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The Curious Case of the Candidate’s Body Double

Lately we’ve been spending some time at Netflix binge-watching episodes of a British documentary series about conspiracy theories, partly because we need some diversion from that awful presidential race but mostly because we enjoy a good conspiracy theory the way some readers revel in a good mystery novel. It’s just our luck in this crazy election year, though, that the most diverting conspiracy theory we’ve lately encountered comes from that awful presidential race.
Unless you’re much better than us at avoiding the news, you already know that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was videotaped collapsing into the arms of her aides as she took an early exit from a memorial service for the victims of the 2001 terror attacks in New York on Sunday, and that it has brought all the lingering questions about her health from the comments sections of the more conspiratorial-minded web sites to the front pages of the even the most polite press. By you also know that she was whisked to her daughter’s nearby apartment rather than to a hospital, and that she emerged from the apartment just a few hours later looking quite hale and happy as she waved to photographers and greeted a cute young girl who who happened to be on the sidewalk. If you’re attuned to the proper “Twitter” feeds and internet sites, or the more mainstream portions of the press that report their speculations, you might even be aware of the theory that the Clinton who emerged from that apartment building looking suspiciously healthy with a suspicious lack of secret services agents around a suspiciously cute young girl to greet her was actually a body double.
More careful observers than ourselves noticed a slight difference in the nose and a change of earrings, as well as more general youthful appearance, and along with those other suspicious circumstances that was enough to lead some to a conclusion that a body double had been substituted. The theory doesn’t explain how the body double happened to be on hand in Clinton’s daughter’s apartment, or what became of the actual Clinton, or why a campaign so diabolically brilliant as to have such a convincing doppelgänger around in case of a collapse has lately been slipping in the polls against the likes of Republican nominee Donald Trump, but in this crazy year we suppose that anything is possible.
As far-fetched as it might seem, the theory gained enough currency that it was briefly the second-most “trending” topic on “Twitter,” which also spurred conspiracies theories. A Reditt site devoted to Trump supporters alleged “#HillarysBodyDouble is NOT truly trending on Twitter, But They Stuck It on the Trends to Make Us Look Nuts,” which might also strike some non-Trump supporters as randomly capitalized and completely nuts. A writer for the InfoWars site, which has alleged that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were an inside job and that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and countless other conspiracy theories, and has lately been insisting that Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease or syphilis or a brain tumor, “tweeted” that “The #Hillary’sBodyDouble narrative was probably started by the Clinton campaign to discredit genuine questions about her health.”
Some of the rumors specified that the body double is a woman named Teresa Bonwell, who resembles Clinton closely enough that she’s made living as a look-alike for the past several years, and she seems to have fueled that speculation by sending out an old photograph of herself outside the same building with the taunting message “Maybe I was in New York.” She now insists it was a joke, and has the ironclad alibi of being at a video shoot with a Bill Clinton look-alike and, just to make things perfect, the guy who played President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in “Idiocracy.”
Despite the Hollywood-like ingenuity of the body double switch, that crafty Clinton campaign hasn’t seemed to discredit any truly genuine questions about her health, which are being raised in even the most polite press, and by now even her supporters are conceding that she should have been more forthcoming about condition. Some supporters are even admitting that Clinton’s longstanding tendency toward secrecy has made even the most outlandish speculations seem plausible, and if that body double finishes out the campaign for Clinton she’s bound to endure some interrogations about it. That guy who’s been filling in for the late Paul McCartney the past 50 years has done pretty well, though, so maybe she’ll pull it off.
Thus far Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet about Clinton’s condition, but he’s also the guy who championed that Obama-was-born-in-Kenya theory and parrots the Code Pink line about George W. Bush lying America into the Iraq War and urged everyone to read The National Inquirer’s big story about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ dad being in on the John F. Kennedy assassination, and he frequently finds that things are rigged, so he probably won’t have anything bad to say about what his friends at InfoWars are saying. He should urge his supporters to stick to the facts, though, because those are bad enough.

— Bud Norman

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The Fat Lady Sings Her Sad Song

