Scary Monsters of the Left’s Imagination

Not content with shoving grandmothers off of cliffs, stranding polar bears on ice floes, and waging war on women, the Republicans are now making three-year-old girls cry. That’s the word on the left side of the internet, at least, after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s frank assessment of America’s recent foreign policy frightened a young listener.
The incident occurred during a pre-presidential campaign speech in New Hampshire, where Cruz told the small crowd that because of “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind” the “whole world is on fire.” This news proved so alarming to a little girl on the front row that she demanded confirmation that the world was on fire, and when Cruz reiterated that it was she reportedly began crying. Cruz immediately tried to reassure the girl that “Your mommy is here and everyone is here to make sure that the world you grow up is even better,” but too late to escape the protective wrath of the liberal punditry. A site called Raw Story headlined its story “Ted Cruz scares the hell out of a terrified little girl,” and describes the Senator “shouting” his speech. New York Magazine went with “Ted Cruz’s Campaign Strategy: Scare Little Kids,” and imagines the girl, “Forced to sit scarily close to the spittle-spewing angry monster posing as a junior Senator from Texas,” wondering “Mommy, why is that mean man yelling at me?” At the Daily Kos web site, the headline was “Cruz terrifies a small child, his ideas should terrify us all,” and the story was mostly about Cruz advocating such “crazy” policies as making education a local and state rather than federal responsibility.
Most of the sites at least provide video footage of the event, which allows the reader to draw his conclusions about whether Cruz was shouting or spewing spittle or yelling at a little girl, and whether the little girl was so traumatized as the reports would suggest. Our viewing of the video reveals that Cruz was speaking at a normal volume, no spittle was spewed, his interaction with the little girl was not at all threatening, and that she seemed more flummoxed by the metaphorical language than terrified by a monster. The girl’s mother has been telling anyone who will listen that no lasting damage was done, and that her daughter left with the hopeful impression that “Cruz is the man who puts the fires out,” but the left dismisses her testimony on the theory that anyone who would take a child to a Cruz speech is obviously an unfit parent, so we will leave the reader to his own judgment.
We suspect, however, that Cruz’s critics would have been offended by his criticism of President Barack Obama no matter how quietly or literally or dryly it was expressed. Such lese majeste is frightening to liberals, and they seem to be projecting their own fears on to that little girl. We can’t recall these liberals tsk-tsking when former Vice President Al Gore was bellowing that George W. Bush had betrayed his country, or former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was howling his famous campaign trail scream, or presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was shrieking that she had a right to debate and disagree with any presidential administration, and we assume that youngsters were in attendance on each of those far louder and more spittle-spewed occasions. Nor do liberals seem to mind frightening the young folks with tales of grandmothers being thrown off cliffs and polar bears stranded on ice floes or Republican wars on women that will force them into back alley abortionists.
Cruz’s rhetoric was restrained by comparison, and we dare say it even understated the international mess that has resulted from Obama’s foreign policy. Had he taken the time to list all the problems, from Iran’s imminent nuclear bomb to Russia’s revanchist romp across eastern Europe to the military build-up China is financing with America’s debt service payments, that poor little girl truly would have suffered a lifetime of nightmares. We’re old enough to recognize “the world is on fire” as a figure of speech, and can even recall the Carter years, and it’s not Cruz that we’re afraid of.

