The Coronavirus and the Real Reason to Be Very, Very Afraid

President Donald Trump has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of America’s response to the now-pandemic coronavirus problem, and we hope the world’s stock markets will be reassured that at least it’s not presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner running the show. There are new cases of the Chinese-born disease showing up in France and Brazil and here in the United States as well as South Korea and Japan and Italy and Iran, and the disease-fighting sector of the American government has been decimated by budget cuts and staff defections over the past three years, but the Dow Jones only dropped a hundred or so points on Wednesday, so for the moment there’s no real reason to panic.
Trump now argues that the real reason for the six-plus percentage drop in the stock markets this week is all the damn Democrats running for president, and we must admit there might be something to that. The current front-runner in the Democratic race is self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose loony-left policies would probably have a more destructively virulent effect on the stock markets than even the coronavirus, and even the most relatively sane and centrist Democrats still in contention are unlikely to inspire any bull markets.
One of many problems with Trump’s argument, however, is its implicit acknowledgement that the smart money is already hedging its bets that any one of those damn Democrats has a chance of beating him in the next presidential election. They’ll all have plenty of arguments against Trump, including his anti-establishment burn-it-down decimation of the government’s disease-fighting apparatus, which is the kind of bone-headed mistake that even the looniest left of the anti-establishment yet government-loving Democratic party would never make. If this coronavirus problem and its stock market woes continues to Election Day despite the best efforts of Pence, even the damndest of the damn Democrats will have the advantage on the issue.
At this point we’re cautiously hopeful that humankind somehow survives the coronavirus, and that America’s free markets will continue to prosper in a scarily global worldwide economy, and that it all ends for the best, whatever that might be.

— Bud Norman

The Damn Democrats Duke It Out

What’s left of the contenders for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had another knock-down-drag-out free-for-all of a televised debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and as gruesome as it was we couldn’t look away. The Democrats’ grotesque reality show is as binge-worthy as Republican President Donald Trump’s.
If you’ve been following the complicated plot so far, you already know that the self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie won most of the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and is already the clear frontrunner, and that the former frontrunner and relatively sane centrist former Vice President Joe Biden needs a big win in Saturday’s South Carolina after three disastrous finishes to remain a viable contender in the race. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth is still vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left faction, while South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar continues trying to win over the still-sizable relatively sane and centrist portion of the party.
The debate also featured self-made high-tech multi-billionaire Tom Steyer, who has no previous government experience but lands somewhere between the loony left and the relatively sane and centrist positions in the party, and self-made media mogul and multi-billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who was actually a pretty successful two-term mayor of New York City by doing things that have not endeared him to the Democratic party’s loony left. Democrats of all stripes have by now had enough of billionaire presidents, however, so both seem minor characters in the plot.
Which made for quite a freewheeling debate, with everyone weighing in on topics from Mideast peace to the legalization of marijuana to Medicare for All and that coronavirus that lately has been dragging down the international stock markets. Everyone took care to attack anyone who was a rival for the loony left and relatively sane centrist votes, both sides attacked one another, and everyone agreed that Trump was even worse.
No one was a clear winner in the shouting match, but in the long run these debates matter very little. What we’ll be watching for on Saturday is if Biden can beat out Sanders and keep the relatively sane and centrist portion of the party in the race. Given Americas’ complicated politics, it’s hard to say. Most of the white folk in South Carolina are now proud members of the Grand Old Party that once waged war on the Confederacy, which means that the state’s sizable black population comprises a majority of the state’s Democratic votes, which gives Biden a natural advantage.< Black Democrats are more likely than their white counterparts to attend worship services and serve in the military and start a business, and most white Republicans don’t understand how especially in the south they’re a moderating influence on their party. Biden was a loyal Vice President to first black President Barack Obama and is tying himself to that mixed record, and we expect that will be enough to keep him in the race after South Carolina.
No matter what happens on Saturday in South Carolina Sanders seems to be winning black and Latino votes and hurtling toward the Democratic nomination, Which naturally has all the relatively sane and centrist and “establishment” media and politicos in a panic, fretting that Sanders is a bridge too far toward socialism and worse yet someone who could lose a general election even to the likes of President Donald Trump.
We can well sympathize with their plight, as we well remember a time four years ago when we and the rest of the boring Republican establishment types thought that Trump’s isolationism and protectionism and populist nationalism and know-nothingism was a bridge too far into the crazy right, and that he might even lose an election to the likes of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump lost the popular vote by a landslide  our = eked out a victory in the Electoral College, and has s been about as bad as  expected, so we invite the Democrats to learn whatever they can from the past.
We hope they’ll conclude that Sanders would be awful, and come up with some better centrist alternative than Biden, especially that nice and more electably heterosexual Klobuchar, but they might rightly conclude that Sanders could also beat the likes of Trump. Any Republicans and Russians rooting for Sanders should also keep that in mind, as there’s really no telling how either of these grotesque reality shows might turn out.