Well, it’s at long last all over but the shouting, which will surely be long and loud and lusty and eventually much-regretted. After a decisive rout in Indiana’s primary on Tuesday the last standing hope for decent governance in America has been bitterly abandoned and Donald J. Trump is now surely the Republican nominee for President of the United States.
The Grand Old Party that once offered the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan to the country’s rescue now confers the honor on  a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality show mogul to “Make America Great Again.” Even though she lost once again to self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the less-noticed Indiana Democratic primary, former First First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still the nearly-as-ceertain nominee of that once useful party, and in any case the country seems reduced to two awful choices.
No matter who wins the grim election the country will continue to ignore the looming entitlement-driven debt crisis, which both major party nominees have agreed can be forever forestalled by either the Republican’s promises of extraordinarily great trade deals or the Democrat’s promises of making a handful of billionaires pay for the multi-trillion dollar shortfalls, which the Republican’s web site-published tax plans disagrees with but his latest campaign trail pronouncements agree with, and which in any case are pure nonsense. Both sides now agree with the Code Pink and looney-left claims that “Bush died, people lied” version of the Iraq War, although the Democrat voted for it and the Republican quite dishonestly claims he was always against it, and both peddle a foreign policy that is clearly not up to the challenges of the moment. The Democrat disastrously “re-set” relations with Russia to the point that it was soon occupying much of its former Soviet Union territories, and the flattered-by-Putin’s praise Republican and his Russian-deal-making advisors and his protection racket notions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that had putatively won the Cold War hardly seem an improvement. Both are in favor of the government’s meddlesome involvement in health care and housing and racial-bean-counting-quotas and any number of other things that are best left to the private sector, and both think they’re smart enough enough to run the entirety of a multi-trillion dollar economy that is best left to the private sector. We also glumly note that both are adamantly opposed the freedom of speech that allows us to object, with both promising to undo the “Citizens United” decision that was commonsensical enough to rule that an anti-Clinton documentary couldn’t be preemptively censored and Trump promising to “open up the libel laws” to prevent any criticism of him.
Such seemingly inconsequential policy questions and matters of civilizational necessity aside, there’s also the unavoidable fact that both parties’ almost certain nominees are such execrable people. We have voted for the Republican nominees in every election we’ve been eligible to vote in, and were supportive of the party in every race since we reluctantly went for the admittedly flawed Nixon way back in our childhood days of ’68, and although we’ve often had to hold our noses we’ve cast our vote for the party’s candidate without any loss of self-respect, but this time around that won’t be at all possible.
This time around the the Republican nominee really is the male chauvinist pig that the Democrats have previously accused all Republicans of being, despite his recently found “pro-life” yet pro-public-funding-of-Planned-Parenthood position is obviously open to negotiation, and although we’ve been willing to go on the record and challenge all that “culture of rape” baloney and that men-in-the-women’s-showers-stuff that Trump might nor not be on board with any of the other the post-reality-show claptrap we cannot defend any stance he might yet settle on. This time around the Republican nominee is a draft-dodging coward who denigrates the courage of America’s most selfless prisoners of war and mocks the handicapped and supports the most egregious eminent domain laws that he’s used to evict widows from their longtime homes so he can build a parking lot for the widows at his at his soon-to-be-bankrupt Atlantic City house-odds-as-usal casinos and openly boasts about all the married babes he’s bagged and the politicians he’s bought off, and assures his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporter’s that “believe me, nobody reads the Bible more than I do.”
Trump’s soon-to-be-swelling number of apologists will rightly note that his almost-certain Democratic opponent is at least an equally execrable human being, and although we can’t argue the point neither do we find any consolation in it. Clinton used her position as First Lady to save her husband from her numerous disgraceful sex scandals, used his popularity from the Republican-caused welfare reforms and “end of big government” and the seemingly sensible but ultimately economy-crushing “fair housing” policies to win an undistinguished Senate term, and parlayed a doom presidential bid into a Secretary of State gig that led to the Libya policy that the Republican claims to have opposed but actually supported and winded up with four brave Americans dying in the Benghazi compound and her lying to the American people about and those four brave Americans’ families, and the rest of her career has also been one self-interested deal after another.
At this point in this utterly unpredictable election we’ll proffer no predictions about how it might turn out, except to say that it it will surely end badly. At this point we can well imagine that Trump will convince a majority of Americans that Clinton is so awful only he can and his oft-bankrupt yet legendary deal-making can make America great, and at the same time we can easily imagine than Clinton and all those media that Trump has thus far so skillfully manipulated will make the similarly convincing case that the Republican is indeed a woman-hating and self-confessed adulterer who bilked the gullible in his “Trump University” same and to this very day employs illegal aliens and out-source labor and did indeed write checks to the very “establishment” he now vows to destroy and was effusive in in praise for the Democratic challenger that he’ll now be playing brought with.
Soon you’ll be familiar with that already “viral” picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton at the third wedding of Donald J. Trump to his H1-B Visa bride, the sometime-nude-model foreigner who would do the work that Americans aren’t willing to do, and we expect it will eventually become iconic of the “anti-establishment” year of 2016. Trump was sleazy enough to invite Clinton to this third — count ’em, third — wedding, and Clinton was sleazy enough to accept to his sleazy contributions to her sleazy “family foundation” to come, and that seems to be where we stand in this history of this of republic-if-you-can-keep-it.
We’ll leave it to the reset of this once great America, which in no case seems likely to be great any time time soon, to sort it it all out. In the meantime, we’ll bee sorting through all those no-hope third party candidates and holding on to some faint hope that an America that reveres free speech and believes that its multi-trillion-dollar economy and the rest of it are best left to sensible and ethical will somehow emerge.

