Hard Times, Then and Now

American cities from coast to coast have suffered rioting, vandalism, arson and violence in the aftermath of unarmed black man George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis Police Department, but we’re happy to say that for now race relations remain mostly amicable here in Wichita.
There were a couple of peaceful and conspicuously multicultural protest marches in downtown over the weekend, which culminated with the mostly black protest marchers and the mostly white sitting police officers sitting within social distancing rules of each other at a local park and sharing some barbecue, but that’s about it. Even our most liberal and reflexively antipolice Facebook friends gave some of the credit to Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsey, who has made a very public and apparently sincere outreach to the city’s diverse communities since taking office and was one of the first big city police chiefs to publicly decry Floyd’s death and even call it a murder, and he also marched in those demonstrations wearing his uniform and a face mask. Although we’re not the name-dropping types we will admit we’ve had beers and swapped jokes with Ramsey, and he seemed an OK guy, and we also we think he’s done a good job of keeping the relative peace around here lately.
We also think it has something to do with the civic spirit and mostly good people of all colors and creeds and classes and the ever-expanding number of genders you’ll find here in Wichita. There’s the usual percentage of awful people you’ll find among all colors and creeds and classes and ever-expanding gender groups, too, but for the most part we open doors for one another and don’t insist on our place in line and sometimes chat in a friendly way while we wait. For now the folks ’round these parts seem to prefer that to rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, and we concur.
America writ large, alas, isn’t faring so well. All the coast-to-coast rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, which we’ll henceforth refer to as “civil unrest,” is said to be the worst since the annus horribilis of 1968, which we well remember because we turned a very impressionable 9-years-old that year. As best as our precocious yet eight-and-nine-year-old minds could comprehend, the “negroes” or “colored people” or whatever the polite adults were calling them were righteously indignant about slavery and segregation and police brutality and a host of other things, but that burning down their own neighborhoods seemed an unlikely way to rectify that. We also felt the anxiety of even the most polite adults among us that the “civil unrest” would reach their neighborhoods, and we carried that anxiety with us as went through most of the ’70s with six years of racially diverse and riot-prone and generally shabby junior high and high schools.
By the end of it, though, we’d survived the worst of all the awful people of all colors and creeds and classes and whatever genders existed at the time, and found that most people are OK, and that most of them seemed to think we were OK. We figured things had calmed down since 1968, when it was seemingly a choice between law and order and racial justice, and that America could amiably move forward, but lately our hopes have been dashed. The politics of the moment are even more convoluted than in 1968.
One things that different from 1968 is that these riots are remarkably more racially integrated, judging by all the video, and that kid leading the riot storming of the Cable News Network last week was clearly a white skateboard punk. Some black speculators have speculated that white nationalist provocateurs have fueled the riots to start a race war, and for now that’s as plausible a conspiracy theory as you’ll find on the internet. Even Trump is blaming the far-left but mostly-white “Antifa” movement for much of it, and has officially declared it a “terrorist organization,” which means he can legally spy on any American citizen who might have visited its website. “Antifa” isn’t really an organization of any kind, though, just a ridiculously disorganized group of like-minded dumbass white goys who want to punch anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” ball cap, who will likely get their asses kicked..We also suspect that some opportunistic awful people of certain other colors are also taking advantage of the situation.
Back in ’68 Nixon became president on o promise of restoring law and order, despite former segregationist Alabama governor and independent candidate George Wallace’s promise to restore it even more brutally, and President Donald Trump seems intent on replicating that, but that was a long time ago. This time around, a platform of both law and order and racial justice seems attainable, and might be the winning argument. So far, at least, we’ve worked it out here in Wichita.

All This, and Summer’s Just Getting Started

More than 103,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, some 40 million more are unemployed, and riots are raging on the streets of cities across the country. If President Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection, it probably won’t be because Americans got tired of so much winning.
With so many calamities converging on the country, Trump is angrily lashing out at his critics and seeking to cast blame rather than offering solutions. He’s hoping the country can get back to normal without an increase in coronavirus infections, and that the economy will immediately rebound, but has indicated what he’ll do if that doesn’t happen. After surprising many by saying respectful and responsible that about the death of a Minneapolis black man while in police custody, he’s reverted to his habit of making threats in response to the ensuing riots. He still finds time for “tweeting” taunts at his critics, including baseless accusations of murder against a cable news host, and for threatening legal action against Twitter itself.
None of which seems likely to work. The coronavirus is immune to threats, and hope is not a cure. Threats won’t help the economy, either, and will surely require a government response that will needed to be negated with politicians Trump routinely insults in personal terms. Rioters need to know that the law will be enforced, but Trump’s belligerent threats of shooting looters on sight and unleashing “vicious dogs and awesome” are more likely to the exacerbate the outrage that is fueling the unrest. Given all that’s going on, Trump is even unlikely to distract anyone’s attention with a Twitter feud.
Angrily lashing out at critics and casting blame elsewhere is what Trump does, though, and at this point it would be hard for him to be a calm and unifying kind of president. We’ll see how how that plays out in November.