— Bud Norman

These Scary Times

Having survived the swine flu and the bird flu and AIDS and SARs and the Ebola virus and all the other pandemics that were supposed to wipe out humankind, we’ve been feeling pretty cocky about our chances of surviving this newfangled coronavirus. After what happened on Wall Street on Monday, however, we’re at less a wee bit nervous.
News that the coronavirus has spread from China to South Korea, Iran and Italy renewed concerns that it will further disrupt the international trade system and the many gazillions of money that it generates, which has already seen much global several business with the gargantuan Chinese economy brought to a screeching halt. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a jaw-dropping 1031 points, which is a jaw-dropping 3.6 percent, and the Standard & Poor and NASDAQ suffered even worse percentage losses, and for now all the smart money seems scared.
Aside from the already horrific death toll and severe economic consequences from the coronavirus, there are also political implications. President Donald Trump can’t plausibly be blamed for the coronavirus and the resulting stock markets, but he always implausibly claimed full credit for all the impressive stock market gains during his administration and has thus tied his political fortunes to the latest indexes. Decisive presidential leadership is called for, but at this point there’s not much Trump or any possible president might do.
The White House has requested congress to pass a $1.8 billion emergency spending bill to bring the total of spending on the coronavirus to $2.5 billion, which is a good idea that will probably win bipartisan approval, but by Washington standards that’s a relatively puny amount of money to throw at a problem of this size. There are many very smart people in America’s scientific community, but for now the smart money is betting that they won’t have this problem solved by election day, which seems a smart bet to us.
Trump is also calling on the Federal Reserve and the rest of the world’s central banks to reassure the world markets with a fresh infusion of that sweet opium of newly-printed cash, but at this point there’s not much more they can do. Several of the world’s biggest economies are offering below zero interest rates, which is every bit as stupid as it sounds, and despite what Trump has called the best American economy ever the Federal Reserve has been setting interest rates historically close to zero and the budget deficit is over a trillion dollars. A debt-ridden America and the rest of the debt-ridden world are ill-prepared to deal with one of those occasional Black Swan events, as the smarty-pants economists call it.
Which is not to say that any of those damned Democrats running for the presidency have any solutions. Self-described socialist and current Democratic front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will have a a harder time paying for his all his trillions of dollars of spending on all of America’s problems if there’s an economic downturn. The relatively sane and centrist Democratic candidates also don’t have any answers, and we frankly admit that neither nor do we few remaining NeverTrump Republicans,
Pretty much everyone anti-Trump will get their digs in, though. Trump has taken his usual position against foreigners entering the country, but some very quarantined cases of the virus have come in, and Trump’s skepticism about fancy pants scientists seems to have decimated the government agencies charged with dealing with pandemics. Trump has questioned the scientific community’s assessments of global climate change and the quality of America’s air and water and the cancerous effects of wind turbines, and he’ll probably soon ask you to believe that he knows more about the coronavirus than anyone.
Even so, we expect to eventually die from something other than the coronavirus, and to survive whatever political and economic upheavals it might bring. Which is not to say it will be a happy ending for anybody.