— Bud Norman

The Lost Cause and the Ensuing Brawl

For those unflinching sorts who are willing to watch, the ongoing metaphorical train wreck that is American politics has been captured by both news cameras and the more ubiquitous cell phone cameras, and of course it’s all “gone viral.” One popular series shows one of the increasingly violent demonstrations that have lately beset the campaign rallies of Republican front-runner Donald J. Trump, another shows a somewhat more peaceable disruption by Trump’s supporters of more traditional campaign appearance by last ditch-rival Republican rival Texas Sen. Cruz, and neither are at all suitable for the flinching sorts.
The anti-Trump demonstrations are the usual anti-free-speech left-wing thuggery, familiar from countless campus protests and labor strikes and anti-free-trade anarchist sprees, but predictably exacerbated by Trump’s heightened rhetoric. At first the more disruptive agitators at his events were from the anti-free-speech and anti-law-enforcement “Black Lives Matter” movement that had also disrupted the Democratic campaigns of former Secretary of State and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with the occasional disrupters coming from the self-described socialist Sanders’ supporters, while Clinton’s sizable number of supporters were just as disdainful but apparently too old for such shenanigans, but with Trump offering from the podium to pay any legal costs to supporters who expressed his desire to “punch them in the face” or “rough them up” it was mostly a give-and-take affair.
Now the race has moved on to California, which for the first time in anybody’s living memory has some say in who the major party’s presidential nominees will be, and the riotous protestors are overwhelmingly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who seem to be both more riotous and overwhelmingly numerous than even Trump’s supporters. They forced Trump to sneak into one event through a back door, which his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters regarded as a brilliantly Dunkirk-like maneuver, while his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters dared a far more difficult gauntlet to get in and cheer. Those same self-defeating protestors also invited The Drudge Report and other widely-read media to show the picture of the little nino holding a sign that said “Make America Mexico Again,” and play up how La Raza and other openly revanchist and racialist movements are opposed to Trump’s shifting anti-immigration stands and consistently harsh rhetoric about it, which makes it almost certain at this point that what’s left of California’s Republicans will hand Trump the Republican nomination. Given that the Democrats seem likely to nominate Clinton, a guest at Trump’s third wedding and the only person in American as widely loathed as him, they might even have handed him the presidency.
Meanwhile, back in Marion, Indiana, Cruz was out there on a more old-fashioned campaign trail meeting with the mostly old-fashionably peaceable folks. There were a couple of Trump supporters heckling Cruz, and he went over to have a by-now widely disseminated conversation with them. The ensuing debate is a more convincing rout than anything those self-defeating Mexicans and Mexican-Americans could hope for. Asked what he liked about Trump the supporter said “everything,” and when pressed for details he predictably cited Trump’s promise to “build a wall” to keep out all those undeniably revanchist Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in California and elsewhere, and when Cruz cited all the reasons to doubt that Trump actually meant any of it the fellow quickly changed subjects. The sunglass-wearing and obviously angry young man and his angry young cohorts charged Cruz with being Canadian, which every election board questioned on the matter has scoffed at and Cruz didn’t bother refuting, and charged him with being “Lyin’ Ted” without coming with any example of how he’d lied, and were so flummoxed by Cruz’ example of how Trump was as usual lying when he accused Cruz of lying about Mike Tyson was in indisputable fact a convicted-in-Indiana-by-a-jury-of-his-peers rapist, they wound up challenging him on the Second Amendment. If these as idiotic-as-any-Mexican-or-Mexican-Americans-or-“Black-Lives-Matter” type white working class idiots had bothered to pay the least bit attention to politics before they showed up protesting at a political event they would have learned that Cruz had defended successfully defended their Second American rights before the Supreme Court when Trump was praising Bill Clinton’s efforts to have their “assault rifles” banned, and wouldn’t have been surprised to learn from Cruz about Trump’s long and legally proved history of hiring illegal aliens and shipping jobs overseas and funding all the politicians that these idiotic Trump supporters claimed to have heard of and loathe, or otherwise have been so embarrassed they refused to give their names to gawking press corps.
Which at this point seems to make no difference, although even such Free State Kansas Republicans as ourselves have to admire the chivalrous “Lost Cause” courage of Cruz’s last stand there in Marion.. Such matters of fact and logic as civility as Cruz was so anachronistically insisting on, after eight years of the “Hope and Change” that Obama urged his supporters to get in people’s faces about and bring a gun to the inevitable fight that would result, are no longer of any consequence. By now it’s all about the anger on both sides, which both seem quite cocksure about their positions, and it seems we’ll be looking for the most factual and logical and civil protest vote. In any case, we want no part of the ensuing brawl.

