A Bad News Cycle for the Front-Runner

Perhaps it’s only because he got bored with winning, but the recent brief pause in the Republican presidential nomination race has not been kind to front-running real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump. His campaign manager was indicted for battery against a woman reporter, his threats and slurs against a rival’s wife caused even some of his most fervent supporters to question his judgment, the beloved-by-Republicans governor of Wisconsin endorsed Trump’s most pesky rival in the state’s important upcoming primary, and his efforts to explain it all have compounded the problems while somehow offending both sides of the abortion debate and alarming allies from Europe to Asia.
Reasonable people will disagree as to whether Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s undeniably hands-on encounter with reporter Michelle Fields of the previously friendly Brietbart.com site rises to even the level of a misdemeanor, which is what he’s been charged with following an investigation by the police officers Trump is always praising, despite Trump’s earlier denial that Lewandowski ever laid a hand on Fields, but it’s hard to see how the indictment is helpful. Trump’s so-faithful-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will note that the district attorney who brought the charges is a supporter of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, although we suppose at least half the charges being brought against accused criminals in the country are similarly suspect, and we heard a caller on one of the talk radio shows note that Fields is a libertarian, which he seemed to believe justified any rough treatment, but the vast majority of the country holding less indulgent views of Trump are likely to see it differently. Trump is already on record promising that any press outlets he dislikes “will have problems, such problems,” and saying that “Women, you’ve got to treat ’em like s**t,” and his campaign manager had already had a collar-grabbing incident with one of those idiot protestors that Trump has said he’d like to “punch in the face,” which one of his supporters did, and we’re still awaiting whether Trump will keep his promise to pay the legal fees, and it all fits a plausible narrative that’s building on both the right and left sides of the media.
Trump’s already dreadful poll numbers among women, most worrisomely even among Republican women, had already taken a further hit by his decision to threaten that he would “spill the beans” on the wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and then “re-Tweet” a message that basically meant “ha ha my wife’s hotter than yours,” which offended even the wave-riding pundit Ann Coulter, who had previously said she wouldn’t mind if Trump performed abortions in the White House, and his attempts to wave it all off also weren’t helpful. Seemingly surprised by a popular Wisconsin talk radio host’s questions about his sexist mud-slinging, Trump explained that he was just yukking it up with the notoriously sexist shock jock Howard Stern with some of those by now widely-circulated sexist comments, in between the nude lesbian segments, and that “everybody was laughing,” but we wonder how many of those thus-far unsupportive women will be persuaded. The Wisconsin talk radio host was having none of it, and Trump admitted he was surprised to find out that the host was one of us “Never Trump” conservative, which any half-way competent campaign manager would have known and warned of if he hadn’t been too busy mixing it up with reporters and protestors, but we are reassured by Trump and his supporters that he’ll always have the best people around him.
The endorsement of Cruz by Gov. Walker could have been easily and effectively ignored, but Trump of course took it personally and responded with a ridiculous rant against the beloved-by-Republicans hero of the great union fight. The man who claims the “anti-establishment” and “at least he fights” mantel cited some phony-baloney statistics from the mainstream press he routinely ridicules to disparage both Walker’s and the entirety of Wisconsin’s remarkable success in fighting the lousy deal that the public sector unions had forced on the state, blamed the “hatred” of the union thugs that predictably ensued on the reformers, and on the days leading to a Republican primary he blasted the governor for not raising taxes. Of course, there was the usual blather about making better deals.
Although the “at least he fights” candidate is dodging any one-on-one debates with his last remaining rival, a former national collegiate debate champion and esteemed member of the Supreme Court bar, he did wind up in a series of disastrous confrontations with other interlocutors besides that Wisconsin radio host. Facing the likes of the equally unintelligible Chris Matthews of the MSNBC network he wound up saying that women who get abortions should face criminal charges, a position that the pro-abortion movement has long been ascribing to the anti-abortion movement and that the anti-abortion movement has been strenuously denying for just as long, thereby infuriating both sides of the most divisive issue of recent times, which was quickly walked back, because Trump is a “uniter,” but it’s hard to score that round for Trump. He also cited health care and education as two of the three most important duties of the federal government, even though he had to later explain that of course as a Republican he thought health care was best left to the private sector and education to the states and localities.
Trump’s same “town hall” chit-chat with the unintelligible Matthews also had him disparaging the South Koreans and Japanese for free-loading on America’s defense budget, even though the South Koreans are occasionally cantankerous but ultimately realistic about their tenuous situation and the Japanese have lately been quite stalwart, and he said something about them needing to go nuclear that was also quickly walked back, and that followed a lot of Timothy Leary-esque stream-of-consciousness stuff before the Washington Post and New York Times about the free-loaders in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that alarmed not only our allies but even the more thoughtful observers who have been arguing for reforms in that still-essential organization.
Those so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans will surely remain loyal, but the latest poll in Wisconsin shows Cruz with a comfortable margin and let’s-all-get-along Gov. John Kasich of Ohio within striking distance of Trump, the down-in-the-mud-with-the-National-Enquirer style of campaigning that we’re told is needed to defeat the Democrats doesn’t seem to be working in a state where the slogan is “Wisconsin Nice,” and we’d like to think the rest of the country is also too nice for this nonsense.

