Begging One’s Pardon

As old-fashioned Republican conservatives we have long argued for strict border enforcement, “law and order” more generally, and a reasonable tolerance for whatever unpleasantness that might necessarily entail, and for just as long we’ve insisted that there’s nothing the least bit racist about that, but President Donald Trump’s pardon of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio doesn’t make the chore any easier.
Even before his presidential pardon “Sheriff Joe” was nationally known as the strictest border enforcer of them all, and he widely publicized the unpleasantness he inflicted on the suspects arrested by his department, so of course to a certain type of old-fashioned Republican he was widely celebrated as a sort of western movie hero. He was the staunchest of the “birthers” insisting that President Barack Obama had not been born in the United States, too, and flouted “political correctness” more defiantly than anyone on the political landscape up to that point.
To almost any sort of old-fashioned Republican conservative there was a certain appeal to it. There were law enforcement officials in more fashionable districts who were defiantly refusing to do their duty to the country’s immigration laws, often with disastrous consequences to their citizens but always with no harm to their own careers, and it was hard not to like a guy who seemed intent on protecting the citizenry by bucking fashionable opinion. Lodging jailed suspects under tents in the Arizona heat and forcing them to wear pink undergarments was undeniably harsh, but there were always stories about some more fashionable jurisdiction where they undeniably lax. There was never any reason to buy into the “birther” nonsense, but there was plenty of reason to believe that Obama was more cosmopolitan than American in his world view, with disastrous consequences tot he citizenry, and by now almost everyone admits that much of that “political correctness” is an even more ridiculous load of nonsense.
To a certain sort of old-fashioned conservative Republican, though, Arpaio always seemed more problematic than heroic. The reason he was offered a presidential pardon is because he was convicted of violating the order of a duly appointed court of law to stop violating the constitutional rights of citizens in his jurisdiction, his cocky acceptance of the pardon is as acknowledgement that he was unrepentantly guilty, so for our certain sort of old-fashioned conservative Republicans the pardon can’t reconcile with all the talk about law and order. We’re quite willing to buck fashionable opinion when it comes to a suspect who has been properly arrested with probable cause and turns out to be legitimately suspected of violating the immigration laws, and we heap Republican scorn on those law enforcement officers who won’t report that to higher authorities for merely fashionable reasons, but Arpaio’s department was systematically was stopping motorists and pedestrians just because they looked like they might be illegal immigrants, and we never signed up for that.
Maricopa County encompasses almost the entire metropolitan Phoenix area, and if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to be there in the winter you know it’s a lovely and very up-to-date big city with a lot of illegal immigrants and a lot of people who might look like they might be illegal immigrants but whose families have been living in the state for much longer than anybody named Arpaio. The Arpaio policy wound up snaring a lot of illegal immigrants who might otherwise have escaped justice, some of whom might well have otherwise done something awful, but it also wound up subjecting a lot of taxpaying and law-abiding American citizens of long generational standing to some entirely unnecessary and sometimes extreme unpleasantness. We enjoy bashing those squishy liberal judges as much as any old-fashioned Republican conservative after their all-frequent crazy rulings, but in this case we have to admit that an honest reading of the plain language of the Constitution says you can’t stop and detain people just because they look like they might be illegal immigrants.