— Bud Norman

Politics Goes into the Toilet

America is $19 trillion in debt, Russian warplanes are buzzing our naval ships with impunity, and there are other similarly pressing problems afoot both at home and abroad, but all the talk lately is about transgendered rights and restrooms. Interestingly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump has utterly failed to seize the moment.
The currently fashionable notion that any pervert who wants hang around public women’s restrooms and showers has every right to do so, which is backed by everyone from big business to aging rock stars to all the polite media, is the perfect example of “political correctness” run amok. Yet Trump, whose improbable rise to front-runner status has been largely fueled by his carefully cultivated politically incorrect public image, has thrown in with big business and the aging rock stars and all the polite media and the perverts who want to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers.
Asked about the recent North Carolina law that requires state institutions to restrict their current dual restrooms and showers to people with the genitalia usual to those facilities, which was a response to the predictably liberal dcapital city’s local government’s decision to enshrine that hanging around the ladies’ room right to any creepy guy who might want to avail himself of it, and wound up provoking boycotts by big business and aging rock stars and getting a former pitching star fired from ESPN and much opprobrium from all the rest of the polite media, the great controversialist and defier of conventional wisdom said the state was wrong because it “did something that was very strong” and “they’re paying a big price” and “there’s a lot of problems.” The “at least he fights” candidate, as he’s known to his so-loyal-could-shoot-someone loyalists, was essentially saying that North Carolina should allow any old pervert to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers rather than provoke the wrath of big business and aging rock stars and all the polite media and all the rest of who legitimately constitute that “establishment” he’s always railing against.
He’s been rewarded with the rare approval of the the polite press, and who find his stand on behalf of creepy old men hanging around women’s restrooms and showers “moderate,” and his most loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will consider it a shrewd and admirably insincere tactic with a slew of primaries and caucuses coming up in assumedly liberal northeastern states, but it strikes us as an obvious miscalculation. That polite press is going to start unleashing the obvious facts of the undeniable flaws in Trump’s character the moment he clinches the Republican nomination, those northeastern states aren’t going to vote for a Republican nominee in any case, and even the Republicans there are in those benighted northeastern states aren’t comfortable with creepy men hanging around the women’s rooms that their daughters are visiting, and even in those assumedly liberal states there are probably few transgendered people among them who will be persuaded to vote Trump. In the western states where Trump will almost certainly need the first-round delegates, even in the last remaining Republican portions of California, we are confident that most Republicans will prefer pesky challenger Sen. Ted Cruz’ full-throated and politically-incorrect and very populist view that the biologically-verifiable men should be confined to men’s rooms and showers that the those without the usual genitalia should be denied to entry to women’s rooms and showers.
In the same disastrous interview Trump was asked about Harriet Tubman’s elevation to to the $20 bill over former President Andrew Jackson, another one of those relatively unimportant issues that dominate the news, and we liked his response that the government should leave the currency alone. He didn’t articulate our objections to the Taliban-like tendency of the left to erase history, though, or make his usual objection to the politically correct impulse to favor Dead Black Females over Dead White Males, but instead chose to laud Jackson as a great president and dismiss the gun-toting and Bible-thumping and thoroughly Republican badass Tubman as a nobody. Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, the first vulgarian to occupy the White House, a calculating populist who exploited the economic ignorance of his understandably annoyed so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists and wound up plunging the country into its worst-yet Depression because of his crazy anti-financial-ector ideas, and a cruel slaver and the fellow who sent the admirable and patriotic Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears, but that probably won’t matter as much as the creepy guys hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will assure themselves he doesn’t really mean it, and they’ll be satisfied when he once again walks back that shoot-from-the-hip style they so admire, but that persistent 60 percent of the Republican party that is reluctant about his politically incorrect “at least he fights” style won’t be impressed, and even the creepy old men hanging around the women’s rooms and showers will wind up voting for the Democrat.

