When Politics is Personal

Politics ain’t bean bag, as the cliche aptly puts it, but we can’t remember a time when it was quite so pro wrestling-like as it is today. Pro wrestling hall of famer and President of the United States Donald Trump seems to pride himself on flouting the traditional norms of decorum and civility in political discourse, and routinely insults his political opponents with charges of mental illness and criminal behavior and ugliness.
On Tuesday, for instance, Trump called Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a “waste of time” and “a sick woman” who “has a lot of mental problems.” In the same interview he reiterated his claims that President Barack Obama and various Federal Bureau of Investigation officers had committed especially egregious but unspecified political crimes. Trump also explained that he didn’t know the State Department inspector general who was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for possibly using aides to do personal chores as well as possibly making a corrupt arms deal with Saudi Arabia, but fired the guy because he was an Obama appointee and Pompeo wanted him gone.
The unsubstantiated and unspecified charges levied against Obama and the career public officials are unprecedented in our many years of following politics, as is Trump’s purge of any pesky inspectors general who might find anything embarrassing to the Trump administration, but these are apparently the new rules. To quote an oft-quoted line from The Godfather, “It’s strictly business, not personal.” The Pelosi slurs, on the the other hand, seemed strictly personal
On Monday Pelosi was interviewed by the Cable News Network’s Anderson Cooper, and expressed concern about Trump’s announcement that he was using hydroxychloroqine to ward aff infection by the coronavirus. “He’s our president, and I would rather he was not taking something that has been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group — ‘morbidly obese, they say.” Say what you want about Pelosi’s political views, and we’ve had plenty to say about them over the years, but you should admit that the daughter of a famously ruthless Maryland politician has some bare knuckle skills of her own. With a finesse Trump will never master, she sounded concerned about the president’s health while also mentioning his obesity.
Trump fans will agree that Pelosi is a “waste of time” and a “sick woman” who “has a lot of mental problems,” and cheer him on for telling it like is, but we figure that the Pelosi’s objective observation of Trump’s obesity is also telling it like it is.
We’re lately feeling liberated from the old rules of civility and decorum and the rest of all that “politically incorrect” nonsense, so we’ll just come right out and say that Trump is fat. We’ll even go so far as to say that he’s a big fat fatty-pants with a ridiculous comb-over and white circles around his eyes in an otherwise orange and jowly face. None which is disqualifying, as we have to admit that Trump isn’t as fat as President William Howard Taft, who we consider a very underrated president, and he’s not so ugly President Abraham Lincoln, who is rightly regarded as the great president ever, Trump does routinely make an issue of other people’s height and weight and looks.
“I didn’t know he’d be so sensitive,” Pelosi responded on the MSNBC network, before adding “He’s always talking about other people’s avoirdopois, their weight, their pounds.” Which is provably telling like it is, and well within the bounds of the new rules.of pubic discourse.
Trump makes his own rules, and expect everyone else to play the old rules, but that’s not going to happen, How this sort of this sort political discussion leads the country out of the greatest public health crisis in more than a century and the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depressioon remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

