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Grasping for Straws

Our formerly Grand Old Party formally nominated Donald J. Trump for President of the United States of America on Tuesday, so at this point the only straw of faint hope for the country we can grasp at is that he won’t accept the nomination on Thursday and instead admit that his candidacy was just a practical joke and publicity gimmick gone badly awry. There’s even less chance of that happening than that the Democrats won’t nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton by month’s end, and thus our formerly great country will almost certainly wind up with one of the two most deplorable people its all-too-human political system has ever vomited up as its next president.
Those always deplorable Democrats will surely embarrass themselves in nominating their unprecedentedly deplorable choice in short time, and we’ll gleefully note it when they do, but until then we must glumly concede they’ll be hard-pressed to top what’s been going on at the Republican convention in Cleveland. Thus far the Republican convention has featured the hated “establishment” that Trump vowed to burn down quashing the feeble efforts of delegates representing the majority of the grass-roots Republicans who voted against Trump with highly questionable parliamentary tactics, the third trophy wife of the formerly family values party borrowing lines from the deplorable President Barack Obama’s deplorable wife, and the star power of that guy who used to play “Chachi” on “Happy Days.” Conspicuously absent from the stage are the party’s last nominee and its past two presidents and the locally popular Republican governor of the crucial swing state of convention-hosting Ohio, all of whom the presumptive Republican has slandered in the most outrageous fashion. The runner-up whose wife the Republican nominee mocked as ugly and whose father he fancifully suggested was in on the assassination of John Kennedy is scheduled for a turn on the stage, but at this point we can’t think of anything he might say on behalf of Trump that will do him or the Republican nominee much good.

None of this is helpful in dissuading the clear majority of Americans who have already formed a negative of opinion of Trump. The “anti-establishment” mantle he claimed was undermined when the “establishment” proved just as feckless as he’d always said it was and meekly climbed aboard the “Trump train,” his third wife’s cribbing from Michelle Obama’s cliched convention speech undermines is no big deal but allows the press to undermine Trump’s claim that his inept general election operation will surround him with the best people, and that “Chachi” guy and his weird speech suggests that the erstwhile reality show star doesn’t have the pop culture credentials that were enough to win a nomination by a formerly Grand Old Party. Some of the speeches that were allowed at the convention made a persuasive case that the all-but-certain Democratic nominee is even worse, but even then the Republican nominee’s ego got in the way. Less noticed was the Republican Party platform’s suddenly pro-Russian stance, but then again the presumptive Democratic nominee was the one who first offered that “re-set button.”

Perhaps the most compelling speaker the Republicans could come up with was Patricia Smith, whose son Sean died along with American ambassador and two others in Benghazi, Libya, as a result of the utter incompetence of the presumptive Democratic nominee, who also brazenly lied to her face about the reasons why, but if you were watching on Fox News you missed it because the Republican nominee chose that crucial moment to phone in another self-aggrandizing and utterly ridiculous interview that pre-empted the speech. In any case he was outspokenly for that ill-advised Libyan adventure, even if he brazenly lies about it now to Patricia Smith and the rest of us, just as he brazenly lies about his opposition to the Iraq War that he slanderously blames on the last two Republican presidents, and no matter what apologies his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supports might come up with he missed yet another opportunity because he simply can’t shut up and let the Democrats look bad.
We can’t discount the possibility that the Democrats will once again boo God and badmouth America and otherwise embarrass themselves when they nominate their deplorable nominee, and we note with some satisfaction that she’s also unfavorably regarded by a heartening 60 percent or so of the country, but they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to surpass what’s going on in Cleveland. In any case, we’ll be clinging to the faint straw of hope that some pot-smoking Libertarian or teetotaling Prohibitionist or some other oddball alternative might yet mitigate the next four awful years.

— Bud Norman

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The Past Bad Week, and the Next One