That’s the Constitution, too, which is the highest law of the land and the one most needed to maintain our still somewhat civilized order.
To a certain certain sort of new-fangled Republican this makes us “RINOs” and “cuckservatives,” mere Beta Males too timid to undertake the harsh measures required for the current crisis, but by now we think they’re all crazy. We’re as law and order as ever on border enforcement and pretty much everything else that old-fashioned Republican conservatives care about, but only so long as it’s lawfully enforced with due respect for those law-abiding but darker-hued citizens who are just trying to get home after a hard day’s work, and our day-to-day encounters with all sorts of fellow citizens are pleasant enough we don’t see any pressing need to suspend the constitution and impose martial law.
We are now forced to admit, though, that there’s another sort of old-fashioned Republican conservative out there who openly yearns for such authoritarian measures. There’s also an authoritarian impulse on the left, to be sure, and the authoritarian right will always present itself as the last defense against its disastrous consequences, but if it comes down to one of those street fights you saw in the last days of Germany’s Weimar Republic we’ll probably sit it out in the comfort of our home. We’re still hoping the center will hold, and that law and order can be achieved lawfully, but the Arpaio pardon doesn’t help.
Trump oh-so-coyly promised the pardon to a raucous campaign rally crowd a few days earlier, saying Arpaio had been “convicted for doing his job,” but he actually granted the pardon just before a historic and headline-grabbing storm fell on Texas and Louisiana, and a raucous crowd that didn’t seem include anyone who might look like an illegal immigrant cheered on the idea that violating the rights of certain taxpaying and law-abiding citizens is just part of a lawman’s job. The governments of Poland and Turkey and the Philippines have lately expanded their authoritarian rule over the press and local officials and other troublesome members of the civic society, each got congratulatory calls from Trump, who also ran on recently repeated campaign promises of war crimes, and we can no longer deny there’s a certain authoritarian streak within our Republican party.
We’ll continue to argue with our Democratic and darker-hued friends that immigration law should be enforced within the strict limits allowed by the Constitution, and without any racist intent, but it’s going to harder to argue that our Republican party is on board with that. We’ll also continue to argue with the Black Lives Matter movement that some indulgent degree of rule of law is needed to keep a lot of black lives from being lost to murder, but we can no longer promise that the inevitable provable cases of police brutality won’t be tolerated. Trump did joke to a gathering of law enforcement, after all, that they shouldn’t be so careful not cause head injuries when putting suspects under arrest.
At least we can take some comfort from knowing we’re not the only old-fashioned Republicans who are uncomfortable with all this Alpha Male stuff. At that Phoenix rally Trump also railed against the state’s two Republican Senators, but both defied the insults by steadfastly denouncing the pardon, as did the Arizona governor and Phoenix mayor. The Republican Speaker of the House stated his disagreements, too, along with several other Republicans and the most old-fashioned of the Republican media. Most of the law enforcement community also criticized the jokes about police brutality, too, few elected Republican officials seem on board with all that authoritarianism abroad, and so far the opinion polls show the center holding.
Arpaio is 85 years old, the misdemeanor charge he’d been convicted of but not yet sentenced for carried a maximum of seven months that he never would have been forced to endure in a tent shelter while wearing pink undergarments, so he’s neither a heroic figure nor a pitiable victim at this point. What matters is the clear message that his pardon sends to both Trump’s most ardent admirers and his most fierce critics.

