A Not Bad, Not Great State of the Union

All in all, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was not bad. Not nearly the oratorical masterpiece that Sean Hannity and the hosts of “Fox and Friends” will surely make it out to be, but it could have been a whole lot worse.
There were no taunting nicknames or needless provocations. It was refreshingly free of “believe me” or “that I can tell you” or any of his other endlessly repeated catchphrases. He didn’t cuss. There was plenty of boasting, of course, but he also lavished praise on a few other people as well. Several of the boasts were wildly overstated or entirely inaccurate, of course, but by comparison to a typical impromptu Trump oration he was relatively restrained and truthful. Except for that annoying sniffle and strange tendency to emphasis seemingly random words, along with an amusingly botched attempt to cover up getting one of his heroes’ nickname wrong, he read the teleprompter well enough.
That’s a rather low standard to set for presidential rhetoric, but here we are. In the interests of fairness we have to note that the Democrats’ response by Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy was at least as lackluster, and that nobody on the current political scene is going to make anyone forget the greatest speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
As for the policy part of the speech, there were some good ideas about reforming the legal immigration system and the same old bad idea of a southern border wall to stop illegal immigration. Something about spending $1.5 trillion on infrastructure, too, but that didn’t explain where the money would come from and was otherwise too vague to tell if it was a good or idea or a bad one. In any case, none of the arguments were so well or so badly or so memorably made that they’re likely to influence the upcoming contentious debates about all these issues. Some future “tweet” or impromptu remark will have more effect on how it all turns out.

— Bud Norman

The Day After Kansas Day

Monday’s international and national news cycle was relatively slow by recent standards, which was fine by us, as our own personal Kansas Day here in the relatively big city of Wichita, Kansas proved exhausting.
Our own Kansas day began just a few short hours after the time our nocturnal selves would usually be going to sleep, as we had to get our aging Dad, who is still the very best man we’ve ever known, to an early morning foot doctor appointment at one of those newfangled medical facilities way over on the east side. As we we drove across the crowded and slow-moving 13th Street from near-west Wichita to the Canal Route and up to the the K-96 bypass highway that cuts a few precious moments off the drive to Hillside and Oliver and then to the once-far-eastern Woodlawn  to our parents’ swank retirement home approximately halfway between Woodlawn and the once off-the-edges-of-the-Wichita-map Rock Road we tried to our best to avoid a half-awake traffic accident as we listened to an old friend of ours on his early morning broadcast on the local right-wing talk radio station.
So far as we can tell from our occasional early morning broadcasts or our long friendship our old friend is usually politely apolitical, as is the more senior early drive-time radio partner who also seems a likable enough sort of Kansas fellow from our occasional encounters, and on our weary-eyed trek east they mostly talked about how this particular cold but tolerably-cold Kansas day was Kansas Day. Kansas Day marks when the Kansas territory emerged from the “Bleeding Kansas” atrocities that resulted from the pre-Civil War abolitionist struggles and joined the United States as a free state where slavery was forbidden and all men were cerated equal and that original conception of the Republican party ruled, and to this day it still invigorates our Kansas souls even more than a couple of cups of coffee. The “Steve and Ted Early Morning Show” also noted that Monday is the entire nation’s “Curmudgeon Day,” and that also helped us keep awake on our way to the still-far-east Woodlawn exit.
We arrived in time to drink a couple of cups of coffee from the newfangled coffee-maker our parents’ swank retirement home has provided, which also helped, and after that we had the best man we’ve ever known arrived at his foot doctor appointment in a familiar near-eastside location early enough to negotiate all the medical insurance regulation folderol and get his foot treated on time. After that, our Dad and we headed back to Woodlawn to visit one of those newfangled medical facilities where our Mom, the best woman we’ve ever known, was recuperating from the flu. It’s just the flu. but our Mom is the best woman we’ve ever known and she’s 83 years old and we keep reading in the ongoing news about how vicious this season’s scarier-sounding influenza epidemic is, so we were admittedly worried. The good news is that she looked and sounded and felt better than she had before she admitted herself to that newfangled medical facility, and she insisted that both our own sorry selves and the best man we’ve ever known go home and take a much-needed break.
Our Dad, who as we’ve already stated is the best man we’ve ever known, apparently spent the afternoon fussing over the sorts of damnable details that Mom would usually attend to, while we thought better of the matter and spent much of the Kansas Day afternoon napping in a deep-dreaming state where slavery was abolished and all men were created equal and that original conception of the Republican party still held sway. After that we we made our way back to the east side to view the Kansas Day screening of a documentary account of the origins of “Home on the Range,” a beloved American folk song and Kansas’ official state song, which was being screened by our folks’ swank retirement home.
Mom had insisted we be there for the screening, as she’d invited a couple of our folks’ longstanding and truly great old Kansas friends and their delightful daughter to be there with us, and they not know she was in in the hospital with the flu lest they decline to attend. Those olds friends of our beloved folks’ beloved friends of ours along with their daughter, as was their dearly parted son who was also a great Kansas guy, and we wouldn’t have missed it on any day. One of the two Kansas guys who was responsible for the pretty-darned-good-documentary about “Home on the Range” is also an old friend, of course, who once co-wrote a book with us about the once-great Kansas country music radio station FFDI, and his mother-in-law also loves in the swank retirement home as our parents, which is is where we usually seem him these days, and his co-producer also seems a very likable Kansas guy, and another couple of our of dear Kansas friends were mentioned in the credits, and we were glad our Mom insisted we attend this Kansas Day event.
After that we felt entitled as dutiful sons to a beer at the relatively east-side and very ghetto Kirby’s Beer Store, where we wound up in a nice conversation with a Kenyan guy who who had immigrated from Kenya to Wichita many years ago, and that wound up in a delightful conversation. We recalled how our one of boyhood hometown heroes was the great middle-distance runner Jim Ryun, and how his greatest rival for best-in-the-world status was the pioneering middle-distance running Kenyan Kip Keino, he recalled how he’d also followed that classic sporting rivalry from his own local perspective, and we clicked glasses as we recalled how the rival had ended in a lasting friendship.
On the day after Kansas Day anything seems possible here in Kansas, no matter what what else crops up in the news cycle in the rest of the world, and despite everything we expect that our beloved Dad and Mom and the state of Kansas and our own sorry selves and all our dear friends and all the rest of you will somehow muddle through until God grants us a perfect state where slavery is abolished abolished and that all men and women are d equal and the highest principles still  somehow hold say.

