The Democratic Convention and Its Spoiler Alerts

The Democrats wrapped up their four-day and overlong mini-series of a National Convention on Thursday, and more out of a sense of civic duty than with any hopes of entertainment we did our best to follow it at last half-assedly. These quadrennial tawdry teleplays often have an effect on real life, at least to whatever extent there is any of that left these days, so we try to use our many years of experience on the political and theatrical beats to anticipate what harm might be done this time around.
From our theatrical critic perspective we have to give it an overall pan. The show started intriguingly enough, with the plucky heroine of the tale, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, was embarrassed by the release of a trove of hacked e-mails spilling all over the internet to show that her long-awaited triumph had long-ago been pre-written by the producers of this obvious work of fiction, and the die-hard fans of that wacky self-described socialist character, who had been rooting for him under the delusion that it was actually real life, were in such full revolt they were wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and chanting the same “Lock her up chant” that all the highbrow critics were tsk-tsking about the right crazies wearing and chanting during last week’s Republican mini-series. This seemed a delightful plot twist, but by the next night the script had reverted to predictable formula with that wacky self-described socialist swearing fidelity to heroine he had so persuasively described as a villainess from the evil empire of Wall Street and “the establishment” that those e-mails had proved were running the show all along, and after that one speaker after another seemed the same guy from those “sham-wow” informercials.
The production values were pretty good, though, and we have to admit there was more star power than during last week’s Republican mini-series. One of the few pop cultural names we recognized from the GOP snooze-fest was Scott Baio, who starred as “Chachi” on the long-ago “Happy Days” television show and had a recurring cameo role in a friend of ours’ hilarious tale of a long-ago LSD trip, and one night featured a not-ready-for-prime-time lineup of a Florida State Attorney General who dropped a suit against Trump University shortly after Republican nominee Donald J. Trump made a generous contribution to her campaign, a woman who runs a dubious multi-level vitamin-marketing scheme similar to Trump’s eponymous Trump Network, and Phil Ruffin, who ran a failed dog track and some dingy convenience stores and various real estate schemes here in Wichita before making it into the self-described billionaire ranks in the Las Vegas casino business and is pretty much our local version of Trump, who was best man at Ruffin’s most recent wedding. The Democrats had comedienne and actress Sarah Silverman, who is a typical Hollywood airhead when it comes to politics but nonetheless occasionally makes us laugh and has a certain sultry semitic appeal we cannot deny, and Eva Longoria, who is apparently quite famous for something or another and is so objectively beautiful that even the discerning beauty-pagent-running eye of Trump would have to acknowledge she is more of a “ten” than even the comely yet crazy radio hostess Laura Ingraham, and various other names that the young folks would be likely to recognize.
Political celebrity seems to count for less these days, and once upon a not-so-long-ago time such former Republicans as ourselves would have have been entitled to tsk-tsk about that, but the Democratic convention featured a president and a vice president and a past president and every current office-holder they thought might do any good, whereas two former presidents and two past nominees and several other names that were conspicuous by their absence declined roles in the GOP show, so the Democrats once again had the advantage in “star power.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in a year when anti-establishmentarianism seems a popular theme remains to be seen, but if you’re going by that formerly comforting formulaic script about party unity and all that the Democrats seem to have had the upper hand. Even the best and best-looking and most famous actors are only as good as their script, however, and this year’s show offered the little to work with.
They were clearly at their best when mocking the Republican nominee, a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt self-described billionaire real-estate-and-failed-casino-and-gambling-joint-and-scam-university-and-multi-level-vitamin-marketing-scheme-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul with a ridiculous haircut whom even such retrograde right-wingers as ourselves and The National Review and The Weekly Standard and those conspicuously absent Republicans and the rest of the old-fashioned “integrity” types can’t help mocking. The current Democratic vice presidential nominee noticed the same annoying tendency by the current Republican presidential nominee to follow every unbelievable claim by stating “Believe me,” but he’s no Rich Little and his awkward impersonation got Trump’s fingernails-on-a-chalkboard cadence of the phrase all wrong. After more than eight years of railing against that awful current President of the United States we’ll at long last gratefully acknowledge that his screed against Trump was prefaced by the generous admission that “What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t Republican and it sure wasn’t conservative.”
The attempts to speak on behalf of the Democratic nominee all fell flat, however, as there’s really nothing to be said for her by either right wingers such as ourselves or even the most earnest and honest sorts of Democrats who spent the week trying to let to go of that crazy self-described socialist. After all, the heroine of the storyline spent her First Ladyship fending off the victims of that past president’s sexual depredations, has nothing to show for her brief tenure as a Senator other than a losing presidential race against an even more briefly-tenured and less-distinguished Senator, and her runner-up prize of being Secretary of State yielded one disaster after another. She’s as mean and vindictive and dishonest and corrupt and morally contemptible as that other guy, and not nearly as entertaining, and by the time she took the stage for the anti-climatic grand finale even most diligent critic would be tempted to walk out on this in-flight movie.
As we don our political reporter’s felt fedora to behold this tale, the perspective doesn’t improve much. Last week’s dreadful GOP convention nudged Trump into a slight lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, this week’s Democratic convention has thus far nudged it down slightly, and our guess is that next week’s averages will probably reflect that both these shows are much hated by a majority of the country and that it’s a virtual tie as to which is hated more.