— Bud Norman

Appropriating Culture, While There’s Still Some Left

Although our day was largely occupied by a glum early morning chore and some evening amateur theatrical rehearsals and the latest slap-the-forehead sort of news from the presidential primaries, we found a moment’s bemusement from one of those “viral videos” that routinely invade our daily reading of the news. This one didn’t involve any cute cat shenanigans, but rather captured a confrontation between an angry black social justice warrior and a dreadlocked white hipster, which might not be so cute but is at least as hilarious.
Someone who happened to be standing on a nearby stairwell with one of those ubiquitous cell phone video cameras caught the aforementioned black social justice warrior, an employee of San Francisco State University, telling the aforementioned white hipster student who happened to pass by that he had no right to be wearing his hair in a dreadlocked fashion. Anyone familiar with the latest academic jargon knows that this is a matter of “cultural appropriation,” and even the obviously stupid black social justice warrior and the obviously stupid white hipster know that, and the ensuing conversation and inevitable reality-show scuffle about this utterly stupid concept is more ridiculous than even our crazy cat can come up with.
If you haven’t been keeping abreast of the latest academic hilarity, “cultural appropriation” means that if you’re white and Western you’re not supposed to enjoy much less make use of anything that some non-white or non-western culture ever came up with. Western mathematics should have stuck with the Roman Numeral system rather than the simpler Hindu-conquered-by-Islamic system, James McNeill Whistler should have never done those beautiful Japanse-influenced paintings, Elvis Presley should have never done that much-improved cover of “That’s Alright, Mama,” a very alluring yet very white friend of ours shouldn’t be doing her belly-dancing, and the Nazis were at least polite enough to eschew the “Jewish physics” of Werner Heisenberg and his notions of an atomic bomb. We’re not sure how such strict standards would have improved the world, but we’d sure hate to miss that Elvis recording and those Whistler paintings, and our friend is a pretty good belly-dancer and in any case she’s got a right and we’d hate to be struggling with our bills at the end of the month with Roman numerals.
We’re not sure how this post-racist concept would have worked out for our non-white and non-western friends as well. That angry black social justice warrior employed by San Francisco State University was probably intending to drive home after work in an automobile, which is a product of white and western culture, and probably expected to see herself celebrated on the Internet, which is a product of an industry that is oft criticized for being insufficiently non-white and non-western, and she seemed to be wearing pants, which is another white and western invention. We also notice that no one objects when such outstanding African-American musicians as Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen battle do their much-improved performances of classical Baroque music, which is about as white and western as you can get, and we’re at least grateful for that.
That dreadlocked white hipster by no means strikes us as an exemplar of white and western culture or or whatever third-world fashion he’s trying to state, and his bizarre rant about ancient Egyptian culture is as stupid as what his harasser is talking about, and his haircut is every bit as ridiculous as the current Republican party’s presidential front-runner’s, but we figure he’s also got a right, too. Our meanderings around the internet turned up a more frank and jive-talking black fellow who came to pretty much the same conclusion, so at least there was some bemusement.

