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Crazy Possibilities in a Crazy Year

By all reliable accounts this past weekend’s Libertarian Party convention was quite an unconventional affair, replete with the party’s chairman stripping down to his underwear at the podium and the eventual nominee being heavily invested in the more-or-less legal marijuana industry, but in this crazy election year none of that is at all beyond the pale. The hypothetical ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld was already poling at 10 percent before it actually won the  Libertarian nod, and in this crazy election year nothing that happened at the crazy convention seems likely to budge that significant number.
At least the party chairman didn’t boast about what was hidden by his underwear, as the Republican party’s presumptive nominee has done on a nationally-televised debate stage, and whatever quibbles one might with have the nominee’s dealings in a business that is still technically illegal according to federal law if not in the states where he is operating, it seems a rather small point in the post-legal age his thoroughly corrupt Democratic opponent and her lawless “Choom Gang” successor have wrought. The presumptive Republican nominee has run casinos and strip joints that were until rather recently illegal and social proscribed in most sane jurisdictions and still strike us as pandering to worse vices than marijuana use, and the crimes credibly alleged against the presumptive Democratic nominee involve national security, so that ten percent of the public willing to vote for someone they’ve never heard of might well persist even after they find out who he is.
At this point there’s no telling how that might affect what is shaping up as a close election. The Libertarian Party’s radically laissez-faire economic policy is the exact opposite of stubborn Democratic challenger Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s self-described socialism, but we expect that Johnson’s pro-dope stance will lure some of them away from from the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is so quintessentially establishment in this crazy anti-establishment year that she’s a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State, and was awful in every single post. The Libertarians’ insane isolationist foreign policy is at this point no more worrisome than what the major parties’ presumptive nominees are offering, and unlike either of the major party nominees they’re at least for free speech if you want to gripe about it. In this crazy anti-establishment year there are a lot of otherwise Republican voters who are just tired of being bossed around, though, and aren’t nclined to be told “you’re fired” and “shut up” by some proudly bossy reality show star, so the Libertarians should peel off a few Republican votes as well, and even if both members of the ticket are twice-elected governors they’re still so far outside the mainstream they’re a deadlier  blow to the hated-on-both-sides “establishment” than either major party ticket..
In this crazy year it’s hard to tell how it will shake out, as there are bound to be other twists and counter-twists in the plot. The brilliant but ever-hopefudl Bill Kristol of the essential Weekly Standard is still clinging to some faint  hope that a third or fourth or fifth party deus ex machina will provide some plausible alternative to what the established two-party system has vomited up, and at this point in this crazy year one can only hold out such hope.