— Bud Norman

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A Good Year For Vladimir Putin

The Democrats were loudly cheering some woman’s abortion on Wednesday during their quadrennial party convention, but Donald J. Trump wasn’t about to let them get all the attention. As usual the Republican nominee provided plenty of headline fodder in a Miami press conference, where he addressed the recent hacking and release of Democratic National Party e-mails by telling the Russian government, “Russia — if you’re listening — I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing (from the presumptive Democratic nominee’s accounting during her tenure as Secretary of State). I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

His apologists insist it was just a joke, and we’ll concede that it might well have been, as it’s always hard to tell with Trump, although we notice that he didn’t have to pause for laughs. In any case he gave his critics something to write about than all the embarrassing things that were going on at the Democratic convention, and allowed them tsk and tut and otherwise wax indignant about Trump inviting the interference of a foreign thug in an American election, persuasively argue that if it was a joke it wasn’t a very funny one, and that there’s no assurance the Russians will take it was one, despite that country’s delightfully bleak sense of humor. It also bolstered a recent conspiracy theory that the Russians were behind the hacking and released the e-mails to help Trump, and revived longstanding worry felt on both the left and right about Trump’s apparent chumminess with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, both of which he addressed with his usual un-parseable eloquence.
“Why do I have to get involved with Putin? I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about the man other than that he would respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything.”
Which will satisfy his apologists as a perfect reasonable response, but more skeptical sorts are likely to notice that it includes an admission that his past claim before an enrapt Republican audience to have spoken with Putin as “stable mates” on the “60 Minutes” program that broadcast one interview with Putin on the eastern half of the world another with Trump in the western half was of course a ridiculous lie, an even more embarrassing admission that the Republican presidential nominee doesn’t know anything about one of America’s most formidable foreign policy foes except that the fellow will surely respect him, and an absurd insinuation that no country would ever dare think of committing espionage against an America with Trump with in charge. Oh, and that it was all a lead-up to that putative punchline about how very amusing it would be the hackers kept up this disrespectful behavior. All in all, it’s not likely to dispel any conspiracy theories or allay any suspicions about Trump’s Russian policy.
Trump might or might not have anything to do with Putin, although he has long pursued business interests in a country where Putin’s approval is needed to do almost anything, and his campaign manager has long done business with the ex-Ukrainian strong-man who was Putin’s ally and his top foreign policy advisor has long done business with the Kremlin-run natural gas monopoly that Putin wields like a cudgel against the Europeans. Throw in all of Trump’s past praise for Putin’s “strength,” his brushing off of Putin’s assassinations of journalists and political foes by saying “our country does a lot of killing, too,” his short-lived plan to outsource the Syrian problem to Putin, last week’s removal from the Republican platform of a plank to supply weapons to the anti-Russian Ukrainian fighters and Trump’s reiteration that he wouldn’t necessarily fulfill America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization obligations in case of a Russian attack on a member state and that he’d seriously consider recognizing Russia’s claims to Crimea, and it’s going to take some dispelling and allaying. All in all that conspiracy theory about Putin trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor seems at least as plausible as the one about Sen. Ted Cruz’ dad being in on the Kennedy assassination, even if Trump’s good friends at The National Enquirer haven’t yet provided any photographic evidence, and the rest of it suggests to our hardened Cold War sensibilities that Russo-American relations under a Trump administration won’t be at all to our liking.
On the other hand, the presumptive Democratic nominee is the same woman who offered that stupid “reset button” that emboldened Putin’s revanchist ambitions and led directly the the current mess in Ukraine and elsewhere, and the current Democratic president is the one who caught on a “hot” microphone telling a Russian diplomat that he would be even more “flexible” in a second term than he’d been in his feckless first one, and neither that Libertarian guy or that Green Party gal are at all Reagan-esque or even Romney-esque in their anti-Russkie spine, so we figure that no matter the outcome of this election Putin is going to enjoy the next four years more than will we or the rest of the non-Russian world.

— Bud Norman.

A Decent Day for the Democrats and a Good Day for the Rest of Us to Deal With Other Pressing Problems

