The Politics Around Here

Kansas holds a primary one week from today, and the state is already awash in politics. Yard signs are proliferating, the mailbox is full of fliers, the pitchmen for identity theft protection agencies and the guy from the Good Feet Store have been chased off the talk radio airwaves by campaign commercials, and some of the races are intriguingly nasty.
All of the action around here is on the Republican side, as usual. The state’s beleaguered Democrats always pick their candidates well in advance of the primary at some committee meeting or another, where a strange cabal of airplane plant union bosses and political science professors and some die-hard lefty activists left over from the good old Prairie Populist days take care not to choose anyone who might have a chance in the long-awaited favorable election cycle. There’s some faint hope of knocking off incumbent Governor Sam Brownback, a budget-cutting anti-abortion stalwart who is hated by the state’s Democrats with a red-hot fervor usually reserved for the likes of Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin, but the supposedly mainstream candidate they’ve come up with is not only a Democrat but also from Lawrence and will have a hell of a time explaining those embarrassing facts to the rest of the thoroughly Republican and decidedly non-college town state. Meanwhile, all the Republican races are being hotly contested between the go-along-to-get-along crowd and the tar-feather-and-pitchforks folks.
Even. Sen Pat Roberts, who has been winning elections in the state since it joined the Union just prior to the Civil War, has lately been forced to resort to some strenuously negative advertising to stave off a primary challenge by Kansas City-area radiologist and political neophyte Dr. Milton Wolf. Wolf’s shoestring campaign got off to a good start with free publicity about his distant family relation to President Barack Obama and scathing commentary on everything Obama has done, and picked up further free steam from media reports that Roberts hasn’t actually lived in the state for years, but was derailed through the summer by news accounts of how the kindly doctor had posted his patients’ x-rays on his Facebook page with darkly humorous commentary. Lately one of those anti-establishment Republican groups have taken to the airwaves with a compelling critique of all the debt and failed grand bargains that Roberts has voted for after so many decades of practical politics, and a prominent national talk radio host has championed Wolf’s cause, but Wolf’s name recognition remains low and he’s yet to make the case for himself. Wolf’s challenge is serious enough that Roberts is unaccustomedly spending campaign money on a primary, and we’re still undecided how we’ll cast our own vote, but our sense is that Roberts will survive and suffer little damage in what should be an easy general election campaign against whoever it is that the Democrats have already offered up as a human sacrifice.
The weakness of Wolf’s campaign should be taken into consideration when reading the inevitable stories about the establishment-versus-insurgents rift within the Republican, but other races indicate where the rift is actually occurring.
Here in the Fourth Congressional, which includes relatively densely-populated Wichita and the rest of relatively sparsely populated south-central Kansas, an incumbent who is still an impeccably insurgent sort even after two terms is being challenged his predecessor from the Bush-era of the Republican establishment. Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt always ran as a rock-ribbed Republican, and voted as one often enough to thrice win re-election, but to distinguish himself against his post-Tea Party opponent and explain his past spending votes he’s made an old-fashioned pitch to bring home the earmarked pork to the district in general and its key aviation industries in particular, with his ads making special mention of an “aviation zone” project that his opponent declined to fund. Rep. Mike Pompeo, the incumbent, has responded with spots arguing that the aviation industry needs to be freed from burdensome regulation rather than subsidized, touting his own proposed legislation to achieve that, and noting he is a successful aviation entrepreneur backed by all the titans of the local industry. Tiahrt still enjoys the loyalty of many of the substantial number of anti-abortion voters in the district, who played a key role in his initial upset victory and were always rewarded with his undying loyalty, but Pompeo’s voting record on abortion issues has not been faulted by any of the anti-abortion scorekeepers, and the Pompeo campaign has also been airing ads with religious right hero and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee extolling the incumbent’s solid family values. We’re solidly for Pompeo, partly because the top-of-his-class West Point grad and high tech business success strikes us as a far more intelligent fellow, but also because we’re more worried about paying off the debt than bringing home the bacon. Despite some recent tightening in the polls we’re still expecting most of the Republican voters in these parts will reach the same conclusion.
There’s no telling what stories the national media will tell about the Fourth District race, but at least they won’t embarrassed by any attention paid to Sedgwick County’s Fourth District Commission race. The battle between incumbent Commissioner Richard Ranzau and longtime state Sen. Carolyn McGinn is our favorite political pastime of the the summer, much as the Wichita Wingnuts’ campaign in the Double-A American Association is our current sports passion, and we like to think that both of these seemingly local concerns potentially portend the future of the United States of America. Any national media in search of a more rock-ribbed Tea Party insurgent anti-establishmentarian will find no one more closely resembling their favorite stereotypes than Ranzau, who has become locally famous by County Commission standards for voting “no” against almost everything. He’ll spend a Sedgwick Countian’s hard-earned tax money on water and roads and locking up the roustabouts and all of the few other things than even a Republican originalist such as Abraham Lincoln would have sanctioned a county commission doing, but when it comes to the rest of the hogwash that the do-gooders and the teachers’ unions cook up he’s been on the losing end of a lot of four-to-one or three-to-two votes. So principled is Ranzau in his stinginess that he has even voted against programs that would be paid for entirely by federal funds, a response to the nation’s $17 trillion dollar debt that the local media, machine Democrats, and even the more of Chamber of Commerce-y sorts of Republicans regard as utter madness. Ranzau could happily dine in the hippest bistros of San Francisco or New York or anywhere else outside Sedgwick County in complete anonymity, although the other customers would probably notice something suspiciously Sedgwick County Republican about his ill-fitting brown jacket, but among the polite opinion in Riverside and downtown and the other semi-fashionable portions of the Fourth District he’s as reviled as a Koch brother.
Running against Ranzaus and his outrages is McGinn, an exemplar of the more respectable sort of Republicanism that has prevailed in Kansas pretty much since the Reconstruction era. She can legitimately claim a fairly conservative voting record on spending in her ads, in which she proudly declares “I demand accountability,” but she also boasts of having the “courage” to vote for “investments” in the future of the county. We’ve covered enough economic-development conferences and hearings and bill-signings to recognize the reference to the same old eco-devo boondoggles that have become such an entrenched part of federal and state and county and local government it takes little courage to vote for them, so we’re inclined to to Ranzau’s and Pompeo’s preference for lower taxes and fewer regulations. McGinn seems a fine woman, conservative enough by the standards that prevailed through most of our lives in the Republican Party, and we don’t worry that Sedgwick County will perish by rule, but we’d like to see Ranzau’s underfunded re-election bid prevail. We enjoy taunting our more polite neighbors about him, much as we enjoy taunting them with our admiration for the Koch brothers, and would like the think the rest of the Republican party is just as serious as he’s been about the government’s proper roles..