— Bud Norman

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Another Memorial Day

Today is a good day to take it easy, enjoy the arrival of another long-awaited summer in America, and to not bother with the mess we’re making of it. It’s also a good time to reflect on the men and women who once made America, so we’ll re-post an old essay once again. Nothing much has changed since we wrote it.
On a long walk through the old and picturesque Riverside neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas, you might happen upon a small monument to the veterans of the Spanish-American War. Located on a tiny triangle of grass dividing a street leading to Riverside Park, the memorial features a statue of a dashing young soldier armed with a rifle and clad in the rakishly informal uniform of the era, a cannon captured from a Spanish ship, and a small plaque thanking all of the men who served America in that long ago conflict.
We always pause at the spot to enjoy the statue, an elegant bronze work that has tarnished to a fine emerald shade, and often to reflect on the Spanish-American war and the men who fought it. Sometimes we’ll wonder, too, about the men and women who honored those soldiers and sailors by building the small monument. The Spanish-American War had been one of the controversial ones, and the resulting bloodier war in the Philippines was still underway and being hotly debated at the time the monument was installed, so we suspect it was intended as a political statement as well as an expression of gratitude, and that the monument builders had to endure the animosity of their isolationist neighbors.
We’ll also wonder, on occasion, how many passersby are surprised to learn from the monument that there ever was a Spanish-American War. The war lasted for only four months of 1898, and involved a relatively small number of American soldiers and sailors, so our current crop of history teachers might be inclined to give it only short mention as a regrettable act of American colonialism before rushing on to the more exciting tales of the ‘60s protest movement or whatever it is they’re teaching these days. The world still feels the effects of those four months in 1898, when that relatively small number of American soldiers and sailors ended more than three centuries of Spanish colonial dominance, commenced more than a century of America’s preeminence on the world stage, and permanently altered, for better or worse, the destinies of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, yet the whole affair is now largely forgotten.
If you keep walking past the park and across the Little Arkansas River toward the east bank of the Arkansas River, just beyond the Mid-America All-Indian Center and its giant Keeper of the Plains statue, you’ll find a series of similar monuments dedicated to the veterans of other wars. One features an old torpedo and honors the men who died aboard the S.S. El Dorado, “One of 57 submarines on eternal patrol,” during the Second World War. Another lists the names of the many local men who died while serving in the Merchant Marines. An austere black marble plaque beneath an American flag is dedicated to all U.S. Marines. There’s a rather elaborate area devoted to the veterans of the Korean War, with a statue, several flags, numerous plaques and a Korean gateway, which wasn’t erected until 2001, long after the controversies of that conflict had subsided.
The veterans of the Vietnam War are honored with a touching statue of an American soldier standing next to a seated South Vietnamese soldier, which was donated by local Vietnamese-Americans as an expression of gratitude to everyone of all nationalities who tried to save their ancestral homeland from communism, and that won’t be formally dedicated until the Fourth of July. We hope the ceremony will be free of protestors, or any acrimony, but even at this late date the feelings engendered by that war remain strong. Some American veterans of the war have publicly complained about the inclusion of non-American soldiers in the veterans’ park, while some who opposed the war have privately grumbled about any monument to the Vietnam conflict at all. Both the memorial and the attending controversy serve as reminders that the effects of that war are still being felt not just by the world but individual human beings.
Walk a few more blocks toward the old Sedgwick County Courthouse and there’s a grand monument to the Wichita boys who went off to fight for the union in the Civil War, featuring the kind of ornate but dignified statuary that Americans of the late 18th Century knew how to do so well, but a more moving memorial can be found clear over on Hillside Avenue in the Maple Grove Cemetery, where there’s a circle of well-kept graves marked by American flags and austere gravestones for the boys who didn’t come back. Throughout the city there are more plaques, statues, portraits, and other small markers to honor the men and women who have fought for their country, and of course a good many gravestones for fallen heroes in every cemetery. This city honors those who fight for its freedom and safety, and that is one reason we are proud to call it home.
There is no monument here to the brave men and women who have fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no memorial to those who died in those far-off lands, but there should be, and soon. Both wars, and especially the Iraq war, have been controversial, and any memorial will be perceived by some as a political statement rather than an expression of gratitude, but it is not too soon to honor the men and women who fought for us. The effects of the wars will outlive us all, and none of us will ever see their ultimate consequences, but there is reason to believe that the establishment of a democracy in the heart of the Islamic middle east and the military defeat of al-Qaeda will prove a boon to humanity, and that is the reason those brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen fought and died there.
If we wait until the ill feelings subside, we might wait until the war has been largely forgotten. In every city and town of the country there should be something that stands for those who gave their lives for America in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it should be something that will stand for a century or more. Something that will cause the passersby of the 22nd Century to stop and reflect, and to be grateful.

— Bud Norman

So Crazy, It Might Just Work

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has a penchant for promulgating far-fetched conspiracy theories, from President Barack Obama’s foreign birth to a Republican rival’s father being in on the John F. Kennedy assassination to his likely Democratic rival ordering the assassination of Vince Foster, but he’s lately stumbled on to one that seems at least plausible. Speaking to one of his typical adoring crowds in Anaheim, California, while the typical rioting went on outside, Trump told his audience an intriguing tale about how he might not wind up running against his presumptive Democratic rival and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after all.
With his usual stream-of-consciousness eloquence, Trump told his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that “It could be we’re going run against ‘Crazy Bernie,'” a reference to the somehow-still-in-the-race self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who we must agree is actually crazy, and “That could be,” which we also glumly acknowledge. “He’s a crazy man, and that’s okay,” Trump went on to say, adding “we like crazy people,” an admission that is also actually true. He went further on to say that “I hear they want to put (Vice President Joe) Biden in. I hear they’re going to slip Joe Biden in, and he’s going in Bernie’s place,” adding that “the system is rigged against Bernie — 100 percent.” We have also heard “they” want to put Biden in, and from more reliable sources than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and at this point even the late night comedians can’t deny that the Democratic party’s system has indeed been rigged 100 percent against Sanders, even if something in our old-fashioned Republicans has to give some begrudging respect to a Democratic Party establishment that at least still resists Sanders’ outright socialism, so it all seems quite plausible even if still seems somewhat improbable.
Trump had already pounced on all the news that even the most polite news media could not ignore regarding the latest developments in Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal, which the presumptive Republican nominee quite succinctly described as “very bad.” An Inspector General’s report on her obviously insecure and seemingly insecure e-mail practices as Secretary of State was scathing, a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into that matter and the likely related questions about her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations that look to have resulted in favors to foreign governments during her government service is still ongoing, a thoroughly and disgustingly politicized Justice Department seems likely determine if an indictment will be made solely on political grounds, and even the most polite media were acknowledging that it was indeed very bad, and suddenly it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to speculate that some other fix might yet be in.
We’re not so bold as to venture a guess whether the hypothetical late entry will be Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or some other won’t-come-right-out-and-admit-they’re-a-socialist savior the party comes up with, or even if any of these alternatives will come to pass, and in this crazy election year we won’t venture any guesses how any of these possibilities might pan out. Any non-Clinton candidate the Democrats might come up with would be unburned by the longstanding and still recent scandals so sordid they make even the presumptive Republican nominee’s checkered career as a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul seem pristine, and he or she would start out the race with such scant name recognition that it would take any of them, even the Vice President of the past seven-and-a-half years, months to reach the negative approval ratings of the presumptive Republican nominee, and it would be a plot twist that even the acknowledged master of the post-reality show such as Trump would be hard-pressed to deal with.
We’ll stay tuned, but with no hopes this will turn out well. As much as we’d like to believe that Obama isn’t at legally an American that birth announcement in the Honolulu Observer has always settled the matter, and the Americanism of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is even less in doubt, and as much as an honest critic might say about how Clinton and her husband handled the provable suicide of their former law partner and administration official only the most crazy sort of conspiracy theorist still believes they ordered his assassination, but at this point there are few other certitudes in this crazy election year.

