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Tweeting and Twisting the GOP

The internecine Republican feuding has lately become more complicated. It’s still the same old story of the establishment versus the insurgents, the squishy moderates versus the principled conservatives, and the real Republicans versus the Republicans In Name Only, but the days it’s hard to tell who’s on which side. At this point in the plot President Donald Trump is “tweeting” threats against the House of Representative’s “Freedom Caucus,” so all the old labels of establishment and insurgent and principled and squishy no longer make any sense, and who the real Republicans are is very much up for debate.
As a relatively recent Republican Trump won the party’s nomination with a plurality of primary and caucus votes by running as an outsider and populist renegade hellbent on burning down the hated GOP establishment, as exemplified by party chairman Reince Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, but following his improbable win of the electoral vote he seem surprised to find that he suddenly was the establishment. After running on grandiose promises of repealing Obamacare within days of taking office and replacing it with coverage for everyone at and lower costs and so beautiful it would make your head spin, Trump made Priebus his White House Chief of Staff and turned to Ryan McConnell to make good on his word, then went off to golf at his fabulous Mar-a-Lago resort, as populists do.
That was fine with the plurality of the party that now defines Republicanism as obeisance to Trump, and when it all went down in flames many of them were eager to blame Priebus and Ryan and McConnell and the rest of the hated establishment who had hoodwinked the naive Trump, even if he had also been elected because of his boasts of being both anti-establishment and the savviest deal-maker ever, and there was plenty of blame to be spread around the whole party. Some of those squishy moderates who somehow survived the past six years of insurgent anti-establishment primary purges bucked the party line on the bill because they were cowed by its 17 percent approval rating and all the looming sob stories from the 24 million people expected to lose health care coverage the first three years of premium hikes that were also forecast. More votes were lost from the “Freedom Caucus,” the same insurgent populists who had gained office by running on the original “Tea Party” wave of dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment, as they objected to the bill because it didn’t fully repeal Obamacare and replaced it with something that retained too many of the taxes and regulations and outrageous infringements of free market principles and individual liberty that the entirety of the party had claimed to be against from the get-go.
Trump took to “Twitter” to blame the “Freedom Caucus” members and threaten them with primary challenges by more obeisant Republicans if they didn’t come around. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump “tweeted,” adding with similar eloquence that “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” Later “tweets” mentioned individual members by name, with similar political intimidation repeated, which leaves us wondering what the Republican establishment but not doubting that it’s likely to be burned down.
The “tweets” don’t seem likely to settle the matter, though, as the “Freedom Caucus” members defiantly “tweeted” back in Trump’s own blustery style. Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie responded with a snarky “#Swampcare polls 17%. Sad!” Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia “tweeted” a simple “Stockholm Syndrome?” to suggest that Trump was now stuck with the hated establishment label. None appeared to be at all intimidated, and we can’t see why they should be. It’s easy to resist a populist movement that’s polling 17 percent in the polls, which is truly is sad, Trump’s numbers are hovering around 40 at a time when a president should be getting a honeymoon bump, and most of those “Freedom Caucus” members won their districts by bigger margins than Trump. Some of them really believe what they ran on, too, and can more persuasively argue why they voted against the bill Trump backed than Trump can argue for it.
To the extent that they can’t “tweet” the argument, conservative media ranging from the rabble-rousing radio talkers to the old eggheaded and think-tanky ink-and-paper publications will make it for them. Given that Trump’s remaining support won’t listen to any media that isn’t explicitly conservative, that’s a problem. Some of the conservative media are by now obeisant to Trump, but given their past full-throated supported for the “Freedom Caucus” and its anti-establishment stand they’re going to have some tricky talking to do. There are still enough Democrats hanging around Congress that Trump will need pretty much Republican vote to “get on the team, & fast,” which will be hard to do with a party that prides itself on its rugged individualism and stubborn independence and despite a certain reverence for order and tradition has lately come to regard any sort of establishment as needing to be burned down.
All of which leaves the Republicans with a whole lot of soul-searching about what their party really stands for. Given the current state of the Democratic Party, the country desperately needs the Republicans to get on with it.