— Bud Norman

The Ever-Present Eyes of the Cell Phone

Several of the non-coronavirus stories that have somehow penetrated the news are a result of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras. They’ve captured the shooting on an unarmed black man in Georgia, a Minnesota policeman with his knee pressed against another unarmed black man who died during his arrest, along with a couple of widely disseminated nonviolent but seemingly racist encounters between white and black people.
One might conclude that there’s been a recent viral outbreak out of racism, but our guess is that these incidents aren’t any more common but are more likely to be videotaped and posted on the internet. All sorts of obnoxious behavior is winding up on the internet these days, often resulting in public shaming and even more severe consequences for the miscreants, ranging from losing jobs to being charged with crimes.
One might hope that this phenomenon will have some deterrent effect against people behaving obnoxiously, but so far we haven’t noticed that happening. Most of our interactions with other people, which have been somewhat limited the past few months, are quite pleasant, bolstering our hope that people of all ages and sexes and races and class are basically OK, but there still seems to be the usual number of them who just don’t get how awful they’d look on a viral video. By now most of them have cell phone cameras of their own, and will pull them out to make you look bad, but if you keep your calm and act reasonably they’ll still wind up looking awful.
We have a still camera and a video camera on our old-fashioned and relatively dumb “flip phone,” but being defiant Luddites we’re proud to say we have no idea how to use them, much less upload anything visual on the internet, and we mostly regard these newfangled machines as another annoyance of modernity. People use them to show their friends the fancy meal they’re eating and share “selfies,” that quintessential neologism of the moment, and to our admittedly Gutenberg-era conservative way of thinking it has a aggravating effect on an already self-obsessed culture. We’d also hate to have our worst moments be videotaped and go “viral” on the internet, although we do our best not to do anything virulent, and wonder about a brave new world where our every venture into the public space is watched by both public and private cameras.
Some good might come of it, we grudgingly admit. There are now a couple of cases of white men allegedly killing black men for no apparent reason that might have been swept under the racial rug if not for some seemingly damning cell phone footage. In the Minnesota case the videographers were bystanders who caught it from different angle, and in the Georgia case it was captured by a man now accused of being an accomplice.
When President John Kennedy was assassinated in broad daylight in the public square there happened to one guy in the crowd who caught it on a hand-held film camera, and the footage has been argued about ever since. We truly hope nothing like that ever happens again, but if it does we expect the investigations and commissions and historians will have thousands of videotapes from every possible angle. All these videos might well result in the guilty being punished and the innocent exonerated, and we hope that comes to pass.
We don’t hold out much hope that human nature will be much improved by it, though.