Let Us All Eat in Peace

As regular readers of this publication are well aware, we’re not fond of President Donald Trump, nor are we fond of any of his administration officials, except for a few who are frequently on Trump’s bad side. Still, we wouldn’t refuse any of them service at our restaurant, in the off chance we had one and the even more off chance Trump or any of his administration officials happened to walk into it, nor would we attempt to boo any of them out of any public space we somehow happened to share.
That’s just our old-fashioned Kansas conservative way, though, and it seems a number of more well-helled and up-to-date liberal types in Washington, D.C., and Lexington, Virginia, disagree. White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were both recently heckled by numerous fellow diners and driven from Mexicans restaurants in Washington, Nielsen was later awakened by an angry crowd chanting outside her home before dawn, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party were asked by the owner of restaurant in Lexington to leave. In the all the discussion that ensued from all the brouhaha some leftward media expressed solidarity with the hecklers, and California’s Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters got some headlines by urging her followers that no Trump administration be allowed to gas up their car or buy groceries or eat a restaurant meal without harassment.
As much as we dislike Trump for our own old-fashioned Kansas conservative reasons, and have to admit that his urging his followers to punch out protestors and promising to pay their legal bills and other vulgar utterances have also debased the civility of our public discourse, and despite the chuckle we got out of a late-night comedian saying that it takes some serious chutzpah for either Miller or Nielsen to visit a Mexican restaurant, we’d rather both sides of America took time off from these dreary debates for mealtimes and grocery-shopping and theater-going and other previously sacrosanct moments of a human being’s life.
The venerably pre-Trump conservative magazine National Review agrees, and so does the old-fashionedly liberal editorial board of the The Washington Post, as well as most of the the rest of mostly apolitical America. Still, there’s clearly more than a few on both the left and right fringes of the political spectrum who seem to be itching for a fight.
The aforementioned Waters has been a racialist demagogue since before even Trump got into the game, and first became nationally-known by encouraging the constituents in her ever-shifting district to continue the Los Angeles riots of 1992 until some Korean immigrant shopkeepers started effectively firing back with semi-automatic weapons, and after all these years we’re even somewhat less fond of her than Trump. Her more or less clarion call for mobocracy are not uncommon on the leftward edges of the political spectrum, too, and that’s one reason we’re still old-fashioned Kansas conservatives.
Meanwhile, the racialist demagogue Trump has “tweeted” back at the “low-IQ individual” Waters that he’s got plenty of his own supporters who are also itching for a fight. Several of them have already egged the Red Hen Restaurant that denied Sanders service, except that they mistakenly egged an entirely innocent restaurant of that name in Washington, D.C., rather that the admittedly guilty one in Lexington, and one way or another that fight the farthest fringes seem to be itching for will likely end badly.
The good news is that both National Review and The Washington Post are calling for a political time-out during eating and grocery-shopping and theater-going and family and sleep time, and that most Democratic and Republican politicians agree on this point. Somehow, the center might hold.
Still, longtime readers of this publication know our recurring nightmares about the last days of the Weimar Republic in pre-Hitler Germany, when the Commies and the Nazis were brawling it out on the grimy streets of decadent Berlin. We’ve always figured that in such incomprehensibly dire circumstances we would seek asylum elsewhere, but in this mean old world we don’t know where we might have found it. When we challenged a post-Trump Republican friend of ours that he would have defended iconic Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to turn back the St. Louis ocean liner full of Jewish refugees, he admitted he would do so even now knowing with the 20-20 hindsight of history that it condemned all the passengers to concentration camp deaths, and that if by historical chance we’d needed the chance we would have also been passengers on that voyage, and given her racialist demagoguery and the demographic make-up of her district we’re sure Waters would have gone along with it as well.
At this point we’re willing to let the “Trumpanzees” and the “lib-tards” brawl it out on the decadent of streets of America, at least as far as possible away from our surprisingly serene streets of Wichita, Kansas, and hope that the center will hold, and our daily meals will at least be peaceful.

— Bud Norman

An Era of Bad Feelings

President Barack Obama met with President-elect Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday, and by all accounts it was quite cordial. Trump, who spent much of the past eight years arguing that Obama was ineligible to hold the office by virtue of his foreign birth until conceding just a few weeks ago that he wasn’t born outside the country after all, emerged with kinds words for the president and a promise to frequently seek his counsel. Obama, who spent most of the past several months arguing that Trump should be ineligible for the presidency for reasons of intelligence, temperament and character, promised to provide whatever help he could to make his successor a success.
Not everyone, though, was so civil. Riots have broken out in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, protests of various size and degrees of civility are happening all across the country, there’s been a nationwide outbreak of graffiti and vandalism, and activists are promising that it will increase in the coming days. The late night comics and the big time columnists are grousing about the election, “not my president” is the hot new “hashtag,” and all sorts of people are expressing their dissatisfaction in all sorts of ways. The front lawn of a house next door to our neighborhood coffee shop has sprouted a hand-lettered “not my president” sign, which we noticed as we sat outside and sipped some java on a warm fall afternoon with a couple of seemingly shell-shocked old friends and third old friend who was relieved that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had lost but not noticeably happy about Trump winning.
This sort of thing happens every four years, of course, but in this crazy election year the feelings are palpably more intense and seem likely to linger far longer than usual. Several cities around the country had already endured a year of riots in response to police shootings of civilians, even during a presidential administration reflexively biased against the officers involved, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has prompted the rioting surely won’t be any less belligerent with an administration that has promised to be reflexively biased in favor of law enforcement. Various sorts of left-wing thugs were assaulting Trump’s rally-goers and firebombing Republican Party headquarters and spray-painting everything in sight even before he won, and the results of an election are not likely to placate them. That segment of the self-described progressive movement prone to shutting down bridges and disrupting downtown traffic and scaring the tourists away from the shopping districts found plenty to do even during the progressive administration they had all campaigned for, and we expect that an administration they campaigned against will keep them even busier. Some people look for excuses to engage in their hobby of civil disobedience, and they’ll no doubt find a constant supply of them in the coming years.
Should the anti-Trump movement reach anywhere near the level of violence and mayhem of the anti-Vietnam War protests of the ’60s we expect that the president will be eager to deliver some of that ’60s style law and order he talked about during the campaign, and like all arson sprees it will eventually burn itself out, but a more peaceable anger will continue to smolder. Votes are still being counted somewhere, for some reason, but as of this writing Clinton still has a slight lead in the popular vote totals, with well more than half of the electorate voting for someone other than Trump, and if you add in the large number of people who didn’t vote at all it’s a landslide number of Americans who didn’t vote for him, and of those who did vote for him we estimate that about half are like our kaffeeklatsch pal who did so only because he thought Clinton would be even worse, so that’s a lot of dissatisfied people. Given Trump’s proudly pugnacious style of dealing with criticism, we don’t anticipate another Era of Good Feelings.
One must admit, though, that Trump has been on his best behavior since the election was called in his favor. His victory speech was conspicuously lacking in any of the chest-thumping that followed every primary win, and even included some kind words for the opponent he had repeatedly promised to put behind bars. The remarks after meeting the president he had so long claimed was illegitimately elected were uncharacteristically gracious, and apparently he was even civil during a meeting with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who was also the subject of angry “tweets” and veiled threats during the campaign. He did send his first “Tweet” as President-elect to complain “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very Unfair!,” but at least he didn’t promise some sort of nuclear retaliation against Oakland and Portland. One must also admit that both Clinton and Obama have been uncharacteristically classy about what must surely be a bitter loss, and some of the chattering classes are also chipping in some begrudging bi-partisan best wishes.
That sort of thing happens every four years, however, and it never lasts for very long. After this crazy election  year it should dissipate more quickly than usual. Trump can’t stay gracious any longer than Clinton or Obama can keep classy, and the most hard-core fans on both sides can be a most ungraciousness and classless bunch, and we’re certain it’s going to make for an ugly four years. Those of us who can’t stand any of them will continue to add our sneers and snark, too, but we’ll try our best to propose something as an alternative, and promise that at least we won’t be rioting or setting anything on fire or otherwise delaying your drive home from work.

