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For the Children’s Sake

May God bless Nancy Pelosi’s bleeding heart. The former Speaker of the House and current Democratic minority leader recently traveled where the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors is being stacked up in hellish makeshift detention centers, and with admirable empathy declared that she would like to take them all home with her.
Even the fabulously wealthy Pelosi’s multiple mansions apparently aren’t quite big enough to accommodate the tens of thousands of illegal youngsters who have crossed the border in the month, alas, but we’ll graciously assume that it was only out of a sense of fairness that Pelosi returned to her swank San Francisco digs without even the few hundred or so of the youngsters that she could have housed and fed. Still, she described the humanitarian crisis on the border as a “humanitarian opportunity” for those politically powerless communities that will be welcoming the invasion and those ungenerous taxpayers she expects to pick up the tab. The poor souls who traveled across Mexico from Central America are mostly “children,” as Pelosi pointed out, and she simply couldn’t bear the thought of anything so cruel as sending them home to their families.
The vast majority of these children are over the age of 16, an advanced enough age in the slums of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador that they managed the long trek across Mexico atop freight trains and drug-smuggling routes and are now causing problems in those makeshift detention camps with their rampant sexual activity, but such an exquisitely sensitive soul as Pelosi’s regards them as children nonetheless. That in many cases they carry disease, gang loyalties, no skills that might contribute to the American economy, and considerable costs for their care is of matter once the word “children” has been invoked.
That the invasion began after the president signed an executive order deferring deportation of minor illegal immigrants and this “humanitarian opportunity” is a direct result of that oh-so-compassionate policy is also to be overlooked, lest one be indifferent to the plight of mere children cast upon our land by cruel fate. The sight of illegal immigrants stacked up in makeshift camps and being flown around the country to cash-strapped communities unable to afford their care should even make Americans all the more amenable to a comprehensive immigration reform law that would bring millions more similarly burdensome immigrants to a land that already has a record number of people out of work.

If this doesn’t strike as a caring policy, then you just don’t care as much about the children as Pelosi’s bleeding heart.

— Bud Norman

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When Winter Lingers into Summer

You might not have noticed, what with all the political scandals and foreign crises and invasions of unaccompanied minors and soccer games vying for your attention, but the American economy remains very, very lousy. According to the ultimately official numbers that were released with little fanfare this week, the American economy is lousier than it’s been since the bad old days of the ’08 meltdown.
The first and most ballyhooed estimate of the first quarter’s Gross Domestic Product was for 0.1 percent growth, which was horrible enough but at least kept alive a streak of anemic growth and could plausibly be blamed on the miserably cold winter that had afflicted much of the nation. That was more quietly followed by a revised estimate of a 1.1 percent decline, and the administration’s apologists arguing that the winter was even worse than they’d realized and it would have been more dire if not for the miracle of Obamacare causing an uptick in health care spending. Only the most nervous sorts of investors and the hard-core news junkies would have heard about the final report of a 2.9 percent decrease in GDP, which is even harsher than the past winter and includes the unsettling news that Americans actually spent less money on their health. Upon closer examination the numbers become even more dismal, with declines in private inventory investment, exports, state and local government spending, and residential and non-residential fixed investment that cannot be explained by snowy roads and falling temperatures.
Still, those ever-bullish proponents of Obamanomics in the popular press are reassuring their readers that the lazy, hazy days of summer will correct the situation. Presumably this is the time of year when a young executive’s fancy turns to thoughts of private inventory investment, and everyone will be herding the kids into the car and hitting the road to a relaxing yet economically stimulative vacation despite the gas prices rising from all those foreign crises that have nudged the economy off the front pages. Those of us less enamored of the high-tax, high-regulation, high-minded anti-caplitalist scheme that has been imposed on the American economy the past six or so years remain bearish.
The smart fellows over at zerohedge.com note that after the miserable winter even if spring and summer and fall bring the rosy 3 percent growth rates that the government has been promising it will average out to a meager 1.5 percent growth for the year. They don’t seem at all confident of that, either, noting that the past 50 years of economic history have never found two years with growth of less than 2.6 percent that weren’t followed by a recession. After a long stretch below that economic Mendoza line another quarter of contraction would force the headline writers to use that dreaded “R word,” and the economy would be once again jostling with the latest scandals at home and catastrophes abroad for news space.
Such dire news should make the stock markets happy, as it will likely force the Federal Reserve Board to keep printing up money and pushing down interest rates at least through the mid-term elections next fall, but it will have an unsettling effect on those portions of economy that make their money honestly. All those scandals and crises don’t inspire much confidence in the nation’s leadership, either, nor do they bode well for the price of energy. Perhaps that invasion of unaccompanied minors from will rescue the economy, but even in the midst of a wet and warm summer we’re still feeling those wintertime blues.