— Bud Norman

Seizing the Means of Counter-Production

The violent protests at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s campaign rallies are not only continuing but escalating their level of violence, and with each new outrage we expect the protestors are nudging their hated nemesis a bit closer to the presidency. Such is always the counter-productive nature of all protest movements driven more by rage than reason.
We’ve seen it often over our lifetimes, starting way back in our childhood when the hippies and the yippies got their hated nemesis Richard M. Nixon elected president on a “law and order” platform. The Weather Underground and other outright leftist terrorist organizations, along with the general craziness of the bra-burning and free-love counterculture out to undermine the extra-legal social arrangements, also helped to make the reliably anti-communist but otherwise not very conservative Nixon seem palatable to an understandably nervous America. Even then we were able to see that the anti-war crowd’s best bet to end the war early was to go “Clean for Gene” and knock on middle America’s doors and make a polite pitch with a clean-cut appearance for the candidacy of anti-war but otherwise boring Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy. Riots and bombings were more emotionally satisfying, though, even if the war was thereby prolonged for several more years before the commies foreign and domestic were at last able to secure a victory.
Since then we’ve seen the same mistake made several times on both the right and the left. The borrowed-from-the-left “direct action” strategy of the radical anti-abortion Operation Rescue movement not only shut down the local abortion clinics but also the essential Kellogg Avenue artery of our hometown back in the ’90s, and we well recall how the anti-abortion polling numbers went down even in this church-going and instinctively anti-abortion community. When a bunch of a drag queens dressed as nuns starting shutting down Catholic worship services in San Francisco a short while later, and shutting down some nearby thoroughfares as well, their polling numbers went down even in that unchurched and libertine metropolis. The radical anti-government terrorists who wound up blowing a gaping and deadly hole in downtown Oklahoma City helped re-elect the bossy government of President Bill Clinton and discrediting its most principled and non-violent critics, that less deadly but appallingly un-hygeinic “Occupy Wall Street” movement helped elect the current Republican majorities in Congress, and we can’t think of any protest movement that has ever succeeded on a platform of blind rage.
These anti-Trump riots seem likely to become the definitive example of the phenomenon. Trump’s rise to the status of presumptive Republican presidential nominee has largely been the result of his arguably xenophobic and undeniably blunt if nonetheless carefully vague pronouncements about illegal immigration, all fueled by a suspicion that there’s a revanchist Latino afoot, and a bunch of protestors waving Mexican flags as they violently disrupt a perfectly legal American political rally is unlikely to allay those already well-founded suspicions. If they at least succeed in forcing his just-as-awful Democratic opponent to embrace their unabashedly revanchist ambitions and violent methods they’ll be doing even more of a favor to their hated for the nemesis, as we read the momentary demographic moods, and they would have been far better off going clean for Hillary.
Their hated nemesis has his own record of encouraging violence at his rallies, and there really is arguably something xenophobic about the shifting policies he’s proposed that could be well defended without any resort to xenophobia, and there’s an unmistakably lawless and disordering ring to his Nixonian appeals for “law and order” and simultaneous promises to shake everyone thing up, but the video of Mexican-flag-waving thugs creating chaos will surely make it palatable to a perhaps-decisive portion of the electorate. At the moment the only likely alternative seems Hillary Clinton, whose long-planned coronation by “the man” will also be attended by such riotous behavior, and probably none of those anti-Trump protestors will ever realize how very counter-productive their righteous rage proved to be.
Trump’s unlikely status as the presumptive Republican nominee has been driven more by pure rage than reason, too, and against the same ill-defined “establishment” that the incoherent opposition on the left claims to be railing against, so we can’t predict any happy outcome no matter who prevails. Nothing good came out of any of those rage-driven protests movements we’ve ever seen, and neither of these seem at all promising.