— Bud Norman

The Pathetic State of the Races

Tonight brings the latest episode in Donald Trump’s highly-rated reality show, also known as the second debate of the Republican Party’s presidential nomination race, and it’s as good a time as any to note that the Democratic Party’s less-watched show is just as appalling.
In one of those surprise plot twists that any half-attentive viewer could have seen coming from a mile away, the sudden front-runner in the Democratic race suddenly seems to be the self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He’s still frequently described as a “long-shot” by most of the media, who with the same hopefulness occasionally use the same term for Trump, and the consensus of pundit opinion is still that former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive-first-female-president Hillary Clinton will somehow survive all the scandals her resume has to offer and eventually wind up in a successful race against some more-or-less establishment Republican or another. This strikes us as an unlikely scenario at this point, and not just because it’s too boring to generate any ratings. This Sanders character, on the other hand, inspires all sorts of intriguing and yet oddly plausible plot lines to grip the public’s attention.
On Monday Sanders spoke at the self-described conservative and Christian and Rev. Jerry “Moral Majority” Falwell-founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the speech lived up to its fish-out-of-water possibilities. Although the presumably anti-abortion, pro-same-sex-marriage, and reliably left on every other social issue Sanders was preaching to the wrong choir at Liberty he was nonetheless treated with a quiet consideration of his views and a respectful round of applause at the end of his rambling and insane speech, quite unlike the treatment that a pro-abortion, anti-same-sex-marriage, and really right on every other social issue conservative speaker might expect at almost any other university. The speech and its civil reception didn’t get nearly so much coverage as The Donald’s latest “tweet” about some woman’s ugliness and how he bangs hotter broads all the time, but it’s just as disturbing in that ironic way that modern television viewers seem to relish.
Sanders made a valiant attempt to cloak his socialism and social issues libertinism in scripture, citing Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,” but then undermined the argument by insisting that all the world’s religions take the same generous view. Islam as practiced by the Islamic State and the Islamic Republic of Iran and all the rest of those head-chopping, stoning, burning-at-the-stake adherents of the Religion of Peace apparently sees no religious obligation to treat the infidels as they would hope to be treated, and we expect the ordinary Liberty University student is at least well educated enough to understand that. Most of the media also understand this, and understand that most of America understands this, which is probably why they’d prefer to report on The Donald’s latest “tweet.” Sanders also quoted the Old Testament book of Amos, chapter five and verse 24, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a falling stream,” to justify his pro-abortion and pro-same-sex marriage stands, but we expect the average Liberty University could cite other chapters and verses of other books in both the Old and New Testaments that are more specific about such matters. Most of the media couldn’t, we suspect, which is another reason they’d prefer to report on The Donald’s latest “tweet.”
Sanders also cited scripture through the rest of his rant, mostly about the dreaded “1 percent,” “with huge yachts, and jet planes and tens of billions. More money than they would ever know what to do with,” and their obligation to cough it all up to finance a few hours of federal spending. We suppose there’s something somewhere in the scriptures about greed or one of the other relevant Seven Deadly Sins that might bolster Sanders’ theological argument, but even such protestant students as one might find at Liberty University are likely to notice there’s a certain amount of envy and covetousness in Sanders’ pitch, and the economic considerations are too ridiculous to contemplate. The Wall Street Journal has tallied all the spending that Sanders proposes and come up with an $18 trillion price tag, which would be added to the $18 trillion or so already owed, and not including the many tens of trillions of previous unfunded promises, as well as all the the state and municipal and private debt that’s accumulated, and it’s going to take some hellacious scripture-citing to make that work out.
The best we can say for the Democrats is that Sander’s explosion is just the equal and opposite reaction to Clinton’s implosion from various scandals and the increasingly apparent fact that she has no provable accomplishments to show for her many titles and is just an awful, awful woman, which we saw coming from a mile way, no matter what predictable plot lines those hack writers in the media type up, and perhaps there’s some out-of-the-blue plot twist that will lead to a happy ending. They’re pitching the idea of Vice President Joe Biden, at which we point the storyline has reached the absurdism of Samuel Beckett. We’re waiting for a Democrat more worthy than The Donald, which isn’t asking much, but at this point its going to take some deus ex machina that the jaded public won’t buy.
We can only hope that there are still a few twists left in the Republican plot line, as well, and that it ends with one of the many other more heroic characters somehow prevailing over Trump’s “tweets.” Tonight’s episode of the Donald Trump reality show might even set that in motion, and we’ll be watching with avid interest.