— Bud Norman

The Damned Democrats’ Debate

The six candidates who still have a plausible shot at winning the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had a debate Wednesday night in Nevada, which is having one of those weird caucus rituals on Saturday, and it was a raucous affair. All of the contenders spent so much bashing one another they had little time left to bash President Donald Trump, who surely enjoyed the show.
According to the latest polls  the clear frontrunner in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist and the darling of the loony left portion of the Democratic party, which is plenty big enough to give a him a 32 point plurality in the crowded field, with fellow loony lefty Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fading into fourth at 12 percent. Former Vice President and former frontrunner Joe Biden, who is courting the party’s relatively sane centrists, is in second with 16 percent, but that’s barely ahead of the 14 percent by billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is courting the same votes. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have 8 and 7 percent respectively, which also come from the relatively sane centrist faction.
All of which led to Wednesday’s brass knuckle free-for-all, with the relatively sane centrists attacking one another as well as the loony left contenders, and the loony left contenders also firing in every direction. As best as we can score the bout, Bloomberg got by far the worst of it.
Bloomberg skipped the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has carefully avoided any public appearances or interviews with the media, so his recent rapid rise in the polls is entirely due to the $50 million of his own money that he’s poured into national advertising on radio and television and the internet, and one big question was how he’d fare on his first debate stage since his mayoral campaigns. Not vey well, as it turns out.
Everyone in the Democratic party and most of the independents they’ll need to win in November have by now had their fill of New York City billionaires, so all the other candidates gleefully piled on. Warren blasted Bloomberg’s longstanding reputation for saying outrageously things in public and the numerous lawsuits brought by women against his company for fostering a hostile workplace and having women bound by nondisclosure agreements, which seems to be what New York City billionaires do, and Warren succinctly summarized his response as “Well, I’ve been nice to some women.”
Klobuchar criticized Bloomberg’s failure to release his tax returns, another one of those thing New York City billionaires seem to do, and although he promised he’d get around to it soon his explanation for the delay only emphasized that he’s suspiciously rich. Sanders whole platform is anti-billionaires in general, so he further demonized Bloomberg to his fans. Others on both the left and center criticized the “stop and frisk” policing policies aimed mostly at minorities that Bloomberg championed as New York mayor, and although Bloomberg has fulsomely apologized for it that probably won’t do him much good in the largely-Latino Nevada caucus or the majority-black South Carolina primary that’s coming up next.
Everyone but Warren argued that Sanders’ self-described socialism might render him unelectable in a country that’s still mostly center-right, and was forced by the centrists to defend the economic feasibility of his pie-in-the-sky health care proposals, but Bloomberg drew a gasp an then boos when he accused Sanders of being a communist. The 78-year-old Sanders recently suffered a heart attack and was roundly criticized for failing to keep a promise to release his full medical records, and he offered the same explanation that Trump did about his undeniably grueling campaign schedule, but he didn’t seem on his game.</div div style=”text-indent:20px;”>Biden went largely unscathed, but the lack of attacks seemed to emphasize his slow decline into irrelevance, which will rapidly accelerate if he doesn’t do very well in Nevada and then South Carolina, and he still not much of a campaigner and didn’t do much on Wednesday to turn things around. That’s good news for Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who could now overtake both Biden and Bloomberg for those relatively sane centrist Democratic voters. Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of the Mexican president during a recent interview, but she admitted to the understandable momentary lack of memory and made Buttigieg look rather pedantic. On the whole, we think she got the better of it.
Sanders has run afoul of the hotel and casino and restaurant workers union that is largely Latino and a huge chunk of the Nevada caucus-goers, who don’t like his plan to take away their hard-earned health benefits package as part of his single-payer “Medicare for all” plan, which gives the relatively sane centrists a chance at a much-needed win. As bad as Bloomberg was in his first public appearance he probably won’t be the beneficiary, no matter how much money he spends, and we expect Biden to continue underperforming, so that’s an opportunity for either Buttigieg or Klobuchar.
Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and although that didn’t matter to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and doesn’t offend our old-fashioned sensibilities any more than Trump’s tawdry sexual history, the largely Latino voters in Nevada and the black majority of voters in South Carolina might not be so open-minded, and even in this day and age it eventually will raise unavoidable questions about his electability, a sanely centrist with impressive military experience though he might be. Which is good news for Klobuchar, a happily married heterosexual woman and mother who has won every race she’s ever run even in Minnesota’s most Republican districts, and can brag of the bills she’s written that got passed and signed even in this polarized age, and she doesn’t want to take away anyone’s private health insurance.
As we scored the free-for-all cage match Klobuchar had a pretty good night, which is the only bad news of the evening for Trump. Eventually Warren will drop out and her 12 percent will join Sanders’ 32 percent, but if Klobuchar is the last relatively sane centrist standing she could have 45 percent of the party on her side, and even more if the Democrats decide that their socialist utopia can wait another four years and beating Trump is the party’s top priority. Trump will come up with some taunting nickname to tar Klobuchar as a loony leftist, and he won’t be able to resist making some outrageously sexist comment about her less-than-beauty-queen looks, but that won’t endear him to the educated suburban Republican women he have left the party in droves over the past three years, and we think she’d be a formidable foe. She also punches back, and she’s pretty darned good at it.
There are still 48 states and all those territories to go, though, and a big chunk of the Democrat party is clearly intent on leaping off that loony left cliff, so we’ll see how it turns out. The scariest part is that even the looniest left Democratic nominee could come up with a bigger plurality in this polarized nation than Trump.