— Bud Norman

A Sorry State in Mississippi

Our policy regarding primary contests between the “tea party” and “establishment” factions of the Republican Party has been to support the more conservative candidate anywhere he can win the general election, to settle for the more moderate candidate in those states and districts where he would be the only plausible hope of defeating an even more liberal Democrat, and to urge both sides to unite behind whichever candidate comes out on top against whatever damned Democrat he’ll be up against. This seems to us a both amicable and sensible policy, but it is hard to apply after that Senate primary on Tuesday in Mississippi.
Entrenched incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran beat the more rock-ribbed Republican challenger Chris McDaniel in the run-off race, but he did so by such sleazy methods that it will be hard for any principled conservative to muster any enthusiasm for any candidacy. Although Cochran had won a solid plurality in the preliminary round of the primary he fell short of the 50 percent needed to secure the nomination, and because contested primaries are always a referendum on the incumbent it was widely expected that the throw-the-bums-out sentiment within the party would prevail, so Cochran won by luring people outside the party into the state’s unaccountably open primary. Worse yet, he did so by arguing for more federal pork spending and with a naked racial appeal to the African-Americans of his state that implied conservatism is essentially racist. The effort included automated phone messages and old-fashioned fliers warning that the “tea party” was seeking to prevent blacks from voting, that McDaniel was opposed to federal financing of public education, and that he was determined to eliminate “food stamps.”
These are the same misleading smears that Democrats have long used against the populist brand of conservatism that has been dubbed “tea party,” and their use by a Republican candidate is unforgivable. Pork barrel politics has been wisely reject by a critics number of today’s Republican voters, even in such cash-strapped states as Mississippi, and imputing racist motives to this view is outrageous. The scurrilous charge of preventing blacks from voting can only be understood as a reference to photo identification requirements for voting and other common sense safeguards against election fraud, and every wised-up Republican and even most of the general public understand the need for these policies. Mississippians and Americans everywhere should welcome the opportunity of local control of their children’s public education, which is only attainable with local funding, and any suggestion otherwise is an affront to Republican or even republican sensibilities. Any critics of the ever-expanding welfare state who truthfully observe that minorities are disproportionately represented on the assistance roles is derided as a racist, and is simultaneously derided as a racist for the “disparate impact” their proposed cuts would have on minorities, but no one taking such a sensible stand should be subjected to these inane and contradicting indictments from a putative Republican.
Still, it worked well enough that a proponent of deficit-funded pork barrel spending and federal control of local school curricula and rampant voter fraud and the most toxic sort of racial identity politics is likely the Republican Party’s candidate in for Senate in Mississippi, and the most callous sorts of professional Republicans have dealt a blow to the party’s populist base. This leaves the Mississippi Republican with only bad choices, and we cannot offer any advice. Weasel that he is Cochran was at least among the unified Republican Party that voted against Obamacare, and any Democrat would be prone to repeat such a mistake, but it is disheartening and infuriating to settle for that. We’ll maintain our usual policy when the establishment candidates prevailing the states where they need to ward off even more liberal Democrats, so long as they do as they do so by ethical means, but we might make an exception in Mississippi.