Some annoying automotive and home repair chores and a much-needed dollar-night home game by our Wichita Wingnuts over at the local ballpark kept us preoccupied through most of Tuesday, so we were mostly spared the more irksome task of watching the Democratic National Convention. A quick mid-afternoon look around the internet turned up a Washington Post headline gloating that there was less booing of the soon-to-be nominee than on Monday, although that glum admission seems to have since disappeared from their internet site, and apres ballgame we checked once again to  find that the Democrats had gone right on ahead and made Hillary Clinton their nominee, after a slew of mostly un-booed speeches by former president and presumptive First “Gentleman” Bill Clinton and some other tawdry celebrities, and judging by the general gist of the coverage that awful Clinton woman had a far better day than our more deserving selves.
Monday’s un-ignorable outbreak of booing came mostly from the supporters of self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had waged a pesky but runner-up insurrection against the party establishment’s long preferred candidate, but on Tuesday he took to the stage to confess abject defeat to the party’s hated Wall Street establishment and utter terror of the Republican nominee and urge that all rules once again be suspended on behalf of Clinton to allow her a unanimous nomination vote. At last week’s desultory Republican National Convention the pesky anti-establishment insurrectionist had congratulated the newly established winner on his victory but declined to offer an explicit endorsement and instead urged party members to “vote your conscience,” which gives us hope that there’s still some shred of integrity clinging to the Republican Party’s soul but will surely be spun by most of the media that the Democrats are by now the more united of the two parties. The usual diverse selection of reviews we perused about the rest of it were mixed, to say the least, but all in all Clinton and the Democrats seem to have at long last held their own through a news cycle.
Even the most Never Trump yet Never Clinton and by now reluctantly None of the Above press organs such are ourselves that are left of what used to be called “conservatism” had to scoff at the sight of an old and gaunt and frail Bill Clinton trying to “humanize” his harridan of a wife with nostalgic recollections of their storybook romance and lasting marriage, as if anyone who around at the time won’t recall what a farce the younger and chubbier and more randy President of that long-ago and longed-for era of the Roaring ’90s made of it, and even the more polite “mainstream” outlets wound up acknowledging the need to “humanize” a woman who’s been in the public eye for what seems the past couple of centuries or so. Our lefty friends on Facebook seemed to love it, though, especially those endearingly innocent younger ones whose first inklings of fellatio and cigar tricks and other late night comic fare slightly predated the Roaring ’90s, and even the more seasoned members of the sisterhood who used to talk about inordinate power relationships and other outrages when Republicans did far less were still willing to give him an admittedly less enthusiastic thumbs up. An ideologically consistent feminist Sanders supporters would have decried the obvious hypocrisy of it all, but Sanders himself was calling for the suspension of the rules on her Clinton’s behalf, and the elder sisterhood and the third or fourth or five wave of whatever it is of the most up-to-date feminism was on board, and by now the suicidally committed sort of None of the Above ideological integrity seems to reside only with what’s left of what used to be called “conservatism.”
In our admittedly half-assed perusal of the rest of it, we noticed in a report from former our one-time freelance employer “People Magazine” that one of the acts was the television actress and writer Lena Dunham, best known as that naked chubby chick from HBO’s critically-acclaimed and little-watched “Girls” show, and a more comely young Latina with the unlikely name of America Ferrara, who is apparently famous for something or another, riffing on the Republican nominee’s sexism and racism. The chubby white chick groused that Trump would consider her a “2,” and the comely young Latina said that Trump would probably consider her a rapist because she’s of Mexican descent, although she’s actually apparently of Honduran descent, the joke being that Trump wouldn’t note any difference between a Honduran and a Mexican. We so wish we could object to this quadrennial disparagement of the sexism and racism of the Republican nominee, but Trump actually does have an annoying habit of going on shock jock radio shows and rating women on scales of one to 10 and we can’t help recalling someone we know who said he was going to vote for Trump in a primary because his only other options were a couple of Mexicans, and how when we pointed out that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were actually of Cuban descent he snarled “What’s the difference?” In a typical election year we’d gleefully ridicule the Democrats’ alliance with such celebrity nitwits as Dunham and Ferrara and that awful Michelle Obama woman who was much more all the rage among our liberal Facebook friends a day earlier, and we’ll gladly do so even this year, even if the Republican nominee himself didn’t dare take on the current First Lady in his “twitter” tirades, but this year we are compelled to admit the Republican convention did feature Scott “Chachi” Baio.
From our suddenly objective perspective we’d say the Democrats on Tuesday regained any ground lost on Monday, and might yet pick up a crucial couple of fractions of a percentage point if the nominee can somehow come across seemingly human on Thursday’s acceptance speech. The Democratic National Convention so far is the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing, as per the old drama critic joke, and the necessary corollary of that same of joke is that it’s kind of thing you’ll hate if you hate that kind of thing. So far we hate everything on every channel, even to the point we feel a certain angry gratitude for the irksome distractions of automotive and home repairs.
At least the Wichita Wignuts’ four-run second inning was enough for a 4-2 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs, extending their lead in the American Association’s Southern Division, and they even struck out the designated “beer batter” in the sixth to win the crowd a promotional $3.50 price on a sizable and delicious Shiner Bock beer. At this point there’s no telling who will prevail in this crazy presidential race, but no matter how it comes out, such small favors will sure come in handy.