— Bud Norman

Feminism, Trumpism, and Political Reality

During his recent trip abroad President Donald Trump gave an interview to the British broadcaster Piers Morgan, a former winner of Trump’s “Apprentice” game show, and although it doesn’t air until tonight the good stuff has already leaked out. So far, the least surprising news is that Trump does not consider himself a feminist.
No, I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist,” Trump told Morgan. “I mean, I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I’m for men, I’m for women, I’m for everyone.”
That’s not so shockingly sexist as what Trump said when he was yukking it up with Billy Bush on the “Access Hollywood” bus, and we suppose he deserves some credit for not boasting that he’s the least sexist person you ever met, but it’s likely to further infuriate a lot of his female critics. The fans will love it, of course.
Feminism has a reputation in some circles as a man-hating and abortion-loving philosophy that is as hectoring as it is humorless, due in some part to that small but significantly pesky number of undeniably hectoring and humorless feminists who actually hate men and have a slightly morbid enthusiasm for abortion. Most people simply nod silently and walk away from those sorts, and have happy and mutually respectful encounters with the far greater number of feminist women who simply hold to the belief that they’re entitled to equal civil rights and fair treatment in the workplace and mutually respectful interactions with they men they have to deal with.
In some circles even that reasonable sort of feminism is resented, though, and we can’t blame any woman for thinking that Trump travels in those in circles. He did once boast during a Republican primary debate that nobody has more respect for women than he does, but that got a big laugh out of even a Republican primary debate audience, and the claim that he’s not an out right old-fashioned male chauvinist pig, as the man-hating and humorless sorts of feminists used to call them back in ’70s, is by now laughable. All the networks have endlessly replayed that “Access Hollywood” boast about grabbing women by their “wherevers,” as Trump more politely put it on that endlessly replayed tape of an interview where he sure seemed to imply that Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly had asked him a question about his past derogatory comments about women’s looks because she was menstruating. There’s a rich trove of audio from Howard Stern’s shock-jock radio show, too, with Trump opining unfavorably on small-breasted women and bragging about letting all three of his wives do the diaper-changing and other child-rearing chores and giddily recalling the times he invaded the dressing rooms at his teenage beauty pageants.
There are also all the women who have put their reputations on the line to publicly allege that Trump grabbed them by their wherevers or invaded their teenage beauty pageant dressing rooms, too, and the column inches of Archie Bunker-era male chauvinist piggish quotes in press interviews and his own ghost-written memoirs would stretch from Trump Tower in New York City to the White House in Washington, D.C., and the audio and video clips could fill a couple of 24-hour news cycles.
Some very reasonable and perfectly respectable Republican friends of ours freely acknowledge the fact of Trump’s male chauvinist piggishness but have somehow reconciled themselves to it. They’ll argue that Trump is merely critiquing the man-hating and abortion-loving style of feminism, and taking the very reasonable and respectable pro-everybody stand, which will quickly lead to talk about how the “Black Lives Matter” movement’s moniker seems to imply that other lives don’t matter or at least matter less, and they’ll have their points. When reminded of the freely admitted fact that Trump is pretty much a male chauvinist pig as well as pretty much a racist, stone cold and old school, as the kids the used to say, they’ll note the currently low unemployment rates for women and black people. On each point, we’ll admit they have a valid point.
The friendly sorts of feminists and black empowerment types we’ve befriended over the years have some valid points, too, and we’ll not argue with them for the sake of the likes of Trump. As much as we wish the “Black Lives Matter” movement would heed our advice to stress that of course all lives matter, and find that middle ground between preventing cops from using unnecessary force and prohibiting the necessary force to deter all the criminals who would otherwise take a far greater toll of black lives, we don’t worry that making black lives better need result in making our own white lives any worse. Despite those admittedly annoying man-hating and abortion-loving sorts of feminists, neither do we worry that to whatever extent feminism is pro-woman it is necessarily anti-man.
Our reasonable and respectable yet Trump-supporting friends have convinced themselves that Trump gets that, but we think he’s playing to those circles who still expect the little woman to have dinner on the table when the man comes home and do all the diaper-changing and other women’s work. In our experience they’re a dwindling population, as most guys have by now reconciled themselves to the fact that they have to go along with most of the the past 50 years or so feminism if they’re going to get any, but they’re still out there and make up an important chunk of Trump’s fan base.
There’s that Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri who was caught on tape opining that he expected the little woman to have dinner on the table when he got home and do all the rest of the women’s work around the house, and that Republican nominee for an Alabama Senate seat who thought that constitutional amendments abolishing slavery and giving women the right to vote were bad ideas, and was also quite credibly accused of once being the creepy thirty-something guy hanging around the local mall hitting on teenage girls. Both had significant support, too, and although some of bearded-yet-sensitive “Bernie Bros” who backed the self stand accused by the sisterhood of failing to support that harridan Democratic nominee and presumptive First Woman President Hillary Clinton we have to admit that most of the remaining troglodytes are Republicans and Trump voters.
Despite Trump’s full-throated support for that pro-slavery and anti-women’s suffrage and credibly accused child molester of a Republican nominee somehow lost a race in Alabama, of all places, to a Democrat, of all people. The Missouri race will be against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is considered vulnerable because Trump won the state in the last election, but the last time she ran the Republican nominee had also carried the state in the most recent president election and she won because the Republicans had nominated a nut job who went off on audio tape about how the victims of “real rape” could not become pregnant and therefore the complete ban on abortions he wanted should make no exceptions for rape. If the Missouri Republicans go with the make-me-a-sandwich-damnit candidate this time around, we think that even with Trump’s full-throated support the more reasonable and respectable sorts of Republicans will have blown another opportunity.

