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The News Makes News

Maybe it’s just a post-holiday lull in what surely be a more news-making year, but for now all the big papers are treating Megyn Kelly’s move from Fox News to the National Broadcasting Company as a big deal. They might be right, for all we know, but these days it seems that even the big papers aren’t such a big deal.
We cut off our cable many years ago, but you had to spend the past year hiding under a bigger rock than the one we were hiding under to not know who Megyn Kelly is. She was about as well-known as a cable news broadcaster can be even before the presidential election, and then her televised and endlessly re-televised confrontations with eventual Republican nominee and president-elect Donald Trump brought her the sort of fame usually reserved for androgynous pop music performers and transgendered reality show stars. It all started when she had the temerity to ask about his long history of making vulgar and sexist statements about women, and he somehow persuaded a Republican debate audience that such vulgarity and sexism was a much-needed blow against the stifling influence of something called “political correctness,” which we had thought meant an attempt to impose limits on Republicans in political debates about race and sex and such but apparently referred to an old-fashioned code of civil decorum that Republicans used to insist on. When Trump railed afterwards that it was an unfair question from the smug leftist news media that her permeated even Fox News, and said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when asking it, he had pretty much sewn up the Republican nomination and she had become a household name.
The feud continued throughout the primary campaign, with occasional moments of making nice with one another, although at another point Trump declined to appear at a Fox-moderated event where Kelly would be threateningly on the panel, and it made for riveting and ratings-driving reality television. Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters saw Kelly as a smug elitist and probably even globalist media villain, even though she worked for Fox News, and many of those who were inclined to think that a candidate’s long history of vulgar and sexist comments about women were a legitimate issue to raise in a debate and that “blood coming out of her wherever” was not proper presidential rhetoric were disinclined to come to Kelly’s defense, entirely because she worked for Fox News. Both came out of it pretty well, with Trump as president-elect and Kelly inking a gazillion dollar deal with one of those over-the-air networks that everyone on cable used to aspire to, but it remains to be seen how it works out for everyone else.
We expect that Kelly, at least, will fare well in her new job. So far as we can tell she’s a competent and fair journalist by television standards, and she’ll bring a reputation for standing up to Trump that should endear her to NBC’s dwindling audience. She’s quite the hottie, too, and we mention that objectively true fact not for the puerile reasons that Trump might bring it up during his next appearance on the Howard Stern show but rather because it seems to make a difference in television news. Trump is a trickier question, of course, but we can be sure he’ll be a boon to all the networks.
How the Fox News network will fare is less certain, so much of the rest of the media’s attention has focused on that. Fox News had already been shaken by the forced resignation of its longtime boss, who had been accused of a long history of all sorts of sexually harassing sleaziness by many of the women at the network, where we’ll also note as a relevant matter of objective that they’re almost all quite the hotties, so the loss of its most famous face surely poses some difficulties, even if she was reviled by all the so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone Trump supporters who make up such a large share of the audience. There are plenty of other competent and fair journalists at the network, such as Shep Smith and Chris Wallace and Brett Baier, so if the network decides to go in that direction they have plenty of options, even if their competence and fairness has also sometimes aroused the ire of those so-loyal-they-might-shoot-someone Trump supporters.
In any case the liberals will continue to call it “Faux News,” and the newly ascendent sorts of conservatives will continue to call the last of the big papers “The New York Slimes” and “The Washington Compost,” Trump will have more followers on “Twitter” than the other media have readers or viewers, and most  people simply won’t listen to anything they don’t want to hear. How that works out also remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

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Why We Now Prefer Chess to Politics or Football

