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Trudging to the Polls on a Chilly Election Day

At some point this afternoon we’ll take that familiar stroll through our picturesque old neighborhood to the lovely Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on the scenic west bank of the Little Arkansas River, where we’ll stand in line and flash our photo identification to a friendly volunteer poll worker and exercise our constitutional right to cast our votes for a variety of offices. It’s a longstanding Election Day ritual we’ve always found quite cathartic, no matter how things turned out at the end of the day, but in this crazy election year it will seem a desultory chore.
There’s an old-fashioned Republican congressman in our district who we’ll be mostly pleased to support, and a slightly less rock-ribbed Republican senator we don’t mind voting for, and we’ll also cast a hopeful vote for whatever Republican is running against that left-wing Democrat who represents our anomalously liberal district in the Kansas House of Representatives. We’ll unenthusiastically vote the conservative “no” position on those five controversial state Supreme Court justices who are up for review, and a straight GOP line down to those little-known offices at the bottom of the ballot, but for the first time in our lives we won’t be voting for the Republican at the top of the ticket.
In this crazy election year the Grand Old Party’s nominee is a thrice-married and six-times bankrupt real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-beauty-pageant-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show-and-scam-university mogul, who boasts about the married women he’s slept with and the politicians he’s bribed, mocks the handicapped and disparages prisoners of war and impugns the motives of anyone with a contrary opinion, routinely pays his creditors less than promised and leaves his investors and employees short while somehow making money off his numerous failed businesses, and brags that he can grab women by the wherever and get away with it because he’s a “star.” Throughout a long, long campaign he’s proved himself thin-skinned and easily provoked, every bit as petty and vindictive as he claimed to be in his stupid but best-selling books, as exclusively self-interested as he’d always been in the 69 years before he entered politics, completely unable to restrain whatever idiotic thought pops into his head and then inclined to lie that he never said any such thing even though it’s on tape, and he’s crude and vulgar and ridiculously coiffed to boot.
His ever-shifting positions on the issues are perhaps even worse, at least from our old-fashioned Republican perspective. He’s peddling a protectionist trade policy that won’t protect his gullible supporters from the inevitable changes in a technological economy and will more likely provoke a trade war that is ruinous to the entire world. His promises to erase the nation’s debt by negotiating better trade deals is preposterous, his previous suggestions that he’d simply pay less than promised just as his he’s always done in his oft-bankrupt business life would be catastrophic, his Obama-style infrastructure spending certainly won’t reduce the debt, and his claims that he can micromanage the entire American economy the way he does his oft-bankrupt businesses does not reassure our free market selves. He takes a harsh rhetorical line against the recently decline rate of illegal immigration, but that pointless wall he’s building won’t prevent visa overstays, he’s all over the place about deporting those who are already here, as recently as the last presidential election he was criticizing the Republican nominee’s more sensible enforcement plans, and Mexico won’t be paying for that wall and the harshness of the nominee’s rhetoric has only made border enforcement more widely unpopular. His talk about turning the alliances that won the Cold War into protection rackets and allowing nuclear arms races in east Asia and the Middle East is what the diplomats call “crazy talk,” and we have no reason to trust his secret plan to crush the Islamic State and don’t like the way he’s criticized the recent and largely successful efforts to do just that.
None of our Republican friends can persuasively refute any of this, and few even try, but many have nonetheless urged us to vote for the party’s nominee rather than let a Democratic president pick any of the Supreme Court justices. It’s a plausible argument, given how very bad any Democrat’s appointees would inarguably be, but the Republican nominee has effusively praised the Kelo decision that allows governments to seize other people’s property on behalf of real estate moguls such as himself, seems to have no problem with that Obergefell decision that re-defined a millennia-old definition of marriage, agrees with the individual mandate that was the key matter in the Obamacare decision, disregards the rulings against the stop-and-search policies he advocates, has vowed to jail political opponents that he’s already found guilty, and promises to overturn the more longstanding Sullivan decision that allows the press to freely criticize him, so we hardly look to him as a protector of the Constitution. His frequent praise for dictators who have similarly punished their opponents, along all the extra-constitutional steps he’s vowed to take and the rest of his strongman posturing, only adds to our unease.
Of course there’s no way that we could bring ourselves to vote that Democratic nominee, either. She’s the Democratic nominee, for one thing, and thus portends all the collectivist and modernist and post-modernist tax-and-spend craziness that necessarily entails. The self-described socialist who almost won the Democratic nomination pushed the eventual nominee into a protectionist stance that is only better than the Republican nominee’s to the extent that she probably doesn’t really mean it, she’s just as determined as the Republican to ignore the looming debt crisis, her claims to be able to micromanage the economy are no more plausible than her opponent’s, and her y’all-come-in immigration policies make that pointless border wall seem a sound idea. Her foreign policy record has already undermined our allies’ faith in America, and effectively acquiesced to an Iranian bomb that will set off a Middle East nuclear arms anyway, and her own extra-Constitutional and authoritarian tendencies are also apparent.
The Democratic nominee’s much-touted resume reveals her own disqualifying character issues, too. As First Lady of Arkansas and then The United States she spent most of her time enriching herself with highly improbable cattle futures deals and firing honest White House employees to replace them with her Hollywood friends’ businesses and impugning the reputations of the women that her husband had voluntary and involuntary tawdry sex scandals with, her short time in the Senate proved profitable to herself but produced nothing for the public, and her disastrous four years of ill-thought interventions and even-more-ill-thought non-interventions as Secretary of State left every part of the world worse off but added many millions to her family’s phony-baloney foundation. She also habitually tells outrageous lies even about things that she should know can be easily refuted with a few keystrokes and a couple of mouse clicks, and of course there’s that whole e-mail thing that probably should have resulted in charges of mishandling classified information and a proper trial.
Which makes that walk to the polling place a desultory chore, no matter how pleasant the fall weather on a short stroll though such a picturesque neighborhood to such a lovely church and temporary altar of a hopefully durable democracy. Once we get there we’ll write-in a vote for that quixotic Mormon fellow who’s done hazardous duty in the Central Intelligence Agency and the financial sector and even on Capitol Hill, and has become a favorite of some of the erstwhile Republican intelligentsia who prefer the austere old-time GOP religion to the Republican nominee’s new prosperity gospel version, mainly because we can’t bring ourselves not to vote in a presidential election. As we trade along the sidewalks of Riverside toward our destination we’ll console ourselves that the gesture might do some infinitesimal good, as it keeps both of those awful major party nominees at least one vote short of that 51 percent they could call a mandate, and signals at least one more vote for that stubborn segment of the erstwhile Republican party that still stands athwart history shouting “stop,” as the late and great William F. Buckley would surely have put it. At least the record will reflect that someone took a stand at scenic spot on the Little River Arkansas against this crazy election year, and we’ll hold out faint hope that will do some good.