— Bud Norman

A Good Time to be in Switzerland

President Donald Trump is in Davos, Switzerland to hobnob with all the globalist elites who gather there every year, while back in the states all his nationalist and more working-class fans are fuming about his latest position on illegal immigration. This isn’t likely to last long, but it is a moment worth noting.
On Wednesday night Trump told an impromptu news conference that the “dreamers” who had been illegally brought here as children “had nothing to worry about,” as he jetted off for Switzerland on Thursday morning his staff was announcing a proposal to not only keep some 1.8 million of them here but also offer a path to citizenship, and by Thursday afternoon his usual apologists on right wing talk radio were quite literally screaming their objections. The proposal also included a demand for a $25 billion “trust fund” to to build a big, beautiful wall along the southern border, along with several far more reasonable proposals to curtail illegal immigration, but talk radio talkers and their callers were clearly unimpressed. A mere 25 billion won’t build the kind of sea-to-shining-sea 50-foot-tall and translucent and solar-power-generating wall that Trump vividly described during the campaign, and even the die-hard supporters who never took all that wall stuff literally did believe Trump’s oft-stated campaign assurances that he was going to kick out even the most unwitting and sympathetic illegal immigrants.
That $25 billion for a border if for now  too much ask of the Democrats, who even objected some of the far more reasonable border enforcement measures Trump was demanding, and the negotiations will be tricky. The Democrats are obliged by political reality to protect all those “dreamers” from deportation, and will eventually be obliged to give up something in return to the Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and the Republican president, but they still hold a strong hand. All the opinion polls show that a vast majority of the country has no stomach for kicking law-abiding and military-serving and college-going semi-citizens out of the country they grew up in, several Republican congresspeople from the soft-hearted Chamber of Commerce wing of the party, and by now even Trump is in full retreat from his hard-hearted campaign trail talk and even talking about his love for the “dreamers.”
Some of those more reasonable border enforcement proposals Trump is proposing also poll well with a populace that is rightly alarmed by the country’s still-high levels of illegal immigration, and we expect the Democrats will eventually relent to most of them, but we doubt they’re quite dumb enough to up cough $25 billion for a border wall. Most of the non-talk-radio media are going to explain the negotiations as the cruel Republicans threatening to kick out a bunch of telegenically sympathetic “dreamers” to build some small portion of a wall that even the president’s chief of staff now admits was oversold on the campaign trail, Trump will be hard-pressed to argue that’s all “fake news,” there are a lot of soft-hearted Chamber of Commerce types of Republicans and all those congressional Republicans whose states and districts abut the southern border who also realize how silly the border wall ideal was all along, and as dumb as those Democrats undeniably are they’re not quite stupid enough to lose this fight.
Meanwhile, Trump was faring better at that fancy-schmantzy gathering of globalist elites in Switzerland. He had an awkward moment sharing a stage with British Prime Minister Theresa, gushing about all the rumors of tension in Anglo-American relations were “fake news” and insisting he and his British counterpart had a mutual admiration society, while she responded with classically British quietude and an apparent relief that Trump has backed out of a visit of her to country, but otherwise it went well. You don’t get to be a globalist elite without being shrewd enough to notice that Trump is highly susceptible to flattery, so most of his fellow hoity-toity hob-nobbers lavished it on, and Trump didn’t shove any prime ministers out of the way or otherwise embarrass himself as he’s done on past on international occasions.
The globalist elitists seem to genuinely like Trump’s tax-cutting and de-regulating agenda, as we generally do, yet they object to all that anti-free trade campaign trail talk he still claims to believe, as we more enthusiastically do, and we expect they’ll gain more concessions from Trump with their flattery than we have with our snarky criticisms. Trump has recently imposed tariffs on washing machines that have had the effect of making American-made washing machines more expensive, but he’s largely abandoned all that campaign trail talk about 45 percent tariffs on anything Chinese, and unless the talk radio-talkers get annoyed about that we’re hopeful that all of Trump’s promised trade wars can be averted.
When he gets back to states Trump will have to answer to all those talk-radio talkers and all those hard-line anti-illegal immigration and nationalist and protectionist Trump voters they speak for, though, and we’ll be interested to see where he winds up. If Trump’s not going to build that wall just to let a bunch of “dreamers” avoid the deportations he promised he’ll lose that 25 percent of the the country that comprises about 50 percent of his support, if he holds firm he’ll further annoy the other 75 percent, and on the whole we guess he’d rather be hobnobbing with all those billionaires in Switzerland.