— Bud Norman

Do Not Remain Calm, Democrats, All is Not Well

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took a slight lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Real Clear Politics’ widely watched average of polls on Monday, and at least three pundits were urging that the Democrats not panic about it. Given what was going on both outside and inside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, those pundits’ pleas for calm recall that scene in “Animal House” where Kevin Bacon is urging the townsfolk fleeing a fraternity-induced riot to “remain calm, all is well,” just before he is squashed into the sidewalk, Wile E. Coyote style, by the terrified trampling horde.
Outside the Wells Fargo Convention Hall there were large groups of angry supporters of self-described socialist and Democratic runner-up Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and shouting the same “Lock her up” chants that were de rigueur at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and even on the credentials-only inside the presumptive nominee hardly fared better. Surly Sanders delegates were booing any mention of Clinton’s name even during the opening prayer that the rigorously secular Democrats still offer for some reason or another, and kept it up even when Sanders himself was speaking on behalf of the presumptive nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Denbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was denied a speaking slot and will resign her post at the end of convention because of the leak of thousands of e-mails showing she had long plotted against Sanders on behalf of Clinton, endured a similar chorus of boos while addressing her home state of Florida’s delegates. Speeches by such liberal icons as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michele Obama and and illegal immigrant girl were better received, but hardly any reason to delay the panic.
Those Kevin Bacon-ish pundits pleading for Democratic calm could rightly point out that Trump’s lead is indeed slight, well within the margin of error, and that other usually reliable forecasting models continue to show Clinton with a lead, although also slight and well within their margins of error, and that of course the election remains a few months away, but a few months ago everybody had Clinton up nearly double digits so the clear trend is not encouraging for Clinton supporters. They rightly note that Clinton has far more money and a larger campaign apparatus, but the dissolution of her once formidable lead has come as she’s vastly out-spent her opponent on attack ads. They also note the Trump’s long forestalled lead came with the usual “convention bump,” but that was no usual convention the Republicans held and it didn’t get the “yuuge” ratings the candidate expects probably would have cost the usual candidate a point or two, and what’s going on in Philadelphia doesn’t seem likely to undo the damage.
Hope springs eternal in the Democratic soul, so there are also reassurances to the faithful that Trump will surely do something to disqualify himself from the race, but all hope has already been extinguished in our formerly Republican souls and we can’t think of any reason our leftists friends should have any. If they’re hoping that Trump will mock somebody’s handicap or disparage American prisoners of war or publicly boast about his penis size or peddle some bizarre and slanderous conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination he’s already done that, and much more, and got a bump in the polls every time. If they’ve got their fingers crossed that he’ll make some more dangerous statements about paying America’s creditors less than promised or not fulfilling our treaty obligations or taking The National Enquirer seriously, that all happened while he was taking his slight lead in the race.
Trump prevailed with such unprecedented tactics against a crowded field of better-funded and better-organized Republican challengers, who varied in quality but in every case were more appealing public figures than Clinton. What those pleading-for-calm pundits won’t tell their readers is that Clinton is such a thoroughly awful candidate in every way that her unfavorable ratings are now even higher than Trump’s, which is saying something that should provoke a widespread and bipartisan panic throughout the land. Her tenure as First Lady was mostly spent enabling her perv husband’s sexual assaults, which Democrats at the time applauded because at least he was pro-abortion, but these days the feminist wing that was supposed to go all sisterly solidarity for the First Woman President are carrying mattresses around campus to protest a mythical “culture of rape” with the Republican nominee praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and quite obviously insincere about his recently acquired anti-abortion principles nobody’s all that anxious about the looming theocracy these days. Her brief and inconsequential time in the Senate was mostly spent plotting her presidential run, which she lost to an even more junior and inconsequential Senator, and her run as Secretary of State was one disaster after another. She’s humorless, apparently in ill health, and every bit as mean and morally compromised as her more entertaining and robust opponent.
The longtime political operative doesn’t seem to understand this strange American moment nearly as well as the longtime reality television show star she’s running against, too, and thus has wound up on the wrong side of big issues. That 11-year-old illegal immigrant girl given a spot on the Democratic convention stage sure was cute, but no so cute as to dissuade the majority of Americans who are so eager for some semblance of immigration law enforcement that they’re even willing to indulge wild fantasies about giant walls that the Mexicans will pay for.
Her frequently stated belief that all Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people who have nothing to do with terrorism is more consequentially wrong than Trump’s wild overstatements about how they’re all out to get us and we have to start getting tough even on the Gallic French and Teutonic Germans who have been willingly living among them. Trump’s protectionist trade policies are so similar to the self-described socialists Sanders’ that he’s making an unlikely plea to Sanders’ supporters, and although Clinton has been dragged into pretty much the same disastrous and suddenly bipartisan position her past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade-friendly policies make her seem the less sincere of the two remaining contenders.
She’s also stuck with the race-baiting “Black Lives Matter” movement that isn’t playing well outside the black community that was going to vote for any old Democrat anyway, while Trump is so law-and-order that he once called for the execution of the young black and hispanic men convicted of raping the “Central Park Jogger” and then continued to do even after they were exonerated by incontestable physical evidence, which won’t endear him to those black voters who were going to vote Democrat anyway and probably won’t much bother many of his own supporters. Trump is against Obamacare, which is good enough for his supporters, and although his vague descriptions of a replacement that would “take care of everybody” and the “government’s going to pay for it” probably won’t win him many new supporters at least it will make it hard for Clinton to pull out the usual heartless capitalist cliches. Trump’s newfound enthusiasm for government-paid child care and “LGBTQ” issues right up to and including that creepy guy hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers obviates much of the old Democratic playbook, too, and somehow in this strange American moment it didn’t keep him from romping to a Republican nomination.
At this point Democrats might as well start facing the dreary fact we were forced to confront last week that either one of these dreadful candidates might win, and that in either case the country is going to lose. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, we advise trample them as you flee in horror and leave them squashed on the sidewalk in Wile E. Coyote fashion.