— Bud Norman

The Premature Fix

The Republican primary race is pretty much over, even if the Washington state party pledged 40 of its 41 delegates to the presumptive nominee’s last vanquished rival in the most recent contest just to express their understandable dismay about it, and the presumptive nominee has lately refrained from the outrageous comments and obnoxious behavior that somehow won him the nomination, so all the attention is now on the still-slightly-in-doubt Democratic race. No wonder the presumptive Republican nominee has lately taken a slight edge in the polls, because the Democrats are arguably in even worse shape yet.
Although a professional wrestling-style fix has been in for years to coronate former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she somehow still hasn’t finished off a self-described socialist who literally honeymooned in the Soviet Union and rants about he plethora of underarm deodorants available to American consumers and goes by the until-recently unfamiliar name of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. This is partly because Sanders’ brand of Old Left anti-choice kookiness has a strong appeal to a significant portion of the party’s equally kooky base, but mostly because the party’s presumptive nominee is simply awful. Her tenure as First Lady mostly involved smearing anyone who noted her perv husband’s serial sexual depredations, her otherwise forgettable few years in the Senate are best remembered by the still sore base for her vote for the Iraq War, and with the possible exception of her successor we’d be hard-pressed to name a more disastrous Secretary of State. There are also all those old financial and political scandals that should have disqualified her from public life decades ago, as well as the ones recent enough they are still being diligently investigated by everyone from Congress to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the unavoidable questions about her health, and the undeniable fact that she’s an utterly unappealing candidate.
From an old-fashioned Republican perspective it’s almost enough to make think of voting for Donald J. Trump, and even from the kookiest Democratic perspective people are still moved to cast their votes in dismay for the last vanquished foe. That First Lady tenure of smearing the victims of her presidential perv husband’s sexual depredations was happily excused by all the aging feminists back when they had to worry about abortion rights, but by now they’re more concerned about the “culture of rape” and Clinton’s hectoring that any woman who alleges rape must be believed regardless of the evidence suddenly sounds ridiculous, and the sensible and effective welfare reform and crime bills and trade deals that he was forced to sign on to by a Republican Congress are now denounced by the presumptive Democratic nominee and the rest of her party. That Senate vote for the Iraq war is still a sore point with her party, and no one on either side of the aisle who can think of anything to brag about from her four years as Secretary of State. There’s an understandable “anti-establishment” mood afoot in the Democratic Party similar to the understandable one on the Republican side, too, which makes any former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State automatically suspect.
In retrospect, whoever the hell it was who put the fix in clearly should have picked someone else. At the time the deal went down the First Black President and his “Hope and Change” mantra had some reason to expect that the First Woman President would easily continue his fundamental transformation of America, which by then would surely be almost universally popular, but it just goes to show the futility of making political predictions more than 30 seconds or so ahead of schedule. Even way back then we could foresee that the fundamental “Hope and Change” transformation of America would not be universally popular at any point in 2016, but even our mighty powers of prognostication could have predicted that the coronated queen would be facing this particular presumptive “Make America Great Again” Republican nominee.
This is a candidate willing to make a perfectly valid issue of the Clinton’s many unsavory sexual scandals, even if he’s got more than a few of his much boasted-about own, and will even bring up that alleged rape, even if rape has also been alleged against him. Certainly no one could have predicted that the presumptive Republican nominee would be running to the left of that hated-by-the-left Iraq War vote, and even parroting the Code Pink “Bush lied, people died” line that not even Obama or Sanders will dare. The presumptive Republican nominee is even claiming to have opposed the disastrous and dishonest Libyan policy that Clinton is responsible for, and although he’s lying about that and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t have been just as dishonest about denying culpability for opinions of the moment he’s still arguably got the better end of the argument. The presumptive Republican nominee also has a better pitch with his tough-on-the-bankers pitch, having bested his creditors many times in his sleazy private sector career, and he’ll surely be willing to after Clinton’s sleazy influence-peddling “family foundation” even though he was six-figure contributor. One can hardly blame the Democratic powers that be for not foreseeing this admittedly strange turn of events.
By now even those far-seeing powers-that-be can surely see what they’ve wrought, however, and we wouldn’t be much surprised by some readjustments. If the polls between now and convention time show the presumptive Republican nominee moving farther ahead, they can easily put another fix in. Those ongoing Congressional and Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiries could easily be allowed to end her candidacy, or the threat of that could allow those obvious health problems to provide a more gracious exit, and someone other than a kooky self-described socialist could be chosen, and it might be that fake Indian professor that all the Old Left types wanted as the First Woman President all along, or they might even figure that the self-described socialist still leads the presumptive Republican nominee in all the polls and go with him. This has been an unpredictable year, though, so we offer no predictions.