— Bud Norman

Looking Forward to a Tricky Situation

President Donald Trump said in an impromptu news conference Wednesday night that he was looking forward to testifying under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller about the “Russia thing,” which is a perfect example of why he should be dreading such an ordeal.
Trump added that his eagerness was “subject to my lawyers and all that,” but his lawyers would have advised him not to volunteer for the grilling that they’ve surely been doing their best to avoid. They probably couldn’t find any legal grounds to spare Trump from testifying, and the political consequences for not doing so would be unavoidable in any case, but the self-proclaimed master deal-maker has just robbed his attorneys of whatever leverage they might had to negotiate any limits on the questions that can be asked. There was even talk about limiting the special counsel to written questions, which would have allowed Trump’s lawyers to vet the written answers, but that faint hope has now vanished.
Letting Trump spontaneously answer Mueller’s questions is potentially disastrous, given his well-known penchant for blurting out the most blatant and easily disproved lies, such as he did several times in that impromptu news conference. He also has an unfortunate knack for blurting out damning truths, such as when he disregarded the White House staff’s carefully worded lies about firing Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey because he had been so unfair to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the campaign and told the National Broadcasting Company’s Lester Holt that he fired the guy because of the “Russia thing.” Worse yet, Trump also a worrisome cocksureness that he doesn’t need anybody’s advice and can talk himself out of any situation.
Trump has indeed talked himself out of a lot of tricky situations over the years, and he somehow talked himself into the White House, but he’s also wound paying out of many millions of dollars settling race discrimination and divorce and fraud and a wide variety of other lawsuits. The current situation is the trickiest Trump has ever faced, with far greater potential consequences and a far more formidable foe.
All the right-wing talk radio hosts and the rests of Trump’s apologists would have you believe that Mueller and his team of lawyers and investigators are part of a “deep state” conspiracy out to destroy Trump with “fake news,” but even if you believe that you have to believe he is formidable indeed. He’s a life-long Republican and long-married Eagle Scout whose reputation for boring probity was impeccable until recently, after earning a master’s degree he volunteered to the Marines and wound up earning medals for valor a Purple Heart in Vietnam before earning his law degree, and his career in public service saw him rise through the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI through both Republican and Democrats, culminating in his appointment to FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush and being re-appointed to an unprecedented second term by Democratic President Barack Obama.
The Trump apologists would also have you believe that Mueller’s team of lawyers and investigators are also a bunch of Clinton-loving conspiracists out to get the president for purely partisan reasons, and indeed some of them had contributed to her campaigns, just as Trump’s lawyer and family and Trump himself have done in the past, but they rarely mention that all of the staff have excellent credentials and much success in prosecuting such matters as money-laundering and Russian gangsterism and campaign law violations. The questions Trump will be giving spontaneous answers to will be carefully considered, expertly asked, and backed up by all they’ve learned from subpoenaed documents and the testimony from campaign and administration officials who have already been indicted or pleaded guilty to charges brought by the special counsel.
They won’t be so easily dodged as those less carefully considered and expertly asked questions he’s always getting from those pesky and relatively uninformed reporters, either. The Trump apologists usually respond to the most vexing questions about Trump by changing the subject to something that either Clinton or Obama had done, or ignoring it as “fake news,” or alleging that “deep state” conspiracy, but Trump will have no choice but to offer a real answer when he’s under oath. Taunting nicknames and assurances that “there was no collusion, everybody says so, that I can tell you, believe me” won’t help, either, in response to questions about a specific meeting with a specific person at a specific time.
Based on all the “fake news” stories by relatively uninformed pesky reporters that the White House has had to eventually admit are all too true, we expect some of those very specific questions are going to require a very carefully considered answer. Carefully considered answers aren’t Trump’s style, however, as he prefers to blurt out damnable lies or damning truths.
Our guess is that all the “fake news” outlets and other Trump critics are going to find something damnable or damning in the all-too-real transcripts of the testimony that will eventually be made public, and that the talk radio talkers and the other Trump apologists will dismiss what’s damnable as no big deal and and deny what’s damning as a “deep state” conspiracy. The rest of the country, by our best guess, will be skeptical of everything trump says except for the damning parts.
Which is not to say that Trump won’t eventually talk himself out of this mess. He’s talked and paid himself out of plenty of tricky situations before, and there’s a certain segment of the population that wouldn’t care if he went out and shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and a lot of the country doesn’t seem care about much anything political these days. No matter how damnable or damning Trump’s testimony under oath might be, we know a lot of people who will still be glad that at least Clinton isn’t the president.
Our old-fashioned Republican souls also shudder at the very thought of another Clinton presidency, but we still don’t think that a sometime Democrat and sometime Reform Party member and relatively recent Republican who is thrice-married and regales a Boy Scout jamboree with tales of orgies on yachts and dodged the draft and devoted his life to a ruthless pursuit of private gain and prides himself on flouting previous standards of probity is going to make America great again. We have no idea how it’s going to turn out, but we do know Trump is facing a more formidable foes than himself  in Mueller and the truth, and it’s a very tricky situation.

