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Enquiring Minds Want to Know

The National Enquirer isn’t usually on our reading list, but on our last trip to the supermarket we couldn’t resist plunking down five bucks to see what was behind the tantalizing headline. “At last the truth about Russia,” that tabloid boasted over a picture some people familiar from the more respectable press, “What Trump Doesn’t Know!”
We were further struck that the front page also promised “Revealed: 10 spies murdered in 15 months to bury proof of Putin’s election hacking,” not to mention those pictures of Trump next to such infamous and now former associates as Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Carter Page. For more than a year now we’ve checked out the covers of the National Enquirer during our supermarket check-outs the same way Kremlinologists used to scrutinize the front page of Pravda, for the same reason that it provides the same official line, so the headline brought an intriguing plot twist.
Back in the ’80s The National Enquirer used to torment the young the celebrity billionaire Trump with salacious stories about the alleged infidelities of his wives and mistresses, but ever since he cultivated a a friendship with the tabloid’s editor in the early ’90s the coverage has been far friendlier. His presidential campaign received adulatory attention, while the rest of the Republican field was either ignored or scandalized. When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was inching ahead in the polls the Enquirer ran a story alleging he’d left a sponge in a patient’s sewed-up skull, and when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was last the challenger it ran a picture purporting to show his father standing next Lee Harvey Oswald just before the assassination of President John Kennedy, and when it came down to Trump against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton there were all sorts of stories about her even worse than the ones the more respectable press were obliged to run.
Since his election Trump has been getting the same support from the Enquirer, with a recent front page proudly proclaiming the president’s war on dictators, with sinister photographs of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia Vladimir Putin, so it was quite a surprise to see them follow with another headline linking Putin to four people who have elsewhere been directly linked to Trump.
The article claims that Putin ordered meddling in the election that included the hacking and public release of embarrassing e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, an allegation which has of course been widely reported, but it leads with the “bombshell finding” that he also ordered the assassination of 27-year-old Clinton campaign aide Seth Rich and nine Russian operatives to cover it up, which of course has not been as widely reported. Although the article makes no mention of the aforementioned Stone, Flynn, Manafort and Page, who have been fired from their prior respective positions as longtime friend and National Security Advisor and Campaign Chairman and campaign foreign policy advisor over their Russian relations, which the more respectable press have reported are all under investigation, but it does run their pictures again on the inside, which is also darned curious.
Throughout the campaign Trump took an unusually friendly stand toward Putin, basking in the compliments Putin had reportedly paid him and talking about how great friendship with Russia would be and how obsolete the anti-Russian North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and in one debate he said the hacking of the DNC e-mails was just as likely “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” and he dismissed a question about the occasional Putin assassination order by asking “Do you think we’re so innocent?” After the election he conceded the Russians had “probably” hacked the DNC, but continued to avoid saying that the Russians had done anything improper at all. The Enquirer story, therefore, seems to deviate from the party line.
This comes a week or so after Trump’s newly appointed Central Intelligence Agency gave a speech that reiterated the intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that the Russians did meddle in the election, days after the Republican head of the House committee that’s looking into the matter said that Flynn had likely committed a crime by not disclosing his contract work for the Russians and Turks, and with the Federal Bureau of Investigation still looking into Page, and God only knowing what such a “political dirty trickster” as the Enquirer euphemistically describes Stone is currently facing. By now there’s enough suspicion about it that all of the official investigations are likely to continue, and unlikely to lead to any conclusions that the Russians are blameless and even if they aren’t no one in the Trump campaign had anything to do with them, so our guess is that the National Enquirer is trying out a new party line that at least the president himself had nothing to do with it.
All of the reiterated charges and “bombshell findings” and guilt-by-association photographs are huddled under the headline “What Trump Didn’t Know,” after all, and his most vociferous critics will have to admit the possibility that he didn’t know anything about what was going on. If we were one of the infamously defenestrated four on the cover of this week’s National Enquirer we’d read between the lines to see that we count on any further favors from Trump, and would be lawyering up to tell whatever we have to tell, and hoping that people are more interested in Wynnona Judd’s daughter being jailed in a meth bust. The more respectable press is likely to keep looking into this Russian thing, though, and so will the FBI and the Republican-led House committee, without any interference from the Trump-appointed Attorney General who has recused himself from all that Russian stuff and the former Trump-friendly committee chairman who has done the same, so we expect more intriguing headlines.

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An Ordinary Flap in an Extraordinary Year