— Bud Norman

A Rocky Start to a Democratic Convention

The Democratic Party will convene its quadrennial National Convention in Philadelphia today, and they’ll have their work cut out for them to top the freak show the Republicans put on last week in Cleveland. Being Democrats, though, they might well pull off the feat.
Things got off to a prematurely bad start over the weekend, when the internet-hacking and bean-spilling Wikileaks outfit released a trove of e-mails showing that the Democratic National Committee had long been putting its heavy thumb on the scales to help former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton survive an unexpectedly pesky challenge from self-described socialist and formerly independent Vermont. Sen. Bernie Sanders. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention to the Democrats’ debacle of a primary campaign, but the leaked e-mails included juicy new details that the party even planned attacks on Sanders’ religious beliefs, reheated the anger of Sanders’ sizable number of supporters, fed quite nicely into the Republican nominee’s loudly shouted storyline that all of our systems of economics and governance are rigged, and all in all it was such an undeniable disaster that the Democrats were forced to fire their national chairwoman.
Given the Democrats’ instinctive reluctance to ever fire anybody, that’s saying something. There’s likely to be more that’s said, though, as the various sub-plots to this particular tawdry affair will be hard for even the most polite media to ignore over the next four days of the convention. The very fact of the DNC’s computers being hacked can’t help remind any voters still mulling their awful choices that the presumptive Democratic nominee ran an e-mail operation as Secretary of State that the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation described as “extremely carless” even as he was declining to recommend she be prosecuted for it, and with a majority of the country disagreeing with that non-indictment another leak certainly can’t help a candidate who wasn’t much of a First Lady or Senator or Secretary of State and is such an awful presumptive Democratic presidential nominee that she needed help to fend off a challenge from a previously little-known self-described socialist from Vermont.
Harder to judge is how that juicy revelation that the DNC had contemplated on attack on Sanders’ religious beliefs might play out. They didn’t plan on attacking Sanders for being an ethnic Jew, and we doubt that the ethnically Jewish and occasionally synagogue-going DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ever contemplated that, even though that might have played well with the sizable Israel-hating portion of the Democratic base, but rather for the fact that he’s not religiously Jewish and proudly proclaims that he has no religious faith at all. How this would have played with a party that loudly booed God at it’s last quadrennial get-together,and has long thrived on he argument that the Republicans are a bunch of snake-handling Bible-thumpers intent on imposing a “Handmaiden’s Tale” theocracy on it’s sizable unmarried women demographic, is so complicated that we doubt even the DNC had any idea how it would play out. This year they’re running against a thrice-married casino-and-strip-joint and reality show mogul who not only doesn’t thump the Bible but embarrassingly refers to its book of “Two Corinthians,” and even if he does claim that the Internal Revenue Service keeps auditing his still-unreleased tax filings because he’s such a “strong Christian” we think a shrewder DNC establishment would have surely tried rigging the system without any mention at all of religion.
The reheated anger of those Sanders supporters will surely pose a problem to every political convention’s main goal of presenting a semblance of unified party, but we expect that will be cooled somewhat when Sanders himself eventually takes the stage to full-throatedly endorse the woman he had so long and so rightly castigated as a corrupt candidate who helped to herself to millions of dollars of largesse from the billionaires who have rigged the system. At the Republican convention the runner-up declined to explicitly endorse the nominee, who had mocked the runner-up’s wife’s looks and implicitly accused his father of being in on the Kennedy assassination, and had instead advised Republicans to “vote your conscience,” which was reasonably understood as an attack on the nominee, so by the end of the week those liberal media the Republican nominee rails against should be able to to present a semblance of a unified party.
There’s a good Democratic plot line in the fact that Wikileaks has apparently often received its information from Russian intelligence sources, and that the Republican nominee and his associates seem to have an uncomfortable business and ideological and temperamental relationship with the totalitarian Russkies, but the presumptive Democratic nominee has already done much to negate that other significant advantage. She was the one who offered that ridiculous “reset button” to the Russians, and the at-this-point conspiracy theory that the Russians were behind only reminds once again of the consequences of her and her party’s “extremely careless” method of handing internet communications. If the conspiracy theories are correct, more embarrassing revelations will be forthcoming, but if all the equally plausible Republican conspiracy theories about the Internal Revenue Service are true we can also expect some embarrassing revelations from the past many years of tax filings that the Republican nominee refuses to disclose.
The Democrats should be able to come up with some more impressive celebrities than Scott Baio and the rest of the questionable character witnesses the Republican came up, but they’ll also have to come up with a new script for the rest of it. All the usual panic about the looming theocracy is out the window, given the Republican’s fond embrace of the “LGBTQ” community and the throwing under the bus of those pesky Bible-thumpers who’d prefer not to bake their wedding cakes or not have some guy hanging around their daughter’s shower rooms, and despite the Republican’s undeniably sexist comments on the Howard Stern Show and other outlet’s he’s made an opening bid for the women’s vote with taxpayer-paid child care, and he’s even gone beyond that self-described socialist in his anti-free trade rhetoric.
Despite their connections to the higher echelons of Hollywood the Democrats aren’t very good at coming up with new scripts, but of course even the highest echelons of Hollywood seem hard pressed to come up with anything old scripts with new genders these days. As lifelong Republicans up until the Indiana primary we’re not inclined to offer the Democrats any advice, and being as flummoxed as anybody by the current Republican nominee we’re in no position offer any ideas in case, but our best guess is that they should try be to normal. As awful as she is the presumptive Democratic nominee hasn’t lately spouted off about paying America’s creditors less than they have been promised, or making our treaty obligations contingent on the president’s notions of who’s been paying their fair share, or indulging in the craziest-yet Kennedy assassination conspiracies or threatening trade wars, and given that we can’t think of anything else to say for that awful woman we think she’d do best to go with that.
That won’t be easy, though, Democrats being Democrats.