— Bud Norman

The Two Choices in a Discontented Age

The most popular politician in America at the moment, according to all the public opinion polls, is President Barack Obama. He’s not all that popular, only recently barely nudging past a 50 percent approval rating for the first time in several years, but at this discontented moment in history that’s plenty good enough for first place.
Our only explanation for this thoroughly awful president’s modest bare majority of approval, even as supermajorities of the public describe the country as “on the wrong track,” is that no one’s been paying much attention to his still thoroughly awful presidency lately and instead are focused on the thorough awfulness of both of his most likely successors. We also note that nothing and nobody are very popular these days, though, so anything over 50 percent is something.
Nowadays the most popular television shows are watched by only fractions of the nationwide audience that used to tune into mediocracies as “M*A*S*H” and “All in the Family,” few people over the age of 30 can name any of a currently popular pop music star’s hit songs, the latest hit movie is probably some comic book super-hero flick that you probably won’t bother to see, even such literary types as ourselves couldn’t tell you what’s currently on the best-seller lists, and the rest of the entire culture is similarly disdained. Government and business and organized religion are widely despised, and both of the most likely successors to our thoroughly awful president seem to suffer any consequences for their disdain of the First Amendment, which most of the under-30 set already agrees has got to go, and even the longstanding and generally acceptable social arrangement regarding men using the men’s room and women using the women’s room is by now widely disdained enough that neither of the thoroughly awful likely successors to the thoroughly awful president who proposed this thoroughly awful change is willing to take a forthright stand against it.
This is partly because of the largely beneficial diversification of the marketplace, of course, and all that creative destruction our capitalist sensibilities usually appreciate. There are now a gazillion channels on television and the internet and whatever new technology we’re not yet aware of, so it’s inevitable that even the best shows won’t get the same chunk of the audience that even the worst shows used to get when there were only three channels. The internet allows us to listen endlessly the great music of the past, as it does to anyone no matter how less refined their tastes, so it’s hard to imagine anyone achieving that Elvis Presley or The Beatles ubiquity that made even the over-30 set aware them. Although there are fewer movie theaters in most towns than there used to be there are far more screens, and there are no more “Gone With the Winds” and “Casablancas” and “Godfathers” with lines that everyone knows by heart. There are all sorts of notions afoot about how government and business and organized religion should be run, and by now everyone has a problem with somebody’s use of the First Amendment, and even that tiny sliver of the public that’s upset with current social arrangement regarding bathrooms has a hit show compared to what the rest of the country has divided itself into.
We also believe that the thorough awfulness of the overwhelming majority of it all also plays a part. Once upon a time in the glorious history of American music there were singular artists in a wide range of styles who truly earned this widespread popularity against challenging competition, but these days only the most addled of the under-30 set insist that any of is any good. There are a few good shows on television these day, in most cases better than the hit shows of the past, but these days there’s only niche mark for such fare. There are some very good movies, and without comic book super-heroes, but they can’t become hits like very good movies used to do. The last best-seller we were aware of a self-described feminist Sado-Masochistic porn novel, which of course was made into a well-publicized movie, and we’re slightly relieved that despite all that publicity a vast majority of the country never read the book or watched the movie. Government and business and organized religion have all their problems lately, too, but the current unpopularity of the First Amendment and that longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangement regarding restrooms can only be explained by how very discontented our country has become.
Politics is the only marketplace in our culture where consumers are still faced with only two choices, although we’re still holding to some faint hope that the culture’s penchant for creative destruction might change that final longstanding and once generally-agreeable arrangement, so it’s not surprising that the widely diffused ratings of mostly thoroughly awful shows have turned up two such thoroughly awful final options.

— Bud Norman

The Last Dying Gasp of “The Media”

