s persona of a wealthy California party boy, deep into cocaine. One bad reaction to a relapse can be covered up, but on a trip to the western White House near Santa Barbara -- hewing to the party's Reagan roots -- and the stress and the strains lead to a fatal heart attack after he dismisses his White House staff following a briefing and prepares to meet later in the afternoon with his campaign staff.

His vice president, eager to start another war front in the Middle East, seizes this opportunity on the belief that voters will not switch leaders in war time -- another conventional wisdom that may or may not serve the best interests of Americans as a whole.

For the book's central character, Jay Dean Fine who is ending his quest to regain his moral compass and redefine how he will be responsible for his family two years after losing his job as a coach because of a cheating scandal, this backdrop of corrupted politics being accepted as the norm presents a stark contrast to his desire to rebuild his life by doing what is right for his family and community as a whole.  Do these disruptions on a national scene ripple through to his life as an individual? As a plot device, can his actions call into question our seemingly loss of government for the people rather than government for the special interests?

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