H. Brandt Ayers: Taking out the trash
Nov 25, 2012 | 4655 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Jan. 30, 2010 photo, Natalie Khawam, left, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott and Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade from the comfort of a tent on the Kelley's front lawn in Tampa, Fla. Photo: The Tampa Bay Times, Amu Scherzer/Associated Press
In this Jan. 30, 2010 photo, Natalie Khawam, left, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott and Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade from the comfort of a tent on the Kelley's front lawn in Tampa, Fla. Photo: The Tampa Bay Times, Amu Scherzer/Associated Press
Cable news brings us a picture of a losing party forming a circular firing squad to fire at those responsible for the loss, and it has launched the great ship scandal whose giant propellers are tearing up lives in Tampa, Fla.

Recriminations, back-biting, suspicion and innuendo are loose in the land. It remains for those of us centered in a state of reality to extract and save what is humane and true — the rest can be taken out with the trash.

Let’s begin with the aftermath of the election. It obviously was deeply painful for Mitt Romney, his terrific wife, Ann, and his fine boys to feel they were so close but lost. Then, to watch moderates and right-wingers, fair-weather friends, all, scurrying over the sides like rats deserting a sinking ship.

It was sad, too, for those of us who came to think of Romney as able, moral and deep-down moderate, twisted into contradictory positions by ideological zealots of the right, only to discover he really believed some of that stuff.

Some of us thought he was just telling wealthy potential donors what they wanted to hear at the private fundraiser in Boca Raton. It turns out he believes every word of this:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

He confirmed his conviction that America is a plurality of whiners and moochers in his post-election analysis when he said that everyone who voted to re-elect the president did so because Barack Obama had given them government “gifts.”

Romney’s sadly twisted understanding of his country doesn’t fit the reality of an all-black town in Calhoun County, where enterprising community leaders raised $100,000 from state and local foundations to turn a local park into a pleasure land for children and local residents.

Hobson City has no industry or retail base but it does have industrious citizens. For the first phase of the park-improvement project, new playground equipment, 50 volunteers showed up to help.

Perhaps it was the gauze of Romney’s wealth that blinded him to community chambers of commerce, united fund campaigns, cancer drives and the busy-buzzing activity of a thousand volunteer community projects in towns and cities.

There is one good bit of political news to emerge: the Tea Party, which has stalled the engine of government, is now dead last in a CBS survey of popularity, regarded more poorly even than atheists.

Now, let’s all rub our hands in anticipation as we delve into the realm of … Scandal. Frankly, I’m more saddened than titillated by the David Petraeus affair. His situation is a classic Greek tragedy, the tale of a great man brought low by a minor flaw in his character.

Cable TV has endlessly told the story of his relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. This disclosure of the affair forced the former four-star general to resign as director of the CIA.

The great ship scandal, its decks crowded with TV and print reporters and paparazzi lurking amidship, has now carved through the life of an innocent victim, a pretty Tampa woman who was active in military and community relations.

Jill Kelley reportedly precipitated the scandal by innocently answering hectoring emails from Broadwell, who suspected Kelley might be a competitor for the attention of her lover, Gen. Petraeus.

Perhaps Broadwell had seen pictures, real pictures like the ones splashed throughout a major “expose” in the London Daily Mail. The picture was of Kelley, her twin sister, her husband, the general and Mrs. Petraeus. Scandalous!!!

The picture was taken in front of “socialite” Kelley’s “mansion,” a nice house with pillars that in Anniston would look much like the other houses on Glenwood Terrace or Montvue, whose owners wouldn’t dare speak of as mansions.

What cable TV and the scandal-starved UK press don’t tell the world is: how normal it is in military towns for there to be multiple ties between prominent local citizens and military brass. In fact, they’re encouraged.

When Anniston was home to Fort McClellan, my dad was chairman of the military relations committee of the Chamber of Commerce. On Christmas morning, senior officers from the fort would come to our house for a glass of “cheer.”

Mother was guilty of the only “incident.” She couldn’t identify insignia of rank, so she called everyone “colonel;” the colonels expected it and the majors were pleased, but a stuffy, retired lieutenant general wasn’t amused.

If there is a message in this little essay, it is this: National political figures and national scandals can be better understood in the context of everyday life, and anything out of that context can be taken out with the trash.

H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.
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