Iran, Nukes, and the Parameters of a Robust Debate

There’s still no agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program, just “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” for an agreement, and the Iranians don’t agree that they’ve even agreed to that, but the president assures us this is progress toward peace in our time.
The “JCPOA,” which will soon be one of those must-know acronyms, does seem to have progressed from the administration’s opening bargaining positions but not toward anything that’s likely to result in peace. Even the sympathetic editorialists of The Washington Post concedes that “Obama’s Iran deal falls far short of his own goals,” noting that the heavily fortified Fordow plant and the rest of Iran’s nuclear centers will remain open, not one of the country’s 19,000 centuries will stop spinning, and that “when the accord lapses the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.” This was enough for the Iranian negotiator Javad Zarif to boast of the concessions he had forced, assuring his countrymen that “We will continue enriching, we will continue research and development,” but he later tweeted that the president was lying about whether the sanctions against Iran would end with reliable verification of their compliance to even such a generous agreement or immediately upon it’s signing. Much more negotiation seems likely, although the president seems eager to have it wrapped up before the Republicans in Congress can scuttle the deal with a sanctions bill and public pressure can force enough Democrats aboard to override a promised veto, but thus far the Iranians don’t seem very agreeable to anything that would actually end their nuclear weapons program.
The president said in a Thursday news conference that he will “welcome a robust debate in the weeks and months to come,” but he also set some parameters for that debate. He argued that the only three options are whatever capitulating deal the negotiations might yield, war, or return to the sanctions. He claimed that his most prominent foreign critics were itching for a war, saying that “It’s no secret that the Israeli Prime Minister and I disagree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue,” and dismissed the sanctions idea as a plan to “hope for the best.” So the “robust debate” will be between bloodthirsty Jews and starry-eyed dreamers and our very pragmatic president.
If the eventual agreement results in an Iranian nuclear bomb, which seems entirely possible if not likely, we’ll be siding with the bloodthirsty Jews and the starry-eyed dreamers. Even the president admitted in his news conference that it was economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiation table, and anyone else might notice that since the sanctions were eased the Iranians’ negotiating positions have hardened, and a bit more of those sanctions might force the kind of widespread revolt among the Iranian people that the president declined to back in ’09, and some further diplomatic and economic isolation and a military coalition promising a viable threat might further encourage some necessary regime change, and as risky as that might be it that doesn’t seem so hopeful as that “JCPOA.” We don’t desire war, nor do we believe that anyone in Israel or among our other nervous Middle East allies would prefer to it to a tenable peace, but if the Iranians are as insistent on war as they’ve acted during these negotiations it might as well come before they get a nuclear weapon rather than after.
The negotiations are expected to continue through June, and there might not be any agreement at all, unless the administration gives in to all of Iran’s demands, which likely include at least one of the Kardashian sisters before it’s all over, and even then the agreement could easily be nullified by a new president. We note the Iranians are sticking to their position that “the destruction of Israel is non-negotiatiable,” which probably won’t be a deal-breaker for the administration, and that they expect the Saudi Arabian government’s U.S.-backed war against Iranian-backed terrorist rebels in Yemen “will, God willingly, have no result other than Saddam’s fate for the aggressors and the U.S. that is the direct sponsor of this crime,” but surely some accommodation can be reached on that as well. Still, there seems to be a lot of talking left even within the Parameters for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and even within the far more constrained parameters of that robust debate the president says he’ll welcome.