Pretty much all of the news and entertainment media are just horrible these days, even to the point that most of them have made Donald J. Trump the presumptive Republican nominee and are now unable to keep their favored presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the lead in the general election race, and we cannot deny they deserve their fate. Not all of the media and certainly not all of the rest of the country deserves this sorry slate of choices, though, and we hope this will eventually prompt a reconsideration and perhaps even a thorough reconsideration of the sorry media landscape.
Trump got twice the airtime minutes and column inches of the rest of his largely distinguished 16-person-field of Republican competitors combined, and there are two obvious reasons why this is so. One is that his already scandal-ridden tabloid career as a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul with a penchant for saying news-worthily crazy things that made for circulation- and ratings-generating great copy, and the other is that he seemed to exemplify all its well-worn racist and sexist and crony-capitalist and generally heartless stereotypes of a presumptive Republican nominee. It might have seemed a win-win proposition from the outset to stick the Republicans with such a noxious candidate and bolster the circulation and ratings in the process, but now they’re starting to regret that they’ve not only created a monster their plummeting circulations and ratings cannot slay but are actually abetting his rise to power.
Trump’s unfavorable ratings in the public opinion polls are still sky-high, yet his undeniably horrible presumptive Democratic opponent’s are unfavorables are now even slightly sky-higher, while the reputation of “the media” are somehow worse yet. Even the prestigious names at Salon.com, which is a mere internet publication but is staffed by refugees names from the from the formerly most prestigious yet-soon-to-be-bankrupt empires of the ancien regime print media and by now have a larger readership than their former employers, quite rightly acknowledges that the public’s hatred of “the media” actually benefits the hated Trump. The press hates Trump, the public hates the press worse yet, so his much-publicized press opprobrium works to his benefit.
As recently as the last election cycle “the media” still had the ability to portray the quite gentlemanly and quite legitimately rich and evil Republican nominee as an incorrigible sexist just because he’d made a a brief remark about the “binders full of women” he’d hired as a Governor of Massachusetts, and as vile racist because of the the remark about “self-deportation” that that even the current presumptive Republican nominee decried as “mean,” and the hundreds of millions he’d earned by rescuing failing companies from bankruptcy seemed so awful that the country re-elected Barack Obama. This time around the the Republican’s presumptive nominee truly is a sexist pig, and he really has settled a lawsuit over the racist housing policies of his real estate empire, and he grossly exaggerates his ill-gotten wealth, but this time around they’re out of ammunition. The gross sexism of the Republican’s presidential nominee is arguably less than the presumptive Democratic nominee’s enabled perv husband that has been covered up for so many years by the more polite “media,” his undeniable racism is no more infuriating than the undeniable racism of the First Black President “the media” carried through two disastrous elections, and his self-described billions are clearly more unsavory than the self-described billionaire’s, but any medium that tries to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee’s exorbitant wealth as any more honorable will be rightly discounted.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s sexisms was openly expressed by countless on-the-record hours on fellow shock jock Howard Stern’s naked-lesbian-stripper show, but even such once-formidable media as The New York times wound up embarrassing itself in an effort to make the point by going after some women that had been disrespected by Trump but ultimately wound up preferring the self-described billionaire to their interviewers from a dying industry. The article was written by the same guy who wrote that pathetic piece about Trump rival and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio taking out a loan to to buy a rather modest, and published by the same newspaper that made excuses for the presumptive Democratic nonimee’s perv husband for so many years, so at this point Trump is probably relishing its opprobrium. So far no one’s made much of his premature call for the execution of some black teens wrongly accused of raping a Central Park jogger, or that aforementioned settlement regarding his racist housing policies at one of his properties, but at this point people will recall how so much of the press overlooked the Democrats’ equally vile racist rhetoric on behalf of minorities and much of the white portion of that public will side with a presumptive Republican nominee who “re=Tweets” the worst of his unabashedly racist supporters.

Most of the entertainment media will do their part to bring down Trump, but they’re also no longer so formidable. The late night comedians are trying to destroy the presumptive Republican nominee, and we have to admit that the otherwise execrable Stephen Colbert has been doing a pretty witty job of it, but they’re currently preoccupied with trying to bring an even farther-left Democrat into the race, and we suspect their audience skews to a younger demographic that will wind up voting for the Democrat in any case. The movies will do their bit, but they’ve been on an absurd “Bush lied, people died” tangent that the presumptive Republican nominee has already co-opted, and even they seem suddenly inconsequential. All those years of professional wrestling and reality show seem to have better prepared the presumptive Republican nominee for the the current sorry media landscape.

There are all sorts of media, which is a plural form, after all, but few are free of blame. In recent years there’s been a rise of self-described “conservative media” on talk radio and the internet, and a hide-bound conservatism has been in print for decades, but most of them have been happy to sign on with a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul in from time to time in favor of a soak-the-rich tax policy and letting all the “good” immigrants he kicked out promptly back in and thinks North Carolina was crazy for keeping men out of its women’s restrooms and is generally no more reliably conservative than his presumptive Democratic opponent, and at this point we find little to like in the entire media. There’s still such old fogies as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The Central Standard Times who are willing to admit that both sides are awful and it’s an awful situation the country faces, but at this point it doesn’t matter much.