— Bud Norman

A Grim Milestone and Bad News Cycle

The banner headline on all the papers Wednesday the death toll from the coronavirus passing the 100,000 mark. The 100,000th death was no more tragic than the 99,999th or the first, but headline writers can’t resist a round number.
Across the country the death rate has slowed over the past few weeks, but it’s increasing in several states, and as Americans emerge from their homes and get back to business the numbers are likely to worsen. President Donald Trump acknowledged the grim milestone by “tweeting” that “The Lamestream media” and “Do-Nothing Democrats” and boasting the death toll would have been far higher if not for the actions he took, while White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere helpfully added that “President Trump’s prayers for comfort and strength are with all of those grieving the loss of a loved one or friend as a result of this unprecedented plague.”
The death toll surely would have been higher if not for the travel restrictions and business shutdowns and “social distancing” that have occurred, most of which was done by state and local governments and individual citizens, but it arguably could have been lower if all that started earlier, and Trump is now urging an arguably premature end to it, and we harbor doubts that that Trump ever prays for others. This is a bad news cycle for Trump, and he seems to know it.
At the moment there’s nothing else in he headline to help Trump. The stock markets have recovered somewhat despite Great Depression unemployment rates and gross domestic product contractions, but that’s mostly due to an eye-popping $3 trillion deficit that once upon a time would have appalled Republican sensibilities, and is of little comfort to the tens of millions of unemployed. The death toll is declining nationwide, but increasing in states Trump needs to win. News about Trump’s continuing purge of inspectors general and “whistleblowers” and court fights about congressional oversight and feuds with any journalists who might his criticism also penetrate the news in the age of the coronavirus, but that doesn’t help.
The other big non-coronavirus story is about the black man who died shortly after being arrest by the Milwaukee Police, which is big news because a white officer was seen on videotape and cell phone photographs pressing his knee on the seemingly pacified suspect’s neck, which has resulted in predictable unrest, This followed after some attention-grabbing news about a black man in Georgia who shot on videotape by a white man while jogging, and has revived the centuries-old debate about race and America. Trump has quite quietly done the right thing by authorizing his Justice Department to look into these matters, which his most unabashedly racist supporters won’t notice or mind, but given Trump’s record of exhorting police to treat suspects roughly and calling black athletes “sons of bitches” for putting a knee down during the national anthem to protest racial injustice he won’t get many new voters.
For now Trump doesn’t have any compelling success stories, just reasons why everything would have been so much worse if not for him, and evidence-free accusations against the evil people arrayed against him. There’s a long hot summer and an early between now and Election Day, and there’s a chance that by then the coronavirus might miraculously disappear and the economy will be revved up and America’s race problem will be solved, but we’re not counting on it.

— Bud Norman

Trump and Twitter and the Truth

President Donald Trump is known for using Twitter to hurl insults and accusations at his political opponents, and now he’s feuding with Twitter itself. Which makes for an interesting feud, and raises some important questions.
The social media platform has lately appended warnings to two of Trump’s recent “tweets” about the dangers of voting by mail, directing readers to stories by the Cable News Network and the Washington Post and The Hill and other sources, which prompted Trump to “tweet” that Twitter “is now interfering in the 2020 presidential election. They are saying my statement about Mail-In ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post.” Twitter has also apologized to the family of a woman Trump has repeatedly “tweeted” was possibly murdered by cable news host and frequent critic Joe Scarborough, although it hasn’t deleted or added any warnings to any of the apparently baseless claims.
Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media have long allowed users to promulgate all sorts of patently false propaganda, but have lately made promises to crack down on that, which has led to a public debate about free speech in the internet age. Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media are now an important part of the public square, where the soap box orators go to express whatever crackpot opinions they might have, and Trump’s supporters share his “tweeted” concern that “the Radical Left is in total command of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.”and they fear for their free speech rights.
We have liberal friends who contend they’ve had Facebook posts deleted because of all the right-wingers running the company, though, and our old-fashioned and pre-Trump conservative instinct is to side with the right of any company to conduct its business in any that doesn’t present a clear danger to the public. Every print publication we ever worked for retained its right not to publish what we wrote, and although they occasionally did so we were annoyed but never felt we’d been deprived of our rights in any meaningful way, and we occasionally decline to publish some of the asinine comments we get in our small portion of the internet public square.
The internet is still a giant free-for-all, and if any Trump conservatives or pre-Trump conservatives or Trump-hating liberals or white supremacists or communist revolutionaries don’t like it they can still find a space on the infinite internet. It’s so easy, in fact, that even such Luddites as ourselves figured out how to do it. There are still the mimeograph machines that the lunatic fringes of the left and and right used to use, too. You can still compete in the marketplace of ideas, and see how you fare.
>President Donald Trump is President of the United States of America, so he needn’t worry that people won’t hear what he has to say. They’ll also hear what other people have to say, but as much as Trump hates that it’s just another peril of being president in a constitutional republic that allows a free press and free speech, so he needs to come up with more persuasive arguments. Which raises an even more interesting and troubling question for us, which is why Trump daily “tweets” the most embarrassingly misspelled and grammatically incorrect and provably dishonest and undeniably vulgar and unbecoming of his high office things?
The Washington Post and CNN and The Hill and those other fact-checkers have the better case about mail-in voting, which Trump himself and all the military deployed overseas and millions of other Americans have long used, but at least we can understand his political reasons for opposing it. Why he’s taking to Twitter to accuse a “low-rated” cable morning show host of murdering an aide nearly two decades ago seems inexplicable.
If you haven’t been following this sordid subplot of the Trump reality show, Trump is “tweeting” about the 2001 death of Laurie Klausutis, who was working for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough in his central Florida office, where she died of a head wound. A coroner’s report found that she fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and suffered a fatal blow, Scarborough was in Washington at the time, and the police found new evidence of foul play. Scarborough was a Republican know for his tight-fisted fiscal conservatusm, however, and such loony lefties as Michael Moore spun conspiracy theories that Scarborough murdered her to cover their illicit affair. Because there was absolutely no proof for any of it, the theory faded away until Trump revived it.
Does Trump believe that this will win him any new votes in his reelection campaign? There’s a coronavirus pandemic and a Great Depression going on at the moment, and most people have more pressing concerns than age-old loony left conspiracy theories revived by Trump about a morning show host that he derides for having poor ratings. To the extent that people do follow the story, they’ll likely conclude that Trump is crazy. Trump fans will be satisfied that at least he fights, but they wouldn’t have noticed that he didn’t make any baseless charges of murder against low-rated cable news critic, and we can’t see how any way this furthers a political agenda to make America great again or expands that base.
We’ll all see how it plays out, and in the meantime we’ll continue to take our place on the soap box in this thing portion of the internet’s public square and fail against the way things are.