– Bud Norman

Incitement to a Shooting

A suspect has been arrested for the shootings of two police officers during a protest last week in Ferguson, Missouri, and he does not appear to be a white supremacist. There was never any reason to believe that a white supremacist would go to a protest against against a police force accused of unjustifiably shooting an unarmed black teenager in order  to shoot two white officers, but a Democratic Missouri state Senator raised that unlikely possibility rather than admit that the shooting more likely had something to do with the anti-police fervor that he and others have whipped up since a white police officer shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson last summer.
According to press reports, the suspect has confessed to the shootings but insists he was aiming at some rival criminal rather than police. The suspect’s lengthy records of run-ins with the law suggests he just might be stupid enough to attempt a murder of a rival criminal in the middle of a protest rally and wind up striking two of the many law enforcement officers present instead, but the county attorney says that “We’re not sure we buy that part of it,” and it also strikes us as unlikely. Far more likely is the obvious conclusion that the shooter was motivated by an animus toward the police, and that he took the protesters’ chants for the murder of police to heart. Similar chants during the protests in New York City that followed another black man’s death at the hands of police there were answered with the murders of two officers, and those who have been encouraging the protests are understandably concerned that an outbreak of shootings against law enforcements will not win public support, which explains why some of the agitators are reaching for such far-fetched explanations as white supremacists trying to start a race war.
The protests against the police have already taken a public relations hit from the inconvenient facts of the case that started it all. A grand jury and the rest of the American public learned of physical evidence and eyewitness testimony that clearly proved the shooting of the black teenager in Ferguson was in self-defense, to the point that even Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department was forced to concede it could not bring federal charges the officer and had to settle for making a federal case out of the town’s traffic enforcement policies, and the broader claim of an ongoing war by the nation’s police against young black men has proved equally unfounded. Lacking any logic or facts, or even any sympathetic victims whose bloody shirts can be waved, the protesters have resorted to the sort of demonization that can only embolden people who already harbor a murderous rage against the police.
Which is not to allege any blame against the vast majority or the protesters, or anyone who has peaceably argued that reforms are needed to improve the policing of minority neighborhoods in America. Those responsible protesters have hurt their cause by linking it to what turned out to be a justifiable shooting of a rather unsavory young bully who was attempting to kill a policeman, and by their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the high levels of minority criminality that must be addressed by any solution, but they don’t bear any responsibility for the shootings of the police officers. Every protest movement is entitled to even strident free speech, and all attract a few crazies, and it is not conducive to free speech to blame the protest for the acts of an individual.
The anti-police protests, though, have too frequently indulged in rhetoric that seems calculated to provoke the movement’s most violent elements. Not just the recent chants about dead cops and the rap music that has been calling for the murder of police officers for years, but in its embrace of lies about a particular cop in Ferguson gunning down a “gentle giant” who was kneeling with his hands up. This lie was advanced at the highest levels of the federal government, with the White House sending emissaries to the funeral and the Justice Department helping to organize the protesters even as it launched an investigation in the Ferguson police department, as well as prominent print and electronic news organizations. It was a lie calculated to inflame the passions of neighborhoods already rife with violence and criminality, and those who told it share in the responsibility for two more brave police officers being shot.

– Bud Norman

Free Speech and Racist Frat Rats

The latest battle against censorship on campus is being fought at the University of Oklahoma, just a few hours drive down I-35 from us, and it’s an ugly affair. Modern academia and its censorious impulses provide free speech advocates with plenty of opportunities to stand up for reasonable opinions that somehow offend liberal sensibilities, but in this case we are obliged to defend the right to some unabashedly old-fashioned racist boorishness.
It all started when the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers chartered a party bus and decided to celebrate the occasion with a boastful chant about their racially exclusive admission policies, replete with frequent use of a certain notorious fighting word and a jocular reference to lynching, and not in the ironically anti-racist manner of the more up-to-date nightclub comedians. Somebody recorded the event with a cellular phone’s video camera, of course, and it wound up on the internet, of course, and of course much offense was taken. The outrage was such that hundreds of OU students and faculty staged a protest, the national fraternity revoked the offending chapter’s charter, and the university’s president summarily expelled the two students who had been identified as leading the chant.
As free speech advocates we have no quarrel with the peaceful protests, and acknowledge the national fraternity’s right to restrict its membership however it chooses, but the expulsions are another matter. The courts have long held that public universities are bound by the First Amendment and cannot punish students for their speech, no matter how offensive, and for a variety of good reasons. Aside from the plain language of the Constitution, any restriction on free speech will inevitably lead to another, important ideas will be squelched because some well-organized group or another will find them offensive, and given how very touchy academia is these days there’s no telling where it all might end. Already America’s universities are restricting debate on a variety of issues, from the global warming issue to Israel to the “culture of rape” that is said to pervade the modern campus, but the dialogue about race is especially constrained. Anyone challenging liberal orthodoxy on matters of race is routinely branded a racist, even if they are trying to address the frequently disastrous results of liberal orthodoxy for black America, and any effort to ban racism, no matter how well-intentioned, will allow the keepers of the faith to shut down debate completely. Given how many well-organized groups are taking offense at the slightest provocation these days, placating them all would require limiting scholarly discourse to quiet, guilty shrugs and sympathetic nods.
Which is not to say that you shouldn’t be offended by those boorish frat boys and their witless chant, or that you shouldn’t avail yourself of a heaping portion of free speech to express your offense, or that widespread public scorn isn’t an appropriate way of dealing with such unambiguously racist sentiments. In fact, we note that such stigmatizing has rather effectively made the public expression of such racist sentiments rare, and improved race relations to the point that a bunch of drunk frats joking about lynching seems to be a more pressing problem than actual lynchings. Similar results might be achieved if society were to once again attach a stigma to deliberately vulgar language and contraceptive abortion and unwed parenthood and a host of other social ills that the left doesn’t seem to find offensive, but even in these cases we would prefer social persuasion to governmental coercion.
The president of OU might soon find himself in one of those courts that have long held that public universities are bound by the First Amendment, and we won’t mind seeing him lose this one. He was formerly a governor and senator for Oklahoma, back when then state used to elect Democrats to such high offices, and was known for his occasional liberalism and constant devotion to state’s oil and gas industries, so we suspect the same political instincts led him to expel those two students. The controversy caused OU to lose a potential football recruit to the University of Alabama, after all, so the students had not only offended liberal sensibilities but also posed a threat to a crucial business interest. This will only exacerbate the public’s scorn for the two students, and further deter future racist chants on campus, but we’re not so concerned. If that potential football recruit truly believes he won’t encounter any racist frat boys at the University of Alabama he won’t be able to comprehend a playbook, much less an American history textbook, so he probably wouldn’t have done the Sooners any good even if those racist frat boys hadn’t been too stupid to know that there are cell phone video cameras everywhere these days and everything winds up on the internet.