Way back when the presidential debate schedule was first announced the Republican nominee objected that this coming Sunday’s clash would be airing at the same time as a National Football League contest. It wasn’t clear if he was worried the game might draw viewers from the debate, or vice versa, but in either case we go into the weekend with the first debate setting viewership records and the second expected to do the same while the NFL is in a steep ratings decline.
There’s no accounting for taste, as the saying goes, but we figure the best explanation for the presidential debates’ ratings bonanza is that they feature more boo-able villains and seem likely to produce more memorable body slams than can be found in a typical pro football contest. The most common explanation for the NFL’s rating slide, on the other hand, is that the contests have become too political. If you haven’t been following the professional gridiron news the big story this season is that a backup quarterback on a 1-and-4 San Francisco ’49ers squad has been taking a knee rather standing during the pre-game national anthems in support of the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement against America’s police, which involves a even more complicated and consequential question than those nickel defenses and spread offenses and other matters that football fans prefer to argue about.
Black lives do matter, of course, but so do the lives of black and white and every other color of police officers who are charged with protecting those lives, and each of those too-often times a police officer of any race takes a black life requires a detailed consideration of the circumstances, and that’s exactly the sort of the thing one tunes into a football game in hopes of getting away from. Although we’re more prone to look at the specific circumstances than is the Black Lives Matter movement, and certainly more so than that second-string quarterback on that losing ’49ers squad, we’ll nonetheless credit the NFL with allowing him his First Amendment right to take a knee. The league wasn’t so generous as to allow the Dallas Cowboys to express their sympathy to the five Dallas police officers who were gunned down during a “Black Lives Matter” protest, however, and we can well understand why significant number of football fans might be disgruntled.
We gave up on professional football a couple of seasons ago when we sat through an interminable 20 minutes or so of commercials and official videotape reviews and other inexplicable delays on an ultimately inconsequential play in a game that the our Kansas City Chiefs wound up losing during another desultory season, and since then almost the entirety of sports has seemed unsatisfying. Both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas State Wildcats are by now out of the running in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship football race, and our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers are heading into an uncertain basketball season without a couple of promising pro prospects and an all-time great role player, and the NCAA is boycotting the state of North Carolina for insisting that men use the men’s rooms and women use the women’s rooms, which also takes a lot of the fun out of collegiate sports.
On our way to a late-night meeting with some friends at a local bar Thursday evening we heard a thunderstorm-delayed radio broadcast report that the Wichita Heights Falcons had outlasted bitter Catholic-school rivals Kapaun-Mt.Carmel High to go 6-and-0 in the City League, which is about thrice the number of victories it had during the three years when we were attending that oh-so-public school, but even our enthusiasm for high school sports is diminished by the news about the national anthem protests that are now occurring at that level. Upon our return home we sought some solace in a game of internet chess, where we noticed even that pristine game once again once again involved politics, but at least we were able to be down with the cause.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with high-level chess, as most people haven’t, the championship-contending Georgian-born but naturalized-American female grandmaster Nazi Paikidze is boycotting the women’s world championship because it is being held in Iran, where the Islamic theocracy is insisting on women wearing the hijab as a symbol of their subjugation to men. Despite her unfortunate first name, we’re entirely in agreement with her stand.
Given the peculiar nature of American politics at the moment, we’ll also go right ahead and note that Paikidze also demolishes other stereotypes of chess by being something of a cutie, as are many of of the other top women chess players of the moment, and that reigning world champion Magnus Carlson is something of a pretty boy. Our guess is that Azerbajaini-born and now-American former world champion Garry Kasparov would still be on top of the game if he hadn’t retired to purse a position as anti-Russian political spokesman, and recently as an opponent to the Republican nominee’s pro-Putin stance, and although it’s all as complicated as the “Black Lives Matter” movement or the board of a grandmasters’ chess game we find ourselves rooting more the chess players.
Those damned presidential politics will probably have more effect on our lives, but at least in the meantime we can root for the chess players, and hope that the ‘Shockers will have another great basketball season.

— Bud Norman

Who Shot American Politics?