The past week saw 84 deaths from deadly terrorist attack in France and failed coup attempts in Cleveland and Turkey, three more police officers were killed and another three seriously worried in Baton Rouge, another young black man was shot and killed by police officers in Baltimore after he fired four rounds at them with a rifle, and this week doesn’t look any better. The President of the United States was only slightly less worse in his responses to these events than usual, the President of Turkey is so awful we weren’t sure who to root for during that short-lived coup attempt, and the failure of that coup attempt we were fervently rooting on in Cleveland means that the Republican National Convention will almost certainly nominate Donald J. Trump as that awful president’s successor, and we’d hate to be a police officer in the vicinity of Cleveland when that happens.
President Barack Obama’s response to the carnage in France was frank enough to acknowledge that it was “horrible,” and he even went so far as to call it an act of “terrorism,” but as usual he wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the clearly Islamist nature of it. He was clearly once again caught off-guard about the failed coup in Turkey, and was content to leave it to his hapless Secretary of State to explain why they were rooting all along for the Turkish president they once claimed a “special relationship” with and are now at odds with. Earlier Obama attended the funeral of five police officers gunned down in Dallas during a “Black Lives Matter” protest, and seized the occasion to make a case for the protest movement that has whipped up the anti-police hysteria that clearly has something to do with their deaths, but after three more officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge he more clearly took a stand against the murder of random policemen and urged that “We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points of advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts.” Which is all well and good, we suppose, expect that it was probably a rebuke as much to such anti-Islamist-terrorism and anti-killing-of-random-policemen such as ourselves as to those erstwhile allies of his who have been egging on the recent violence.
The Democratic Party’s all-but-certain nominee was no better. She took the opportunity of the carnage in France to reiterate her previously stated absurd claim that Islam has nothing to with these all to frequent tragedies, also seemed surprised by the coup attempt in the Turkey she had so assiduously courted as Secretary of State, and after the carnage in Louisiana she took her sweet time before coming out foursquare against the murder of random police officers and adding the usual caveats to indicate her sympathy to the movement that is clearly fueling the recent spate of it. Should there be further troubles in Cleveland this week we’ll eagerly await her nuanced response.
Following the failure of that coup attempt in Cleveland the all but certain Republican nominee will be Trump, who cannot be accused of being at all nuanced about his opposition to Islamist terrorism or the random murders of police officers, but can be credibly accused of “inflammatory rhetoric” and “careless accusations” and attempts to “score political points or advance an agenda,” and would probably be leading by double digits in all the polls if he could temper his words or had a heart to open. The “Bikers for Trump” who have served as semi-official security guards for his rallies, which have long been beset by the violent thugs who oppose him are predicting the scene outside the Republican Convention will resemble the “OK Corral,” which reminds our baby boomers selves more of the Altamont concert by the same Rolling Stones’ whose “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” introduced Trump’s vice-presidential pick at a weird press conference this past week,  and the all but certain Republican nominee clearly relishes a good fight, and taking all of the bi-partisan nuttiness in account we’re feeling lucky to not be a police officer in Cleveland this week.

— Bud Norman

A Long, Hot Summer Slides into Cleveland

This has been a riotous summer thus far, and we don’t mean in that in the secondary sense of the term that it’s been at all amusing.
Violent and disruptive protests sparked by the “Black Lives Matter” movement have caused serious injuries to numerous law enforcement officers in Minnesota, Illinois, Louisiana, and Missouri, five policemen were shot down by sniper fire in Texas and at four others have been shot in ambushes around the country, gangs of thugs have inflicted severe violence on attendees at the presumptive Republican nominee’s rallies in several other jurisdictions, not to mention the even worse carnage inflicted by radical Islamist terrorists. There have been less violent disruptions in a number of other cities, including right here in otherwise placid Wichita where on Wednesday when several of our most liberal Facebook friends were complaining about the “Black Lives Matter” protest that shut down essential 13th Street in an attempt to shut down the even more essential Canal Route, and we hear that even in the wake of those five officers’ deaths a similar protest did manage to shut down a far more heavily travelled rush hour interstate route in Dallas.
All in all, we’re feeling rather lucky not to be one of the law enforcement officers assigned to security at next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
In addition to all the other worrisome warning signs, the always-troublesome New Black Panther Party has announced it will be in attendance and availing itself of its legal rights to carry concealed weapons in Ohio, and it’s safe to assume that various other thuggish opponents of the presumptive Republican nominee will arrive with similar intent, and any old presumptive Republican nominee would have some supporters who would reasonably avail themselves of the same rights as they as peacefully participate in the political process, and although we aren’t attempting any sort of numerical or moral equivalence we feel compelled by intellectual honesty to admit that this particular presumptive Republican nominee has at least a troublesome few supporters who seem all too eager to mix it up and the presumptive nominee’s promise to pay for the legal fees for anyone who punches a protestor in the face. Not to mention that ever-present threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and the general craziness of this moment in American history, and the lack of anything remotely reassuring among everything else that’s going on. All in all, it seems the sort of combustible situation that we’d prefer to watch through barely opened fingers from a safe distance via television and the internet.
The last time we witnessed such potential mayhem at a major party’s presidential convention was when our elementary-school-aged selves watched the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago devolve into absolute chaos on our family’s fuzzy black-and-white television. There’s still some debate whether it was a police riot caused by the overaggressive forces of the local ruling Democratic urban machine or an ill-advised revolution of yippies and hippies and the disrupters of the system that the presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate plausibly blamed, but in any case it undeniably resulted in the plurality election of the Republicans and their “law and order” platform. With the current presumptive Republican nominee promising more of the same “law and order” and in the exact slogan, history might well repeat itself. On the other hand, given the current media landscape and political demographic possibilities afoot, any tragedies in Cleveland might well wind up being blamed on Second Amendment rights and and the presumptive Republican nominee’s “at least he fights” persona, and there will surely be the usual excuses should it turn out to be radical Islamic terrorism, so we can’t discount the possibility that the Republican winds up winning but leaving office despite a landslide reelection victory because of his own character flaws. Some sage once noted that American history always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce, and this combustible situation seems to promise no happier outcomes.
We’ll be watching from a safe distance on television and internet through fingers that are crossed but opened just enough to allow for the watching, and hoping for the best. At every moment, though, we’ll be glad we’re not a cop in Cleveland. There are onlyso  many cops in Cleveland, and  a certain portion of them are need to maintain law and order in those areas outside the Republican national presidential convention, and apparently some of the neighboring police departmentwho t had volunteered their efforts to make up the difference are also thinking they’d also rather watch from a safe distance via television and the internet, and we worry it will continue to be a riotous summer in in the worst and most literal sense of that term.

— Bud Norman