Advertisements

The Election Year of the Schoolyard Taunt

At this late date in the presidential race we can’t think of anything worse to call the Republican nominee than “Donald J. Trump,” and “Hillary Rodham Clinton” is about as awful an epithet as we can spit out for the Democratic nominee, but everyone else seems to have some other preference. Coming up with contemptuous nicknames for one’s political enemies has become something of a national pastime during this election, to the point that it’s hard to keep track of them all.
The Republican nominee is an avid nicknamer, having dispatched such worthy opponents as former Florida Gov. Jeb “Low-Energy” Bush, Florida Sen. “Little” Marco Rubio, and Texas Sen. “Lyin'” Ted Cruz on his unlikely way to the nomination, and his supporters on the talk radio shows and the comments sections of countless internet sites have been endlessly creative about his general election opponent. A partial list of Clinton’s nicknames include “Hellary,” “HilLIARy,” “Shrillary,” as well as the inevitable “Hitlery,” and those are just the variations on her first name. The more high-browed critics on the right have dubbed her “The Dowager Empress of Chappaqua,” while the saltier sorts routinely refer to her as “Monica Lewinsky’s Boyfriend’s Wife,” and the downright meaner sorts often invoke “Her Thighness,” “President Pantsuit,” the ever popular “Cankles,” which is apparently a neologism for those sorts of aging legs where the calves and ankles seem to converge, and of course “Cankles McPantsuit.” We had frequently encountered Hillary “Rotten” Clinton before the Republican nominee started publicly using it, and although he did think to affix it with “Crooked” he seems to be getting behind the game. He also likes to call Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” nd allusion to her baseless claims to be a Native American, even though the more sophisticated “Fauxcahontas” had already been around since that scandal broke.
Although the Democratic nominee has thus far refrained from such schoolyard taunts, presumably because it would be below the station of The Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, many of her supporters aren’t so genteel. They’ve been in the nicknaming game since way back in the days of President George W. “Chimpy McBushitler” Bush, also known as “Smirky McBushitler” and “Smirky the Chimp,” and they’ve been busier yet ever since Trump arrived on the scene. So far the top plays on his name seem to be “tRump” and “D-Rump,” along with “Drumpf,” which apparently was Trump’s patrilineal family name until his immigrant grandfather made the fortuitous change. The name Trump doesn’t easily lend itself to any sort of Hitler-ization, so his enemies have been reduced to calling him “Herr Trump” or “Herr tRump” or “Herr Drumpf.” Just as the Democratic nominee’s of-a-certain-age figure have come into play, so has the Republican nominee’s undeniable orange hue, with such nicknames as “Don Cheeto” and “Orange-utang” and “Der Orange Fuhrer” coming into play. The truncated sound of Trump better lends itself to insults against his so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters, who are dismissed as “Trumpanzees” and “Trumpets” and “Trumpkins,” among other things. Among the more cerebral sorts on the NeverTrump right they’re known as the “Trumpenproletariat,” which we rather like even if it does play into stereotypes about us NeverTrump right type’s snootiness.
The game has been going on since the birth of the republic, of course, and judging by graffiti the archaeologists have found in ancient Rome and Athens it’s pretty much a permanent feature of any republican system of government. Perhaps it’s just because the internet and the modern presidential campaign cycle are so much more ubiquitous than even graffiti, but we’re starting to weary of it. Both candidates are well worthy of the scorn, but not because of their thick ankles or orange hue, and we’d rather that people were paying attention the worst of it, or at least came up with something clever.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