— Bud Norman

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Luck Be a Lady

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, according to one of our favorite sports cliches, and nothing proves this better than the improbably lucky and not at all good career of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her unlikely but widely presumed status as the presumptive First Woman President of the States was challenged during Monday’s Democratic caucus in Iowa by such a long-shot underdog as self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but she somehow prevailed thanks to six favorable coin tosses in a row.
What are the odds of winning six coin tosses in a row? Although we have only a public school education in mathematics, our finger calculations indicate that it’s approximately a one-in-64 shot, which sounds worse yet after we cheat and use an internet percentage calculator to find that’s also just a 1.562 percent chance, which is even more remote than what the suckers at one of Donald J. Trump’s house-odds casinos could expect. And what are the chances that six county races would end in a tie, and that one of America’s major political parties would choose to settle such weighty matters as its presidential nomination according to a coin flip? Such questions are beyond our public schooled powers of computation, but we’d bet it’s like a gazillion or something to one.
Even the self-described socialist’s necessarily fanatical followers, who are apparently too innumerate to comprehend the mere trillions of deficit spending on economy-crushing and liberty-squashing government programs that he’s proposing, are wised-up enough to be suspicious about it. There’s some talk among the supporters of a recount and other protests, even if the long-shot self-described socialist himself seems willing to call it a tie and move on to the New Hampshire primary where he’s currently a prohibitive favorite, and we wish them well. The Iowa Democratic Party’s ways of doing things are awfully vexing though, and we spent most of Monday night trying to find actual votes cast rather than precinct and county and state delegates won, and then we found out on Tuesday that even the self-described socialist’s campaign operation was having a hard time getting its hand on hard numbers, so it should take a while to sort it all out. Last time around it took the Iowa Republicans more than a week of “Romney Wins” headlines to figure out that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had actually won, and by then Romney was well on his way to the nomination, which proves that these sorts of screw-ups are not so unlikely in either party, and it’s a safe bet that a week’s worth of stories about Clinton’s asterik-affixed victory will carry her through the expected New Hampshire primary on to the supposed “firewall” state of South Carolina and all it’s supposedly faithful black voters.
Last time around all those black voters derailed the First Woman President’s supposedly inevitable inauguration by voting for the First Black President, and this time around Santorum didn’t even get to one percent in the Republican Iowa caucus, and each successive coin toss has the same 50-50 odds, and we honestly don’t know how you’d rig that game in front of all those cel phone cameras, but something about the Democrat’s Iowa caucus still seems awfully unlikely. Then again, Clinton has a longstanding habit of beating the odds.
Old-timers with an interest in old news will recall the time when a relatively youthful Clinton parlayed a $1,000 bet on the cattle futures market into a $100,000 cash-out just ten months later, and although we won’t even pretend to be able to guess the odds of that happening without some funny business we did find some better educated fellows writing for the Journal of Economics and Finance who figured it to be about one-in-35-trillion, We also note that the chances of the First Woman President being the wife of a former Living White Male President is just four-in-150-million or so, and that the chances of a brother and son of a former Living White Male President are by now pretty much nil, and when you add in all the other coincidences and that fact that she’s never accomplished anything to the good in any of her prestigious jobs it’s bound to add up to some more-than-astronomical odds, given the finite number of stars and planets and moons in the universe.
As we’re not at all the suspicious sorts, we’ll just assume that Clinton is one lucky lady. The Republican front-runner is running on the argument that he’s so good he and his house odds always win, even though he lost the Iowa caucus by frankly reported numbers, and that if elected he’ll win for the country. It’s a compelling argument, we suppose, but by the same logic it might be better to bet on someone so impossibly lucky as Clinton to win those coin-tosses that so often determine a Republic’s fate.