— Bud Norman

The Day After Memorial Day

The weather around here was awful on Memorial Day, which for some damn meteorological reason is an annual tradition, and although it was only a cold steady rain rather than twohe usual severe thunderstorm it was enough to keep most people inside. Around most of the country the weather was more welcoming, and so far as we can tell from the news many thousands of people went into the world as it if were it just another Memorial Day.
One can well understand why, as a house is awfully confining after a couple of months or so and people have a natural need to interact with other people, and Memorial Day is traditionally a time for drinking beer and charcoaling beef and enjoying friends and warm summer weather, while giving a passing moment’s thought to the fallen heroes who made it possible. Had the weather been better around here, we’d have been tempted to do the same.
Except for the predictably awful weather this Memorial Day seemed different, though, in the same way that last Easter seemed different, and that the next Independence Day might seem as desultorily different. There’s a virus going around the entire world that has already killed nearly 100,000 Americans, which is more than died in every American war since Vietnam, and although the rate of deaths has been steadily declining over the past few weeks it’s still out there and finding new hot spots in rural America. There’s also a case to be made, which all the credentialed experts are currently making, that the decline in deaths is due to people having kept their distance from one another these past grueling months, and that if everyone resumes getting together at the beaches and lakes and bars and churches to commingle their germs there will be another spike in deaths in a few weeks..
All the recent lack of human interaction has taken a terrible toll on the world’s and America’s economy, with our unemployment rate and gross domestic product rates currently at Great Depression levels, and late spring and early summer is often so very enticing, so there’s a predictable and persuasive push for getting back to business as usual. There’s also a predictable pushback from people more concerned about another spike in deaths, and of course that’s the political debate du jour.
These days we’re mostly stuck at home and find ourselves relegated to the political sidelines, with no rooting interest in President Donald Trump’s full-steam-ahead and damn-the-coronavirus strategy, nor the Democrats’ most alarmist voices. and for now we’re making our decisions about about how to buy beer and other essential groceries according to our best inexpert judgement. our guess is that things won’t be nearly back to normal even by autumn’s Election Day, if that comes to pass, and it will probably come down to a referendum on who deserves the blame.
Until then, we hope you and all of your loved ones have a happy summer and a healthy fall. and that the center somehow holds.