— Bud Norman

From Belgium to Arizona to the Latest “Tweet”

Another deadly Islamist terror attack, this time in Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the European Union and headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The President of the United States spent a full 51 seconds expressing his concern about the matter before launching into some happier talk about his communist Cuban hosts, and then spoke about it again at somewhat greater length with a fawning interviewer from the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network while taking in a baseball game, and the usual talk about a religion of peace and worries about a backlash followed in the usual places, and then the news moved on to more novel stories.
Say what you want about the presidential primary races, there’s no denying their novelty. A bit of actual reality showed up in the Republican’s reality show, however, as the two remaining viable candidates both weighed in on the slaughter in Brussels. Front-runner Donald J. Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-etcetera mogul, argued that some good old-fashioned torture would have prevented the tragedy, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was critical of both the administration’s continuing reluctance to address by the problem of Islamist terrorism by name and Trump’s apparent ambivalence about America’s European alliances in general and NATO in particular.
There’s some concern on the more or less respectable left that each terror attack further drives a frightened public into the arms of such a proudly tortuous tough guy as Trump, who once shaved the burly Vince McMahon’s head in a World Wrestling Entertainment production called “Battle of the Billionaires” and has bagged more babes than you’ll ever dream about, believe him, and that might yet prove worth worrying about. A double-whammy of attacks in San Bernardino and Paris knocked the mild-mannered neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson out of the race and into the arms of Trump a while back, and the Democrats understandably poll very poorly with their it’s-nothing-to-do-with-Islam stands, and Trump’s sizable horde of followers think anyone with a reluctance about torture is a “pussy,” which is apparently acceptable political parlance these days. There’s still some hope on the more or less respectable right that the public will be nudged to choose someone with a well-informed and keenly strategic mind and statesmanlike temperament, and pay enough attention to Trump’s rambling remarks and and impolitic impulses to notice that he’s not such a man, and that whatever well-justified frustrations we have with Europe they are an important part of our economy and the entire western civilization project, and that European alliances and NATO might yet come in handy again.
The death toll in Brussels didn’t stop the juicier parts of the Republicans’ reality show, however, as some naked pictures of Trump’s latest wife and a bit of libel against Cruz’ fully-clothed wife were both something novel to move to on. An anti-Trump political action committee not affiliated the Cruz campaign apparently had an internet page that featured the aforementioned naked pictures, with some copy suggesting this was not a particularly First Lady-like thing for a woman to have posed for and adding that anyone who was offended might consider voting for Cruz. Although the PAC was not affiliated with the Cruz campaign Trump apparently assumed it was, and he “tweeted” out that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used an picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!
Trump’s libelous insinuation that he has reputation-ruining information against a rival’s wife and is withholding it at the threat of blackmail strikes us as a rather big story, too, but this won’t be the first time it’s gone largely unnoticed. A similar libelous insinuation and threat of blackmail was made against the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, who had contributed to another anti-Trump PAC that was running a long-overdue ad featuring some of Trump’s more outrageously misogynistic statements, and he also made a thus-far hollow threat to sue the Canadian-born Cruz over his eligibility to run for the presidency unless he also stopped saying critical things about Trump. He’s also promised to “open up the libel laws” so that anyone who writes anything “mean” about him will “have problems, such problems,” so it’s no surprise that he’s willing to let the public remain unaware of crucial information about a potential First Lady or overlook a looming constitutional crisis if they’ll just bow to his Nietzschean will to power. So far Cruz, who enjoys a reputation as a shrewd lawyer even among his most bitter ideological opponents, hasn’t bowed. He called Trump’s bluff on that birther nonsense and the issue has largely gone away, except among those Trump fans who also buy the Obama birther nonsense, and his “tweet” about his wife was “Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought,” which strikes us as rather gallant, if anybody cares about that stuff anymore. The son of the Chicago Cubs’ owner said it was “a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom,” which is defense enough by the Cubs’ standards, and we can only imagine how the likes of the Iranian mullahs or the latest North Korean nutcase will be cowed by Trump’s insulting “tweets.”
Over on the Democratic side the front-runner, former First Lady etcetera Hillary Clinton was calling for more surveillance, presumably of the some sort that she used to damn George W. Bush for doing, and her still-remaining rival, self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was calling for “international unity,” which we suppose would be a nice thing, assuming everyone was unified on our side. We’re not at all sure what side they will ultimately choose, though, even if we can be assured they won’t be the ones doing the torturing, at least not to the terrorists, so we hope the Republicans and the rest of the country get this one right.
Tuesday’s results were a split decision, but probably don’t reflect any effects of the attack on Brussels. Trump’s big plurality win in the winner-take-all state of Arizona was all about his anti-immigration stance, and probably helped by the left-wing goon squads who tried to shut down his rallies, and Cruz’ landslide majority in Utah was mostly about how Mormons regard such an unscrupulous businessman and unsavory character as Trump. Clinton won Arizona, where her open borders stand plays well with the local Democrats, and Sanders won Utah and Idaho, where such an unscrupulous dealer and unsavory character as Clinton didn’t play well with the handful of Democrats, but the Democratic National Committee probably found another couple hundred of those of “super-delegates” out there and Clinton’s long-promised coronation seems more likely.
We offer our heartfelt condolences to the people of Belgium, and everywhere else from San Bernardino to Moore, Oklahoma, to to Paris to Mumbai that the barbarians have attacked, and wish that America was in better to shape to deal with it.