— Bud Norman

In the Interest Of Full Disclosure

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist and the current frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is 78 years old and has recently suffered a heart attack. Voters should know everything that can be known about his physical fitness for the hardest job in the world, but Sanders hasyt yet kept a promise to release his medical records to public scrutiny.
Sanders’ many avid fans won’t mind, as they don’t question anything he does or doesn’t or do, and the equally unquestioning fans of President Donald Trump won’t have any standing to complain.
During the last presidential election Trump only released a short letter from his hippie gastroenterologist attesting to his excellent health in such hyperbolic and non-medical terms that it was obvious that Trump had written it himself, as the hippie gastroenterologist later admitted to the press. Since becoming president Trump has submitted to annual physical examinations by White House physicians, but the announced results have been vague and clearly overstated Trump’s height and understated his weight, and one of the most enthused physicians was offered the job of Secretary of Veterans Affairs despite any lack of experience running a vast bureaucracy.
Trump has been similarly opaque about his tax returns and ongoing business dealings and educational records and lack of any military record at all in a time of war, as well as his dealings with foreign leaders and other presidential actions. There’s nothing written in law that requires Trump or any other president to divulge any of this vital information to American voters, but over the past many decades it’s become one of those norms the public has come to expect. Alas, the norms we once relied on are no longer operative.
President Barack Obama arguably started it all when he declined to release his academic records, even though he was indisputably a graduate of prestigious Columbia University and had been the first black editor of the Harvard Law School’s Review while graduating with honors from that very prestigious program. At the time pretty much every Republican including ourselves and the soon-to-be Republican Trump and all of his fans found this quite suspicious, suspecting he had benefited from some affirmative action programs. Trump has gone to even more extraordinary lengths to prevent his educational records from being released, however, with his now-imprisoned personal lawyer threatening lawsuits against any school Trump ever attended if they ever released anything about his school days, and we can’t blame any damned Democrat for suspecting that Trump got into the relative minor leagues of the Ivy League and was graduated without any honors solely because of his rich father’s affirmative actions.
Obama also delayed release of his birth certificate, which Trump and his fans found very suspicious. but when he did even Republican nominee Trump told his followers that “President Obama was born in America, period, which pretty much settled that matter. As far we’re concerned there are far better reasons to oppose Sanders’ candidacy than his advanced age and questionable physical fitness, most prominent being his self-described social\ ism, and we hol out faint hope that the Democratic primary electorate and the rest of the republic will hopefully take that all into account. Even as the Democratic party veers crazy left, though, the Republicans are all in with an obviously obese and aged and suspiciously wealthy president who won’t reveal anything about his still wholly owned businesses or tax returns, and we can’t entirely blame any damned Democrat for violating the norms we once relied on.

≤div style=”text-indent:>20px;‘No matter how it turns out, w{e’ll be hoping for a return to the decades-old norms of full disclosure from our awful presidential choices, but for now neither side is playing by the good old rules.

— Bud Norman

After New Hampshire

The results of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary are in, and although we’re still not entirely sure how the Iowa caucuses turned out the race for the nomination is already starting to take shape. Only two of the 48 states and none of the territories have thus far weighed in, so there’s a long season of politics and plenty of plot twists ahead, but the New Hampshire results are nonetheless interesting.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won a narrow victory over South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, flipping the results of the inconclusive Iowa caucuses, and we don’t think that’s good news for the Democrats. Sanders is a self-described socialist, Buttigieg is a sensible centrist by Democratic standards but also openly homosexual, and although things are now very different from when we were young there’s still a huge chunk of the popular vote that would rather vote for the likes of President Donald Trump.
The better news for the Democrats, we think, was in the rest of the balloting. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a sensible centrist by Democratic standards and a married mother of a daughter to boot, came in five points behind for a  respectable third, which enhances her name recognition and helps her fundraising and gets her media coverage and makes her a viable contender in the upcoming races. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was well behind in fourth place, and former Vice President Joe Biden came in at a desultory fifth place finish. Things can change over a long political season, but for now Warren can’t compete with Sanders for the crazy-left vote, and despite his putative front-runner status Biden is thus far struggling to win over the sane and sensibly centrist by Democratic standards vote.
The race now shifts to Nevada and then South Carolina, which could well provide very different results. Minorities are the majority of Democratic voters in each state, quite unlike both Iowa and New Hampshire, and although we don’t mind Sanders’ jewishness nor Buttigieg’s homosexuality nor Warren’s sex, and as much as we appreciate the cultural traditions of Latino and black voters, we’ll come right out and say that some Democrats aren’t so open-minded as we are. It’s early in the season, but we’ll cautiously prognosticate that Sanders ends up winning the crazy-left vote over Warren, and that Klobuchar soon emerges as the sane and sensibly centrist by Democratic standards alternative.
Which is probably best for the Democrats. Biden is a sensible centrist by the Democratic standards, and is associated with a President Barack Obama administration that saw more jobs created in its last three years than during than during the first three years of the Obama administration, but he’s a horrible campaigner and his son got inexplicably rich in Ukraine, even if he has a very complicated explanation for it all. Trump was acquitted by the Senate for his own Ukrainian dealings, and will have a field day with it.
Even Trump wouldn’t dare say anything about Buttigieg’s sexuality, at least not overtly, but his followers surely wlll, which makes Klobuchar the most appealing sane and sensible by Democratic standards for now. She’s never lost an election in the Republican areas of Minnesota where she’s run for various offices, she’s neither a self-described socialist nor an open homosexual, speaks in complete sentences, and seems to have no ties to Russia or Ukraine, so we figure she’d be a formidable opponent against Trump. Klobuchar is a woman, but is so more than half of the electorate, and last time around the worst woman in the world won three million more votes than Trump.
Some Republicans are hoping the Democrats will go crazy leftt, figuring that bolsters Trump’s reelection chances, but they should be careful what they wish for. Even the craziest left Democrat has a chance of beating Trump, and better it should be some sane and centrist by Democratic standards nominee who does the deed.