— Bud Norman

Explaining Harry Reed’s Face

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada showed up in Washington earlier this year with a face that looked like it had been worked over by some brass-knuckled mobsters, along with an improbable explanation about a rubber band snapping on an exercise device in his bathroom, and most of the media were content to leave it at that. The general public and those pesky bloggers are more curious about such things, however, so there was eventually talk that the improbable tale of the exercise device in the bathroom was too improbable to be true and that maybe the rumors circulating in Las Vegas about Reid being worked over by some brass-knuckled mobsters were at least somewhat more probable.
Such gossip has now reached a point that the impeccably liberal Matt Yglesias at the impeccably liberal Vox.com site acknowledges it has “migrated from the water cooler to the mainstream,” the Bloomberg news service feels obliged to give it a “second installment of ‘Whoa, If True,’ an occasional look at the conspiracy theories that migrate from the wilds of the internet to the well-covered tundra of presidential campaigns,” and the left-wing Wonkette.com web site gave it the full snark. None of Reid’s defenders can definitively disprove the beaten-up-by-mobsters theory, of course, and none of the right-wing crazies being criticized for perpetuating the theory have actually said that Reid actually was beaten up by mobsters, just that it sure looked like he had been beaten up by mobsters, and that it seemed somewhat more probable than that obviously phony-baloney story about rubber bands and exercise devices in his bathroom, but such is the state of modern journalism, and the state of modern American politics.
Ordinarily we would feel some sympathy for any person forced to defend himself against fact-free slander, even a politician, but Reid is not an ordinary case. Among the myriad characters flaws that have made Reid one of the most odious public figures of his generation is his tendency to level the most outrageous accusations against his political opponents with no proof but full confidence that the target won’t be able to disprove them in time to ward off electoral defeat. The most notable example occurred during the 2012 presidential election when Reid took to the Senate floor to declare that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hadn’t paid federal income taxes in several years, which was not a mere mistake or slight exaggeration or the usual election-year rhetoric but rather an outright lie, and in a recent interview with CNN he said “They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?”
So if that’s the standard Reid wants to set, we’ll go ahead and figure that he got roughed up by some mobsters that he double-crossed. Come to think of it, it does seem at least more probable than that rubber band in the bathroom story.

— Bud Norman

A Rainbow Jumper in Indiana Hoops

Our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers won’t be playing in the “Final Four” of the college basketball championship tournament this weekend, having lost to a tough Notre Dame squad in the “sweet sixteen,” but at least they won’t be accused of homophobia for playing in Indianapolis. The entire state of Indiana is being boycotted by the more fashionable sorts of people because of its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics allege will unleash a torrent of anti-homosexual hatred in the Hoosier State, and a team that’s already so politically incorrect it plays its home games in Charles Koch Arena and has a fan base comprised largely of blue-collar types who make corporate jets and a mascot that’s hardly gluten-free doesn’t need that kind of trouble.
The impeccably up-to-date cities of Seattle and San Francisco have announced boycotts of Indiana, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed an executive order barring state employees from visiting any state with a similar law, and a “hashtag” campaign is currently recruiting more boycotters. The chief executive officer of the Apple computer company has written an op-ed for the Washington Post denouncing Indiana, and of course all the celebrities are “tweeting” about it. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association that is hosting the tournament in Indianapolis has issued a statement affirming that it is “deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our athletes” and “will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.”
Our guess is that any homosexual hoops fans who are well-heeled and lucky enough to have scored “Final Four” tickets will find Indianapolis a most hospitable host, despite the recent restoration of religious freedom there, and that any homosexual “student-athlete” competing in the tournament should hire a good agent to look over all the book and movie deals that will surely be coming his way. The federal government has had a Religious Freedom Restoration Act since the Clinton days, 19 other states have followed suit, each have simply reaffirmed legal principles that have prevailed for decades, and until recently the idea wasn’t at all controversial, yet the social trend has been toward ever greater tolerance for homosexuality. The trend has proved so inexorable that by now the cultural left no longer demands mere tolerance but is intolerant of any dissent on questions of sexual morality and intends to impose its own views through force of law.
Restoring religious freedom was all well and good when it meant that Native Americans could use peyote or the Amish could ride buggies or Muslims could wear beards, or some similarly sympathetic group demanded some similarly unusual right, but the idea that a plain old Christian businessman might be able to decline baking cakes or creating floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony, as Indiana’s new law allows, is just too weird for fashionable opinion to put up with. Seattle and San Francisco might be among the most racially segregated and economically stratified cities in the country, but at least they’re willing to force a Baptist baker to violate his conscience. Connecticut has its own religious freedom laws, which makes its governor looks rather ridiculous, but at least the University of Connecticut’s defending national champions didn’t qualify for the NCAA’s tournament and he’s not forced to bar its  state-paid coach from going to to the “Final Four.” The Apple company’s corporate conscience might allow it it do business with Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are routinely punished with lashes and execution, or China, where all manner of human rights violations occur, but at least it has bad things to say about Indiana. The cultural left will soon move on to another “hashtag” campaign urging closer ties to Cuba, where homosexuals are routinely harassed, and continue its apologetics for the brutally harsh treatment of homosexuals almost everywhere in the Muslim world, but it won’t put up with any white bread businessman’s qualms about same-sex marriage in Indiana.
Next season we expect the ‘Shockers will play their obligatory Missouri Valley Conference games in Evansville and Terre Haute, and we won’t be the least embarrassed to have them playing in the state that not only produced Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael but also Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. We root for the ‘Shockers because they’re the plucky underdogs going up against the rich and powerful, and if there’s a baker or florist in Indiana that would rather not work on a same-sex marriage ceremony regardless of what the Apple corporation or those “tweeting” celebrities think we’ll be rooting for him for the same reason. The same-sex couple that wanted to buy a cake or some flowers used to be the plucky underdogs, but we seem to have moved beyond that.

