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Beto and the Way-Too-Early Buzz

Thursday’s news was chock full of significant with stories, as an unexpected dozen Republican senators voted against President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, missiles were lobbed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, the United Kingdom still can’t find a way to make its Brexit from the European Union, Boeing’s 737 remains grounded around the world, and a couple of Hollywood celebrities have been charged with cheating their kids into fancy colleges. Even so, all the big news outlets found front page space and top-of-the-hour time to report that a former congressman and failed senate candidate named Beto O’Rourke has announced that he’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The attention paid to this back page and bottom-of-the-hour story seems so inordinate, however, that we’ve decided to ignore all the rest of that stuff and write about and opine about it ourselves.
Let us begin by griping that it’s far too early to be writing anything about the 2020 presidential election. Did anybody at this point in the past many election cycles warn the country about the upcoming presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Barack Obama and Trump? Not sufficiently, at any rate, even at the end of a two-year-long slog, and we don’t expect the big news outlets will do any better at this point this time around.
Nor do we think this O’Rourke fellow is the next big deal that all the big news outlets seem to think he is. He was very popular representing the El Paso part of Texas during a few terms in the House of Representatives, but was little noticed elsewhere. He came close enough to knocking off stalwart conservative and entrenched incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a statewide race in such a reliably stalwart conservative state as Texas to tantalize a national Democratic audience, but in the end he did fall short by more than a couple of percentage points. O’Rourke’s undeniably a telegenically youthful and handsome and physically fit fellow with a punk rock band on his resume, which could pose problems for Trump in this reality show era of presidential politics, but it’s no guarantee he’ll win a Democratic nomination. Among the crowded field of Democratic contenders are some rather hot-by-politician-standards women, some of them women of color, and given the identity politics of today’s Democratic party the primary electorate might well prefer that to some white pretty boy, enough if he does have a Latin nickname.
One of the right-wing talk radio talkers is already calling O’Rourke “O’Dork,” which seems to be the height of conservative wit these days, and Trump took time during a news conference with the Irish Prime Minister to ridicule O’Rourke’s hand movements, asking “Is he crazy or is just the way acts?,” and he took care not do the usual weird imaginary accordion or flag-groping thing president does. The rest of the conservative media are similarly eager to take on his wild-eyed leftist extremism. Meanwhile, some of the late night comedy show hosts and the rest of the the liberal media are insinuating hat O’Rourke is a centrist sell-out. Late night network wag Seth Meyers is a relentless Trump-basher, and pretty darned funny about it, but he’s consistent enough to react to a Democrat’s quote as if Trump had said it, and when he read O’Rourke’s recollection to Vanity Fair of a campaign speech when “Because every word was pulled out of me, like by some greater force, which was just the people there,” and used the usual Trump impersonation, it got the same big laugh as one of Trump’s typically absurd quotes.
If this O’Rourke fellow really is the centrist sell-out his critics contend we him wish the best, even if he does seem to have a similarly annoying reality show appeal and knack for ridiculous quotes as Trump, as we’d rather not see the Democratic party go so far to the left as it very well might. At this point there’s no telling what the Democrats might do, however, and to the extent we’ve be following the race they have some relatively sane contenders, including a couple of relatively hot-by-politician standards and hot-for-their age women, which seems to matter in this age of reality show identity politics, and many Democrats seem more concerned with beating Trump than achieving a socialist utopia. Given the way things have lately been going in the courts and Congress and the economic forecasts, it’s also well within the realm of possibility that the eventual Democratic nominee won’t be running against Trump.
Starting Monday, therefore, we’ll resume paying more attention to the more pressing news of the day.

— Bud Norman

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The Finals Begin

Well, it looks as if former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton truly is the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee after all, even it wasn’t nearly so easy as promised and even if her long presumed status as the First Woman President remains somewhat in doubt. After nearly eight long years of waiting she was officially pronounced her party’s presumptive nominee by The Associated Press even before the voting in California, and her landslide win in that populous and crucial state makes it all but a fait accompli.
There’s still an outside chance this thoroughly awful woman will be indicted on felony charges for influence-peddling and for endangering national security by communicating through an insecure private e-mail server to avoid public scrutiny of her disastrous tenure as Secretary of State, but at this point the Democrats are so horrified by the prospect of the presumptive Republican nominee that the vast majority of them just don’t care. She also lost by blow-out margins to much peskier-than-expected rival and self-described socialist and full-blown nutcase Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the far less populous and even less crucial states of North Dakota, adding to a long streak of embarrassing defeats, and her presumptive status is still contingent on all those party establishment “super-delegates” who have been promising her the nomination for the past nearly eight years, but she also won in the more populous and crucial states of New Jersey and New Mexico, as well as South Dakota, and even Sanders’ most embittered supporters will eventually be forced to admit that over the long run she got by far more primary and caucus voters from the national party’s rank-and-file.