— Bud Norman

Radical Islam By Any Other Name

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” William Shakespeare once wrote, but he’s just another dead white male that nobody bothers to read these days. Modern liberals believe that words do indeed have magical powers that can alter whatever reality they are intended to describe. Thus a man can become a woman with a simple change of pronouns, a university can erase its long-ago racism with a few more up-to-date names on some buildings, the problem of illegal immigrants can be made to disappear simply by calling the millions of people who have immigrated here illegally by some more polite name, such as “undocumented Americans” or “dreamers,” and the latest euphemisms can imbue all manner of malodorous things with that sweet fragrance of moral superiority that keeps the modern liberals’ noses constantly upturned.
The latest problem to get this mystical linguistic treatment is radical Islam, which we are now assured does not exist. Although the semantic shamans won’t go so far as to pretend that terrorist attacks haven’t been occurring all over the world with increasing frequency and savagery in the past decades, and that there’s usually someone with a Muslim name shouting “Allahu Akbar” at the scene and a group calling itself something Islamic claiming credit,  they will go so far as to pretend that anyone who draws the intuitive conclusion that the Religion of Peace has anything to do with it is just a nasty old bigot. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to the staff of the American embassy in France just days after somebody or another shot up six sites in Paris for some reason or another, insists that “It has nothing to do with Islam. It has everything to do with criminality, with terror, with abuse, with psychopathism — I mean, you name it.” So long as you don’t name it Islam, of course, Kerry is content to deal with the problem on whatever convoluted language and new coinages you might prefer. His predecessor at the State Department, the supposedly presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, speaking just hours before some terror group or another for some reason or another killed all the hostages at a Mali hotel who could not recite verses from the Koran, went further to insist that “Muslims are peace and tolerant people who have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” Clinton was so proud of the statement that she “tweeted” it out to her followers, a surprising number of whom responded with scathing criticism, and the Democratic Party has already released an internet advertisement criticizing the Republican’s repeated use of “radical Islam” that features the formerly vilified George W. Bush saying that Islam is a Religion of Peace and we’re not at war with a religion and all the obligatory boilerplate that he never got any credit for back in the day.
So long as the shootings and bombings and stabbings and beheadings and crucifixions continue one will have to call it something, though, and Clinton has chosen to call it “jihadism.” It’s better than “psychopathism,” we suppose, but we can’t see how it’s a more politically correct term than “radical Islam.” Our big old Random House dictionary doesn’t have an entry for jihadism, but it does define jihad as “a holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by Muslims,” and our 13 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary are so old they offer the alternative spellings of jehad and jahad and define it as “A religious war of Mohammedans against unbelievers in Islam, inculcated as a duty by Koran and traditions,” and pretty much every etymologist will tell you that it’s a term having something to do with Islam. The more respectful but less precise lexicographers like to define jihad as a peaceful struggle to better one’s self, and for some reason they usually cite quitting smoking as an example, but even Clinton seems to have given up on that. The terror group calling itself Islamic Jihad, and the proudly self-proclaimed jihadists doing all the shooting and bombing and stabbings and beheadings and crucifixions, and such widely respected-within-the-Islamic-world scholars as the late Ayatollah Khomeini saying “I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim” that jihad does not mean a more literal war against the unbelievers has given the word a certain connotation that cannot be easily shaken, no matter how many well-intentioned Turks start laying off the hookah.
