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

On a Sunny Day in Kansas

Monday was gorgeous here in Wichita, Kansas, with warm but not too-hot temperatures and a glorious blue sky, and we had an interesting conversation with a Canadian pal who works at Wichita State State University across the street from Kirby’s Beer Store and more interesting chit-chat and joke-swapping at Harry’s Uptown Bar and Grill with another set of delightful friends. No one was wearing s face mask, we got within six feet of one another, and although we’d previously spent an hour-and-a-half on the phone with tech support guy from India getting our e-mail back on-line and then even more time searching for an urgently needed used car we were briefly able to forget what a sorry state the rest of the world is in.
It’s in a undeniably sorry shape, as we were reminded when when came home and fired up the internet machine. The rate of coronavirus infections is down nationwide, but it’s up in 18 states we rather like, and it doesn’t look as if they or the rest of world can safely get back to normal anytime soon. The resultant economic downturn seems likely to persist past Election Day,
as even Trump’s appointed Federal Reserve Board chairman agrees, and the global economists all saying that times are a hard all over.
On top of all that there’s all the civil unrest that’s resulted from white cops killing unarmed and nonthreatening black people. When Minneapolis police knelt on a suspect’s head for nearly nine minutes and wound up killing him during an arrest on a misdemeanor forgery charge it set off both peaceful demonstrations and violent riots across America, and when the police responded to protests against police brutality with videotaped acts of police it grew worse, Yesterday a couple of cops in Atlanta shot a black man reasonably suspected of drunk driving twice in the back when he ran off with one of their tasers, even though they had his tag number and could have easily arrested him the next day without death or civil unrest or anyone getting fired. There’s never, ever a good time for police to shoot down an unarmed and unthreatening suspect could be easily and harmlessly arrested the next, but even the most racist redneck cop in Georgia should now that he’s less likely to get away with it at this moment in time.
It’s quite a confluence of catastrophes, and even on a sunny day in Kansas we worry how it will turn out.

— Bud Norman

A Truly Lost Cause

One hundred and fifty-five years at Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia, the Confederacy is continuing to suffer defeats. Monuments to Confederate soldiers are being removed from public spaces, sometimes at the order of local officials and sometimes because of angry mobs tearing them down, and the Marines and the Navy and even the NASCAR racing circuit have recently banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The top military brass also want to change the names off 11 military installations that are for some reason named after Confederate soldiers, but President Donald Trump has declared he won’t even consider it. Trump has also oppose the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, and for a guy who grew up in New York City seems to have a certain affection for the Confederacy.
Perhaps it’s for political reasons, but if so we think it’s a miscalculation. The Confederacy sympathizers among Trump”s voters wouldn’t mind if he declared all the monument controversy a state and local issue he needn’t take sides in, and his stands on behalf of the “Lost Cause” are unlikely to win him any new voters. Most Americans have a very negative opinion of the Confederacy, are glad that it lost the Civil War, and don’t see why men who fought a war against the United States to preserve slavery are being honored.
Perhaps Trump’s defense of the Confederacy is for personal reasons, but we’d hate to think that.