Barring some other unforeseeable catastrophe, the big story of today will be tonight’s presidential debate. The long-awaited face-to-face confrontation between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, probably their first she since she attended his third wedding to an illegal immigrant nudie model in exchange for a sizable contribution to her phony-baloney pay-for-play “family foundation,” is expected to be the most watched television event since “Dallas” revealed who shot J.R. way back in the three network days.
We’d like to think this ratings bonanza will be due to the civic-mindedness of the American public, which wants to directly hear the words of these two thoroughly horrible people and carefully consider which is worse, but we expect it will be more for the pure low-brow entertainment value. Super Bowls and stock car races and soap operas and the more cutting-edge comedy programs draw big ratings because the viewer never knows what’s going to happen, but holds out hope that it will involve something violent or vulgar or otherwise shocking, and in this crazy election year the presidential debates offer plenty of that. There’s widespread speculation that Clinton will succumb to seizures or perhaps even drop dead to her undisclosed yet very dire medical condition, and that Trump might try to turn it into a rhetorical equivalent of that pro rasslin’ gig where he shaved the head of Vince McMahon, and of course there are already arguments about the poor fellow who has been hired to referee the match.
If Clinton doesn’t drop dead during the debate that will no doubt disappoint a significant portion of the viewing audience, but it will still make for an interesting plot twist. She’ll have already exceeded expectations, which is for some reason or another the way these contests are scored nowadays, and short of any seizures she or her ear-plugged body double should be able to come across as if she’s at least given some thought to the issues she’s been asked about. Most of the media will be wowed, and that portion of the country that relies on them to get the score will hear that Clinton won handily.
If Trump doesn’t turn it into a metaphorical pro rasslin’ head-shaving he probably will lose on old-fashioned debate scoring, because let’s face it, he really hasn’t given much thought to the issues he’ll be asked about, and by all accounts he’s eschewed any old-fashioned debate preparations that might have helped him out. This would no doubt disappoint a significant portion of the viewing audience, too, but at least would allow them to claim that anything less than boasts about his penis size or allegations of his opponent’s involvement in the John Kennedy assassination proved he had exceeded presidential expectations.
Our only advice to the poor fellow who’s been hired to referee the match is to ask the same basic policy questions of both the candidates, then get the hell out of the way. We can’t imagine any winners coming out of this worst-ever reality show, but we’ll tune in nonetheless.

