The 2016 presidential campaign has morphed into an enthralling reality show with colorful and entertaining candidates that defy the imagination of a Hollywood scriptwriter.
Acknowledging the campaign’s inherent entertainment value, Showtime, the premium cable channel, has ordered a new “real-time” weekly documentary series aptly named, “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth” – scheduled to premiere Jan. 17 at 8 p.m.
Sadly, the presidential campaign’s great capacity for amusement obscures deep national discourse needed on many important problems. Chief among them are what I call three “time bomb” issues: infrastructure cyber-attacks, the U.S. government’s unfunded liabilities and apocalyptic Islam. All three are currently careening out of the government’s control with the potential to negatively impact, dramatically alter, or create tremendous chaos throughout our civil society.
Moreover, out on the campaign trail, during debates and in the media, no presidential candidates of either party is raising these issues to the degree warranted by their severity – if at all.
This reminds me of that now-classic line from the 1992 movie, “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson’s character, Marine Col. Nathan Jessup, yells, “You can’t handle the truth!”
The current political version of that statement is: “We all fear the truth.”
So what exactly is “the truth”? What follows is an attempt to answer that question with a brief explanation of these three time-bomb issues.
Back in September, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “Cyber-threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact.”
Clapper also warned about a hack with the potential for “a massive Armageddon-like-scale attack against our infrastructure.”
In May of 2015, FBI Director James Comey, addressing ISIS cyber-attacks, said, “I see them already starting to explore things that are concerning critical infrastructure, things like that. The logic of it tells me it’s coming, and so of course I’m worried about it.”
And in fact it did come – to Ukraine on Dec. 23. A first of its kind, massive infrastructure cyber-attack plunged hundreds of thousands of homes into darkness after three regional utilities were hacked. The Ukrainian Security Service blamed Russia for the outages.
How long then until Comey’s and Clapper’s worst fears are realized here at home?
Why isn’t there a major public/private national initiative underway to prevent such attacks?
Then ask yourself why this is not a hot-button issue on the presidential campaign trail and how the presidential candidates plan to address this dangerous issue?
U.S. government’s unfunded liabilities
If you want to see a real “ticking time bomb of doom” then look at the U.S. Debt Clock.
First, notice that the U.S. national debt is $18.8 trillion. (For the record it was $10.6 trillion on the day Obama was inaugurated.) But more alarming is an additional $100 trillion in U.S. unfunded liabilities – payments obligated by the government. As defined by the U.S. Treasury, this $100 trillion includes Social Security, Medicare parts A, B, and D, federal debt held by the public, plus federal employee and veteran benefits.
Continuing the alarm, the “Debt Clock Time Machine” estimates that in the year 2020, unfunded liabilities will reach $121 trillion.
By comparison, the chart pegs the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) at only $18.1 trillion. (Defined by the Congressional Budget Office as the market value of all goods and services made within the U.S. borders in one year.)
Now here is some math worth pondering: The GDP and national debt are both roughly $18 trillion, but the government “only” collects $3.3 trillion in annual taxes. Therefore, how can the government ever expect to pay over a $100 trillion in future obligations? Of course, it can’t! And that is the reason why these future obligations remained “unfunded.”
Are any candidates talking about this doomsday debt scenario? I can’t name one.
What exactly is apocalyptic Islam?
A concise description was from best-selling author Joel Rosenberg in his recent Jerusalem Post editorial headlined: “What the next U.S. president will need to know about Iran and Islamic State.” Rosenberg writes in part, “Adherents of apocalyptic Islam seek to use genocide to annihilate all infidels and establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate.
“The rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran are consumed by ancient Islamic prophecies that predict the end of the world as we know it. So are the rulers of Islamic State (IS). The former are Shiite. The latter are Sunni.
“Yet both believe their messiah – known as the ‘Mahdi’ (and to the Shiites as the ‘Twelfth Imam’ or ‘Hidden Imam’) – will appear on Earth at any moment.
“Both believe he will usher in the End of Days.
“Both are determined to hasten his coming.”
Rosenberg cites stunning Pew Center polling data indicating that this kind of “apocalyptic thinking is rampant throughout the Muslim world.”
Thus, America and her allies are not just waging a ground or air war to snuff out “radical Islam.” Rather, we are confronting an Islamic mission that can never be compromised.
According to Rosenberg, both Iran and the Islamic State have “very different strategies” to bring about the end of the world as we know it.
The Islamic State plans to provoke the Western powers and draw them into an apocalyptic battle in the Middle East. While Iran’s strategy, Rosenberg writes, is “when they are ready to commit genocide on an epic scale – annihilating America and Israel – then they can turn their attention to the establishment of the Islamic kingdom and the Mahdi will come.”
Obviously, this sounds like crazy talk to American ears, but not to the leaders of Iran and the Islamic State. They are brutally honest when writing, ranting and raving about their ultimate intentions based on these “end times” beliefs.
The truth is, so far, the U.S. government refuses to take any of this seriously.
Furthermore, no presidential candidate wants to invoke the “Mahdi” or the “Twelfth Iman” during a town-hall gathering, debate or media appearance without incurring severe backlash and risk being called a “nut case” across the media spectrum.
Instead what suffices for now are candidate’s talking points about fighting “Islamic terror” with targeted airstrikes and “boots” or “no boots” on the ground. But the real truth is apocalyptic Islam is now and will always drive the actions of the Islamic State and Iran. The question remains whether American leaders and presidential candidates can face that truth and act accordingly.
But what me worry? Because on Sunday “The Circus” is coming to my big screen! Now I can be entertained about how we choose our next president and forget about all these depressing time-bomb issues no candidate wants to talk about or knows how to solve.