— Bud Norman

The Trump Rallies Return

Defying his own administration’s guidelines regarding large public gatherings during the coronavirus epidemic, President Donald Trump will resume holding his raucous campaign rallies next week. He’s convinced that having some 10,000 or so unmasked people standing close together inside an arena won’t pose a risk to anyone’s health, but just to be sure he’s requiring everyone in attendance to sign a waver stating they “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19” and will not hold the campaign liable.
The re-opening round of rallies are planned for Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Arizona, all states that are currently an increase in their rates of coronavirus infection, but we don’t expect that will prevent a large turnout at each stop. Trump fans are loyal to their president and love his rallies the way bobby soxers loved Frank Sinatra concerts, and they seem to have little fear of coronavirus. Many of them have already attended large public gatherings protesting the restrictions that state and local governments have imposed in response to the epidemic.
All of the venues are noteworthy, but the rally planned for June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has drawn special scrutiny. The date is Juneteenth, a holiday for many black Americans commemorating when Texas slaves belatedly learned they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and it comes with a week of the anniversary of the 1921 “Tulsa race riot,” when white mobs invaded the black part of town and burned down homes and businesses and killed around 300 citizens and even used a plan to drop bombs on the neighborhood. Tulsa’s a great town, but that was its most shameful moment, and given all that’s going on across the country at the moment many black Tulsans found the scheduling racially insensitive. There’s a good chance the choice of time and place was inadvertent, given how little Trump knows about history, and there’s also a possibility that it was intentional, given Trump’s racial instincts and instinctive insensitivity.
What we notice about the upcoming tour of Trump’s hit roadshow is that he’s sticking to friendly territory, or once was friendly. Trump can count on Oklahoma’s electoral votes, and should be able to count on Florida and North Carolina and Texas and Arizona, and that he’s spending time and money in those states does not bode well for his reelection campaign. All the polling lately indicates that Florida and North Carolina and Arizona are now swing states he’s in danger of losing, with Texas alarmingly competitive, but Trump also needs to be in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and the other states that gave him his upset win in the Electoral College voting but he’s now losing by wide margins.
Trump rallies always fire the up the faithful, who can’t get enough of his insult comic shtick, but for now we doubt the benefits outweigh the risk of his gatherings becoming widely-reported coronavirus clusters. They don’t seem to win over many potentially persuadable but still unconverted voters, and almost of the networks won’t be airing any of them live and unfiltered, and he’s bound to say something stupid that his many critics in the news media and late night comedy shows will make hay of for a few news cycles.
Trump does love his rallies, though, basking in the applause and adoration of the faithful, and that probably supersedes any risk-benefit analysis his advisors might dare present him. Better Trump should spend his time uniting and calming the country at this polarized and very scary moment in history, but the applause and adoration of the faithful might supersede that as well.

— Bud Norman

The Saga of Ivanka and Wichita

The coronavirus and recession and anti-racism protests and recent high winds notwithstanding, the big story here in Wichita is about Ivanka Trump.
The First Daughter and White House senior advisor was invited to give a “virtual commencement address’ at Wichita State University Tech’s “virtual graduation ceremony,” then was disinvited after hundreds of students and faculty and alumni objected, and since then other alumni and some major donors have raised such a fuss about the dis-invitation that the WSU president found himself facing the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday with his job on the line. For now Jay Golden remains president of the university, but the city remains divided about that.
We’ve not heard any explanation for why Trump was invited to virtually speak at the virtual ceremony in the first place, but guess it had something to do with her attention-grabbing appearance at the school last year with Secretary of State and hometown boy Mike Pompeo, which was in her tole as a member of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which has something to do with WSU Tech. The outcry that led to Trump’s dis-invitation was more easily understood, given how Trump’s and her father’s policies offend liberal sensibilities.
The offense felt by the city’s many Trump-loving Republicans was also understandable, and some of them have considerable sway with the university, as well as the Board of Regents. There are no doubt many students and more than a few faculty at WSU who like both Trump and her Dad, but at this point they’re less likely than the anti-Trump types to sign petitions and make angry phone calls and send angry e-mails, and what put the university’s president in front of the Board of Regents were threats that many well-heeled donors might stop donating to the suddenly cash-strapped university. Early reports in the local media warned that might include Koch Industries, owned by local multi-multi-billionaire and philanthropist and free-market activist Charles Koch, who annually donates more than $10 million to his hometown university.
A Koch spokesman quickly clarified that the company intended to honor all of its commitments to the university, politely added that Koch’s very libertarian beliefs call for free expression of all points of view, but further explained that Koch did not involve himself in the university’s personnel matters. We were not surprised, given that Koch’s classical conservatism never cared much for President Donald Trump’s trade wars and immigration extremism and deficit spending and other governmental intrusions into a free market economy, and that given his far greater wealth he wasn’t much impressed by Trump’s business acumen. He didn’t give a dime to Trump’s campaign, and said that choosing between Trump and Hillary Clinton was like choosing either a heart attack or cancer. So long as the university’s Wheatshockers basketball team keeps winning at Charles Koch Arena, we figure he’s not likely to abandon WSU nor its president because Ivanka Trump’s feelings were hurt.
The dis-invitation of Ivanka Trump got a lot of play in the national print and electronic media, which is always exciting for us usually ignored Wichitans, and her complaint that it was a result of a “culture of cancel” set off some interesting debates. The rest of the country won’t concern itself with what becomes of our local university’s president in the aftermath, and it’s probably for the best we work that out here in Kansas.
Being from around here and having a rooting interest in the ‘Shockers we’re forced to take sides, although we prefer our usual seat on the sidelines. Even here in conservative Wichita modern academia does tend limit debate to the leftward side, which offends our homegrown conservative sensibilities, but we’re no more inclined than Koch to involve ourselves in WSU’s personnel matters. We also have our principled free-market objections to many Trump policies, and although we’re not nearly so rich as Trump we’re not nearly so indebted and therefore also doubt his business acumen, and we too care little about the feelings of the rich and pampered daughter and her nepotistic position in life.
This Golden guy hasn’t been president of WSU for very long, so it’s too early to assess how goo he is, but until this controversy he’d not been controversial. All in all, we think he’s handled it pretty well. WSU Tech is a technical school that trains workers for the local high-tech aerospace industry, and although it’s on the WSU campus it’s technically a separate entity from the university, so Golden could have plausibly passed the buck on both the invitation and the dis-invitation, but instead he said “I own it,” which we thought impressive in this day and age. He removed Ivanka Trump from the official “virtual graduation ceremony” but didn’t censor her, adding a link to her videotaped “virtual commencement address” for anyone who wanted to hear it, which struck us as a reasonable compromise.
WSU is a crucial component of our humble prairie hometown, which is reeling along with the rest of the country from coronavirus and recession and racial tensions and all the rest of it, and we wish it the best. It’s right across the street from Kirby’s Beer Store, and we know many of its students and faculty, and have watched all construction and activity going on there with great interest. Our liberal friends grouse that Koch and the local aviation industry are driving everything to have a capable workforce, but so long as the fuzzier disciplines are funded we don’t share their concerns about that, and despite a slew of transfers a strong recruiting class should make the ‘Shocks competitive if there’s another basketball season next fall.
Free speech will persist, and Ivanka Trump’s feelings don’t matter, so go Shocks! If This Golden guy is the right guy to make that happen, we hope he lasts.