— Bud Norman

A Reluctant End to All that

Our heartfelt affinity for the Republican Party has been lifelong, but it somehow seems to go back even generations far further than that. It feels so strange and discomfiting, therefore, to have it come to an end on a swelteringly hot night on the Kansas plains during our late middle age.
The very first inkling we ever had of politics and economics and foreign affairs and all the rest of that real world grownup stuff came way back when we were playing in a sandbox while our parents lamented the landslide loss of Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election on a black-and-white television, but even then, to borrow a slogan of that long ago era, we knew in our heart that Goldwater and our parents were right. Our mom was the third daughter of an Oklahoma City street cleaner who had kept her and much of the rest of his extended family well-fed and cleanly-clothed through the Dust Bowl days by means of New Deal patronage, and her vote for Goldwater was her first and only act of rebellion against that otherwise lovable old Yellow Dog Democrat, and our dad’s dad was an admirably autodidactic Oklahoma oil-field whiz who had inculcated in his son a sense of self-sufficiency and individualism that would make him a life-long Republican, and after four years of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Vietnam War the ’68 election had convinced even our elementary school-aged selves that as usual our parents were right about everything.
By then the folks had relocated us to Kansas, a state that except for that ’64landslide and the New Deal landslide of ’32 had been reliably Republican ever since the “Bleeding Kansas” days when the Republicans were against slavery and the Democrats were hoping to impose that “peculiar institution” on this defiantly “Free State” and they fought it out with a bloody ferociousness that presaged the Civil War, and we soon fell in love with its subtly gorgeous topography and ruggedly individualist and autodidactic ways and even its godawful climate and especially its political obstinacy. Pretty much everything around here is named after some Republican or another, including our Sedgwick County that was named after a Union general who boasted right before being killed by Confederate sniper fire at the Battle of Spotsylvania that “They couldn’t hit a bull elephant from this dist…,” and the combined influence of our parents and Kansas and our own defiantly individualistic sensibility and instinctively ravenous interest in history had led us to believe that the Republicans and our parents are usually right about everything.
By our teens we were proudly serving as interns to Republican Sen. Bob Dole, who had previously been the “right wing” “attack dog” of the the vice presidential candidate of Republican nominee Gerald Ford, who had become the incumbent following the disgraced resignation of President Richard Nixon, along with a couple of good friends who would become the future Democratic and Republican governors of Kansas that we had we had our ideological disputes with but hope to remain friends with, but in in any case we continued to vote a straight Republican ticket every November. Most often it was reluctantly, given the various candidate’s deviances from that Goldwater philosophy we we knew in in our hearts was right, but in every case it was with a good feeling that at least it was better than what the Democrats had on offer.
This year, though, what the Republicans have on offer is a fellow who just a few years ago was identifying more with the Democrats and is a self-described billionaire and serial adulterer who claims to have reached that dubious status by running gambling casinos and strip-joints and professional-wrestling and other reality show embarrassments and boasts about the married women he’s bagged and the Democratic politicians he’s bought off and mocks the handicaps of disabled  reporters and supports the Obamacare’s individual mandate and questions the North Atlantic Treaty that won the Cold War and dismisses the undeniable heroism of the prisoners of wars that we’ve reluctantly supported in past campaigns, and is now supported by that war hero we once served as interns who was previously the “establishment” villain of the anti-Republican insurgency but is now a supporter of the self-proclaimed “anti-establishment” candidate 9n  this crazy year, and who just yesterday helped boo  off the stage of the Republican National Convention the failed but genuine Goldwaterite Republican that we had reluctantly pined our last-ditch hopes on.
Our pop woke us up Thursday morning with a call asking what we thought about that lone hold-out Goldwaterite Republican senator’s ambiguous failure to endorse the Republican nominee, and we could only assure him that at least we wouldn’t be voting for the at least equally awful all-but-certain-Democratic nominee. By the time we rubbed the sand from our eyes and logged onto the internet we found an interview by our longtime party’s all-but-certain nominee interview with the New York Times where he was once again threatening to undo the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that our pop had help helped  maintain  the post World War II peace that he fought for as an Air Force officer and cold-warrior defense executive, and we could only assure him we won’t be voting for that damned Democrat. At this point on a sweltering Kansas night in our late middle age there are no other options, and we can only hope that our parents and Kansas and what’s left of the Republican party and whatever’s left of the resistinance to the undeniably godawful Democratic Party will forgive our vote for none of the above. By now the only definition of “Republicanism” is an aversion to that godawful woman who is the the all-but-certain nominee of the Democratic party, and we we can proudly claim that we were were ridiculing and opposing her since way back when the official Republican nominee was contributing to her campaigns and phohy-balony “family foundation” and telling his fawning interviewers what a great Secretary of State and President of the United States and front-row  guest to a their his third wedding she would be, but we’d like to have something to vote for as much as we need something to vote against.  Despite their admirably Church of Christ ways our parents are leaning toward the thrice-married and proudly adulterous casino and and strip-joint-owning and six-times bankrupt and otherwise unorthodox and very recent Republican, and given how very godawful the the Democratic alternative is in this supposedly binary election we can hardly blame them, but we’ll be voting for none of the above. Which is where we find on ourselves on this sweltering Kansas evening, and we can’t say we like it at all.

–Bud Norman

Watching Liberty Booed Off the Stage at Two Conventions

Despite our particular aversion to the whole “reality show” genre of television, and our general disdain of the entire medium altogether, we did make a point to log onto the internet Wednesday evening to watch and listen to C-Span’s coverage of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ address to the Republican National Convention. Our oddball tastes in entertainment include an affinity for political rhetoric, and Cruz is as good at it as anybody these days, and his address did prove a most fascinating episode. The Senator seemed to deliver a robustly persuasive argument against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but he he only once mentioned the official Republican nominee by name, and at no point was there an unambiguous endorsement, so those who have been closely following the plot of this dreary tale are sure to have noticed some fascinating further ambiguities.
If you’ve been happily distracted from this dreary tale you need to understand that Sen. Cruz is better known to fans of the habitually lying official Republican nominee as “Lyin'” Ted Cruz, for reasons that have never been adequately explained, and that back when they were the last two contenders still vying for the nomination the now-official Republican nominee threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’ wife and “tweeted” out his gloat that she was uglier than the now-official Republican nominee’s plagiarizing-from-Michelle-Obama third super-model trophy wife, and claimed that Cruz was actually an oh-my-God punting-on-third-down Canadian and that his Cuban-born father had been in on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, based solely on the reporting of the official Republican nominee’s good friends at The National Enquirer, so the address was full of intriguing plot lines. There was a gracious and specific congratulation to the now-official Republican nominee who had shamelessly and ridiculously slandered Cruz’ wife and father and personal history, and a rousing denunciation of the undeniably awful presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but in terms that don’t reflect well on the now-official Republican nominee.
His strikingly brief address quite persuasively made the case that the traditional Republican value of freedom of speech is at odds with a presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee who would overturn the Citizens United ruling that people are free to criticize her, and generously neglected to mention that the official Republican nominee has promised that anyone who criticizes him will have “problems, such problems” should he win. He affirmed the right of homosexuals to pursue their preferences but stood up for the right of others not to be involved, without mentioning that both of America’s major parties now seem on board with more authoritarian post-sexual-revolution measures, and he spoke against open borders while also speaking well of the father who legally came to this country from communist Cuba and all the other legal immigrants who had nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy. He spoke about giving parents a choice in educating their children, which neither party’s official or all-but-certain nominees ever mention, and the state’s rights on everything from marijuana to California-style taxation that also largely go unmentioned. All in all it was a stem-winding speech against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but hardly a ringing endorsement of the now-official Republican nominee.

