Sunday 25 September 2016

If a problem can't be solved, it's sometimes better to just try and live with it, Enda

Gerard O’Regan

Published 17/09/2016 | 02:30

'He just has to cope the best way he can, as those around him jostle, connive, and plan for whatever will best suit their individual political futures.' Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
'He just has to cope the best way he can, as those around him jostle, connive, and plan for whatever will best suit their individual political futures.' Picture Credit : Frank McGrath

''If a problem has no solution it may not be a problem - but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." Such is one of the many asides uttered over a long life by former Israeli President, Shimon Peres, who is seriously ill in a Tel Aviv hospital this week.

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Old Father Time is proving a tough opponent for the 93-year-old, who suffered a major stroke a few days ago. But Peres - who has survived many a battle over nine decades and more - is, despite being gravely ill, still hanging in there. Latest reports describe his condition as "serious but stable".

However, the suggestion of his, that certain problems simply cannot be solved, should surely be embraced by sundry modern-day politicians. Instead, they insist on pursuing a doomed quest of trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.

The Peres proposal that ​particular​ issues just have to be "coped with" should resonate with such diverse personalities as Hillary Clinton, Enda Kenny, Jeremy Corbyn and Shane Ross.

Clinton is a classic case in point.

Her health challenges - those that we know of and those that we don't - are obviously a downer for her in the polls. But the real issue in this instance is that many Americans, to put it bluntly, think she is a liar. And at this stage of her life there can be no solution to this problem of perception - whether justified or not.

Many voters remain unconvinced with her explanation for those extraordinary images, which saw her knees buckle and her entire frame collapse, while being rushed to her daughter's New York apartment a few days ago.

Soon she was making public pronouncements that she was "feeling absolutely fine". But her subsequent drop in popularity suggests many voters remain unconvinced she is telling the whole truth. Rightly, or wrongly, there is a belief out there, that over her many years in public life, Hillary has been economical with the facts along the way.

And when Bill Clinton came to offer reassurance that indeed things are absolutely fine regarding his wife's health, certain images from their joint past returned. Can Bill be trusted to be absolutely candid when in a tight corner, and when politically speaking, the stakes are sky high?

The conclusion must be the Clintons, as regards being straightforward with the facts, have one hell of a perception problem with millions of Americans. It's an issue that cannot be resolved - just something they must try and cope with between now and polling day.

Here at home, Enda Kenny is also grappling with an insoluble conundrum. Should he hang on as Taoiseach, and if he does stay in power for say another two years, is he going to have a moment of peace along the way?

He is not alone in playing the role of elder statesman who simply cannot let go of the reins. It is in fact one of the oldest stories in the political game. But now he is in the classic scenario of fighting an enemy without - while having to be even more watchful of the enemy within. Varadkar, Coveney, Fitzgerald, Donohoe, Bruton, Harris and sundry others are continuing to sniff the wind. Who will make a move?

There is nothing the Taoiseach can do about such a scenario. It's just the way of the world. It's yet another problem without a solution. He just has to cope the best way he can, as those around him jostle, connive, and plan for whatever will best suit their individual political futures.

Across the Irish Sea, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also confronting problems without solutions. Basically, his dilemma is that barring some unforeseen disaster hitting the Conservatives, he will remain unelectable regardless of what happens.

He may be an honourable man but his policies are too "out there" and he just cannot connect with voters apart from his core support group. Yet he is determined to hang on as leader, seemingly happy to luxuriate in opposition, as the possibility of Labour getting into government seeps ever further away.

And back at base there is the ongoing saga of Shane Ross and his bunch of wayward Independents. They have all been slowly adapting to a certain grim reality: they now know they cannot push things too far because of the sheer fragility of this Government.

They can of course huff and puff a bit, but their stance on various issues must remain essentially just a lot of hot air. The alternative is they will collapse the whole house of cards. That would most likely mean a return to the no-man's land of the opposition benches, languishing among some naysayers, while a Fianna Fáil-led set-up gets into power.

And so Clinton, Kenny, Corbyn, and Ross are all real-time examples of the Peres doctrine, which suggests political careers are bedevilled by insoluble problems. The only thing that can be done is to try and get by while trying to grapple with unpalatable reality.

And one of the father figures of Israeli politics has one more piece of enigmatic advice for those trying to survive in one of the toughest trades of them all.

"When you have two alternatives - the first thing you have to do is look for the third - that you didn't think about, that doesn't exist."

Irish Independent

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