Full Facial Nudity is Banned in Kansas

Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.

— Bud Norman

Freddy Cole, RIP

For reasons we cannot explain we’ve long been fascinated by the famous people who were overshadowed by an even more famous people. Our two brothers have certain talents we do not possess, but not to the extent we ever felt overshadowed, so that can’t explain our affinity for all those less-famous siblings.
Bob Crosby’s Bobcats was a popular and top-notch if slightly outdated dixieland jazz band during the swing era, but he was never as famous as his brother Bing. Dom DiMaggio was an outstanding pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but his brother Joe won championships with the New York Yankees and was by far the bigger star. Warren “Baby” Dodds is regarded as the first great jazz drummer, but he was always called “Baby” because his older brother Johnny is regarded as the first great jazz clarinetist. Here in Kansas you’ll see roads and buildings named for Milton Eisenhower, well regarded as president of Kansas State University and two other institutions of higher learning, but his brother Dwight was President of the United States. Liza Minelli and Betty Hutton and June Carter all had sisters who were so talented it’s a shame they’re largely overlooked.
We were reminded of this by an obituary in the Washington Post for Freddy Cole, who died Saturday at the age of 88. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he was a terrific jazz and soul and standards singer and pianist, and he was very popular in some unlikely foreign markets and managed to live comfortably off his talents over many decades, even though he never achieved the fame of older brother Nat “King” Cole.
Nat “King” Cole was one of the all the time greats, especially with his jazz trio but also with all the heavily-arranged pop stuff that made him rich, but his younger brother was pretty damn good. At first the younger brother was satisfied that his all-state status playing high school basketball surpassed what his brother had done on the athletic fields, but after an injury he decided to go with his musical talent. Freddy Cole was 12 years younger than Nat Cole, and by the time he started his musical career the older brother was the first black man to host a national television show and one of the most popular singers in the world, which didn’t do the younger brother much good.
Freddy Cole had a gorgeous voice and smooth piano patter similar to his older brother, but he mostly resisted the club owners and record producers who wanted him to cover the songs and imitate the style of Nat’s records. He had a bluesier sound than his brother, informed by a dozen years of musical trends trending toward to soul music, and it kept him steadily employed at fancy nightclubs and dives and honky-tonks. Along the way he had some regional hits, and was briefly a big deal in Brazil. When he turned 60, decades after his brother’s premature death, he started to get some recognition, racking up major label deals and several grammy nominations.
Freddy Cole left us on Saturday with an impressive body of work, even if you’ve never heard of him, and we think Nat “King” Cole would have been proud of his kid brother.

— Bud Norman

America Persists

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the second Great Depression and all the protests and occasional rioting for social justice that’s been going on lately, Thursday was a pretty good day for us. The weather here in Wichita was sunny and hot, as we like it, and we got insurance for the brand new used car we boought the other day, which isn’t a convertible but is an immaculate six-year-9ld car with only 60,000 or miles at a very good price from trusted friends, and we took care of a trash payment that kept getting rejected, and we had a nice chat at Kirby’s Beer Store with some old and valued friends,
All in all it was a pretty good day, until we got home and started reading and hearing the news. The coronavirus is as bad as ever, the economy is not the best anybody ever’s seen an economic revival seems months away, and the racism causing the protests and riots seems likely to linger for a while.Try as we might, can’t find any good news in the news.
Which is no reason, we’ve found, why you shouldn’t have a nice day despite everything. That’s what we wish for all of you on this dismal Friday.