— Bud Norman

In the Age of Whatever Works

Latin America faces a crucial choice between liberty and tyranny, as always, just like the rest of us, and the President of the United States’ advice is that it go with “whatever works.” Barack Obama actually said that nonsense in a speech to the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative while on his recent south-of-the-border tour, and although that also included him doing the wave at a baseball game with the communist dictator of Cuba and embarrassingly doing the tango for his Peronista variety of fascist hosts in Argentina while the capital of the European Union reeled from yet another terror attack it was probably the low point of that disastrous vacation.
Any President of the United States worthy of that once-august office would be making the plain case that liberty is the only thing that has ever worked in the entire history of organized humankind, and that tyranny has never worked out, but these days that is apparently too much to ask for. The runaway winner of five of the last six state contests in the Democratic nominating process is the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who worries that there are too many kinds of deodorants on America’s supermarket shelves and prescribes the same solutions that have resulted in toilet paper shortages in Venezuela, and the party’s putative front-runner struggles to explain why she’s not a socialist. Meanwhile, the putative Republican front-runner is issuing threats that his press critics will “have problems, such problems” and “tweeting” like a South American caudillo and promising nothing but “better deals” with all these pesky foreigners, which sounds to us like pretty much like the equivalent of “whatever works.”
The sole remaining long-shot possibility for the leadership of what was once called the free world is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose much criticized father endured the tortures of the same communist Cuban dictatorship that the “whatever works” president was doing the wave with, and went on to a formidable career and as a legal and Senatorial advocate for the conservative cause, and he strikes us as a full-throated advocate of liberty and the Judeo-Christian tradition and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and other higher values than whatever might work. He’s bogged down with a report in the front-runner’s buddy’s National Enquirer, though, and is just within the margin-of-error in the polls in the important states of Wisconsin and California. We’d love to see a match-up of Cruz’ hard-edged advocacy of capitalism and constitutionalism against Sanders’ unabashed socialism and whatever works, but such stark choices are perhaps too much to wish for in an age when people are more concerned with whatever works for them, if not necessarily everyone else.