— Bud Norman

The Pinkest Republican

Yes, that actually was the front-runner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination shouting about how “Bush lied, people died” and praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and sneering at unnamed big fat cat donors during last Saturday’s debate. The same day’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia and all the resulting politics got most of the conservative media attention, which is appropriate, but it surely is also worth noting that the once-Grand Old Party is threatening to go Code Pink.
Not even self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the abortion-loving foe of big fat cat donors and all-around far-left-wing kook who is currently the front-runner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, bothers with that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense anymore. Perhaps that’s because he’d rather not let his opponent, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary and long-presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, off the hook for voting in favor of the war as Senator, even if he’s willing to let her off the hook for facilitating a premature withdrawal from a pacified Iraq as Secretary of State, which is the smart way to play a Democratic primary, but we’ll give him some begrudging credit for avoiding that losing argument. To hear it shouted so loudly at a Republican debate, though, and by the front-runner, at that, is something hard to explain.
Even if you’re not satisfied by the sarin-tipped rockets and other chemical weapons that were found in Iraq, or discount the many plausible accounts of more weapons being shipped to Syria, and conveniently forget the many other persuasive casus belli offered for the Iraq war, and assume that an absence of more widely publicized evidence is evidence of absence, an allegation that any president knowingly lied to the American people about non-existent weapons of mass destruction to launch a war for still unstated reasons carries a burden a proof. One would have to explain why such a diabolical president would launch a war on a pretext he knew would be exposed, or why such a diabolical president wouldn’t plant some evidence to cover his crime, which shouldn’t have been too hard after recruiting the intelligence agencies of every American ally in Europe and the Middle East to bolster his made-up claims, not to mention getting all those inspectors from the United Nations to say they had their own suspicions about what was going on in Iraq, and we’d like to think it’s still hard to make that case to a majority of Republican primary voters.
Especially in South Carolina, a state where the Republican primary includes many proud veterans of the Iraq War and a lot of people who still prefer the president that is being accused of treason to the one that is being left off the hook for squandering the victory those proud veterans won. Especially when you’re Donald J. Trump, a foul-mouthed real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-television mogul and proud adulterer and good friend of the Clintons and you’re shouting about all the good works that Planned Parenthood does, and a lot of stout South Carolina Christians are voting in the state’s primary and they’re not likely to be reassured his boast that “I drink my little win, have my little cracker” and is therefore good with God. They might like the part about fat cat donors, which as always plays well everywhere, the implied free speech concerns notwithstanding, but the fact that Trump also routinely boasts about being a fat cat donor himself might undercut that message once he goes up against Sanders.
Which makes us doubt the explanation that Trump is once again making a brilliant maneuver. Even one of the putatively conservative right-wing talk radio hosts was speculating that Trump figures he’s already got the Republican nomination wrapped up and is already positioning himself to appeal to the general electorate, which is apparently so boiling angry that it’s hell-bent on one conspiracy-theorizing kook or another, and our once-reliable host didn’t seem to mind the possibility that our kook might even be kooky enough to put California and New York into play. Even if Bush is still more unpopular than even Obama we’re not sure that the Republicans could ever win a most kookiest candidate contest against the Democrats, and try as we might we can’t see Trump winning over any of those basement-dwelling Sanders kids or Hillary’s abortion-loving old ladies or those Code Pink commies, but in any case we’d rather play another game with a conservative candidate against whatever left-wing or far-left-wing candidates the Democrats wind up with. Trump might find a few disaffected Democrats in the open-primary state of South Carolina who are only Democrats because their Confederate great-great-grandpappies were, and with the anti-Trump field still split too many ways they might be enough to give him another victory to boast about, but starting the play-offs before the regular season is over is always a risky strategy.
Our best guess is that Trump really believes that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense, and he really believes that if he’d been president the terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon never would have happened and that nothing bad will ever happen if he is the president, and he even believes all that “birther” stuff about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and President Barack Obama and all the other weird conspiracies he talks about with the lunatic Alex Jones’ on the “Infowars” show that he visits, and that he’s the kind of guy who responds to the kind of criticism that he got in that debate by spouting off baseless allegations of treason at a more honorable man than himself and yelling “liar” at people more honest than himself. At least he fights, his enchanted supporters will always insist.
It seems to be working, we glumly admit, but we even more glumly wonder what he’s fighting for. If beating a self-described socialist and full blown kook or a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent felon requires shouting “Bush lied, people died” and ignoring the lessons of Obama’s withdrawal and indirectly funding all the not-so-wonderful stuff Planned Parenthood does and jettisoning the First Amendment to deal with all those fat cat donors not named Donald J. Trump, then we’re not all sure it’s worth doing.