— Bud Norman

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Of Hurled Stones and Glass Houses

All through the Republican primaries one of the arguments most often made for the candidacy of Donald J. Trump was that he was the only one in the field who would be willing to wage a ruthlessly negative campaign against pre-ordained Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The others might politely criticize her policies or make some mention of her many scandals, we were told, but Trump alone would be willing to raise the issue of her character. We never doubted that he would, given the way he bullied his way past “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Carly “Look at That Face” Fiorina and the rest of the competition, but that only further confirmed our suspicion that his own character was the most susceptible to counter-attack.
Trump has lately been in the down-and-dirty mode that his admirers promised, regaling his rallies with verbal attacks on the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton family itself, but his adversaries in the press are having great fun noting the many ironies involved.
After congratulating himself on all the networks for being too gentlemanly to say anything about Clinton’s ex-president husband’s famously tawdry sex life, Trump is now more forthrightly saying things about it. He reminded a New Hampshire audience that President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, his surrogates are speaking about his numerous other alleged affairs and sexual misbehaviors, which includes allegations ranging from general creepiness to outright rape, and it’s always implied that the current Democratic nominee was complicit in it all.
Which seems fair enough to us. All through Bill Clinton’s presidency we were appalled by the tawdriness of Clinton’s all-too-public private life, being the blue-nosed sort of red-staters who bitterly cling to an old-fashioned notion that a president ought to set some sort of moral example, and after so many years we’re still no more pleased by the idea of him being First Gentleman or whatever he’d be called if his wife gets elected. Even such polite media as The Washington Post have lately been obliged to acknowledge that the Democratic nominee did play a leading role in disparaging the women her husband was involved with and accused by, and given that she’s running as a feminist standard bearer who has insisted that any woman alleging sexual assault must believed it seems a legitimate issue. Alas, it’s Trump who is raising it.
A thrice-married casino-and-strip-club mogul who has publicly boasted about his penis size and all the married babes he’s bagged over the years sounds rather ridiculous when tsk-tsking about anyone else’s behavior, and that illegal immigrant nudie model he’s currently married to doesn’t seem much a role model, so his fans are left to dispute the levels of tawdriness. Some note that Trump hasn’t been accused of rape, but one of his ex-wifes did once make the accusation and another woman has a lawsuit pending alleging that Trump raped her when was 13 years old, which thus far haven’t gotten the press attention that Trump is now inviting. Bill Clinton is a friend of the billionaire and convicted ephebephile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and has travelled with him on the “Lolita Express” to his Caribbean orgy sites, but Trump has also boasted of his friendship with Epstein and joked about his affinity for younger woman and that woman with the pending lawsuit alleges that she was assaulted at one of Epstein’s parties. The press is also happily pulling up old stories about how Trump had once said that Clinton’s impeachment was “nonsense” about “something totally unimportant,” which his surrogates are having a hard time explaining, and noting that he also disparaged the women involved with his “good friend” and future wedding guest. He called Paula Jones, the Arkansas state employee who alleged that Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room she had been summoned to by the Arkansas Highway Patrol while he was governor, a “loser.” He also noted that Lewinsky was less hot than Marilyn Monroe, the screen siren and illicit lover of President John Kennedy, and at the time that was his only criticism of the affair.
Even some of Trump’s most loyal admirers think it better that Trump should stick to his attacks on Clinton’s family foundation, which raised a lot of money from countries and companies and various shady characters who had business before the Secretary of State which often turned out in their favor, but even that very legitimate issue leaves him vulnerable to counter-attacks. Trump has his own charitable foundation, which he doesn’t seem to have contributed much to over the past many years, and lately the press has happily reported that it was forced to pay a fine for a contribution to that Florida Attorney General who decided shortly afterwards not to join three other states in a suit against the seemingly fraudulent “Trump University,” along with other highly questionable activities. Trump’s admirers will point out that he was merely buying rather selling political favors, but the criticism of Clinton are still somewhat blunted in a way that those of other possible Republican candidates wouldn’t have been.
At least Trump fights, we’re told.