The Republican presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz committed one of those unforced errors the other day, and it’s a doozy. A high-ranking staffer “tweeted” his outraged reaction to an erroneous report in a college newspaper that rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had casually disparaged the Holy Bible, the story was quickly retracted, the high-ranking staffer was quickly fired, and there was much indignation from Rubio and some inevitable snarky “tweeting” from the front-running Donald J. Trump, and at the very least it’s a whole news cycle that Cruz did not need at this moment in his beleaguered campaign.
In an ordinary election an apology and a sacrificial firing would probably suffice, and after a day or two of press flagellation that matter would be long forgotten, but this is no ordinary election for Cruz. His hard-earned tough-guy anti-establishmentarian image has made him a target of the “establishment,” or whatever remains of it, but so far he’s gone only one-for-three against the tough-guy anti-establishmentarianism of a boastful billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television mogul who also boasts he can make the right deals with whatever’s left of the “establishment.” Despite his Baptist preacher’s son credentials he’s even losing a lot of the evangelical Christian to a thrice-married gambling mogul who mocks the handicapped and boasts about all the married women he’s bedded and really did try to have an old widow thrown out of her home, and now he’s forced to publicly apologize to Rubio, who was virtually tied with him for second place in South Carolina and is suddenly the darling of the not inconsiderable number of Republicans who are starting to think that maybe an “establishment” isn’t the worst thing that can happen to their party.
So both of Cruz’s rivals in what is shaping up as a three-way race stand to benefit, and perhaps even beyond the news cycle. Both Trump and Rubio have been relentlessly questioning Cruz’s honesty, and although their accusations have often been lies some of it is bound to stick after a while, so admitting that a campaign has even inadvertently spread a falsehood does not help. It’s not the first time, either, after another staffer passed along an erroneous report from the Cable News Network that fading rival Dr. Ben Carson was dropping out of the race just before Cruz won a crucial victory in the Iowa caucus, which the second-place Trump was happy to claim was a theft of his rightful victory, and they also sent out those awful letters telling people they’ve checked on their voting records, and there’s been enough of it unsettle some potential supporters. The incident also raises the question of why Cruz would have hired a high-ranking staffer who wasn’t suspicious of a college newspaper report claiming that such a savvy politician as Rubio, of all people, had disparaged the Holy Bible, of all things, and in front of Cruz’s Baptist preacher father and his own young son and one of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras at that.
We don’t doubt the sincerity of Cruz’s apology, and we’re sure that he had no intention of questioning another candidate’s faith, and we wish this were an ordinary election where that would suffice, but this crazy time around the apology is probably the worst of the damage done. Trump has openly questioned Cruz’s faith, and he once regaled an Iowa crowd by ridiculing Carson’s biographical story of overcoming a childhood temper through prayer and Christian faith, saying he was still “pathological” and akin to a pedophile, even though he did later wax indignant about what Cruz did to his good friend in passing along that erroneous CNN report, and he never apologizes, just as he never apologizes for disparaging women’s looks or mocking handicapped people or belittling American servicemen who suffered wartime captivity for their country or using the most vulgar language in front of the old women and young children, and this time around about one-third of the Republican electorate seems to love him for it. Not acknowledging or apologizing for an obvious mistake, apparently, is what it takes to make America great again.
Which leaves the aggrieved Rubio as perhaps the biggest beneficiary from this campaign brouhaha. He still has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do — as fellow Cuban-American Desi Arnaz used to say — about that crazy immigration deal he cooked up with those dastardly Democrats, which raises questions about his own honesty and competence, but there are honesty and competence questions about everyone. We could go on all day posing questions about it to Trump, and perhaps even longer about either of the potential Democratic nominees, but for at least a news cycle Rubio has an edge over the other guy that will meet Trump in a two-way race. We’d like to see whichever victor emerges go into that matchup without being too bloodied by the preliminaries, and hope that Trump suffers a few more slips he’s forced to not apologize for, but everybody needs to improve their game.

— Bud Norman

The 45 Percent Solution

We’ve been poring over all the recent numbers from the Republican presidential race, trying to decide if the party’s metaphorical glass is one third-empty or two-thirds full. In either case, it’s not at all where we’d hoped it would be.
There’s no longer any way of denying that the front-runner is Donald J. Trump, the billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul, which most certainly is not what we’d hoped for. After a double-digit win in the supposed anti-insurgent “firewall” state of South Carolina he’s two-for-three in actual voting, and following an even bigger win in New Hampshire and a respectable second-place in Iowa, and with similar leads in national and upcoming state polls, he’s looking formidable.
Still, we are not yet ready to abandon all hope. As formidable as Trump might seem, he’s only got 61 of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, there are still 47 states and some territories yet to vote, and thus far Trump seems stuck at the two-thirds plurality that has provided him two seeming landslides in a seven-way race. Given that the Republican front-runner is regarded unfavorably by most Republicans, and fares even worse than Hillary Clinton among the general public, which is saying something, he’ll have to find something pretty outrageous to bolster that total in a two-or-three-way race.
Trump has already bounced former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush out of the race, which deprives him of a favorite scapegoat for that darned establishment that folks are so riled up about these days, and which deprives him of the tens of millions of dollars that Bush and his supporters were for some reason spending on attack ads against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who wound up in a virtual tie with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in South Carolina. It’s hard to imagine anyone who preferred Bush switching his support to Trump, and if Rubio had added most of Bush’s numbers to his own, which he would have, since he’s stuck with that darned “establishment” label at this point, and if he could have picked up the votes of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who took second in New Hampshire and is still hanging in after a shellacking in South Carolina, with more to come, it would have been a win for Rubio in South Carolina. If Dr. Ben Carson had gracefully bowed out most of his votes would have likely gone to Cruz, who relishes the same iconoclastic trouble-maker reputation as Trump and makes the same pitch to evangelical Christians, many of whom for some reason or another prefer the thrice-married and proudly adulterous gambling mogul, so Cruz might have also contended in a three-way race.
The race might not winnow down to two or three by the time the delegates start piling up, which is soon, but if it does come down to Trump and Rubio and Cruz almost anything could happen. There will be some very close races in several states, with Trump’s accusations of cheating and threats of lawsuits following any narrow loss, either Rubio or Cruz could commit some disaster blunder that will derail his candidacy, although at this point we do discount the possibility that even a threatened shooting on Fifth Avenue will knock Trump below that two-third margin, and so anyone who gets very far past that two-thirds mark could win a clear plurality of the primary and caucus votes.
Anything less than 45 percent, an elusive Nielsen rating that has thus far proved beyond the grasp of even Trump, might not be enough to get to the still far-away number of 1,237 delegates. If you don’t have that you don’t win on the first ballot, and on the second ballot all the delegates are free to do whatever they want, and it’s and old-fashioned convention from way back even before our time. Trump’s mastery of “The Art of the Deal” will be sorely put to test as he deals with at least a majority of Republican delegates who are pretty much the same “establishment” that Trump has promised to tar and feather, even if they do want Cruz, who has been denounced as a “liar” and “nasty guy” by Trump, and if it comes to that it will be the first reality television show in ages that she’s been glued to.
It could wind up with Trump versus Clinton, the former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States whose reputation for honesty and integrity is as abysmal as Trump’s and who seems to have vaunted herself back into the Democratic party’s front-runner status with an inexplicable win in a convoluted and small turn-out Nevada caucus. Both the left and the right and especially that mushy middle are all so riled up about big donor fat cats and corruptible politicians and those know-it-alls who think they know how to run an entire are about to have a choice between one of those big donor fat cats and one of the corruptible politicians that he’s paid off with big bucks and public praise and an invitation to his latest wedding, both of them have plenty of red-flag career catastrophes in their past, both offer themselves as models of competence and high moral standards, and that might be the choice.
In which case, we are reminded of an old Woody Allen commencement speech bit, where he told the students: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