— Bud Norman

The Race to the Bottom

Nothing seems inevitable in this crazy presidential election year, even the ultimate victory of Hillary Clinton. The former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of state and long-presumed First Woman President is on a one-for-six skid against the nebbishy self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with three blow-outs losses coming over the weekend, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has barely started leaking its case against her. She still leads in the delegate count, with plenty of those mysterious “super delegates” set to come to her rescue, but she doesn’t look any more inevitable than she was back in ’08.
The Democrats are in an anti-establishment mood somewhat similar to the one that’s been driving the Republican race,and much if not most of the party is by now eagerly embracing the self-confessed socialism of Sanders, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising. This time around the media isn’t treating the alternative as some sort of messiah, and her opponent is obligingly ignoring any of the non-Wall Street scandals that might hurt in a general election, and black and Latino portions of the party have been loyal enough provide victories in states where the white flight from the Democrats has reached a critical point, and of course there are all those “super delegates” and the organizational support of the party, but Clinton is such an awful person and awful candidate that such advantages are insufficient.
Ordinarily all that would bode well for the Republicans, but in this crazy presidential year they’re so angry at the Republican party that they’re threatening to nominate the one person in public life even more widely distrusted and disliked than Clinton, self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump. All the polls show Trump losing to Clinton and Sanders, but his supporters remain convinced that only he will be down-and-dirty enough to prevail over Clinton, and that it takes a thrice-married strip joint owner who boasts of his affairs with married women to make an issue of Clinton’s sleazy husband, and that only someone who donated $100,000 to Clinton’s phony baloney found to get her to come to his wedding can make an issue of her blatant influence peddling, which is an interesting theory. Trump’s supporters dismiss all the polls except the one’s showing Trump with a winning plurality in the primary and recall how Ronald Reagan made up an even larger deficit in the 1980 election, which is another interesting theory, but we don’t recall Reagan doing it the same way Trump will attempt.
A recent poll from the National Broadcasting Company and the Wall Street Journal finds 47 percent of Republican women saying they wouldn’t support Trump if he were the party’s nominee, which is a disastrous number that actually understates what we’re hearing from the Republican women of our acquaintance, and as much as the down and dirty stuff satisfies some rhetorical blood lust of Trump’s supporters it isn’t likely to win many of these women to his cause. Nor is it likely to be persuasive to the eye-popping 68 percent who told the Monmouth pollsters that Trump “does not have the right temperament to be president.” Trump’s latest down-and-dirty tactics have included threats to “spill the beans” on pesky rival Texas Sen. Cruz’s wife, and a “tweet” intended to disparage her looks, and the latest polls show it’s not helping his efforts in Wisconsin. His friends at the National Enquirer have unleashed some nasty innuendo about Cruz, and it remains to be seen if that wins any new admirers of his presidential temperament.
All Republicans and an easily winnable majority of independents and even a handful of old-timey Democrats are rightly alarmed at the prospect of Clinton winning the presidency, and now they can also start worrying about Sanders winning, but a majority of the entire country have similar qualms about a President Trump, so once again nothing is inevitable. This could be a crazy enough year to have a race between a self-described socialist such as Sanders and an authentic conservative as Cruz who will make their cases for their starkly different visions and obligingly avoid anything of less importance. Or you can have Clinton and Trump, in which case the mud will fly and get all over the country, and you might even see a serious third party challenge by someone not as awful, which won’t be hard to find.

— Bud Norman

Blame It on the Tango

The security forces of the entire continent of Europe are frantically scrambling to prevent an expected wave of Islamist terror attacks, the President of the United States is quite literally doing the tango in Argentina, and the Republican front-runner in the race to replace him is “tweeting” out threats to “spill the beans” on a pesky rival’s wife. That’s pretty much the news as write this, and thus we head into the weekend with an uncertain feeling about the future.
That worried-about wave of terror attacks in Europe seems well worth worrying about, and the president’s audition for his post-presidential role on “Dancing With the Stars” wasn’t at all reassuring, so that intra-Republican flap about the naked pictures of the front-runner’s third trophy wife and the unspecified threat against the pesky rival’s more plain but one-and-only wife also takes on a certain foreboding significance for us. The remaining candidates in the Democratic race to replace the tangoing current president seem equally blithe about the anticipated wave of Islamist terrorism, so we’d rather the front-running alternative wasn’t making such an ass of himself and forcing a pesky and more worthy rival to divert his attention to defending his wife’s honor against unspecified threats.
If you haven’t been following the latest episodes of the Republican Party’s version of “Dancing With the Stars,” the real-estate-and-gambling-and-titty-bar-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump was much annoyed that one of the several anti-Trump political action committees had posted one of the more tame naked pictures his latest wife had posed for on a Facebook page geared to Utah, where the population is largely Mormon. Say what you want about some of their beliefs, Mormons were at least already disinclined to vote for foul-mouthed gambling-and-tatty-bar moguls no matter how hot their third wives might be, so Trump assumed that his pesky rival Sen. Ted Cruz was behind such soft-core pornographic dirty tricks, and without a shred of evidence he went to the internet to make the accusation and threw in a threat that he might reveal that unspecified information ruinous to the reputation of Cruz’s wife if unconditional surrender were not immediately announced. Cruz responded by “tweeting” that Trump was a coward, then going on international television to say that Trump was a “sniveling coward,” and we expect he’ll raise the ante face-to-face on the next televised debate stage, assuming that Trump isn’t such a sniveling coward or such a shrewd tactician he’ll avoid that confrontation.
Trump was courageous enough to issue another “tweet” with carefully chosen and perhaps photo-shopped pictures that indicate his third wife is hotter than then one Cruz has happily been married too along, which will surely prove to his celebrity-addled fans that he’s the alpha male to lead the country, and we’ll concede the Democrats are crazier yet, but it doesn’t make us feel more secure about that much-worried wave of terror attacks hitting Europe and then spreading to America.