– Bud Norman

A Double Dose of Outrage

Two stories are dominating the news lately, and between them they can outrage almost anyone. One is the Obama administration’s ongoing capitulation to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and if that’s not the sort of thing you find outrageous you’ll probably be outraged that 47 of the Senate’s Republicans have signed an open letter to the leaders of Iran warning that any agreement the current president makes which is not ratified by Congress could just as easily be un-made by a future president. The other is Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account during her tenure as Secretary of State, and if you’re not outraged by the security risks, lack of transparency, and violation of federal regulations that practice entailed you’ll probably be outraged to learn that some people are picking on those poor Clintons again.
That open letter to Iran is “treason,” according to The New York Daily News’ blaring front page headline, and “a treacherous betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system” according to its editorial. MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews called the letter a violation of the Logan Act, adding that “They were trying to undermine the work of an American president by first of all disrespecting him, even if they don’t get charged and in prison for it.” The president himself didn’t go quite so far in his griping, but he did conclude there was an “odd coalition” between the Republicans and the Iranian government’s hardliners who are reportedly resisting any deal with America. Such sentiments are common on the left, where the outrage tends to be rather selective.
We can’t recall The New York Daily News using the word “treason” when Sen. Ted Kennedy was directly corresponding with the Soviet Union during President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to win the Cold War, or when current Secretary of State and then-Sen. John Kerry and other congressional Democrats were sending notes to “Dear Comandante” Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua around the same time, or when former President Jimmy Carter was conducting any of his numerous post-presidential efforts to undermine the American policies he opposed. We’re not sure if Matthews really meant to suggest that “disrespecting” a president should be punishable by imprisonment, and we clearly recall that he didn’t seem to think so until Obama was inaugurated, but if he was suggesting that the Logan Act needs to be strictly enforced, unlike, say, immigration law, he should probably check to see if the statute of limitations has run out on Secretary Kerry and the rest of the “Dear Comandante Democrats.” As for the president’s notion of an “odd coalition” between the Iranian hardliners intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and the Republicans bent on stopping them, we can only assume that he meant the Republicans were endangering his own heroic efforts to that end, yet he hasn’t yet offered any assurances to contradict the numerous news reports that he’s capitulating to a nuclear Iran at some point in the near future.
Similarly selective is the left’s outrage over the ongoing Clinton e-mail scandal. Those still loyal to the Clintons have been looking around for Republicans who also have private e-mail accounts, although most of the ones they’ve turned up have been private citizens, or citing the past Secretaries of State who didn’t use government e-mail accounts, although they all served before a law was passed requiring it and of course most of them didn’t use e-mail at all, or simply insisting that Clinton’s assurances should be good enough. Ed Schultz, another MSNBC person, noted that Clinton is of that “demographic” that doesn’t deal well with these newfangled electronic gizmos that the youngsters are so crazy about, but it’s probably not helpful to her presidential campaign to remind people of her age. Back in ’08 the MSNBC people were chiding Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain about his admission that he’d never sent an e-mail, and although they were forced to drop the subject when he further explained that his war injuries made typing painful the image out of an out-of-touch old-timer still stuck. Professional Clinton apologist James Carville insisted that the e-mail brouhaha was just another one of those phony scandals that the vast right-wing conspiracy has been concocting for the past 25 years, but it probably wasn’t helpful for him to recount such efforts as Whitewater, the White House travel office firings, those suspiciously profitable cattle futures trades, Benghazi, and other matters that many Americans won’t consider phony. With uncharacteristic humility Clinton conceded a news conference Tuesday that “it would have been better” to use a government e-mail account, but insisted there were no security breaches, that she had already released thousands of e-mails, that federal law allowed her to have a private e-mail account, and she clearly seemed outraged that any would question her word.
Despite her effort to limit such impertinent questioning by holding the news conference after her speech on women’s rights at the United Nations, where the unwieldy press accreditation process kept some of the peskier reporters away, Clinton found that it’s not just the vast right wing conspiracy that harbors doubts but also some formerly friendly press outlets. The first question offered an invitation to blame the controversy on sexism, which she shrewdly declined, but the rest of the questioning was conspicuously pointed, and the coverage impolitely noted that there was no way of knowing if any security breaches had occurred, that thousands of e-mails were not released and that Clinton chose which ones were available for scrutiny, and that federal law allows private e-mail accounts for private matters but requires a government account for government business. Even The Washington Post couldn’t help recalling all the past Clinton scandals, and in an article headlined “Clintons and Controversy: The Circus is Back in Town.”
Clinton loyalists might find such skepticism less outrageous coming from fellow liberals, but if the past 25 years of Clinton scandals are any indication they’ll remember the names and carry the grudge. That might even be why the mainstream press now seems so unwilling to do their usual work on the Clintons’ behalf, but we expect they’ll come around and start focusing their attention on the Republicans again if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination. Should Clinton win and decide that criticism of that Iran deal is good politics we don’t expect that anyone will accuse her of treason, but until then anyone who hasn’t learned to stop worrying and love the Iranian bomb will likely be subject to all sorts of slander and slurs.
Dissent used to be the highest form of patriotism, but that was back when Ronald Reagan was fighting the Cold War and George W. Bush was prosecuting a hotter war on terror. Now they dare call it treason.