— Bud Norman

The Scandals of Ben Carson

Some of the big media have lately trained their sights on retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, and thus far we are unimpressed by the effort. If the latest scandals are the best they can come up with, we have to conclude that Carson has led a more blameless life than most of us.
The Cable News Network came up with a damning report that Carson was consistently nice and studious as a boy. This is apparently damning because in his autobiography Carson wrote that in his early childhood years he was afflicted with an occasionally violent temper, and he even admitted attacking a friend with a knife and his mother with a hammer, before his own revulsion toward himself led to an epiphany and an intense period of prayerful meditation that allowed him to overcome it. Because CNN was unable to locate any eyewitnesses to these events, and instead interviewed several childhood friends who only recalled his more usually placid boyhood, they naturally concluded that the formerly sweet-natured and well-behaved boy somehow grew up to be a pathological liar whose ruthless rise to power must be stopped by any means necessary. Even the rest of the big media were unimpressed, however, so we except the report will have little effect and we won’t see many more stories about what a nice boy Carson used to be.
The rest of the big media seem to have higher hopes for a story that ran in Politico, whose first headline gloated that Carson’s suddenly highly-scrutinized autobiography “fabricated” a story about him being offered a scholarship to West Point. Some semantic hair-splitting makes this scandal possible, as one must apply for admission to West Point to be accepted, which Carson’s autobiography frankly admits he did not do, and these days the military academies do not talk of “scholarships” to describe the fully-paid tuition and room and board and stipends that come in exchange for admission the schools and the promise of two years of following military service, even though they did at the time Carson was writing about, and it seems Carson might have misremembered the date of the dinner he had with Gen. William Westmoreland as a reward for his exceptional performance in the Detroit public schools’ Reserve Officers Training Corps program, so of course the media are frothing. Carson plausibly claims that because of his stellar record he was assured by military men ranging from Westmoreland to the local ROTC commanders that he would be granted the tuition-free admission to West Point if he did apply, which he reasonably understood to mean that he was being offered a scholarship, and until all those big media are able to disprove it we’ll assume that he’s more likely accurate about the matter than they.
There are also the retired neurosurgeon’s views on Egyptology to be considered, of course, and much of the big media are predictably aghast. Carson’s recent rise to the top of the polls has brought such scrutiny that someone came up with a 1998 commencement address at a college affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in which he speculated that one of the pyramids may have been built to store the grain being saved for the seven-year drought prophesied by Joseph, so all the Republicans-are-religious-nuts stereotypes are immediately in play, and the New York Post piled on with a photograph of a portrait that some obviously amateur friend painted of Carson and Jesus together, and Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism is no doubt the next line of attack. None of which strikes us as all that scandalous. Egyptology is a matter of merely arcane interest to us, we rather like a candidate willing to defy the consensus of almost any scientific or historical field these days, the biblical account of Egypt’s seven years of plenty and seven years of famine contains such time-honored wisdom that it’s not out of the question it is also historically accuracy, and only us religious nuts seem to put any stock such time-honored wisdom these days, so we’re heartened to see one running for president. Whatever the theological quirks of Seventh-Day Adventism, they aren’t so anti-scientific that they prevented Carson from becoming the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and we’ll take it his word for that the denomination made it possible.
The famously soft-spoken Carson was somewhat more full-throated during a press conference clash about these matters with the big media, and rightly objected to a seeming double-standard regarding the autobiographies of Republican and Democratic candidates. He noted the relative lack of interest about the composite girlfriend and other dubious details in ’08 candidate Barack Obama’s wildly praised memoirs, or how the drugged and drunken teenager who admitted to be wound up in an Ivy League school, or his twenty years of attendance at a church where an anti-semitic and anti-American minister prayed for America’s damnation, and that’s not something we associate with Seventh-Day Adventism, so we think he made a fair point. He could have noted the similar lack of outrage about presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s exaggerations about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia and her outright lies about the nature of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi and her countless other prevarications, but we guess he’s saving that for a general election. The pushback will likely play well with the Republican voters who will decide the nomination, who are by now fed up with the double standard, and he seems to have picked up a lot of donations as a result, which will come in handy, so he seems to have won this exchange.
We’re still not sold on Carson’s candidacy, as we’d prefer a more seasoned politician to be president at this perilous moment in the country’s history, but thus far the attacks make us all the more convinced of his admirable character.