The Election Year of Anything Goes

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking,” the great Cole Porter once tunefully observed, memorably adding “But now, God knows, anything goes.” That was way back in 1933, so we shudder to think what the oh-so-sophisticated songwriter of that scandalous era would be thinking if he had stuck around for 2016. The latest rap and rock and pop cacophony would have surely appalled him, the rest of the popular culture would no doubt also dismay the sensibilities of the fellow who lamented that “Good authors, too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose,” and even such a classy and contentedly closeted homosexual of that bygone era as Porter would probably be confounded by all this current public enthusiasm for creepy guys hanging around women’s restrooms.
What he’d make of this crazy election year, well, God only knows.
This crazy election year has gone far beyond a glimpse of stocking to include stark naked pictures of a major party nominee’s third wife exposed on the cover of a New York tabloid, and more widely disseminated across that newfangled internet thingamajig without those minuscule but pesky stars over the naughtiest bits that even New York tabloids still feel obliged to use, along with some suggestively sapphic poses with an anonymous naked woman or two that easily meet the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s definition of pornography as “I know it when I see it.” That same major party nominee used to run a strip joint before it went bankrupt, has boasted in print about the many married women he’s bedded, once offered assurances about his sufficient penis size during a presidential debate, often cusses in front of the kids, seems to share the unaccountable current popular enthusiasm for creepy guys hanging around women’s restrooms, and for crying out loud he’s the Republican nominee.
Meanwhile, the Democratic nominee is the wife of former President Bill Clinton, the predatory serial philanderer best remembered after two terms and nearly 16 years of historical reflection as the punchline to countless late night comedy show fellatio jokes, and for crying out loud she’s running as the long awaited culmination of the feminist revolution. The long-presumed and still potential First Woman President is as always committed to the pro-abortion stand that her Republican opponent took right up until he decided to run as Republican and rather clumsily tried to be anti-abortion, and a lot of the older feminists are still grateful that she protected her pro-abortion woman against the women who spoke frankly about his predatory serial philandering, and a lot of the younger feminists find the Republican just as icky, so she might well get away with it. She’s not about to be outflanked for the creepy guy in the women’s restroom vote even if the Republican nominee is offering them concealed carry, she’ll always enjoy the advantage of that double standard that regards scorned women as admirable victims and betrayed men as laughable cuckolds, and even the current Republican nominee with the naked model third wife and newfound anti-abortion zealotry is unlikely to overcome the party’s cornball reputation for old-fashioned family values.
What’s most striking to us, and would surely get the attention of a resurrected Cole Porter or any other previous American, is that none of this seems to matter. The only interest that the more respectable press took in those naked pictures had to do with the fact that they were apparently taken in in America in 1995, and that the potential first lady’s first work permit was issued in 1996, raising doubts about her future husband’s stand against illegal immigrants taking jobs from natives. Some of the feminist sisterhood even came to her defense, the right to pose naked and especially to do the sapphic sorts of shots being the most up-to-date version of the cause that even the aging Democratic nominee didn’t want to argue with, and no one except such fuddy-duddies as ourselves would wants to be on record saying that there’s something somehow unsettling about naked pictures of one major party’s nominee’s third wife and his opponent being in no position to say anything about it. We grew up long after Cole Porter’s heyday but still in a time when the happily married Rob and Laura Petrie were sleeping in separate beds on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and when Lyndon Baines Johnson was holding bathroom press conferences and Richard Milhouse Nixon was creating the familiar phrase of “expletive deleted” but never doing it in front of the kids, and both the cutting-edge feminists and the retrograde family values types had an unease with the sort of objectification of women that recently appeared on the front page of that Republican-nominee-endorsing New York tabloid. Call us old-fashioned, but in this crazy election year we feel a certain nostalgia for the hopeful hypocrisy of those long-lost days.
We rarely find ourselves in sympathy with The New York Times’ Ross Douthat, but we rather liked his recent essay about how this crazy election will in one way or another be the culmination of the sexual revolution that coincided with the feminist revolution during those lamentable ’60s. He astutely likens Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s braggadocios sexism with the Brat Pack and Hugh Hefner and of course Democratic icon John F. Kennedy and the rest of the alpha males of the “Mad Men” era of early ’60s sexual liberation, and Clinton with the adversarial if equally libidinous feminism that reacted in the latter part of the decade. Regardless of the outcome of the next election one of the two will be ratified, Douthat suggests, and while we doubt we’re in complete agreement about which would be best he seems to share our concern that neither is at all satisfactory. For that matter, we can’t imagine that any self-respecting feminist or intellectually honest family-value types sees any hope in this crazy election year.
There are more important issues than such long-lost causes, we suppose, such as the ever-harder-to-dispute fact that the Democratic nominee was running an utterly corrupt influence-peddling “family foundation” while in public and that the Republican nominee who openly brags about buying influence was one of the donors during his exclusively private sector career, and that a certain level of personal and financial and political sleaziness is now assumed by both sides and it’s all a matter of deciding which is more objectionable. We can’t help thinking that the lowered cultural standards have something to do with the lowered political standards, and that the range of acceptable debate has shrunk even as the rules about how views can be expressed have expanded, and that Cole Porter and his better generation of contemporaries would be startled what happens when anything truly goes.

— Bud Norman

This Time in Milwaukee

The latest round of rioting and looting and mayhem happened Saturday in Milwaukee, where constant gunfire kept firefighters away from several blazes and any person of the wrong hue who had the misfortune to be walking down a certain stretch of Sherman Boulevard was subject to brutal mob violence. Yet another instance of a black man being shot by police officer had preceded it all, of course, and so the usual excuses of the “Black Lives Matter” movement will be made.
Those excuses are never sufficient for the victims of this ongoing violence, however, and in this case they’re all the more insufficient. In this case the man shot by a police officer was armed with a stolen semi-automatic pistol, one of those uniform “body-cams” that the activists have insisted on show he brandished the weapon as he fled from police during a routine traffic stop, he had a long record of arrests and a conviction for possession of a concealed weapon, and although there are still questions about the incident that will surely be thoroughly investigated under intense public scrutiny all of that should at least give some pausing to the rioting. In any case the businesses that were destroyed and those unfortunate folks of the wrong hue who happened to be in the vicinity had nothing to do with the shooting, and the violence and destruction that were inflicted will have no positive effects on anyone.
In this case the officer whose life was on the line was also black, and therefore presumably not motivated by any racial animus, but that won’t matter to a “Black Lives Matter” movement so strangely selective about which black lives matter. They seem to care little for the lives of the brave black men and women who don a police uniform and a gun to try to impose some semblance of law and order on the most lawless and disorderly streets of America, nor for the untold number of murdered black lives that will surely be added to an already inordinate black death toll once those efforts at law enforcement are in retreat from the mob.
As the crime rates rise in those cities afflicted by the anti-police protest movement the chances of a police officer still more or less on the job having to make a split-second decision about how to respond to known felon brandishing a loaded gun will increase, the ensuing riots will fuel a further retreat by law enforcement and another uptick in the crime, and at some point frank talk and real leadership will be required to halt the cycle. All of this comes near the end of what was promised would eight years of a post-racial America, and although it wouldn’t be fair to blame all of this on President Barack Obama it does seem fair to say that he hasn’t made good on those grandiose promises. He’s consistently taken sides against the police in every controversial case, often before the facts emerged to prove his prejudgments incorrect, and his Justice Department has taken similarly premature stands, with the same embarrassing results. His Education Department has also insisted that schools mete out suspensions and expulsions according to a strict racial quota system, which ignores and exacerbates the reality that in many schools some racial groups are committing infractions that call for suspensions and expulsions at a greater rate than others, and his Department of Housing and Urban Development has been imposing similarly cockamamie notions of racial justice on otherwise contented communities around the country.
Despite such efforts, black unemployment remains far higher the national average, with the youth unemployment rising still further over Depression-era rates with every hike in the minimum wage, overall black wages and household wealth are on the decline, and in the cities where the police departments have fallen under federal scrutiny the black murder rates are on the rise. The president’s approval ratings among black Americans remain high, though, and his endorsed would-be Democratic successor is eager to reap their votes and unwilling to challenge his policies. The would-be Republican successor is echoing Nixon’s “law and order” theme from the riot-torn days of ’68, but at the moment the country doesn’t seem to regard him as as the sort racial healer who might stave off a race war. So far the only leadership that has dealt with the complex situation frankly has been at the local level, such as that black police chief in Dallas who largely restored order at the murder of five of his officers, but we’ll need more.