— Bud Norman

Compassion and Its Consequences

Compassion is an admirable quality, most of the time, but should always be administered with a commensurate amount of common sense and a careful calculation of the possible consequences. Otherwise, you wind up with something like the humanitarian crisis now unfolding on the southwest border of the United States.
A recent surge of illegal immigration in that region has left more than 47,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody since October, with another 60,000  expected to arrive within a year, and most are currently being held among thousands more adults of all sorts in overcrowded and under-supplied make-shift facilities in Texas and Arizona. The White House acknowledges this is a humanitarian crisis, calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take charge and asking Congress for $1.4 billion to pay for it, but insists that that it has nothing to do with the executive order issued in 2012 that allowed minor illegal aliens to delay deportation for two years. Two weeks ago the administration the rolled out guidelines allowing an extra two years, which was also explained in terms of compassion for those unfortunate children who happen to find themselves illegally in the United States of America.
That those unfortunate children who happened to find themselves illegally in the United States were there because their parents thought it would put them at the front of the line for citizenship after word got out about the executive order is not at all a compassionate theory, but it’s hard to think of a more plausible explanation. The administration is claiming the influx is due to the recent unrest in Central America, but the unrest there is not recent. American media are notoriously indifferent to Central America and might well have have ignored the social upheaval there until tens of thousands of refugee child wound up in over-crowded and under-supplied make-shift detention accounts in the southwestern United States, but even the administration’s State Department has failed to issue any alarmed statements about the developments there. Press accounts suggest that most of the recent arrivals have come from Guatemala and Honduras, and the only recent advisories to be found at the State Department’s web site warn that Honduras has had the world’s highest murder rate since 2010. Life is tough all over Latin America, and in rain-soaked and strife-torn Venezuela the celebrated compassion of the socialist government has even resulted in a shortage of drinking water, but it’s odd that those make-shift camps in the southwestern United States didn’t start filling up with children until after the executive orders had been made to give them at least four years in the government’s care.
Perhaps the recent influx is due to word getting out across Central America that the United States economy is chugging along so well that a record number of people have stopped looking for work, and the ambitious parents figured that their children could snatch up all the jobs that are being created, but not even the White House seems willing to venture this theory.
Even with the handy and ever-present excuse of Latin American political and economic dysfunction, the White House is likely to have yet another public relations problem with situation. The state of Arizona, which was blocked by the federal courts from enforcing the federal laws that White House had decided the federal government would not enforce, is complaining loudly about the “dumping” of thousands of illegals in their state and in conditions they cannot condone. The city of El Paso, Texas, will likely be none too pleased that thousands of other illegal immigrants are being released on the their own recognizance in that city. In Tennessee, the destination for at least one of the illegals being released in El Paso, according to an interview with the local newspaper, might also find fault in the administration policy. Republicans everywhere who have become convinced that no immigration reform should be negotiated with this president because he cannot be trusted to enforce any law passed will likely become more resolute in the conviction, more compassionate Republicans who bought into this nonsense, such as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor will find themselves all the more vulnerable in their already-close primary races against more rock-ribbed challengers, and Democrats will have to explain what they’re going to do about tens of thousands illegal urchins without being so heartless as to send them back to their parents and home.
Yet another executive order has now been issued requiring that all of the children be appointed legal representation, which seems not only a compassionate but probably necessary thing to do, and when word gets out in Central America that the four free years in the United States come with a lawyer we’ll deal with the increased arrivals. It’s more work for those unemployed law school grads, and more government will be required, so at least for the Democrats there is some upside. Still, the White House has been sending out word that it will be willing to work with such compassionate Republicans as Cantor on some sort of compromise, which should be annoying to the likes of White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz, who was previously the the head of the Latino rights organization La Raza, which for the remaining majority of Americans who don’t habla Espanol translates as “The Race,” which basically sums up its racialist ideology. It is not clear what sort of compromise these two sides of the compassionate coin will arrive at, but we expect it will sound very compassionate.
The idea of telling desperate Central American families that they could give their children a shot at the American dream by dumping in the harsh deserts along the borders of Texas and Arizona sounded very compassionate, too, and has created a humanitarian crisis. There are still political pressures being exerted on an already sympathetic administration to end all deportations, with arguments even more compassionate about the poor souls merely seeking a better life in the land of opportunity, and when the word gets out and the make-shift camps proliferate even more compassionate remedies will be required. A better policy would be to tell those desperate Central American families that their children are best of at home, and they should force their own governments to address the socialistic causes of their poverty rather than exporting the human misery to a United States that is now reeling from its own socialistic policies and cannot competently manage the problems its indebted government faces, but that won’t sound very compassionate in the inevitable attack ads against any candidate who takes such a stand. The results that have followed those executive aren’t at all humane, as the administration is forced to acknowledge, yet to argue against these policies is thought heartless.