— Bud Norman

A Good Night for Royals and Republicans

Due to our principled refusal to pay for cable television, and the National Broadcasting Company’s refusal to share its cable affiliates’ content over their internet without recompense, despite their constant rants about evil capitalism and corporate greed and the rapacious one percent and all that share-the-wealth drivel, and because every bar television in town was of course showing the Kansas City Royals battling the New York Mets in the second game of the World Series instead, we missed most of Thursday’s Republican presidential debate. The press accounts describe an interesting contest, though, and apparently it was mostly fought between the ten invited candidates and the panel of CNBC moderators.
Although it is our usual style to use the full name of an institution on first reference, no matter how much more familiar the acronym might be, we’ve made an exception here because we have no idea what CNBC stands for and don’t care to look it up. We assume the NBC is National Broadcasting Company, and that the C is for Cable or Communism or the first name of some executive’s mistress. In any case, the company seems to have gotten the worst of it, at least as far as the Republican audience was concerned. Some questions were booed, and all of the inevitable pushback by the candidates played well. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz reportedly started it off with a rant about the obviously pointed nature of the questions that brought sustained applause, and then Florida Sen. Marco Rubio got off a line about the media as the “ultimate Super-Pac” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie interrupted by the moderator’s interruptions by saying it was rude even by New Jersey standards.
The Republican National Committee chairman “tweeted’ his own indignation about the the questions, but it’s worth noting that he signed off on CNBC and its choice of moderators despite their long records of on-air anti-Republican animus, so we can only hope that he was expecting the field would prevail against the questioners and it was all part of a diabolical plot. Or perhaps he’s prepping the eventual winner for the post-season, to borrow a sports metaphor, and knows that he or she will need to be inured to such biased questioning. It does seem to have been pretty biased, too, with almost every query framed according to such liberal assumptions as the 77 cent pay rate for women or the inevitable failure of tax-cutting as an economic stimulus or the Republicans’ supposed relative tolerance for deficit spending, or clearly intended provoke fights between particular candidates. In a debate ostensibly devoted to economic issues Ben Carson was asked about his past service on the board of a corporation that provided benefits to same-sex couples, with the clear implication that he was therefore a hypocrite for opposing same-sex marriage, and his characteristically soft-spoken but stiff-spinner reaction seems to have won that round as well.
So far as we can tell from the first round of stories, though, neither Carson nor fellow front-runner Donald Trump had the expected starring roles. Most of the pundits declared Cruz and Rubio the big winners, and given their past strong performances we’re not surprised. None of the candidates who most needed a strong performance are getting any rave reviews, except perhaps Christie, who won’t be the nominee, so our guess is that Carson and Trump will remain at the top of the next polls but that Cruz and Rubio will be the ones who still stand a chance despite having previously held elective office. We expect that CNBC’s ratings won’t much improve, either, and the Royals wound up winning convincingly enough to rest the bullpen that had been worn out by the previous game’s 14-inning victory, so all in all we’ll count it a good night.

— Bud Norman

Of Polls, Presbyterians, and Seventh-Day Adventists

At this point in an election cycle the presidential opinion polls are about as meaningful as a first quarter score in a National Basketball Association game, and we really ought to be paying more attention to that awful budget deal President Barack Obama is cooking up with whatever Republicans are still purportedly in charge of Congress, but for the first time in too long we recently saw a couple of polls that didn’t have Donald Trump in the lead, so we can’t help reveling in the numbers.
The latest frontrunner, according to no less but no more an authority than the combined efforts of The New York Times and The Columbia Broadcasting System, is Dr. Ben Carson. If true, this is fine by us, as the Republicans seem intent on nominating someone who has never held any elective office, and of the three candidates who meet that criterion Carson strikes us as much preferable to Trump. It’s not just the stylistic differences between the blustery and bragging billionaire real estate mogul Trump and the soft-spoken and humble physician, although that does matter and obviously favors Carson, but also that Carson has been more consistently conservative in his policy views and seems to have a superior character, which of course matters even more. We’re still inclined to look at the broad field for someone has held elective office, and leaning toward Texas Sen. Ted Cruz because of his steadfast conservatism and otherwise impeccable anti-establishment credentials, but we can see the party doing a lot worse than Carson.
Trump has also lately found himself trailing Carson in the crucial early state of Iowa, where the conventional wisdom has long that evangelical Christian voters are the most important Republican constituency, and he seemed annoyed by the turn of events. In one speech he repeatedly mentioned that he was a Presbyterian, adding that people don’t believe it, and bragging that “boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.” In an apparent reference to Carson’s denominational affiliation, Trump added, “I mean, Seventh Day-Adventist, I just don’t know about. I just don’t know about.” Being heartland evangelical Christian Republicans ourselves, and thus more familiar with the type than Trump, we can’t see it as an effective strategy.
We also know little about Seventh-Day Adventism, except that its day of worship and rest is on Saturday, which we have to admit makes a certain amount of Old Testament sense, we also have to admit that none of our many Sunday morning sermons have ever explained any New Testament reason they’re wrong, and we figure that we don’t know much more probably speaks well of the church. By now we know all about Sunnis and Shiites and the Koran and the Hadith and taqqiya and hudna and dhimmitude and jizya and all sorts of other Islamic concepts, but that’s only because it’s been more necessary than reading up on relatively placid Seventh-Day Adventism. We also understand that the denomination sprang from the fervent Millerite movement that predicted the end of Earth on a certain date in 1843, which is still known as “The Great Disappointment,” and that it retains a certain fascination with the eschatological scriptures, but this does not seem so incompatible with a constitutional republic as jizya or dhimmitude or Twelfth Imams or certain other religious concepts, and we note that most enlightened of the secularist humanists have their own fervently-blieved end-of-times theories that involve all sorts of onerous carbon taxes and pie-in-the-sky light-rail systems.
We’re more familiar with Presbyterians, and count several of them among our good friends, and the general impression we’ve gleaned from their infrequent talk about their faith is that it is indeed down the middle of the road. John the Revelator might have even called it diocletian, which is an obscure word and even more obscure Biblical reference, but a lot of heartland evangelical Christian Republicans will and they’ll probably be less impressed by Trump’s Presbyterianism than Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism. We can’t look into a man’s heart and have no right to render a final judgment on his everlasting soul, but we can look at Trump’s three marriages and his public boasts of buying off politicians and using the bankruptcy laws to skirt his debts, and one can’t help noticing the haughty spirit and pride, as well as the unmistakable love of filthy lucre, so for the earthly purposes of casting our vote we will adjudge that he’s even less Presbyterian than the most fallen of our Presbyterian friends. Carson certainly seems more steadfastly Seventh-Day Adventist, and for those who are still clinging to their suddenly idiosyncratic religious beliefs, which are suddenly more perilously right-of-the-middle as the culture has lurched so far the irreligious left, that will likely trump Trump’s Presbyterianism. The peculiarities of the Seventh-Day Adventists has earned them a reputation for being litigiously devoted to religious liberty, and at this moment when Catholic nuns are being forced to purchase contraceptive coverage and Baptist bakers are being forced to provide same-sex wedding cakes, and when any fervently held religious beliefs other than jizya and dhimmitude are considered slightly crazy, and astrology and anthropogenic global warming are not, so at this point we’re impressed that the Seventh-Day Adventists have produced such a soft-spoken and humble physician and relatively sane person as Carson.
There’s still plenty of politics left, and that awful budget deal that’s being cooked up will surely figure in it, and somebody who has actually won an election before might wind up winning this election after all, but if it comes down to Trump’s Presbyterian and Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism we expect the heartland evangelical Christian Republican vote will start trending away from Trump.

