Keeping the President Alive

Back when President Barack Obama was first elected, during that delusional era of hope and change and boundless “Yes we can” optimism, it was a widely held belief among our liberal friends that he would soon be assassinated.
The notion that the James Earl Rays of America would never tolerate a black president had been a staple of black stand-up comedy for years, and the more progressive white folks seemed to assume that conservatives harbored the same murderous fantasies that they’d indulged in all through the George W. Bush era. Our nation’s unhappy history compelled us to concede that there was a risk, but we tried to reassure our friends that it didn’t seem any more dire than usual. There are no doubt a few would-be James Earl Rays left out there, but by now even the dimmest of them are well aware that modern society won’t confer them the heroic status that their hero mistakenly thought he would acquire, and every conservative of our acquaintance was especially anxious to see the president serve out his term. Not just for the usual patriotic and moral reasons, or the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, but also from a nagging fear that a martyred Obama would usher in an era of unrestrained liberalism more effectively than even a live one.
If an assassination attempt were made, we figured, it would most likely be by another of the deranged anarchists or disgruntled office-seekers or Fair Play for Cuba activists or Manson family members or man-hating feminists or love-struck movie fans or assorted other nut cases who have taken shots at presidents in the past. The thought has reoccured to us with the news that one such nut case was recently able to climb over the White House fence, walk through the unlocked front door, manhandle his way past an undersized woman security guard, and then penetrate deep into the president’s residence. Throw in the the past several years’ worth of stories about Secret Service agents boozing it up and consorting with prostitutes, party-crashers making their way to within hand-shaking distance of the president, known criminals  pretending to provide deaf language interpretation right next to the president, along with some of the other Secret Service scandals so numerous we can’t quite recall them all of the top of our head, and there is reason to believe that a president whose survival is of paramount importance to both liberals and conservatives is not being adequately protected.
Congressional hearings regarding the matter are scheduled for today, with the woman in charge of presidential security summoned to provide testimony, and we expect the Republicans will pose the more aggressive questions and insist on the more robust solutions. The president is ultimately responsible for own security, as we all are, and as usual it would be embarrassing for the Democrats to too closely scrutinize his job performance. The Republicans, remembering how much more saintly and perfectly liberal President John F. Kennedy was in death than he ever was  in life, and knowing full well that they will be blamed for any misfortune, just as Dallas’ “riight-wing  climate of hate” was blamed for that Fair Play for Cuba activist’s lucky shots, will have a greater stake in keeping the president alive.

– Bud Norman

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Crossroads, Paths to Peace, and Blah Blah Blah

That speech President Barack Obama gave to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Wednesday wasn’t all bad, but the good parts were a begrudging repudiation of his past statements and the rest of it was just awful.
There was at last an acknowledgement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the reason for the Middle East’s dysfunctions, an “illusion” that has previously formed the basis of administration policy, but of course it was accompanied by a claim that “the violence engulfing the region has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace.” There was some needed tough talk about Russia’s recent aggressions in Ukraine and America’s commitment to its NATO obligations, which had been described in a previous UN address as “relics of the Cold War,” but except for the very non-lethal aid and ineffectual sanctions that he boasted of nothing that will do any good for the Ukrainians. There was a heartening claim that “America is and will continue to be a Pacific power,” but nothing about funding the Navy at the levels it needs to make that claim more than mere bluster. There was also some talk about how Iran must not let his generously provided opportunities to abandon its nuclear weapons program pass, but nothing specific about what might happen if they continue building the bomb.
The rest of it probably had the assembled delegates, good guys and bad guys alike, rolling their eyes. After opening with some happy talk about what a great time it is to be alive and some flattery about the UN’s role in bringing about this golden era, without bother to apologize for not asking the body’s permission to conduct his various bombing campaigns around the unprecedentedly peaceful globe, he humbly admitted that there is nonetheless a “pervasive unease in our world.” He attributes this to the “failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world,” his previous flattery of the UN notwithstanding, and to “violent extremism.” That failure of the international system presumably refers to Russia’s and China’s failure to secure UN approval for their ambitions, but he made clear that he didn’t blame any that violent extremism on Islam. Even as he was raining missiles down on a group calling itself the Islamic State because it has lately been following Islam’s clearly stated Koranic commandments to behead infidels and conquer new territory he stressed that it had nothing to do with their religious affiliations.
Even in a speech full of such of euphemistically described threats, he found time to throw in some blather about eradicating world poverty while simultaneously advocating crippling the world’s economies with useless regulations to combat the non-existent threat of climate change. There was also the obligatory confession of America’s sins, specifically the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, that the president can’t possibly know was justified or not, with no mention of the far more numerous shootings of black teenagers by other black teenagers, along with a reference to the wars fought between Christians some centuries ago.
Worse yet, such nonsense was wrapped in the most hackneyed cliches about crossroads and different paths and young people yearning for a better world, along with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt of all people. The president was first elected on a widespread hope that his soaring oratory and personal awesomeness would suffice to bring about world peace, but it doesn’t seem likely to pan out.