— Bud Norman

The Schlong Ride to the Presidency

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are having a nasty spat, and there’s a sex angle to the story, so that’s currently the big news of the presidential race. So far Trump seems to be getting the better of it, but no one is likely to emerge unscathed from such a tawdry affair.
The brouhaha began with Trump telling one of his constant interviewers that Clinton got “schlonged” in her last presidential campaign. If you’re from outside New York City or are otherwise so goyish you don’t speak even a bissel of Yiddish, “schlong” is a low sort of synonym for penis, and the past tense verb form is pretty much self-explanatory. Clinton could have taken the high road and ignored the remark, but that would have been entirely out of character, and she could have rightly objected on the grounds that Trump was using language ill-suited to presidential politics and being downright vulgar, but that would not seem so damning after the past seven years of presidential rhetoric and late night comedy show appearances, so instead she indignantly accused Trump of sexism. The alleged schlonging was by The First Black President, too, so some quarters of the press helpfully chipped in with accusations of racism, and we expect that somebody thought to accuse the self-described Presbyterian of cultural appropriation for using a Yiddishism, and in verb form at that, and the first wave of stories had all the usual outrage.
Clinton’s inevitable accusation of sexism offered Trump an opening, however, and he shrewdly seized the opportunity to remind the public of Clinton’s role in smearing the many women who have made allegations of everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault to outright rape against her husband. The press was obliged to report it, and although most media did so with the usual outrage the charge still stung. Former President Bill Clinton’s countless extra-marital schlongings aren’t merely metaphorical, and have done more damage to public standards than anything Trump might blurt out during an interview, and Hillary Clinton’s enabling role in all the tawdry scandals belie her claim to feminist glory. Throw in all the financial scandals that belie her populist warrior image, and all the lies told to obscure her incompetence and corruption, and the character question is very much a legitimate issue in the race.
Trump is quite right to raise the issue, but he’s the wrong person to do so. The billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star is thrice-married, boasts of his womanizing past with the same shamelessness as when he boasts of his wealth, has a long history of making disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of women he dislikes, and the fact that Bill Clinton is arguably even worse is damning with faint praise. Throw in his shameless boasts of buying off politicians to aid his gambling business and using the bankruptcy laws four times to pay less of his boundless fortune to his creditors than he promised, as well as his penchant for vulgarity, and his own character issues become a legitimate issue in the race.
Still, we’ll concede that Trump has once again proved to you can say the things that were previously thought unsayable. One can only hope that someone more eloquent and admirable can take advantage of that.

— Bud Norman