Beto-ma­nia: Re­al­ity and the lim­its of youth­ful en­thu­si­asm

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group Elma Cheek­towaga War­riors owe teen a sin­cere pub­lic apol­ogy East Aurora Na­tional cham­pi­onships do noth­ing for most stu­dents East Amherst Or­chard Park Lewis­ton Depew

STATE COL­LEGE, Pa. – What­ever any­one says about Beto O’Rourke in the com­ing months, no one will ever ac­cuse him of lack­ing en­thu­si­asm.

Here’s how the al­ways-en­er­getic, al­ways-sunny pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in shirt­sleeves and a ball cap be­gan his speech to a packed hall at the Penn State stu­dent union on Tues­day:

“It’s so great to come in late at night in ab­so­lute dark­ness,” he said of his ar­rival in this bu­colic cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia col­lege town, “not be able to see where I was or the beauty that sur­rounded me, and wake up to one of the most glo­ri­ous days I’ve ever had on this planet in my 46 years of ex­is­tence.”

O’Rourke is a plan­e­tary and ex­is­ten­tial sort of guy, some­one for whom “Have a nice day” doesn’t be­gin to get at the level of joy we ought to have dur­ing our time on this earth.

He ex­udes en­ergy, op­ti­mism and con­fi­dence laced with the req­ui­site quo­tient of self-crit­i­cism. This Demo­crat is ea­ger to make clear that he hates a pol­i­tics rooted in trashing en­e­mies.

And while ev­ery­thing about him looks spon­ta­neous, he speaks in the brisk, well-formed sen­tences that could only come from some­one who knows how this game is played.

“We’re go­ing every­where for ev­ery­one. No one is taken for granted. No one is writ­ten off.”

“The chal­lenge is our econ­omy: It works too well for too few and not well enough for too many.”

“You will not get po­lit­i­cal democ­racy un­til you have some­thing ap­proach­ing eco­nomic democ­racy in this coun­try.”

O’Rourke’s visit here was part of a some­what slap­dash but at­ten­tion-get­ting mul­ti­state tour aimed at send­ing an early mes­sage. Within days of an­nounc­ing his can­di­dacy, he is stop­ping by in­dus­trial heart­land states – he also trav­eled to Michi­gan and Ohio – that Hil­lary Clin­ton lost and that, O’Rourke is say­ing im­plic­itly, he can bring home to his party.

One mes­sage cer­tainly got through here: He is an ex­cite­ment gen­er­a­tor. When O’Rourke fin­ished his speech, he had to work his way out of the build­ing through a bois­ter­ous crowd yearn­ing to touch him and (wel­come to our era) come away with self­ies.

It was a smart move by his ad­vance team. The video had the feel of a late-Oc­to­ber gen­eral­elec­tion rally, and the youth­ful can­di­date named Robert Fran­cis re­ally did con­vey that look his par­ti­sans as­so­ci­ate with the late Robert F. Kennedy. Yet O’Rourke’s roll­out has been far from smooth. The knocks he has ab­sorbed – from the party’s left for some of his con­ser­va­tive votes in Congress, from women for the com­ment he has since apol­o­gized for that his wife Amy raised their three children “some­times with my help,” from var­i­ous quar­ters for what they saw as a sense of “en­ti­tle­ment” and “priv­i­lege” – were a sign that magic and spark are not suf­fi­cient fuel for bar­rel­ing through a gar­gan­tuan Demo­cratic field.

In­ter­views with two dozen peo­ple in the mostly stu­dent crowd here sug­gested that most of them are still wait­ing.

“I want to see if he can run with the big dogs – there are a lot of them out there,” said Eric Lay­land, a 32-year-old doc­toral stu­dent, sum­ma­riz­ing a view of­fered by many here that the Democrats have an abun­dance of highly qual­i­fied choices.

With Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den ap­par­ently pre­pared to jump into the race, sev­eral things have be­come clearer in the cam­paign’s first few months. Bi­den and Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., be­gin with large pools of sup­port built up over long pe­ri­ods that can­not sim­ply be writ­ten off as “name recog­ni­tion.” Both com­mand gen­uine loy­al­ties from very dif­fer­ent parts of the party.