– Bud Norman

A Consummation Devoutly Not to Be Wished

A recurring theme in the spate of dystopian futurist movies popular in our youth was that someday the government would start killing off all the old people. The notion provided a memorable scene in “Soylent Green” where Edward G. Robinson shuffled off to the local suicide center where the aged were treated to soothing music and images as they ceased to be a burden, and the entire plot of “Logan’s Run” was based on a society that maintained its perfectly organized order by offing anyone over the age of 30. In the late ’60s and early ’70s audiences found this plausible, with the younger and hipper movie-goers smugly assuming it was just the sort of thing that President Richard Nixon and his right-wing buddies would love to do, but it’s not been until the era of hope and change and the left-wing ascendancy that we’ve started to worry about it.
Our worries were heightened by the once-venerable Atlantic Monthly’s recent publication of an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in which he expresses his desire to die at age 75 and urges the rest of us to do the same. This morbid advice would ordinarily be easy to ignore, but Emanuel is the brother of former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, has served as a special advisor to the Obama White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and is currently a fellow at the Obama White House-affiliated Center for American Progress. He painstakingly insists that he’s not advocating euthanasia, and he couches his argument mostly in terms of the individual’s best interests rather than society’s or the government’s bottom line, but there’s no shaking a discomfiting feeling that his enthusiasm for a mass early exit from this earthly plane isn’t entirely apolitical, or that it won’t have some appeal to the bureaucrats charged with balancing Obamacare’s hard-to-balance books.
His arguments for dying at age 75 probably won’t be persuasive to anybody else. He correctly notes that people tend to have more aches and pains and get around less energetically after 75 than they did in their younger days, but throughout history most people have found that more tolerable than the proposed alternative. Some people are afflicted with aches and pains and limited mobility early in life, too, and although Emanuel isn’t quite so bold as the Nazis were in suggesting that these unfortunate folks should also cash it in neither does he bother to discount the idea. He further notes that the vast majority of people are less productive after the age of 75, and cites some studies suggesting the decline begins well before that point, but the notion that an individual’s life is only of value to the extent that it serves the collective is also abhorrent. He acknowledges that some people retain great creativity and usefulness late into life, without considering how someone might know if they’re one of them until they reach an age well beyond 75, and he begrudgingly concedes that even the most debilitated oldsters still provide love and meaning to the lives of the families and friends, although he seems to regard this as a silly sentimentality, but he still insists that the rather arbitrary age of 75 is when shuffling off this mortal coil is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
What’s most unsettling, however, is that Emanuel’s arguments are so consistent with a predominant anti-life strain in modern liberalism. The enthusiasm for abortion even when a baby has survived the procedure, the advocacy for other extreme means of population control, the antipathy toward the scientific advances that have allowed agriculture to sustain the lives of untold billions around the world, and the younger generations’ apparent aversion to procreation and preference for polar bears, all reflect a peculiar post-religious belief that human life is not a precious gift granted by God to each human being but rather a problematic privilege conferred or revoked by more earthly ruling elites. Throw in the facts that the president of the United States has told the daughter of a centenarian that her mother should “take a pill” rather than get the expensive surgery she needs to continue a vital life, and his former Secretary of Health Human Services has explained a decision to deny a young girl life-saving treatment because “some people live and some people die,” and one of his former advisors is advocating death at age 75, and those old dystopian futurist flicks no longer seem so far-fetched. Nixon and his right-wing buddies have nothing to do with it, but otherwise they’re starting seem to prophetic.

