Running out the clock

By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist

It was time to retire. I had sent my retirement paperwork in to the N.C. Dept. of Revenue, and was planning on leaving my job of thirty years in a couple of months. But there was still work to do. The cases were still arriving from Raleigh, along with others already in my work caseload.

How would I handle them? I didn’t just quit until my retirement date. I kept on working, trying to clear out the cases that I could. But, to be honest, there were some cases that I didn’t make that much effort on. They were cases that I knew were difficult and would be time consuming. I honestly didn’t want to spend my last couple of months all involved with them. Let the next person deal with them. I continued working on all the cases that were assigned to me. But I didn’t get too deeply involved with those difficult cases. Besides, they weren’t going to be cleared up by the time I left, anyway. So I did what I could, and retired a few months later. I was “running out the clock.”

“Running out the clock” is another one of those sports terms that are sometimes used in everyday life. A football team is ahead by a comfortable margin heading into the fourth quarter. They don’t want any problems, and especially don’t want any injuries to their players. And they don’t want to give the opposition team any opportunities to make a comeback. So they call more conservative, time consuming plays. They want to keep the clock moving, finish the game, and get off the field with a victory. They are “running out the clock.”

I was recently reminded of that term during the aftermath of the Paris massacre by ISIS. I’ve heard several politicians and media pundits accuse President Obama of a lack of decisive action in response to the attacks on Paris by ISIS. They have said that the President’s inaction shows an unwillingness to deal with a difficult problem. It’s a problem that cannot be solved easily or quickly. So, they say the president will continue doing what has been done so far by the U.S. and hand the problem over to the next president in a year. President Obama, they say, is “running out the clock.”

Of course, it’s easy for those opposed to President Obama to make those charges. They are not in that position of responsibility, or they are not the ones who are going to be judged by history for the decisions made. They are not the ones who will have to answer for American lives lost in military action, or the one judged for lives that could have been saved by military action.

The background for all this is, of course, the tragic events in Paris on Friday, November 6, when ISIS backed terrorists murdered 129 people in attacks in several locations in the city. Ironically, just earlier that day, President Obama had cited military gains in Syria and Iraq, saying ISIS had been “contained.”

“I don’t think they (ISIS) are gaining strength,” President Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Friday morning. “From the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.” Then the events of Friday in Paris quickly showed that it was not exactly the case.

So, what is to be done? President Obama came into office with the promise to get our military forces out of Iraq. This has happened. Since the rise of ISIS, the U.S. has been involved in air raids and bombing of ISIS targets for the past several months. But will it be necessary to send in ground troops to eliminate the threat of ISIS? Is ISIS enough of a threat to the United States to put American soldiers in harm’s way? After seeing the carnage in Paris, Americans are justly concerned about a potential attack here in the U.S. But do we have the willingness to be involved in another ground war in the Middle East?

So, how will the President respond? It is a difficult situation. And he only has another year in office. Maybe it is a good idea to “run out the clock.” Let the next guy, or lady, handle it.

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]