— Bud Norman

In Search of Good News

Everyday we spend an inordinate amount of time reading and watching news from a wide variety of sources, always hoping for some glimmer of good news, but for most of this year it’s been a desultory task. We can only imagine how depressing it must be for President Donald Trump.
Coronavirus cases continue to mount in many states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, where Trump recently had large crowds gathering together indoors and mostly without face marks, and in such crucial states as Texas and Florida. All the stock markets suffered significant losses on Wednesday because of the scary coronavirus numbers, and the estimated 50 million workers who are now out of work can’t to expect things to change soon. There are still peaceful protests and lawless vandalism going on around the country about racism and police brutality, and although Trump has promised racism can be “quickly and very solved,” we don’t expect he solve that problem by Election Day.
Trump got big applause at his appearances in Oklahoma by calling coronavirus “the Kung Flu,” even though many Asian-Americans have voiced their objections, and he still likes to call Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” despite the objections of many Native Americans, and his latest cause is a defense of the statues and other honorifics to the slave-holding traitors of the Confederate Sates of America. This is good news for Trump’s most die-hard defenders, but it’s bad news to the rest of the country, and doesn’t seem likely to end racism by Election Day. There are fears from the experts that the coronavirus will be worse by then, and that the economic numbers will be just as dire. Unless you’re Trump or one of his die-hard fans the only good news is that all polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading by wide margins nationwide and in crucial swing states.
The only other news is about Trump politicizing the Justice Department and letting his cronies off easy and going after prosecutors nosing into Trump’s business, but he’ll surely have some explanation for that will satisfy the die-hard fans.
Election Day is still four months away, though, and almost anything could happen in that time. We’re not hopeful, though, and neither should Trump be.

— Bud Norman

The Results Remain to be Seen

Several states held elections on Tuesday, with a very interesting Democratic primary to pick who will run against Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky among them, but we can’t say how it turned out. In the age of coronavirus elections are even more complicated than usual, with fewer polling places and a lot more mail-in voting, and as a consequence the all the results won’t been known for another week.
Which is very frustrating for amateur psephologists such as ourselves, and no doubt even more so for the candidates involved, but the coronavirus has wrought all sorts of frustrations. At this point we’re heartened that elections are being held at all, and remain hopeful there will be a national election in November. On the other hand, we don’t hold out much hope that it will be controversial.
Democrats in Kentucky claimed that the number of polling places had been cut in a way calculated to suppress the black vote, but it appears that there was a record turn-out due to the expanded mail-in voting, which the Republicans claim leads to massive voter fraud. No matter who winds up winning, the losers will claim they were cheated, and America’s faith in its democratic processes will be diminished.
As much as we hope that elections and everything else can get back to normal by fall, we’re not counting on it and figure that voting by mail is better than not voting at all. The arguments against voting by mail are not convincing, and also hypocritical given than President Donald Trump and his family and staff and all the overseas military voters Republicans have long counted on have been doing it for years, and we have to admit that lately the Democrats’ allegations of voter suppression are usually very convincing. Trump has criticized Democratic Secretaries o State for sending applications for mail votes to registered voters, and threatened to withhold federal funding from them, but even in such a Republican state and such a Republican county as ours we’ve received applications for mail votes from the local election commissioner for an August primary. Even though we’re willing to don our face masks and go to some remote polling place to cast our vote on election day, and even though there’s no one we’re at all enthused about voting for as a Republican Senator nominee in the primary, we’re grateful for the option.
The long waits for the results will be the worst part, as we’re political junkies accustomed to the instant gratification of knowing who won and lost. What happened yesterday won’t be revealed until next week, and we’re impatient to find out, as it will be very interesting. The Democrats’ senatorial primary in Kentucky is especially intriguing. Amy McGrath, a decorated Marine combat pilot and very centrist and bona fide accent-and-all Kentuckian who barely lost a bid for a House seat two years ago was long considered the presumptive nominee, but in the last couple of weeks she’s been challenged by Charles Booker, a black member of the Kentucky House of Representatives who has staked out more liberal positions regarding Trump and race relations and that sort of thing.
Making it all the more interesting, all the polls showed McGrath running a very competitive race with Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, resulting in millions of dollars of donations pouring in from Democrats around the country. More interesting yet, the most resulting polling in the state suggests Booker also has a shot against McConnell. Kentucky elected a Democratic governor last year despite Trump’s rally appearances on behalf of the Republican candidate, Trump’s promises to revive Kentucky’s dying coal industry have not been kept, and the Grand Old Party now has to worry about yet another long-reliable state.
One of the few elections that were called on election day was a Republican House primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, and that was mostly notable because the Trump-endorsed candidate lost. North Carolina is another one of those long-reliable states that the Republicans now have to worry about, and we’ll be watching the eventual election results for more problem spots.
As of now McGrath has a lead over Booker in the Kentucky Senate primary, but that might be because of people who voted by mail before Booker emerged as a credible challenger, which is indeed a peril of voting by mail well ahead of an election. Despite all these difficulties, we hope that everyone will accept whatever the results turn out to be, and that the center will hold and America’s democratic processes will be respected by the masses.