— Bud Norman

The Daily Doses of Donald J. Trump

Try as we might to wallow in all the other bad news, we are somehow unable to avert our gloomy gaze away from the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.
Those daring sting videos of Planned Parenthood officials chomping on salad and sipping wine as they negotiate the sale of aborted baby parts has at long last resulted in indictments against the video makers, and we vaguely recall that former Texas Governor and failed Republican nominee Rick Perry is still under indictment for exercising his veto power over some drunk Democrat’s funding, and there’s a tantalizing possibility that even the presumptive Democratic nominee will be indicted on more serious charges, and of course there’s still the economy and the international situation and all the other sorts of substantive bad news to consider, but these days all we hear about from even the most reliably right wing sources is Trump. The man so dominates the news that at each corner we turned on the internet and airwaves and printed press we couldn’t avoid the two latest juicy developments.
One was Trump’s endorsement from Jerry Falwell Jr., who of course is the son of Jerry Falwell Sr., whom our older readers will vaguely remember as the founder of the of the former Moral Majority, which was once regarded by the more respectable media as the very embodiment of the Religious Right bogeyman that was  reportedly threatening to impose puritanism on the hipper disco-going America, so of course the more liberal press is still eager to trumpet the endorsement. The impeccably liberal reporters over at Politico.com are rubbing their hands as they gleefully write that Trump is winning over the Republican party’s still-troublesome would-be theocrats, and we fear they might be at least partly right. These days the Religious Right is reduced to fighting for its right to not participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony without being sent to re-education camp, and its putative leadership is reduced to the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr., and in such troubled times even the ancient Israelites craved a king of their own.
Still, we’re disappointed that so much of what’s left of a truly religious right would settle for a boastful billionaire gambling mogul who trades his wives in every decade or so for a newer model and has bragged in print about all the other men’s wives he has slept with and contributes a fraction of his much-touted fortune to charity and has in old-fashioned melodrama style tried to run an old lady out of her home, and who jokingly describes the Holy Communion as the only forgiveness he needs to seek for blameless and poll-tested life. At Falwell’s own Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Trump recently quoted from “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians,” which revealed the same awkward ignorance of Christianity that President Barack Obama’s pronunciation of “Corpse-man” did about his understanding of the military, and once upon a time in our church camp youth that would have been enough to disqualify him in evangelical circles, but these days the bar is set lower.
One of Trump’s more adventuresome apologists noted the sins of certain Old Testament Leaders to excuse his hero’s character, as if adultery and connivery were Biblically required qualifications for office, and even likened Trump’s critics to the Pharisees who called for the crucifixion of Jesus. This seems a bit much to our admittedly sinful sensibilities, as we’re certainly not asking for crucifixions, and we even wish Trump a happy life and at least a moment of spiritual introspection well outside the sphere of public influence, but despite our more freely admitted sins we will express some doubts about Trump’s character, and we’re certainly not buying the Trump-as-Jesus argument. None of this came up during an interview with Falwell Jr. that we heard one of the conservative talk radio shows, hosted by a host who prides himself on his scary Religious Right bona fides, and while there was also no mention of bankruptcies or beleaguered old widows being evicted from their homes Falwell did get a chance to enthuse a bit about what a successful businessman Trump has been.
The other big Trump story was his indignant refusal to appear on the next scheduled televised Republican presidential debate because it’s being televised by Fox News and will thus feature its competent and comely star anchor Megyn Kelly. The cable news network is an even bigger right-wing bogeyman than the Moral Majority ever was, and many of its on-air personalities rushed to Trump’s defense after those snooty old print people at the more venerable but less-known National Review declared their opposition to Trump’s candidacy, but in a previous debate Kelly had asked Trump about his countless outrageously sexist comments against numerous women, and Trump wound up saying that she had “blood coming out of her eyes” and “blood coming out of her wherever,” and called her a “bimbo” and such, and despite the rise in his poll numbers that resulted from this seeming proof of her insinuation he’s decided he doesn’t want to go another round with her. His boycott will likely have the same effect on the debate’s ratings that the absence of J.R. Ewing would have on an airing of “Dallas,” which makes it a bigger story even in conservative media than the folks being charged with exposing Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts-selling scheme, which does by gum seem a successful business model, if that’s all that matters.
We don’t have cable and thus can’t vouch for Kelly’s objectivity toward Trump, although we thought her question about his history of sexist comments entirely fair and his vulgar responses sufficient proof of whatever she might have meant to imply by it, and we would dare any of his fans to talk about how ugly she is, and for crying out loud it’s not the far-left MSNBC network, where Trump was most recently seen boasting about how well he gets along with such liberal Democrats as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, but we’re sure that Trump and his loyal-even-if-he-shoots-someone followers will still find some nasty name to call Kelly. That should be enough to ensure another few days of non-stop coverage on all the cable news channels, but hopefully we’ll find some other bad news to wallow in. The Democrats seem to be providing plenty of it, and we’d always rather talk about that.