— Bud Norman

Lies, Damned Lies, and Polls

We’re not so cynical we would ever doubt a pollster, but we’re always suspicious of the folks who write their headlines. Consider the case of the latest numbers from The Washington Post and ABC News, which are neatly summarized as “Poll: Clear majority supports nuclear deal with Iran.”
One will momentarily assume that the “deal with Iran” the “clear majority supports” is the one currently being negotiated in Switzerland, which is probably what the headline writer intended, but on an another moment’s reflection one will realize that no one yet knows what that deal will look like. The lead paragraph is slightly more helpful, noting that “By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restrict’s the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions,” but it still implies that the deal being negotiated in Iran will look like that, and there is reason to doubt it.
In the very next paragraph, even the Post’s reporters acknowledge that the survey “also finds few Americans are hopeful that such an agreement will be effective. Nearly six in 10 say they are not confident that a deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons …” Apparently a large portion of the “clear majority” that supports a “nuclear deal with Iran” does so despite a belief that it won’t prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, or oppose the deal that is being concocted but felt obliged to endorse the theoretical deal that they don’t think is likely, but in either case it makes public support for the administration’s dealings less enthusiastic than the headline suggests.
Still, the Washington Post grimly warns that 47 percent of Republicans also supported that hypothetical deal where everything works out fine and that “the split contrasts with Republican lawmakers’ widespread backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech deriding the potential deal in early March before a joint session of lawmakers.” Those recalcitrant Republicans will be heartened by the next paragraph, though, where the Washington Post is obliged to admired that “Popular sentiment among Republicans is more in line with GOP lawmakers on the issue of whether Congress should be required to authorize any deal with Iran.” Citing a Pew Research Center survey, the reporters note that 62 percent of the public — not just Republicans — believe Congress should have final say on the matter.
As we write this the deal is still be negotiated, and there might not be a deal at all, and of course it remains to be seen if the reliably untrustworthy Iran government will abide by anything that is agreed to, and the Secretary of State is saying it all depends on what Allah is willing, but we share the widespread skepticism that it will work out quite the like deal that the “clear majority” supports. We’ll eagerly await the polling on the deal that actually transpires, and expect that even The Washington Post will have a hard time making it seem supportive of the administration. The poll taken just after Iran announces that it has a bomb will probably even be worse, but maybe by that time there will be a Republican administration to take the blame.