There are subtle and nuanced arguments to avoid the words “radical Islam,” as are required for such difficult sophistry. The gist of it is that by acknowledging the Islamic beliefs of the people we are obliged to fight and kill we signal to the entire Islamic world that we are at war with the entire religion, forcing all those more peaceful and tolerant Muslims who otherwise would be disinclined to shoot and bomb and behead and all that to join with their more belligerent co-religionists. This seems at least slightly plausible, given that all those peaceful warriors are probably already suffering the crankiness of nicotine withdrawal, but even the Democratic Party’s internet advertisements explicitly acknowledge that America’s leadership has always stressed how the country and its allies are only at war with those particular sorts of Muslims who are avowedly and actively and often effectively at war against us, and even such right-wing crazies as the Republican presidential candidates and ourselves are always careful to affix that “radical” qualifier to make the same point, so by now all those peaceful Muslims should be reassured. The term “radical Islam” does include the “I-word,” but we’re all adults here and might as well acknowledge the obvious fact the terrorists are acting in strict accordance with a very ancient and still widely-held understanding of Islam’s holy book, and surely those peaceful Muslims will frankly acknowledge the current struggle does indeed involve the more radical elements of their religion. One can argue that no true Muslim wants war, because Islam is a Religion of Peace, just as one can argue that no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge, because any one that did is no true Scotsman, but it’s still a fallacy and you’re still left with a large number of people who want to kill you in the name of Islam and don’t care how painstakingly polite you’ve been to the religion that you insist they don’t practice, and we suspect that by this point even some of the most peaceable sorts of Muslims are probably starting to contemplate which side is more likely to prevail.
Our reading of history suggests that the side with the high-tech weaponry and most modern scientific know-how is usually a good bet, but the side that knows what it’s fighting for and who it’s fighting against is often a formidable underdog. In the current conflict our side is fighting with itself over proper protocol for transgendered persons and that building named after a guy who built it but who owned slaves long ago and what to call all those immigrants who are here illegally, and we refuse to acknowledge that we’re fighting at against the same radical ideology that has been intermittently at war with the west for the past 1,400 years, long before there was western imperialism and Israel and George W. Bush and all the other usual exculpatory grievances, and which has always claimed to be Islamic. When a former Secretary of State and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is reduced that to claiming that it is merely “jihad” and therefore has nothing to do with Islam, it’s a good time for hedging bets.
If this all sounds too war-mongering and xenophobic and Islamophobic to your ears, we’ll happily recite all the rote assurances about the vast majority of the world’s Muslims being peaceful and tolerant and disinclined to chop off your head and take your daughter as a sex slave. We wish them well, and assume they wish us well in our efforts to defeat those who are committing atrocities in their name. People being people, though, we assume that there are some among the presently peaceable Muslims who are waiting to see how it plays out. Every strain of Islam has always found itself in conflict with some aspects of western civilization, and although most Muslims in the western world have found a peaceable and tolerant accommodation there are many who wouldn’t mind if the west were a little more accommodating itself. In some cases they might be making reasonable requests, in other cases intolerable demands, but Kerry and Clinton and all the political correctness in the world won’t keep them from contemplating a Muslim world. President Barack Obama contends that the Republican rhetoric about radical Islam is a recruiting tool for the terrorists, but the better recruiting tool for a potential pool of new jihadists is the string of victories they’ve lately racked up.
Clinton and her two rivals have both sworn off the term “radical Islam,” and of course the party itself is rallying to the cause with that internet advertisement, but it’s going to be a tough sale. The polls show the public unimpressed, even the vulgar late night comedian and usually reliable Democratic pitchman Bill Maher is scoffing at it, and thus far the biggest political beneficiary is the one candidate who doesn’t seem to care how war-mongering and xenophobic and Islamophobic he sounds. The magic words about men being women and Woodrow Wilson never having been president of Princeton University and illegal immigrants being dreamers aren’t polling well, and we don’t expect they’re going to win a war.