— Bud Norman

The Constitution and the Evil of Two Lessers

The argument most frequently made by our many Republican friends who are reluctantly supporting their party’s presumptive nominee is that he at least might just appoint more acceptable Supreme Court Justices than the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, which was bolstered somewhat by his announcement this week of a slate of impeccably conservatives judges he might consider, and there was already no denying that anyone his likely opponent might point would be quite certainly just downright awful. The argument is therefore somewhat persuasive, therefore, but still not at all reassuring.
There’s something unsettling to our hide-bound conservatives souls that the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee would even feel obliged to offer reassurances that he might consider an impeccably conservative jurist for the Supreme Court, for one thing. Past Republican nominees have always been assumed to be conservative in their picks, even if their track records of making correct choices has been inconsistent at least far back as the usually reliable President Dwight Eisenhower’s pick of the infamously crazy-libera-if-lifelong Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren, with all of sorts of disastrously squishy moderates being picked by Republicans since then, but in every case we could at least console ourselves with a certainty that a Democratic pick would have been even worse. In this crazy election cycle, though, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had good reason to be reassuring his party’s more hide-bound base that he’s still likely to be at least somewhat better than the Democrat’s presumptive nominee.
Earlier in this ever-shifting race he had suggested that his partial-birth-abortion-loving federal judge of a sister would be a “wonderful” pick for the Supreme Court, and during a Republican debate had defended her by saying that “Judge Alito” had “signed on to the same bill” that she had about the issue, even though they’re called Justices on the Supreme Court and they don’t sign bills, and his concurrence with Trump’s sister was on a minor point and in no way endorsed her partial-birth-abortion enthusiasm, which is such a complicated bunch of nonsense that even a successful Supreme Court litigant such as vanquished rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could not explain it to a gullible public. He also told once of his constant interviewers that he’s want to appoint Supreme Court nominees who would vigorously investigate the presumptive Democratic nominee’s highly dubious e-mail practices, which we still hope are already being investigated by all the authorities that are actually legally charged which such duties, and on many other occasions he’s exhibited a similar unfamiliarity with what Supreme Court Justices are properly called and what they actually do.
There’s also the matter of the presumptive Republican presidential nominees’ many other statements about the Constitution that our hide-bound Republican souls find troubling. For obvious reasons we are First Amendment purists, and his past widely-applauded boasts that his media critics will have “problems, such problems” once he re-writes the libel laws makes us doubt his commitment to the First Amendment, and his fealty to the Second Amendment seems quite newfound and malleable, and his praise of the “wonderful” Kelo decision that allows rich folks such as himself to gain eminent domain over some less well-heeled losers’ property rights raises serious doubts about his commitment to the Fifth Amendment, and it’s hard to imagine this crazy cycle’s presumptive Republican nominee nominating anyone who might restrain his own executive powers.
Given the presumptive Republican nominee’s long track of disregarding marriage vows and contractual agreements and basic standards of decency and any statements have e made just the other day, we also wonder how very committed he his to considering anyone on the list of potential candidates he has just announced. The list seems cribbed from the usually reliable Heritage Foundation and a radio talk show he’d previously mocked for his lower-than-“The Apprentice”-ratings, and if any of the “best people” that the presumptive Republican nominee promises he’ll hire had looked into it they’ll notice that one of those potential appointees has been constantly mocking him on “Twitter,” and we can’t shake a certain suspicion that it’s all as negotiable as anything else has been in the presumptive Republican nominee’s life.
Our reluctantly supportive Republican friends have been touting that list of “possible” Supreme Court nominees the same way they touted his impeccably conservative tax plan, which called for a cut in the top tax rates, and just as they try to explain the self-described-billionaire-who-won’t-release-his-tax-returns sudden shift to calling for a soak-the-rich system that the self-described socialist and seemingly vanquished Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for, and in this crazy election cycle it is plausible, but not at all reassuring. The argument that the presumptive Democratic nominee is worse yet is still somewhat persuasive, but even to our most reluctantly friends who are supporting the presumptive Republican nominee it  cannot be at all reassuring. If there’s the slightest chance that something better might prevail, no matter how imperfect, we’ll be looking for it.

— Bud Norman

Another Plot Twist in a Crazy Year

For those of us still clinging to some some faint hope that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, a few stories that appeared in the press Wednesday provided some straws to grasp at.
A couple of them were about polls showing that a significant percentage of the population would be willing to consider a credible third party candidate, which is not surprising given that all the other polls show both of the two major parties’ presumptive nominees are distrusted and disliked by significant portions of their own parties and unprecedented majorities of the country. One poll in New Hampshire had Mitt Romney earning 21 percent of the vote, within shouting distance of Clinton’s 37 percent and Trump’s 33 percent, which is somewhat more surprising given that Romney isn’t even running. A national poll found 58 percent of the country dissatisfied with the major party choices, 55 percent hoping for another choice, and 65 percent of the country “somewhat,” “pretty,” or “very willing” to vote for that third candidate. An eye-popping 91 percent of the under-30 set want a third choice, and the pollsters conclude that a credible third-party candidate would start out with 21 percent of the entire vote.
At this this late date it would be difficult for an independent candidate to be on enough state ballots to affect the election, and the few minor but-oh-so-sincere parties that have been diligent and organized enough to maintain that access usually nominate people who have been so far outside the political mainstream they have never held public office, but another story suggests this crazy election cycle might yet provide another exception to the usual political rules. The Libertarian Party won’t choose a nominee until its convention later this month, but the heavy betting favorite is Gary Johnson, a former two-term and well-regarded governor of New Mexico, the odds went up further on Wednesday when it was announced that ,his running mate would be William Weld,  a former two-term and and well-regarded governor of Massachusetts, and if the party chooses this quite credible ticket it will be right there on the ballot in all 50 states.
It sounds crazy, to be sure, but as we grasp at such straws we can at least console ourselves that this has thus far been one crazy election cycle. This is a year when the Libertarian Party’s ticket seems likely to have a vastly more proven budget-balancing and government-restraining record than whatever the Republican ticket of a four-times-bankrupt-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and whatever he lackey he chooses as a running mate, and the Democratic nominee’s indefensible record as a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State pretty much explains the national and bi-partisan “anti-establishment” mood that propelled the Republican to his nomination and could easily be exploited by a couple of former two-term governors running on a third-party ticket. The media might love this plot twist as much as they’ve loved all the presumptive Republican nominee’s surreality show, two or three capitalism-loving billionaires and a whole lot of disgruntled small donors and a small but diligent and well-organized and oh-so-sincere activists who have managed to keep their party on the ballot in all 50 states could provide a lot of further publicity and a plausible if improbable claim that to that hypothetical starting-out 21 percent of the vote.
At that point the craziest election cycle of our lifetimes, which includes the crazy three-way race of ’68, might get crazier yet.