— Bud Norman

Paging Dr. Carson

Thus far in this early season of presidential politics we’ve written little about Ben Carson, but now seems as good a time as any to start paying attention to his candidacy. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon, political neophyte, and former long shot is now leading the Republican field in one national poll, quickly catching up to real estate mogul and fellow political neophyte Donald Trump in all the rest, and suddenly looks like a serious contender if not the outright frontrunner.
Which is fine by us. Our most preferred candidates, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, both of whom had impressive records while in office, have already dropped out of the race, the Republican party presently seems intent on nominating someone who has never held public office at all, and among those boasting that odd qualification Carson strikes us as clearly superior to Trump. Former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina also fares well by that admittedly low standard, too, and we’re liking her better with every mainstream media interviewer she slays, and we note that she’s a solid third and rising in all the polls, but today we’re writing about Carson.
So far as we can tell from his rather vague policy pronouncements we are generally in agreement with Carson about the major issues of the day, and on the also important matters of personality and character and electability we are even more impressed. Carson’s campaign vagueness is probably appropriate, given that at this point nobody knows all the minutiae about what the major issues for the first days of a Carson presidency will be, and he’s at least been specific enough to articulate a political philosophy that promises whatever mistakes he might make won’t be the result of a pro-government or anti-American bias. These days we’ll settle for such small favors, and gratefully note that the rest of Carson’s campaign is least as appealing. We suspect it will also appeal to those uninformed folks who comprise the decisive vote in every election, which is arguably the most important argument of them all.
Carson is a cerebral and soft-spoken sort of fellow, which we find a comforting contrast to the emotional and bombastic style of Trump, and it’s proving effective. The pundits have criticized Carson’s performances in the two televised debates, where his meek and mild persona was seemingly lost amid all the blustering back-and-forth between the rest of the candidates, but on both occasions his poll numbers rose afterwards. The great Ray Charles discovered that when they turned down the lights and he lowered his voice to a smoldering rendition of an old Harold Arlen tune the audience listened more intently than it did to even his most rollicking rhythm and blues, and every movie director worth a lick knows that people’s ears are most attuned not to the explosive actions scenes but to the whispered denouements, and Carson seems to have figured out the same time-honored principle. You wouldn’t know it from the Nielsen ratings or the Hollywood box office take or the top 40 on the Billboard charts, but there’s surely still an audience for that.
There’s obviously also an audience for defiantly and unapologetically frank talk, too, but Carson has lately provided plenty of that in his soft-spoken way. He was widely criticized for saying he would not support a Muslim presidential candidate, which those critics disingenuously took to mean that he would impose an unconstitutional religious test on nominees, but given his subsequent poll numbers it would seem that the 95 percent or so of the country that would also not support a Muslim presidential candidate at this particular moment were unconcerned. Those impressive poll numbers have since prompted some of the media to seize on his statement that citizens should respond aggressively to any mass shooting incidents they find themselves in, twisting it into a criticism of the victims of the latest mass shooting, but we don’t expect this will be reflected in the next round of polls. Trump’s fans like to boast that he has triumphantly challenged the media’s politically correct rule that you just can’t say certain correct things about certain politically incorrect issues, and we reluctantly acknowledge that he has, and thereby made some compensating contribution to our political discourse, but we hope they’ll concede that Carson has more quietly done the very same thing.
The press attacks will continue, of course, but they will be complicated. The usual press narrative about any candidate leading the Republican field is that he is either a dithering idiot or diabolical genius, but Carson’s remarkable career and made-for-TV life story render both stories implausible. He was head of pediatric neurosurgery at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University medical center, so the Democrats can’t say it wasn’t brain surgery, because it was, and unless they nominate a pretty darned good rocket scientist they’ll be hard-pressed to say that Carson’s a relative idiot. The evil genius slur will be even harder to pull off, given the heroic and well-verified tales of growing up in poverty with a single mother in poverty and learning to separate joined-at-the-head Siamese twins and without getting rich by the standards of recent Democratic nominees, and the fact that he’s just so darned cerebral and soft-spoken, and if they have to debate him on the issues they’ll be forced to seize the pro-government and anti-American ground.
Carson is black, too, and although it is a testament to his sincerely post-racial candidacy that we’ve neglected to mention that fact until the seventh paragraph it does merit noting. He’s not only black, but has that all-important slave blood and single mother that even the First African-American President (TM) didn’t have. Although Carson admirably does not put this out as a qualification for the presidency, we’ll be so defiantly and unapologetically frank as to say that it will at least further complicate any of the politically correct media efforts to portray him as a dithering idiot or evil genius. If the Democrats don’t nominate The First Female-American President (TM), which is looking increasingly possible, and if the Republicans don’t seize the opportunity instead, which they might, given Fiorina’s strong performance on the campaign trail, the geriatric old white man that does wind up representing the Democratic Party would be the one constrained by political correctness for a change. As much as we detest race- or gender-based calculations, they seem a safer path to the presidency than an emotional and bombastic white guy such as Trump. Throw in the fact that Carson might even draw a few more than usual votes from the Democrats’ essential monolith of black voters, and he’s looking more electable than Trump or any of the others.
Which is not say we’re endorsing Carson. He’s still a bit vague for our policy wonk preferences, Fiorina is still looking better every time she shows up in the news, something in our cautiously conservative temperament likes that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has actually held office, and something in our disgruntled Republican soul likes that he’s been enraging the establishment ever since. There’s still plenty of politics left before the first votes are cast, too, but for now we don’t mind that Carson is doing well.