— Bud Norman

Revising the Foreign Policy Theory

As improbable as it might seem in retrospect, the theory underlying the Obama foreign policy when it was unveiled during the 2008 presidential campaign was that because of the candidate’s African heritage, Arabic middle name, Muslim schooling, and Messianic persona, “The day I am inaugurated, not only will the country look at itself differently, the world will look at America differently.” Throw in some silver-tongued and culturally relativist rhetoric, a bit of “daylight” between Israel and America, and other assurances that America had abandoned its past racist and imperialist bellicosity, we were assured, and the past millennia-and-a-half of unpleasant would cease. This fanciful notion had an understandable appeal to a war-weary country, but after seven years it requires a bit of revision.
The promised withdrawal from the hated war in Iraq has ceded control of a third of the country to the barbaric Islamic State, with the rest of the country increasingly reliant on the support of Iran, which has lately been backing a successful revolt against the American-backed government in Yemen, which the administration continues to cite as a model of its anti-terrorism strategy, complicating the administration’s efforts to capitulate to all of Iran’s demands in its negotiations over that country’s nuclear weapons program, which has already prompted Saudi Arabia to join a nuclear arms race in this volatile region. The Syrian civil war continues to rage despite the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian dictatorship, which once again crosses the president’s declared “red line,” which was supposed to have been settled through “re-set” relations with Russians, who continue to occupy large chunks of Ukraine and seem ready to grab more land. Libya continues its descent into chaos since being bombed into anarchy by a coalition “led from behind” by America, Afghanistan anxiously awaits the results of another American withdrawal, and Iran continues its reach into Lebanon and Jordan. There’s by now enough daylight between Israel and America to fill an Alaskan summer, enough to have scuttled any chance of a promised peace agreement with the Palestinians, yet our negotiating partners in Iran continue to chant “Death to America” and the rest of the Muslim doesn’t seem any more friendly.
Such a conspicuous gap between between what was promised and what has occurred requires some explanation, even for the most credulous press, so the reporters at Politico dug deep into their rolodexes and found some ambitious unnamed officials who were willing to give it a try. Someone described as a “Senior State Department official” went so far as to say that “If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is about us, which is a hard reality to accept.” We are heartened to hear that the administration has learned something over the past six years, and can appreciate how hard it must have been to accept that not everything that happens in the Middle East is about us, given their previous deep-seated beliefs that all the pathologies of the Middle East are entirely America’s fault, but we’re not reassured the right lessons have been learned.
The administration still seems intent on whatever bargain the Iranians might agree to, with a recent Iranian defector saying “the U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf,” although all the linear and non-linear ways that might turn out are catastrophic. Its apologists continue to blame the blame the policies of the previous administration, and by extension the previous 200 years of American foreign that sought to protect the country’s interests, even as they insist it is no longer about us. There is retreat on one front, drone strikes on another, and alliances that seem to mean little in terms of useful support on yet another. There is little reason to believe the administration understands that while events are always beyond America’s control they are rarely beyond its influence, that the more strident passages of the Koran and the Hadith have something to do with conflicts that have been ongoing since long before the founding of the American public, or that the relatively tiny population of Jews in the relatively tiny country of Israel aren’t somehow responsible for the whole mess.
One promise kept has been that the world now sees America differently. The world now sees us as an untrustworthy friend and harmless enemy. Perhaps America also sees itself differently, too, but we hope not.