– Bud Norman

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Playing the Impeachment Game

Reports indicate that President Barack Obama is planning to issue executive orders that will effectively grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and there is much speculation that he will do so with the intention of provoking impeachment charges. The notion is so outrageous, so far removed every standard of presidential behavior that at this improbable moment in American history it seems all too plausible.

The speculation is predictably coming from outraged Republican congressmen, who can be counted on to find such executive orders so highly provocative that it appears Obama “is begging to be impeached,” but is also being fueled by Democrats both inside and outside the administration. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was accusing the Republicans of secretly planning impeachment even before the reports of an executive-ordered amnesty surfaced, a senior advisor to the president acknowledges that the move “will certainly up the likelihood that (Republicans) would contemplate impeachment at some point,” and the party’s allies in the media are already salivating over the prospect, and the fund-raising letters to the true Democratic believers are already exploiting the issue. Presidents don’t usually beg to be impeached, but this one might once again prove an exception to the usual rules.

One can easily imagine the theory that might have been devised by the political minds within the White House, insulated by layers of security and the comforting blanket of the mainstream news coverage, about how it all might work. The story, which will be respectfully repeated at the top of every evening network newscasts often enough to make it sound believable, is that the racist and xenophobic rednecks of the Republican party so hate our brown-skinned brethren that they refused to act according the president’s wishes and he was therefor forced against every instinct of his adjunct professor of constitutional law’s soul to boldly act alone. With sets designed by the same guy that did Madonna’s tour and the soundtrack music by Beyonce the production will a huge hit with the public, the necessary number of Democrats will hold firm no matter what and the president will be acquitted by the Senate, and the Republicans will suffer the same drubbing in the mid-terms that followed their failed attempt to remove President Bill Clinton from office. At the very least it will distract all attention from the sluggish economy and proliferation of part-time jobs and Obamacare’s latest troubles and the fighting in Gaza and Ukraine and Libya and Syria and the South China Sea and the nuclear weapons program in Iran and the scandals at the VA and the IRS and the NSA and the rest of the alphabet soup and everything else that currently has everyone expecting the Democrats will suffer a drubbing in the mid-term elections.
At the most it could even rescue Obama’s presidency from its current unfavorable standing and restore him to his former heroic status, much as President Andrew Johnson’s little-noted presidency is on occasion fondly recalled for his successful defiance of another impeachment attempt. In Johnson’s case the radical Republicans wanted him to impose a harsher Reconstruction on the defeated Confederate states, and Obama would have surely been among their number if he’d been around at the time, but at this point he’ll probably take whatever favorable historical analogy he can get. The inevitable failure of any attempt to remove Obama from office will also leave him free to flout whatever constitutional limitations on his office he might choose, and by the time the courts get around to imposing whatever restrictions they can get past the Obama appointees he’ll be safely ensconced poolside at his fabulous California mansion and awaiting the glowing the reviews on the memoir that earned him a $20 million advance.
It’s so crazy it might just work, but we see risks that the domestic policy advisor from La Raza might not have included in the briefings. While an impeachment trial would certainly draw almost all attention away from all those other pesky issues that are pulling down the president’s poll numbers, it would also shine a glaring spotlight on immigration policies that are every bit as unpopular. Public opinion polling shows that most Americans have no desire to grant amnesty to the millions of immigrants who have illegally flooded an already tight labor market and strained schools and social service agencies, and even in such allegedly liberal areas as Massachusetts there are large and angry protests springing up wherever the recent influx of illegal minors is being shipped. Obama’s reportedly imminent executive orders would not only be defying Congress, which is always a risk-free political proposition, they would also be defying public opinion, which is always a rash move no matter how the media support.
The impeachment ploy depends on the missteps of the Republicans, which of course increases its odds of success. Thus far the Republican leadership has declined to take the bait, and although we’re no fans of the Republican leadership we think that for the moment this is the wisest course. Any noise about impeachment prior to the election will only distract from issues more favorable to the Republicans, will energize a Democratic base that is currently dispirited, won’t have any hope of a favorable outcome so long as the Democrats retain an unquestioningly loyal majority in the Senate, and even if a miracle were to occur the most favorable outcome would be President Joe Biden. The public outrage that is sure to follow the president’s amnesty orders could give the Republicans solid majorities in both houses of Congress, although not enough in the Senate to win an impeachment verdict without a few very scared red-state Democrats, but until then talk of impeachment is fanciful.
It might well be necessary, though, if the executive orders are far-reaching as they’re described and the most obvious implications of the Internal Revenue Service scandal are proved no matter how fortuitous the computer problems turn out to be, but that tricky question will be best addressed after a successful mid-term election.