— Bud Norman

How to Fill a Fully-Funded Government News Cycle

Way back when last weekend’s latest partial government shutdown began, President Donald Trump said the Democrats had caused it just to change the discussion from that fabulous tax bill he had signed. By Monday morning the Democrats had admitted defeat and fully funded the government way up until Feb. 8, however, and by Tuesday morning the discussion had shifted to the “Russia thing” and other topics that Trump would rather not talk about.
All of the mainstream “fake news” media were reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the “Russia thing” had conducted an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which the Department of Justice officially confirmed was entirely true, and without all the file copy and stock footage about furloughed government workers and disgruntled national park visitors all the front pages and 24-hour news cycles had plenty of room for speculation about that.
If you haven’t been following the complicated and downright convoluted “Russia thing” subplot in Trump’s latest reality show, Sessions once felt obliged to recuse himself from any investigation of the whole affair after offering a Senate committee’s confirmation hearing inaccurate information about his own proved contacts with Russians, which so infuriated Trump that he both “tweeted” and gave taped press interviews to both press and television “fake news” media about how he wanted his Attorney General to be running interference on the whole “Russia thing,” like past attorneys general had done for presidents John Kennedy and Barack Obama during their more tawdry scandals. Of course all the “fake news” media and all the snarky ate night comedians had a gleeful time with that, and although it’s not yet known if he admitted anything harmful to the Trump administration during the interview it seems unlikely Sessions had anything very exculpatory to say on its behalf.
One of the many sidebar stories in the “fake news” about the “Russia thing” subplot was that the investigation had already secured guilty pleas from past Trump campaign and administration officials and won scary-sounding indictments against a former Trump campaign chairman and his longtime business associate, and was now reportedly negotiating some form testimony from the president himself. This administration didn’t clearly deny a word of it, and of course that led to much speculation. There was a lot of speculation about whether a sitting president could be compelled to give any written or oral testimony, several precedents from the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton presidencies cited, and further speculation about the political ramifications of testifying or not testifying. On one or another of the “fake news” cable channels we heard a panel of purported experts speculating that such an instinctively narcissistic and dishonest with such a cocksure certainty he talk himself out of anything as Trump will imperil himself testifying to the seasoned likes of this particular special counsel, and that sounded real enough to us.
Meanwhile the idiot son-in-law Trump picked to solve everything from Middle East peace to the opioid crisis is also the crosshairs of the the special counsel for his role in the “Russia thing,” and such diverse “fake news” outlets as The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker are also reporting that Jared Kushner has his own “China thing” to go along with it. There’s also fresh news about the story The Wall Street journal broke about Trump’s tryst with a porn star and the six-figure hush-money she received, with all the “fake news” reporting on the very real court filing by some left-wing do-gooder group alleging it the pay-off amounted to a illegal campaign contribution, and of course all those snarky late comics were having great fun with that.
The more Trump-friendly voices in the media are trying to change the conversation to talk about the “deep state” conspiracy that’s trying to concoct all this “fake news,” but Russian “internet bots” are reportedly perpetuating the same talking points about some memo that a Republican congressman who had to recuse himself from his committee’s investigation has written about the “deep state” conspiracy, and at least we can be sure that Trump would rather everyone be talking about that fabulous tax bill.