— Bud Norman

The Era of Post-Religious Manias

Although it’s been a long time coming, this seems to be the year that America officially enters its post-religious phase. Aside from those Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby folks having to go all the way to the Supreme Court to opt out of paying for abortifacient coverage, and some bakers reluctant about baking same-sex wedding cakes being fined and sent off to re-education camps, not to mention the current presidential campaigns, this was also the year that The Holy Bible first cracked the American Library Association’s top-ten-most-challenged book lists.
The rest of the list is admittedly the sort of thing that the more sternly religious have long objected to public funds being spent on, which is a difficult question for such strict free speech advocates and staunch stewards of publics funds and lifelong library lovers and committed cultural conservatives and occasional readers of subversive literature such as ourselves, but c’mon, The Holy Bible? Even those who would dismiss the book as a bunch of Abrahamic hooey should acknowledge that it has nonetheless exerted a significant influence on the history of the West in general and America in particular, at least until recently, and that there is some poetically good and still-relevant stuff in there, and that surely it should be available to inquisitive readers at the local library. Given the recent stridency of the anti-Judeo-Christian elements of America, though, we’re not at all surprised.
This is also a year when the front-runners in both of the two major political parties still claim some religious affiliation, even if no one takes either claim any more seriously than they did the claims of the current two-term president, but the Democratic challenger is doing quite well despite freely admitting he has no religious beliefs and the Republican challenger seems at a disadvantage because of his unabashed religiosity. The Little Sisters of the Poor might yet have to pay for abortifacient coverage, and those recalcitrant bakers are being mocked, and even that unabashedly religious Republican is reduced to defending the right of the last remaining dissenters to opt out of the cultural revolution that’s been unleashed, and by now the left’s long-feared “Handmaiden’s Tale” Christian theocracy seems rather far-fetched. The irreligious aren’t so fecund as the religious, which suggests ominous long-term trends, but for the moment, at least, they seem to have won out.
This will come as good news to the anti-religious sorts who can rightly note all the religious manias that have often beset mankind, even if they have to overstate the crimes of Judeo-Christian civilization and make elaborate excuses for other religions that are best left unmentioned, but we note that humans of all theological beliefs or un-beliefs have always been prone to manias. Russia and the subsequent Soviet Union were rigorously atheist and extraordinary murderous, as was Maoist China, and their imitators from Cambodia to Cuba to Uganda as well, even as a still more-or-less Judeo-Christian West still thrived, even here in the last-holdout land of America the post-religious manias are at least as crazy as anything religion ever produced. Rock stars are canceling shows in states that won’t allow creepy men claiming to be women to hang around women’s restrooms, as are self-proclaimed women’s rights advocates, and we’re not at all sure if the “Saturday Night Live” arbiters of public opinion are actually mocking a woman who doesn’t want to bake a same-sex wedding cake, and any objection to the conviction that mankind bit of the technological apple and was removed from a state of nature into Anthropological Global Warming should be punished by the law are now mainstream ideas.
We’re not electing a preacher-in-chief, as we’re constantly told by the supporters of the front-runners in both parties, but we’d like to think that we’re electing someone who holds to the traditions that have until recently made the West great. We’re willing to let all the pro-same-sex-marriage and kind bondage stuff have a place in the library, so long as The Holy Bible also has a place there, and you can get married to someone of the same sex so far as we’re concerned if you don’t force someone to bake a cake for it, but a society raised by “baby mommas” and “baby daddies” isn’t going to fare are well as one raised by husbands and wives, and that creepy guy claiming to be a woman in the local restroom is going to be a problem, and the post-religious manias won’t be any better than the religious ones.

— Bud Norman

New York Plays Its Role

New York gave its expected stamp of approval to two of the worst presidential candidates ever on Tuesday, with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scoring big and much-needed wins in the primaries of their home state. Both regained their front-runner status after some embarrassing losses to pesky rivals in the hinterlands, but we hold out hope the Empire State is no longer able to deliver either an inevitable nomination.
Trump at long last broke into majority territory with a convincing 61 percent of the statewide vote, and his pesky rival finished third with a paltry 15 percent, which will keep a pointless third candidate in the race to continue splitting the anti-Trump vote in some upcoming friendly northeastern states, and he won 88 of the available 95 delegates to further pad his lead, so there’s no denying he had another good night. He’s still off the pace to win the needed number of delegates for a first-ballot nomination, though, and thus far his pesky rival has been far better at the complicated and by-now-unfamiliar-to-anyone game of winning on a second or third ballot. New York’s Republican primary electorate is also atypical of the party’s at large, we are happy to say, and that pesky rival should fare better as the race moves out of the northeast.
Trump’s pesky rival is Sen. Ted Cruz, an unabashed Christian and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and described-by-everyone-as-conservative and unmistakeable Texan, so he never did stand a chance up there against a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul such as Trump, who is someone that the subway riders seem to want to be. New York’s invaluable contributions to conservatism runs from Alexander Hamilton through William F. Buckley to those fine folks at the Manhattan Institute, but even in New York City there are only so many eggheads, and we have to admit that the remaining 61 percent of the state’s Republicans are pretty much Archie Bunker, that left-wing caricature of a stereotypically bigoted and sexist and uninformed conservative from the ’70s left-wing sit-com “All in the Family.” As Trump is pretty much the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul version of Bunker, we can easily understand the results.
The Democratic outcome was even more easily understandable, and almost as unlikely to settle matters. The Democrats in New York, who will certainly deliver the state’s still sizable share of electoral votes to the Democrats no matter what combination of nominees this crazy race turns up, are well contented with the status quo that former First Lady and carpet-bagging-homestate Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Clinton represents. They own the state’s politics, its still outsized share of political power in the country at large, the lucrative arrangement with those evil Wall Street folks that her pesky rival is always railing against is largely satisfactory to the locals, the rich retain their power and the poor retain their benefits, and those Archie Bunkers in the middle are vastly out-numbered and voting in an increasingly insignificant Republican primary, so even a self-described socialist such as pesky rival self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander isn’t likely to fare well there. We sense a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo among Democrats elsewhere, though, and there are those pesky coughing fits that the seemingly tired front-runner has been enduring as well as a pesky ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that cannot end well, and nothing is certain in this crazy year.
We’ve always enjoyed our occasional visits to New York, with several trips to the City and a leisurely hitchhiking trek through its upstate cities and towns and hamlets, and we can’t deny its many contributions to the enrichment and degradation of American culture, but we’re glad the rest of the country also has a say.