— Bud Norman

An Inconvenient Invasion

Lately the Russian army has invaded Ukraine, an Islamist terrorist group has invaded Iraq, and there’s been an invasion of unaccompanied minors into the United States. The first of these has largely been forgotten by America media too busy downplaying all the domestic scandals they’re hoping you’ll forget, the second is a popular topic in the press becomes it allows them recall the good old days of Bush-bashing, and the third is being treated with a suspicious restraint.
Perhaps it’s because an invasion of unaccompanied minors sounds relatively harmless, as if they’re unlikely to do any more than the rest of the unsupervised kiddos running around everywhere, but it has already proved a noteworthy problem. The self-proclaimed Most Transparent Administration in History has been characteristically opaque about the number of youthful invaders and what exactly has become of them, but by all accounts there are already tens of thousands of them with more on the way and they’ve either been released into the country or housed in makeshift detention camps at military bases or state facilities where diseases are flourishing and such basic necessities as underwear are lacking. Such dire circumstances for so many unaccompanied minors would ordinarily warrant hours of outraged air time and pages full of sob stories, with plenty of heartbreaking pictures of sad-eyed waifs huddled in the corner of an Army gymnasium, so the relatively restrained nature of the coverage is striking.
Too many years of toiling in the newspaper business lead us to several cynical theories.
One is that the pictures aren’t quite right. Most of the sad-eyed waifs being stuffed into those Army gymnasiums are 16 or older, which is a rather ripe old age when you’re coming out of the crime-ravaged slums of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador by way of hopped freight trains through Mexico, and thus far the most memorable photographs show some very fearsome young men decorated with gang tattoos brandishing obscene hand gestures and striking crotch-crabbing poses. Most people confronted with such a picture would be more inclined to send the young hoodlums back home rather than write a check to ensure their care, which is not at all what the press would prefer.
Much of the press has long been devoted to the cause of unrestricted immigration to the United States, and the recent invasion of unaccompanied minors is not proving helpful. A more manageable and photogenic number might have appealed to America’s generous nature, but the current invasion is so large that even The New York Times has been forced to report that the social service agencies are being overwhelmed in such a far-flung location as The Big Apple, and a nation already overwhelmed by $17 trillion of debt and a government that cannot provide promised medical care for its veterans might well decide it can only be so generous. All those gang-sign flashing minors in the current invasion were lured here by rampant rumors throughout Central America that any minors who could somehow get into the United States would not only be welcomed but treated to government largesse, and if that were to become an actual policy as so many wish it could entice the entire Third World.
The story is also unhelpful to the Obama administration, which is another cause to which the much of the press is devoted. Those rampant rumors about kids getting in free began when the president signed one of his frequent executive orders to defer deportation of minor illegal immigrants for two years, were likely further fueled by the president’s promise to deliver even more concessions, and somehow went unnoticed by the administration-appointed ambassadors of those Central American countries as well as the intelligence agencies that were apparently too busy keeping track of your internet browsing. After another executive order adding another two years of deferred deportation, as well as a promise to provide all the invaders with legal representation, the administration is now advertising a get-tough policy in Central America and threatening to eventually send the invaders home, but it remains to be seen if this is another of the administration’s meaningless “red line” threats. The president will have a hard enough time selling his “comprehensive immigration reform” bill with the more rock-ribbed Republicans that are coming out of the primaries, and making his tear-jerking speeches about those noble folks who only want to come here to make a living for their sad-eyed waifs will be especially difficult while shipping off planeloads of young Central Americans.
The story will continue to be reported, and in most cases accurately and with less than the usual amount of spin, but don’t expect it for the generate the same sort of breathless excitement that the press once had for George W. Bush’s decades-old Air National Guard records or what’s in Sarah Palin’s garbage cans. Some stories just aren’t as much fun, and sometimes the pictures just don’t work.