— Bud Norman

About That Debate

Thanks to the miracle of the internet we were able to see or at least hear almost the entirety of the big Republican presidential debate, either on the Cable News Networks’ spotty web site or a local talk radio station’s somewhat more reliable feed, and we found it most entertaining. Although we’ll leave it to the pollsters to declare who won, our many years in the theater criticism business leave us unable to resist the temptation of writing a review.
Unaccustomed as we are to saying anything nice about CNN, we thought it wasn’t altogether horrible. Moderator Jake Tapper had an annoying habit of interrupting the good stuff about the Obama administration’s failures and indulging all the internecine criticism, and the first-rate conservative radio talker Hugh Hewitt, who has been called “third-rate” by Donald Trump after he flunked the host’s simple quiz about the Middle East’s leadership, only got a couple of questions in, and the time allowed to the overcrowded stage of candidates did seem wildly unequal, but at least there were no out-of-left-field questions about contraception or some other non-issues that were calculated to create a controversy intended to further some Democratic campaign theme. Most of the questions seemed fair enough, and exposed a wider range of opinions than you’ll likely find in the Democratic debates, if they ever get around to having one, and allowed the candidates to demonstrate this is a very deep and talented field that just might include a very good president.
There’s some grousing on the right that the first part of the debate was all about Donald Trump, but at this point there’s no using denying that he’s what the race thus far has been all about, so we see no reason why they shouldn’t get it over with at the beginning. Happily, we can say that Trump didn’t seem to fare well by the attention. He was asked about his habit of making unfavorable and utterly irrelevant comments about peoples’ appearances, and after hearing a disapproving comment by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whom Trump had already stated shouldn’t be on the same stage with him due to his lower poll numbers, Trump snidely responded that “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” This followed Paul’s golden opportunity to worry about entrusting America’s nuclear weaponry to someone whose “visceral response is to attack people’s appearance. Short, tall, fat, ugly. My goodness, that happened in junior high.” More formidable candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former computer industry executive Carly Fiorina also responded to Trump’s junior high name-calling with an even more effective dignity, and we saw Trump coming off as a small, petty, obnoxious man. His fans no doubt loved it, and apparently rushed to the Drudge Report to record their cheers, but we don’t expect the upcoming polls will reflect that the rest of the post-junior high country was impressed.
Trump did well with his signature issue of illegal immigration, and of course wasn’t shy to take some well-earned credit for broadening the parameters of that debate, but we thought several of his rivals showed equal passion about the issue even as they proposed more moderate solutions. Unless the the Republicans somehow wind up with Bush or Rubio, which seems unlikely, and the self-described socialist yet tough-on-immigration Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders winds up with the Democratic nomination, which no longer seems so unlikely, the Republican will be on the popular side of the illegal immigration debate.
Not to say that she was the “winner,” a title that only more scientific polls than the one at Drudge can confer, but we must note that Fiorina is very, very good at this sort of thing. Throughout the proceedings she exhibited an impressive command of the facts and a logical response to them on a wide range of issues, offered a compelling life story of her rise from secretary in a small business to Chief Executive Officer of a leading high-tech company, a convincing account of her firing from that company and the lay-offs it made during a tech-sector downturn, and made a persuasive case that she’s a person whose intellect and character should be taken seriously. Our study of the classical art of rhetoric introduced us to the concepts of logosethos, and pathos, and Fiorina has achieved the trifecta.
She was especially good on her foreign policy, in regards to both Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine and the rest of the old Soviet Union and the even more rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East and the increasingly convoluted relationship between the two, and was impressively blunt and specific and  hawkish about the military spending that will be required to achieve it. We were reminded of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and we can think of no greater compliment than that. Another high-point of the night was when CNN generously allowed her the opportunity to respond to Trump’s statement about her in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, of all people, in which he said of her, “Look at that face. Why would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that face, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posteda say bad things, but really folks, come on. Are we serious?” The question to Fiorina about it conveniently followed one that had Trump doubling-down on his criticism of a obvious misstatement Bush had made about funding women’s health care during an interview about the narrower issue of Planned Parenthood, and after Bush’s apologies and clarifications Trump sneered “I heard what you said,” so Fiorina siezedthe opportunity to note that everyone in America also heard and fully understood what Trump had said about her. After nearly a full moment of deafening applause, Trump was reduced to his previous explanation that by “face” he meant “persona,” and the apologetic addendum that he he thought she had a “lovely face.” Already Fiorina had come out with a compelling campaign advertisement about her face, boasting that it’s 61-years-old and and that she’s “proud of every year and every wrinkle,” and featuring the faces of other women that Donald Trump wouldn’t treat to shrimp cocktails but otherwise deserve the full respect of anyone aspires to the presidency of the United States, and we don’t expect the insult will reap further rewards for Fiorina. Ordinarily we wouldn’t comment on such matters, but given the latest events in the news we’ll admit that to our 56-year-old eyes the 61-year-old Fiorina and her wizened and dignified persona strike us as quite fetching, even if her happily married status and our old-fashioned standards render that entirely moot, and at the risk of sounding junior high we think that the libidinous Trump and his absurd hairdo should thank his lucky stars that he’s so famously rich.
Another Fiorina triumph came toward the end of the evening, when the moderator asked an admittedly frivolous question about which woman should take the place of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. A couple of the candidates persuasively argued that the former-slave-holding and Indian-oppressing Democratic hero President Andrew Jackson should be nudged aside from the $20 bill to make room for a woman, but all were willing to name some woman another who deserved the honor. Some suggested their wives or mother, others preferred Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony or various other politically correct heroines of recent decades, but the only woman on the stage felt free to say that both the $10 and $20 bills should stay the same. She dismissed the issue as mere symbolism and pandering to women as a special interest, when now constitute a majority of the electorate and have the same interest in men in sensible policies and sound leadership, and we note that the supposedly sexist audience at a Republican presidential debate gave her another prolonged applause.
The rest of the cast was pretty good, too, although only to an extent that’s not likely to change those upcoming polls. We though Bush as pretty combative, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seemed to enjoy an outsized role in the production, at which point you can insert your own fat joke, but we’ve never figured either will play any role in the race. Bush has committed to positions on illegal immigration and the Common Core curriculum that the middle-of-the-country Republican electorate will never support, no matter how sincere or well-stated his arguments might be, and being from New Jersey Christie has similar heresies to overcome. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was strong, but has the same illegal immigration problem as Bush and wasn’t nearly strong enough to overcome it. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was good, as the veteran television presence always is, and we loved his defiance of the same-sex marriage ruling and the rest of his evangelical furor as much as the next Republican, but he doesn’t seem the right guy to deal with that $18 trillion deficit and the steady growth in government, and we don’t expect his performance will move him up in the polls. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who convincingly claimed that he could deliver his bellwether state to the Republicans, also drifted too far afield from Republican orthodoxy to hope for any improvement in his standing. The other non-politician that has been polling well in this anti-politics year is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose low-key and soft-spoken and humble persona contrasts nicely with the garish and bombastic and braggadocios Trump, was a little too low-key and soft-spoken and humble to stand out in the debate, and had a few awkward moments explain his past opposition to fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
We’re still tentatively rooting for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, due to the three impressive electoral wins he pulled off while fighting tooth-and-nail against the combined national might of the public sector unions in a most righteous attempt to reform his long misguided state, somehow pulling off the God-given right-to-work in the process, and on the whole we thought he did all right. He didn’t command the stage nearly so much as we might have hoped, and we fear he might have even gone largely unnoticed, but at least there were no memorable gaffes. The somehow anti-establishmrny Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is another candidate we’re liking, and he also did well, but his performance likely did nothing to change his standing.
We also like the performances of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has already dropped out of the race, and whiz-kid Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who lingers so far back in the polls he was relegated to the not-ready-for-primetime debate, which we admit we did not watch, so that’s how reliable a barometer our opinions are. Still, the evening’s entertainment left us with a hopeful feeling. At some point in the debate the charming Huckabee noted that no one seeking the Republican nomination is a self-described socialist or being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for using a private e-mail server for official business, and that he would have no hesitancy to to vote any of them against the possible Democratic nominees. This is one of those rare occasions when we agree with Huckabee, although we have to admit there would be some nose-holding involved in at least one case, and again we say that we enjoyed the show.
The Democratic episodes should be entertaining, too, if they ever get around to one. At the moment that Sanders guy seems the craziest of the competitors, and therefore the most likely to win, but Clinton still has all that money, and Vice President Joe Biden could conceivably inherit President Barack Obama’s die-hard fans and simultaneously capitalize on the anti-status quo sentiment that Sanders is currently riding, but we have no idea how that might turn out. If it turns out to be Fiorina and Clinton standing next to another on a debate stage, though, we think Fiorina would romp like that Ronda Rousey in the “mixed martial arts” game taking on Beth Correia.
No votes have yet been cast, and won’t be until next year, which we like to think is still a ways off, so we won’t reach any conclusion except that it was a good show.