— Bud Norman

Labour’s Love Lost

Britain’s Labour Party went full-blown lunatic left last week, even by British standards, and we can’t help wondering what that portends for America.
All of Fleet Street’s reports about the party’s leadership election assure us that Labour won’t be leading Great Britain any time soon, which means the formerly special relationship between our countries won’t have an anti-American Prime Minister complicating the situation with our current anti-British administration, which would be further complicated by the Prime Minister being peculiarly anti-British and the administration being oddly anti-American, so we’ll cross our fingers and hopefully take their word for it. Still, these things that happen in Great Britain tend to spill over across the pond. Margaret Thatcher’s brilliant record-setting run as Prime Minister presaged Ronald Reagan’s consequential election to the presidency, Tony Blair’s “third way” between Thatcher’s undeniable successes and Labour’s preferences was soon followed by President Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” strategy of getting back to Democratic basics without too much fiddling around with Reagan’s undeniable successes. Given this past history, and the current sentiments of the analogous Democratic Party here in the rebellious United States, the possibilities are frightening at worst and complicated at best.
Newly-eleccted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who ran away in a five-man race with 59.5 percent of the vote, is so far to the left that even the senior officials of the Labour Party, which at last check was already slightly to the left of the Democratic Party, are refusing to serve in his shadow cabinet. Corbyn is endorsed by the Sinn Fein Party and happy to talk to the Irish Republican Army terrorists it represents, but insists on principle that he won’t talk with the conservative-by-British-standards Sun newspaper. He’s avid for the right of self-determination for Palestinians and Venezuelans but not for the people of Northern Ireland or the Falkland Islands. His victory speech was festooned with signs welcoming the supposedly sympathetic but suspiciously young and male and unmarried and non-Syrian “refugees” of the Syrian civil war, yet he’s been rather inclined to sympathize with the Assad regime who crossing-a-red-line chemical attacks have been forcing the exodus from that country. He’s comfortable with Iran having nuclear weapons, but would prefer that Great Britain give up its own nuclear arsenal, wants to re-open coal mines while preaching against fossil fuels, hopes to nationalize the financial and energy sectors along the same consistent lines, and generally rambled on to a point that event the most robustly pro-Labour of the Fleet Street sheets was alarmed.
Of course it can’t happen here, to borrow from the title of an old Sinclair Lewis novel about the inevitable American fascism. Except that all of a sudden the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has jumped to a huge lead — or a yuge one, as the equally scary billionaire populist Donald Trump would have it — over the oh-so-establishment and supposedly inevitable former First Lady and New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is liberal enough to scare the bejesus out of us conservatives but apparently not quite enough to satisfy the more up-to-date liberals, and thus a similar far-left lurch for the Democrats seems quite plausible. Given the tenor of the conservations we have with the attractive yet liberal young women we encounter around the local hipster dives, and given that liberal young men tend to follow where the attractive liberal women go, a Sanders insurgency seems inevitable. The senior officials of the Democratic Party might decline to go along and go down with the Clinton ship, but those attractive young women at the local hipsters dives don’t seem to know or care who they are. Nor we do expect that the young liberal men hanging on their every word will care.
Sanders’ unexpected front-runner status is largely attributable to the Grand Central Station-sized pile of baggage Clinton brings to the presidential nomination race, while Corbyn’s victory can only be attributed to the collective craziness of what’s left of Labour’s true believers, so there’s some hope so there’s hope that the Democrats will escape Labour’s fate. The only hopes are Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, though, or maybe that O’Malley guy who languishes in the one percent range as penance for instituting effective police policies in Baltimore and hopes to make up for it by welcoming a few hundred thousand of those Syrian “refugees,” and here in as in Great Britain we have to conclude that least one of the two traditional major parties is badly broken.
Or perhaps both. The Tories, God love ’em, wouldn’t stand a chance in any American state’s Republican primary, even California, and they haven’t shown any courage against creeping socialism since those well-remembered days of Thatcher, and we’re not entirely convinced by Fleet Street that they couldn’t blow an upcoming election to Corbyn’s Labour if the United Kingdom Independence Party and other tougher–on-national-sovereignty parties split the sensible vote. The same scenario could play out here, with a billionaire populist enjoying a yuge — sorry, we meant say “huge”, but Trump fever has  infected even us –and thus  causing a wave of defections from the senior officials of the party and thereby handing a victory to the collective craziness of the American left.
Great Britain is another country, though, and the Fleet Street press, which is usually more reliable than their American counterparts, assures that it won’t happen there and probably won’t happen here. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. We note that Corbyn wears a beard, as does second-place Republican challenger Dr. Ben Carson, who otherwise is not at all like Corbyn, but we won’t even guess what that portends.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Plot Thickens