— Bud Norman

Memorial Day, 2020

The past few years we’ve taken Memorial Day off and republished a couple of essays we’re especially proud of about the veterans of unpopular wars and our dear pal and American hero Chief Two Toes, but this is a different sort of Memorial Day and requires different thoughts.
This Memorial Day the United States is on the verge of surpassing 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, which is more than died during all of the military conflicts America has had starting with the Vietnam War. This has resulted in the worst economic output contraction and highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, as well as the most angry public divisiveness we can recall since the Vietnam War. Memorial Day traditionally announces the lazy, hazy, cray days of summer, and Americans will once again be crowding together at the lakes and beaches and bars, but we can’t shake a certain foreboding sense about it.
By presidential order the flags will fly at half-mast today, not in honor of our nation’s many fallen military heroes but rather to acknowledge the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus. That’s a downer on the first day of summer for anyone who might notice, but it’s a point worth making, and a rare and welcome gesture of empathy from President Donald Trump.
As much as hate to publish another anti-Trump screed on Memorial Day, he’s been especially awful over the weekend. On Friday and Saturday he was insisting that churches and other houses of worship be immediately reopened, but on Sunday morning he was playing golf. He spent much much of the weekend “re-tweeting” baseless claims that a cable network critic is a murderer, that erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is a “skank,” and that Georgia politician and potential Democratic vice-presidential nominee Stacey Abrams is fat, as if Trump isn’t. He didn’t “tweet” so much about the United States coming together to overcome any challenges on this solemn holiday.
Trump will be at Arlington National Cemetery today, which has a reassuringly traditional feel about it, then at historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, which Trump has derided as a rat-infested hellhole and where the mayor says Trump’s not welcome and the visit sends a bad signal about the need for continued coronavirus vigilance, which reminds us that these are weird times. We can well understand anyone’s urge to get down to the beach or the lake or the golf course, and have noted that fewer people have been dying of coronavirus over the past few weeks. We can also understand the decline might be a result of people mostly staying home, and being very careful when going out for essential needs, and that if everyone feels safe we might see another spike in the deaths rates and no improvement in the economy by Election Day.
So far we have no idea how it will turn out, but are hoping for the best, no matter what that turns out to be. Summer is our very favorite time of the year, and we wish all of you a great one, but also advise that you fasten your seat belts for a bumpy ride.

— Bud Norman

The Upcoming Contentious Election

Our hope is that the coronavirus miraculously disappears in time for American voters to safely visit their local polling places, but we’re not so hopeful about that we aren’t thinking about how to run a fair election just in case. One possible solution is having registered voters cast their ballots by mail, and although we don’t like it we’d prefer that to not voting at all.
President Donald Trump seems to disagree. He’s recently “tweeted” threats that he would withhold federal disaster funding from Nevada and Michigan unless they abandon plans for widespread voting mail, saying that it’s illegal and an invitation to voter fraud, He’s not made any such threats against several states that have Republican governors and are more likely to give their electoral votes to Trump, but we’ll assume that’s because those states have systems that are tamper-proof and perfectly legal.
Even so, something about Trump’s stand offends our traditional conservative sensibilities. American elections have long been run by state and local officials, which is in keeping with federalist traditions and has long bolstered the public’s faith in the voting process because they’e easier to keep an eye on, which is the sort of time-honed thing that conservatives once wanted to conserve. A president strong-arming state and local officials for arguably self-interested reasons is another thing conservatives used to grouse about, and we’re not going to abandon that principle for the likes of Trump. Trump is also “tweeting” threats to defund the United States Postal Service, a constitutionally-mandated function of the federal government, and we’ve got conservative objections to that.
Pretty much every Michigander we’ve ever known have been delightful people, and Trump’s specific targeting of their state strikes us as very stupid. Michigan has seen a large number of coronavirus cases and Covid-19 fatalities, its manufacturing-based economy has been worse than decimated by the economic downturn, the central third of the state is literally underwater after a 500-year-rain storm and dam failure caused by lack of state and federal infrastructure spending. Given that Michigan gave its electoral votes to Trump last time, albeit by the slimmest of margins, we can’t see how withholding much-needed federal disaster aid feuding with Michigan’s more-popular-than-he-is Democratic governor and a state Attorney General who seems on solid legal footing by mailing applicati,s to vote for is going to help him in the state.
Trump and his more articulate allies can make a compelling case that voting by mail permits potential voter fraud, but they made the same arguments when Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million last time around, and we retain some faith in American ingenuity. Let Michigan and Nevada and all those Republican states come up with their own solutions for holding an election in time of potential plague, and let all those neighbors who are Democrats and Republicans and kooks work it out on the state and local level, where we can better keep an eye on them. Some good might come of it.
No matter what the United States collectively come up with not everyone will be satisfied. That’s partly due to humankind’s infallibility and even more to do with humankind’s tendency to think the universe is rigged. Trump will contest the results even if he wins, the Democratic nominee might well have some legitimate objections if he loses, and in either case much of a divided country will regard their democratic republic as illegitimate. The legitimacy of our of democratic republic is the thing we most wanted to conserve in our political life, and we’d hate to see it become another victim of the coronavirus.