Which of course wound up with him being booed off the stage by the Republican National Convention. He ended by saying that “We will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty,” and in this sorry virtual reality show that seems to define our actual reality that will get you booed off any of the available stages. We’d have preferred that he defended the honor of the one wife of his youth and the pro-American immigrant father who surely had nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy, no matter what craziness the official Republican nominee’s friends at The National Enquirer concocted, and been more frank about the lies being told by both of the major party candidates, but at this point we’ll argue that “Lyin’ Ted” was at least more truthful than either of the official and all-but-certain major party nominees and made a stronger case against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee than the now-official Republican nominee ever could, and we’ll hold out faint hope that next time around will be better.

— Bud Norman

Grasping for Straws

Our formerly Grand Old Party formally nominated Donald J. Trump for President of the United States of America on Tuesday, so at this point the only straw of faint hope for the country we can grasp at is that he won’t accept the nomination on Thursday and instead admit that his candidacy was just a practical joke and publicity gimmick gone badly awry. There’s even less chance of that happening than that the Democrats won’t nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton by month’s end, and thus our formerly great country will almost certainly wind up with one of the two most deplorable people its all-too-human political system has ever vomited up as its next president.
Those always deplorable Democrats will surely embarrass themselves in nominating their unprecedentedly deplorable choice in short time, and we’ll gleefully note it when they do, but until then we must glumly concede they’ll be hard-pressed to top what’s been going on at the Republican convention in Cleveland. Thus far the Republican convention has featured the hated “establishment” that Trump vowed to burn down quashing the feeble efforts of delegates representing the majority of the grass-roots Republicans who voted against Trump with highly questionable parliamentary tactics, the third trophy wife of the formerly family values party borrowing lines from the deplorable President Barack Obama’s deplorable wife, and the star power of that guy who used to play “Chachi” on “Happy Days.” Conspicuously absent from the stage are the party’s last nominee and its past two presidents and the locally popular Republican governor of the crucial swing state of convention-hosting Ohio, all of whom the presumptive Republican has slandered in the most outrageous fashion. The runner-up whose wife the Republican nominee mocked as ugly and whose father he fancifully suggested was in on the assassination of John Kennedy is scheduled for a turn on the stage, but at this point we can’t think of anything he might say on behalf of Trump that will do him or the Republican nominee much good.

None of this is helpful in dissuading the clear majority of Americans who have already formed a negative of opinion of Trump. The “anti-establishment” mantle he claimed was undermined when the “establishment” proved just as feckless as he’d always said it was and meekly climbed aboard the “Trump train,” his third wife’s cribbing from Michelle Obama’s cliched convention speech undermines is no big deal but allows the press to undermine Trump’s claim that his inept general election operation will surround him with the best people, and that “Chachi” guy and his weird speech suggests that the erstwhile reality show star doesn’t have the pop culture credentials that were enough to win a nomination by a formerly Grand Old Party. Some of the speeches that were allowed at the convention made a persuasive case that the all-but-certain Democratic nominee is even worse, but even then the Republican nominee’s ego got in the way. Less noticed was the Republican Party platform’s suddenly pro-Russian stance, but then again the presumptive Democratic nominee was the one who first offered that “re-set button.”

Perhaps the most compelling speaker the Republicans could come up with was Patricia Smith, whose son Sean died along with American ambassador and two others in Benghazi, Libya, as a result of the utter incompetence of the presumptive Democratic nominee, who also brazenly lied to her face about the reasons why, but if you were watching on Fox News you missed it because the Republican nominee chose that crucial moment to phone in another self-aggrandizing and utterly ridiculous interview that pre-empted the speech. In any case he was outspokenly for that ill-advised Libyan adventure, even if he brazenly lies about it now to Patricia Smith and the rest of us, just as he brazenly lies about his opposition to the Iraq War that he slanderously blames on the last two Republican presidents, and no matter what apologies his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supports might come up with he missed yet another opportunity because he simply can’t shut up and let the Democrats look bad.
We can’t discount the possibility that the Democrats will once again boo God and badmouth America and otherwise embarrass themselves when they nominate their deplorable nominee, and we note with some satisfaction that she’s also unfavorably regarded by a heartening 60 percent or so of the country, but they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to surpass what’s going on in Cleveland. In any case, we’ll be clinging to the faint straw of hope that some pot-smoking Libertarian or teetotaling Prohibitionist or some other oddball alternative might yet mitigate the next four awful years.

