All This, and Summer’s Just Getting Started

More than 103,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, some 40 million more are unemployed, and riots are raging on the streets of cities across the country. If President Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection, it probably won’t be because Americans got tired of so much winning.
With so many calamities converging on the country, Trump is angrily lashing out at his critics and seeking to cast blame rather than offering solutions. He’s hoping the country can get back to normal without an increase in coronavirus infections, and that the economy will immediately rebound, but has indicated what he’ll do if that doesn’t happen. After surprising many by saying respectful and responsible that about the death of a Minneapolis black man while in police custody, he’s reverted to his habit of making threats in response to the ensuing riots. He still finds time for “tweeting” taunts at his critics, including baseless accusations of murder against a cable news host, and for threatening legal action against Twitter itself.
None of which seems likely to work. The coronavirus is immune to threats, and hope is not a cure. Threats won’t help the economy, either, and will surely require a government response that will needed to be negated with politicians Trump routinely insults in personal terms. Rioters need to know that the law will be enforced, but Trump’s belligerent threats of shooting looters on sight and unleashing “vicious dogs and awesome” are more likely to the exacerbate the outrage that is fueling the unrest. Given all that’s going on, Trump is even unlikely to distract anyone’s attention with a Twitter feud.
Angrily lashing out at critics and casting blame elsewhere is what Trump does, though, and at this point it would be hard for him to be a calm and unifying kind of president. We’ll see how how that plays out in November.

— Bud Norman

On Trump’s “Very Good” and Very Angry People

President Donald Trump has peculiar tastes in people. He ounce “very fine people” on among the white supremacists and neo-nazis who led a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The protestors who brandished long guns and confederate battle flags and nooses and signs urging the lynching of various public officials while protesting at the Michigan state capital were praised by Trump as “great people” that the governor should “make a deal” with it. After a local television reporter in Long Island, New York, was harassed and menaced by protestors angry about the states restrictions in response to the coronavirus, Trump “re-tweeted” the reporters video and added that “People can’t get enough of this! Great people!”
Maybe we’re taking this personally, as over more than three decades we’ve found ourself surrounded by some abusive and menacing crowds, but we don’t share Trump’s opinion of that angry mob. They struck as rude, hateful, and hostile to the American values of civility and a free press. Damned stupid, too, as it’s pointless to hold a protest rally if you plan on scaring away in media coverage.
The protestors were convinced that the reporter routinely peddles lies, but none seem inclined to offer examples or have a peaceable discussion about his perceived biases. The reporter filed what the video evidence suggests was an accurate of the rally, and if that made the protestors look bad he can hardly be blamed for that.
Some people apparently can’t get enough of that kind of self-defeating behavior, though, and now they’ve a President of the United States egging them on, praising their patriotism for confronting the “animals” and “scum” and “enemies of the people,” and has mused that “You know what we used to do in the old days when were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Sooner or late some deranged rally-goer will decide to deal with the traitors in his midst the old-fashioned way, and perhaps by then Trump’s “good people” and perhaps even Trump himself will have finally gotten enough of it. Of course Trump will be able to say he was being sarcastic, and can’t help it if some deranged killer took him literally.