In the mean­time, three fresh can­di­dates have made the best use of the early run­ning.

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., pen­e­trated pub­lic con­scious­ness with a very suc­cess­ful open­ing week and stands well in re­cent polling.

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., has earned re­spect and at­ten­tion for a pol­icy-heavy cam­paign of re­mark­ably spe­cific proposals that re­quired a re­sponse from her ri­vals.

And South Bend Mayor Pete But­tigieg has risen from nowhere with a se­ries of savvy tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances in which he was re­fresh­ingly di­rect and joined is­sues that run cross­wise to the party’s usual ide­o­log­i­cal fights. He con­tin­ued his streak Wed­nes­day on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe” with a call for a re­newed “re­li­gious left,” urg­ing his party to “re­claim faith.”

None of this means that O’Rourke’s ob­vi­ous gifts are ir­rel­e­vant. But nei­ther Beto-ma­nia nor any other craze will sud­denly up­end a con­test in which Demo­cratic vot­ers are fiercely se­ri­ous and lis­ten­ing more to their heads than to their hearts.

E.J. Dionne Time cap­sule is a re­minder of our climate re­spon­si­bil­ity

On March 2, The Buf­falo News ran a story about the “time cap­sule” as­sem­bled by East Aurora and Town of Aurora res­i­dents. Packed with letters to fu­ture Auro­rans, the cap­sule will be stored in the town’s mu­nic­i­pal cen­ter, to be opened by the cu­ri­ous in 2068.

I didn’t have a chance to con­trib­ute to the cap­sule. None­the­less, the story set me and, cer­tainly, other read­ers think­ing about what we would write about, if we could, for those who will come after us. What will they want to know about us? How do we want to be re­mem­bered?

All these ques­tions seem to hinge on the state of the world 50 years hence. En­vi­ron­men­tal crises – many caused by climate change – will prob­a­bly, then, be top of mind.

Ac­cord­ing to Cor­nell Univer­sity, if we don’t soon dras­ti­cally re­duce our emis­sions of green­house gases (GHGs), then by 2060, 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple will likely be climate refugees, home­less and on the move due to ris­ing sea lev­els, de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, and wa­ter and food short­ages. Even as the world’s pop­u­la­tion ap­proaches 10 bil­lion, its hab­it­able land will con­tinue shrink­ing. Thus, mil­lions will move to West­ern New York, with its tem­per­ate climate and plen­ti­ful wa­ter.

Aware of these im­mi­nent so­cial up­heavals, we can be sure fu­ture West­ern New York­ers will won­der how we sought to pre­serve their re­gion for them. Did we pro­mote a tran­si­tion to re­new­able en­ergy, thereby shield­ing wa­ter­ways from dan­ger­ous nat­u­ral gas pipe­lines, and re­duc­ing GHG emis­sions and coal ash land­fills? Did we hold pol­luters ac­count­able for clean­ing up their waste dumps?

And how do we want to be re­mem­bered in 2068 and be­yond? I’m con­fi­dent that we’d like to be known as the gen­er­a­tion that saw the de­ple­tion and pol­lu­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources, and re­sponded through re­cy­cling, re­duc­ing and reusing, to en­sure a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

An­drew Hart­ley, Ph.D.

Re­gard­ing the March 17 ar­ti­cle, “Amherst teen sub­jected to ra­cial taunts dur­ing game” how can the other Cheek­towaga War­riors’ play­ers al­low their team­mates to be­have in such a rude man­ner with­out reper­cus­sions?

The epit­ome of poor sports­man­ship was def­i­nitely on dis­play that night. Their taunt­ing cost them more than their game, com­pe­ti­tion, and abil­ity to play on the 18 and un­der team.

We’re talk­ing in­tegrity, self-re­spect, and their fu­ture in­volve­ment in sports, not to men­tion the rep­u­ta­tion of their school. Most im­por­tantly, do the two play­ers un­der­stand how they made an­other hu­man be­ing feel?

Lastly, how about a pub­lic apol­ogy from the in­di­vid­u­als com­mit­ting such a cruel and dis­re­spect­ful act to the poor vic­tim they tar­geted. It might be a start in teach­ing these young men how to treat the hu­man race.