— Bud Norman

The Sisters are Having Nun of It

The Little Sisters of the Poor had their day at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, and we wish them well for a variety of reasons.
The nuns of the venerable order are by all accounts a fine group of women who have devoted their lives to providing care for the elderly poor, and not at all the sorts who would ordinarily find themselves in any court of law, but in ordinary times the government wouldn’t be bullying them into buying contraceptive coverage in their health care plans.
As the Little Sisters have taken a vow of chastity they have no need for such coverage, and therefor object to paying for it, which strikes us as such a reasonable objection it would have ordinarily settled the matter. The notion that the government can force anyone to purchase whatever health care coverage the government deems necessary has already been settled at the Supreme Court, however, so the current case is more specific. There’s also the matter of whether people should be forced to subsidize behaviors they find morally objectionable, but that was largely unsettled by the Hobby Lobby decision, which involved some fine Protestant folks with similar objections, and the current case is unlikely to make that any clearer. Some legal legerdemain in some statement of policy authorized by some agency created and authorized to make policy under some sub-sub-section of the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law has supposedly freed the sisters from directly paying for their own contraception, but in a way that still contributes to the law’s stated objective of making contraception universally available to less chaste women. The Little Sisters of the Poor would rather not participate in that, for beliefs you might not agree with but which we think they’re perfectly entitled to hold, yet at this point it seems more likely to come down to a matter of whether the technicalities found in that 2,000-plus page and already affirmed Obamacare law allow such governmental bullying of such fine women who do all the humble work that the government somehow never gets around to.
Which is why even the most zealously secular sorts should be wishing the Little Sisters of the Poor well. What’s being challenged in the Supreme Court isn’t an act of Congress, but rather an act of an agency that was created by a Congress that hadn’t bothered to read it’s own unreadable act and probably had no idea that it would wind up with the Little Sisters of the Poor being bullied into chipping in so some less chaste women could party it up without consequence, and sooner or later that kind of government’s going to cut even the worst of us down.

— Bud Norman

From Belgium to Arizona to the Latest “Tweet”