– Bud Norman

A Short Cut to the Invasion

Let us suppose, quite hypothetically, that your country has lately been invaded by many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have hopped a train through Mexico from Central America. Further suppose, hypothetically again, that your country is $17 trillion in debt and another $100 trillion or so short of what it has promised the citizens that are already here, that your social service agencies are already straining under the burden of a moribund economy, and that the country’s inability to cope with the influx of adorable youngsters with adorable gang tattoos that has piled up in makeshift detention centers or been transported through angry protest barricades to a town near you has resulted in what everyone agrees is a humanitarian crisis. What would you do in such in an unlikely scenario?
If some vestige of common sense inclines to you to suggest sending the youngsters back home to their families as quickly as possible, and making it clear to any potential future invaders that no matter what nonsense they’ve heard about imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state they are not going to get in, then you are clearly unfit for public service. The more enlightened savants of the federal government have suggested that we allow the youngsters to skip the unpleasant train-hopping through Mexico and come directly and at our expense to the imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state.
Our source is The New York Times, and we hope that all the “Dr. Strangelove” aficionados will recognize the allusion to a line from that absurdist masterpiece about the “doomsday machine.” “Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border,” the plucky Timesmen hopefully report, “the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico…” How such generosity would stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border is never explained, no doubt an oversight due to deadline pressures, but we are assured of its good intentions. The children are fleeing gang violence in their native lands, we are told by the Times’ administration and activist group sources, and thus are entitled to refugee status.
Some 70,000 or so gang members are believed by the always-reliable United Nations to be active in the Central American countries that have lately been shipping their children northward to the United States, the Times helpfully adds, but that seems a dangerously low standard of peril to be granting refugee status to their compatriots. The world is ringed by slums from Calcutta to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Belgrade that are menaced by similar numbers of gangsters, and such communities as the one on the south side of Chicago that our current president once organized have similarly dangerous streets, so housing and feeding and educating all of them and imprisoning the predictable portion of them will likely prove more costly than America can afford. The same people who scoff at the notion of American exceptionalism are apparently convinced that America is exceptional enough to care for all of the world’s needy people, but they are willing to share the costs of the attempt.
Public opinion and its cussed common sense might yet scuttle the plan, which is so far just another one of the proposals that the savants of the federal government routinely come up with, but the Times warns that “the plan would be similar to a recent bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each,” so there’s still the chance of a bipartisan nonsensical solution. Some Republican opposition is already rearing itself, and could effectively prevent the proposal from becoming policy, but hat option of sending the youngsters back home to their families as soon as possible and issuing a meaningful warning to the rest to stay home also seems unlikely. Whatever compromise is eventually adopted, America might as well get ready to start housing and educating and feeding a few billion new arrivals.