— Bud Norman

The Debacle in Iowa

This was supposed to be an analysis of the results of the Iowa Caucus, which officially kicks off the Democratic presidential primary race, but it’s getting very late and no results are yet available. The Iowa Democratic Party blames the delay on “quality checks” to clear up “inconsistencies.”
Which is pretty damned embarrassing for the Iowa Democratic Party, which be able to pull off its quadrennial big event by now. Given the political paranoia of the moment, on the other hand, we can understand why the the party would rather slow and safe than hasty and perhaps sorry. Four years former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a razor thin margin in the caucus, close enough to leave some Sanders supporters convinced the vote had been rigged.
Sanders’ supporters were right that the state national party establishments preferred Clinton, and they were right that game was rigged with “super delegates” who earned a vote at the convention with their party credentials. Clinton wound up winning a slight majority of the votes cast in the primaries and caucuses, but Sanders’ famously ardent admirers are still seething. As the Republican nominee President Donald Trump fanned the flames of their resentment reduce Democratic turnout for Clinton, which arguably worked to some extent in the states where Trump won his electoral majority by thin margins, and this time around his campaign manager and his son were suggesting that the Democratic bigwigs are once again out to get Sanders.
According to the polls Sanders was the heavy favorite in the race, but the Des Moines Registers usually final poll wasn’t published after someone noticed South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name was left of the list of candidates some poll respondents wee asked about, and there seemed to be a lot of volatility in the standings the late stages of the race, so we can’t blame the Democrats for being even overly cautious.
Still, it’s pretty damned embarrassing for the Democratic Party.

— Bud Norman

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be London

Every time President Donald Trump leaves the country he makes some big and unnecessary news, and the first day of his visit to London for a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was no exception. Geo-politics is quite complex and unpredictable these days, but Trump has predictably further complicated it.
Since long before he improbably took office Trump has been an outspoken critic of the NATO alliance, at times calling it “obsolete” and at all times haranguing the other members for their meager defense spending, and promising only in the most ambiguous terms to uphold America’s commitment to defend any fellow member from attack. He’s sticking to the same rhetoric on this visit, but he’s also objecting to the French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statements in an interview with The Economist that NATO is currently “brain dead” under its current American leadership, and Trump somehow finds himself in alliance with former favorite punching bag and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel in defending the importance of the institution.
Trump is also feuding with Macron over trade matters, with the former threatening huge tariffs in retaliation for the latter’s recent internet tax law that will charge American tech companies. Trump continues to threateningly grumble about the rest of Europe’s automobile industries, and although that didn’t make the news we expect it came in the off-camera conversations. At one point in his lengthy conversations with the international media Trump admitted that there probably won’t be an armistice in the trade war with China until after he wins reelection, at which point he will deliver the greatest deal ever, and after that all the stock markets tanked for a second consecutive day.
Trump also struggled with the difficult chore of not meddling in the United Kingdom’s upcoming election. He’d clearly prefer that incumbent Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson somehow be reelected, as he’s a fellow nationalist and populist with an even worse haircut, and presumptive Labour nominee Jeremy Corbyn is the British equivalent of Vermont Senator and potential Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders, only more dangerous in a country that has fallen in an out of socialism, but Trump has mostly avoided saying so. He did briefly brag about he swung the vote in recent gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Louisiana, although the Republicans lost in both states, but declined to weigh in on British matters. He’s so very unpopular among America’s most important allies that Johnson has pleaded for no endorsement, according to both the Brith and American press, and Trump has for once adhered to a time-honored presidential tradition by declining to comment on an ally’s elections.
Trump also told the international media that he did not support the uprising of protestors against Iran’s government, although within a half hour he was correcting that on “twitter” and before the cameras. The British press dragged Trump into the middle of a big British brouhaha about Prince Andrew, who has recently withdrawn from public life because of recent interviews about his past relationship with the late billionaire and internationally notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Trump said he didn’t know Prince Andrew, a claim quickly disproved by photo and video evidence from the archives of both the Brith and American media, just as he claimed to have barely known Epstein, despite photo and video evidence and glowing compliments in published journals, but that barely registered as news back home.