— Bud Norman

Rooting for the Clinton Slump

Our beloved Wichita Wingnuts lost in frustrating 11th-inning fashion to the Grand Prairie Air Hogs at the old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Monday, and that convoluted Supreme Court ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s insane scheme to regulate your exhalations was at best a split decision, but we found some consolation in Hillary Clinton’s continued losing streak.
The Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee has been in a noteworthy slump the past few weeks, whiffing the softball questions lobbed by a previously friendly press and making bush league errors on the most routine plays, and it’s been a most entertaining spectacle. Her widely-panned book has already been relegated to remainder tables, a carefully choreographed special on the Cable News Network met with low ratings and bad reviews, and the worst of it seems almost deliberately intended to undermine her standing with his most fervent admirers.
At a time when the animating passion of the Democratic Party’s activist base is an opposition to income inequality, even the most polite press are pointing out that Clinton and her immediate family are quite well off, and worse yet mostly from book deals and speaking fees with those nasty old corporations that the Democratic Party’s activist base also despise. Some of the coverage has been so very impolite it has even touched on daughter Chelsea Clinton, who was treated quite gingerly during her awkward years as First Daughter but is apparently considered fair game now that she’s getting $600,000 a year for her infrequent and undistinguished appearances on the National Broadcasting Company’s newscasts. The mother compounded the problem by complaining to a network interviewer that she had left the White House “dead broke” and had struggled to purchase the multi-million dollar “houses” she desired, and the daughter struck the same tone deaf note by telling another interviewer that “I tried to care about money but couldn’t.” It’s the sort of mud that was so effectively hurled at the last Republican presidential nominee, who earned a Clinton-sized fortune by the disreputable method of saving American companies from bankruptcy and dissolution, and could be even more effective in bringing down a Democrat. Already potential rival Joe Biden is touting his relative poverty, and his salary as Vice President of the United States is about a mere two-thirds of what some correspondents make for their infrequent and undistinguished appears on NBC News, and we can imagine that a poor Native American woman from the reservation who’s been getting by on her meager earnings as a Harvard professor and United States Senator, such as the unmistakably Caucasian Elizabeth Warren, should be able to exploit the issue to even greater advantage.
There’s also a problematic 40-year-old rape case that has at last come to light, and just as the feminist wing of the Democratic Party’s activist base is very much concerned with a “culture of rape” that is said to pervade America’s colleges and universities. The concern is such that writers are being shouted down for suggesting that young men accused of sexual assaults should be given a presumption of innocence until proved guilty, the administration is threatening the funding of any school that does not apply a low standard of evidence when dealing with charges of sexual assault, and now is not a good time for Clinton to be explaining why she volunteered to defend a man accused of gang raping a 12-year-old girl from a poor and troubled family. There’s a perfectly respectable argument to be made that even those accused of the heinous crimes are entitled to a vigorous legal defense, and there are probably some Democrats who will still find it convincing even if the accused isn’t a dreadlocked cop-killer such as Mumia Abu Jamal, but an enterprising reporter at the Washington Free Beacon came upon a dusty old tape recording at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville library that has Clinton sounding just a bit more enthusiastic about the case than one might hope, boasting about the aggressive tactics she used against the victim making a joke that seems to suggest she knew her client was guilty, and generally sounding like someone the feminist wing of the Democratic Party’s activist base would not like. The Washington Free Beacon is considered conservative press, and has been duly banned from the Clinton Library for its impertinent journalism and will be just as duly ignored by respectable opinion, but the impeccably hip and liberal Daily Beast looked up the now 52-year-old victim in the case for a heartbreaking interview about being subjected to the sort of character assassination that would become a favored Clinton family tactic when dealing with sexually exploited young women, and that will be harder to ignore.
All of which is coinciding with the publication and widespread excerpting of Edward Klein’s book “Blood Feud,” which chronicles the uneasy relationship between the Clinton and Obama families and will quickly leap past the presumptive Democratic nominee’s book on the best-seller lists. A well-publicized distance from the Obama administration will likely be a political advantage for Clinton by the time ’16 rolls around, and no one who’s been paying attention the politics the past six years should be at all surprised by its central thesis that the Clinton’s and Obamas don’t like one another, but it’s also full of tantalizing tidbits of her faulty heart and other health problems as well as frequent reminders of the disasters both families colluded on. A hit piece by one of conservatism’s most reliable hit men might not make much of an impression on the activist base of the Democratic Party, but it can’t help Clinton with those who still have stubborn allegiance to the Obamas.
Calling Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee is starting to sound presumptuous.