— Bud Norman

Those Darned Rules

Tiger Woods didn’t compete in this past weekend’s Masters Tournament, but we were reminded of a time when he was winning almost everything in sight. Being noticeably different from past golf champions he was bringing a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game to root him on, which was great for the Professional Golf Association’s ratings, but in most cases they were fans of Woods and not of the game. In many of our conversations with them they seemed not to appreciate or even understand the brutally humbling sport, and were invariably confused about what nefarious goings-on must have been going on when their hero inevitably didn’t win.
We were reminded of this because another intriguing round of the sport of politics also occurred over the weekend, and we notice the same thing going on in both of the major party leagues. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, arguably the Democratic front-runner, and self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, arguably the Republican front-runner, have been winning a lot lately, and both being noticeably different from past politicians they’ve both brought a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game of party politics, and it really is hard to explain to either of these very disparate groups of political neophytes why their heroes suffered some unusual losses. The major parties’ nominating processes are more complicated than even the infield fly rule, and they did yield some admittedly unusual results.
Sanders won a convincing 56 percent of the vote in Wyoming’s Democratic caucus, continuing a seven-of-eight streak that includes some embarrassing blow-outs over arguable front-runner and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton, but he wound up with a mere split of the state’s delegates. Trump got pretty much wiped out in the delegate race in Colorado by the described-by-everyone-as-a-conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but that happened without either a primary or caucus, which in these newfangled times is unusual. It’s all in the rule book, though, right next to the regulation about pine tar only being allowed so far up on a bat, and those who understand the game and appreciate it more than any of the players will know the rules must be enforced.
Those disgruntled Sandernistas seem to have the better gripe. Their guy keeps racking up so many convincing wins among Democratic voters that even the wags at Saturday Night Live are making fun of Clinton, but she keeps creeping ahead in the delegate count due to some goings-on that have clearly been going on for a while now, and we can easily understand why they’d think their guy is up against one of steroid-fed behemoths in one of those fixed professional wrestling shows the Republican front-runner used to produce, and well imagine their horror upon discovering that the supposed safe space of the Democratic party is so impure, but they should have the read the rules and been in the before something noticeably different attracted their attention.
These newfound fans of Sanders weren’t paying the least attention when Clinton’s fund-raising prowess and reputation for ruthlessness was scaring off all the few remaining viable opponents and getting all these rules written just in case of something decidedly different like Sanders, and they blithely figured they’d go along with any old candidate the Democrats might come up with, just as they’d always gone along with all the rest of the party’s dealmaking and ruthlessness, so there are limits to our sympathy. If their “revolution” has to occur four years from now with a 78-year-old Sanders leading the idealistic youth off the cliff we won’t shed a tear, as we’ll need them all for the alternative of a Clinton nomination.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will rightly note that Colorado’s convention is peculiar in this age of open primaries and other newfangled democratic fashions in the Republican Party’s nomination process, but we’re long-involved Kansas Republicans and keen fans of the game, damn it, and we’re not ones to tell those Colorado Republicans how to choose their delegates. The convention system they chose has a certain appeal to our old-fashioned tastes, even if there probably wasn’t any smoke in those “smoke-filled rooms,” at least not tobacco smoke, and we think there’s an argument to be made that it used to turn up candidates such as Abraham Lincoln and William Howard Taft and Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower who were on the whole better than what’s been offered up by the post-’68 moves to a more directly democratic choice. In any case the rules are chosen by the people who were chosen by the party members, and they were in place before Trump announced his candidacy, for reasons best understood by the more attentive sorts of Colorado Republicans, who surely weren’t anticipating that Trump would still be around, and Trump had every opportunity to play and win by those rules. By all accounts he barely bothered, while Cruz made every effort and every smart play, and we have no sympathy for the predictably pouting Trump.
Trump’s main argument for his candidacy is that he’s an extraordinarily competent deal-maker and manager and visionary who surrounds himself with the very best people and never gets out-played in any game, so the pouting only undermines the pitch. The professionally political Cruz was playing the Republican nominating process game back when Trump was firing Dennis Rodman on the celebrity edition of “The Apprentice,” which was played by Trump’s rules, and he’s clearly the better player. He’s also been peeling off extra delegates from states that Trump won but where the rules allow some goings-on, and with a big win in Wisconsin to add to his totals he’s pursuing a viable strategy to deny Trump the needed majority for a first ballot nomination, and carefully laying the groundwork to win on a second or even third and beyond ballot. Meanwhile Trump is shuffling his skeleton staff, speaking coyly about the the possibility of riots, allowing a surrogate to threaten to have angry supporters show up at wavering delegates’ hotel rooms, belatedly hiring someone who knows about all this stuff, and supposedly apprising himself of the rules of the game that he’s playing.
If he ever gets around to reading the rule book, Trump might be surprised to find that it was written with the intention of preventing any candidate entirely unacceptable to a broad segment of the party, such as himself, from winning the party’s nomination. A similar sense of self-preservation is the sound rationale for the even harder-to-explain Democratic rules, which are still trying to prevent a Henry Wallace or George McGovern or Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s nomination, which is admirable enough, but when the alternative is Hillary Clinton, what difference, at that point, does it make?
The current hybrid system of caucuses and primaries and conventions and unbound delegates and super delegates and whatnot seems likely to serve up the two most distrusted and disliked people in America for the office of President of the States, but it might not, in which case there will be huge numbers of Sanders or Trump fans and maybe both who will be doing some serious pouting, and no foreseeable happy outcomes for the country, but we’ll live with it for now. It’s better than what the Sandersnistas and the Trumpenproletariat would could come up on the spur of the moment with to serve their side, with no thought for the idea that just as a game is supposed to produce the best player the political process is supposed to produce the best candidate, the one most broadly acceptable to the party and most representative of its traditional ideals and most likely to win a general election, and that the people who have been involved in the party with years and sweat and tears should have some say in the matter no matter how many of those newly enthused fans who of some candidate flock to the party and openly boast of their intention to “burn it down” if their guy doesn’t win.