Back in the states the big story was that the House Intelligence had issued a 300-page report concluding Trump had abused his presidential powers for personal gain and further abused his powers to obstruct a lawful investigation, and the House Judiciary Committee is now considering articles of impeachment. Trump has publicly complained this makes it hard for him to swing deals with all the other world leaders at these big summits, which is undeniably true, but so far at least a slim majority of the country blames Trump for the situation. We’re sure all those world leaders Trump is dealing with are well apprised./div>

All the rest of those NATO countries have their own embarrassing problems, and so do the Chinese and the Iranians and pretty much every country on the planet, and we wish them all the best. Even so, no one should count on any happy outcomes by the end of this NATO summit.

— Bud Norman

A Man of the People, Redefined

The ten leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination had a debate on Thursday, and it was a spirited contest. Each of the contenders were nearly as critical of one another as they were of President Donald Trump, and sometimes the raucous crowd would ooh at perceived low blows. Our favorite part came afterwards, though, when the candidates were asked about the greatest adversities they had faced in life and how that had affected their politics.
The question was a slow and straight pitch aimed chest high, and of course each candidate took a swing at the opportunity to come off as a bona fide human being voters can relate to. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the last centrist standing in the field, spoke of her father’s alcoholism, and how he overcame it with with help from court-ordered treatment. Former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian talked about growing up in a single-parent home. Former Vice President Joe Biden recalled the tragically premature death of his son and beloved family members, High tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang mentioned the numerous failed businesses he had started and the huge debt he had acquired before achieving success.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had a rent-controlled Brooklyn apartment and a penniless immigrant father to talk about. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke chose to talk about the resilience of his hometown of El Paso, which suffered a mass shooting O’Rourke partly blames on Trump’s racial rhetoric. California Sen. Kamala Harris explained the difficulties of being the first female and mixed-race Attorney General of her state, and  this being a Democratic debate was obliged to defend prosecuting as a respectable occupation . South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and that’s not always been as fashionable as it is now. Earlier in the debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren mentioned she had grown up in Oklahoma and once been a public school teacher, were surely won plenty of pity from a Democratic audience.
None of the candidates bragged about having been in a little log cabin built by their own two hands, and with Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard failing to qualify for the debate no could talk about any military experience, but it was all fairly heartwarming nonetheless. Should the general election come down to which candidate has the more inspiring hard-luck tale, Trump will be at a disadvantage.
Trump is quite unapologetic about being born into opulent wealth, and clearly revels in his whiteness and maleness and heterosexuality and enjoys whatever privileges that might confer. He grew up in Queens rather than Manhattan, which still seems to rankle, but lived in the fanciest house in the less fancy borough.
His father was by most accounts a cold and ruthless man who withheld affection and praise from his children, but Trump can’t hold that against anyone. The old man sent him off to one of those strict military schools where incorrigible rich kids wind up, but Trump boasts of having been the big man on campus. He had to suffer the indignity of a year at relatively downscale Fordham University before the old man got him into the University of Pennsylvania, but he just leaves that unmentioned. At some point Trump suffered from bone spurs, which kept him out of military service during the Vietnam war but don’t seem to have interfered with his golfing and nightclubbing.
Trump is by no means America’s first plutocrat president, but he is the first to flaunt it so brazenly. The Adamses and Roosevelts and Kennedys came from old money and elite educations, but they had also inherited an understated gentility and a deeply felt sense of noblesse oblige that Trump never acquired in Queens. On the contrary, Trump flouts such old-fashioned business and prefers street-level vulgarity and unabashed self-promotion
Interestingly, it seems to to have endeared him to a large segment of the proletariat, which regards him as a “blue collar billionaire.” They prefer it to the perceived condescension of past wealthy politicians, and share Trump’s seething resentment of the most well-mannered upper class, and appreciate the way he appalls all the right people. We also suspect that although they can’t identify with Trump’s much bragged about billions, they can vicariously enjoy the way he spends it on golf outings and private jets and porn stars rather than boring tea parties in the Hamptons. A lot of Trump fans figure he’s just like them, or at least like they would be if they had his money.
Trump is also selling the idea that he was born with the Midas touch, and that his alpha male “bigliness” has always made him impervious to any adversity, so America should be grateful to ride along on his predestined path to greatness, which is arguably more compelling than being a former school teacher or having had to endure poverty or prejudice. The same sales pitch got people to invest in his casinos and airlines and professional football teams, and to enroll in Trump University, and if the economy stops slowing by the next election day it might work yet again.