— Bud Norman

Safe Rooms in an Unsafe World

One of our longstanding literary ambitions has been to write a satirical novel about the modern university, something along the lines of Mary McCarthy’s “The Groves of Academe” or Kingsley Amis’ “Lucky Jim” or Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” but it looks as if we’ll have to abandon the project. Academia is now more ripe for ridicule than ever, but apparently to the point that it is beyond satire.
Such a humorless publication as The New York Times recently ran a rather straightforward story that the latest campus contretemps that the combined talents of Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and the usual gang of idiots at Mad Magazine could not have rendered anything more comical. Headlined “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas,” the story told how Brown University hosted a debate between the founder of a feminist web site called feministing.com and a female libertarian on the topic of the “culture of rape” that now reportedly pervades the American campus, and how members of the school’s Sexual Assault Task Force responded to this exchange of ideas. Worried that the libertarian’s perspective on the issue “could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” and might even be “damaging,” the Sexual Assault Task Force members created a “safe space” for traumatized listeners to retreat from the debate, complete with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” Even if we had the imagination to concoct such absurd details, we would have rejected them as too obvious a burlesque of the infantilizing nature of modern higher education.
As The New York Times ruefully notes, such episodes are now common at America’s colleges and universities. Almost every day tells of a student being disciplined for merely questioning the veracity of that highly questionable “one if five women on campus are victims of sexual assault” claim, or professors being charged with “micro-aggressions” for patting the arm of a student angered by an opposing viewpoint, textbooks coming with “trigger warning” to alert the possibility of unapproved ideas, or women’s rights activists being barred from campus because they’re advocating the rights of women in the wrong cultures, or some other more mundane case of campus activists chasing dissenting views off campus. Institutions of higher learning once insisted on vigorous debate and an unflinching look at facts as necessary tools to the discovery of truth, but they’ve now determined they have all the truth they need and no longer anything as potentially traumatizing as debate and unwelcome facts. Little good is likely to come of it, and certainly less than one would expect for the tuition prices being charged today.
The same censorious instincts are found in the broader left, and score the occasional victories against free speech, but they are unlikely to prevail outside the campus. Reality intrudes outside the campus, as well as what’s left of the First Amendment, and most people who haven’t undergone an expensive indoctrination at such elite institutions as Brown University find it very annoying. Nor will anyone who has been so carefully shielded from opposing opinions and unpleasant realities be likely to prevail in the rough-and-tumble of American politics. Worse yet for those who took refuge with the cookies and coloring books and videos of frolicking puppies, they’ll be up against conservative foes who spent their years of higher education being constantly bullied, ridiculed, and shouted down for their beliefs, not just by their professors and deans but also by all the movies and television shows and the rest of the popular culture. The right’s arguments will be honed and its spines stiffened by the college experience, if they get nothing else out of it except perhaps for a still-lucrative degree in math or science or engineering or one those other suspiciously “objective” disciplines.
Even those supposedly oppressed sub-cultures that the left presumes to speak for are unlikely to offer the same sort of refuge as the modern university. If those people retreating to the “safe rooms” of Brown University are planning on community organizing in America’s poor neighborhoods, they’ll find that there are no cookies or coloring books or videos of frolicking puppies, and plenty of uncomfortable facts that they’d rather not face.

— Bud Norman

A Bad Deal Back in the News

The American public’s memory is short, and until Wednesday it had likely forgotten the name of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
He was briefly a celebrity last year when he was released from Taliban captivity in exchange for five high-ranking terrorists being held at the Guantanamo Bay in a deal brokered by President Barack Obama, complete with a Rose Garden news conference featuring Bergdahl’s teary-eyed parents and assurances from the White House that the freed prisoner had “served his country with honor and distinction.” There was a brief controversy about it, given that the five high-ranking terrorists were certain to return to their murderous ways, the teary-eyed father’s remarks in English and Arabic and Pashto at the news conference revealed he was a Taliban-sympathizing nut, and the soldiers who served with Bergdahl were telling anyone who would listen that he was a deserter and collaborator, and the Government Accountability determined the president’s deal had violated federal law, but it soon passed.
Until Wednesday, when the Army announced that Bergdahl would be court-martialed on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Even Bergdahl’s brief celebrity is enough to interest the media in a trial, so we can expect extended coverage of the evidence brought against him, and one can only hope that it will rekindle some of the public outrage that attended his release. Five high-ranking terrorists were released for him, a trade that looks even worse as the tide of war continues to not recede, Bergdahl’s Taliban-sympathizing nut of a father will likely become an annoying presence on the nation’s newscasts, and the president’s tendency to go beyond the traditional legal restraints on executive power has continued to prove troublesome, so perhaps the outrage will be even greater this time around. Should one of those five released high-ranking terrorists be able to claim credit for notably deadly attack Americans might grow greater yet, although the scant coverage of the terrorism committed by other prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay suggests it will have to be something spectacular.
There’s no getting those terrorists back, and little hope of persuading the current administration to capture and incarcerate any more of them, but the public outrage might do some good. The Bergdahl trade was one of several briefly outraging stories over the past many years that have steadily eroded the president’s support on foreign policy, and the public’s discontent has emboldened members of both in Congress in to resist the president’s effort to negotiate a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. So far the administration has declined to offer any details about what they’re offering, asking that the public trust its good intentions and expertise, but it’s hard to trust anyone who would swap five high-ranking terrorists for a deserter to make a deal with the likes of the Iranian government.
Much of the media will be looking for something else to talk about other than nuclear bombs and what might happen if Iran gets some, and the Bergdahl story could prove a distraction, and there will certainly be some stories about the poor young man caught in George W. Bush’s war who reached out to the enemy, but it won’t help with the president’s public relations efforts.