— Bud Norman

J’Accuse

At this point we might as well divulge our suspicion that the Internal Revenue Service’s illegal harassment of the president’s political foes was ordered by the president himself. Proving such a portentous claim is difficult when a key figure in the scandal is pleading the Fifth Amendment and essential documents are missing, but that only makes it all the more suspicious, and after so many presidential lies and scandals we no longer feel obliged to make a presumption of innocence.
The explanations offered for the missing e-mails that might have proved our suspicions is dubious at best. We are to believe that two years of essential correspondence were lost to a computer crash, and that the hard drive was then destroyed for recycling purposes, which is an alibi that would not past master with the IRS if any audited company of individual taxpayer were desperate enough to offer it. It seems strange, too, that the computer crash not only deprived congressional investigators of the e-mails sent by Lois Lerner, the aforementioned Fifth-Amendment-pleading key figure in the case, but six other important players, one of whom was a frequent visitor to the White House during the time the harassment was taking place. That the crash occurred just 10 days after the IRS had received a letter from a congressman who was inquiring about reports of harassed “tea party” organizations and other conservative groups seems stranger yet.
It seems very much like criminal obstruction of justice at worst and a damning confession of bureaucratic incompetence at best, and in either case it is the sort of thing no agency would do unless there was something even worse that they didn’t want known. There is now no doubt that the president’s political foes who applied for tax-exempt status were subjected to a punitive degree of scrutiny at far higher rates than their more administration-friendly counterparts, which has been acknowledged and apologized for by the agency, so all the is left to be hidden is the identity of those responsible. After initially expressing his outrage at the scandal, and claiming that he’d only become aware of it by reading media reports, the president has since referred to the matter as a “phony scandal” and insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” involved, but if he’s reading the same media reports we are it might have also occurred to him that the only person worth protecting by such risky and impeachable means is the president. His apparent disinterest in the matter of the missing e-mails that might have put such suspicions to rest, and the disinterest of his thoroughly politicized Justice Department, also seems strange.
A patriotic respect for the office of the president leaves on uneasy harboring such grave suspicions, but the same respect requires that we hold the occupants of the office to the highest standards and give due consideration to such well-grounded suspicions. The current occupant’s long history of disregard for the law, even the ones he lobbied for and signed, along with his outspoken disdain for those who dare disagree with him, as well as a long-established style of political combat learned from Saul Alinsky’s no-holds-barred “Rules for Radicals,” make those nagging suspicions all the more plausible. Forgive our skepticism, which the president would surely deride as the “cynicism” that prevents the public from embracing his leadership, but we just wouldn’t put it past the guy to sic the IRS on those “tea party” groups and pro-Israel organizations that he so clearly reviled.
At this point in the Watergate scandal, which ended with President Richard Nixon resigning rather than face the charge that he had unsuccessfully “endeavored” to use the IRS against his political foes, much of the media were already screaming “Guilty.” We’ll hold off on that, and eagerly await the slow trickle of damning revelations that are sure to come over the summer, but we will admit to being darned suspicious. Maybe we’re wrong, but we’d interested to hear the president make the case why we are. Perhaps the exculpatory evidence was in those e-mails that went mysteriously missing, but if so a sweet irony will prevent him from the proof.