— Bud Norman

Peace, Love, Tolerance, and the Hard Facts of Life

The more we learn about Wednesday’s horrific massacre in San Bernardino, the worse it looks for the peace and love and tolerance side of each of the acrimonious debates that always follow these sorts of tragedies.
While much of the peace and love and tolerance side of the divide spent most of Wednesday hoping that it would turn out to be another rare case of white Christian males motivated by a homicidal hatred of the Planned Parenthood clinic that was reportedly a mere 1.3 miles away, it turned out to be a man and a woman of Middle Eastern descent who considered themselves devout Muslims. All the Republican presidential candidates spent the day awaiting more facts and offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in and their families in the meantime, which was widely ridiculed by the more secular sorts who thought it more appropriate to being paying homage to all the gun control catechisms rather than any of that God-bothering stuff, and The New York Daily News went so far as to headline it’s tabloid cover with “God Isn’t Fixing This,” but even in this post-religious age we expect that those Republicans candidates got the better of that exchange.
The male half of the murderous duo was an employee of the San Bernardino County Health Department that was targeted, leading to faint hopes that it was just another one of rare cases of “workplace violence” that happen in a country where gun rights are allowed, much like that Army psychiatrist of Middle Eastern descent who was shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he shot down thirteen men at women at the Fort Hood Army Base, but the multiple reports of a massive arsenal and thousands of rounds of ammunition and numerous bombs and radio-controlled delivery systems found in his house, along with the apparent planning involved in the massacre and his previous travels in the Middle East and his electronic contacts with the more radical elements there all suggest this wasn’t a spontaneous reaction to some office spat. By the end of the second day even President Barack Obama was speculating about “mixed motives” for the shooting, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was glumly conceding that the shootings were an act of terrorism, although she still wouldn’t say of what sort. All of the Democratic presidential candidates and seemingly the rest of the party have steadfastly eschewed any reference to radical Islamic terrorism, which leaves them on the ridiculous side of all the resulting exchanges about a variety of related.
The assurances of the administration and its party that the there is no such thing as radical terrorism, that the pesky terrorist groups and lone wolf and lone couple-of-wolves terrorists who insist otherwise are simply mistaken, that the Islamic State that has recently inflicted an even deadlier toll on Paris and Ankara and Beirut is merely a “jayvee teams” that is “on the run” and “contained” and being “degraded” while on the way to be shortly “destroyed,” and that a conference about “climate change” is the most powerful rebuke to such nothing-to-do-with-Islam annoyances, all suddenly seem less credible. Those old saws about terrorism being a result of rampant anti-Islam sentiment and lack of opportunities afforded to Muslims in the west aren’t holding up well, either, given that the male murderer was gainfully employed by his local government and living in comfortable home in a well-regarded community that was amply stocked with weapons and ammunition and pipe-bombs and radio-controlled delivery systems, even if he wasn’t the son of a billionaire, like Osama bin Laden, and he seems to have no trouble importing his murderous wife from the Middle East, and even in supposedly Islamophobic America the neighbors who were slightly suspicious of conspicuous radicalization were reluctant to say anything for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.
Neither do the facts of this case help those who are arguing that peace and love and tolerance requires allowing many thousands of refugees from the war-torn Middle East in the country. We’re assured that the refugees are mostly children and elderly widows, and although most of them are actually fit young men of fighting we’re assured that their backgrounds will be thoroughly checked, but a murderous male and the murder wife whose immigration was routinely allowed suggest the government might so efficient about such things as it claims to be, and once again we expect they’ll get the worse of the exchange.
The peace and love and tolerance side of the debate still seems hopeful that the incident will help them persuade the country to disarm its lawful and patriotic citizens, but we expect that the more pragmatic portion of America will be clinging to its guns all the more bitterly in the aftermath of this event. None of the “common sense” solutions put forth so far would have prevented the murders in San Bernardino, or any of the all-too-frequent mass shootings that truly did not have nothing to do with Islam, and all of them would make it harder for the average American to defend himself when they do inevitably occur. Even if the San Bernardino murders had been the long-anticipated yet never-realized act of crazed Tea Partiers, we think the peace and love and tolerance side of the debate would still have fared badly.
Still, we hope there’s some practicable measure of peace, love, and tolerance in the solutions that are pursued, no matter how debased those noble values have been rendered by their high-minded advocates. The righteous outrage of the French people to the similarly motivated but even more deadly attacks on Paris have vaulted the unsavory Le Pen party to the top of the polls, similar events in other European countries have benefitted similarly unsavory parties, everywhere in the west where the established and respectable parties have adopted a policy of unfettered immigration and self-debasing multi-cultularism a potentially dangerous backlash is brewing, and there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t happen here. The Democratic Party seems committed to pretending there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism and that even if there is the only solution is to disarm the American people, so it therefore falls on the Republican Party to formulate a more sensible response that is honest and frank but not inflammatory or authoritarian. We’re cautiously hopeful that might prove true, and quite convinced that the peace and love and tolerance side of the debate is currently getting the worst of it.