– Bud Norman

If Only Obama Knew

Will Rogers used to preface his humorous observations on the political scene by stating that “All I know is what I read in the papers,” which always got a big laugh back in the Great Depression days, and it’s still a good line for a folksy humorist. President Barack Obama is fond of the same disclaimer, however, but it doesn’t suit his job as well.
The latest development that the president only became aware of by reading the morning papers was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account. The practice posed a security risk, kept records from public scrutiny, and seems in violation of federal regulations, so we can only imagine the the president’s alarm upon learning about such a serious matter. One might wonder how the president failed to notice it during the four Clinton served as his Secretary of State, during which time one can only assume there was some e-mail communication between the two, but so far no one in the press has been so rude as to ask about it. If they ever do, the president will probably have to await the morning papers to learn of his response.
If not for the press, a number of serious situations might have entirely escaped the president’s attention. The invaluable Sheryl Atkisson, demonstrating again the lese majeste that led to her departure from CBS News, has helpfully compiled a list of seven other times that the president professed to be shocked by press accounts of major stories. It starts way back in the early days of the Obama administration with Air Force One buzzing the State of Liberty and frightening the understandably skittish New Yorkers, continues with the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme at the Department of Justice, then the sex scandal involving Central Intelligence Agency director Gen. David Petraeus, and of course the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups, then the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, then the National Security Agency’s spying on foreign leaders, and then the phony record keeping to cover up the substandard care being provided by the Veterans Administration. One of the commenters at Atkisson’s site mentions several more, including the problems leading up to the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare web site, but they’re too numerous mention.
That portion of the public still devoted to the president seems willing to give him a pass on these problems, since he presumably didn’t know they were going on would surely have done something about it if he did, but the rest of us are entitled to some concern about his inability to keep abreast of what’s going on in his government. We suppose the president can’t keep up on everything, what with all the golfing and fund-raising and appeasing his job entails, but Air Force One and the DOJ and the CIA and the IRS and the NSA and the VA and the State Department are all under the purview of the executive brand and ultimately the responsibility of the chief executive. We can’t recall the heads of any high officials rolling for their failure to notify the president of the major developments unfolding on his watch, except for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who also seemed surprised to find out about that Obamacare web site, and the president never seems at all embarrassed to say that some ink-stained wretches who have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and wait to get their phone calls returned and accept “no comments” on the first many tries somehow knew better than the president what was going on in the executive branch.
Perhaps the president was aware of these many problems as they occurred but was unable or unwilling to deal with them, but if so that is a problem. Perhaps the government is simply too vast for any one person to know what it is up to, but if so that’s also a problem, and one that the president seems determined to compound by vastly expanding both the government and the executive branch’s control over it. The biggest problem is that if you only know what you read in the papers, you don’t know much.