Another deadly Islamist terror attack, this time in Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the European Union and headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The President of the United States spent a full 51 seconds expressing his concern about the matter before launching into some happier talk about his communist Cuban hosts, and then spoke about it again at somewhat greater length with a fawning interviewer from the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network while taking in a baseball game, and the usual talk about a religion of peace and worries about a backlash followed in the usual places, and then the news moved on to more novel stories.
Say what you want about the presidential primary races, there’s no denying their novelty. A bit of actual reality showed up in the Republican’s reality show, however, as the two remaining viable candidates both weighed in on the slaughter in Brussels. Front-runner Donald J. Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-etcetera mogul, argued that some good old-fashioned torture would have prevented the tragedy, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was critical of both the administration’s continuing reluctance to address by the problem of Islamist terrorism by name and Trump’s apparent ambivalence about America’s European alliances in general and NATO in particular.
There’s some concern on the more or less respectable left that each terror attack further drives a frightened public into the arms of such a proudly tortuous tough guy as Trump, who once shaved the burly Vince McMahon’s head in a World Wrestling Entertainment production called “Battle of the Billionaires” and has bagged more babes than you’ll ever dream about, believe him, and that might yet prove worth worrying about. A double-whammy of attacks in San Bernardino and Paris knocked the mild-mannered neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson out of the race and into the arms of Trump a while back, and the Democrats understandably poll very poorly with their it’s-nothing-to-do-with-Islam stands, and Trump’s sizable horde of followers think anyone with a reluctance about torture is a “pussy,” which is apparently acceptable political parlance these days. There’s still some hope on the more or less respectable right that the public will be nudged to choose someone with a well-informed and keenly strategic mind and statesmanlike temperament, and pay enough attention to Trump’s rambling remarks and and impolitic impulses to notice that he’s not such a man, and that whatever well-justified frustrations we have with Europe they are an important part of our economy and the entire western civilization project, and that European alliances and NATO might yet come in handy again.
The death toll in Brussels didn’t stop the juicier parts of the Republicans’ reality show, however, as some naked pictures of Trump’s latest wife and a bit of libel against Cruz’ fully-clothed wife were both something novel to move to on. An anti-Trump political action committee not affiliated the Cruz campaign apparently had an internet page that featured the aforementioned naked pictures, with some copy suggesting this was not a particularly First Lady-like thing for a woman to have posed for and adding that anyone who was offended might consider voting for Cruz. Although the PAC was not affiliated with the Cruz campaign Trump apparently assumed it was, and he “tweeted” out that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used an picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!
Trump’s libelous insinuation that he has reputation-ruining information against a rival’s wife and is withholding it at the threat of blackmail strikes us as a rather big story, too, but this won’t be the first time it’s gone largely unnoticed. A similar libelous insinuation and threat of blackmail was made against the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, who had contributed to another anti-Trump PAC that was running a long-overdue ad featuring some of Trump’s more outrageously misogynistic statements, and he also made a thus-far hollow threat to sue the Canadian-born Cruz over his eligibility to run for the presidency unless he also stopped saying critical things about Trump. He’s also promised to “open up the libel laws” so that anyone who writes anything “mean” about him will “have problems, such problems,” so it’s no surprise that he’s willing to let the public remain unaware of crucial information about a potential First Lady or overlook a looming constitutional crisis if they’ll just bow to his Nietzschean will to power. So far Cruz, who enjoys a reputation as a shrewd lawyer even among his most bitter ideological opponents, hasn’t bowed. He called Trump’s bluff on that birther nonsense and the issue has largely gone away, except among those Trump fans who also buy the Obama birther nonsense, and his “tweet” about his wife was “Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought,” which strikes us as rather gallant, if anybody cares about that stuff anymore. The son of the Chicago Cubs’ owner said it was “a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom,” which is defense enough by the Cubs’ standards, and we can only imagine how the likes of the Iranian mullahs or the latest North Korean nutcase will be cowed by Trump’s insulting “tweets.”
Over on the Democratic side the front-runner, former First Lady etcetera Hillary Clinton was calling for more surveillance, presumably of the some sort that she used to damn George W. Bush for doing, and her still-remaining rival, self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was calling for “international unity,” which we suppose would be a nice thing, assuming everyone was unified on our side. We’re not at all sure what side they will ultimately choose, though, even if we can be assured they won’t be the ones doing the torturing, at least not to the terrorists, so we hope the Republicans and the rest of the country get this one right.
Tuesday’s results were a split decision, but probably don’t reflect any effects of the attack on Brussels. Trump’s big plurality win in the winner-take-all state of Arizona was all about his anti-immigration stance, and probably helped by the left-wing goon squads who tried to shut down his rallies, and Cruz’ landslide majority in Utah was mostly about how Mormons regard such an unscrupulous businessman and unsavory character as Trump. Clinton won Arizona, where her open borders stand plays well with the local Democrats, and Sanders won Utah and Idaho, where such an unscrupulous dealer and unsavory character as Clinton didn’t play well with the handful of Democrats, but the Democratic National Committee probably found another couple hundred of those of “super-delegates” out there and Clinton’s long-promised coronation seems more likely.
We offer our heartfelt condolences to the people of Belgium, and everywhere else from San Bernardino to Moore, Oklahoma, to to Paris to Mumbai that the barbarians have attacked, and wish that America was in better to shape to deal with it.