The presumptive Republican nominee, whose much easier win of the nomination was unexpected by almost everyone, is already making overtures to those disgruntled Sanders voters and promising a big speech about the presumptive Democratic nominee’s old and ongoing thoroughly awful scandals, but it remains to be seen how any of that will work out. The presumptive Republican nominee is Donald J. Trump, a self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul, and we expect that most of Sanders’ scruffy and resentful supporters will eventually glumly fall in line with their party’s chosen one the same way, and for the same reason of revulsion to the alternative, that most Republicans are now glumly siding with Trump. Although it’s hard to overstate the case against the Democrats’ thoroughly awful nominee the Republican will probably manage to do so, perhaps by doubling down on his insinuation that Clinton had a former associate assassinated, just as he once insinuated the father of one of his vanquished Republican rivals might have been in on the Kennedy assassination, or whatever else his friends at The National Enquirer might come up with, and the news cycle might yet wind up dominated by continued coverage of the thoroughly awful Republican nominee’s criticism of one of the “Mexican” of the three judges in the civil suit and ongoing scandal about that “Trump University” he ran that sure likes to be a case out of outright fraud against our most vulnerable fellow suckers.

By now everyone who keeps abreast of Republican politics knows that the judge in question is indeed of Mexican heritage, and belongs to a lawyer’s club that goes by the admittedly problematic name of “La Raza,” and that Trump has vowed to build a wall to keep their kind out, and that one top of that the guy’s an Obama appointee, but we doubt that any of those disgruntled Sanders supporters care much about any of that. So far as they and even some more sensible people are concerned, the judge was born in Indiana to naturalized citizens and is therefore not a Mexican, the complaint that any judge not tainted by any touch of Mexican heritage would have surely summarily dismissed the same case that is still going on in two other courts run by more Anglo-Saxon judges is patently ridiculous, that his original appointment to the bench was by a Republican governor and his subsequent career has included notable fights against Mexican criminal organizations, and they might even note that the case was indeed dropped in two other states after the Attorneys General received generous contributions from a presumptive Republican nominee who has openly bragged on Republican debate stages that he made contributions to gain posterior-kissing favor from politicians. We do hope that the presumptive Republican nominee’s big speech will make mention about the presumptive Democratic nominees phony-baloney influence-peddling “family foundation, but we don’t expect he’ll mention he was among the six-figure contributors, and we can’t say how this mud-slinging contest will come out, except to say that they’ll both be covered with plenty of mud.