— Bud Norman

When the Coronavirus is Personal

By happenstance we ran into an old friend Monday who told us from behind a face mask six feet away that he had recently recovered from COVID-19, and been given clearance by his doctor to start running into people again. He further informed us his wife, also a friend of ours, who already had plenty of serious health problems, was still recovering in a nearby hospital but had at least been taken off the ventilator.
We have other friends who stubbornly insist that the seriousness if not the existence of coronavirus is a hoax promulgated by an alarmist fake news media as another witch hunt against President Donald Trump, and they like to ask if we even know anyone who’s gotten sick. The aforementioned friends are the second and third people we know who have been among the nearly two and a half million COVID-19 cases, and although we don’t yet know anyone among the more than 120,000 Americans who have died from the disease we’re inclined to regard the coronavirus as a truly serious problem.
Politics and other weaknesses of human nature have proved ineradicable throughout history, though, and those instincts overwhelm a dispassionate assessment of the data. The coronavirus is indeed a pressing political problem for President Donald Trump, and his most ardent admirers feel obliged to somehow explain why it’s all fake news. Some still cling to the theory that all the federal health authorities and and the state and local health authorities and all the doctors and nurses on duty in America’s hospitals are in on a “deep state” plot to make Trump look bad, but most attempt more reasonable arguments. The coronavirus does indeed exist and has infected a couple of million or so and killed more 120,000 or so, they acknowledge, but they argue that in the grand scheme of things that’s not so bad, and no reason to continue any anti-coronavirus measures.
After all, this is in a country of more than 330 million people, with some 47 or 50 million of them unemployed and eager to get back to work, and pretty much everyone is itching to get back to going to concerts and sporting events and campaign rallies and social justice protests and running into people within six feet and without face masks. Federal and state and local restrictions on personal behavior for public health reasons are predictably widely unpopular, and it’s understandable why Trump has seemingly staked his reelection on flouting those rules and encouraging others to do so as well.
For now, though, it seems a losing argument. All the polls show most Americans are taking the coronavirus quite seriously, Trump’s handling of the problem has majority disapproval, and a mere 6,200 of his most ardent admirers signed a form waiving the Trump campaign’s liability for any sickness or death to attend an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Trump is hugely popular but coronavirus cases have lately been doubling every day, The fans in attendance loved it when Trump drank from a glass of water with one and not spilling a drop on his silk tie, but his rally speech in a time of coronavirus didn’t do him much good with any potential new voters.
Trump had plenty of people to blame for the current sorry state of affairs, but at his first coronavirus rally he didn’t outline any specific plan to resume economic activity while keeping the coronavirus in check. To be fair, none of the damned Democrats have done so. Which leaves us worried, and wondering what might come on Election Day, if that happens. In the meantime, we’ll be praying for all of our friends, and everyone else.