— Bud Norman

The Worst Spy Movie Ever

The espionage genre isn’t what it used to be back in the good old Cold War days. Back then there was a clear-cut good guy versus bad guy backdrop to a spy versus spy tale, no matter how morally ambiguous an Ian Fleming or John le Carre might render their cloak-and-dagger heroes, but these days it’s hard to tell who to root for. This story about Israel’s alleged spying on the negotiations between the United States and its European partners with the Iranian government, for instance, will never make the movies.
There’s no doubt that the Israelis did somehow discover information about the negotiations that President Barack Obama would have preferred they did not know, but it’s hardly the sort of thing that would get an American audience’s blood rushing. It’s all just a sub-plot of a bigger story that the Hollywood moguls won’t want to touch, as well, At this point we have no reason to believe there was even any spying at all, at least not of the sort of that involves the planting of electronic surveillance devices or the taking of pictures with tiny cameras slipped into the heel of a shoe or a comely seductress luring a diplomat to his doom or any of that cinematic sort of spy craft. The Israelis freely admit to having obtained all the information they could gather about America’s negotiations with a country that has vowed to drop nuclear bombs and them and annihilate their entire population, which seems a reasonable thing to do, but insists it was all a dreary matter of diplomatic contacts and calling in favors from well-placed sources and reading the same papers where Obama seems to get all his news, and this seems plausible enough. We’d like to think the diplomatic channels would put Israel in touch with some highly-placed American and European sources who would still prefer that Iran not annihilate the Jewish state and are willing to share information about any developments that might make that unhappy event more likely, and given the taut security of the Obama administration the eaves-dropping microphones and shoe cameras and comely seductresses hardly seems necessary.
To further muddle the plot, the Israelis didn’t pass the information along to some cat-stroking arch-villain in a South Pacific volcano island fortress but rather to the United States Congress and the American people. Even the Wall Street Journal article that broke this story, and with all the breathless fervor of a screenplay treatment being pitched to a Hollywood producer, admits that “The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.” It’s not clear from the story how The Wall Street Journal defines “espionage,” and whether its quoting of “current and former officials” would also meet that definition, but in any case the officials’ admission would introduce another plot-twist that would make that Hollywood producer wince. The good guy is supposed to be Obama, at least if you want to sell this script to Hollywood, and it’s likely to be a little confusing when he’s the one who’s withholding information not only from Congress, a stock villain, but also the American people. Even the foreign audiences, a vital market, might find that baffling.
Perhaps the plot can proceed that our heroic president is shrewdly negotiating a brilliant deal despite the efforts of hard-liners in both Iran and among those villainous Republicans and Israelis who so ardently desire an Iranian bomb, but if it will take some expensive computer-generated images to explain why the Republicans or Israelis would want that and some rather fanciful screenwriters to bring it to a happy ending. The big hole in the plot is why the heroic president with the masterful plan won’t reveal it to the American public until it has been signed, sealed, and delivered without the approval of the people and their elected congressional representatives. Those press reports that the deal will allow Iran to continue its nuclear-enriching centrifuges and join the nuclear club in ten years seem all the more convincing, the Iranian’s long history of duplicity in international affairs makes it hard to believe that even such generosity won’t be abused, and the most likely ending would be derivative of “Dr. Strangelove.”
There was never a sequel to “Dr. Strangelove,” as you’ll recall, and this plot is an even bigger downer.