— Bud Norman

Sports, Politics, and the Global Chessboard

The quadrennial Olympic competitions always arrive on the same leap years as the American presidential elections, and usually provide some pleasant if nonetheless metaphorical distraction from politics, but in this crazy election year it hasn’t proved sufficient. Even after more than seven years of those awful Obama administrations America is still great enough to be well ahead in the medal count, and there have been the usual plentitude of inspiring tales of individual American effort along the way, but as usual it’s all being re-told according to the same dreary collectivist storylines of race and class and gender and of course how that Muslim-American woman will be competing in the fencing competition in a hijab. By this point, we’re more interested in the upcoming world chess championship.
Most of the rest of the world will pay no attention to the event, and we really can’t blame it, but we have our own idiosyncratic reasons for being enrapt. We first took up chess way back when we were so young we required baby-sitting and our amorous parents hired the local high school champ to watch over us during their occasional and much-needed nights on the town, and he taught us not only the moves but also the tactical and strategic fundamentals of the game in the hope that it would keep us more or less quiet and still until our parents arrived home with an evening’s wages. The ploy had little effect on our more athletic and fidgety older brother, but it led to a years-long and mostly successful rivalry with a more mathematically-talented younger brother and our own life-long fascination with the game. A few years later the ruggedly individualist and undeniably brilliant American champion Bobby Fischer faced off against the collectivist and daunting Soviet Union’s reigning World Champion Boris Spassky in a compelling single combat contest of the ongoing Cold War, and it got more press attention than any of those heroes of a terrorism-stained Olympics or even that classic National Basketball Association finals between The New York Knicks and The Los Angeles Lakers, and when Fischer easily prevailed against Spassky’s brilliance and the commie’s conspiratorial advantages despite his temper-tantrum-induced disqualification in an early game we became lifelong followers of the World Chess Championship.
That Fischer guy could play a game of chess as beautifully as Mozart could write a symphony or Michelangelo could paint a ceiling, but the son of a Jewish mother’s virulent anti-semitism and the American hero’s outspoken anti-Americanism and the champ’s all-around nuttiness eventually undermined his heroic status. The only other American considered a world champion was Paul Morphy of New Orleans, who earned the unofficial title by convincingly beating the world’s best back in the antebellum and pre-official-championship days, and he also wound up going crazy, but in his days at least it had more to do with his unfashionably pro-Union views. Spassky was eventually recognized as a half-hearted dissenter against Soviet communism and an all-around-sportsman and undeniably brilliant chess-player in his own right, but the brilliant but more doctrinaire Soviet Anatoly Karpov wound up winning the next title by default when Fischer insisted on the most insane terms for a title defense.
Karpov successfully defended the title against two Soviet commie challengers, then retained his championship in a phony-baloney draw against the proudly half-Jewish and defiantly anti-Soviet challenger Garry Kasparov in ’84. Kasparov won fair and square against Karpov in ’86, then dominated the chess world into the 1990s.
Some of the corrupt organizational squabbling you find going on all the time in boxing then followed, with a charming enough English fellow named Nigel Short holding one of the disputed more-or-less world titles for a while, but Kasparov generally remained on top before retiring to take up a full-time career in politics, which he admirably continues here and abroad to this day, and a most worthy but altogether boring and draw-prone champion from India named Viswanathan Andad wound up as the little-recognized champion. He nobly defended the title the against yet another Russkie, then wound up losing his title in ’13 to a handsome and buff and combative 20-something Norwegian named Magnus Carlsen, who everyone in the chess world considered a more telegenic and exploitable champion.
This time around the big chess event will take place in November and December in the South Street Seaport district of lower Manhattan in New York City, and although the brilliant if oddly-named yet all-American grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana were upset in the preliminary matches by one of those inevitable Russkie challengers there’s still an intriguing Cold War feel to the championship. Carlsen’s challenger is the outspokenly pro-Putin and pro-Crimean invasion Russkie Sergey Karajkin, and given the champ’s unabashed identification with the free west and under-the-gun Scandinavia the battle lines are quite clearly drawn. Unlike the Cold War days of ’72 we’re in an American election year when the Democrat nominee offered a “reset button” to the Russkies and pulled back on a nuclear-defense deal with the Czechs and Poles and seemed to invite the recent Russian revanchism, and the Republican nominee and his in-bed-with-Russia campaign team were apparently unaware of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and seem quite content with Russia’s revanchism in any case, so our pro-western and pro-western-Ukrainian-type sympathies will be with some pretty-boy Norwegian rather than some nutcase half-Jewish and anti-semitic if undeniably brilliant and ruggedly individualist American this around.
Sports and politics are full of such ambivalent rooting, and even such an elegant game as chess isn’t immune to these complications.