— Bud Norman

Winners and Losers and Dreamers

The Republicans are claiming victory and the Democrats admitting defeat after a deal that ended the latest partial government shutdown in record time, but it’s not apparent to us that anybody won or lost anything that won’t be quickly forgotten.
The deal that minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer and a sufficient number of his caucus agreed to fully funds the the government in exchange for a promise by majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to have a vote of some sort at some undetermined date about the so-called “dreamers” who were illegally smuggled into the country as children, which is pretty much the same deal that was on offer prior to the vote that shut down parts of the government over the weekend. That was bad enough from a Democratic perspective that all the left-wing pundits were wailing about it, and their anger alone was sufficient reward for all the right-wing pundits to gloat about it.
The deal only fully funds the federal government for the next 17 days, though, and by then no one will remember who voted for what, and in the meantime everyone involved looks petty and stupid. McConnell’s promise to put the “dreamer” problem up for a vote was made on the Senate floor and recorded in the congressional record, too, and when he’s eventually forced to keep that promise the Republicans will likely find themselves in a losing position.
The “dreamers” are so-called because the Democrats wrote a bill to grant them permanent status that was cleverly called Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, and its acronym makes gives those alien minors that very sympathetic nickname. They’re a sympathetic lot, anyway, as they can hardly be blamed for being brought here as children, the vast majority haven’t caused any noticeable problems for anyone, and a significant and photogenic number of them are attending college or serving in the military or performing some other sort of useful labor for the country. That wasn’t enough to get the DREAM act enacted in Congress, but it kept the Republicans from preventing President Barack Obama from temporarily more or less enacting by an executive order for a Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals, which had a rather cacophonous acronym but kept all the “dreamers” who could prove they aren’t gang-bangers or welfare mooches to hang around indefinitely.
What can be done by executive order can just as easily be undone executive order, though, and President Donald Trump decided to sign one that would leave all those “dreamers” susceptible to deportation back to countries they only vaguely remember by March. His hard-line anti-illegal immigrant supporters loved it, but all the polls showed that a much larger number of Americans hated it, so Trump quickly explained that it was one of his three-dimensional chess moves to force congress to pass that DREAM act he excoriated on the campaign trail. He even wound up telling a televised bipartisan gathering of senators that he would happily sign any “bill of love” for the “dreamers,” whom he claimed to love, along with all kids.
That didn’t play well with Trump’s hard-line anti-illegal immigrant supporters, with his usual talk radio defenders crying betrayal, so he quickly clarified that he’d sign any “bill of love” so long as it included funding for his big, beautiful sea-to-shining-sea border wall and other draconian border enforcement measures. After that his chief of staff was assuring the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that Trump’s previously “uninformed” promises of a border wall had “evolved,” which was followed by an indignant presidential “tweet” that he has never evolved, and by the time the negotiations to prevent a partial government shutdown went south both the majority leader and the minority of the Senate were complaining they had no idea what the president wanted.
At this point Trump has taken more positions than his pal Stormy Daniels — insert risqué rim shot here — and there’s no telling where he’ll wind up. If he caves to some soft-hearted protections for the “dreamers” without sufficient concessions from the Democrats he’ll annoy his hard-line anti-illegal immigrant supporters, which he hates to do. If he winds up deporting a bunch of photogenically sympathetic soldiers and college students and otherwise upstanding semi-citizens back to countries they only vaguely recall his ratings will take a bigger hit, and he might hate that even worse.
Perhaps it’s all some three-dimensional chess-playing that will arrive at such an artful deal that even the most outright xenophobic portion of his hard-line anti-illegal immigration supporters will join hands with all those “open borders” left-wing crazies to sing his praises, but we doubt it. Trump’s much boasted-about deal-making genius didn’t prevent the last partial government shutdown, by all accounts those hated Republican establishment guys in congress had much more to do with it ending over a mere weekend, and Trump looks unable to long delay the inevitable next partial government shutdown.

— Bud Norman

A Weekend With Partial Government

The federal government has been partially shut down since midnight last Friday, but around here you would have hardly noticed it over the weekend. Maybe it’s because the federal government is always partially shut down on the weekends, or the almost tolerable winter weather we’ve lately had, or everything else that’s going on around here and the rest of the country, and as bad as partial federal government shutdown inarguably is it didn’t seem a big enough deal that any of the responsible parties have any incentive to resolve it soon.