— Bud Norman

A Limp-Wristed Finale to the Cold War

Among all the iconic moments of the great Cold War struggle, from Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” oration to John F. Kennedy’s promise to pay any price and bear any burden to Ronald Reagan’s bold challenge to “tear down this wall,” we will have to include the incongruous footnote of an irrelevant communist holdout dictator in godforsaken Cuba raising the literally limp-wrested arm of an American president in a gesture of newfound solidarity.
The president’s apparent skittishness in the video record of the event was about as far he got to resisting the embracing of Raul Castro’s authoritarian regime on the otherwise lovely island nation during his historic visit there. President Barack Obama took the occasion to boast that the last president arrived with gunboats and that he’s the first to arrive by welcomed jet, and to agree with much of the totalitarian communist regime’s critique of America’s still-somewhat privatized health care system and other not-up-to-communist-standards policies, and politely left unmentioned all the dissidents who have been slaughtered over the past 56 years or the ones who were rounded up just days and hours before the historic visit. Both sides promise that the countries will grow closer together, but it’s not yet clear which one will be making the movement, and by now that whole iconographic Cold War history we once enjoyed seems in doubt.
We’ve had occasion lately to chat with a most delightful young woman who happily and enviably admitted that she had no idea what a “Pinko” or a “Red” or a “Commie” was, and she was charmingly free of any opinions regarding America’s recent rapprochement with those Pinko Commie Reds down in Cuba, and she struck us as otherwise quite bright, so that limp-wrested salute by American president might not be the denouement of the Cold War, after all. Socialism seems all the rage in the Democratic party, even if the clear front-runner is having a hard time disavowing the term, and the front-runner in the Republican party is merely promising the sort of gold-plated-telephone deals you saw in “Godfather II,” and the crazily conservative Cuban-American is lagging in the polls, and there doesn’t seem to be any triumvirate the likes of Reagan and Thatcher and Pope John Paul II to be around.
Don’t worry, the commies aren’t literally poisoning you, at least not here in Wichita, where the water is still fluoride-free, but there does seem a certain insidious effect afoot, and an American president letting his arm be raised up in such literally limp-wrested fashion isn’t at all encouraging.

— Bud Norman</

Nice Guys and Dissent

There was another brutal crack-down on dissidence in Cuba the past weekend, just in time for an American President to jet in and open a new era of business-friendly relations with that island’s totalitarian government, and it was about what we’d expected. The president’s open hand toward Iran’s theocratic totalitarians and indulgence of their nuclear ambitions has resulted in missile tests and ramped-up “Death to America” rhetoric, a promise of “re-set” and even more flexibility with Russia after re-election has brought that country’s takes into Ukraine and much of the Middle East, a pivot to the East has newly-made Chinese islands popping up across the eastern Pacific, our hostility toward traditional allies has had similarly desultory results, and as always nice guys seem to finish last.
Here at home, the situation is at least slightly better. Left-wing goon squads once again attempted over the weekend to shut down the campaign rallies of the Republican party’s front-runner, who has openly pined for the good old days when even more peaceful sorts of protestors were carried out on a stretcher, and so far the Democratic front-runner doesn’t seem to mind, so there aren’t any nice guys involved. An authentically kooky self-described secular socialist and an unabashed Christian conservative with red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist ideas are still in the running, though, so as messy as it is it’s still messily democratic.
The Democratic Party is quite willing to make deals with the most authoritarian regimes, though, and the front-runner of the Republican Party is as well, and neither seem at all indulgent of even the sort of peaceable and downright mild-mannered dissent we practice here. We’d like to think we have the courage as those Cubans who agitate for their right to seek a more open and democratic and humane society, and who seem to have been left out of the latest deal, but perhaps we’ll have to find out.