– Bud Norman

The Modern World and Its Discontents

As regular readers of this publication have no doubt already noticed, even on a ordinary day we have no affinity for this modern world. This has been no ordinary day, however, and we are more fed up than usual.
It all started a week or so ago when we noticed that our connection to the internet, one of the few saving graces of modernity, had somehow gone awry. According to one of those little boxes that appear on a computer screen when investigating such matters our cable was unplugged, despite our slightly less reliable real world observation that our cable was indeed plugged, and after some time-consuming difficulty in getting in telephonic touch with a representative of our internet provider, and much time-consuming difficulty in running through his incomprehensible internet-testing drills, we were advised that there must be something wrong with the cable connecting our modern to our computer. The cable looked much as it always had, leading us to suspect that it had something to do with an update our computer-maker had offered offered around the same time, which upon being downloaded turned out to have pretty much re-configured the whole machine, but we were advised by the people on the telephone, who presumably knew what they were talking about, that we’d have to purchase a new cable from one of their local stores.
We won’t mention the name of the internet provider, lest they retaliate with further complications, but suffice to say it is a major telecommunications company that once enjoyed a legally-protected monopoly on its industry. Despite the company’s prominence, however, its closest store was clear over at 21st and Maize. The internet was still coming in and our dispatches were still going out due to some strange metaphysical force called “wi-fi,” albeit at a frustratingly slow pace, and there was a daunting amount of snow on the ground, which we can’t really blame on modernity, although the global warming crowd will probably try to find some post-industrial explanation for it, so we procrastinated on our purchase of the cable for a week or so.
For those of you unfamiliar with the cartography of Wichita, Kansas, 21st and Maize is so far on the west side of the city that you can almost see the Rocky Mountains from there, and beyond where any of you have any reason for Wichita to exist, and the journey seemed daunting. It’s a spot we can fondly recall from our boyhoods as an antique gas station where Ma and Pa Kettle used to do business surrounded by scenic wheat fields, but is now on that densely populated west-of-the-Big-Ditch part of town where the traffic is tortuous and the stoplights take forever, and all the businesses are links on national chains and the architecture is unimpressively upscale and everything seems less like Wichita, Kansas, than Anywhere, USA. Our own residence is a few blocks west of the Arkansas River and therefore technically west side, even if it is in the fashionable Riverside neighborhood, so we can’t be snobby about such things, and it’s not as if the oh-so-chic 21st and Rock Road traffic jam out on the far east side is any less offensive to our old-part-of-town sensibilities, but we do dread a drive to 21st and Maize even in the recently inclement weather.
Of course the store did not have the promised cable, but of course there was a large electronics chain right across the street, and it had a cable we thought might be worth betting a rather small amount of dollars on. We figured we’d also wager the meager price of one of those thingamajigs that plugs the cable with the square plastic prongs with the little plastic peg into those one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs that actually plugs into our new computer, just on the off chance that the old one was the problem, and then we spent interminable minutes at incessant stoplights on the way on home with our newly purchased gear. The thingamajig that plugs the cable with the square plastic prong with the little plastic peg into the one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs required that we download a compact disc onto computer, which also proved to be time-consuming and difficult, and then another one of those little boxes on the computer screen indicated that it had created a new portal to the internet, and when we clicked on the magic icons that bring us the internet we we were met with more boxes offering instructions to log on. This proved easy enough until a password was requested, at which point we realized we had long forgotten which of the innumerable “open sesame” incantations was requested, and after several futile guesses we wound up consuming more time and encountering more difficulty getting an actual human from that big inhuman telecommunications company on the telephone.
She was quite nice and helpful, we must say, but her help was time-consuming and difficult. It involved much typing and clicking, including some code numbers listed on tiny script on our modem, and we kept typing “7” instead of “?” because the type was so small and our brains are accustomed to seeing numbers rather than punctuation marks in code numbers, so much re-typing and re-clicking was required, but we eventually worked it all out. We were soon plugged into the internet by wire rather than “wi-fi,” as God and Thomas Edison intended, and suddenly everything was going so fast that you’re probably speed-reading through this posting. In short order the Drudge Report and the rest of the right-wing media had caught us up on the day’s news, but alas, it did little to improve our opinion of the modern world.
At least the forecast for our formerly small and pleasant prairie city is calling for clear skies and gradually increasing temperatures through the next week, to an extent that we might even be able to have the top down on our next drive across our unnecessarily enlarged town, and if that’s a result of the modern world’s carbon emissions we’re still glad of it. Early Sunday morning we’ll spring forward to another hour of daylight, too, another modern innovation that doesn’t actually extend the extent of daylight but at least pushes into the evening where it belongs, and we’re also glad of that, even if it means the preacher at out our old west side church won’t get our usual alert attention during his Sunday morning sermon. We expect the days will grow warmer and longer yet, no matter what the modern world might contrive, so we will be hopeful and continue to air our gripes about the modern world on this newfangled internet machine.