— Bud Norman

Biden Backs Off From the Future

Vice President Joe Biden finally got around to saying that he won’t enter the presidential race on Wednesday, which happened to be the very same day that Marty McFly time-traveled to in that old “Back to the Future” flick, so we were once again reminded of our limited powers of prophecy.
If we were the gambling sort we’d have bet good money, if we had any, that Biden’s candidacy was a sure thing. He has at least the typical politician’s ambition for the ultimate job and the usual vanity to think he deserves it, the Democratic field seems weaker this time around than during any of his numerous earlier attempts at the presidency, and he could have expected President Barack Obama’s implicit endorsement as well as his still-formidable funding-raising prowess and still-intact campaign organization. At least we didn’t predict back in the ’80s that kids would be scooting around on hover-skateboards and holographic sharks would be eating passersby and you could still find a newspaper rack on every corner at this point in history, among the other glaring things the “Back to the Future” filmmakers got conspicuously wrong, but we still must humbly concede that we once again blew another one of our own more short-term predictions.
Much of the rest of the media, somehow unchastened by their own sorry records of prognostication, persist in reading the tea leaves of Biden’s announcement to reveal the future well before any reasonable deadline would require it. The consensus of prophetic pundit opinion on both the left and the right seems to be that without Biden’s interference the inevitable coronation of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will now proceed as planned all along, and that the public will go along with it, barring her being indicted on federal felony charges or some other hiccup, and it sounds plausible enough that even if we had any money we wouldn’t bet against it. We marvel that would anyone wager some valuable as a reputation on it, though, given how many other things might happen.
A felony indictment or some similarly serious hiccup is not out of the question, after all. The administration Clinton once served as Secretary of State hasn’t seemed at all interested in restraining the ongoing investigations, or the anonymous quotes from highly placed administration sources about it, and even without Biden being the administration’s dog in the fight it has little reason to be any more helpful. Even if the press and her Democratic rivals succeed in squelching the e-mail scandal here’s still all the conflicts of moonlighting interests among her top aides, and the donations by foreign nations to her family foundation, and the four dead Americans who begged for her help in Benghazi, Libya, a matter she’ll be forced to answer for┬ábefore a congressional committee this very day and which the press will be obliged to report on, not to mention all her Wall Street connections and Wal-Mart corporate board membership and other corporate ties that might terrify the Democratic base, or her famously libidinous husband’s flying around on a corporate jet to tropical paradises with a billionaire ephebophile, or any of the many other things always seem to be happening with someone named Clinton. She might yet survive it all, as always seems to be happening with someone named Clinton, but in our experience even the hottest streaks seem to eventually end.
Some gut instinct also seems to suggest that all those prophetic pundits, who tend to be cloistered inside the beltway of Washington, D.C., have once again not only overestimated Clinton’s inevitability but also underestimated the admittedly ineffable appeal of self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Among our circle of friends and acquaintances and Facebook posters there are far too many Democrats, and we can’t help noticing that almost all of them are enthusiastic about Sanders’ candidacy, and that the rare Clinton supporters seem conspicuously unenthused, and that pretty much everyone else in the middle of that great red splotch on the middle of the electoral map agrees she’s just about the most godawful woman ever, so she’s never seemed all that inevitable to us. These crazy mixed-up kids today don’t understand that “socialist” is a dirty word, either, just as they seem not to understand that any of the dirty words are dirty words, and their ironic hipness is such that they can embrace a Cranky Old Jewish Man as the new Cool Black Guy, and the press has been obliged to report that his crowds have been bigger and more enthused than Clinton’s almost everywhere for months now, which is eerily reminiscent of the last time that Clinton was prophesied as inevitable, so as much as we wish it weren’t so Sanders still strikes us as an ongoing possibility. A Biden candidacy would have split the “establishment” vote from Clinton in the primaries and with Obama’s implicit approval would have stolen many of her crucial black voters and drained little from the very enthused ranks of mostly-white Sanders supporters, and thus would likely have been a boon to Sanders, but even without that gift he still seems from our perspective at least a serious contender if not an outright front-runner.
A good Hollywood screenwriter would be able to concoct countless other possible scenarios, most of which would prove no more prophetic and far less profitable than that “Back to the Future” flick, and our best advice is to cover all the bets as if it were a metaphorical roulette table. The Trump card is still in play, too, to mix our gambling metaphors a bit, so the conjecture is further complicated. We have our rooting interests in all of this, or at least we’re trying to choose them from a few remaining options, but we note how often our rooting interests differs with the way things turn, so at this point we’re venturing no predictions, except that it will prove interesting. There won’t be any Biden in it, which will deny the news writers and screenwriters some much-needed comic relief, barring some post-indictment plot twist, but it will prove interesting nonetheless.

— Bud Norman

A Clinton Scandal That Somehow Matters

After all the scandals the Clintons have survived, it’s been interesting to see that the latest mess regarding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails seems to be doing real damage to her presidential campaign. The press has been brutal, even if it is still polite enough to describe the scandal as being about her e-mail server rather than her, and ever since the story broke her poll numbers have been plummeting. Which leads one to wonder why this particular scandal is so much more damaging than all the others.
It is a serious matter, of course, with her use of a private rather than government e-mail system being apparently in violation of law, likely jeopardizing national security by allowing top-secret information to be easily obtained by hostile foreign governments, and the only plausible explanation being her desire to keep her public acts from public scrutiny, but all those other scandals that the Clintons somehow survived were also serious matters. Going all the way back to her early days in the public eye there was the suspicious killing she made in the cattle futures market, the White House travel office scandal, where Hillary Clinton trumped up criminal charges against an obviously innocent public servant in order to enrich some Hollywood pals, those subpoenaed Rose Law Firm records that ultimately turned up in her closet, her delusional claim that the rumors of her husband’s infidelity were a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and her war on the women who insisted otherwise. Her brief time as a Senator was largely untainted by scandal but not marked by any significant accomplishments, and her inglorious tenure as Secretary of State involved suspicious donations to her family’s suspicious charity by suspicious foreign governments and a disastrous Libyan war that wound up with four Americans dead in a terror attack that she falsely blamed on an obscure filmmaker who wound in prison for exercising his First Amendment rights. Why a hard-to-follow story about her e-mail accounts should be more damaging is hard to explain.
Our guess is that it’s the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back, the story that at long last confirmed all the suspicions that had accumulated over the past 25 years of previously underplayed scandals, and an excuse for anxious Democrats to start seeking more electable alternatives. So far the best they can come up with is Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Al Gore, present Vice President Joe Biden, and there’s even talk of past failed nominee and current Secretary of State John Kerry, who is responsible for that Iran nuclear bomb deal that ever sensible American hates, but that only demonstrates how very damaged the Clinton candidacy is. The press might relent once it realizes that the Clinton campaign is still well positioned to win the Democratic nomination, but until then we expect they’ll continue to pile on an Clinton’s poll numbers will continue to plummet.

— Bud Norman