— Bud Norman

Another Win for the Establishment

There are a lot of political races being run in this crazy election year besides that dispiriting presidential contest, so we like to check in on them from time to time in vain search of some faint sense of hope for the country. Last week the intriguing race was just west of the county line in Kansas’ First Congressional district, where an “establishment” type knocked off an “anti-establishment” type incumbent in a unusually heavily-funded Republican primary in that remote and largely unpeopled district, and this week the big news has come out of the distant First District of Wisconsin, where incumbent Republican House Speaker and very personification of the “establishment” Paul Ryan won an even more lopsided victory over a tattooed and otherwise impeccably “anti-establishment” challenger.
We do find some faint sense of hope for the country in both outcomes, albeit with the same nagging ambiguity that marks this crazy election year. There was some appeal to that fire-breathing anti-establishmentarian out in western Kansas, but when you’re so darned rebellious that you wind up getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee and so ideologically pure that you vote against a Farm Bill which had satisfactory cuts in the Food Stamp program and keeps the current business model of the First District economy more or less intact we figure you’re asking for trouble. In the case of Paul Ryan, the feelings are yet more mixed.
The handsome and youthful Ryan has had a starring role in the past many years of the binge-worthy Republican reality show, and veered from hero to villain and back again through all the plot twists. He first took a seat in the House of Representatives as a budget-cutting villain to the left and hero to the right, back when the two sides used to fight over such things, and was held in such high regard by the “tea party” enthusiasts for fiscal solvency that he was named Mitt Romney’s running mate in the ’12 race to appease all the hard-core “anti-establishment” Republican types. That didn’t work out, of course, and since then Ryan has been increasingly reviled by his erstwhile anti-establishment supporters because of his reluctant support for some less-than-ideal continuing-resolutions they strike these days instead of establishing real budgets, and he’s been in some on some illegal immigration and free-trade deals that weren’t popular with the anti-establishment types, and after taking over from the hated-by-the-anti-establishment types John Boehner he was pretty much stuck with another awful continuing-resolution fiascos that further aroused talk radio ire. Then he wound up with Donald J. Trump as a nominee, whose newly popular version of anti-establishment furor was very much against illegal immigration and every single trade deal passed in the last 100 years or so and not at all concerned with any of that politically-toxic fiscal solvency nonsense, which added yet another plot twist.
The Republican Speaker of the House was initially reluctant to endorse the Republican presidential nominee, but eventually wound up doing so without much enthusiasm, and the Republican nominee used the very same language to express his reluctance to endorse the Republican Speaker of the House and then wound up doing so with the same lack of enthusiasm, then sending sending out a thankful “tweet” to the challenger just before Ryan wound up winning with a blow-out percentage of the vote anyway. The anti-Trump press gleefully reported it as a win for the non-Trump faction of the GOP, and although we agree we’re only ambiguously gleeful about it.
Ryan is all wrong on that illegal immigration issue, as far as we’re concerned, even if we’re not quite so hopped up about it to embrace the Republican presidential nominee’s crazy talk about building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, and we can’t help recalling a time so recent as Ryan’s vice-presidential bid when the Republican nominee was saying that any talk of merely enforcing immigration and thus causing self-deportations was “cruel.” We’re with Ryan on those free-trade agreements, along with most of the First and Fourth Districts here in Kansas, where the export-dependent agricultural and aviation industries predominate, but at the moment we seem to be facing a bipartisan consensus against us. Ryan has signed off some continuing-resolution deals that are horrible by any Republican measure, but the alternative was a government shutdown that might well have halted those subsidy checks to the First Districts of both Wisconsin and Kansas and had other political consequences that no one can forecast, and we’re more inclined to trust the political deal-making instincts of a 16-year-veteran of the Congressional wars than a private sector deal-maker whose casinos went bankrupt four times despite house odds.
For all our frustrations with him, we note that Ryan is one of the few people left on the American political scene who is still stubborn about all that politically toxic fiscal solvency nonsense, and at least has some sort of half-assed over-the-coming-decades plan to deal with it. The American experiment is currently hurtling toward financial insolvency, neither of the major political party nominee have expressed any willingness to address the matter, and indeed both are trying to out-bid one another on how much they’ll spend to make America great again, so it’s nice to know that such an obstinate fellow as Ryan will likely be around to perhaps provide some hopeful plot twist or two about keeping America afloat.
All politics is local, as the venerable cliche goes, and we suspect that the First District of Wisconsin had the same self-interest in a Speakership that the First District of Kansas had in a seat on the Agriculture Committee, and thatĀ little of it has anything to do with that dispiriting presidential race.. Both seats are safely Republican, though, so no matter how that dispiriting presidential race turns out at least Kansas’ First District will likely once again have a seat on the Agriculture Committee and the First District will have either a Speaker of the House who’s willing to take on entitlement reform, or at least a minority leader with the same admirable yet suicidal inclination. If the faint hope we find in this makes us “establishment,” so be it.