— Bud Norman

Trump’s Trip to Tulsa

We’ve never failed to have a good time on our many visits to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is one of America’s most musical cities and one of those places that has its own weird vibe, but President Donald Trump wound up having a very bad day there on Saturday.
Trump had hoped restart his reelection campaign with one of of his famously jam-packed and raucous at the 19,000-seat Bank of Oklahoma Center in downtown Tulsa, but starting with the announcement it proved a public relations disaster. The campaign was widely criticized for packing unmasked people into a crowded building during an ongoing pandemic, including by the mayor and public health officials hospital workers in Tulsa, which has lately seen its coronavirus cases spiking. Others noticed the rally was scheduled for June 19th, which millions of black Americans celebrate as “Juneteenth” to commemorate when the last Americans slaves in Texas learned they were free, and given that it was shortly after the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 when white Tulsans murdered at last 300 black Tulsans and largely burned down the city’s prosperous black district, and given that most black Americans consider Trump a racist, it was another controversy.
In a rare concession to public opinion Trump rescheduled the rally to the next day, and boasted that he “made Juneteenth famous,” then announced that all the rally-goers would be provided one of those face masks that he refuses to wear and has discouraged others from wearing. He also required that rally-goers sign a form waiving liability against the campaign if anyone was infected during the rally, and the rally wasn’t getting the coverage Trump hoped for. Shortly before the rally the press was reporting that six campaign workers who’d been doing advance work the event had tested positive for coronavirus, and Trump was reportedly furious that it was being reported.
Still, Trump flew into Tulsa with high hopes. His campaign manager had boasted that one million people had applied for tickets, and Trump promised he would not only pack the arena but have thousands more supporters in a makeshift stadium outside the arena waiting for another speech. When the Tulsa fire marshal estimated that 6,200 people were inside and only a few dozen were milling about outside, it was embarrassing. Unwilling to call the Tulsa fire marshal a Trump-hating liar and unable to refute all the “fake news” footage from every outlet including Fox News and One America News Network the campaign blamed the media for stoking coronavirus fears and left-wing protesters scaring away families and blocking the doors, but the protests were also smaller than expected and far more peaceful than Trump might have preferred, and it was another rough news cycle for Trump.
The campaign boasted that 5 million or so people watched it on the internet, which might well be true, but we doubt it won Trump many new voters. The speech was a typically meandering harangue, with some weirder than usual moments. He attacked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a number of nicknames and some seemingly contradictory accusations, criticizing Biden for supporting the tough-on-crime 1994 Crime Bill and also predicting that a President Biden will defund the police and allow criminals to run amok. He also bragged at length about how strong the economy had been before the coronavirus came along, and how great it will be when the coronavirus magically fades away, and he blamed the Chinese for the current unpleasantness, and said he’d told “his people” to stop testing so often to slow the rate of reported cases. Before the speech was even over the White House press office released a statement explaining that Trump was only joking, but couldn’t explain why it was appropriate for a President of the United States to joke about a disease that has already killed more than 120,000 Americans. He didn’t mention the national debate about racism and police brutality, except to criticize the commissioner of the National Football league for allowing players to kneel during the national anthem in protest.
He also did an extended monologue about the widely seen videotape of him very gingerly and uncertainly descending a ramp after a graduation ceremony at West Point, which made for an embarrassing news cycle a week or so ago and is the kind of thing most politicians would happily left fade from memory, and although we found the explanation further embarrassing the crowd seemed to think it the funniest comedy routine since the heyday of Bob Hope. He’d also been videotaped using two hands to drink from a cup of water, which he blamed on having saluted 600 cadets individually, and when he demonstrated that he could indeed drink from a glass of water with just one hand the crowd went wild at the feat of strength. Again, the fans love it, but it’s not likely to win any new voters.
When Trump returned to the White House aboard the Marine One helicopter he was videotaped walking across the lawn with his tie undone and a Make America Great Again ball cap in one hand, looking very exhausted and unhappy. That quickly made the rounds, delighting Trump’s many critics, and will probably fuel a few nights of late night comedy show monologues and lots of “memes” on social media. Meanwhile, we haven’t heard any spin from the White House press office that is at all convincing, and are eager to hear what they might come up with.
Tulsa’s a fun town full of good people and great architecture and real-deal American music, that horrific episode back in ’21 notwithstanding, and if you get the chance we urge you to visit. We don’t expect that Trump will be eager to return, though.