— Bud Norman

Memories of Conventions Past, For Better and Worse

Readers of a certain gray-bearded age might share our nostalgia for that long ago era when the country’s two major party’s quadrennial conventions were the most compelling spectacle on television. There were only three stations you could find on your fuzzy black-and-white set back in those days, and no internet or other media, and all of them were obliged by that long-since-abandoned standard of public interest to interrupt their daily soap operas and evening re-runs of cornball sit-coms and doctor-and-lawyer dramas, but even such young and impressionable sorts as ourselves noticed the marked improvement in both comedic and dramatic fare.
Back then these quadrennial reality shows were billed as “nominating conventions,” because that was back when the conventions of party dignitaries actually met to to settle on their nominees, notwithstanding whatever ill-informed votes had been cast in the primaries and caucuses, and naturally it was quite riveting to watch. We have only the vaguest memory of triumphant Republican nominee of ’64 Barry Goldwater proclaiming on fuzzy black-and-white-television that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation is no vice, and that moderation in the pursuit of virtue is no virtue.” We have since learned as of sons of  New Deal-era Okie parents who somehow warmed to the message that was electoral disaster, but we were our years older and far better recall that crazy year and riot-prone year of 1968 when the Republican nominee was nominated and won on a promise of “law and order” and wound up being elected after a riot-prone Democratic Convention in a three-way-race and re-elected by landslide in ’72 but wound up resigning in disgrace shortly thereafter because he was a pretty much lawless sumbitch himself, even if the far-left Democratic alternative was still arguably worse, and it has tempered our understanding of this whole crazy process ever since.
By the time the ’76 Republican “nominating convention” was occurring we were still too young to vote but just old enough to drive a borrowed car up the I-35 interstate to to the Kansas City convocation and have a serendipitous meeting with with Reagan’s no-holds-barred campaign manager, who graciously gave us some us “Reagan-Schweitzer” campaign buttons and a “He’ll Beat Carter” campaign poster we still still proudly display in our cowboy room room here in the middle of the prairie, but of course the oh-so-esablishement Ford wound up losing to the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee in’7,6 and by ’80 even that too-extreme Republican candidate was winning by a landslide. He won again by a larger landslide in the Orwellian year of 1984, but since then the conventions of both parties have been week-long infomercials for lesser sorts, and easily ignored among all the other media options.
So far the offerings at the Republican National Convention have been similarly boring. The presumptive Republican nominee’s reality show has featured the absolute defeat of those opposed to the nomination of Donald J. Trump, with just a moment or two of drama being defeated by a suspiciously noisy voice votes, and the other highlight being the blandishments of the nominee’s third trophy wife. The presumptive Democratic nominee is still touting her Tammy Wynette-like fidelity to her undeniably cheating but undeniably one-and-only-husband, and will offer every bit as boring as infomercial and we find ourselves not only nostalgic for those good old days of law-and-order’-’68 but also that that landslide losing year of ’64 when extremism in the defense of liberty was no vice and moderation in the the pursuit of moderation was no no virtue, and the delegates of both parties were free to work out these questions in full view of the inquisitive television cameras. It wasn’t quite so democratic with a small “d” back then, but it made for better television and seemed to turn up better nominees.

— Bud Norman

The Past Bad Week, and the Next One

The past week saw 84 deaths from deadly terrorist attack in France and failed coup attempts in Cleveland and Turkey, three more police officers were killed and another three seriously worried in Baton Rouge, another young black man was shot and killed by police officers in Baltimore after he fired four rounds at them with a rifle, and this week doesn’t look any better. The President of the United States was only slightly less worse in his responses to these events than usual, the President of Turkey is so awful we weren’t sure who to root for during that short-lived coup attempt, and the failure of that coup attempt we were fervently rooting on in Cleveland means that the Republican National Convention will almost certainly nominate Donald J. Trump as that awful president’s successor, and we’d hate to be a police officer in the vicinity of Cleveland when that happens.
President Barack Obama’s response to the carnage in France was frank enough to acknowledge that it was “horrible,” and he even went so far as to call it an act of “terrorism,” but as usual he wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the clearly Islamist nature of it. He was clearly once again caught off-guard about the failed coup in Turkey, and was content to leave it to his hapless Secretary of State to explain why they were rooting all along for the Turkish president they once claimed a “special relationship” with and are now at odds with. Earlier Obama attended the funeral of five police officers gunned down in Dallas during a “Black Lives Matter” protest, and seized the occasion to make a case for the protest movement that has whipped up the anti-police hysteria that clearly has something to do with their deaths, but after three more officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge he more clearly took a stand against the murder of random policemen and urged that “We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points of advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts.” Which is all well and good, we suppose, expect that it was probably a rebuke as much to such anti-Islamist-terrorism and anti-killing-of-random-policemen such as ourselves as to those erstwhile allies of his who have been egging on the recent violence.
The Democratic Party’s all-but-certain nominee was no better. She took the opportunity of the carnage in France to reiterate her previously stated absurd claim that Islam has nothing to with these all to frequent tragedies, also seemed surprised by the coup attempt in the Turkey she had so assiduously courted as Secretary of State, and after the carnage in Louisiana she took her sweet time before coming out foursquare against the murder of random police officers and adding the usual caveats to indicate her sympathy to the movement that is clearly fueling the recent spate of it. Should there be further troubles in Cleveland this week we’ll eagerly await her nuanced response.
Following the failure of that coup attempt in Cleveland the all but certain Republican nominee will be Trump, who cannot be accused of being at all nuanced about his opposition to Islamist terrorism or the random murders of police officers, but can be credibly accused of “inflammatory rhetoric” and “careless accusations” and attempts to “score political points or advance an agenda,” and would probably be leading by double digits in all the polls if he could temper his words or had a heart to open. The “Bikers for Trump” who have served as semi-official security guards for his rallies, which have long been beset by the violent thugs who oppose him are predicting the scene outside the Republican Convention will resemble the “OK Corral,” which reminds our baby boomers selves more of the Altamont concert by the same Rolling Stones’ whose “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” introduced Trump’s vice-presidential pick at a weird press conference this past week,  and the all but certain Republican nominee clearly relishes a good fight, and taking all of the bi-partisan nuttiness in account we’re feeling lucky to not be a police officer in Cleveland this week.

— Bud Norman