— Bud Norman

Trump Takes a Pledge

The Republicans got some good news today when Donald Trump at long last signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate for president if he is not the party’s nominee, in which case he would surely have handed the Democrats a winning plurality and another four years in the White House. Now the party’s main concern is making sure that Trump isn’t the nominee.
Trump’s pledge might yet prove as reliable as his many wedding vows, but at least any quixotic third-party campaign he could conceivably attempt will start as a broken promise. This will presumably drain some of his support away, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t do any more damage than moderate Republican John Anderson’s independent bid did to Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory back in ’80, and although the current Republican field might be lacking in Ronald Reagans one is grateful for such small consolations. There’s other good news for the Republicans to grasp to, as well, what with all that bad news about enough Democrats signing on the that awful deal that gives Iran a nuclear bomb and $150 billion, the dismal decline in the stock market, the soaring murder rates of black Americans in the cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement has held greatest sway, the manifold problems of illegal immigration that Trump has so cannily exploited, the growing public skepticism about the “global warming” alarmism that is driving Democratic politics, and cumulative effect of so many issues where the Democrats are opposed to clear majorities of public opinion should provide the party with such an opportunity that only such a extraordinary buffoon as Trump could miss the chance.
Even with Trump sitting atop the opinion polls about the Republican race, we still regard his chances as improbable, although we can’t say implausible, even though we’d like to say it was impossible. Currently the rest of the top three is comprised of Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, and Carly Fiorina, one-time secretary at a small insurance company and former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, both of whom should fare better among any Republicans pining for an amateur politician. One can’t help noticing that Carson is black, and has a compelling up-fraom-the-ghetto-to-performing-brai-surgery story, and he’s obviously a more sincere contrastive and Christian than Trump. Fiorina also has a made-for-TV story to tell, she’s delightfully ferocious in interviews and debates, and is at least as solid as Trump in her conservative bona fides, so if the public truly is pining for its first woman president she’d be a much better choice than the one the Democrats seem to have settled on. Carson is soft-spoken and humble where Trump is loud and bombastic, Fiorina projects the same aura of hard-tacks competence that Trump aspires to and doesn’t need a rich father or cronyism to achieve it, and eventually the Republican primary voters and caucus-goers will notice that some of those politicians have been pretty good governors and senators.
Still, we can’t write off Trump. Not in a country where fellow pro-wrestling performer Jesse Ventura and “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected governor, and where an erstwhile community organizer and undistinguished Illinois legislator and one-third term Senator was twice elected president, and where a movie about “Niggaz With Attitude” is the runaway hit of the year.