– Bud Norman

Losing a Halo

The president isn’t getting the same worshipful treatment from the media that he once enjoyed. Back in the heady days of hope and change he was routinely photographed with an angelic halo effect, but these days he’s being shown with luciferian horns sprouting from his graying head. Even the once-loyal scribes at the most polite publications are no longer apologists for his foreign policy, and although it’s not nearly so harsh as what any Republican would expect the treatment must be unsettling for a president accustomed to applause from the press row.
When the president ran for election on the argument that his Islamic name and Islamo-Marxist ancestry and primary education at an Islamic school in Indonesia and some sufficiently flattering and apologetic speeches delivered in his silver-tongued style to the Islamic world would quickly put an end to all that unpleasantness the west has endured in its relationship with Islam, the press happily went along with the preposterous notion. When he ran for re-election on the argument that it had worked, all the ongoing unpleasantness notwithstanding, the press went along with it again. Much more unpleasantness has occurred since, however, and by now the most prestigious organs of the establishment have at last grown weary of pretending otherwise.
The once-reliably supportive New York Times has been obliged to note that the president’s past declarations about “the tide of war is receding” and the terrorist threat is “on the run” and our remaining enemies are the “jayvee” team of terrorism were all wishful thinking. The Associated Press, all of places, is reporting that the president’s efforts to assemble a coalition to carry out his promised campaign against the Islamic State terror organization in Iraq and Syria is complicated by the distrust that the president’s past broken promises and unenforced “red lines” and shabby treatment of such allies as Israel and friendliness to such foes as Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood have engendered among the world’s governments. With such standard bearers of the media unafraid to offer such blunt criticism, no one is any longer obliged to pretend that the president’s name, father, elementary school, and silver-tongued oratory are going soon bring about a lasting peace.
One can hope that the same publications will at long cast an equally clear on the president’s performance in domestic matters, but they haven’t yet. The ongoing Internal Revenue Service scandal, which would have the press in a frenzy if it had happened during a Republican administration, remains largely ignored. A record number of long-term unemployed would have required a few thousand sob stories if it had happened just prior to the current administration, but is now usually relegated to the last paragraphs of stories emphasizing the slow but more-or-less steady growth in the economy if it is mentioned at all. There are plenty of problems to report about Obamacare, too, and there’s no telling what’s become of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors that strolled across the border that the president had declared secure, but for some reason these don’t seem to interest the media so much as the president’s foreign policy failures.
One might speculate that the mess overseas is harder to ignore, and that even the most established news outlets want to retain some credibility when it comes again to our shores, but the domestic woes are surely as apparent to the average reader or viewer. When Obamacare’s employer mandate finally kicks in during some safe-for-Democrats election cycle and the big networks and papers start kicking employees of the plans they liked and were promised they could keep there might be some stories about it, and when the other problems penetrate the more fashionable neighborhoods of Manhattan or Capitol Hill they might also get more attention, but until then the journalism industry is more concerned about journalists being beheaded and a once-comfortable world order falling into disarray.
The criticism and frank acknowledgement of reality in the foreign policy coverage is welcome, though, and we hope it spreads into the rest of the news.