There’s serious talk going on about Vice President Joe Biden running for president, and it goes to show how very panicked the Democratic Party is about having former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its nominee.
Given the ongoing e-mail scandal and all the other equally damning scandals of the past 25 years or so and how very few accomplishments were associated with all those highfalutin titles and how very horrible a candidate she is, we’re not at all surprised that Democrats would be looking around for someone other than Clinton. That they’re considering Biden, though, suggests a party even more desperate than we would have thought. Biden is a two-time loser of the nomination, an inconsequential Vice President even by the low standards of that office, and a gaffe-prone buffoon who malapropisms have been ridiculous to even the such liberal ridiculers as the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” More surprising and scarier yet, if you’re a Democrat who happened upon this site, is that Biden will likely make a formidable contender.
Clinton is already losing ground to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current darling of the party’s far-left faction, and a long-time senator and Vice President would likely take more votes away from her than from the the Sanders and his base of people looking for an outsider option. He’d likely enjoy the implied endorsement of President Barack Obama, too, who has lately been deafeningly silent about all the federal investigations into Clinton’s e-mail, and without the black support that entails Clinton’s candidacy will be further eviscerated.
Biden has also been reportedly meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and discussing the possibility of a couple of one-term presidencies between the two, and that further thickens the plot. Warren, a fake-Injun-Harvard-professor-turned-far-left-populist-Senator, is the most avidly longed-for choice of the Democratic Party’s far-left base, even if she has thus far stood by her refusal to enter the race. The media speculation is that Biden might run with Warren as his pre-announced running mate, on a promise that he would serve only one term due to his seasoned age, allowing Warren to succeed him as president, fulfilling the Democrats’ destiny of electing both a black man and white woman to the presidency, and we can see such a promise beating out even the self-described socialist and any of the more scandal-ridden insider opponents.
At this point it’s all purely speculative, of course, but the inevitability of Clinton’s nomination does seem very much in doubt. If she does wind up with the nomination she’ll be likely be brushed and battered by the the fight for it, and without the enthusiastic support of the coalition that has won the last two presidential elections for her party, and as someone who had to fend of the buffoonish likes of Joe Biden.

— Bud Norman

The Second Time As Farce

Russia’s brazen revanchism in Ukraine has led to talk of another Cold War, and that does not bode well. After five decades of toil and trouble and the occasional close call on a nuclear catastrophe the last Cold War ended more or less to the satisfaction of the free and democratic world, but this time around the people in charge of our side have forgotten how it was done.
Worse yet, they stubbornly refused to ever learn. The current Secretary of State was wrong on every Cold War issue his entire adult life, from his slanderous testimony against his fellow servicemen during the Vietnam War to his opposition to President Reagan’s aggressive moves against the Soviet Union to his embrace of the South American Marxists who continue to impoverish and oppress that continent, yet he seems not to have noticed how history repudiated his views. Our current president was smoking dope with the Choom Gang and reading Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth” when the Cold War was being brought to a successful conclusion, but time clearly hasn’t changed his simplistic understanding of those complex events. Their Democratic party backed out of the Cold War during George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972, and it remains so resentful of how it worked out that it seems intent on nominating the architect of the present apologetic Russian “re-set” diplomacy in 2016.
The people are ultimately in charge, according to a cherished theory of American government, but they also seem to have forgotten the lessons of the Cold War. Many of them are now too young to have any personal memory of the era, and what little they know of it has been gleamed from “The People’s History of the United States” that was assigned by their hippie high school teachers or the self-serving rationalizations of the tenured radicals at their state-funded universities, while those old enough to recall when the Iron Curtain first descended on the European continent are gradually dwindling in number and strength. Most of those in between are forgetful of a conflict they never had to fight, reminded only when the late movie is poking fun at the duck-and-cover fearfulness that Hollywood found so funny or praising the blacklisted communist screenwriters that it found so brave, and few care where a candidate stood in those long-ago days or even how they think of today’s foreign policy challenges.
In 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin warned that the weakness then-Sen. Barack Obama had shown in the recent Georgian debacle might provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, and of course this was offered by the press as proof of what a dim-witted yokel she was. In 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney warned that Russia was seeking to re-establish its Soviet-era empire, and Obama responded by taunting that “the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” The lame and unoriginal line got a big laugh in the press gallery and the faculty lounges and the other progressive corners of society, and it certainly didn’t hurt Obama’s re-election chances, but it should have served as a warning that the president was himself stuck in an ‘80s mindset of nuclear freezes and moral relativism and a naïve yearning for peace through weakness.
Now Obama is explaining that he doesn’t see Ukraine as a “piece on a Cold War chessboard,” and we are to be reassured that he won’t play the same dreary game that dragged on over the decades. Putin is clearly intent on playing it, however, and will not stop pushing the pieces around just because Obama declines to take his place at the board. To carry the chess analogy further the position has clearly changed, but the correct strategy and tactics of the game have not. Apologies and appeasement have always provoked aggression, cultural confidence and a strong military have always deterred it, and anyone paying attention during the Cold War has seen the proof. The administration is now vowing to “stand with the international community,” as if that might put a scare into the Russians, and threatening to revoke the country’s membership in the Group of Eight, as if Putin so yearns for those pointless meetings, and even suggesting economic sanctions, as if Russian had anything it wanted to sell except for oil and natural gas that Europe has to buy, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being intimidated by a president who is cutting the military and withdrawing from America’s global leadership role and is clearly embarrassed at the way his predecessors won the Cold War.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, Down South