— Bud Norman

Keeping All the Cards on the Imaginary Table

It’s hard to imagine a worse foreign policy than the one America has been pursuing for the past seven and a half years or so, but then again we don’t have the imagination of Donald J. Trump.
We cannot conceive of any remotely plausible circumstances that might compel an American president to launch a nuclear missile at anywhere in Europe during the next four years or so, for instance, but Trump has told an interviewer on internationally broadcast television that he wants “keep all the cards on the table” just in case. Neither can we imagine the unimaginable tragedy that would result from North Korea and Japan engaging in a nuclear war, and although Trump insists he shares our preference that it never come to pass he then literally shrugs and waves his hands and adds that at least it would be over quickly and “if they do, they do.” Although we can well understand why pressure should be brought to bear on our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners to shoulder their share of the alliance’s many burdens, we cannot envision a more-or-less peaceful world without it, but Trump openly muses about making demands that our allies “pay up, including for past deficiencies, and if it breaks up NATO it breaks up NATO.”
Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will find all this appealing, and explain what a shrewd negotiator he is, him being the best-selling author of “The Art of the Deal” and the guy who came out ahead of his sucker creditors in four bankruptcies and numerous failed businesses and all, but the rest of the world is seeing it quite differently. Pretty much everyone at every end of the political spectrum in Europe and Asia and the Middle East are alarmed about the prospect of a Trump presidency, and the entirety of the Latin American world has its own concerns, of course, and Africa should should soon join in just as soon as Trump finds some reason to insult its unfortunate people, and although sneering one’s way into the opprobrium of an entire world of damn foreigners will also appeal to Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters it strikes us as a rather poor start to repairing the last seven and a half years or so of godawful foreign policy.
The last seven and a half years or so of godawful American foreign policy have been guided by the worst of left-wing isolationism, which holds that American is so morally corrupt that any influence it exerts on the world is bound to be harmful, and the worst of left-wing internationalism, which holds that American influence can be justifiably exerted so long as it isn’t in American interests and is approved by a bunch of damn foreigners. This is hard to beat, but the Trump response combines the worst of right-wing isolationism, which holds that America is so pure that any contact with all those damn foreigners in the outside world will be corrupting, and the most random sort of right-interventionism, which claims it was against the Iraq war even though it’s no where on record saying so and is on record saying otherwise on the Howard Stern radio show in between the nude lesbian segments, and was critical of the pull-out from Iraq but still says “Bush lied, people died,” and is one day there with boots on the ground in Syria and is the next content to “bomb the “s**t” out of them and is neutral on that whole Israel-Palestinian thing but assures us that’s just another bluff.
At least he’ll stand up to that blustery and buffoonish Putin, unlike that craven weakling Obama, but the strong man Trump has been flattered by Putin’s praise and spoken kindly of his “strength” and noted that America kills people too and suggested that the current unpleasantness in Syria is best handled by Putin and one of the crack team of top-notch men that Trump always surrounds himself with is a big investor in Russia’s state-owned natural gas company and best in known in foreign policy circles as slavish apologist for Putin, but we’re assured they’re going to make great deal. Trump’s front-running Democratic counterpart was the Secretary of State who offered that disastrous “reset button” to Russia, but at least it didn’t reset relations back  to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The other options are the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on one the Democrat side, for crying out loud, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has used “neoconservative” as a slur but otherwise sounds at least reasonable on the other side, so we’re hoping the rest of the world well.
Perhaps Trump’s geo-political genius is simply beyond our imagination, and he’s playing some brilliant gambit by discomfiting everyone in the entire world except his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans, but we doubt it. In that disastrous interview with the Washington Post where he pressed on the specific of his foreign policy Trump veered from a question about the Islamic to a boast about how he’d vanquished Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries by calling him “Little Marco,” and he seemed to expect that the editorial board of the Washington Post would be convinced that he could deal with any international adversaries just as effectively, and we’re sure his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans will agree, but we aren’t reassured and neither can we imagine any foreign leaders will be.
In that same disastrous interview Trump described his foreign policy as “America First,” which has a nice ring to it unless you’ve read enough relatively recent history to recall that was the slogan of the isolationists who would have let the Axis powers rule the world outside fortress America. We don’t that Trump has read enough to know that, but former “pitchforks brigade” insurgent outsider anti-establishment Republican candidate surely did, as he wrote a book long after the fact arguing that American darned well should have allowed the rest of the world to be ruled by the Axis powers, as it as in America’s interests, and we note that he’s endorsing Trump’s variety of nationalism.