– Bud Norman

Pretty Safe in a Messy World

The world might seem dangerously out of control at the moment, what with Islamist terror gangs slaughtering people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and enjoying the swimming pool at the abandoned American embassy in Libya, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its threats of nuclear weapons, and the nuts running Iran in the process of getting their own bombs, not to mention the suddenly assertive Chinese and all the other crises popping up around the globe, but the President of the United States assures us this is all quite normal. Speaking to yet another group of rich people at yet another high-dollar fund-raiser recently, the president assessed that we’re actually “pretty safe.
This is not as reassuring an assessment at the president probably intended, but it’s probably the best one can hope for these days. Still, after paying $32,400 per plate the audience had every right to expect the famously silver-tongued orator to provide a more convincing case for even that rather modest boast.
“The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy,” the president said, which is true enough, and rather generous in its implied acknowledgement that this was so even before the George W. Bush administration, but he added that, “In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through,” which is altogether wrong and quite strikingly stupid. Perhaps the president has only recently noticed the messiness of the world because of the “tweets” and Facebook postings that pop up on his cell phone, such as those hash-tagged missives his wife once sent out about the Boko Haram terror gang that is still running amok in Nigeria, but almost anyone old enough to have been aware of the world’s imperfections even before the invention of these new media can easily judge that the world is conspicuously messier lately. Islamist terror gangs controlling huge swaths of resource-rich countries is not a routine feature of history, invasions of European countries by other countries is a problem that had largely been eliminated by the post-war world order once imposed by American power, the various other crises are more numerous than usual, and all of this would be impossible to ignore even the good old days when three networks and a couple of newspapers got to decide what people knew.
It’s not so dangerous as the Cold War days, the president explained to his well-heeled friends, and it’s true that at least for the moment none of those Islamist terror gangs have a stockpile of nuclear atop intercontinental missiles. Iran’s working to get one during the seemingly eternal negotiations that the administration is so proud of, however, and Russia and China already have plenty and are clearly intent on expanding their territories. The president also believes that the Cold War was won “because the world stood as one,” as he put it to those gullible Germans who gathered to hear his highfalutin speech at the former Berlin Wall back in ’08 when people everywhere were believing such nonsense, so it’s hard to have confidence in his ability to handle the current challenge.
The president also told his friends that America’s military is preeminent in the world, which is true for the moment, but when the planned downsizing is complete and our enemies continue to beef up their defense budgets with the interest payments on the national debt or the oil fields they’ve seized from our former allies the advantage won’t be nearly so overwhelming. All that military might doesn’t mean much without a credible threat of its use, too, and the country’s enemies are all tweeting one another that it’s now a post-American world.
There are more alarmed voices in the administration, including those of the Defense Secretary and the Attorney General and the unnamed sources for a spate of old-fashioned news media stories about the possibility for another large-scale terror attack sneaking across the porous southern border some time soon, and the president seems content to know that they’re on the job with all those intelligence and national securities that his hated predecessor put in place. The harsh interrogations and Guantanamo Bay detentions and some of the other ideas are gone, which might explain the downgrade to “pretty safe,” but we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.