— Bud Norman

Another Week in a Dismal Race

The campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has had a couple of awkward moments lately, with several widely disseminated photographs showing her needing assistance to climb the steps of the White House and several others showing the father of a mass-murdering Islamist terrorist sitting just behind her in a prime seat and cheering heartily at one of her rallies. The former revived reasonable suspicions about Clinton’s physical fitness to assume the office, and in an eerily literal way at that, and at best the latter called into question the ability of her famously well-staffed campaign organization to stage an effective photo-op and at worst recalled her past insane statements about Islam having nothing to do with Islamist terrorism.
Any old Republican nominee should have had a good start to the week, but in this crazy election year the nominee isn’t just any old Republican but rather Donald J. Trump.
In his long and varied private sector career Trump has always had an undeniable knack for generating more headlines than any old Republican presidential nominee, or even any Republican president for that matter, and he’s never much cared if it was good press or bad press so long as they spelled his name correctly, so it’s no surprise that he somehow managed to overshadow his opponent’s photographically documented missteps by telling a North Carolina rally that “If she gets to pick her judges there’s nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” This impromptu aside was enough to generate such widely disseminated headlines as “Trump appears to encourage gun owners to take action if Clinton appoints anti-gun judges,” and for the oh-so-respectable press to fret that he “appeared to raise the possibility that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges who favor stricter gun controls,” and it put Trump’s apologists in the awkward position of talking about how he actually meant to the “unification” of the gun-owning population that would thwart a Clinton presidency Trump seemed to be talking about and how in any case he was just joking.
Our abhorrence of both these awful candidates, as well as our disdain for the respectable press that is covering their awful campaigns, allows us an easy objectivity on the matter. From our appalled perspective we can see how the Republican nominee really was talking some peaceable uprising or merely joking about knocking off a president or her judicial nominees, and we can also allow that maybe the Republican nominee of this crazy election year really was sanguinely contemplating some armed uprising against a possible Clinton administration. Something deep in our Republican souls also has to concede that this crazy election year’s nominee makes it hard to say for sure what the hell he meant to say.
Way back when Trump started knocking off the far more qualified field of Republican candidates his fans were enthused by his willingness to say whatever grammatically incoherent thought popped into his mind, which seemed such a welcome change from the poll-tested and focus-grouped responses of past Republican nominees, but even at the time we wondered if that tendency was really what we wanted in a president. We share Shakespeare’s opinion that one should “Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act. Be though familiar, but by no means vulgar,” and we wish that any old Republican nominee would be as well-read and hipped-up. As awful as that Clinton woman is we have to concede that this crazy election year’s Republican nominee’s un-parseable word salad does allow for any number of readings, including the only slightly reassuring possibility that he was merely joking about someone offing a president or her judicial nominees, and that in any case it undeniably and unnecessarily does distract attention from the awful week that awful woman has been having.

— Bud Norman

The Exponential Possibilities and Faint Hopes of a Crazy and Octagonal Election Year

The most tiresome cliche of this crazy election year is that it’s a “binary choice,” which is meant to hector that landslide majority of Americans who find both of the major party presidential candidates unfit for the highest office in the land to nonetheless choose between the two. A failure to vote for one is a de facto vote for the other, the arguments goes, and its logical corollary is that a vote for neither is somehow a vote for both of those awful people.
Even in this crazy election year it’s highly likely if not yet entirely certain that one of those awful and unfit major party candidates will become president, so the argument has some merit, yet in another very real sense it is utterly untrue. When we wander over to the local Lutheran Church to cast our votes next fall the presidential ballot will also include a Libertarian and a Green and probably a Constitutionalist, and here in Kansas there’s always a Prohibitionist nominee on there, and it might also include some fellow we’d never heard of before today named Evan McMullin. When you throw in the very real possibility of that meaningless write-in vote we’re thinking of casting for Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse that’s at least eight possibilities, and we think that’s an octagonal choice but we’re not sure what the proper mathematical term is for an election with so many choices.
That McMullin fellow seems an intriguing possibility for a vote or two, based on one day’s reading of the news. So far as we can tell from the initial reports he’s a former Central Intelligence Agency official who shares our grave doubts about both the Republican and Democratic nominees’ foreign policy instincts, along with much of the rest of the erstwhile Republican Party’s foreign policy brain trust, as well as our objections to the Democrats’ typical liberal bossiness and the atypical authoritarianism of this crazy election year’s Republican nominee. He’s a bachelor, which would ordinarily raise alarms but somehow doesn’t in a crazy election year when the Republican nominee’s third wife can be seen stark naked in sapphic poses on the front page of the same New York City tabloid that has endorsed him and the Democratic nominee’s husband is the notorious cigar-trickster Bill Clinton. He’s already got a relatively well-funded “Super PAC” supporting his candidacy, he’s a Mormon from Utah, and except for a successful stint at the hated-by-left-and-right Goldman Sachs bank, which also has ties to the major party campaigns of this crazy year and the past several election cycles, he’s thus far scandal-free.
None of which gives any hope that he’s not just another Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but in this crazy election year we’ll consider whatever quixotic possibilities we can get, and whatever small way they might screw up that “binary election.” The relatively penurious “Super PAC” backing McMullin might wind up outspending the Republican this time around, and the national press will happily provide some of that “free media” that the Republican has long relied on in order to cut a few percentage points into the Republican’s poll numbers, and in the event of a unusually close election an upset win in the clean-living Mormon state of Utah could deprive either of those awful major party candidates an electoral majority and send it to the House of Representatives, where the erstwhile Republican majority might yet come up with someone more or less acceptable.
In an eight-way race where no one is particularly popular there are all sorts of possibilities. McMullin is already too late to get on the ballot in several states, but in those states where he does show up he’ll probably draw votes from people who would have reluctantly voted for the Republican if it truly had been a binary election. The Green Party nominee Jill Stein will probably get a similar number of votes from people who would have reluctantly supported the Democratic candidate if not given the option, and the Libertarian Gary Johnson will probably wind up denying a ore less equal number of potentially decisive votes from both of the major parties. The Constitutionalists and the Prohibitionists and the rest of the quadrennial cranks will also have their slight quixotic effect, and at this point we can only hope it all adds up to some providential vote of the erstwhile Republican House of Representatives and a more acceptable outcome..
There’s no discerning what vote might best bring about that miraculous conclusion to an otherwise disastrous election year, and in case it’s a long shot. The smart money bets that one of those two awful major party candidates will be the next president, and that either one of them will start out as the most unpopular president ever and go downhill from there, and it’s just too, too confusing to us to figure out which would be the worst outcome for such erstwhile Republicans as ourselves.
The most likely outcome, of course, is that one of those two unfit major party nominees will be the next president. In either case we’re quite sure that either will be as awful as the landslide majority of Americans expect, and at this point we’re mostly concerned that some principled opposition to both will be around in the aftermath with some integrity intact. In any case, we’re glad there’s some faint hope left that at least it’s not a binary choice.