– Bud Norman

Of Metal Detectors and Failed Policies

Secretary of State John Kerry was subjected to a metal detector before seeing the Egyptian President and military dictator General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday, just like any schlub trying to pay a parking ticket at Wichita City Hall. Some lingering sense of patriotic pride is offended by the obviously deliberate insult to America’s highest-ranking diplomat, but when America’s highest-ranking diplomat is John Kerry it seems almost appropriate.
One labors mightily to imagine any previous Secretary of State being subjected to such taunting treatment, much less accepting it from the military dictator of a second-rate power with an apologetic “tweet” instead of a vigorous protest, but so much of America’s recent foreign policy is unprecedented that nothing really surprises any more. Kerry’s stop in inconsiderate Cairo was part of a trip to the Middle East to attempt negotiation of a cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas terror gang of Gaza, and nothing about it makes sense. The mission is unlikely to succeed, would be harmful to the region’s chances of lasting peace if it did, and will further weaken America’s standing the world in the process.
The Hamas terror gang, which makes no secret of its genocidal intentions toward world Jewry, has lately been murdering Israeli teenagers and launching thousands of deadly rockets randomly into Israeli territory. Israel has been able to keep its civilian casualties low by use of its remarkable “Iron Dome” missile defense system, but has responded by striking carefully targeted retaliatory strikes at the launch sites after warning the civilian to evacuate the areas, and has more recently launched a ground assault under unusually strict rules of engagement against the elaborate network of tunnels that Hamas has created since Israel’s evacuation of Gaza. Any previous Secretary of State would have ventured to the region only to offer unequivocal support for Israel’s restrained response, and urge that it continue until Hamas’ ability to kill innocent Israeli civilians had been thoroughly degraded, but Kerry is heading there to urge further restraint and end Israel’s efforts before they are satisfactorily concluded.
The effort also takes Kerry though Egypt, where his rude reception was predictable after America’s flailing foreign policy regarding that troubled land. Readers who have been sufficiently distracted by that homosexual football player and that racist basketball team owner can be forgiven for having forgotten, but President Barack Obama launched America’s bold new foreign policy in the Middle East by flying to Cairo for a much-ballyhooed speech offering an olive branch to the Islamic and insulted the then President and military-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak by insisting that the radical Islamist group The Muslim Brotherhood be given a seat of honor at the front of the audience. There’s no telling what Obama’s oration had to do with it, but a popular uprising backed by the Obama administration toppled Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood briefly seized power in the country. When the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule predictably proved devastating to the country’s economy and freedom the Obama administration continued to back it with both words and money, even after a military dictatorship that reverted to support for Israel and opposition to Islamist radicalism reasserted itself. Despite its many flaws, being a military dictatorship chief among them, the Egyptian military dictatorship has been laudably firm against a Hamas terror gang that is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it cannot be expected to extend the usual diplomatic protocols to a Secretary of State that represents America’s recent peculiar policies.
Kerry can expect more polite treatment from the Israelis on his next stop, but he shouldn’t expect them to take him any more seriously. The administration has been making all the obligatory statements about Israel’s right to defend itself against a terror gang that rains down rockets on its people, but the Israelis are savvy enough to have noticed all the added language about restraint and all the other code words for capitulation. Despite their extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties even at the risk of Israeli soldiers, the Israelis are no doubt well aware that Kerry was overheard during a broadcast on the Fox News network sneering that their response was “A hell of a pinpoint operation.” The official line was that it the outburst was entirely inadvertent, as if such an experienced hand as Kerry would let loose in front of the microphones and cameras of the hated Fox News network, but in any case it is clear that he expects the Israelis to be even more restrained in their response to the thousands of rockets being lobbed into their country. They’ll also note that the Obama administration continues its generous subsidies to the Gaza government, even after the Hamas terror gang joined it as a partner, and that Kerry blamed the israelis for making his unlikely peace treaty “go poof” after Hamas become involved, and they could also be forgiven for subjecting him to a humiliating step through a metal detector.
Kerry might well claim that he’s going by that “international test” that he so ruinously proposed during his ill-fated presidential campaign, but at the moment he’s lagging well behind international opinion. Such fashionable western powers as France have expressed stronger support for Israel’s right to self-defense, and the kristallnacht-like rioting against the local Jewish populations seems only to have strengthened its resolve, and even the Sunni Arab countries are all offering off-the-record support for Israel’s against a terror gang backed by the Shi’ite Persian country of Iran that is cruising without meaningful American interference toward a nuclear bomb that will forever change the precarious balance of power in their powder keg regions.
None of these threatened countries will be reassured by America’s less-than-stalwart defense of its oldest allies, and none of America’s enemies will be placated. The Egyptians might as well have asked Kerry to empty his pockets, because America has relinquished its influence in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood.