– Bud Norman

Bending the Moral Arc

The Russians are invading Ukraine, the Islamic State terror gang is beheading and crucifying and otherwise slaughtering thousands of people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and Libya, and another American aircraft carrier is heading to the contentious South China Sea, but not to worry. Speaking recently about the Islamic State’s beheading of an American journalist, just before another tee time, President Barack Obama assured the country that “the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”
At a news conference on Thursday Obama admitted in so many words that “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State, but he seemed to retain his usual faith in history’s happy predestination nonetheless. He and his Secretary of State have dismissed Russia’s massive land grab as a sign of weakness and an embarrassingly out-dated way of doing things, assurances have been made that all of that even more old-fashioned beheading and crucifying and slaughtering that the Islamic State gang has been up to certainly “has no place in the 21st Century,” and thus far these messes have dominated the news thoroughly enough that no one in the administration has been obliged by the press to explain why another aircraft carrier is needed in the South China Sea. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” as the president is fond of saying, to the point that he had it woven into the Oval Office carpet, and we are expected to share his confidence that the aphorism will prove true no matter what befuddled efforts America might make.
A couple of smarter fellows over at National Review have already written convincingly about Obama’s childish faith that the good guys always win in the end, no matter how wimpy their good guy ways nor how ruthlessly bad the bad guys might be, but we would add that such fantastical notions are characteristic of modern liberal thinking about almost everything. Not just foreign policy, but  economics, social issues, and the very nature of man.
Liberal foreign policy presupposes that the rest of the world closely resembles one of those impeccably multicultural Benneton clothing ads with the rainbow coalition of good-looking hipsters that you can tell are so much cooler and up-to-date than any of those troglodyte Republicans we’ve got around here in America, and that if we just stopped doing the things that mean old George W. Bush used to do humanity would resume its normal state of peace and cooperation. This theory cannot explain why a troublesome portion of the rest of the world remains intent on beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires or making other sorts of mischief, no matter how unlike George W. Bush the American president might be, but this has not shaken the liberal faith. Those Islamic State terrorists with American or other western passports will still be waved past airport security while the wheelchair-bound old white woman heading from Cleveland to see her son in Chicago is given the full search, lest Islamic sensibilities be offended by our outrageous profiling, and it remains a moral imperative that we not acquire any information about the plots afoot by harshly interrogating a prisoner at Guantamo Bay. Diplomacy and sanctions and a chin-up moral superiority will surely sway those who are beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires, and we’ll not ask about that aircraft carrier heading to the South China Sea, and if those miscreants continue such out-of-date behaviors they’ll just look all the worse, at least in the eyes of American liberals.
The same sort of cocksureness infects liberal economics. For all their railing against unfettered American capitalism, liberals apparently believe it is such a magical cornucopia of prosperity that no matter what taxes and regulations and energy costs and cultural scorn that is imposed on it the invulnerable machine will continue to generate enough wealth that it’s just a matter of divvying it out to the right interest groups. When people and companies flee a city, county, state, or country to avoid such impediments they are derided for their lack of patriotism, which liberals define as a mindless obeisance to their agenda, and the resulting economic decline is more than offset by the increase in the liberal sense of moral superiority. America is such a rich country that surely we can do this generous thing or that compassionate thing, we are constantly told, even when those things are entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos that once upon a time made America rich.
Liberalism similarly holds that you can smash the patriarchy and an army of social workers will fill in nicely for fathers, despite the results apparent on the streets of slums from New York City to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, and that a moral society can exist absent a moral framework that stigmatizes anything other than a lack of appreciation for homosexuality and contraception and the rest of the sexual revolution. When such rampant licentiousness results in what the feminists are now calling a “culture of rape” at the nation’s colleges we can simply do away with due process and a presumption of innocence for those nasty frat boys who seem the main beneficiaries of that still-lauded sexual revolution, while nuns can compelled to pitch in for the contraception of the more willing co-ed sexual revolutionaries, and with a few other coercive measures we should be able to maintain a more perfect sexual freedom. Some of those mean old Republican rednecks and those dastardly nuns won’t like it, but the addition of a few million more illiterate and unskilled workers from Third World countries to their benighted communities should provide just the right enlightenment and communal peace.
All of this derives from the liberals’ touching but ridiculous belief in the inherent goodness of man. The idea that a noble human spirit once held sway in a pre-agricultural epoch is as old as Jean Jacques-Rousseau’s 18th-century musings on the supposedly idyllic “State of Nature,” and it has done more damage to mankind than all the carbon it ever emitted. Rousseau’s philosophical opposite Thomas Hobbes was more correct in describing the state of nature as “nasty, brutish, and short,” and all the good that have been accomplished over the years was achieved by fierce resistance to the beheaders and crucifiers and slaughterers, all the wealth that has enriched mankind was created by individuals acting in their own enlightened self-interest, and the most tolerant and the most well-ordered societies in human history have been informed by the dour postlapsarian view of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be tempting to believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward the justice that can be found in these timeless truths, but history shows that we have to do the bending, and it looks as if we’re blowing it.