After watching Friday’s desultory news late into the night We slept through most of Saturday morning, and by the time we arrived at the local “women’s march” in front of the Wichita City Hall the speeches had concluded and the crowd was dwindling. Even before the federal government partially shut down a comely young woman outside the Vagabond bar in Delano had handed us a handbill about the event, which we immediately understood to be the feminist sisterhood’s collective outrage about President Donald Trump, and we had been looking forward to it ever since. As aging white male Republican heterosexual Christian conservative Republicans we have our own reasons for being outraged about Trump’s presidency, and by now we’re quite sympathetic to all the gripes by women of color and women in general and even those darned liberal women, and with all the required apologies and assurances that at least we’re not all creepy about it we’ll confess the girl-watching is always pretty good at these sisterhood gatherings.
A couple of handsome young Wichita police officers told us they estimated the crowd at its peak between 300 and 500 people, although they admitted they weren’t much good at estimating crowd sizes, which is not a bad turnout for a liberal rally in this town even on a tolerably warm winter day, and we saw on an afternoon’s internet surfing that hundreds of thousands had shown up in more populous and it all added up to the millions around the country, which suggests to us that all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons had gripes with Trump even before the federal government partially shut down.
Saturday night was the second night of the “Meat Fest” at Kirby’s Beer Store, and if you ever find yourself in Wichita, Kansas, on a tolerably warm mid-January weekend we highly recommend you attend this annual event. Kirby’s is a subterranean low level dive bar right across the street from the residence of the president of Wichita State University and just adjacent to a ghetto laundromat, its clientele is comprised of counter-cultural types stretching from the beats to the hippies to such to Republican but punk sorts such as ourselves, and as you head to an evening all those bearded and tattooed and tight-pansted sorts of hipsters we don’t what to call. Once a year they offer two nights of free charbroiled meat along with a jam-packed line-up of the local weird talent they offer on a pretty much nightly basis, and on Saturday night that featured an excellent set by our old friend Alberto Alfonso’s one-man-band which included a rousing rendition of Frankie Laine’s theme song to “Blazing Saddles.”
The rest of the acts were too loud and noisome to our ears, but there was free char-broiled meat, and with the requisite apologies and assurances that we weren’t at all creepy about it we’ll say the girl-watching was pretty damned good. All in all, we were pleased that another “Meat Fest” went full-steam ahead even as the federal government partially shut down.
Somehow we still made it to worship services at the West Douglas Church of Christ on Sunday morning, where we were honored to be asked to deliver the opening prayer, which gave thanks for the relatively warm weather and all the preceding cold weather that made it seem almost tolerable, and no mention was made of a partial government shutdown. After that we took a nap, then shook our heads while reading the latest internet accounts of the American president’s alleged but very believable account of of a sexual tryst with a porn star he paid an alleged $130 thousand dollars to hush up about it, even though she’d already given an interviews to a tabloid about how he liked to be spanked with a rolled-up copy of Forbes magazine with his picture on the cover, and the latest admittedly funny story has her capitalizing on her notoriety by appearing at strip clubs with the promise to “Make America Horny Again.”
By early Sunday evening we were back at Kirby’s Beer Store, where they were no long offering free charbroiled met but did have a jam-packed lineup of weird local musical offerings. Three of our fellow old-tmers and good friends were there, one a predictably liberal gay guy and another a conspiracy-theory nut from one of the local aviation plants and the third a pragmatically old fashioned professional Democrat lawyer who’s currently a disability judge, and it in our brief conversation about the partial government shutdown we all agreed it wasn’t that bit a deal and there’s plenty of blame to spread around.
So far as we can tell the sticking points in this partial government shutdown are about funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and those designated “dreamers” who are illegal immigrants because they were brought here as blameless children, and we all agreed that sooner or later the Republicans are bound to cave on all of that. There’s a convincing argument that no Democrat should should even partially shut down the government over something the Republicans will eventually cave to, and a similarly convincing argument convincing argument that the Republicans shouldn’t allow a partial shutdown over something they’re eventually cave to anyway,and no plausible argument that Trump is the great deal maker he always claimed to be. The conspiracy nut noted that we were making the same glum assessment of the situation as that Joe Scarborough guy on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, which is embarrassing enough, but we all pretty much agreed it was true.
Once upon a time the entirely believable accounts of the president and the porn star would have been a bigger topic of conversation, along with all the news about the “Russia thing” that was scrolling on the muted television, but all that chatter was pretty jocular. The relatively young folks on the small stage of Kirby’s Beer Store were mostly acoustic and playing at a volume that allowed for old-timers’ political discussion, and we have to admit it mostly sounded pretty darned good. Although we can assure you we weren’t at all creepy about it, and were careful to also compliment one handsome young man, we also noticed that a couple of the performers were rather comely young women.
Today is Monday and all the responsible parties will probably spend it pointing fingers at one another, and they’ll all have a reasonable enough argument to make for themselves, but here in Wichita we’ll trust that the rest of us will muddle through it somehow.