— Bud Norman

Black Friday Blues

Today is called Black Friday, as you might have heard. The name has an ominous ring to it, like the title of one of those movies where the hero runs around machine-gunning terrorists while lots of things blow up, but apparently it merely refers to all the Christmas shopping which regularly occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. We’re told it derives from all the black ink that retailers use to tally their profits on this day, and we suppose that’s a good thing.
Still, there is something unsettling about the annual stories of shoppers camped out in mall parking lots for days in order to be the first in line for the marked-down goods, the shoving matches and fistfights over the last of the of the bargains, and the general mayhem and rudeness that always seem to result. This year has also brought a slew of stories about all the underpaid and over-worked shop employees being deprived of Thanksgiving by the ever-earlier opening times demanded by their taskmasters, all very reminiscent of poor Bob Cratchit back in the dark Dickensian days, as well as reports of threatened labor actions to take revenge on the evil corporations.
None of which does much to bolster the holiday spirit, which is hard enough to maintain these days. We’ve known people who look forward to Black Friday shopping, and despite their best efforts to explain the appeal we just don’t get it. They seem to find much pleasure in purchasing something at a lower-than-usual price, and go about it with the competitive zeal of a big-game hunter on safari, but it hardly seems worth the hassles of jostling with the maddening crowds.
Those fortunate enough to find themselves with free time today might find that it is better spent by relaxing, reading a good book, tending to some long-neglected chore, enjoying the quiet company of family or friends, or otherwise preparing for the onslaught of the holiday season. There will be time enough for shopping, with plenty of bargains, and maybe there ought to be less shopping. Although we advocate a red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism, and pride ourselves on a high level of tolerance for whatever lifestyle choices that people make with their money as well as their private parts, it does seem to us that in this heavily indebted country most people already have quite enough stuff. Civility, serenity, and the very non-materialist philosophy of the teacher whose birth is being celebrated this season are what’s lacking, and would make a much better gift than anything on sale on the mall.

— Bud Norman

The Devil She Says

Demonizing one’s political opponents is a longstanding tradition in America, but few politicians have done it quite so literally as Rep. Maxine Waters.

The California congresswoman recently took the stage at her state’s Democratic convention, serenaded by a recording of “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” and gave a stemwinding speech in which she described House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as “demons.” Demons who are “destroying this country rather than bringing us together,” at that.

Hearing a Democrat invoke such religious language is surprising enough, but especially so when the accusation is hurtled at the likes of Boehner and Cantor. Boehner is best known for being lachrymose, hardly a habit one associates with demons, while Cantor is little known at all, largely a result of a low-key personality uncommon among demons. Both men are far too accomodating for the tastes of the average of Republican, who would much prefer they went about their obstructionism with a bit more demonic zeal.

The accusation is all the more galling coming from Waters, who was an apologists for her constituents’ hate crimes during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, steadfastly defended the government’s insistence on subprime lending right up to the moment it caused a financial meltdown, and advocates the nationalization of the energy industry, among other policies that are least as destructive as anything a demon might conjure.

Readers with a long memory for political fads will recall that a year or so ago, around the time Sarah Palin shot all those people in Arizona, Democrats were briefly enthused about “civility.” Apparently the fad has passed.

— Bud Norman