— Bud Norman

Running on Cruz Control

Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz has officially entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and we’re glad of it. He’s a smart fellow and solid conservative who deserves his party’s consideration, and it will be fun watching the ensuing hysteria on the left.
The howling commenced immediately after Cruz launched his campaign Monday with a speech delivered at Liberty University and clearly aimed at the party’s conservative base. Just the choice of venue was enough to rile the left, as Liberty University is an unapologetically evangelical school founded by the late Moral Majority founder and left-wing boogyman Jerry Falwell, and is full of the kind of clean-cut and well-groomed and chaste young people who give the left the willies, and is even located in a town with the scary-sounding name of Lynchburg, Virginia, but all the talk about repealing Obamacare and restoring constitutional limits on government and balancing budgets was was like fingernails scraping across a blackboard to leftist ears, and when Cruz through in some talk about abortion and same-sex marriage and God it became all the more painful. “Tweets” immediately twittered across the internet from outraged listeners, most with the usual snarky but unspecific complaints about what a “moron” and “joke” and “wack job” Cruz is, the lattermost with a row of exclamation marks to emphasize its misspelled assertion of intellectual superiority, and yet they also seemed to fear that Cruz is also a diabolical genius. There’s already much talk about Cruz having been born in Canada, and we can’t tell if this is meant as a sarcastic payback for the questions that a small group of people raised about President Barack Obama’s place of birth or is a serious effort to have Cruz declared ineligible for the president, but in either case it demonstrates Cruz’s unhinging effect on liberals.
This only further endears Cruz to the conservative primary voters that he’s courting, though, and it made the praise for Cruz’s speech all the more effusive. Cruz is already well respected by conservatives for his willingness to take political risks for his beliefs, such as his leading role in the “government shutdown” of a while back in a noble but failed to effort to get Obamacare repealed, which is also why he is more despised by the left than the average Republican politician. To whatever extent Cruz becomes the favorite of his party’s conservative base he will be even more vehemently opposed by the liberal base of the opposition party, so his fortunes will ultimately be determined by all those folks in the middle. Much of the media will be happy to inform those largely uninformed voters that Cruz is a fire-breathing right-wing radical who will dismantle the government and force women into back alley abortions and conduct a foreign policy without proper respect for the touchier Islamic sensibilities, but Cruz can count on the support talk radio and other far-reaching conservative media, and it won’t be easy for the opposition to caricature him.
The “moron” stuff will quickly fade as the public comes to Cruz, who was graduated from Princeton and then Harvard Law School, where liberal Prof. Alan Dershowitz regarded him as his most brilliant student, so the diabolical genius angle will probably take over, but the birth certificate stuff will just give Cruz a chance to recount his heartwarming and humanizing family history as the son of a Cuban refugee. Nor is Cruz’s staunch conservatism so far out of the mainstream to be considered “wack job.” Repealing Obamacare and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and the “Common Core” takeover of local education are not ideas that will strike a vast majority of Americans as radical, and the public might even be in the mood for a little more governmental dismantling. Cruz’s blunt talk about social issues will strike many as old-fashioned and self-righteous, but when the Democrats are increasingly perceived as the party of transgenderism and forcing bakers to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a general distaste for anything religious, it’s hard to say which party that vast middle now considers out of the mainstream. Nor does the public seem to share the exquisite sensitivity to the touchier Islamic sensibilities of the current administration or any likely Democratic successor, so unless Cruz makes some very bellicose blunder he should enjoy the same advantage on foreign policy as any Republican nominee.
The Republicans will have other candidates who deserve consideration, though, and even Cruz’s admirers might find others a preferable candidate. Some have executive experience to go along with their own acts of political bravery, and there’s a case to be made that’s preferable to one term in the Senate now mater how distinguished it might have been. Some have their own heartwarming and human family histories, too, and more likable personas to go along with them. A few have also been vilified with the same vehemence by the left, which always endears a candidate to the right, and it was often because of the things they succeeded in doing. Cruz strikes us as far superior to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or any of the other candidates who might be making the same pitch for cultural conservatism, and the intellectual equal of any of his gubernatorial rivals, and the least establishment of any the congressional contenders, so we consider him a viable possibility to win it all. It’s going to be a long contest, though, and the field is strong, and Cruz might have weaknesses that have not yet revealed themselves, but we will be watching.
If nothing else, the hysteria on the left should prove amusing.