– Bud Norman

Dueling Opinions on Obamacare

Two separate federal courts hearing two separate cases issued contradictory opinions Tuesday regarding the legality of subsidies being provided to people in states with federally-run health care exchanges, and Obamacare and all its embarrassments are back in the news. It’s all very complicated, as is the case with everything Obamacare, but well worth delving into if only for the comic relief.
The dispute in both cases arises from a few words among the 2,000-plus pages of the hilariously named Affordable Care Health Act, which state in unusually clear language that the subsidies shall be made to those who are eligible by their lack of income and had enrolled in exchanges “established by the State.” Only 14 states were willing to go along with the Obamacare boondoggle by establishing their own exchanges, so in the other 36 states the law as written would stick those under-funded suckers who signed up with the full cost of their over-priced plans, which would cause many of them to stop paying their premiums and pay the much smaller fine instead, thus leaving the insurers with a sicker and less profitable pool of customers, thereby raising the poor folks’  ire and everyone else’s premiums and further endangering the already unpopular law’s chances of political survival.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a two-to-one ruling in the Halbig v. Burwell case, insisted that the law says what it says and should be enforced accordingly. A few hours later the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the King v. Burwell case that the law doesn’t really say what it says, and in no case should be enforced according to something so silly  as the law’s  plain text. The unfortunate Burwell, whoever he or she might be, seems headed to the Supreme Court for a final resolution.
Until then, it will be amusing to hear Obamacare’s dwindling number of defenders argue that it is the most brilliantly written legislation in American history while simultaneously arguing that it should not be read as written because of its absurdity. The oxymoronically named White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest helpfully explains that “You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credit that would lower their health care costs regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who are running the marketplace,” but it takes an especially fancy legal education to conclude that is not what Congress wrote into the law. Some argue that the language was quite deliberate, and intended to force recalcitrant Republican governors into starting state exchanges or face the wrath of their dependent class voters, although the estimated four to five million people being subsidized are hardly a formidable voting bloc when spread across 36 states, and far outnumbered by the voters being asked to pick up the tab for the subsidies, but if the Democrats now want to insist that it was just one of those typographical errors that are bound to happen when you’re hastily ramming an unpopular law down the public’s throat in the literal dead of night without a single vote from the opposition party they are free to do so. The D.C. Court of Appeals rejected the government’s argument that the plain text of the Affordable Care Act “renders other provisions of the ACA absurd,” which seems reasonable given that the absurdity standard would render most of the Obama administration’s actions illegal, and any Republicans who insist that the law should be enforced according to what it says are also free to do so.
We’re not such reckless gamblers that we would wager any amount of the final resolution of this matter, but we hopefully note that Professor Laurence Tribe of the impeccably fancy Harvard Law School has said “I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.” The good professor probably doesn’t have a family farm, and even if he does we can’t imagine him plowing its fields, so we take his comment as merely allegorical, but it’s heartening nonetheless. Even if the argument that a law shouldn’t be enforced as it is written just because it’s written that way does prevail, it will be nice to at last be done with the archaic pretense that the law has any meaning other than what the president wants it to mean.

– Bud Norman

Don’t Mess With Texas

Unaccustomed as we are to rooting for Texas, we’re obliged to raise a toast to the Lone Star State’s Gov. Rick Perry for his decision to send a thousand state militia troops to secure his portion of the nation’s southern border. The troops have no legal authority to arrest or deport anyone and are therefore unlikely to do anything meaningful about the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal minors into the country, but we like the gesture nonetheless.
At the very least Perry’s gesture keeps the border crisis in the news, and at a time when the implosion of America’s recent foreign recent policy in Gaza and Ukraine and other usually overlooked lands is dominating the headlines. A few hundred thousand invaders are easily ignored by the media, even when they’re underaged and stacked up in makeshift detention centers or being expensively unloaded on a school district and law enforcement community near you, so anything that forces the necessary public attention is welcome.
Those who peruse past the headline about the story will also note that Gov. Perry is taking a more steadfast stand against the the invasion than the current presidential administration, and that should also have a salutary effect on American public opinion. The current presidential administration has been talking tough about sending the invaders back home, just as it has been talking tough about Russia’s misdeeds in the Ukraine and Israel’s right to be doing damage in Gaza, but in each case the insincerity is by now apparent. Gov. Perry is on tenuous legal ground with even his purely symbolic gesture, given the Supreme Court’s inexplicable decision that states have no right to enforce any immigration laws that the federal government declines to enforce, but perhaps the casual reader of the obligatory news stories will wonder how this bizarre situation came to be.
If the gesture is intended only to bolster Gov. Perry’s standing in the ’16 presidential race that is also fine by us. All the pundits like to believe that his aspirations in ’12 were derailed by a brief brain freeze following major surgery during one of those interminable Republican primary debates, but the bigger problem was his past support for in-state tuition for the “dreamers” who had been snuck into the country by their invading parents, and to whatever extent the gesture is intended as penance we accept it gratefully. Aside from those few seconds of stammering during that long-forgotten primary debate Gov. Perry has done a pretty good job of not screwing up his state’s remarkable record of economic expansion while the rest of the non-fracking country has been stuck in neutral, and he warrants consideration as a replacement to the current presidential administration.