— Bud Norman

The State of the Mid-Season Race

The New York Yankees have traded away their three best players and pretty much the rest of the season in exchange for better prospects in the hopefully near future, The Wichita Wingnuts are holding a comfortable 6.5 game lead in the double-A American Association’s southern division, and with help from an adorable rifle-toting teenaged girl America has already staked a lead in the Olympics medal count. As the stock markets are closed over the weekend our next check of the standings is the Real Clear Politics average of presidential polls, which currently shows the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton edging up to a 7 point lead over Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.
This strikes us as a fair assessment of the race at the moment, given how widely reviled both candidates are and how Trump had an even worse past week than Clinton did, which took some doing. There are a couple of polls showing Trump behind but within the margin of error, but a couple of others showing Clinton with a landslide lead, and even most Trump’s loyal analysts agree that it all averages out to a substantial if not insurmountable lead for Clinton of 7 or 8 or even 9 points or so. When you throw in the third and fourth options of Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Jill Stein, both of whom are polling conspicuously far better in their crazy election than their parties ever have done, the Clinton lead is narrowed to 6 or 7 or 8 points or so. A savvy sports fan’s closer look at the all-important electoral map will reveal that he’s behind but still in contention in some key swing states, clinging to a slight lead in a couple of others, losing ground in several more, and suddenly having to worry about a few states that more traditional Republicans long took for granted.
There’s a whole lot of baseball and presidential politics left to be played between now and the cool of November, and we’ve been following both sports long enough to expect surprise endings, but at this point in a season the teams that come from behind are usually making adjustments. Nothing in the political press suggests that Trump is making any personnel changes, or adopting new tactics, or even bothering to master the fundamentals of the game. Trump is being outspent on the widely-watched Olympic broadcasts and the rest of the airwaves to make the case that he’s a puppet of Vladimir Putin, a President of the United States who somehow has an over-50-percent approval rating and is therefore the most admired man in American politics is making the poll-tested argument that he lacks necessary temperament to be commander in chief, and Trump is responding with the schoolyard taunt that his opponent is “Unstable” Hillary “Rotten” Clinton, which will no doubt delight his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters but do little to convince that pesky 60 percent or so of the rest of the country that he’s particularly presidential.
Clinton is indeed rotten, as we’ve been publicly complaining since long before Trump was contributing to her campaigns and inviting her to his third wedding and telling everyone what a great President she would be, and it appalls us that the current rotten president is so unaccountably popular, but we’d much prefer a Republican nominee who could make that case in more compelling terms than a schoolyard taunt. That seems to be where the race stands, though, and from now on we’ll try to pay more attention to baseball.