— Bud Norman

A Brief History Lesson for the Young Democratic Whippersnappers on the Other Side of the Generation Gap

Ryan Grim strikes us as another one of those wild-eyed liberals looking to take over the Democrat party, and the sort of revisionist young whippersnapper who still calls President Ronald Reagan “a C-list actor,” but we think his op-ed piece in Sunday’s Washington Post correctly identifies the current fissure among the Democrats as a generation gap.
So far as we can tell Grim is a bit too young remember the late ’60s and early ’70s when the hippies and the hard hats were fighting it out on the streets and “generation gap” was a familiar part of the political lexicon, but he’s familiar enough with Reagan’s landslide victories and the Republican party’s ascendancy in the ’80s to understand why some Democrats are still spooked by it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are all aged enough to remember how President Richard Nixon a landslide over the hippie favorite Democratic nominee Sen. George McGovern in ’72 despite an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam. They remember that the carefully centrist President Jimmy Carter won office in ’76 only because of the Watergate scandal, but was decisively ousted four years later by Reagan, who won a record 49 states in his reelection bid.
They also well remember how many of their longstanding congressional colleagues were voted out along the way. Such liberal lions as McGovern and Sen. Frank Church and Birch Bayh and the most senior Sen. Warren Magnuson from the New Deal era were voted out during the ’70s, and the likes of wild-eyed conservative Rep. Newt Gingrich were voted in. Reagan won a third term of sorts when his Vice President George H.W. Bush, and any Democrat old enough to remember that still shudders at the thought. President Bill Clinton ended the Republicans’ 12-year White House reign in 92′ and won reelection in ’96, but he ran as a centrist and won by mere pluralities with considerable help from nutcase third-party populist candidate Ross Perot peeling off conservative votes. In ’94 the Republicans even took the House of Representatives after 40 years of Democratic control, a result of Clinton offending the public with such divisive ideas as allowing gays to serve in the military and the government taking a greater role in the health care system, but Clinton won reelection mostly because he and Gingrich had come up with a rare balanced budget and revived the Reagan economic expansion after a short and mild recession.
Republican President George W. Bush succeeded Clinton with a plurality and razor-then electoral majority and then won reelection with a slight majority of the popular, which drove all the Democrats crazy, even though the increasingly wild-eyed conservatives in the Republican party found both Bushes far too centrist for their tastes. President Barack Obama succeeded the second Bush and then easily won reelection, which drove all the Republicans crazy even if the younger of the increasingly wild-eyed Democrats now consider Obama far too centrist for their tastes. All of which explains why such liberal but seasoned septuagenarians as Pelosi and Schumer and Biden are reluctant to veer too far left of the center.
Much younger and less experienced and better-looking and more wild-eyed Democrats as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker now have considerable sway in the Democratic party, and although the aging self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and ripened Massachusetts Sen. Warren are on their side Grim seems correct in surmising that a generation gap will be the story of the Democrats’ upcoming presidential primaries. Grim apparently believes that youthful idealism and its resulting recklessness will eventually overwhelm old age’s hard-earned experience and its resulting caution, and he seems to wish for it, and although we hope he’s wrong we worry he might be right.
At this point in our late middle age we must admit, however begrudgingly, that a lot has changed since Nixon won a landslide reelection but lost a popular culture back in ’72, and that things have changed far even more rapidly ever since. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” that allowed homosexuals to serve in the military so long as they remained closeted cost Clinton the House back in ’94, but it seems quaint in this age of constitutionally guaranteed same-sex marriage. The government intrusion into health care that Clinton’s wife proposed was less ambitious than what Obama wound up getting passed, and lately it polls well, and the Republicans couldn’t come with any alternative they could pass even when they held the White House and both chambers of Congress, so the crazy ideas that these young Democrats are proposing will have some appeal to a significant portion of the population. “Socialism” is no longer the damning term of opprobrium that it was during most of our lives, although it still should be, as far as we’re still concerned, and will probably get a lot more votes than Eugene Debs ever did back in a more sensible era of America.
