The prevailing view is that “the” saying is “Too close to the trees to see the forest,” meaning that one bogged down in the unimportant details (the trees) will often miss the big picture (the forest). I submit the opposite is (also?) true: “Too close to the forest to see the trees,” meaning that one bogged down by too much information (the forest) will often miss the important details (the trees).
Consider Twitter, the social media phenomenon. As a wannabe “A-list” novelist, I’m told it’s important to be a presence, if not a force, on Twitter. So, first things first, I got myself a Twitter account, RonBarakAuthor. Think of it as buying a spiffy new bathing suit before going to the beach and hitting the surf. So far, so good, easy enough.
Next, then, I went to the beach and jumped in the water. That was not easy enough. Like being hit with a giant tsunami, I was confronted with thousands upon thousands of “tweets,” these short, cute little messages that anyone should be able to follow and understand, 140 characters or less. How difficult could that be? Well, the answer was “Incredibly difficult!” Why? Because there are too many of them. Way too many of them. I was drowning in a “sea” of messages, too many to follow any of them no matter how succinct they were.
It didn’t take long to learn that I was being blinded by all the light and needed a pair of sunglasses to protect my eyes. Filters as it were. Fortunately, Twitter accommodates, with something called “Lists.” Identify whose tweets you’d like to see and all the other tweets vanish from your screen. For example, if you want to know what your favorite authors are saying, put them on a List, choose that list when you log in to Twitter and only their tweets will appear. Ditto if you want to know what your favorite political pundits are tweeting.
However, this is also not a blog about social media. So, why all the talk about Twitter Lists? Because there is an important lesson to be learned from Twitter Lists: Filters. Filters are helpful. Filters are important.
This is a blog about the 2016 Presidential race–and the value of filters. More precisely about the lack thereof. The forest that makes it difficult for us to see those important trees. Okay, enough prattle. On to the meat of it.
Let’s consider four prominent Presidential candidates, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump (alphabetical order, you’ll note, no hints at who I might or might not actually like or dislike, that’s not the subject of this blog).
There have been lots of recent headlines that Ben Carson is . . . a liar. And that Marco Rubio can’t manage . . . his checkbook. On the rise in the polls, Carson and Rubio are now being increasingly vetted by the media (our fearless leaders, how ever could we manage without them?). But they are relatively new to the scene. The pickings are slim.
Carson has been found to be somewhat “loose” with his words, claiming to have been incorrigible in his youth to show how far he has come when there is no evidence to back up that he ever was a toughie, and claiming to have been “invited” to attend West Point for his college education when in fact he was not. Rubio has indeed been found to be a poor manager of his personal finances in past years. Oh, horrors!
In the grand scheme of things, as I will momentarily point out (hang in there!), these things are not really all that extreme when it comes to prospective Presidential shortcomings. So, why do Carson and Rubio get all the attention they are now getting (aside from the fact that they are climbing in the polls)? Answer: Filters (more precisely, the lack of need for filters). There is apparently not really all that much “scandal” in the lives of Carson and Rubio to pick on, or to pick up on. So the media grabs onto Carson’s little white “lies” (just routine exaggerations we unfortunately have to endure when it comes to all of our Presidential candidates) and Rubio’s youthful financial “indiscretions” (really more commonplace excesses than indiscretions).
Interestingly, Clinton and Trump, who are each objectively far more vulnerable than either Carson or Trump, seem to be receiving far less criticism in the press than either Carson or Rubio. Why is that (aside from the fact that some claim that the media elite are simply pro-Hillary)? Again, the answer: Lack of filters.
First, Hillary Clinton (still in alphabetical order, folks). So many instances to criticize in a long (and distinguished?) career that somehow none receive any media attention. Like too many tweets to digest without Twitter List filters. Consider:
When Bill Clinton was President, he tasked Hillary with the reform our health care system (even though she held no elected or appointed office). After spending approximately $13 million in taxpayer money on studies, promotions and other efforts, she was unable pass any reform in a Democratic controlled Congress under her husband’s thumb.
Not dissuaded by Hillary’s unimpressive healthcare performance, Bill next empowered Hillary to select his Attorney General. Her first two selections were Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood – both thereafter quickly forced to withdraw their names from consideration for personal indiscretions. Her third choice, Janet Reno, was appointed and went on to make the decision to gas David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, resulting in the death of dozens of women and children. Bill would later characterize Reno (or was it Hillary?) as his single greatest mistake.
Bill also allowed Hillary to recommend Lani Guanier to head the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission. Guanier’s nomination had to be withdrawn when her radical views were exposed.
Hillary also persuaded Bill to appoint her former law partner, Web Hubbel to the third ranking position in the Justice Department. Convicted of wire fraud and mail fraud for previously overbilling clients of his and Hillary’s law firm, Hubbel was imprisoned and forced to resign from the Justice Department.
Do you recall “Travelgate”? Hillary wanted to fill the position of quietly handing out White House travel contracts to a friend of hers without customary vetting. When the White House Travel Office refused to comply, Hillary allegedly caused them to be reported to the FBI on various charges, and fired. Jobs After a 36-month investigation, during which careers and reputations were ruined, on top of jobs lost, only one former White House employee was charged with any crime, embezzlement, for supposedly mixing personal and White House funds. The jury acquitted the accused of the charges. (Many, but not all, of the individuals fired did ultimately receive other jobs.) In stark contrast, when Bill and Hillary were criticized for wrongfully taking some $200,000 in China and other personal property with them when they left the White House, they quickly and quietly returned over half of the items taken and no one charged them with embezzlement, or anything else.
Accused of lying under oath during the White House Special Prosecutor hearings investigating the likes of “White Water,” one of the earlier Clinton ethical controversies, Bill was impeached by Congress and disbarred from the practice of law. Hillary, apparently wiser than Bill, avoided lying under oath by repeatedly denying any recollection: “And your middle name?” “I don’t recall.”
Now there is the possible destruction of potentially incriminating emails while Hillary was Secretary of State and the “pay to play” allegations concerning the Clinton Foundation. And then there is the apparent dismissal of any possible wrongdoing on Hillary’s part in the Benghazi debacle, more out of an ineptness on the part of her Republican adversaries who led that investigation than out of any demonstrated lack of misdeeds on Hillary’s part.
Turning to “the” Donald, he seems, at least for the moment, also to be enjoying the Presidential vetting season more as a spectator than as a target. Why is that?
Unlike Carson, Trump is incapable of “inflating” his resume when his entire campaign is one of hyperbolic inflation on steroids to begin with! Unlike Rubio, how does one accuse Trump of mishandling his checkbook when he himself brags of using the bankruptcy laws to bilk hapless investors, and when he preys on gambling addicts and low income people to partake of his many casino and other ventures? How can one question a “leader” who is so incapable of shame or embarrassment?
To be sure, this is not a blog intended to attack Hillary or the Donald. This is not a matter of whether they are guilty as (not) “charged.” The charges may be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of their opponents. And it goes without saying that they have “answers,” credible or not, for all of the charges that might be leveled at them. Certainly, I wouldn’t presume to find them guilty with my limited resources and demonstrated facts.
Why they are not being “charged” or vetted by the media which is so meticulously and “responsibly” pointing out Carson’s and Rubio’s vulnerabilities is perhaps due to a lack of filters, that the media, and the voters, are simply too close to the trees to see the forest. Or too close to the forest to see the trees. And because the devil you don’t know may be worse than the devil you do know.
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