— Bud Norman

Gay Rights and Other Rights in Kansas

Kansas is one of a few states considering a bill that would allow businesses to decline service to homosexuals, and all the bien pensant around here are in even higher than usual dudgeon about it. The local hipster weekly is calling the bill a step back into the dark ages and seems to expect the imminent return of burnings at the stake and papal pears, the more restrained corporate daily paper has run an editorial merely likening it to Jim Crow, and our Facebook page is filled with postings from vaguely familiar “friends” who are once again declaring their shame at living in the state.
At the risk of sounding even more than usual like provincial prairie bumpkins, we are not at all embarrassed to be in Kansas. We don’t believe the dire predictions that if the bill became law homosexuals would be unable to find a seat in a restaurant in Kansas, a possibility even more remote than encountering a heterosexual waiter at the better eateries in this or any other state, and in those extremely rare cases when it might apply we think it would do more good than harm. The bill was inspired by a couple of highly-publicized stories about a baker and a photographer who chose not to involve their businesses in a same-sex wedding ceremony, and we see no reason why Kansas’ bakers and photographers and other businesses with similar moral objections shouldn’t be free to do the same without fear of legal consequences. In the interests of tolerance and diversity, the two values the bien pensant most love to blather on about, diverse opinions regarding same-sex marriage must be tolerated.
Setting the controversy about the advisability of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages aside, there is a more consequential matter of allowing citizens to conduct their businesses according to the dictates of their own consciences. The estimable Kevin Williamson over at the venerable National Review proposed an intriguing thought experiment in which the notoriously homosexual-hating Fred Phelps and his cult at Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church insisted that a rainbow flag-flying member of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce rent out its party room for one of his frequent “God Hates Fags” rallies, and we don’t have to wonder if those criticizing the proposed bill would defend the business’ right to refuse. We’d certainly defend anyone’s right to not deal with Phelps, and we’ve had enough dealings with the man over the years that we’d be especially adamant about it, but we can’t endorse any law that would protect that right without denying it to those who still hold to the traditional idea of marriage.
An actual face-to-face friend whose opinions we take seriously argued over a recent beer that the law should be vigilant in protecting the rights of embattled minorities, a point well-taken, so we noted that these days it seems to be the fuddy-duddy photographers and bakers who are in need of protection from the rhetorical and legal lynch mobs. That traditional idea of marriage extended through the past several millennia, prevailed in every world civilization until quite recently, and was even endorsed by the oh-so-bien-pensant President of the United States until the polls allowed him to back out, but the current fashion for same-sex marriage seems to have overwhelmed such long-established civilizational inclinations. For some reason a similar bill in Arizona seems to be getting all the headlines, with such former bastions of traditionalism as the last Republican presidential candidate and the National Football League heaping on their condemnation, and the Attorney General of the United States is urging the attorneys general of the various united states to ignore their laws against same-sex marriage. Anyone willing to defy such official opprobrium is entitled to feel a wee bit embattled and minor.
Unfashionable as it may be, we’ll stick with freedom of association. It’s good for the baker or photographer who doesn’t want to be involved in a same-sex marriage, won’t prevent a same-sex couple from finding another baker or photographer, and if the fashions change as they are wont to do it will be good for that rainbow flag-flying Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce member who doesn’t want to work for Fred Phelps.

— Bud Norman

When a Win is a Win

Every now and then the car radio scans past one of the sports talk stations, usually in the middle of a caller heaping such scathing criticism on a team’s performance in a recent contest that the listener is surprised to learn he’s talking about the victor. The day-after news reports on the Michigan and Arizona primaries had a similar tone.

Mitt Romney won both halves of Tuesday’s double-header, one of them by a large margin, but listening to the nit-picking of many of the pundits one might have mistaken him for the ’72-’73 Philadelphia 76ers or the ’62 New York Mets.

The former Massachusetts governor’s 20 point victory in Arizona went largely unmentioned, presumably because there was little fault to be found in it, while all of the critical attention was focused on Michigan. Because Romney was born and reared in the state, and his father was once its governor, his three point victory there over former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was widely considered a woeful underperformance.

This analysis overstates Romney’s “favored son” advantage, we think. If Michiganders are anything like Kansans they’re no doubt inclined to feel a bit insulted that someone would desert their beloved state, especially for a place like Massachusetts, and George Romney was the governor a long, long time ago. It is worth noting that Romney lagged in the polls until his advertising stopped touting his past ties to Michigan and began emphasizing his solutions to the state’s present problems.

The critics also understate Santorum’s advantages in the state. Santorum belongs to that exceedingly rare species of Big Labor Republicans, and Michigan is a state so heavily unionized that even the Republicans are members. Despite the old media’s insistence that Santorum only talks Satan and birth control, Santorum’s campaign has long stressed an economic plan to bolster manufacturing, a subject dear to most of the workers in the state, and among the farmers who comprise the rest of the state’s workforce the talk of Satan and birth control apparently played well. The popular perception of Santorum as more blue collar and less blue blooded than Romney should have been enough for a victory in a state such as Michigan, grease-stained hands are de rigueur.

Given Romney’s home field disadvantage, the win seems at least good enough. Although he wound up splitting the delegates with Santorum due to the state’s proportional distribution rules, Romney at the very least staved off the denunciations that would have surely ensued had he actually lost the Michigan primary, and at best it strengthened his claim to most-electable status going into next week’s important “Super Tuesday” contests.

Those sports talk callers like to repeat the late football mogul Al Davis’ famous admonition to “just win, baby,” and it seems apt here.

— Bud Norman