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Tale of Two Tell-Alls

As if he didn’t already have enough problems to deal with, President Donald Trump has a couple of “tell all” books coming out soon that he has “tweet” angrily about and try to have censored. One is by his former national security advisor, John Bolton, the other is by his niece, Mary Trump, and based on what’s been previewed in the press by their publishers both books are damning.
At this point most of the media attention has been paid to Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” which alleges that Trump was not only guilty of using foreign aid to get reelection help from Ukraine but also sought assistance from China and other countries, that Trump is woefully ignorant of the world and pays scant attention to his intelligence briefings, indulges the world’s dictators in their most brutal methods of holding power, and openly mused about having American journalists executed. That’s just what’s been previewed, and presumably the full book if chockfull of similarly outrageous allegations.
Many of the media don’t know quite what to say about it, as Bolton is a controversial figure in his own right. He served on previous administrations and was known his decidedly hawkish opinions about foreign, which were sometimes a bit too hawkish for even for the Cold Warriors in the Republican establishment, and naturally he was reviled by the left. He seemed an odd choice for Trump, who has denounced not only the Iraq War that Bolton urged but pretty much the entirety of America’s post-World War II foreign policy, but he’d let his first national security go after he was found to have lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a second one reportedly was let go because Trump found his security briefings too boring and know-it-all, and Bolton was available and helped reassure all the hawks still remaining in the party.
The leftward side of the media is glad for any mud they can hurl at Trump but aren’t willing to forgive Bolton for his past transgressions, and they argue that Bolton should have been more forthcoming in time to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial. The rightward side of the media see him as a traitor to the Trump cause, even if he’s being true to his principles, and will pretend they didn’t once defense Bolton and his hawkish principles. Soon the reading public will be able to draw it’s own conclusions, and so far the books sounds entirely believable.
The House hearings that led to Trump’s impeachment proved that Trump tried to extort Ukraine for reelection help, and Trump told a national television interviewer that he saw nothing wrong with getting help from foreign governments, has openly asked both Russia and China for such assistance, so Bolton’s accounts about that are credible. Trump has said enough stupid things about the world in the past four years we have no difficulty believing that he wasn’t aware the United Kingdom had nuclear weapons and thought Finland was part of Russia and that he would be justified in invading Venezuela because “it’s part of the United States,” as Bolton alleges. Trump told interviewers during the campaign that America lacked the moral standing to condemn other country’s totalitarian tendencies, he looked the other way when the Saudi Arabian dictatorship brutally murdered a Washington Post columnist, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’d openly mused about killing some of the “enemies of the people” in the American press.
Bolton was often a bit too hawkish even four neoconservative sensibility, and we were disappointed when he agreed to be an ill-fitting piece in the Trump administration, and he should have spoken out sooner, but we’re inclined to believe what he has to say.
You’ll also be hearing a lot about “Too Much is Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” whose author is identified on the cover as Mary L. Trump, Phd. The daughter of Trump’s brother Fred, who famously died at an early age for alcoholism-related reasons, she fought a protracted court battle against her uncle over her grandfather’s will, which got so nasty that the current president even cut off the medical insurance that Fred Trump Sr. had been paying for Fred Jr.’s family. There’s clearly some bad blood among the extended Trump family, but Mary Trump’s doctorate is in clinical psychology, and her scathing diagnosis of her uncle also fits with everyone we know about the guy. The juiciest tidbit that’s been previewed so far is that Trump mocked and derided his father when he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s disease, and that fits with Trump’s habit of mocking anyone’s weakness.
Trump is still hoping to block publication of both books, even if it seems a little too late to prevent the damage they might do him, and censorship never makes a politician look good. He’s claiming that by recounting any conversation Bolton ever had with the president he’s illegally releasing classified information, and that his niece is bound by a nondisclosure agreement she signed as part of the settlement in that family feud over Fred Sr.’s money. The Bolton book has been scrutinized by federal officials and found to be in compliance with the law, though, and Trump doesn’t look good as one of the very rare uncles who had a niece sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Trump has bigger problems than a couple of books that only confirm what people already knew, and he’d be well advised not to give them any further publicity. Trump fans will either choose to disbelieve what the authors have to say, or to believe that it’s no big deal. Those opposed to Trump were already opposed, and anyone who’s still on the fence probably doesn’t read books or even the snippets that are previewed in the press.