– Bud Norman

The Climate and the Political Climate

Perhaps it would all make perfect sense if only we held the fashionable faith in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, or the divine omniscience of President Barack Obama, but a reported plan for the administration to go around the usual constitutional requirements and oblige the United States to a treaty that would restrict its carbon emissions and thus save the world from climatic catastrophe seems wrong in every way.
As heretical as it might sound in this devoutly post-religious age, we remain skeptical that there is any anthropogenic global warming going on. Such skepticism is now considered somehow anti-science, an odd state of affairs, but we’ve read the hacked e-mails where the global warming alarmists were alarmed by the 18-year-pause their almighty models didn’t anticipate, and noticed the lack of predicted hurricanes and tornados and other calamities that were confidently predicted but have not materialized on schedule, and find ample reason to suspect the science isn’t so darn settled that we should hobble the American economy because of its tentative conclusions.
Even if there is a problem, there’s no reason to believe that the proposed treaty would solve it. Most countries will ignore it, including such heavy carbon-emitters as China and India as well as such erstwhile economic allies as Australia and Canada, and happily take up whatever profitable and job-creating enterprises the United States high-mindedly relinquishes for the sake of a futile gesture. The New York Times’ hopeful description of the plan says it would “name and shame” countries to force them into compliance, but it’s hard to imagine any country sacrificing economic growth for fear of being named and shamed by Obama. We’re nearly six years into the Age of Obama, and thus far the rest of the world still seems to be acting in its own perceived self-interest without much regard for Obama what thinks about it.
That part about going around the usual constitutional requirements is troubling, too. On issues ranging from those pesky immigrations laws that the president never liked to the eponymous Obamacare legislation that the president himself signed into law, Obama has already drawn criticism not just from his usual Republican critics but also the more principle liberals about his disregard for the constitutional restraints on his power, and this treaty ploy or a rumored amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and especially a combination of the two would have to be considered a constitutional crisis. We rather like the constitution, and would prefer to see it survive the present administration, and we’re sure most liberals would as well if the next administration turns out to be Republican, and a non-solution to a non-problem seems an especially poor reason to jettison such a successful system of governance.
There might be some political advantage that the president stands to gain from the gambit, but we can’t spot it. Heretical skepticism about global warming is widespread, and even most of the people who read about it in the paper and figure it must be true are not going to pleased that Obama has kept his campaign promise to make electricity rates “skyrocket.” Administration officials freely concede that they’ll try to bypass the 67 votes in the Senate that the constitution requires for ratification of a treaty because there’s not a snowball’s chance is global warming that they’ll ever find enough suckers in the chamber to vote for this awful policy, and that implicitly acknowledges that public sentiment is such that even in the most red states even the most entrenched senators would fear the wrath of their constituents. Like the threatened executive action granting amnesty this might be meant to provoke an impeachment, which would rally all those dispirited Democrats who see no reason that Obama shouldn’t be granted dictatorial powers, but he’s picking the fight over stands that the public overwhelmingly oppose and are likely to bring those opponents to the polls in record numbers.
The only explanation is that the president has not only a fashionable but a very sincere belief in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, and an even more fervent faith in his own divine omniscience. That is not reassuring.

– Bud Norman

As Long as You’re Looking Good

By happenstance we found ourselves chatting with a most affable Venezuelan fellow the other night at a local bistro. We don’t mean to pretend we’re so cosmopolitan as this atypical evening at a West Douglas hipster dive in Wichita would suggest, but there was also a delightfully bawdy Englishwoman and a couple of polite but circumspect Poles in attendance. At any rate, we commiserated with our newly-fledged Venezuelan friend about the political and economic woes in his homeland, which are even more socialistic and screwed-up than the situation here, and he shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands and said it had been a bad 14 years for his country. We joked that we were surprised President Cristina Kirchner had proved so awful, given that she was kind of hot when the country elected her, but he seemed to take our jest in earnest as he sighed the same disappointment.
From our conversation we had gathered that the fellow has made something of a success of himself in our ruthless local capitalism, and he seemed quite sensible, so it was surprising to surmise that he had apparently expected the stark raving left-wing Kirchner to lead his country anywhere but bankruptcy just because of her past comeliness. Although we’ve long been enamored the sultry appeal of the Latin bombshells, from Lupe Velez and Dolores Del Rio to the invariably naked Sonia Braga of ’80s and the latest offerings from multi-cutural Hollywood, but we’d like to think we’re not such suckers for a pretty face that we’d entrust any of them with a head-of-state position, especially if they were stark raving left-wingers, as most of the probably are. By that point in the evening we were starting to overlook the tattoos on that delightfully bawdy Englishwomen, though, and we had to admit that personal appearance plays a disproportionate role even in our own politics.
In vain we tried to remember the last American major party presidential nominee who was outright ugly. Nixon, maybe, although we expect that in ’68 a still-significant silent majority of the country foun his receding hairline and ski-slope nose somehow reassuringly seasoned, and that in the hirsute year of ’72 it didn’t matter what he looked like against such a grizzled old hippie freak as George McGovern. We got a lot of laughs back in ’04 by asking “Why the long face, John Kerry,” but even he was rescued from outright ugliness by a certain Boston Brahmin quality to his visage. Kerry still lost to the good-old-boyish looks of George W. Bush, Nixon got edged out by the more photogenic John F. Kennedy, and the most physically appealing candidates have usually prevailed in almost every election as far back as we can remember. The buff young fighter pilot that was once Sen. John McCain might have stood a fighting chance against the smooth-skinned Barack Obama and his ivy-covered Afro-cool, but the war-wounded old man who ran instead never had a prayer. Mitt Romney’s wholesome handsomeness was too redolent of those corny old ’50s sit-coms, and were thus trumped by the grayness and wrinkles that four years of fruitless administration had gadded to his opponent’s already ivy-covered Afro-cool. Lincoln is generally regarded as the great of all presidents, even by the egomaniacal current occupation of the office, and he was widely derided for his ugliness at the time of his administration, but that was a pre-electronic age of media that will unfortunately never be recovered.
This disturbing human tendency toward superficiality might yet provide our collective rescue, however. The conventional wisdom’s horrifying conclusion is that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States, and it is reassuring to think we might spared that eventuality by her increasingly haggard and harridan looks. There are ample other reasons to oppose this awful woman’s ascendance to the presidency, but in her case we’ll take whatever we can get. It would be nice if the country could up with a majority for some bland-looking but high-performing chief executive such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry or even better yet but less-handsme Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but we’ll be hoping for an outright ugly Democrat to oppose them.

