Trump’s Lost Weekend

The past weekend probably wasn’t much fun for President Donald Trump or his most die-hard defenders. On Friday Trump signed a series of continuing resolutions to temporarily end the partial government shutdown, and none of them contained any money for the big beautiful border wall that he had insisted on when he was “proud to shut down the government for border security.” The same day saw the pre-dawn arrest of former advisor and longtime friend Roger Stone, the latest in a series of indictments brought by the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing.”
Both stories struck most observers as bad for Trump, but he and several of his die-hard defenders did their best over the weekend to explain how Trump keeps winning.
Trump “tweeted” to the fans that although he conceded to the Democrats his one demand for border wall funding “This was in no way a concession,” and that if he doesn’t get his way when the deal ends in three weeks “it’s off to the races!” This was a hard sell even for such reliable media allies as The New York Post, where the front-page headline called Trump a “Cave Man,” and the Trump-loving conspiracy theory website thegatewaypundit ran the headline “Trump Caves.” Even Ann Coulter, the author of “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome,” declared that President George H.W. Bush was “no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president.” We can’t imagine why Coulter chose to impugn the manliness of the last president Bush, who was a star athlete and bona fide war hero and the man who negotiated the west’s victory in the Cold War and drove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but it goes to show how very disappointed some fans were on Friday.
Some Trump fans are made of sterner stuff, however. The always hilarious defenestrated administration official Sebastian Gorka is still loyal enough he insisted on Lou Dobbs’ Fox News show that Trump had pulled off a “master stroke,” even though the usually reliable host was saying that Trump had been “whipped by Pelosi.” The indefatigable Trump apologist Sean Hannity was telling his radio and television audiences that the president was sure to prevail within three weeks, as “he holds all the cards,” even though Hannity’s usually sycophantic radio show callers were disagreeing. As much as we admire quixotic effort, it’s a hard case to make. Trump was taking a beating in the opinion polls for his stubborn insistence on a border wall that has never polled well, the newly installed Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is clearly emboldened, and it’s hard to see what changes in the next three weeks.
Trump didn’t even get his previously scheduled State of the Union address in the House chamber, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to change many minds if does the prime time gig. Seven Republican Senators had abandoned ship by the end of the partial government shutdown, which set new records for duration and bad press, and with several of them up for reelection next year in states that Trump didn’t win they’ll have little incentive to return to the fold of the true believers. The remaining faithful are confident that Trump will get his big beautiful border wall built by declaring a national emergency and unilaterally diverting funds that Congress had appropriated for other and more popular programs, but we expect that both the federal courts and the court of public opinion will have something to say about such a presidential power grab as that, and it will be a hard case for those self-proclaimed “constitutional conservatives” in the Trump-friendly media to make.
Beleaguered White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made a rare appearance on television to insist that the arrest of Stone had nothing to do with Trump, and most of the Trump-friendly media were indignant that such a fine fellow had been subjected to a pre-dawn arrest by combat-armed federal agents. It’s true that none of the seven counts in the indictment of Stone mention Trump, and that arrest did look pretty scary, but that apologists have another hard case to make.
Stone has had a decades-long relationship with Trump that included an advisor role in the earliest days of Trump’s presidential campaign, and he was still in regular contact with Trump while he was allegedly committing crimes on his behalf and allegedly lying to congress to jibe with Trump’s latest explanations, and we think it likely that the next round of indictments will mention Trump. He’s not at all a fine fellow, either, and in fact has long prided himself on his well-earned reputation as one of the biggest sleazes in politics since his days as a self-described “rat-****er”for President Richard Nixon, whose visage is literally tattooed on Stone’s back, and one can hardly blame the feds for fearing Stone might destroy evidence if tipped off in advance about his arrest.
Today starts another work week, though, with all those furloughed government workers back on the job, and there’s no telling what hay Trump and his die-hard defenders might make of it. Perhaps in three weeks time the Democrats will be doing the capitulating, and the “Russia thing” will be proved a WITCH HUNT!, and Trump will be rolling toward a landslide reelection and eventual inclusion on Mount Rushmore, but for now we’re not betting on it.