— Bud Norman

A Good Day in Wichita

We’re the first to decry the American culture’s overemphasis on sports, but there’s no denying that the outcome of that basketball game was of some ineffable but nonetheless very real significance to our humble little prairie town. One needn’t be from Wichita to understand the sense of civic well-being and even spiritual satisfaction that currently pervades Wichita, as an instinct to root for the plucky underdog of low breeding against the heavy favorite of aristocratic breeding is common of humankind, but it does help. Only Kentucky and North Carolina and Indiana and a few other states or cities are quite so basketball-crazy as Kansas, and no town in Kansas is any more basketball-crazy than Wichita, and none of them fully appreciate the mythic connotations and nearly perfect exemplification of the the plucky underdog versus entitled aristocrat nature of a WSU versus KU match-up, much less the giddy feeling that follows a WSU victory over KU.
Here in Wichita, which is the big city by Kansas standards, the game looms even larger, with the state’s basketball passion meshing perfectly with the games’s big city flavor. Early on Wichita developed its own basketball culture, with the great Wichita Athletic League, better known to Kansas sports fans as the the “City League,” developing a distinctly urban brand of basketball. In the early years Wichita High struggled against the disciplined farm boys in the surrounding rural towns, but by the time World War II and the aviation boom had created Wichita East and Wichita North and Wichita West and the rest of the City League were going they had Cleo Littleton playing at East and Wichita was suddenly a hotbed. Littleton joined the ‘Shockers as the first black player west of the Mississippi, playing in a Missouri Valley Conference then known as the “Valley of Death,” a league of urban colleges that would challenge the state schools and would shake up the order of college basketball with such players as the University of Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson, and that led to the Shockers’ signing of future pro star Dave “The Rave” Stallworth and a Final Four run in the ’60s. Those games were played at the old Forum downtown rather than on campus, and made ‘Shocker games a passion of the local aircraft-factory working citizenry rather than the student body, and Wichita State University was always associated more with then city than the state’s univeriy system.,
Mediocrity followed, despite a number of local players of note, while KU continued its annual appearance in those top-25 rankings, but a flowering of local talent in the early ’80s put Wichita State back in contention. KU had had all-American point guard Darnell Valentine from our our alma mater’s historic undefeated and greatest-of-all-time Wichita Heights High School’s 1977 Wichita Heights High School’s team, but Wichita State University had the star power ford Antoine Carr from the game group, who was a very cool if somewhat less clean-cut dude from that same team, and when they met New Orleans in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1981 the guy who had stayed in the old hometown won, and the hometown remembers it still. Since then WSU has won at home with an ugly stall-ball victory over the great Denny Manning’s KU team,and KU won the next game at home by a 49-point route during the years of mediocrity that still stings, but on Sunday WSU prevailed again
.Unless you’ve been paying the same inordinate attention the intricacies of college of baskeball that Wichita has lately been playing, it’s hard to understand how thoroughly satisfying WSU’s victory on Sunday feels. The win in Omaha doesn’t have the same ring as the “Battle in New Orleans,” but that ’80s run was tainted somewhat by the recruiting scandals that followed and a certain sleaziness associated with the program of the time. The ‘Shockers who prevailed on Sunday were all righteously recruited from the overlooked ranks of non-McDonald’s All-Americans that the blue-blooded likes of KU deigned to recruit, including a spunky white boy from a small school in western Kansas, the second best player on the Wichita Heights High School team that won four state straight state champions, even if the star player did wind up on KU, an unheralded player from Georgia that completely shut down half of KU’s blue chip backcourt, and an all-American point guard from the KU coach’s home state of Illinois that the ‘Shockers had spotted and signed before KU had a chance. The overlooked kids at lowly WSU who were playing out their eligibility at WSU beat the KU media darlings were who were doing their one year in mere college competition before going on to million dollar contracts in professional basketball, and it wasn’t really that close, so we’ll hope you’ll forgive ur lack of attention of the rest of the day’s news. It truly was a sweet days of sport spectating here in Wichita.

— Bud Norman

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