– Bud Norman

Another Vacation From History

Why did Nero fiddle as Rome burned? Because golf had not yet been invented.
That’s about the best joke we can come up with in these glum days of the republic, and of course it was inspired by President Barack Obama’s latest vacation. We don’t mean to begrudge the poor fellow some rest and relaxation, as he has a lot of responsibilities to dodge, but now does seem an odd to be heading off to the links. Not that we think it would do any good for him to be hanging around the White House during the ongoing crises, but even such supportive press pundits as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank are thinking it makes for “bad optics,” as they say in the politics biz, and it leaves him wide open to cheap shots from less sympathetic pundits such as ourselves.
At least he was on the job right up to the very moment his helicopter whisked him away, dodging responsibility at a news conference for the current crucifixions-and-everything mess in Iraq. One of the reporters had the lese-majeste to ask if the current slaughter being inflicted on that unfortunate nation by the Islamic State in Levant gang that the president had recently dismissed as a “jayvee team” of terrorists had caused him to reconsider his decision in 2011 to remove all the American troops that had successfully been keeping a sort of peace there. “What I find it interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up,’ he replied, “as if this was my decision.”
We find it interesting that the president finds it interesting such an obvious question keeps coming up, and quite surprising that he would now claim it wasn’t his decision to bug out of the country. He ran for election on promise to do so, ran for re-election on the boast that he had kept that promise, and had cited the stable and peaceable Iraq that he had left behind as one of his administration’s greatest achievement. There was also some talk about the status of forces agreement that his predecessor had negotiated, although that always went unmentioned when he was boasting about the withdrawal, and some more talk about the impossibility of negotiating a new treaty that might have averted the present catastrophe, but it won’t make much difference except to the more dedicated people who voted for him because of the decision he now disavows.
Those die-hard fans will happily credit Obama with the decision to pull all of America’s troops from Iraq and simultaneously blame his predecessor for the catastrophic consequences, as is their wont. Back when the Solyndra company opened its shiny new factory Obama was eager to credit it to his stimulus bill, when it went belly-up he blamed it on a Bush-era program, and at both points his loyal fans nodded in agreement. The president tells the die-hard environmentalists that he’s fighting domestic coal and oil production tooth-and-nail, tells the rest of the country that he’s presided over an energy boom, and gets the same hearty applause on both occasions. He rails against the stingy Republican nay-sayers who won’t fund his transformative and expensive agenda, boasts about he’s halved the budget deficit since they took over from a rubber-stamp Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and can count on none of his fans getting suspicious. Until recently he could also count on the major media to politely ignore the contradictions. He can even rail against income inequality in between opulent vacations on fashionable Martha’s Vineyard and golfs on a famed course with well-heeled ex-jocks without the utter hypocrisy being highlighted on the late night comedy shows.
None of this does any does any good for the Christians or Yazidis ofr the less fruitcake varieties of Muslims who have lately been slaughtered in the most archaic ways by that jayvee team that the president had laughingly dismissed as nothing to worry about, and at this point we don’t think it will do any better for the Democratic candidates trying to win congressional seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. The press is starting to notice that the world is unraveling from a lack of American leadership, not just in Iraq but in Syria and Libya and Gaza and Ukraine and the South China sea, and and that 99 percent that the president stands for is starting to notice that they’re not invited.

