Friday, November 16, 2012

How Fitting: Petraeus and Ding Dongs

Funny how some weeks can develop their own theme.

For President Obama, if he'd been hoping for any sort of political honeymoon after his re-election, this has been a week and a half when he's had to kiss that wish goodbye.

First came the sensational resignation of General Petraeus from the CIA.  Then came renewed suspicions over Benghazi, and then an air assault between Hamas and Israel - both Tweeted and otherwise.  Then today, Hostess announced plans to go out of business due to a union strike.

And some people feared our election's results would spell the end of the world as we know it!

Might as well stop construction on those towering inauguration grandstands in DC, boys.  What's there to party about?

Private Eyes Are Watching You

Indeed, plenty of questions remain to be sorted out regarding when Obama's administration knew about Petraeus' affair with Paula Broadwell; whether legislators should have known about it, and if so, when; and the extent to which other personnel contributed to the PR disaster continuing to unfold with the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, a Tampa socialite, and a celebrated FBI agent.

In a way, it's almost quaint for America's media and the public to be as supposedly aghast over this story as they've been.  Considering the values upon which Obama won a second term - values decidedly to the left of things like marital fidelity - you'd have thought the country would have rolled over and hit its proverbial snooze button upon hearing that a retired general had committed adultery.

Then again, it's surprising this many Americans apparently knew who Petraeus was before this scandal broke.  It's not like he was a regular on TMZ - at least, before last Friday.

Does this mean that conservative values still play a critical role in how our society expects its leaders to behave?  Or simply that people as powerful as Petraeus and buxom as Broadwell can still draw a crowd when they don't pass like ships in the night?

To the extent that after word of his affair broke, Petraeus' testimony on what happened in Benghazi, Libya, this past September 11 appeared compromised, plenty of pundits came out of the woodwork to accuse the Obama administration of staging the sex scandal as a diversion.  Turns out, however, things were unfolding quite nicely without the President's involvement, especially as we've now learned some intriguing details.  A Florida doctor's statuesque wife and another general - who'd exchanged tons of e-mails with the socialite - had asked the FBI to track down some other e-mails of a threatening nature.  E-mails that uncovered the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell.  Having a veteran counterterrorism FBI agent pursue this e-mail part of the story even after his supervisors thought he was too personally involved in the case only adds to its salaciousness.  As do the alleged money woes being suffered by this supposedly wealthy doctor and his apparently high-maintenance wife.  It's almost as though you need a scorecard to keep track of this story.

Suffice it to say that if generals have this much fun away from the battlefield, why should we feel as sorry for them as we do?  If this had been just another politician's indiscretion, and it was a slow news day, the press would still have beaten as much pulp out of this story as they possibly could, but how fascinated by it all would the general public have been?  Does it make a difference this time that generals are involved, and at least one of them is supposed to be in charge of one of the most vilified wars in recent American history?  Plenty of Americans want us to have pulled out of that quagmire yesterday.  Knowing that the guy who used to be in charge had been flirting with a gorgeous biographer, and that the guy who replaced him has been flirting with gorgeous women in beachfront Florida, doesn't exactly translate to moral support for the troops still being killed almost daily back at the war.

What does it say about the CIA that it took an investigation by an unsuspecting FBI agent, responding to a personal inquiry, to discover that the head of the CIA had been having an affair?

Tweeting a War in Real Time?

And speaking of war, all you-know-what may be on the verge of breaking out between Israel and Hamas.  Certainly not what that part of the world needs right now, nor what our administration needs, either.  One of the reasons conservatives continue to be wary of Obama involves his lack of a definite pattern of support for Israel, something many evangelicals - and even liberal Jews - insist needs to be a solid fixture of American foreign affairs.

Believers in Christ are encouraged in the Bible to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem," but as history has proven, peace is elusive - and likely impossible - in that hotly-contested bit of real estate.  For as many people who champion the rights of Israel, an equal number rise up and accuse Israel of being the aggressor towards the Muslims in Gaza, being represented - whether they want to be or not - by Hamas.

What's different this time is Israel's use of social media to broadcast their attacks, a precedent that provoked more that a few curious shout-outs on Facebook and Twitter by ordinary netizens who were reacting to what they thought were sick spoofs - or hacked accounts from Israel's military forces.  To learn that the tweets and images were legit introduced a normally detached Internet population to an eerie realization that real-time war might be coming online faster than we want.

Talk about your virtual reality.

Ding Dong, the Twinkie's Dead

Then today, it became official:  Hostess is pulling the plug on some of America's most iconic snack foods.  Corporate leaders at the "bakery" - and that term is used in the loosest sense of the word - couldn't reach an agreement with one of their unions, so brand names like Twinkies and Ding Dongs will be sold off to the highest bidder, and over 18,000 Hostess employees will lose their jobs.

Not that the company's bankruptcy comes as a great surprise.  It'd been on life support since January, after unsuccessfully reestablishing itself in the marketplace following its first bankruptcy - a 4-year slog begun in 2004.  CEO Gregory Rayburn admitted that while the union's intransigence on a new contract was the final nail in Hostess' coffin, the end had been building for years due to all sorts of mis-management and the growing awareness among us consumers that Twinkies and Ding Dongs have a longer shelf life than we do.

So, while the diets of many Americans will actually benefit from Hostess' demise, the real story here is the fallacy sold to thousands of union employees that being put out of work is somehow better than reduced benefits and wages - but, oh yeah, you get to keep your job.  Of the 18,500 people who will be losing their jobs, only 5,000 were represented by the union that balked at saving the company.

Sure, some executives at Hostess have made out like bandits as the company has struggled, but is that really worth tanking the enterprise?  What kind of point does this union's arrogance and envy make?  Sure, the company was selling $2 billion worth of product a year, but nobody was predicting profits would continue rising, as costs continue to climb, peoples' eating habits continue to evolve, and new foods come on the market.  82 years is a long time for any "bakery" to stay in business doing things the same ol' way.  And companies willing to keep their manufacturing in North America, instead of farming the work out to Central America or Asia, are rare to nil these days.

It's not like having these foods made in China and shipped across the ocean will have any impact on their "freshness."

So, who will be the first to blame Hostess' demise on Michelle Obama's campaign for healthier lifestyles among kids?  Mrs. O likely hates the fact that 18,500 people are losing their jobs, but she's probably elated that these snack foods will disappear from store shelves.  At least, for a while.  Considering the public outcry today over the fate of Hostess' stable of ridiculously unhealthy brands, who can discount the likelihood that we'll be seeing them again, thanks to new investors willing to bank on consumers' appetite for things we know aren't good for us.

Along with tales of adultery, conspiracy theories, and real Twitter wars.

No matter how you cut it, Obama's win hasn't yet translated into much happiness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Mitt Romney may still be nursing a lot of disappointment after his loss, but he can't be entirely sad that these developments aren't his problem.

And frankly, they're only problems for Obama in that they fall under his purview as our country's chief executive.  At least he doesn't have to go home tonight and face Mrs. Petraeus.  Or Broadwell's children.

However, if the Missus is about the house tonight, he likely won't be able to take a break with a tall glass of milk and a box of Ding Dongs.

You know, if you freeze those things, they taste even better.
_____

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