— Bud Norman

Two Brief Encounters on Hot Summer Nights

A hot summer night recently coaxed us out of the house and to the patio of a local watering hole, where we were pleased to encounter a dear old friend. We spoke of our families and friends and how work is going, debated whether we should care at all about the World Cup soccer matches, swapped some salty jokes, and mostly avoided what’s been in the news. When we inevitably mentioned our nagging worries about the way the world seems to be going these she waived off the topic by saying that she now concerns herself solely with friends and family and how work is going.
This seemed fair enough, especially after hearing the travails of her friends and family and workplace as well as some other very serious problems she has faced in the past months, so with a certain sense of relief we let the topic drop and moved on to an amusing discussion of our past romantic failures. Our friend is an effervescent and upbeat sort, a pleasant contrast to our more reserved and fatalistic manner, so we didn’t want to deny her a hard-earned blissful ignorance of the news that rest of the world is going to hell in a proverbial hand basket. Eventually the consequences of all those stories she’s been studiously ignoring will be felt by her friends and family and at her workplace, and will adversely affect her ability to solve the other sorts of problems that she’s lately faced, but in the meantime we see no reason should do anything about it other than keep a head up. Our friend is female, single, mostly unchurched, and fits all the other demographic and socio-economic categories that predict her biennial support for Democratic candidates and occasional enthusiasm for some bleeding-heart do-gooder project or another, so we didn’t want to encourage her to be politically active.
Better an apolitical attitude that concerns itself only with friends and family and work than the earnest idealism of the young man we encountered the next hot summer night on the patio at another local watering hole. We were engaged in our usual glum conservation about the events of the day with a gray pony-tailed right-wing friend of ours when when the young man at the next table interjected himself, quite politely and apologetically explaining that he couldn’t help overhearing our chat and that he shared our interests. He had an armful of tattoos and some up-to-date facial hair and one of those ear lobe-expanding devices that always remind of us old National Geographic photographs of the primitive tribesmen of the most remote regions, which is not atypical of the hipster clientele at that particular local watering hole, and when he introduced himself as a member of the left-wing “hacktivisit” group called Anonymous he drew our attention to his resemblance to the Guy Fawkes mask from the “V For Vendetta” movie used by that outfit.
He was quite unthreatening nonetheless, and we allowed him a lengthy discourse on his newfound solutions to all the world’s problems. He’s a poet for peace, as it turns out, and expects that his Facebook fan base will soon have the rest of the world on board. Most people would already prefer not to be killed in a war, he observed, and persuading the rest should be easy enough if the right poetry is applied. We noted that the Kellogg-Briand Pact had already made war illegal way back in 1928, and he was so excited by the news that he had us type the words into one of those palm-held gizmos that all the kids carry these days. Moving on to the world’s economic woes, he eagerly explained that people are forced to work by a corrupt corporate system that can be easily replaced by a new order in which people grow food and do favors for one another. Our friend with the gray pony-tail remarked that growing food sounds very much like work, and we had to agree, having picked enough peaches in our boyhood to know that agriculture is at least as arduous as poetry, and the young man replied that at least we wouldn’t be doing it for the profit of some corporation. Our right-wing pal wondered if the young man would be willing to mow his lawn and do some much-needed work on his home, and when the young man readily agreed to do so our friend asked why he should bother to get out of his hammock in the brave new world. The young man seemed genuinely befuddled why anyone would take advantage of such a well-intentioned system, and when our friend replied “Because I’m a jerk” the young man found it so amusing he offered to buy him a drink in exchange for the laugh. Our friend declined the offer, but we chimed in that we’d take him up on the offer and requested something from the Pabst corporation.
He still seemed quite unthreatening, but only because his schemes were so obviously ineffectual. Should his ideas about defying human nature ever take hold they will be as disastrous as all such previous attempts at remaking mankind have been, but we expect he’ll have to settle for the more slow-motion disaster that our apolitical single female friend votes for. We don’t doubt the sincerity of his desire for nothing other than peace and love, as even such grumpy old right-wingers as ourselves are in favor of both of those elusive ideals, and he had bought us a corporate-brewed beer, so we wished him well in his efforts. He seemed a nice enough kid, and we suspect that if he’d concern himself only with his friends and family and workplace and he might actually succeed in sowing some peace and love there. Perhaps his poetry might even accomplish some peace and love, but we doubt he’s so wise as William Butler Yeats, who was asked to contribute something to a poets-against-war anthology that somehow failed to avert World War I, and replied that “I think it better in times likes these that a poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right; He has had enough of meddling who can please a young girl in the turbulence of her youth, or an old man upon a winter’s night.”
Peace and love and poetry are worthy pursuits for a young man, and friends and family and the workplace are should be well attended to by everyone, but we think the other problems are best solved by the grumpy old men and women who best understand the failings of human nature. It would do us well to be pleased on a winter’s night, too, and perhaps our young acquaintance can tend to that. We hope our old friend fares well, too, along with her friends and family and workplace, but prefer her peace and love to her political solutions.