– Bud Norman

A Sexual Counter-Revolution

Our carefree college days were long ago, back in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and goldfish-swallowing, but we try to keep abreast of what’s current in higher education. Imagine our horror, then, to discover that the once-idyllic campus life has degenerated into a culture of rape.
This isn’t our usual grumpy old man’s anti-intellectual assessment of those pointy-headed academics, but rather the conclusion of academia itself. The more-or-less official feminist line is that one in five currently enrolled co-eds will be sexually assaulted while in college, an alarming statistic that has been repeated by the President of the United States, and the term “culture of rape” is frequently invoked to explain the epidemic. Many colleges have responded by adopting a “preponderance of evidence” standard when considering allegations of sexual assault, and now that the Department of Education has made federal funding contingent on such measures the rest will eventually do so, while there seems to be a serious movement afoot to eradicate whatever culture is causing all this rape.
Let us make clear at this point that we do not wish to make light of rape, which is as heinous a crime as man can commit and should always be punished with the utmost severity whenever guilt of it has been proved, but only a heart of stone can’t find some bemusement in academia’s clumsy response to this eternal problem. That one-in-five number is laughable at first glance, and would be the most damning indictment of higher education yet if it were true. One would almost certainly reach something approaching that ratio if the definition of “sexual assault” were expanded to include any regrettable experience a young woman might have in today’s hyper-sexualized society, and we have great sympathy for all of them insufficiently wary young women who have fallen victim to our cultural depredations, but it’s disquieting to see colleges denying due process to young men accused of violating the cultural norms that academia has long sought to abolish.
Back in the bad old days of sexual repression a patriarchy imposed virginity on the yearning-to-be-unleashed libidos of young women, especially those bold and brilliant enough to a pursue a college education, but academic feminism was at the forefront of liberating society from such archaic restrictions. Colleges used to promise the tuition-paying parents that they would act in loco parentis, meaning they would assume the role of nosy and puritanical parents, but by now they are acting those loco sorts of parents who provide condoms and encouragement for a nice robust romp in the dorm. There’s an inadvertently hilarious Hollywood movie set in the ’50s called “Mona Lisa Smile” that features the comely Julia Roberts as a heroic professor in the “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” mode who encourages her female charges to pursue promiscuity as self-expression, another called “Kinsey” that features the handsome Liam Neeson portraying the titular perverted Indiana University sexologist as a hero of the sexual revolution, and they accurately reflect the role colleges played in eradicating the old sexual etiquette. We suspect the sexual pioneers intended that their distaff charges would all have enlightening affairs with sensitive poetry majors, which would somehow enhance their procreative marriages to more boring but lucrative business majors, but it turned out that the main beneficiaries of the new rules were the buff frat boys and their infuriatingly anti-feminist “bro culture.”
(We’ll note in passing that a Democratic Senatorial candidate in Kentucky is running on her party’s familiar claim that the Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” but is the heiress to a “breastaurant” called “Hugh Jass” that caters to the local fraternity clientele with a double-entendre-laden menu and scantily-clad waitresses.)
This is probably the real reason for feminism’s sudden concern with the “culture of rape,” and we have some sympathy. Our disdain for the womanizing frat boy culture is not based on feminist principles, but rather the old-fashioned respect for womanhood that our Christian mother inculcated in us at an early age, but we hope that one way or another it will soon wither from public scorn. The irrecoverable end of the old rules of courtship is not at all limited to that sub-culture, however, and until academia is willing to embrace more old-fashioned notions of sexual propriety it is unlikely to correct what truly is, in some unsettling if not strictly legal sense, a culture of rape.

– Bud Norman

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