— Bud Norman

We’ll See You in C-U-B-A

Press reports indicate that President Barack Obama’s image now occupies a place of honor on the Havana street posters that was once afforded to Che Guevara. When Obama touches ground on Cuban soil on Sunday to usher in a new era of diplomatic relations with that unfortunate island’s totalitarian communist government he will no doubt be flattered by the comparison to such a mass murdering terrorist thug as Guevara, whose ruggedly handsome and martial image still adorns many a hipster’s t-shirt and countless college dormitory walls and is by now as iconic as that upturned chin of Obama’s in the equally kitschy “Hope and Change” poster, but such aging Cold Warriors as ourselves can only sigh at what’s become of our supposed victory.
The first presidential visit to Cuba since long before it became it a totalitarian communist state is being hailed in much of the press as a crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy, even as those same media are obliged to admit that the eastern European and Middle Eastern and South China Seas and hasn’t been so nearly have been ore significant setbacks, but our perspective yields a differing view. We were born the same year that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and their fellow mass murdering thugs gained control of the country, and they’ve remained in the bad news long after such mass-murdering thugs as Yasser Arafat and the Ayatollah Khomeini and the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union and such exemplary leaders as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II faded away, and we’d held out faint hope that we’d outlast Cuban communism as well.
This hope now seems dashed, though, and we expect that for now it will be regarded as a crowning achievement of the current administration that he has supplanted the great Che Guevara on Havana’s street posters. We recall a recent conversation with a young fellow we rather like who thought that Obama’s Cuba policy regardless of whatever that country’s totalitarian government had done in the past was surely no big deal, and we noted that what Cuba had done in the past was steal billions of dollars of American investments in the country while murdering countless of democacry-and-freedom-loving dissidents to install a regime that invited nuclear weapons that brought the world to the brink of nuclear apocalypse and fomented disastrous revolution South America to Africa, and was appallingly anti-homosexual and racist and sexist to boot, and that it had done it all in our our very own lifetime, which doesn’t seem all that recent. Throw in the fact that our first girlfriend and one of our middle-aged crushes was with Cuban-Americans whose families who had escaped that hellish routine, and that one of them’s brother is also a good friend, and that two of our city’s best mayors have been Cuban-Americans and one of them was the father or our aforementioned first girlfriend, as well as all the hours we’ve spent grooving to Mongo Santamaria records, and that our choice for the next president is a Cuban-American, so we take our opposition to Cuba’s too-awful-to-deal-with government rather personally.
Obama’s line seems to be that American rapprochement with Cuba will surely insert its insidious capitalist influence and thus drag it ever closer to our more capitalist and gay-friendly standards, but we doubt he really believes in any of that. Our guess is that he admires its socialized welfare system and press restraints and ability to to send dissidents to the torture chambers, and hopes that his much admired rapprochement with the totalitarian government will nudge us ever closer to that model.
He’ll soon be gone, thanks to that presidential term limit that the Democrats insisted on during Eisenhower’s popular anti-communist administration, but the policy will likely linger. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be on board, and Republican front-runner and deal-making-businessman Donald Trump says he has no problem with the concept of dealing with the Cuban communists but promises a much better and really “yuge” deal, so the best case scenario is that scene from “Godfather Part Two” where they’re passing the gold-plated phone from Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth to set up casino with a well-endowed “superman” sex show. The insidious influences of capitalism might yet prevail, no matter the outcome of some Democrat-versus-Republican showdown, so at least we’ll hold onto that faint hope.
In the meantime those images of Obama’s upturned chin and Guevara’s scowling-yet-handsome visage are equally iconic, and we wish the best for the freedom-loving peoples of both the United States of America and Cuba.

— Bud Norman