— Bud Norman

Tough Questions

There’s been a great effort in the past several days to make excuses for Barack Obama’s universally panned performance in last week’s presidential debate, with pundits blaming everything from the thin mountain air to having John Kerry as a sparring partner, but few of the president’s fans will acknowledge a more unsolvable problem. The president was not only facing tough questions for the first time in his political career, he was facing questions for which there simply is no good answer.

When Mitt Romney noted that Obama had promised to cut the federal deficit in half within four years but had instead doubled it, for instance, there was no disputing the factual basis of the complaint and no option but to offer excuses. The final debate will likely spare Obama the embarrassment of answering to that point again, as it is intended to deal exclusively with matters of foreign policy, but even hen the president will be hard-pressed to answer some of the questions that are sure to arise no matter the elevation of the site or who is helping out during the debate preparation.

The attack on the American embassy in Libya by Islamist mobs on Sept. 11, which resulted in the deaths of the ambassador and four other Americans, will raise several tricky questions.

It has now been widely reported, despite the reluctance of the press to disclose anything that reflects poorly on the administration, that the embassy in Libya had lax security despite repeated warnings that an attack was being planned. The president has thus far managed to avoid questioning about this infuriating fact, but it is unlikely he will be able to do so during the debates.

While he’s at it, Romney should also ask why the administration continues to lay the blame for the attack on an obscure low-budget video released months before the murderous riot when they had to know that it was, at most, a convenient pretext for a pre-planned attack motivated by anger over the country’s ongoing war against al Qaeda. It’s the sort of thing that the press would be eager to question a Republican administration about, but apparently it will take a presidential debate to force an answer from a Democrat.

As an adherent to a much-maligned religion himself, Romney might also ask why the president has been so exceedingly sensitive to the religious sensibilities of those who attacked our embassy and murdered our citizens, going so far as to imprison the aforementioned filmmaker and tell the United Nations that “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” There have been no official scolding of the artists who immerse crosses in urine or depict Jesus Christ as a transvestite, or the so-called comedian and million dollar donor to the Obama who routinely ridicules Christianity, much less the producers of a hit Broadway musical that mocks Mormonism, so it would be useful to know why Islam is alone among the world’s religions in enjoying an exemption from the nation’s long tradition of free speech.

Perhaps so few Americans still care about the lives of our diplomats, the honesty of an administration, and the right to free speech that none of this will come up during the “Town Hall” debate, but surely Romney will get to these questions in their last face-to-face encounter. If Obama and his new debate coach can come up with good answers to these questions, we will be most eager to hear them.

— Bud Norman