– Bud Norman

Polls, Politics, and Prioritizing Our Problems

All that “tranquility of the global community” the White House spokesman was recently boasting about dominated Thursday’s news, what with Israeli ground troops entering Gaza and a jet from the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines being shot down over Russian-occupied Ukraine, so it would have been easy to overlook an intriguing Gallup poll about what worries Americans most. The litany’s top top five doesn’t include the deteriorating international order, which should come as a relief to that insouciant White House spokesman, but neither does it include any good news for the Democrats.
Topping the list of most important problems is “immigration/illegal aliens,” which has shot up the charts since the recent invasion by unaccompanied minors from Central America, and the racist xenophobes of the Republican party are likely beneficiaries of the public’s concern. The Democrats and their media allies will have a hard time convincing anyone that the Republicans’ racism and xenophobia are what’s drawing tens of thousands of expensive illegal youngsters to the country, rather than the Democrats’ more compassionate and caring policy of holding out hope of amnesty and free stuff, and other polls indicate that most Americans are more inclined to the racist and xenophobic option of returning the invaders to their homelands.
Coming in a close second is the hodgepodge of “Dissatisfaction with government, Congress, politicians, poor leadership, corruption, Abuse of Power,” which is at least open to hopeful interpretations. The White House will prefer to read this as a righteous anger against those obstructionist Republicans in Congress who stubbornly refuse to rubber stamp the president’s agenda, but we expect that many respondents had in mind the Internal Revenue Service and Veterans Administration and National Security Agency scandals and any number of other problems that have more to do with the executive branch. Much of that dissatisfaction with Congress is caused by the Democrat-controlled Senate, too, and the Republicans in the other chamber don’t seem to have much power to abuse.
The “economy in general” comes in second and “unemployment, jobs” in third, and a sensible combination of these two would have probably come in first. The Democrats will argue that these problems could have been easily solved if only those darned Republicans had allowed them to rack up the national debt by a few more billion and add another million or so pages of regulations for the understaffed compliances offices of America’s corporations to comply with, but the Republicans should be able to get a few votes and a lot of laughs out of that.
“Poor healthcare, hospitals, high cost of health care” comes in fourth on the list, so the Republicans will have a head start on convincing the American public that Obamacare hasn’t solved all that. Despite an almost complete absence of news coverage, “federal budget deficit, federal” debt comes in at a surprisingly strong fifth place. The Democrats will boast that they’ve cut those deficits to less than the recent trillion dollar highs, even as they lambaste the Republicans for their stingy ways, but this far the public is not reassured. “Education, poor education, access” to education are the public’s sixth most pressing problem, and the teachers unions will need to spend a lot of dues money to convince any voters that they just need more funding and continued tenure and that federalized Common Core Curriculum to make things right at school. “Ethics, moral, religious, family decline” comes in eighth, and the party that would compel nuns to purchase contraceptives is not likely to appeal the people with those worries.
Democrats can take some hope in noting that “Poverty, hunger, homelessness” came in ninth, as these are the party’s traditional causes, but they’ll have to hope that nobody notices there’s more of all of them after six years of a Democratic presidency. It’s also good news for the Democrats that “foreign aid, focus overseas” barely made the top ten.
What’s missing from the top ten is also a problem for the Democrats. Only one percent of the poll’s respondents cited “race relations and racism” as the nation’s most pressing problem, and it’s probably a similar number who will take seriously the notion that racism is the sole reason for any dissatisfaction with the president. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision doesn’t rate any mention, even though it’s a staple of Democratic fund-raising and the Senate Democrats regard it as such a crisis that the First Amendment needs amending as a result. The Hobby Lobby decision is also unmentioned by any of the respondents, even though the Democrats are raising even more money with claims that it’s the first step toward the Republicans’ nefarious plot to subjugate women to bare feet and pregnancy. The even more nefarious plot by to Koch Brothers to do God only knows what was also overlooked, although that can cited by the fund-raising Democrats as further proof of how very ingeniously wicked is the conspiracy. We also note that income inequality and global warming and transgendered rights and all the other issues that seem to excite a certain sort of Democrat are not high on the list of what the general public is worried about.
We don’t have much regard for the general public, but is heartening to see that they have more sensible priorities than a certain sort of Democrat.