– Bud Norman

The Losses Mount

We had hoped that the Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress would restore some constitutional order and common sense to the federal government, but so far it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. This week Democratic discipline and Republican defections doomed an effort to block the president’s executive orders on illegal immigration, and despite a few defections of their own the Democrats were able to sustain a presidential veto on bill to at long last allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. If the Republicans can’t win on these issues, it’s hard to see how they’ll ever score a victory.
There is little public enthusiasm for offering amnesty and work permits and government benefits to millions of illegal immigrants, thus inviting millions to cross the border, and even less for the unprecedented presidential power that is bringing it about. The only opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline comes from a relatively small group of radical environmentalists, who seem to believe that the planet will somehow be better off if Canada’s oil is refined in China rather than America, and the president’s veto of the project is part of a broader effort to raise energy prices that is also unpopular. Two better opportunities to confront the president might not come along soon, even if the president does have a knack for proposing unpopular policies and seems to grow even less concerned about public opinion the nearer he gets to the end of his second term, so the losses are especially discouraging.
Buoyed by public opinion and prodded by his party’s conservative base, the usually timid House Speaker John Boehner managed to pass a bill that would deny funding to the Department of Homeland Security to carry out the executive orders, and the usually timid Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell made an effort to get it passed in the Senate, but it all came to naught. The Democrats used the same filibuster rules they had decried until the Republicans took control of the Senate, threatening a shutdown of the entire department, and although one would expect the Democrats to be blamed for making such a dire threat, especially for the sake of an unpopular policy being enacted through unpopular means, enough Republicans panicked to force capitulation and cough up a full year of funding. The Republicans’ nervousness is understandable, given the scathing press coverage that always accompanies the word “shutdown,” and some of the ones who bolted represent districts that include a large share of Latino voters, or simply pay too much attention to the newspapers that are still peddling the notion that inviting in millions of illegal immigrants to sign up as Democrats is a smart political move for the Republicans, but the issue was worth some risk and might even have been winnable. That House bill would have funded all the department’s necessary work against terrorism, and it was the Democrats who would have shut it down rather than refuse funding for the executive orders, and it’s always possible the public would have been made to understand that despite the best efforts of the press.
Alabama’s stalwart Sen. Jeff Sessions has vowed to continue the fight by whatever legislative means present themselves, and we’re sure that at least he will do so, and there’s always a chance that the court ruling against the executive order will be upheld, although we’re not at all sure the courts will ever again do the right thing, so perhaps some sort of victory can be achieved down the road. For now, though, the president wins again.
He managed to win on the Keystone veto, too, although seven Democrats who are facing re-election in states where the oil industry is prominent felt more responsive to public opinion and joined the Republicans. Even when they’re vote the Democrats were able to muster the 35 votes needed to sustain the veto, which is a testimony to the party’s ability to keep members in line. When the Democrats are willing to back their president on even such a damned fool idea as blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, the chances of overriding any other vetoes are not good. There is some speculation that they might do it with a bill imposing economic sanctions on Iran, but we wouldn’t bet against the president winning yet again. There is great public support for Israel, whose Prime Minister just this week defied the president by asking Congress to impose the sanctions as a means of ending its nuclear weapons program, but Israel will never be as popular as cheap gasoline.
The Republicans’ conservative base is once again clamoring for new leadership in both the House and Senate, and they’re probably right to do so, but the Democrats should also be getting some pressure from the public. President Barack Obama need no longer care what the people think, but almost everyone in Congress will eventually be up for re-election can’t afford to be so openly disdainful of public opinion. Whoever the Republicans choose for their leaders, they’ll need to be a bit more persuasive to at least a few more Democrats who are bound to be at least a bit nervous about where the president is leading them.

– Bud Norman


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