— Bud Norman

A Presidential Conspiracy Theory

President Donald Trump frequently “tweets” up a distracting news cycle’s worth of controversy, most of which are best ignored, but the latest brouhaha seems more consequential and worth considering.
By now you’ve probably seen the videotape of two policemen at the front of a phalanx of riot-gear-clad officers descending on a protest demonstration in Buffalo, New York, pushing a 75-year-old protester onto the sidewalk, then all of the officers walking past the man’s prone body as he bled from the ear. Most viewers see a shocking example of the sort of police brutality that was being protested, but Trump saw it differently. He tweeted that “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
Which we find troubling for several reasons.
To begin with, it’s worrisome that a president of the United States could could even entertain such fanciful conjecture. The idea that a septuagenarian with a decades-long history of peaceful protesting intentionally injured himself to an extent that he required days hospitalization in hopes that someone was videotaping it to make the cops look bad is far-fetched enough. That he was using what looks to be his self phone to knock out police communications to knock out police communications is all the more implausible.
Trump apparently got such outlandish ideas by watching a report on the America One News Network, an obscure television outlet that has won Trump’s affection with its sycophantic coverage of his administration, which in turn got the scoop from Conservative Treehouse, an even more obscure internet site that traffics in wild conspiracy theories, which in turn got the idea from some anonymous poster on some even more obscure conspiracy theory message board. That a president of the United States is getting his information from such dubious sources is another matter of concern.
The evidence-free allusion to antifa is also worrying. Trump had previously tried to blame the rioting and looting and other mayhem that has occurred during the recent protests on antifa, and even tweeted that he would have it designated a “terrorist organization.” So far as we can tell from reading a wide variety of usually reliable sources, antifa isn’t an organization at all, just a catchall phrase for the pathetic left-wing punks who like to show up at demonstrations and brawl on the streets with any pathetic “alt-right” punks who might also be itching for a fight. We dislike the people calling themselves antifa, and consider them a public nuisance, but we don’t worry they’re much of a threat to the republic, and find no evidence that they’re responsible for any of the rioting and looting and arson that’s lately occurred.
We’re more convinced by the evidence that “alt-right” internet trolls have been instigating trouble to make the protesters look bad, but we don’t care to traffic in conspiracy theories. The mass demonstrations that have sprung up around the country and across the world aren’t because of any conspiracy, as even the most cunning conspiracists couldn’t pull that off, but rather are the result of many, many years of legitimate grievances culminating in an understandable rage. If the president of the United States can’t see that, and prefers to speculate without evidence that an American citizen is part of a criminal conspiracy, that’s more alarming than anything he might “tweet.”

— Bud Norman