–Bud Norman

Meanwhile, on the Democratic Side

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee lost yet another primary by a blow-out margin in Oregon on Tuesday, and was declared the “unofficial” winner of Kentucky’s contest by a mere hanging chad or two, and by now it’s none too soon for the Democrats to start to panic.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton’s inability to finish off the geriatric Old Left fossil and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should be troubling enough for her party, but there are also those polls showing her suddenly in a very tight general election race with the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump, whose insult comic shtick has already vanquished a deep field of far more qualified candidates, not to mention all those young and enthusiastic fans of the Old Left fossil booing her high-powered surrogates off a Democratic state convention stage. It’s not at all what the Democratic powers-that-be intended way back when in ’08 when they decided Clinton would be the nominee after putting of the First Woman President for the First Black President and all his “Hope and Change” nonsense, and they’ve no one to blame but themselves.
Clinton’s blow-out loss in Oregon to a self-described socialist and Old Left fossil is easily explained to anyone who has watched the hilarious hipster satire “Portlandia” on Netflix or whatever cutting-edge cable channel it originally appears on, and the Kentucky close-call is easily explained to country music fans familiar with the great Kentucky-born-and-raised Loretta Lynn’s classic about a “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Clinton’s walked-back but still irrevocable promise to continue the First Black President’s war on the coal industry, so we’re slightly surprised that she didn’t get blown out like she did in neighboring West Virginia, where Democrats were making downright Trumpian rude gestures towards her over the policy and vowing to vote for the self-described billionaire on the Republican side, but the rest of the party’s troubles can’t be so easily dismissed. Those tight-race polls should be more troubling, given that Trump has some sky-high negative numbers in all the polls himself, and deserves them at least as much as Clinton does her own severe negative polling numberw, but that the youngest and most enthusiastic segment of her party is booing her high-powered surrogates off the stage of a Democratic state convention should scare the hell out of the party “establishment” that so long ago cooked up her cockamamie candidacy.
Those disgruntled hipsters in Oregon will mostly wind up voting for Clinton in the general election if only for a well-founded fear of Trump, and those hillbilly coal miners and their daughters in West Virginia and Kentucky will largely wind up voting for Trump in a well-founded fear of their jobs, but such a well-established Democrat as California Sen. Barbara Boxer being booed off a stage for mentioning Clinton’s name is most troubling yet. There’s an unmistakable and easily understandable-to-anyone “anti-establishment” mood in this year’s presidential race in both parties, and at the moment the Democratic Party’s bet on a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State seems as foolish as bet against the house odds at one of Trump’s bankrupt casinos. The hated Republican “establishment” couldn’t stave off the abhorrent likes of Trump, the hated Democratic “establishment” seems likely to drag Clinton’s at-least equally abhorrent and equally-negatively-polling carcass across the finish line, and after seven-and-a-half-years of “Hope and Change” this is where even those cocksure Democrats find themselves.
Our “anti-establishment” sentiment will be voting third party this year, and  for whichever hopeless candidate claims to take the strongest stand against the looming national bankruptcy and for common sense that the presumptive Democratic nominee and her still-pesky rival and the presumptive Republican nominee all agree can be forever forestalled by whatever establishment they hope to install, so at this point we’re quite neutral observers of this whole mess. From this perspective the Democrats seem more hopelessly split, as most of the Republicans seem willing to side with the self-described billionaire who seems to now on the angles on this awful reality showl, and we can hardly blame them given their desultory options, and we at least hope that those Democratic Party’s powers-that-be are as panicked as we are at the moment.

— Bud Norman