— Bud Norman

The Ticking Clock and the Ensuing Blame Game

As we start to write this the clock on The Washington Post’s internet front page is showing 23 hours and 51 minutes and 21 seconds left to avert a government shutdown, although it’s already down a few seconds more by now and time will be even shorter when you read this. There’s still plenty of time left to avert the worst possible outcome, which probably wouldn’t even be all that bad, but at this point we can’t see things turning out very well.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives managed to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through February 16, but the chances of the Republican-controlled Senate passing a similar continuing resolution look bleak. The Republicans control the House by a sizable enough margin that they could afford to lose a few votes from some hard-liners on spending on immigration and other matters, and they even picked up a few stray Democratic votes with peculiar local politics. In the Senate the Republicans now have a razor-thin 51-to-49 margin thanks to the recent electoral debacle in Alabama, and the absence of Arizona Sen. John McCain due to health problems has sharpened that edge, and except for one senator from President Donald Trump-loving West Virginia none of the Democrats have any political incentive to help the Republican-controlled congress and the Republican president from averting the embarrassment of a government shutdown.
Even if the Republicans are willing to offer the kinds of concessions that would outrage their core voters and somehow get something passed on the Senate side, it would all have to be worked out in a conference committee, which takes some doing, and as we write this The Washington Post’s doomsday clock has ticked down to 23 hours, 29 minutes and 10 seconds. Even if everyone talked as fast as those guys who read the side effects disclaimers on the pharmaceutical advertisements and something got passed by both chambers, it still has to be signed by Trump, who is the wild card in everything these days.
These all-too-frequent continuing resolution debates are threat of always complicated, but this time it involves complicated questions about immigration policy and health care, and of course Trump also complicates things further. The Democrats want the continuing resolution to continue protections for illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children and can now prove their good citizenship, and the that’s polling so well the Republicans are largely willing to go along if they also stricter border enforcement from now on, which also polls well. Meanwhile there’s another deadline looming to reauthorize the Child Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage to the children of families too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid yet too poor to pay for private sector health insurance, and although it polls so well it’s always had bipartisan support the Republicans failed to meet a previous deadline for its reauthorization and the Democrats thus have a huge bargaining chip.
In a televised and much-discussed meeting with a bipartisan gathering of senators earlier in the week Trump promised to sign whatever they came up with regarding immigration, but he quickly backtracked to insist that what every they came up with would have to include funding for a big, beautiful wall along the Mexican border and various other strict border enforcement efforts, and that he was still willing to hold those upstanding illegal immigrants brought here as children hostage to get it. Then he was angrily denying his Chief of Staff’s comments to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a cable news network that Trump’s views on the big, beautiful wall and other border issues had “evolved” since his campaign days. Then Trump “tweeted” that he didn’t like the reauthorization of the CHIP program in Republican bills, staking out ground to the left of both the Republicans and Democrats by insisting it should be permanently reauthorized rather temporarily reprieved by a continuing resolution on spending.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was preemptively blaming the Democrats for a government showdown on Thursday, as Republican senate majority leaders are obliged to do, but he also frankly acknowledged to the press that “We don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” and with a politely bowdlerized nod to a recent presidential comment that has even further complicated the immigration debate he added, “This has turned into an s-show for no good reason.” McConnell is not only hated by all the Democrats, as all Republican senate majority leaders are, he’s also hated by that large swath of the Republican party that has the Grand Old Party’s establishment, but we think he has a valid point.
We’ll also give due credit to the equally-loathed-by-both-sides Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for corralling enough of his herd of mavericks and enough stray Democrats to get something to pass in the House, and although he’s carefully avoided any public criticisms he can’t give much credit to Trump. If the government does shut down and those upstanding illegal immigrants start getting deported and whole bunch of kids lose their health insurance in 22 hours and 37 minutes and 33 seconds, as The Washington Post times it, it’s likely that at least a majority of the hated Republican establishment will have voted to avert it.
Our guess is that won’t make much difference in the opinion polls, among Democrats or a large swath of the Republican party or any of those self-described independents. The Republicans control both chambers of Congress and in a certain sense the White House, and those arcane rules about a sixty-vote majority being needed in the Senate and all the nuances of immigration and health care are far too complicated for most folks to consider, so the Republicans will probably wind up shouldering their usual blame for all these all too frequent government shutdown. The Republicans will divide themselves between those who blame the mercurial Trump or that set-in-stone Republican establishment, and the Democrats will unite in their indignation with both.
The good news for everybody is that government shutdowns aren’t so awful as they sound, and that if this one happens it will likely be short-lived. Sooner or later both that hard-nosed if out-of-his-water negotiator Trump and those more hep-to-the-game but lily-livered Republican establishment types will once again government operations and give all sorts of concessions to the Democrats, including several that poll so well that a savvy party would have been on board all along, and if it doesn’t include a border wall that was a stupid and badly polling idea all along.
The bad news for everyone is that the best we can expect is yet another continuing resolution to keep the government somehow afloat through February 16, with the same motley assortment of Democrats and Republicans that Trump guy all reviving all the same noisome arguments. Once upon a time in America the two chambers of America’s congress used to pass annual budgets, presidents would sign, some longer term agreements were also agreed upon, and the nation’s businesses and taxpayers and our foreign allies and adversaries could plan accordingly, and for the most part it worked out well.
That all broke down long before Trump took office, so we can’t blame him for that, but with 22 hours and 10 minutes and nine seconds remaining on The Washington Post’s doomsday clocked neither he nor that hated Republican establishment nor any of those damned Democrats deserve any credit for fixing it.

– Bud Norman

The “Girther Theory” and Its Jokes

The “girther theory” is by no means the most important story in the news these days, but it is by far  the most hilarious. If you aren’t up to date on the latest internet “memes,” the “girther theory” is a play on the “birther theory” that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the presidency, and it alleges that President Donald Trump is lying about his girth.
It all started when Trump submitted to a physical examination, and the attending physician publicly reported that the president is six feet and three inches tall and weighs 239 pounds. We could never making a living at state fairs by guessing people’s height and weight, and the doctor is a naval officer who was also Obama’s physician and seems a lot more credible than that wild-eyed straight-from-a-Grateful-Dead-concert quack who wrote a note during the presidential campaign attesting that all of Trump’s tests were positive and he would be “the healthiest president ever,” so we were willing to take that as a fact. Some more body-conscious smarty-pants than ourselves found the weight slightly suspicious, though, partly because it’s just a few pounds short of what would be considered obese on the latest medical charts, and partly because of all those photographs of Trump in his golf pants and tennis shorts.
The crueler sorts on the internet started posting pictures of professional athletes reported to be six feet and three inches tall and approximately 239 pounds, and by comparison Trump undeniably has more girth. Trump has proved he can claim with a straight face that nobody has more respect for women and he’s the least racist person you’ve ever met, but even he won’t dare boast of the most perfect six-foot-three-inch-and-239-pound male physique anybody has ever seen, and say that everybody says so, that he can tell you, believe him.
Back in the days of the inarguably obese but vastly-underrated President William Howard Taft we would have never made fat jokes about the president on the internet, but that was a different time and this is a different president. Trump has a long history of making unfavorable comments about other people’s looks, from his days rating celebrity women on a one-to-ten scale on Howard Stern’s shock jock radio, noting that “It’s very hard for a small-breasted woman to be a ten,” to saying that far more qualified Republican primary opponent Carly Fiorina was unqualified because “look at the face.” He even disparaged the posterior of his general election opponent by saying that when she walked ahead of him into a debate “believe me, I wasn’t impressed.” It got a big laugh from a rally crowd, but hardly rises to the witty level of Groucho Marx telling Margaret Dumont that “Ah, I can see you bending over a hot stove, but I can’t see the stove,” and it’s an open invitation to all the fat ass jokes he’ll have to endure on the internet and the late night comedy shows for the next few days.
Which isn’t the most important thing going on in the news, of course, but it is kind of funny. Kind of sad, too, that both the president and his critics and the rest of our popular and political culture has arrived at this level of public discourss.

— Bud Norman