– Bud Norman

The Noise in Israel and the Quiet Elsewhere

Every few years or so Israel has to wage war against the Islamist terror gangs that want to kill every Jew in the world, and the current unpleasantness is much the same as all the other occasions. What’s conspicuously different this time around, however, is that most of the world doesn’t seem to mind Israel defending its citizens.
The usual outraged demonstrations have been strikingly absent from the public squares of the Islamic world, leftist indignation in the west has been relatively muted, and many of the governments in the west have been surprisingly supportive of Israel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and even the avowedly socialist French President Francois Hollande, whose country saw a few local Islamist terror gangs attack the local synagogues, have all called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu with words of support. All of those calls came in before Netanyahu heard from the United States, which was formerly Israel’s best friend but has lately been more interested in dictating its housing policies and hectoring it to accept a so-called “peace treaty” with the same Islamist terror gang that is now indiscriminately lobbing rockets into their country, but even the current administration has accepted Israel’s right to self-defense in its public statements. Not so unequivocally supportive as Canada and its conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in this strange new world we find ourselves living in, but accepting nonetheless.
It would feel nice to attribute this strange new understanding to the world’s sudden ability to see the world with moral clarity, and to understand that Hamas’ rain of rockets on Israel hasn’t killed thousands only because of the Jewish state’s amazing “Iron Dome” missile defense system and that Israel’s retaliatory strikes against the launch sites have killed only hundreds because of their extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties, but this is too hopeful. The public squares of the Islamic world are probably quiet only because the people gathered there are distracted by the many more thousands of co-religionists who are being slaughtered by the nominally Muslim government of Syria and the Islamist terror gang that has spilled over from that conflict into an all-out assault on Iraq. The Arab and Sunni governments of the region don’t have the usual motives to whip up anti-Israel sentiment among their restive populations, not when the rockets are being supplied by a Persian and Shiite Iranian theocracy that poses a far more frightening threat than Israel ever would. Those suddenly supportive western governments are probably making the same calculations, with a wary eye on the Islamist terror gangs living happily on welfare within their borders, and might well revert to their traditional moral relativism as soon as it is politically expedient.
Still, at this moment the tide of international opinion seems to have turned in Israel’s favor, and given that Hamas’ futile rocket-lobbing was never intended as a military victory but only a public relations coup, that bodes well for a total Israeli victory. In an ill-timed op-ed piece published in an Israeli magazine just days before Hamas started indiscriminately lobbing rockets into Israel, President Barack Obama was still urging the adoption of his proposed peace deal with the Hamas-affiliated government and claiming it would “help turn the tide of international opinion and sideline violent extremists,” but despite the Israeli’s wise decision to argue his advice the world seems willing to side with Israel’s right to sideline the violent extremists with some pin-point missile strikes at sites the civilians are long forewarned to stay away from. Perhaps this is another example of leading from behind, but it looks more like another botched attempt to keep up with rather than ahead of world opinion.

– Bud Norman

O Canada

We’re old enough to have been around when Pierre Trudeau was transforming Canada into the one of the world’s wussiest nations, and well remember how very envious was the American left. Trudeau was unabashedly socialist, considered an intellectual, and had a tabloid-worthy sex life, so he embodied everything Americans liberals would be looking for in a national leader over the subsequent decades. Even after Trudeau’s disastrous reign came to an end Canada retained a reputation for enlightened liberalism, with its health care system and gun-shyness and apologetic foreign policy and exquisitely sensitive multi-culturalism constantly cited by the likes of Michael Moore to shame the relatively conservative rubes south of its border.
We’re also old enough, alas, to have arrived at a point in our lives when we’re pining for the sort of national leadership that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now providing Canada. The sobering thought occurred to us again when Harper released a statement of unequivocal support for Israel’s right to respond however it wishes to the murderous rocket attacks on its people by the despicable terror gang Hamas, with none of the absurd moral relativism or bossy insistence on a suicidal two-state solution with a Hamas-affiliated government that our own abashedly socialist and considered-an-intellectual national leader was propounding in an op-ed piece in an Israeli magazine just before the latest attacks by that very same despicable terror gang starting lobbing rockets at civilian targets across Israel. Admitting the wisdom of the Canadian way is still uncomfortable for us, but it’s becoming all too familiar.
Harper is also quite right about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would benefit both Canada and America and keep inexpensive oil out of the hands of Chinese industries that will use it in more environmentally unfriendly ways, but our political leadership is too beholden to environmental fantasists to allow it. Canada’s economy was largely unscathed by the financial meltdown that occurred in America and elsewhere because it had wisely declined to require its banks to loan gazillions of dollars to un-creditworthy home buyers, has further enriched itself under Harper’s leadership by encouraging rather than discouraging the exploitation of its vast natural resources through new technologies, and is now several spots ahead of the United States on the Heritage Foundation’s reliable rankings of each country’s economic freedom. Harper has even begun an anti-carbon tax coalition with the conservative government of Australia, which came to power after the liberals’ insane cap-and-trade scheme proved calamitous for that island continent’s economy, and it’s almost enough to make us think that punting on third down isn’t such a bad idea.
One of those famously smart French intellectuals is warning Britons that the European Union is demographically dying and they’d be better off casting their lot with the Anglosphere, which strikes us as good advice, but for the first time in our long lives we don’t expect for the Americans to take their usual lead in that coalition. Perhaps in another two-and-a-half years the United States can assume its rightful position among that handful of nations that the only ones to be on the right side of every battle against tyranny during the 20th Century, but until then we can only envy the leadership to the north. There’s some consolation is knowing that the once-envious liberals are just as discombobulated by it all, but it is faint.