Kathy Hall-Zien­tek

The suc­cess of the Univer­sity at Buf­falo foot­ball and bas­ket­ball teams may be a morale booster to the com­mu­nity, but that suc­cess comes at a cost.

The salary of the head foot­ball coach is $615,000. The salary of the head bas­ket­ball coach is $600,000 plus in­cen­tives for post­sea­son play. The pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity at Buf­falo re­ceives $500,000.

Nei­ther the cost of the sta­dium and the field house nor the costs of the coach­ing staff do any­thing to im­prove the ed­u­ca­tion and have caused UB to cut other sports that had al­lowed real stu­dent ath­letes to have a com­pet­i­tive col­le­giate sport ex­pe­ri­ence.

The goal of col­leges and univer­si­ties should be to give all stu­dents a chance to de­velop a breadth of knowl­edge and a chance to par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, not to act as farm teams for the NFL and the NBA.

Chas­ing na­tional cham­pi­onships in foot­ball and bas­ket­ball does not en­rich the ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity for the ma­jor­ity of UB stu­dents, who will never suit up for those teams.

Larry Finkel­stein

Dou­ble stan­dards ex­ist in all facets of our so­ci­ety

So now we have a mas­sive col­lege en­trance bribery scan­dal by the rich and fa­mous.

We have on­go­ing col­lege ath­letic pay­ola and sex scan­dals. We have quotes by some well to do in­di­vid­u­als say­ing that only suck­ers pay taxes. We have celebri­ties speak­ing out on global warming and fly­ing around in pri­vate jets or be­ing driven around in gas guz­zling limos.

We have gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials warn­ing of bud­get deficits but propos­ing new, un­af­ford­able spend­ing pro­grams. We have politi­cians pro­mot­ing so­cial­ism while they have mul­ti­ple homes and send their kids to the best col­leges.

I could go on but I think the point has been made. The hypocrisy out there by a por­tion of our so­ci­ety has reached ab­surd lev­els. Props to the news me­dia for re­port­ing it and in­form­ing we, the lowly mid­dle-class cit­i­zens, who foot the bill for much of this and are preached to on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. The old say­ing “do as I say and not as I do” def­i­nitely ap­plies these days.

Lou Sper­anza

We need to pay at­ten­tion to state leg­is­la­tors’ ac­tions

The New York Times ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the March 19 Buf­falo News paints an in­ter­est­ing pic­ture of three pro­gres­sive young fe­male state leg­is­la­tors. Do not be duped.

This group is not your fuzzy pajama party soror­ity sis­ters de­lib­er­at­ing on the best in­ter­ests of New York State vot­ers. Each of these young women voted in fa­vor of the Re­pro­duc­tive Health Act (RHA).

Jessica Ramos, 13th Se­nate Dis­trict, talks about her bill to ex­empt breast pumps from sales taxes. Kind of sadis­ti­cally ironic after her sup­port of RHA. Not men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle, Ramos is spon­sor­ing a pend­ing bill to le­gal­ize pros­ti­tu­tion in New York State along with Sens. Ju­lia Salazar, 18th dis­trict, Brad Hoyl­man, 27th dis­trict and As­sem­bly­man Dick Got­tfried, 75th dis­trict.

So, is this the new Al­bany op­ti­mism Sen. Yuh-Line Niou hints at in the piece? I cer­tainly hope not.

Peo­ple please pay at­ten­tion to what your leg­is­la­tors are plan­ning in Al­bany.

Bon­nie Mazur

Zeke’s emo­tional story is what life is all about

How can one not be emo­tion­ally moved after read­ing the ar­ti­cle about Zeke in the March 17 News. After end­less blather about pol­i­tics. This story is what life is ac­tu­ally all about. A tragic story about the bi­o­log­i­cal mother who gave her child away. A dra­matic story about a coura­geous fam­ily who ac­cepts the re­spon­si­bil­ity of rais­ing a young boy. How many of us would take on the task of rais­ing the Zekes of this world? Zeke’s new fam­ily is what mankind is all about.

Pat De­laney

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