— Bud Norman

Et Tu, Gorsuch?

No matter what goes wrong during President Donald Trump’s time in office, his die-hard supporters will tell you that it’s all worth it for the judges he appoints. He put conservative originalists Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and that alone is enough to satisfy the fans.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, however, has soured some of the faithful on Gorsuch. After hearing the case the Supreme Court concluded that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says lesbians, homosexual men and transgendered people cannot be fired because of their sexual activities or what sex they consider themselves to be, which is making many religious right types unhappy, and Gorsuch not only joined the court’s four liberal justices in the majority but also wrote the opinion.
Some of the religious conservatives who support the conspicuously irreligious president will admit they oppose the decision because they want to be able to fire any sexual deviants they might have inadvertently hired, and needlessly worry that churches won’t have the exceptions they’ve always enjoyed, but others couch their complaints in terms of judicial overreach. We don’t see any reason for anybody to fire anyone for their private sexual conduct or their opinions about their sex, but there is some merit to the argument about the court amending laws by judicial fiat.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes no mention whatsoever about homosexuality or transgenderism, which is not surprising given the time when it was passed. Back in ’64 gay rights weren’t a big issue, and nobody had even heard of transgenderism, and if the bill did include such language it would have been so controversial the bill wouldn’t have passed. A more up-to-date Congress could have added those protections to the law, but has declined to do so, so our strictly constitutionalist sensibilities are also offended by any court usurping the legislature.
In his writings and speeches and past rulings Gorsuch has long claimed to be a “textualist,” meaning that the believes courts should interpret a statute by it’s plain and not infer any intentions the lawmakers might have had, and certainly not assume what they might have thought after 56 years of social evolution, so his siding with the majority in this case is surprising. Our reading of the lengthy opinion doesn’t provide us with a convincing explanation for his change of mind.
Conservatives have long been disappointed with Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices, going all the way back to President Dwight Eisenhower’s choice of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who presided over a court that expanded civil rights and limited police powers, and continued with President George W. Bush’s choice of Chief Justice John Roberts, who infuriated conservatives by declining to find “Obamacare” unconstitutional. Gorsuch is just the latest in a long line of Republican appointees who have disappointed Republicans.
Should Gorsuch get back to his textualist roots, though, he might wind up disappointing Republicans even further. Trump has a number of legal cases involving everything from his immigration policies to his tax returns and alleged cases of sexual misbehavior winding their way through the court system, and a strict textualist might rule against him in several of those cases. There’s a nearly 100-year-old and long upheld law that lets Congress look at any American’s tax return, for instance, and the text does not include any exception for presidents, so it will be interesting to see how the Trump appointees rule in that case.
There are countless federal statutes that are very liberal, and the Constitution also has some very liberal language, and a sincerely originalist and textualist jurist would leave it to the legislative and executive branches to rectify that, even if the Trump era sort of conservatives would prefer that the courts bang a gavel and return America to 1964, or better yet 1954, before all that civil rights legislation and litigation. Most people don’t care so much about constitutional arguments and just want the courts to deliver their preferred policy, so our guess is that Republicans will once again be disappointed in their party’s Supreme Court picks, and Trump supporters will be disheartened.

— Bud Norman