The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That completely unoriginal thought occurred to me the other evening while I was chatting with my teenage daughter. When I say "chatting," I actually mean that she was explaining to me that perhaps, just perhaps, I’m a bit too overprotective as a father.
I admit her explanation had merit; she’s a good kid, no prison record, preparing to enter high school, good grades and as respectful as any kid can be who has entered the tortuous early teen years. To her credit, she was simply pointing out that I do spend a good deal of my time all up in her wheelhouse asking what she’s up to, where’s she’s going, what she’s working on with the computer and who she’s hanging out with.
In the face of relentless teen-style logic and reasoning I was clearly flummoxed. And I say that only so I can use the word flummoxed in this column. My side of the discussion consisted of me listening intently with my best serious facial expressions (furrowed brow, squinty eyes and occasional head nods) and replying with the following responses, said in no particular order and repeated as often as allowed to get a word in;
--My job is to keep you safe…
--When you’re a parent you’ll understand what I’m talking about…
--By the way, don’t become a parent until you get a college education, establish a career, find a respectful and loyal man who I approve of and get married…
--The world, including Al Gore’s internet, is populated with an endless supply of dangerous freaks and psychos…
--My job is to keep you safe.
PWB readers with teenage children will instantly recognize this dialogue as the standard “I’m right-you’re not” discourse, sometimes referred to by parents as the “I know better-you don’t” philosophy. Teens, and there are PWB teenage subscribers, refer to this conversation as the “Dad’s a tool-I’m not” soliloquy.
Note the teen’s use of the word “soliloquy.” For the benefit of those PWB readers who failed to take advantage of their academic years, and there are some, the following definitions of soliloquy are provided: Speech you make to yourself, a (usually long) dramatic speech intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections; there is no real addressee but actual words are uttered.
So there I am, delivering my monologue to my daughter about all my hopes and dreams for her future… explaining how the world is a dangerous place and I need to be vigilant to protect her and see her safely through to adulthood.
Mind you, her finely tuned teenage sensors had already detected my incoming soliloquy and she managed to raise her deflector shields just in time.
It was then that my own parents rode to the rescue, teaching my daughter the lesson that I was struggling to get across. The chat with my daughter was interrupted by a phone call from Mom and Dad. They live on the other side of the country, are both 88 years old and have been married for 64 years.
I was planning on flying across the country the next morning to visit with them briefly and celebrate their 64th anniversary. They called me to say I shouldn’t come out because the weather was bad and the roads from the airport to their home would be slippery and dangerous. They had been sitting at home worrying about me driving from the airport to their house and decided I should cancel my trip.
I passed the phone over to my daughter and asked her to have her grandparents repeat why they had called. They explained that they were worried about their adult son, her Dad, former CIA officer and general gadabout, going out in the bad weather. She’s a smart kid, so the irony of the moment was not lost on her. It was the best parent-child teaching moment I’ve ever had.
I said goodnight to her, walked across the hallway, looked at my sleeping 8 month old son, and realized I would be having the same conversation in another 13 years or so. My parents likely won’t be around at that point to help me out, but by then I suspect I can count on my daughter to provide some back-up.
By the way, today is Super Tuesday. Frankly, I’m not convinced it ranks as super. I don’t even think it qualifies as swell. It would be super if it was actually the end of the election process and on Wednesday it was all over except for the inauguration.
I’ve mentioned before in previous PWB editions that the campaign season runs a tad too long for my liking. “Tad” of course is a metric measurement equaling approximately 10 to 12 months. Admittedly, starting the process so early and dragging it out for such a long period does have its benefits. It’s a financial windfall for campaign operatives, speech writers, think tank folks, public relations firms, pollsters, pundits, political authors and strategists. Anything to keep the economy humming I suppose.
I was watching some news coverage the other day, during the exciting build up to Super Tuesday, and found myself asking… “How does one become a Republican or Democratic Strategist?” Have you noticed how many there are? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone on television identified as a strategist for one party or the other. I have no idea what the dead cat has to do with anything.
But it does lead me to ask; do you have to be a paid employee of a campaign or a political party in order to qualify as a strategist? Is it a self appointed title? If there aren’t any difficult tests or academic qualifications involved, I’d like to start identifying myself as an Independent Strategist. It beats the hell out of what people normally call me.
Regardless, here we are on Super Tuesday. If you’re living in one of the super states, get out and vote. At least once. If you haven’t figured out with whom to cast your lot, and are confused over who is who, we offer up the following PWB Election Day Primer as a public service and a way to eat up some column space.
To provide at least the perception of impartiality, the PWB research team drew candidate names out of a wooly hat to determine the order in which the candidates would be listed in this primer. Candidates were also offered an opportunity to buy their way up the list by donating campaign funds to the PWB, but none had the business savvy to take us up on the offer. All information is rated somewhat to probably accurate while quotes are likely to be questionable at best.
Lots of experience, occasionally comes across as stern or cranky… served honorably in the U.S. military including over five years as a prisoner of war… 26 years in Congress and the Senate… some say he’s too old, but hey, he’s younger than my Mom and Dad… rabid conservatives get all frothy at the mouth explaining how McCain isn’t conservative enough… Ann Coulter hates him… do you need any other reason to vote for him?
Favorite quote: “Don’t be an ass, get out and vote for me.”
He’s the change guy… you want change, regardless of what that means, he’s the guy. Smart, charming, dresses well… two years as a U.S. Senator, spent time in Illinois state politics… some say he’s too young and inexperienced… since when are we casting votes based on experience and track record?
Favorite quote: “Change is good unless of course it fails to have the desired impact or screws up programs or policies that were okay to begin with… in which case change might suck.”
Successful businessman and former Massachusetts governor… made ton of coin from building and running Bain Capital, a private equity firm… some worry about his religion despite not knowing anything about Mormonism. Why would you give a crap what the candidate's religion is?
Favorite quote: “Washington is broke. I, on the other hand, am decidedly not broke.”
Former two-term First Lady and now two-term U.S. Senator… provokes irrational hatred among some members of the Republican Party... presumed front runner for many months, sort of like Rudy Giuliani being the presumed front runner for the Republicans-- that went well didn’t it?
Favorite quote: “This is an historic opportunity to send a woman to the oval office. If that doesn’t blow your skirt up, I don’t know what will.”
Popular former Arkansas governor who lost loads of weight eating Subway sandwiches… might have him confused with that Jerod guy… Baptist Minister… one-time front runner and media darling now relegated to distant third and supposed spoiler role… gets a bit churlish when called a spoiler.
Favorite quote: “If that Romney guy calls me a spoiler one more time I swear I’m gonna’ hand my delegates to McCain.”
So there you have it. We’ve pretty much distilled down all the essential issues and facts into something manageable. I suggest printing and laminating the above primer so you can take it into the voting booth with you; bringing in a crib sheet is not considered cheating.
And finally, the PWB’s Kreskin-like prediction for post-election developments. No matter who wins and ends up in the White House, we’ll still be mopping up the subprime mess, working to build up a new head of steam in the economy, struggling to stabilize Iraq for the long term, working with our allies to deal with the scourge of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, fretting about how to keep the homeland safe, looking to find alternative energy solutions, debating the immigration issue, calling each other names, lamenting the lack of bi-partisan effort, dealing with lobbyists and the Washington infrastructure and a host of other activities that don’t go away simply because of an election and some new faces occupying the White House and government offices.
My point? Let’s cut back on the histrionics and frothing at the mouth when discussing this candidate or that candidate. Regardless of who wins, the tendency is to move towards the middle. Rabid believers on the far sides of the spectrum will disagree, but frankly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.