What little attention Americans pay the rest of the world has lately been focused on Ukraine, so the noteworthy noise emanating from Venezuela has gone largely unheard. That’s partly because the uprising in Ukraine has thus far been bloodier than the one in Venezuela, and has political and economic implications for Europe rather than South America, and features Vladimir Putin in a villain’s role and a recent world heavyweight boxing champ as his antagonist instead of a bunch of Venezuelans no one in the United States has ever heard of, but we suspect it’s also because most of the American media find Ukraine less embarrassing than Venezuela.
The Ukrainian mess is an embarrassment for those media intent on favorable coverage of the administration, as it once again reveals the utter failure of the “reset” diplomacy with Russia and the forehead-slapping stupidity of its underlying theory that any problems with those kindly Russians must surely have been the fault of that belligerent cowboy George W. Bush, but the damage done to the cause is limited. Even right-wing Obama-bashing bastards such as ourselves can’t blame the 50-something-year-old president for the past centuries of atrocities that the Russians have inflicted on the Ukrainians, or the mess that the Ukrainians have thus far made of their opportunity for independence, and in the midst of all that tragic history there’s no need to remind anyone of the administration’s recent naiveté. All those Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian border and the Russian warships docked in Cuba might yet make the story unmanageable, but for now it can be reported without trepidation.
The Venezuelan mess, on the other hand, is an unmitigated embarrassment to one of one liberalism’s most chic causes. An uprising against an explicitly Marxist Latin American regime, undeniably caused by the economic catastrophe that follows every attempt at Latin American Marxism, is not a tale that most of the modern media are eager to tell. This is especially true of Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez’ glorious revolution against the Yankee capitalist pig-dogs was especially trendy among the Hollywood bleeding-hearts, scruffy Occupy encampments, and the more progressive corners of the Democratic party. Some of the radical frisson has gone from Venezuela since the death last year of Chavez, the fat little windbag hillbilly who somehow acquired a cult of personality that stretched from the barrios of Caracas to the penthouses of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but successor Nicolas Maduro has carried on the revolution with the same inflationary, impoverishing, iron-fisted style, and until recently Venezuela was still a fashionable example of social justice in action.
The fashions are changing, however, as protests against Maduro’s government are springing up in all the smart places. Maduro’s government has driven so many Venezuelans out of the country that they’ve been dispersed to all the smart places, where their eyewitness accounts of the country’s problems have had some success countering the media’s relentless propaganda, but it has also acted with such blatant disregard for human rights in putting down the protests that it cannot be ignored by even the most willfully blind observers. All of those celebrities who once basked in the revolutionary warmth of Venezuela, from pugnacious movie star Sean Penn to patrician politician Joseph Kennedy II, are now in danger of being out of style.
In his desperation Maduro has resorted to the Latin American Marxists’ most reliable trick of blaming the Yankees for his woes, going so far as to expel American diplomats from the country, and the administration has response by expelling an equal number of Venezuelan diplomats from this country, but no one outside the barrios of Caracas are likely to believe that President Barack Obama has ever wished any harm on Maduro’s convoluted share-the-wealth schemes. Obama’s own choice for the Federal Communication Commission’s “diversity czar” openly expressed his admiration for Chavez’ “incredible and democratic revolution,” which routinely denied broadcast licenses to any troublesome critics, and ever since the State Department sided with a Marxist coup in Honduras back in ’09 it has been clear the administration has been friendly toward to South American socialism. Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa recently returned from a three-day trip to the same Cuba where that Russian warship is parked and expressed great enthusiasm for its medical system, which he describes as even more advanced than Obamacare, former Democratic President Jimmy Carter is planning yet another trip to Venezuela to negotiate between the protestors and the government whose fraudulent elections has long endorsed, and it’s hard to think of anyone in the Democratic party that hasn’t been on board with the noble experiment that is currently imploding in Venezuela and to a lesser degree throughout South America.
The vast disparity between the coverage given to Ukraine and Venezuela is so conspicuous that The Washington Post felt compelled to explain it, but they didn’t mention the embarrassment they surely feel in addressing the story. It seems likely they’ll soon have to report the end of Chavez’ glorious revolution, but don’t expect them to mention who was complicit in the debacle.