— Bud Norman

An Olympian Disappointment

The Olympic games get underway today, and in a more perfect world they would provide some much needed distraction from the awful presidential race that’s lately been getting all our attention. Alas, in this imperfect world the Olympics are just as much a gruesome spectacle of incompetence and corruption.
Before the opening ceremonies have even begun in all their quadrennial gaudy splendor the Olympics have already been tarnished by the International Olympic Committee’s usual greasy-palmed awarding of the games to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where much of the local population is infuriated by the government’s spending of much-needed public funds to to the benefit of a few wealthy and well-connected parties, and is beset by rampant crime and one of those apocalyptic tropical diseases and all the inefficiencies of what is still a second-world country at best. The mess has caused many of the world’s top basketball players and golfers and other elite athletes to stay home, and we confidently expect that incompetence and corruption will also play a part in deciding the winners of several of the subjectively scored sports, and that better living through chemistry will once again play a role in the more rigorously timed and measured events.
Which is a shame, really, because the Olympics used to be the most riveting and inspiring thing on the fuzzy black-and-white three-channel televisions of our youth.
Our earliest memories of the Olympics date back to the ’68 games in Mexico City, when Bob Beamon jumped a full foot and a few inches farther than any human had ever jumped before, the future heavyweight champion of the world and grill-machine magnate George Foreman celebrated his gold-medal boxing performance by waving a couple of small American flags, the great Dick Fosbury forever changed the sport of high-jumping with his gold medal-winning “Fosbury flop,” and Kansas’ own Al Oerter became the first track and field athlete to win a fourth consecutive gold medal with another extraordinary throw of the discus. Even then we were aware of the student protests that disrupted the games, and how gold medal-winning Tommie Smith and bronze medal-winning John Carlos flashed the “black power” salute of an upturned and black-gloved fist while standing on the winner’s platform as the “Star Spangled Banner” played, and that Lew Alcindor had declined to the join the basketball team even before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other exceptional black athletes had boycotted the games, but America handily wound up winning the medal count and it bolstered our vague notions of American exceptionalism.
The ’72 Olympics in Munich were in living color, and featured the handsomely mustachioed Mark Spitz winning a record seven gold medals in swimming against a clearly cheating commie squad, the scariest-white-boy-you-ever-saw Dan Gable annihilating one steroid-pump commie after another on his way to a wrestling gold medal, skinny Dave Wottle and his backwards baseball cap coming from way way way behind to beat some fast muscle-bound commie in the 800 meter race, and as well as the hated Soviet Union beating an American basketball team that didn’t have the hippy-dippy Bill Walton or paying for play Julius Ervin on the most outrageously corrupt play-calling in Olympic history. Then there was the massacre of the Israeli team by a radical Islamist Palestinian terror group, and the quick exit of the Jewish Olympic hero Spitz, and Gable’s ill-advised grousing that his win had been overshadowed, and the questionable decision by American Olympic boss Avery Brundage to continue playing the games.
Since then the Olympics have proved less riveting. In ’76 the games went to nearby Montreal, Canada, and America came in an unaccustomed third place in the medal during its Bicentennial Year. The highlight from a patriotic perspective was a handsome young fellow named Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and the unofficial “world’s greatest athlete title,” and of course he’s now better known as Caitlyn Jenner and was last seen as a honored guest at the Republican National Convention proving how very tolerant even the Republican are about men who think they’re women. America didn’t compete in the ’80 elections in Moscow after President Carter decided to boycott the games as retaliation for the Soviet Union’s invasion of Africa, which kept our junior high and high school classmate Darnell Valentine from a good chance at a basketball gold medal, and when the Soviet bloc boycotted the ’84 games in Los Angeles the Americans won so much they got bored with winning. The ’88 Olympics were in Seoul, we vaguely recall, and America was back in third place behind the Soviet Union and its East German puppets. The ’92 Olympics were in Barcelona, Spain, where professionals were at long last allowed to participate without any pretense of amateurism and the most memorable result was a basketball team featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and nine other all-timers that seemed to prove once and for all how well capitalism works. Some homosexual-hating nutcase set off a bomb at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and except for America’s return to the top of the medal count we can’t recall much else.
By the ’00 Olympics in Sydney there was no Soviet Union and the American victory in the medal count didn’t seem so exceptional, and Marion Jones had two return two of those golds when she was found to be a chemical cheat, and the ’04 Olympics in Athens are best remembered for all abandoned venues that now broke country built for the games. The ’08 games in Beijing were basically a propaganda campaign for China’s totalitarian government, just like the ’36 games in Munich where that same old Avery Brundage wouldn’t let Jewish-American athletes compete for fear of offend his fellow Jew-hating hosts and thus allowed the black Jesse Owens to wind up spoiling the show, and except for Michael Phelps breaking Spitz’ record with eight gold swimming medals we can’t recall a thing about the ’12 games in London.
This year’s Olympics would have been in Chicago if President Barack Obama had his way, and there were reports when he flew off to Switzerland with Oprah Winfrey to make the pitch for his hometown that he envisioned it as a worldwide celebration of the fundamental transformation of America he had wrought by his second term and is pitch to the IOC was mostly predicated on how it would give the Olympics meaning to have them held in his own sanctified hometown. Of course he also hoped it would benefit his longtime consigliere Valerie Jarrett and all the other well-connected slum lords in his Chicago circles, but we suspect the city at large is happy to let the even more crime-ridden city of Rio De Janeiro pick up the tab.
Still, we’ll hope for some uplifting diversion during the games. Surely someone will run faster or jump higher or lift a greater weight than any other human ever has, and there’s a Wichita kid competing with the boxing team, and he might have better luck than the great Wichita miler Jim Ryun or our old basketball-playing classmate or any other local boy has done in the Olympics since James Bausch won the decathlon and the “world’s greatest athlete” title way back in ’32, and there might even be a moment where a good guy or a good gal from any old country wins a moment of well-deserved glory. That would make for a nice diversion right about now, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