— Bud Norman

Pompeo and Circumstances

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo served nearly three and half terms as our congressman here in Kansas’s Fourth district before joining President Donald Trump’s administration as Central Intelligence Agency and then becoming America’s top diplomat. He was quite popular around here, routinely winning with more than 60 parent of the vote, and although the local liberals hated him for his old-fashioned conservatism they were never able to pin any scandals on him.
As a member the Trump cabinet, Pompeo now finds himself embroiled in several controversies. An inspector general who was investigating Pompeo from using a taxpayer paid aide to do personal, as well as declaring a national emergency to green light an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, was fired by President Trump, and after Trump said the firing was at Pompeo’s request that is three scandals. Pompeo also stands accused of holding expensive taxpayer-funded dinners for big bucks donors to the Republican Party who have nothing to do with foreign policy, which is a pretty embarrassing fourth scandal.
Pompeo admitted he asked for the firing of the inspector general but insisted it was a not a conflict of interest because he was unaware he was being investigated, but he also admitted that he had been given a written set of questions by the inspector general about both the aide an the arms deals.
There’s one exception: I was asked a series of questions in writing,” Pompeo said. “I responded to those questions with respect to a with respect to a particular investigation … I don’t know the scope. I don’t know the nature of that investigation — of what I would have seen from the nature of the questions that I was presented.” Except that earlier in the same news conference Pompeo said “I couldn’t possibly have retaliated for for all things I’ve seen — the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. It’s all just crazy.”
That’s as dismissively sarcastic a reply as Trump himself might offer, but it does amount to an admission that Pompeo knew exactly what that pesky inspector general was looking into when he requested the firing. It was the fourth firing of a pesky inspector general in the past six weeks by the Trump administration, on top of the firings of various pesky “whistle blowers,” and another worrisome example of how anyone in the federal government who doesn’t toe the administration’s line is putting his or her career in jeopardy, which is yet another administration scandal.
The defenestrated inspector general was also looking into the lavish parties Pompeo allegedly hosted on the tax payer’s tab, allegedly welcoming such guests as the chief executive officers of Chik-Fil-La and 7-Eleven and the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, along with others who had no apparent reason for being at a State Department dinner but were potential donors to potential future campaigns, and so far Pompeo hasn’t denied any of the allegations. Pompeo might have some reasonable explanation, but for now we’re expecting only another Trumpian dismissively sarcastic reply.
All of Pompeo’s problems began when he signed on with the Trump administration, and we believe that if he hadn’t done that he’d be sitting pretty right now. His seat in Congress was as safe as a government bond, as they used to say, and the the state’s open Senate seat that’s up for grabs in November would have been his for the asking. Pompeo’s got an impressive resume, including top of his class at West Point and editor of the Harvard Law Review and a successful high-tech aviation company here in Kansas, and he had a masterful knack for appealing to both the fire-breathing anti-establishment elements of the Republican party as well as the party’s establishment types who proudly voted for General Dwight Eisenhower and Senators Bob Dole and Nancy Landon and other erstwhile exemplars of moderate Kansas Republicanism.
Given his impressive resume and political instincts, a lot of us here in the Fourth Congressional district of Kansas thought Pompeo might even wind up as president some day. Pompeo is an obviously and unabashedly ambitious man, so there’s no doubt the same thought had occurred to him, and we suspect he bet that joining the Trump administration would be the shrewd move to get there. With all due respect to Pompeo, we think that in this case his political instincts failed him.
“We’ll always remember Pompeo’s rousing endorsement speech for the very Republican establishment Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at the Kansas Republican caucus in downtown Wichita’s Century II building, and how many of us booed candidate Donald Trump’s appearance and how Trump came in third after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rubio. Trump wound up winning the nomination and then won Kansas’ electoral votes by the same 60 percent any other Republican nominee would have garnered against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, however, and Pompeo was glad to to accept an offer to hop on board. When he was elevated from CIA director to Secretary of State, with unemployment at record lows and the stock markets at record highs, he seemed poised to take some share of the credit for making America great again.
We’re not nearly as smart as Pompeo, but we’re nowhere near so intoxicatingly ambitious, and from our relatively sober perspective here on the political sidelines, after watching more Kansas politics than Pompeo has been around to see, we think he should have stayed here in the middle of Kansas. He could have supported Trump’s many sensible policies, criticized his more common vulgarism and and divisiveness and other outright corruption an many other offenses, and joined other Kansas Republicans to condemn the trade wars have hurt the state’s crucial agricultural and aviation sectors, and poised himself as a leader of the post-Trump Republican party’s return to greatness that America will much need, given how crazy the Democrats seem these days.
Instead Pompeo has hitched his proverbial wagon to Trump’s proverbial star, and so far that hasn’t worked out for anyone. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be sitting in a safe Alabama Senate seat if he hadn’t endorsed Trump and been rewarded with a Cabinet chair before being fire for dutifully recusing himself from the federal investigation of the campaign he’d worked on, and is currently in a tight battle to win his party’s nomination for the Senate because Trump continues to disparage him. Various Trump appointees appointees have have been fired for doing the right thing and now publicly oppose him, along with others who were hired for no apparent reason and then fired for good cause, and Pompeo might well be another casualty of the Trump administration. So far, no one who’s signed on with Trum0 hasn’t unscathed
Barring some deus ex machina that miraculously cures the coronavirus, and it magically goes away as if by miracle as promised, and the stock market is back at record highs and the unemployment on Election Day, Pompeo’s once-promising presidential ambitions might at an end. The good news is that with the coronavirus dominating the news few people with notice such routine scandals.