— Bud Norman

Some Help from the Left

You hear a lot of weird things on the late-night “Coast to Coast” radio program, from UFO sightings to demonic possessions to every variety of conspiracy theory, but an advertisement we heard last night from “Progressives For Immigration Reform” might have topped them all.
From both the “Progressive” and the “For Immigration Reform” parts of the name you would expect the spot to be in support of the Senate’s bill calling for some phony-baloney border enforcement and a very real “path to citizenship” allowing millions of illegal immigrants to vote for the Democrats in upcoming elections, but the weird part was that group was against it. The group is not only against the border enforcement portions of the bill, something they seem to take seriously, they also argue against the idea of bringing in more illegal immigrants. All of the arguments were couched in terms of environmentalism and the depressing effects of mass immigration on the wages of low-skilled workers, which accounts for the “progressive” portion of the name, and apparently the sort of immigration reform that they are for is quite different than what the Senate has in mind.
There’s nothing surprising about progressives finding reasons to oppose mass immigration, which has traditionally been opposed by labor leaders ranging from Samuel Gompers to A. Phillip Randolph to Cesar Chavez, and which is an affront to the anti-population-growth elements of the environmental movement, but we were nonetheless surprised to hear any of them come right out and say so. The Democratic party has collectively concluded that the Senate bill serves its interests, and all of the factions within usually fall in line. This is most conspicuously true in Congress, where it takes some extreme home state or home district political pressure to get a Democrat to buck the party line, but even the rank-and-file members of our acquaintance are almost always willing to accept the party’s position even when a favored is clearly against their self-interest.
Plenty of Republicans have endorsed the Senate’s bill, always giving ostensibly conservative reasons for doing, but conservatism is an individualist philosophy and party discipline is therefore less reliable. The rank-and-file of the GOP seem to be overwhelmingly opposed to the Senate bill, though, and we expect that few Republicans in the House will be willing to swim against that surging tide. Throw in a few Democrats more beholden to the black, green, and labor lobbies than the Hispanic vote and it might be enough to defeat the bill in the House.
The conservative arguments against the bill seem more persuasive to us than what the progressives are peddling, but we’re happy to have their help nonetheless. Their support is especially helpful because no one is going to accuse them of racism, and the notion that one needn’t be a Meskin-hatin’ redneck is a significant contribution to the debate.

— Bud Norman