— Bud Norman

The Week that Wasn’t

This should have been a great week for the Republican presidential nominee.
The Democratic presidential nominee gave an interview with one of those Democratic-biased networks which was so awful that all the other biased Democratic networks had to concede that she lied about what the Federal Bureau of Investigation said she lied about in that lingering e-mail matter that most Americans agree should have led to her indictment on national security charges. Those same biased networks were also forced to report on the latest economic news from the current Democratic administration, and to acknowledge that it was also very bad. They were also forced to acknowledge some hard-to-sort-out controversy about a $400 million ransom allegedly paid to the Iranian government by that same current Democratic administration. Each of which reinforced a widely and reasonably held opinion that the Democratic presidential nominee is disqualifying-ly dishonest and devious, as well as the objectively provable conclusion that her party’s economic policies have produced the worst recovery from an economic recession since World War II, and a general sense that neither she nor her party should be allowed anywhere near America’s foreign policy.
These are the Republican’s quadrennial campaign themes, after all, which have proved persuasive even in less fortuitous election years over the relatively recent past, so all that was needed was for nice little Republican poll bump was for the nominee to do some serious tsk-taking about how awful the Democrats are and otherwise stay the hell out of the news. It would take quite a feat of self-sabotage to turn that into a worrisome little dip in the polls, for that matter, but this time around the Republican nominee is Donald J. Trump. The self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul has long had a knack for generating headlines, and he obligingly provided those biased Democratic networks plenty of reason to write and broadcast about something other than the Democratic nominee’s awful week.
There were the ongoing aspersions against a Muslim couple whose son had died fighting for America in the Iraq War, a hearty defense of the Fox News head honcho who was shown the door after decades of sexual harassment charges along with some off-the-cuff remarks about how strong women don’t get sexually harassed and that if they do they should up and leave like his nepotistic and well-funded daughter and of course very strong daughter would, as well as a rather bizarre by five-times draft deferred civilian that he’d always wanted to get a Purple Heart. That’s on top of an undeniably disastrous-even-by-the-conservative-media interview where he promised — believe him, write it down — that Russia wouldn’t invade Ukraine even though it did so two years ago and is still there, then admitting he wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way because he’d “heard people say” that those conquered Ukrainians like it that way. Throw in a speech to the richest county in America about how hard they’ve got it, his failure to endorse his party’s Speaker of the House in a primary against a long-shot challenger as well as a former Republican presidential nominee, and his blatant attempt to out-bid the Democrats on a stimulus-sort of “infrastructure spending” and other insults to the old-fashioned conservatives in his party, along with that hard-to-sort-out incident with a crying baby that all the Democratic-biased media happily ran with, and it was plenty for those biased media to talk about other than the Democrat’s awful week.
All of which reinforced the widespread and reasonably held opinion that the Republican nominee is a religiously intolerant and cluelessly sexist chickenhawk who really doesn’t understand foreign policy at all and doesn’t represent a coherent and united political philosophy and will make whatever promises he thinks a gullible public will buy and is pretty much a nutcase as well. These are the Democrats’ quadrennial political themes, and they’ve proved all too persuasive even against less fortuitous candidates over the recent past, and so far it’s good for an outside-the-margin-of-error lead of 5.1 percent in the Real Clear Politics average instead of the slight bump that a more savvy Republican could have effortlessly achieved.
Trump is already blaming it all on Democratic media bias, and most of his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters are already parroting the claim, and there’s no denying they’ve got a strong case. Last time around the same biased Democratic media were making a big deal of the more polished and polite Republican nominee saying “binders full of women” rather than “binders full of women’s resumes” and talking about the time he put his dog in a cage atop his car and otherwise finding trivial reasons to ignore the ongoing catastrophes of the incumbent Democratic administration, and there’s no reason to think that even the most blameless Republican nominee wouldn’t have the same problem this time around. Even so, Trump is making it so very easy them that even such staunch defenders as former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Trump’s very own vice presidential nominee are finding it hard to make the quadrennial arguments.
Whatever reasonable complaints one might have with Islam in general and those Muslim parents of a fallen American soldier in general it is never a good idea to disparage a Gold Star family of any faith, and the censure of usually Republican biased veterans’ groups proves the point. Any candidate that already has absolutely abysmal approval ratings among women shouldn’t be defending rich pals who have accepted big buy-outs in exchange for resignations in the wake of sexual harassment charges nor disparaging the alleged victims as weaklings. Those remarks about Russia would never go into Ukraine and so what if it did are even more appalling from a Republican point view of than a Democratic one, and all that talk of “infrastructure spending” and that ungallant support for a Republican House Speaker who has swallowed hard to support the nominee are unlikely to unify the party behind a coherent political philosophy. Throw in that weird encounter with the crying baby, and that talk about how he always wanted to get a Purple Heart, and it takes a true believer to believe that the current Republican nominee isn’t at least a little bit of a nutcase.
We’re still somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the awful Democratic nominee’s awful week was even worse, and that everyone should thus get on board with the idea that the awful Republican nominee is going to make America great again, but we can’t help pining for what might have been. One of the more intriguing scenes from the past week came when Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, a former Congressman and Governor and one of those polite and polished “establishment” types that Trump ran against, encountered criticism from a military family. At a rally in Lima, Ohio, a woman came forward during the question-and-answer period an identified herself as the mother of a Air Force airman, which earned polite applause from the crowd, but when it became apparent that she was criticizing Trump for his feud with the Muslim soldier’s parents the crowd started booing her, which of course gave the Democratic biased media the opportunity to write headlines about a military mom being booed at a Trump rally. The more objective media showed how Pence quelled the booing by honoring her sacrifice, however, and telling the crowd that “This is what freedom looks like,” and then reasonably responding to the broader issues at hand. It’s something for the conservative media to work with, and something that the liberal media will further compromise their credibility by ignoring, and it makes one wonder what a more politically experienced and slightly less nutcase Republican nominee could have done with the past week.

— Bud Norman