Which is a shame, especially given the currently wild-eyed state of the Republican party in the era of President Donald Trump. It’s not the admirably wild-eyed conservatism of the Republican party that opposed the New Deal programs President Franklin Roosevelt wrought during his party’s six-decades dominance of American politics, nor is it the centrist and internationalist Republicanism of President Dwight Eisenhower that ended that long reign. It’s not the small government and free markets conservatism of Republican nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater, who lost by a landslide in ’64. Trump has the same tough-talking anti-hippie and pro-law-and-order rhetoric that Nixon won with in ’68, but Nixon won reelection after establishing the Environmental Protection Agency that Trump rails against and abandoning the Gold Standard monetary policy that Trump’s Federal Reserve Board appointees want to reinstate, and Trump has made his disdain Republican nominee back to Reagan quite clear.
Despite a pretty good economy America is adding the same trillion or so to the national debt that Obama was racking up in the wake of a deep and long lasting recession, The Repubicans’ big tax cut bill went mainly to the rich while the poor are probably paying even more for Trump’s tariffs every time they go to Wal-Mart. As bad as Obama was Trump has done even more to buddy up to dictatorships while undermining our the post-World War II military and trading alliances that Eisenhower and both Republican and Democratic presidents wisely established. We also note that his promise of proposing such a wonderful health care policy that your head will spin has not yet been kept.
On the other hand, Trump has outraged those damned Democrats even more than Nixon or Reagan or either of the Bushes ever did, and the more wild-eyed Republicans seem satisfied with that. He’s threatened governmental retribution against the free press and promised to lock up his political opponents, enforced our border laws with extreme cruelty and questioned the legitimacy of any federal judges of Latino heritage, has kinder words for the leaders of Russia and North Korea than he can must for our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, and is even coarser than Nixon ever was in his “twitter” denunciations of the damned hippies.
As much as the die-hard fans love it, it’s not at all the conservatism and Republican party we signed up with. With ur old-school sensibilities we’re free press absolutists, and we worry how that Third World “lock ’em up” stuff might play out if the damned Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress yet again. We have nothing against Latino citizens and legal immigrants, and rather enjoy their music and food and construction and road-paving efforts and occasional judicial opinions. We prefer our classically liberal democratic allies to the authoritarian populists popping up around the world, and by now we’re friends with a lot of dope-smoking hippies, and our hard=hat friends are also taking atoke  or two.
Which is not to say that we agree about anything with anyone on the left. Even the aged and relatively wised-up Democrats toward the center have always been too far left for our centrist tastes, and Grim’s favored youngsters strike us as at least as crazy as Trump.
There’s always some hope that the upcoming congressional impeachment investigations will result in some deus ex machina that delivers the Republican party some nominee other than Trump, and that the Democrats won’t go full-blown socialist. We can’t envision any scenario where the budget gets balanced, or any sort of budget actually gets passed and signed into law, or health care becomes universal and inexpensive, or all the ethnic and sexual groups learn to love another, but we hold out hope the center will hold and the republic will somehow persist.
When we were born Eisenhower had reconciled the Republicans with Social Security and most of the rest of Roosevelt’s New Deal,  and until recently the Democrats have only arguing about how much to tax the free markets that Goldwater and Reagan had championed, everyone more or less agreed on the post-war world order that Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Nixon had sustained, and for the most part it worked out well enough. At this point in our late middle age we believe the sole purpose of the Democratic party is to keep the damned Republicans from imposing their worst ideas on a great nation, and that the Republicans exist solely to save the country from the Democrats dumbest ideas.
For now both parties are seized by a wild-eyed youthful idealism, which we’ve noticed from our reading of history is the most destructive force on the planet, but old age and experience and its resulting caution still stand a fighting chance. We’ll probably wind up casting another futile protest vote on some write-in candidate, but hope the rest of the country chooses as wisely as possible, given the circumstances..

— Bud Norman