— Bud Norman

When Politics is Personal

Politics ain’t bean bag, as the cliche aptly puts it, but we can’t remember a time when it was quite so pro wrestling-like as it is today. Pro wrestling hall of famer and President of the United States Donald Trump seems to pride himself on flouting the traditional norms of decorum and civility in political discourse, and routinely insults his political opponents with charges of mental illness and criminal behavior and ugliness.
On Tuesday, for instance, Trump called Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a “waste of time” and “a sick woman” who “has a lot of mental problems.” In the same interview he reiterated his claims that President Barack Obama and various Federal Bureau of Investigation officers had committed especially egregious but unspecified political crimes. Trump also explained that he didn’t know the State Department inspector general who was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for possibly using aides to do personal chores as well as possibly making a corrupt arms deal with Saudi Arabia, but fired the guy because he was an Obama appointee and Pompeo wanted him gone.
The unsubstantiated and unspecified charges levied against Obama and the career public officials are unprecedented in our many years of following politics, as is Trump’s purge of any pesky inspectors general who might find anything embarrassing to the Trump administration, but these are apparently the new rules. To quote an oft-quoted line from The Godfather, “It’s strictly business, not personal.” The Pelosi slurs, on the the other hand, seemed strictly personal
On Monday Pelosi was interviewed by the Cable News Network’s Anderson Cooper, and expressed concern about Trump’s announcement that he was using hydroxychloroqine to ward aff infection by the coronavirus. “He’s our president, and I would rather he was not taking something┬áthat has been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group — ‘morbidly obese, they say.” Say what you want about Pelosi’s political views, and we’ve had plenty to say about them over the years, but you should admit that the daughter of a famously ruthless Maryland politician has some bare knuckle skills of her own. With a finesse Trump will never master, she sounded concerned about the president’s health while also mentioning his obesity.
Trump fans will agree that Pelosi is a “waste of time” and a “sick woman” who “has a lot of mental problems,” and cheer him on for telling it like is, but we figure that the Pelosi’s objective observation of Trump’s obesity is also telling it like it is.
We’re lately feeling liberated from the old rules of civility and decorum and the rest of all that “politically incorrect” nonsense, so we’ll just come right out and say that Trump is fat. We’ll even go so far as to say that he’s a big fat fatty-pants with a ridiculous comb-over and white circles around his eyes in an otherwise orange and jowly face. None which is disqualifying, as we have to admit that Trump isn’t as fat as President William Howard Taft, who we consider a very underrated president, and he’s not so ugly President Abraham Lincoln, who is rightly regarded as the great president ever, Trump does routinely make an issue of other people’s height and weight and looks.
“I didn’t know he’d be so sensitive,” Pelosi responded on the MSNBC network, before adding “He’s always talking about other people’s avoirdopois, their weight, their pounds.” Which is provably telling like it is, and well within the bounds of the new rules.of pubic discourse.
Trump makes his own rules, and expect everyone else to play the old rules, but that’s not going to happen, How this sort of this sort political discussion leads the country out of the greatest public health crisis in more than a century and the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depressioon remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman