In Search of Good News

Everyday we spend an inordinate amount of time reading and watching news from a wide variety of sources, always hoping for some glimmer of good news, but for most of this year it’s been a desultory task. We can only imagine how depressing it must be for President Donald Trump.
Coronavirus cases continue to mount in many states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, where Trump recently had large crowds gathering together indoors and mostly without face marks, and in such crucial states as Texas and Florida. All the stock markets suffered significant losses on Wednesday because of the scary coronavirus numbers, and the estimated 50 million workers who are now out of work can’t to expect things to change soon. There are still peaceful protests and lawless vandalism going on around the country about racism and police brutality, and although Trump has promised racism can be “quickly and very solved,” we don’t expect he solve that problem by Election Day.
Trump got big applause at his appearances in Oklahoma by calling coronavirus “the Kung Flu,” even though many Asian-Americans have voiced their objections, and he still likes to call Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” despite the objections of many Native Americans, and his latest cause is a defense of the statues and other honorifics to the slave-holding traitors of the Confederate Sates of America. This is good news for Trump’s most die-hard defenders, but it’s bad news to the rest of the country, and doesn’t seem likely to end racism by Election Day. There are fears from the experts that the coronavirus will be worse by then, and that the economic numbers will be just as dire. Unless you’re Trump or one of his die-hard fans the only good news is that all polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading by wide margins nationwide and in crucial swing states.
The only other news is about Trump politicizing the Justice Department and letting his cronies off easy and going after prosecutors nosing into Trump’s business, but he’ll surely have some explanation for that will satisfy the die-hard fans.
Election Day is still four months away, though, and almost anything could happen in that time. We’re not hopeful, though, and neither should Trump be.

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

Looking for Some Alternative to the Lesser of Two Evils

America’s last presidential election was perhaps the most desultory moment in our nation’s political history, with two of the worst Americans ever as the major party nominees. They advocated very different but equally appealing policies, and in the end it all came down to which candidate’s character you thought was more awful. This year isn’t looking any better.
Last time around both finalists for the highest office in the land were scandal-ridden scoundrels, and in eerily similar ways. Republican nominee Donald Trump was credibly accused by a dozen women of decades of sexual assault, and was caught on audiotape bragging about it in the most vulgar terms, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was a longtime enabler of her ex-president husband’s just as egregious sexual piggery. The Clintons had a phony-baloney family foundation supported mostly by big-bucks donors courting Hillary’s Clinton’s influence as Secretary of State, but Trump had his own phony-baloney family foundation that did made all sorts of questionable spending including a big campaign contribution to a Florida Secretary of State who immediately withdrew from a multi-state lawsuit against the fraudulent Trump University that had bilked hundreds of suckers out of million dollars and Trump eventually settled that for $25 million and the family foundation was put out of business by the New York state courts, who also decreed that anyone named Trump would have to take an ethics course before they were ever again allowed to be involved a New York charity.
Both the Clintons and the Trumps had decades of financial shenanigans, ranging from the former’s Whitewater dealings to pretty much the entirety of the latter’s career as an oft-bankrupt billionaire mogul, but for the most part they got away with it. Clinton had to hide records of the millions she and her husband had made from giving speeches to special interest groups, but ran as an heiress to the mostly scandal-free administration of President Barack Obama. Trump had openly bragged about buying off Democratic and Republican politicians to get favorable treatment in his very fishy business dealings, and went to extraordinary lengths to hide his educational and military and health and tax records, but argued that made him the ideal guy to lock up “Crooked Hillary” and “drain the swamp.”
This time around looks to be every bit as tawdry. The apparent Democratic nominee after a truncated-by-coronavirus race is former Vice President Joe Biden, an underwhelming career politician with all the baggage you’d expect after four decades of riding trains to Washington, D.C., and Trump is once again the Republican party’s nominee. Biden’s son seems to have made a lot of money while in Ukraine while Dad was in charge of America’s foreign policy in that country, but the Trump kids have also been doing well in China and other countries while their father is president, and although the details of both stories are complicated it looks bad no matter how closely you look.
Both men now stand credibly accused of rape, too. A former Biden employee has come forward by her name, Tara Reade, to allege that 27 years ago then-Sen. Biden pushed against a wall in an empty hallway and penetrated her with his fingers. This is on top of another dozen women Biden’s behavior made them feel “uncomfortable,” and ample photographic and videographer evidence of Biden being somewhat creepily touchy with women. Some two dozen women have accused Trump of even worse behavior, of the sort he’s bragged about on a surreptitious audiotape and on Howard Stern’s nationally broadcast shock jock radio shows, and a woman named E. Jean Carroll has publicly come forward to allege that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the ’90s.
Which will certainly take a lot of the fun out of the next election for a lot of people, who might well conclude that we’re choosing between two rapists to lead our country.
Our sixty-some years of observing human nature have convinced us that women sometimes do make false allegations of sexual harassment and rape, but that it’s by far more common for men to sexually harass and rape women, so we’re usually inclined to believe women who have nothing to gain and much to lose with accusations against powerful men. We try apply that same standard regardless of the accused’s party affiliation, and we’ve long noticed Democrats and Republicans are about equally as likely to land in the docket. In this case, we can’t look at either man’s life history and say he’s too much a gentleman for us to even imagine him ever doing such a thing.
We’re instinctively disinclined to look at anything from the Democrats’ perspective, but if you want to get deep into the weeds of all this theDemocrats have the slightly better argument.
Reade is only now making her 27-year-old allegation, after staying silent through Senatorial campaigns and Biden’s vice presidential nomination, and he’s asked the Senate to release any complaints she might have made at the time, and she’s admitted to the press that she only filed a vaguely worded complaint about being “uncomfortable,” and Obama’s thorough vetting team didn’t turn up anything to keep him off the ticket. Carroll didn’t file any charges against Trump at the time, but she did report it to friends who are willing to come forward by name to talk about it, and she has a reputation as a journalist and comedy writer that she’s put at stake, and Trump denies it by saying she’s not his type, which leaves one to wonder on what type of woman he might rape.
As for all the financial shenanigans, whatever Biden’s ethical lapses he’s not become nearly so rich from them as Trump claims to be, and there’s no reason to believe his son got rich in Ukraine by the same sort of quid pro quo deal with the Ukrainian government that got impeached and should have had him removed from office, and Trump’s kids have done pretty well in Dad’s negotiations over the past three years. With apologies to Irving Berlin, we can hear them at the debates singing a rendition of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Awfuler.”
There’s really no need to wade so deep into the weeds, however, as it really won’t matter much in the election. The public will wind up reconciling itself to a a presidential choice between two scoundrels who are obviously corrupt and quite possibly rapists. So far Trump hasn’t hypocritically seized on Biden’s rape problem, instead noting that powerful men are targets for such allegations, but that’s obviously self-interested and is likely to change between now and election day. A large segment of the Democratic party sticking to principle and trying to somehow find some other nominee, but we expect they’ll mostly fail line and turn out in November to vote against Trump.
A small but decisive minority of independent and independent-minded voters will wind up deciding the election, and what they do depends on what happens between now November, which we admit we have no way of knowing. There’s a chance that a couple hundred thousand Americans will be dead and millions more unemployed and bankrupt, with many more voting by mail if the postal service still exists because they’ve been cooped up at home and grocery shopping in face masks for months, and they’ll care more about that than the candidates’ grotesque character flaws.
Neither Trump nor Biden seem to have any answers for the crisis of the moment, though, nor any inspiring ideas about what to do when we eventually get past it no matter how badly it’s been bungled. Our Republican and Democratic friends alike are once again telling us it’s a binary choice and we have to pick a side, and that the fate of our nation once again hangs on it. Ignoring such shrill and panicked cries, for the second time in our lives we’ll probably pick some obscure protest candidate as a “none of the above” vote.
We’re trying to muddle through the current crisis and see beyond the weeds and past the swamp toward a country that can choose between two candidates of stellar character who strive to unite a great nation of 330 million free men and women behind a plausible program for a better future. We invite dispirited Republicans and Democrats and independents of all races and sexes and classes to join us on this quixotic quest.

— Bud Norman

The State of the Race, For Now

President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters tend to dismiss any polls results they don’t want to hear as “fake news,” but Trump is taking his recent bad numbers very seriously. Polling commissioned by the Republican National Committee and the Trump reelection campaign reportedly corroborate the publicly released surveys showing a decline in Trump’s approval ratings in the wake of the coronavirus, and Trump is reportedly furious about it.
We’re inclined to believe the reporting, because Trump has started heeding the advice of Republican party officials to stop doing the daily press briefings that he clearly enjoyed and taking a less visible and voluble role in in the administration’s response to the epidemic. Some pretty convincing data is needed to pry Trump away from his highly rated television shows, and the opportunity to lash out at the reporters in attendance, so the party and campaign polling must be very worrisome.
All of the recent publicly released polls show a majority of the public is dissatisfied with Trump’s efforts regarding coronavirus and only a minority believe anything Trump says about it. The polls show Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden not only nationally but also in the swing state’s that gave Trump his surprising victory in the Electoral College. There’s an ample amount of anecdotal evidence for Trump’s unpopularity, too, and with death toll rising daily an the employment rate falling it would be surprising if Trump were becoming more popular.
The election is more than six months away, though, and a lot could change between now and then. A quick end to the coronavirus and a rapidly rebounding economy are possible if not probable, and the chances of Biden making some catastrophic campaign error are very good. Trump has long predicted that the media will eventually start giving him favorable for fear that Americans will stop consuming news if someone more boring replaces him in the White House, but we probably shouldn’t bet on that happening.
According to both The Washington Post and The New York Times, Trump reacted to the internal polling by shouting angrily at his campaign. Trump will probably find other scapegoats, too, but that won’t solve his political problems. He’ll need to take responsibility, and change his behave to win over voters who aren’t satisfied to see reporters being insulted and critics ridiculed and want actual results instead. Nothing that’s happened in the past three years give us any confidence that might happen.
Trump faces difficult choices, and must weigh the often competing interests of public health and the economy, and we hope he chooses wisely. The best choices for the long term might not be the most popular in the short term, and we’ll even hold out faint hope that Trump does the right thing.

— Bud Norman

A Pandemic In An Election Year

The coronavirus arrived in the United States during an election year, which is quite inconvenient for American democracy.
Nine states have primary elections scheduled in April, but they’ll likely be postponed indefinitely, and there’s a chance both parties will have to postpone their nominating conventions. We’re hopeful there will be a general election as scheduled, even if it’s by mail or internet or some other sure-to-be-controversial method, but it will be an election like no other.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has a clear lead in the Democratic primary race and seems a sure bet to soon clinch the nomination, but last remaining rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t dropped out and nothing’s certain. Neither candidate is currently able to hold rallies or do other traditional campaigning, and both are finding it hard to get any coverage from media that have little time or space for anything other than coronavirus news. Whatever arguments they might make for themselves are largely unheard, and important issues that will likely survive the coronavirus are not being debated.
President Donald Trump has already clinched the Republican nomination, and although he can’t hold the campaign rallies he so dearly loves he has no trouble getting media coverage, but that’s not necessarily to his benefit. Even by November he probably won’t be able to run as planned on boasts about record stock market highs and unemployment lows, there are valid criticisms of his response to the coronavirus crisis, and he’ll find it hard to plausibly pin any of the blame on either Biden or Sanders.
Much depends on how the coronavirus and the economy play out between now and November, which is still far off, but we don’t expect the country will be tired of winning, and that it will be an acrimonious election.

— Bud Norman

On the Only Subject at Hand

Try as we might, we simply can’t find anything in the news to write about other than the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Pretty much everyone we run into as we continue to get out and about brings it up, and there’s at this point there’s no avoiding the topic.
Most folks in this hoops-crazy state like to talk sports, especially during “March Madness,” but the coronavirus cancelled both collegiate and professional basketball and will delay baseball and has temporarily shut down sports. Pop culture usually provides something salacious to talk, but right now the entertainment news is all about beloved movie star Tom Hanks and his lovely wife coming down with coronavirus and all the late television comedians doing their jokes about President Donald Trump without studio audiences to laugh along.
The coronavirus is pretty much all that matters for now in the economic news, which has lately been quite awful. The sports industry and school districts are shutting down, and music festivals and business meetings are being cancelled, and entire cities and countries are being quarantined. and travel bans are being imposed, and globalist supply chains are being interrupted, which is not good for the global economy or your favorite hometown business. Stock markets are plummeting, the Federal Reserve Board and the central banks of the other major global economic players are all slashing interest rates to zero and beyond and printing up more money to assuage the markets, and everything indicates that now is the time to panic.
Which of course makes the coronavirus the biggest political story of each passing day, which of course is bad news for Trump. He’s done his best to downplay the coronavirus as no big deal that would soon be forgotten, and even dismissed it as yet another “hoax” to torpedo his presidency, but now that he’s talking about massive government bailouts and travel bans from most of continental Europe he’s conceding that the coronavirus is a pretty big deal, and so far his proposals have not stopped the economic carnage nor quelled a public panic.
None of the damned Democrats seem to have any better ideas, but having been mostly out of power during two of the past three years they can’t be credibly blamed for the current mess, and they have plenty of talking points. According to the consensus opinion of America’s leading experts on this sort of thing, including some who are still on board with the federal government, the country is doing a woeful job of testing its citizens for the disease, and is therefore unable to do other things the country might do if it knew where the corona virus was popping up. Travel bans might be a painful necessity at the moment, but Trump’s European travel band doesn’t extend to Ireland and the United Kingdom, where there have been confirmed cases of coronavirus, and anyone in continental Europe could easily fly to the UK and then to the United States, so the damned Democrats are entitled to wonder if that has anything to do with Trump’s failing golf resorts in those countries.
For now the Democratic nominee seems likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, rather than self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we figure that’s also bad news for Trump. Biden is a very boring fellow, which a wary country might well long for come November, but Sanders is kooky enough that Trump might persuade a wary country he could be more destructive than the coronavirus. Biden was vice president during the administration of President Barack Obama, and you can way what you want about his slow-growth policies — we had plenty to say about it at the time — but they did take over shortly after an economic catastrophe and were in charge during eight of those 11 years of Bull Markets that went into Bear Market territory during Trump’s administration. Biden will also have plenty to say about how Trump fired the National Security Council’s pandemic response that the Obama administration had created.
We don’t give much credit to either Obama or Trump for the long run of the Bull Market, but rather credit the ingenuity and resilience of free Americans operating in a free market, trading freely with all the free people of the world. Here’s hoping that not only survives this coronavirus, but also the likes of Trump and Biden, and that there’s something else to talk about.

— Bud Norman

Sanders vs. Trump vs. “The Establishment”

One encounters all sorts of people here in Wichita, and over the years we’ve acquired a dizzyingly diverse group of friends. We have friendships with men and women of all colors and sexual orientations and sports team preferences and political opinions. We’re friends with some fervid supporters of President Donald Trump and some equally fervid advocates for self-described socialist and potential Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we have noticed they seem to have a lot in in common.
Both are true believers in their hero’s infallibility, and both are inclined to believe in conspiracy theories that some nebulous and nefarious “establishment” is out to prevent them from making everything right. Both believe that most of the mainstream media are in on it, too.
Trump has lately been “tweeting” to Sanders’ supporters that they’re right to be paranoid, as he knows all too well how nefarious that nebulous “establishment” and mainstream media can be in stopping a revolutionary movement, and it’s a smart move. Sanders’ most fervid supporters won’t vote for Trump in any circumstance, but from our barroom conversations with the Sandersistas they might well wind up voting for the Green Party or Socialist Party or Communist Party or not voting at all if the damned Democrats don’t nominate their guy, even if that means another four years of Trump.
From our seats here on the political sidelines we’re nostalgically yearning for a bygone era in our lifetimes when there actually was an “establishment” and a mainstream media to enforce the time-honored norms of civil discourse and international relations that mostly maintained America’s and the rest of the world’s peace and prosperity. The dirty hippies and the rest of the damn Democrats started the whole “anti-establishment” crusade, and thus set off a “sexual revolution” and a general distrust of time-honored institutions and mores in general, and in the last election a proudly libertine and “anti-establishment” Republican won on an Electoral College victory on a promise to burn it all down.
At this moment the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race is Biden, a relatively sane and centrist by-Democratic-standards, and the Super Tuesday victories he scored to put him in the lead for now, which has our Sanders-loving panicked. Biden was was helped when fellow centrists South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden’s candidacy, all of the media reported on Biden’s big night, which of course fuels all the conspiracy theories about “the establishment,” with Trump telling a rally crowd that there was surely some illegal quid pro quo involved.
As we see it Biden won the lion’s share of the “Super Tuesday” vote from rank-and-file Democrats, however, as the elite “establishment” doesn’t have nearly enough to account for the lopsided results, and people don’t really pay that much attention to what’s left of the mainstream media. Most Democratic voters apparently bought Biden’s pitch that he’d go back to the days of the President Barack Obama administration.
All of our Trump-loving friends remember that as the dark age of socialist dystopia, and our Sanders-loving recall it as the era when the nebulous and nefarious “establishment” kept Obama from fulling his promise to fundamentally transform America into to a socialist utopia. We were very critical of the slow recovery from the Great Recession that Obama inherited, but after the Republicans won back the House in the mid-terms and slowed the deficit spending the economy started progressing slightly better in the last three years of the Obama administration than it has in the first three years of the Trump administration.
Trump would clearly prefer to run against Sanders, having invited impeachment by attempting to extort dirt from the Ukrainians about Biden. After Sanders and his kooky left ideas suffered a huge defeat on “Super Tuesday” the stock markets all rallied from a severe coronavirus slump, which signals some support for Biden’s Obama era policies, but at least Trump can hope to divide the Democrats and suppress the sizable Sanders vote. Which just might work.
However it turns out, we’ll hope that some sort of establishment maintains the norms that have so far mostly worked.

— Bud Norman

The Desultory State of the Democrats

President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment trial and numerous other pressing problems entirely of his own making, but he can console himself he’ll likely wind up running for reelection against a Democrat. Judging by the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses that kick off the primary election race, the Democrats have problems of their own.
According to all the many polls going into the debate there were four candidates within the margin of error for winning or losing the Iowa caucuses, with a few others with realistic hope of catching up, and according to our traditional Republican instincts and what our Democratic friends are telling us they’re all flawed. Our more emotional Democratic friends revile the so the so-called centrists in the race, while our more cerebral Democratic friends worry that their party is veering too far the left, and from our current perspective here on the political sidelines we don’t like any of the candidates any more than we do Trump.
Nothing that happened in Tuesday’s debate will likely change many minds.
At this point, and as usual, the Democrats are obsessed with all that race and class and gender stuff, so that started off the debate. Putative Independent yet Democratic candidate and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was recently accused by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts of saying a female candidate could not win a presidential election, which is arguable given the nation’s history but nonetheless a gross breach of Democratic etiquette, and as both are among the four front-runners and vying for the emotional left-wing Democratic vote it was a very big deal. Warren stood by her claim, Sanders didn’t exactly deny it but pledged his support only Democrat who might win the nomination, and after some back-and-forth that also included the centrist Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the only other woman on the stage, he seemed to come out all right.
We have a mostly delightful but severely feminist Democratic friend who so loves Sanders she would sit out an election even against Trump if Sanders weren’t the nominee, and was outraged that her sister and the mainstream media would make such a slanderous claim, and we’re sure she’ll be satisfied with the answer.
The rest of the debate was mostly limited to foreign trade and international affairs and health care and homelessness and other boring topics of greater importance. We can’t say how the candidates fared with a Democratic audience in Iowa or elsewhere, but from our traditional Republican seats here on the political sidelines we were unimpressed by the entire field.
Our traditional Republican instincts are appalled by Trump’s assaults on the carefully established international free trade order that has enriched both America and the rest of the world over the past few post-Reagan decades, and we’re thus far unimpressed by what he’s negotiated in return, but the Democrats are mostly as protectionist as ever. Biden is old enough to remember a time when there was a bipartisan consensus for the free trade agreements that have since made America and the rest of the world richer, so we give him credit for his unapologetic stance in favor of the so-far so-good status quo, but for the most part the Democrats. Even the most centrist Democrats seem more isolationist in the rest of foreign affairs than Trump, and are annoyingly apologetic about it.
We’ll give the Democrats credit for at long last having a serious debate how to pay for their pie-in-sky promises about how to make health care more universal and less costly, but so far they haven’t come up with anything better than what Trump has to offer, which isn’t saying much. We’re glad they acknowledge the homeless problem, not only in Democratic states but in places like here in Wichita, but the best that can be said for their solutions is that they’re less intentionally cruel than Trump’s.
The growing national debt didn’t come up, much to the relief of both parties, and nobody stood out as the next President of the United States. Given our desultory choices we might pick the front-running pick Biden, in the unlikely case we were Democratic primary voters, but that within-shouting-distance Klobuchar has decisively won races against Republican men in Republican districts of Minnesota, and she seems as sane as anyone in politics these days, and quite electable as well. Our endorsement will surely doom her in a Democratic primary race, though, so we’ll withhold that for now.
One of the Democratic front-runners is openly homosexual, another has falsely claimed Native American status, another has been videotaped acting creepily around young women, and the other is a self-proclaimed socialist. Which would not ordinarily bode well for the Democratic party, but they’re lucky to be running against Trump.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is admittedly a homosexual, but he’s also a decorated military veteran, which is more than Trump can say, and Trump isn’t an exemplar of traditional Judeo-Christian morality. Biden has been videotaped acting creepy around girls and is gaffe-prone, but he hasn’t been heard boasting about grabbing women by the genitals and can’t keep up with the daily gaffes Trump’s fans don’t seem to mind. Sanders did falsely claim Native American heritage, but if it comes down to a one-on-one debate she’s feisty enough to cite all the false claims Trump has made over his spotty career. Sanders is a socialist kook, but he seems to actually believe all the nonsense he’s spewing, which makes him the more “authentic” candidate. That nice Klobuchar woman from Minnesota could do well in a general election, and might even win our vote and make a good president, but she’s still a long=shot in a Democratic primary race.
There’s a lot of politics between now and November, though, so we’ll try to enjoy the warm weather and hold out hope.

— Bud Norman

The Very Early Presidential Polling

The world hasn’t yet revolved halfway through 2019, and the next presidential election isn’t until the 11th month of 2020, but all the political prognosticators are already busily prognosticating. We’ve seen far too many presidential elections to take any of it seriously, as pretty much every one of them turned out differently than what anybody expected at this early point in an election cycle, with the last time around being a perfect example.
Still, we can’t help noticing that despite his characteristic cocksureness President Donald Trump already seems nervous about his reelection chances.
Politico.com and then The New York Times reported that Trump’s own campaign polling shows him faring poorly against the leading Democratic candidates in several of the battleground states that narrowly handed him an electoral college victory, with the Times reporting that Trump had ordered his staff to lie about it, and Trump naturally responded that it was “fake news” fabricated by the “enemies of the people.” The American Broadcasting Company then reported it had copies of the internal polling which verified what the other media had released, and Trump’s campaign manager eventually admitted the numbers were real but insisted saying that it was data from three months ago and they they’d seen a dramatic shift in Trump’s favor since then, although he wouldn’t divulge the newer numbers. Over the weekend Trump fired his campaign pollsters, apparently for leaking the real unhappy numbers that Trump insisted the “fake news” had made up.
Throw in the facts that Trump won in 2016 with a mere 70,000 votes in four crucial states, all of which were within the pollsters’ margins or error, despite the losing the national popular vote by the three million million or so ballots that the pollsters predicted, and that no poll since has shown him within shouting distance of majority approval, except for the Rasmussen company that only surveys the oldsters who still have land line phones, which has never shown him over 50 percent, and we’re more inclined to believe the mostly reliable “fake news” rather than the constantly lying president. As of last March, at least, the president who promised his supporters they’d grow tired of winning seemed clearly to be losing.
Perhaps things have since turned around, as the president now claims, but he’s not releasing the updated numbers from the recently fired polling firm to back it up, and we can’t see what would have caused the claimed uptick in the polls. With the unemployment rate under 4 percent and the gross domestic product growing at an acceptably modest 3 percent rate or so Trump has rarely fallen under 40 percent in his approval ratings, but lately the economic data have been less rosy, and even a few congressional Republicans have timidly suggested that Trump’s trade wars with pretty much the entire world might have something to do with it. We haven’t yet entered any new wars, but his sworn enemies in Iran and the brutal North Korean dictator that Trump said he “fell in love” with are threatening them, and even a few congressional Republicans are expressing misgivings about how he’s handling that.
Last time around Trump had the good fortune to run against former First Lady and Senator and Secretary and presumptive first woman president Hillary Clinton, who was arguably the worst major party presidential candidate ever, but even then he lost the popular vote and barely squeaked out an electoral victory in a few states she foolishly neglected. Much of the public had doubts about the thrice-married and six-times bankrupt and constantly sued and tax cheating real-estate casino-and-real-estate mogul’s character and honesty, and Trump has done nothing since then to reassure them that he’s the Christian leader God has chosen him to make America great thing. Nor has Trump come through with any of those great deals with the Democrats and the rest of the world that he promised to Rust Belt centrists would revive their outdated economic models.
Trump has taken extraordinary and extra-legal measures to build a few more miles of the wall along the southern border that he promised, although he no longer claims that Mexico will happily pay for it, and he’s enforced our immigration policies as cruelly as possible, and he has taunting nicknames for all of his critics, so that will probably placate most of the die-hard fans. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to have won many converts.
Next time around Trump might get lucky yet once again, on the other hand. The leaked polls show him losing by wide margins in those key states to former Delaware Senator and Vice President Joe Biden, who is a relatively mainstream politician compared to most of his 21 or so primary challengers, and currently enjoys a sizable lead in the primary race, but these damned Democrats are every bit as crazy as the damned Republicans, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the Donkey party chooses someone so far left they’re arguably worse than Trump. At our advanced age we can remember the election of ’72, when President Richard Nixon of all people won a huge popular and electoral landslide victory over the principled war hero but too-far-left Sen. George McGovern, which was shortly followed by Nixon resigning in disgrace as a result of the Watergate scandal. Although a lot has changed since then human nature has remained pretty much the same, and we can easily imagine something like that happening again.
We don’t much care for Biden, who is gaffe-prone and rightly called “Creepy Joe” by Trump for his behavior around women, even if he’s never grabbed any of them by the genitals, as Trump has bragged about doing. Nor do we much like any of the other Democrats, although that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar seem somewhat acceptable to us, which probably dooms them in the Democratic primaries. Neither do we have any respect for President Donald Trump’s character or policies, and we can at least be sure that he’ll once again be our Republican party’s nominee for president.
We’d like to think that November of next year is a long time away, and that anything could happen in the meantime, but at our advanced age we know that it’s just a blink of the eye and human nature doesn’t much change.