— Bud Norman

About That Poll

Everything seems to be spinning out of control, from foreign affairs to the domestic economy to those ever more scandalous scandals, but everyone on the right has been taking some time out to enjoy that Wall Street Journal-National Broadcasting Company poll that shows that President Barack Obama is at last taking some of the blame for it all. The poll shows widespread disapproval of the president’s handling of the economy and especially of his foreign policies, with an especially precipitous drop in his popularity among Hispanics, and it’s bad enough that such a reliable apologist as NBC’s Chuck Todd has declared that “Essentially the public is declaring that (Obama’s) presidency is over.”
Obama’s presidency won’t actually be over for another two and half years, alas, but there is some consolation in reading that so many Americans have belatedly concluded that it should be done. The poll bodes well for the Republicans’ chances in the mid-term elections, which traditionally reflect the popularity of the sitting president, and that offers a chance a to at least limit some of the damage over the last two years of the era of hope and change. Deeper in the poll there are also contains some numbers on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that provide hope for the presidential election in ’16. and the possibility that some of the damage can be undone. We can’t begrudge anyone the faint glimmer of optimism that the poll provides, but it remains to be seen if the Republicans will once again squander its possibilities.
Much of the public’s dissatisfaction is with the administration’s foreign policy, which will likely also be a problem for the former Secretary of State who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the Republicans will find it difficult to offer a popular alternative. The last Republican administration’s forceful response to Islamism’s war against America remains unpopular, even if the public is just as discontented with the results of both Obama’s apologetic and appeasing repudiation of that approach and his bomb-first-and-ask-questions-later adventures in Libya and Pakistan and elsewhere, and the next Republican nominee will have to find an appealing middle ground that eschews long commitments of troops without letting the international order slide into chaos. The presumptive Democratic nominee and her as-yet-unknown challengers will be trying to strike the same balance, and while they won’t be able to promise deterrence through a stronger and better-funded military they will have a helpful press explaining that all of the world’s problems are still the fault of the last the Republican administration. Events are proceeding at such a pace that is impossible to predict the challenges that will be debated in the next but election, but it is safe to say they’re headed in a direction that will make the debate lively and difficult for both sides.
Things are going so badly from Ukraine to the Middle East to the South China Sea that foreign policy will play a larger-than-usual role in the next elections, but the pocketbook issues will as always be important. This should also play to the Republicans’ benefit, especially when Obamacare has been fully implemented and the consequences of all those foreign policy mistakes become apparent at the gas pump, but the Republicans’ penchant for political ineptitude could also negate that advantage. The Democrats have already indicated that they’ll run on the argument that the problem isn’t the impoverishment of the middle class that their policies have caused but rather the wealth of a few people that Republican policies have allowed, and human nature being prone to envy it will be a popular line. The presumptive Democratic nominee has lately encountered some unaccustomed bad press because she’s one of those wealthy people her party wants the public to resent, but the Democrats can always come up with another nominee who’s been getting by on a few hundred thousand dollars a years from government or academia, or come up with some more satisfactory explanation for why they’re running a woman who got filthy rich on writing books and giving speeches for the corporate world.
That precipitous drop in the president’s popularity with Hispanics is also encouraging, especially if it reflects a realization that his kind-hearted Hispanic-kids-get-in-free policy has created a humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of Hispanic children, but the Republicans will still have to make a convincing case that their more hard-headed approach will have less heartbreaking consequences. The growing Hispanic population will remain a political challenge for the Republicans, and the demographic trends that are providing more unmarried women and children of unmarried couples bring challenges that will be hard to overcome with just a strong case for better policies.
Still, those poll numbers provide a grumpy right-winger will some small measure of satisfaction. These days, we’ll take whatever  we can get.

— Bud Norman

A Minor Victory Among the Major Defeats

The Obama administration has been in desperate need of some good news lately, and seems to have at last made some with the capture of one of the terrorists involved in the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Even the administration’s harshest critics will be pleased that somebody might held to account for the tragedy, while the administration’s most fawning admirers at The Washington Post are calling it a “major victory,” but it raises questions that are likely to mitigate the good feelings.
Surely the administration would have preferred to tout some accomplishment that didn’t require a reference to Benghazi, which remains an undeniable deadly screw-up that was followed by blatant lies that made a mockery of the First Amendment by the terrorists who seek to deter any criticism of their deranged religious beliefs. The “leading from behind” toppling of the Libyan government that preceded the tragedy, and that country’s descent into murderous anarchy since, are also necessary background information that the administration would just as soon go unmentioned. These issues never provoked the widespread public outrage we thought they deserved, but they’re still proving troublesome for past Secretary of State and presumptive next president Hillary Clinton on her recent book tour and campaign launch, and the capture of just one middle-management terrorist involved in the fiasco is not likely to quell the controversy.
A casual news reader might also wonder why it has taken so long to bring any of the terrorists to justice, especially one who has been available to numerous western journalists for interviews in which he boasted of his high profile. Those interviews have also had the captured terrorists echoing the administration’s laughable line that the terrorist attack was a spontaneous reaction to an obscure YouTube video and not a coordinated attack, so the more cynical sorts will naturally wonder if that might be why he’s the only involved in the attack that has been captured.
The terrorist will be given an opportunity to tell that improbable story under oath in an American courtroom, as the administration is planning on trying him in the American justice system as an ordinary criminal rather than in a military tribunal as an enemy combatant. That raises questions, too, about the administration’s broader approach to what it still refuses to call a war against Islamist terrorism. With harsh interrogations ruled out the terrorist won’t provide any useful intelligence, he’ll be housed in an American prison next to some nervous community rather than in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp that that the administration is so eager to empty that it recently released five of its most dangerous inmates in exchange for a soldier who seems have to deserted, and a shrewd defense attorney will demand more evidence about the investigation and capture than the national security agencies will want to divulge, and as the story plays out over the coming months or years it will lead to debates the administration should lose.
It’s a good news story for now, though, and the administration is probably willing to swap future embarrassments for a bit of positive press now. The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s political foes is becoming harder to ignore now that some potentially damning e-mails have suspiciously gone missing, the recent release of those five terrorists for the alleged deserter still leaves the terrorist ranks ahead by four, America’s foes are making land-grabs from Ukraine to the China Sea, the brave soldiers who fought against America’s foes are still stuck on waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals, the economy is still weak and lately showing worrisome signs of inflation, so the capture of one terrorist can be touted as a “major victory” and provide a brief distraction.