— Bud Norman

The First Lady’s Regrets

Times are tough all over and we don’t want to hear your gripes, especially if you’re the First Lady of the United States of America. Still, Michelle Obama took the occasion of Tuskegee University’s commencement ceremony to lament that nobody knows the troubles she’s seen.
The more polite pressmen over at The Hill described the speech as “Michelle Obama speaks of emotional toll of being first black first lady,” without the usual respectful capitalization in the headline, which is no doubt some sort of racist slight, and The New York Daily News went with an even more anodyne “Michelle Obama delivers Tuskegee University commencement address,” which could easily be understood as censorship of the truth she was she speaking to power or some such racist explanation, but we’ll go right ahead and call it the whining of a spoiled brat. To say that Obama lives like a queen is a gross overstatement, given the wide disparity between what America’s ostensible republic spends on her and what any official monarchy spends on its queen, and how Obama has more ostentatiously flaunted her privilege than any uneasy head that wears a crown would ever dare, and how relatively obliging the media coverage is, so her ordeal as First Lady hardly inspires our pity.
She recalled that when her husband was winning election as President of the United States someone described their celebratory fist-pump as a “terrorist fist-jab,” that someone else accused her of “uppity-ism,” and that yet another person somewhere or another referred to her as “Obama’s baby mama,” and we don’t doubt a word of it, this being a populous country full of 320 million people who say all sorts of nasty things about one another. It seems a rather small inconvenience compared to the compensations of being First Lady, though, at least from our perspective as regular American schmucks who routinely endure worse insults despite our straight white Christian male privilege, and often from the First Lady’s husband’s administration. She generously concedes that other potential presidential wives were subjected to questions about what kind of First Lady she might be and what causes she might champion, but said that “as potentially the first African-American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” All we can remember of the ’08 press was coverage of her muscled arms and middle-class upbringing and a few snide conservative press pieces about her resentful and poorly-written thesis at Princeton and her well-paid gig as a “diversity officer” at a hospital receiving even greater amounts of money from a state where her husband was a prominent Senator, but we can see how that questions about too loud and too angry were worth asking, and at this point we’re keen to know just how emasculating is enough.
The First Lady of the United States went on to empathize with her fellow African-Americans who have felt “invisible” for the past many decades, as if she hasn’t been all too visible, and shared her fears of those pesky traffic stops by police officers, as if she knows what it’s like to be even a white male driving a red convertible without a safety belt, one of those pointless violations that her party adamantly supports even though it increases the chances of a a newsworthy encounter between the police and an unarmed black male. Just like her party has supported policies that have kept black unemployment high and black household income down and effective law enforcement in black neighborhoods subdued. Obama also told her audience not to become cynical, to continue supporting the same Democratic candidates that have prevailed over the past decades in Baltimore and the rest of those of oppressed portions of America, but we hope that the graduate of such an august institution of higher learning as Tuskegee University will have some questions.

— Bud Norman

How to Peeve a President

On another cold and gray day in a winter that seemingly will never end, with both thunderstorms and snow in the forecast, it gave us a sunny and heartwarming feeling on Wednesday to hear President Barack Obama sounding very irked.
A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases had just failed to win a required super-majority in the Senate, effectively ending all legislative attempts at gun control until the next media-fueled public frenzy, and the president was clearly displeased. Speaking in the White House rose garden shortly after the vote, Obama had a scowl on his face and anger in his voice as he claimed his opponents had “willfully lied” about the proposal. Looking as if he were about to spit, as we say out here in gun country, Obama declared it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Except for the slightly higher than usual dudgeon, the speech was typical of Obama. Characteristically unable or unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of an honest disagreement with him, he accused the senators who had voted against the proposal of political cowardice. He also cited “some polls” to claim that 90 percent of the public was in favor of the plan, making it odd that a political coward would defy such an improbable majority of public opinion, but apparently the “gun lobby” induces much fear in the hearts of weaker men.
Obama vowed to continue his quest for further gun control measures, but for the moment it looks unlikely that he will succeed. The Senate also voted Wednesday on a bill banning “assault weapons,” which is Democrat-speak for semi-automatic rifles that look somewhat like actual assault weapons, but it went down with only 40 votes. A few more modest proposals also fell short of a super-majority, with several Democrats who face re-election battles in heartland states defecting from the party line on every vote, and all of the proposals would surely fare even worse in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Nor will there likely be a more propitious moment for such gun control measures in the near future. The defeats in the Senate followed an all-out media blitz after a deranged gunman’s horrible massacre at a Connecticut school, the full efforts of Obama’s reputedly irresistible powers of persuasion in a series of cross-country speeches, as well as concerted campaign by the well-organized and well-funded anti-gun lobby, and they will all find it difficult to sustain the effort. A poll not cited by the president suggests that 96 percent of the country thinks the government has better things to do than pass more laws for law-abiding gun owners to abide, and the public is likely to grow even wearier of the debate in the wake of Wednesday’s votes.
Despite all the hoopla, the vote also came at a time when there were plenty of distractions to provide cover for any Democrat feeling party pressure to vote against his constituents’ wishes. Wednesday’s news cycle was dominated by contradictory and quickly-retracted reports about the bombings at the Boston Marathon, along with the strange case of an Elvis impersonator from small-town Mississippi allegedly sending ricin-laced but bi-partisan hate mail to a Republican senator from his state and the president, and much of the media would have been quite content to let a total gun ban go unremarked.
The failure to pass anything under such favorable circumstances will be considered a significant political setback for the president, and we suspect that’s why he seemed so very angry in the rose garden. Obama insisted that the proposals would somehow save some unspecified number of lives, and he no doubt believes it, but lives were also at stake in Benghazi and Fort Hood and Fast and Furious and at the Boston Marathon, and he never seemed so thoroughly peeved when making speeches on those matters. It takes a political defeat to really get under the president’s thin skin, and that’s why it gives us a sunny and heartwarming feeling to see it from time to time.

— Bud Norman