— Bud Norman

In the Age of Whatever Works

Latin America faces a crucial choice between liberty and tyranny, as always, just like the rest of us, and the President of the United States’ advice is that it go with “whatever works.” Barack Obama actually said that nonsense in a speech to the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative while on his recent south-of-the-border tour, and although that also included him doing the wave at a baseball game with the communist dictator of Cuba and embarrassingly doing the tango for his Peronista variety of fascist hosts in Argentina while the capital of the European Union reeled from yet another terror attack it was probably the low point of that disastrous vacation.
Any President of the United States worthy of that once-august office would be making the plain case that liberty is the only thing that has ever worked in the entire history of organized humankind, and that tyranny has never worked out, but these days that is apparently too much to ask for. The runaway winner of five of the last six state contests in the Democratic nominating process is the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who worries that there are too many kinds of deodorants on America’s supermarket shelves and prescribes the same solutions that have resulted in toilet paper shortages in Venezuela, and the party’s putative front-runner struggles to explain why she’s not a socialist. Meanwhile, the putative Republican front-runner is issuing threats that his press critics will “have problems, such problems” and “tweeting” like a South American caudillo and promising nothing but “better deals” with all these pesky foreigners, which sounds to us like pretty much like the equivalent of “whatever works.”
The sole remaining long-shot possibility for the leadership of what was once called the free world is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose much criticized father endured the tortures of the same communist Cuban dictatorship that the “whatever works” president was doing the wave with, and went on to a formidable career and as a legal and Senatorial advocate for the conservative cause, and he strikes us as a full-throated advocate of liberty and the Judeo-Christian tradition and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and other higher values than whatever might work. He’s bogged down with a report in the front-runner’s buddy’s National Enquirer, though, and is just within the margin-of-error in the polls in the important states of Wisconsin and California. We’d love to see a match-up of Cruz’ hard-edged advocacy of capitalism and constitutionalism against Sanders’ unabashed socialism and whatever works, but such stark choices are perhaps too much to wish for in an age when people are more concerned with whatever works for them, if not necessarily everyone else.

— Bud Norman

Blame It on the Tango

The security forces of the entire continent of Europe are frantically scrambling to prevent an expected wave of Islamist terror attacks, the President of the United States is quite literally doing the tango in Argentina, and the Republican front-runner in the race to replace him is “tweeting” out threats to “spill the beans” on a pesky rival’s wife. That’s pretty much the news as write this, and thus we head into the weekend with an uncertain feeling about the future.
That worried-about wave of terror attacks in Europe seems well worth worrying about, and the president’s audition for his post-presidential role on “Dancing With the Stars” wasn’t at all reassuring, so that intra-Republican flap about the naked pictures of the front-runner’s third trophy wife and the unspecified threat against the pesky rival’s more plain but one-and-only wife also takes on a certain foreboding significance for us. The remaining candidates in the Democratic race to replace the tangoing current president seem equally blithe about the anticipated wave of Islamist terrorism, so we’d rather the front-running alternative wasn’t making such an ass of himself and forcing a pesky and more worthy rival to divert his attention to defending his wife’s honor against unspecified threats.
If you haven’t been following the latest episodes of the Republican Party’s version of “Dancing With the Stars,” the real-estate-and-gambling-and-titty-bar-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump was much annoyed that one of the several anti-Trump political action committees had posted one of the more tame naked pictures his latest wife had posed for on a Facebook page geared to Utah, where the population is largely Mormon. Say what you want about some of their beliefs, Mormons were at least already disinclined to vote for foul-mouthed gambling-and-tatty-bar moguls no matter how hot their third wives might be, so Trump assumed that his pesky rival Sen. Ted Cruz was behind such soft-core pornographic dirty tricks, and without a shred of evidence he went to the internet to make the accusation and threw in a threat that he might reveal that unspecified information ruinous to the reputation of Cruz’s wife if unconditional surrender were not immediately announced. Cruz responded by “tweeting” that Trump was a coward, then going on international television to say that Trump was a “sniveling coward,” and we expect he’ll raise the ante face-to-face on the next televised debate stage, assuming that Trump isn’t such a sniveling coward or such a shrewd tactician he’ll avoid that confrontation.
Trump was courageous enough to issue another “tweet” with carefully chosen and perhaps photo-shopped pictures that indicate his third wife is hotter than then one Cruz has happily been married too along, which will surely prove to his celebrity-addled fans that he’s the alpha male to lead the country, and we’ll concede the Democrats are crazier yet, but it doesn’t make us feel more secure about that much-worried wave of terror attacks hitting Europe and then spreading to America.

— Bud Norman