— Bud Norman

Humor, Heart, and Hillary

Back in the days when Johnny Carson used to host “The Tonight Show” he occasionally featured a comic who joked that “I do impersonations of people, and I’m often mistaken for one.” Although we’ve long since forgotten the comic, we were reminded of the line by a New York Times report about Hillary Clinton’s most recently revised campaign strategy.
The Times isn’t so impolite as to say that she is going to attempt an impersonation of a actual person, but its headline does hilariously promise “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to the lead paragraph the humor will include “no more flip jokes about her private email server,” and the heart will supposedly be demonstrated by “no rope lines to wall off crowds, which added to an impression of aloofness,” as well as “new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes wooden and overly cautious.” If she’s looking for some intentional humor as well she’s welcome to that old line, but we doubt that her aloof and wooden delivery would put it over.
A woman who hasn’t driven a car or microwaved a burrito or figured out how to send an e-mail for the past 25 years is hard-pressed to convince anyone that aw shucks, she’s just a regular gal at heart. One that has ruthlessly dealt with her husband’s serial sexual harassment victims and too-honest White House travel office managers and obscure anti-Islamic videographers and any big-money donors to her family’s foundation, and not nearly so ruthlessly with the likes of Vladimir Putin and the Chinese communists and the mullahs of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood almost everywhere, will find it a particularly hard act to pull off. Clinton was never any good at it, even before all the baggage and the years of pampered living accumulated, and her crack team of public relations experts seem no more suited to the task than they were back when her inevitable candidacy lost to a little-known radical back in ’08.
The little-known radical Clinton currently trails is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose humor and heart are such that he’s a self-described socialist and a plausible advocate of all sorts of Democratic craziness that Clinton’s many corporate boards and big money donors won’t allow her to pursue, so no matter what folksy accent she might try to impersonate Clinton will be hard pressed to match her opponents insane but undeniably authentic appeal. There’s also talk of Vice President Joe Biden getting in the race, who would immediately enjoy the apparent imprimatur of the same Obama administration that is currently pursuing a criminal investigation in the matter of Clinton’s suddenly humorless private email server, and although even his most ardent supporters admit he’s something of a buffoon even his harshest critics concede that he’s a humorous and heartfelt buffoon. No matter what Democrats might decide to enter a suddenly winnable race, Clinton will be at a disadvantage regard humor and heart and the ability to impersonate an actual person.
The problem is such that some polls show Clinton trailing the top Republican contenders, even the ludicrous front-runner Donald Trump. This situation is dire not only for Clinton but for the country at large, which would be faced with a choice that makes Nixon versus McGovern look like a golden age of American politics, but it does suggest a more realistic strategy for Clinton to pursue. Although we have no use for the bombastic braggadocio of Trump we will concede that he’s at least honest enough to eschew all that aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular-guy hokum, and that it seems to be working for him. He flashes the bling and dishes the disses with all the sneering disdain of the most hard-core gangsta rapper, and well enough that he’s getting an uncanny-for-a-Republican 25 percent of the black vote, although we suspect his hard-line stance on illegal immigration also has something to do with that, and it suggests that the public isn’t necessarily looking for a regular guy to be president.
The guy who served the last two terms ran on the exoticism of his life story, emphasizing the interracial birth and the hauntingly absent father and the hippie grandmother and the Indonesian madrassa schooling and the typical white people grandparents who sent him through an elite prep school and Ivy League education, with the strange halo effect in all the press photographs and the crowds chanting his name as if he were some of maharaja, so the Democrats are at least as susceptible such nonsense as Republicans. In the past Clinton has brusquely assorted her immunity from criticism, such as that time she scolded a congressional committee looking into those four deaths at an insecure consulate in the anarchic country of Libya by sneering “What difference, at this point, does it make,” and all the Democrats stood and cheered. A bold declaration by Clinton that she’s still immune to criticism, and still entitled by some birthright to her rightful place on the American throne, and too frightening a harridan to be opposed, might well be the winning argument. It’s worked so far, at least among the Democrats who will be nominating the party’s nominee.
In any case, it would be more convincing than her impersonation of a person.

— Bud Norman