— Bud Norman

The Race Is On

We’re still habitually writing 2014 on checks, but already the 2016 presidential race is underway. The Democrats still haven’t decided whether they’ll have a race or just hand a crown to Hillary Clinton, but there’s more than enough going on with the Republicans to keep the press happy.
There was a big confab of conservatives in inordinately influential Iowa that attracted many of the likely candidates, a few more likely candidates were conspicuous by their absence, a pair of very famous people have indicated an interest in joining the fray, and there seems to be a very wide and diverse field forming. All of it neatly serves one or another of the preferred press narratives, and while the potential Democratic candidates are dithering all the respectable media attention can be paid to those crazy Republicans and their traveling freak show.
The spectacle of Republican hopefuls seeking the support of conservatives, of all people, was almost too much for The Washington Post to bear. That oh-so-respectable publication’s report from Des Moines frets that the gathering of conservatives there “highlighted anew the thorny patch ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party’s conservative base without compromising their hopes for a general election.” They note that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was being lauded elsewhere in the paper for promising “adult conversations on big issues,” and former Massachusetts Governor and past presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is ruefully described as a past casualty of conservatism, declined invitations to the event, and one can’t help noticing the “tsk-tsk” between the lines as they contemplate the notion that such pillars of the party establishment did not feel welcome among such rabid Republicans as one finds in places such as Iowa.
As much as we appreciate The Washington Post’s deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be endangering their prospects of winning a presidential race, we think their worries are unwarranted. The conservatives’ insistence of stricter enforcement of immigration law and preference for lower taxes, the two issues the paper cites as reasons for Mitt Romney’s defeat in ’12 election, will likely prove a benefit to any Republican candidate after Romney’s resulted in tax hikes and amnesty for trainloads of unaccompanied minors from Central America. The reporters can’t seem to think of anything else on the conservative agenda that would compromise their hopes for a general election, and neither can we. A greater worry would result from nominating a candidate that fails to bring out the conservative base, as happened with Romney.
There’s still abortion, same-sex marriage, and a host of other social issues, including almost daily new ones involving acronyms and neologisms and exceedingly rare behaviors that are still unfamiliar to most Americans, so the quadrennial stories about the Titanic of the Republican party ramming into the iceberg of conservatism can always make do with that. In yet another Washington Post dispatch we learn that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped the Iowa event not because he was insufficiently conservative but in order to accept an invitation to speak at a “controversial” prayer rally in his home state, where he “called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.” This particular prayer rally is apparently controversial because it was organized by the American Family Association, which hews to traditional Christian beliefs about sexual morality, but the paper doesn’t go so far as to find anything controversial Christians retaining a freedom of speech. Once again there’s that deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be making a mistake, but if opposition to abortion was such a challenge to general election chances the party wouldn’t have won anything in the last 43 years, and while same-sex marriage is polling a bit better than even these days we don’t sense that the public wants to start enforcing proper opinions on the matter, and by 2016 the Democratic party’s association with all the craziness that’s going on in the cultural left won’t do it any benefit. Jindal has also lately been outspoken about the Islamic roots of Islamic terrorism, and we can’t expect that the press will also find that controversial, but it shouldn’t prove a general election problem.
For the benefit of the press caricaturists who wish to to portray the craziness of the Republicans, however, we might see the entrance of former Alaska Governor and past vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as well as real estate mogul and television reality show star Donald Trump. We rather like Palin, and delight in the way she drives all the right people insane, but after too few years in office and too many years of relentless ridicule by the late night comics of the left she’s unlikely to win the nomination and all too likely to distract from the more accomplished candidate who does. We don’t particularly like Trump, and find no reason whatsoever he should be president and see no plausible argument that he ever could be president, but he does have an undeniable ability to attraction attention to himself. Between the two the press could easily pay diminished attention to an otherwise impressive slate of candidates, and those late night comics of the left will surely do so.
Among the candidates that have impressed us is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bold reforms have so enraged the public sector unions that he was forced to survive a recall election that featured state legislators fleeing to other states as rowdy mobs rampaged through the state capitol, as well as a bruising but successful re-election campaign, and we note from the oh-so-respectable but frequently reliable The Hill that Walker a big hit at the Iowa gathering. The paper went so far as to say he “shows fire,” a significant compliment given the governor’s reputation in the press as a rather blandly polite midwestern sort of fellow, although we think blandly polite might play well after eight years of the world’s greatest orator and most petulant president, and it further noted that he stressed his own conservatism, which we sense they did not intend as a compliment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Walker’s home state reported that he told the Iowans to “go big and go bold,” but over at the National Review they note that Wisconsin’s legislative agenda includes a right-to-work law and a gambling casino, and worry that the governor’s presidential ambitions might prevent him from going big and bold on either issue. We’ll be watching to see how the governor responds, and will be disappointed if he doesn’t back the right-to-work bill in order to prevent a round of drum circles and hippie sleep-ins at the capitol building. Right-to-work is good economics and, well, a right, and even in Wisconsin it’s good politics these days, and nightly newscasts full of dirty hippies protesting your policies isn’t going to hurt a bit. The gambling thing is trickier, as even conservatives are split on the advisability of the government getting into the monopolized gambling business, but after all Walker’s been through he should survive any outcome on the issue.
Walker’s just one of several Republican governors who have brought greater prosperity to their states with conservative reforms, however, and at least three senators who have an expressed an interest in the presidency also warrant consideration. We can’t see the party giving Romney another chance, and we expect that Bush’s stands on immigration and common core and a general sort of big government-run compassionate conservatism associated with his family will be more than money and organization can overcome, but even those men have real accomplishments they can point to. Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former high-tech businesswoman Carly Fiorina have never held public office, and Fiorina lost a senatorial bid in heavily Democratic California, but both bring impressive resumes and appealing personalities and common sense conservatism as well the ethnic and sexual identities that Democrats like to claim. They represent a wide range of views being passionately debated in the party, which could be considered a sign of Republican vigor, but the stories will tell of petty infighting between the crazies and the moderately crazy. Should the moderately crazy prevail, once again, the press will then begin to describe them as merely crazy.
Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, the few stories we find about potential challengers usually mention Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t so frank about her political ideology. We’ll be on the lookout for any stories fretting that any Democratic nomination race that might break out would drag Hillary Clinton too far to the left, but given that socialism isn’t so controversial as Christianity and the press isn’t nearly so concerned about the political fortunes of the Democrats it might take a while.

— Bud Norman