— Bud Norman

Too Much News for a Summer’s Day

Summertime is when the living is supposed to be easy and the news slow, a time for the pundits to reach into the tickler file for a timeless think piece to fill up space, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. News is now flowing like a river of lava from a volcano, the living is not at all easy along its path, and there seems little time to mull what it all means.
The lazy, hazy days of summers of have brought Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine, the Syrian civil war spilling into Iraq and threatening to overwhelm Baghdad and all of America’s hard-fought gains in that ever-troublesome country, more provocations in the South China Sea, the release of five dangerous high-ranking terrorists in exchange for a soldier who seems to have deserted, and the rise of a wide range of grumpy political parties across Europe threatening to unravel that continent’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. On the domestic front there’s an invasion of unaccompanied minors on the southwest borders that is enjoying a White House reception, the shocking maltreatment of aging patriots by the Veterans Administration, a highly suspicious development in the slowly unfolding scandal of the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s “tea party” foes, and some notable successes by that “tea party” is making the Republican party an even grumpier foe of this country’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. If Hillary Clinton planned her book tour and presidential campaign launch for a slow news cycle she was probably disappointed by the competing news, but the fact it’s gone so badly she’s probably now glad of it is also an intriguing story. All of which obscures the same old story about the sputtering economy, and supersedes past scandals such as Benghazi and the National Security Agency and such golden oldies as Solyndra and Fast and Furious and the rest of it, but otherwise does little to bolster faith in a long, hot summer.
In addition to its dizzying quantity the summer’s news also has an unmistakably significant quality to it. Those Russian tanks herald a new Cold War, the Iraq debacle heralds the revival of an Islamist strain that had been prematurely declared dead, China’s bellicosity is causing tensions that cannot be soothed by a presidential tour of the region, the sort of mischief that those five released terrorists might cause is demonstrated by the released terrorists who’s leading that charge in Iraq, and those grumpy new political parties in Europe are a reminder that the west isn’t all unified in response to such existential challenges. The children’s crusade from the Third World into America and the dying veterans at the bureaucratic hospitals and the impeachable implications of the IRS’ misbehavior all deserve consideration, and merge into a broader story that explains why those “tea party” folks are so grumpy and even the oh-so-polite-to-Democrats journalists are giving Clinton a hard time. There seems to be a common theme to all this news, but we’ve too busy following links from one internet page of bad news to another to develop a unified field theory of it all.
All that bad news hasn’t been so plentiful that it kept the president from enjoying a round of golf at a swank Florida course over the weekend, and we suppose this is meant to be reassuring. Ike used to golf through a crisis, according to popular legend, and everybody liked Ike. Somehow we are not reassured, however, and find ourselves pining for those lazy, hazy days of summer when the living was easy. We even find ourselves looking forward to the chill of fall, when an even grumpier Republican party will be on the ballot with a promise to resist central planning and political correctness and all this damnable news.

— Bud Norman