— Bud Norman

A Prisoner of Trade War

Both sides of the American-Chinese trade war are now declaring a temporary cease-fire and trying to calm the global stock markets, but the arrest of someone named Meng Wanzhou, who is the chief financial officer of some Chinese company called Huawai, seems likely to complicate the armistice negotiations.
We’re embarrassed to admit that we’d not previously heard of of Huawai, which has only a tiny share of America’s lucrative “smart phone” market, but it’s apparently such a major player in the even more lucrative global market that it’s often called “China’s Apple.” Of course we’d also not previously heard of Meng, but apparently she’s the daughter of the Huawai’s founder and its presumptive next chief executive officer, so her arrest on charges of violating export controls and sanctions on Iran and other countries is being likened to China locking up Steve Jobs’ daughter and the presumptive CEO of Apple, which we figure would be a pretty big deal here.
Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities while on business in that country, but it was at the request of American authorities, and her extradition to this jurisdiction will likely be quickly expedited, so the metaphorical ball is now literally in America’s courts. So far as we can tell the charges meet the prima facie standard for an indictment, but most of our allies and President Donald Trump himself also stand credibly accused of playing fast and loose with international sanctions, so we’ll hold to faint hope that America’s judicial branch properly sorts out all the legal issues.
As for the geopolitical and international economic implications, those seem too complex to calculate and too much to hope for. Meng might prove such a formidable bargaining chip that the Chinese fold, to borrow a poker metaphor, but it’s also possible those inscrutable Chinamen will gladly sacrifice a mere daughter to save face, to borrow a grotesquely racist stereotype yet undeniably plausible outcome. Chinese dictator Xi Jinping doesn’t have to worry much about a pesky free press and an independent judiciary and public opinion, and perhaps cares even less about some capitalist pig dog’s daughter, while Trump can only wish for such freedom from constitutional restraints. All of Trump’s casinos went bankrupt despite house odds, and this Xi fellow seems an inscrutably wily Chinaman, if you’ll forgive the poker and racist metaphors, and we don’t expect this Meng woman’s fate to figure too significantly in the outcome.
The American stock markets dropped alarmingly on Tuesday, then took a day off on Wednesday to honor the funeral of President George H.W. Bush and his bygone era of American greatness, and then dipped deeply again on Thursday after the news of Meng’s arrest. By the end of the day the stock markets were reassured by some carefully reassuring language about the generally healthy economy from both XI and Trump and the heads of the Federal Reserve Board and the International Monetary Fund and the rest of the globalist financial establishment, and two of the major indices were largely unchanged and the third was ever so slightly up, so for now the smart money is holding out hope.
We’re holding out hope that things will muddle along, too, but we don’t expect that anyone ever will claim a complete victory.

— Bud Norman

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable Instapundit.com web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

The Least Bad Choice

Sometimes life offers only bad choices. Such was the case in Tuesday’s special election for South Carolina’s first congressional district, where the ballot offered voters a choice of Elizabeth Colbert Busch or Mark Sanford.
The district has been reliably Republican for decades, and went for Romney by 18 points in the past presidential election, but Democrats around the country were nonetheless hopeful about their chances. Such optimism was based in part on the assumed appeal of Democratic nominee Busch, a university administrator and political neophyte with a semi-famous brother, but mostly on a widespread distaste for Republican nominee Sanford, a former governor who resigned in disgrace following the disclosure of an extra-marital affair.
Other politicians have recovered from similar shenanigans, but they were Democrats and they weren’t running in a southern Republican district. Sanford’s scandal had also included official lies about his whereabouts during one liaison with his Argentine mistress, campaign money spent on a cover-up, a seeming lack of contrition, and a widely popular wife. Although Sanford used all the right religious language about repentance and redemption, he has continued the relationship with the other woman and during the campaign he was accused by his still-angry ex-wife of violating a court order by making an unapproved visit to her home. Democrats had reason to believe that Sanford could be beaten for the first time in his career.
Their faith in Busch, on the other hand, was probably misplaced all along. Her complete lack of political experience was expected to provide a refreshing contrast to the tainted career politician, but it resulted in an ineffective strategy of dodging interviews with the press, refusing to take clear stands on such important issues as the repeal of Obamacare, and amateurish stump campaigning. Being the brother of sneering cable television comic Stephen Colbert was supposed to provide a South Carolina sort of glamour and bring in national fund-raising, but it also seems to have raised suspicions that her vaguely-stated politics were secretly as sneeringly left-wing as her more famous sibling’s. Her own arrest record from her own failed marriage many years ago was politely ignored by much of the state’s media, but word seems to have gotten out enough to do some damage.
As it turned out, Sanford won again and it wasn’t very close. The most likely explanation is that voters figured they had two bad choices so they might as well go with the one who was most loudly promising to restrain federal spending. With the only other options being a Green Party candidate who was presumably to the left of Busch or not voting at all, it seems that the voters of South Carolina’s first congressional district did the best with what they had.

— Bud Norman