– Bud Norman

The Fissure at the Border

The president and his supporters in the press are trying their best to portray the Republicans as the villains in the ongoing border crisis, but it’s looking like more of a problem for the Democrats. All those unaccompanied minors who have illegally entered the country in the past months have unified the Republican opposition, annoyed the politically unaffiliated, and at long last exposed some dangerous fault lines in the Democratic coalition.
After so many years of successfully vilifying the Republicans as a bunch of stingy racist xenophobes eager to harass any brown-skinned people who innocently if illegally wander across the border it is now hard for the Democrats to argue that it was the GOP who lured all those unaccompanied minors across the border with promises of amnesty and ample social services. There have been some Republicans from the big business wing who were tolerant of an insecure border and willing to tolerate those who crossed it, but House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor lost to an under-funded unknown because of his welcoming attitude toward illegal immigrant even before the current mess started to dominate the headlines, and it’s a certainty that the next Republican majority in Congress will be almost entirely rid of such heretics. The smart people have long warned the Republicans that this stance will forever doom them to a demographic disaster, but it now seems likely to win the support of a lot of otherwise apolitical people who are suddenly being asked to pick up the tab for the education and health care and eventual imprisonment of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youngsters who hopped the freight trains across Mexico.
Worse yet for the Democrats, those demanding the immediate repatriation of the invaders include many voters they’ve come to depend on. “Every economist agrees” that importing a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking people into a country already suffering high unemployment and declining wages is just the thing to get the economy booming, according to a president who is fond of spouting such obvious nonsense, but a lot of high school drop-outs and a Harvard economist have already noticed the damage being done by unfettered immigration to financial prospects of those at the bottom rung. The law of supply and demand are more ruthlessly enforced than immigration, after all, and is hard for the most unsophisticated worker not to notice when the fines show up in a paycheck. A perpetually unkept promise to redistribute some wealth their way has kept the lower working class in the Democratic column for more decades than anyone alive could remember, but the immigration issue offers Republicans a rare opportunity to peel off a few votes with their own naked appeal to economic self-interest.
A disproportionate share of those low-wage workers are minorities, too, and their displeasure with the invasion is making hard to pretend that the opposition is comprised solely of  Gadsen-flag-waving and tricornered hat-wearing white folks. Some videos that have “gone viral” over at the much-watched YouTube site belie the press accounts that protestors who blocked the entrance of a convoy of Homeland Security buses full of the recent illegal arrivals in the California town of Murrieta were a lily-white mob, and feature African-Americans offering full-throated rants against admitting the youngsters. Our favorite of the videos show a couple of impassioned black men, one of them in Rastafarian garb, arguing with the pro-illegal immigration counter-protestors who had flocked the barricades. The counter-protestors are waving signs about how America stole the land from the Indians and Mexicans, but even the Native American in the “Vietnam Veteran” ball cap seems unable to articulate and argument about how the arrival of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youths is going to benefit his people. Illegal immigration not only gives black Americans competition for jobs, but also the political racial spoils that suffice in lieu of a job, and it will be difficult to keep the black political leadership on board with the Democrats’ agenda. It will be interesting to see if they’ll be able to keep Rep. Charles Rangel, who has been re-elected in Harlem since Reconstruction, but barely survived a primary challenge earlier this year in a district that is now majority Hispanic.
Sooner or later the homosexual community might consider if it is in their interest to welcome a massive immigration from a more macho part of the world that still taunts its soccer opponents with the Spanish equivalent of “faggot,” and then another loyal Democratic constituency could be in revolt. Those limo-driven one per centers who needn’t worry that their children will be seated next to any of the recent arrivals at their swank boarding schools will still be loyal to the cause, as will those idealists who believe that America should be caring for all of the world’s many billion needy, but the rest of the Democratic coalition will be vulnerable to doubts.
The overwhelming ublic sentiment for secure borders is so apparent that even the president is talking tough about sending the invaders back home, and he’s attempting to blame the Republicans for his failure to do so because they won’t authorize his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the situation. The request is tough enough to offend such open borders advocates as La Raza, the radical and revanchist and explicitly racialist organization from whence the president’s top policy advisor on immigration came, but it’s pork-laden and mostly spent on caring for rather than repatriating the aliens and will likely continue a policy of setting the invaders free with a pointless of promise of show up at a far-off deportation hearing. It’s calculatedly too soft to win the vote of any self-respecting Republican, and the president is already griping that the Republicans are too interested in playing politics to vote for it. We suspect the president would be more comfortable vilifying the Republicans as stingy racist xenophobes, and is eager to get back to that as soon the headlines fade and the negotiations on “comprehensive immigration reform” begin with whatever wobbly Republicans are left in the Congress, but the border crisis is causing all sorts of trouble for the Democrats.

– Bud Norman

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