The Gospel According to Trump

The keynote speaker at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday was former American Enterprise Association president and conservative columnist Arthur Brooks, who reiterated the theme of his 2019 book “Love Your Enemies.” Next up was President Donald Trump, who started his remarks by saying “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you.”
Trump fans will say that of course he was only kidding, and that critics simply fail to appreciate his sense of humor, but the rest of  the speech made quite clear Trump truly believes that the idea of loving one’s enemies is superstitious bunk. He might or might not know that he’s also disagreeing with Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ said a lot of things that Trump clearly believes are bunk.
The line about loving one’s enemies comes from the fifth through seventh chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew, an account of the Sermon the Mount, which is pretty much the antithesis of everything Trump says and does.
When Trump was asked on the campaign trail to cite a favorite Bible verse he said “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” which comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus, which Jewish tradition regards as an admonition that duly appointed governments should punish the guilty with penalties commensurate with the crime. Trump seems to regard it as permission for his hobby of exacting revenge on anyone he finds guilty of some slight, despite Romans 12:19 saying “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.”
.The phrase comes up again in in Matthew 5:3, when Jesus told his followers “You have heard it was said, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also.” Trump often tells his followers to “always punch back 10 times harder,” and although most of the followers are self-described Christians the line always gets big cheers and applause at the rallies.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:5, but Trump once said in an interview with Playboy Magazine that “Every successful person has a large ego,” and when asked if that included Mother Theresa and Jesus Christ he replied “Far greater than you’ll ever understand.” Jesus also told his followers on the mount “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth” and “You cannot serve both God and money,” but Trump prefers the “prosperity gospel” of televangelist and White House advisor and “personal pastor” Paula White, which teaches that wealth is a sign that you’re good with God. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus tells his followers “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” but Trump took the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to disparage the religiosity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and the basic human decency of anyone who dares criticize his presidency.
The Sermon on the Mount also includes stuff about divorce and adultery and giving to the needy that Trump seems to regard as the rantings of a religious lunatic. He went from the National Prayer Breakfast to the East Room of the White House, where he once again cussed in front of the kids and lashed out at his enemies and told several provable lies during an unscripted stream-of-consciousness tirade that lasted more than an hour and sounded to us like the rantings of a very irreligious lunatic.
We don’t claim to have led such blameless lives that we won’t be relying on God’s mercy when the time comes, as Trump has claimed to have done, so we’ll happily leave it to God to ultimately judge Trump’s soul. Down here on earth we have a civic obligation to judge his fitness for the highest office in the land, though, and thanks to the American democracy God blessed us with we all get a say in that. Most of our fellow evangelical brothers and sisters regard Trump as their champion, and some even liken him to King David, who was beloved by God and given great power despite his extraordinary sins, but we’d note that David risked his life for God’s chosen people by challenging Goliath in single combat and only gained power after fully repenting and asking God’s forgiveness, whereas Trump had bone spurs and claims that he only asks forgiveness from God when “I drink my little wine and eat my little cracker,” which is how he described the rite of Holy Communion that Jesus consecrated before humbling Himself on the cross.
Our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters are entitled to their political opinions and their votes, and we’ll not judge them for it, but we will remind them of another line from the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets.”

— Bud Norman

Partying with Cheerleaders

These are the lazy, hazy days of summertime, when the cotton is high and the living is easy and the news cycle usually slows down. In the age of President Donald Trump there’s always something to talk about, however, and on Wednesday it was some old footage from the National Broadcasting Company of the future president indulging in what looked to be a pretty wild party at his Mar-a-Lago estate with a bevy of National Football League cheerleaders.
There’s nothing on the tape that would justify Trump’s impeachment, and his apologists can rightly argue that cameras might have caught such Presidents Clinton and Kennedy and Harding behaving just as badly if the media had been as nosy, but it doesn’t look good. Trump is once on again on tape assessing women’s worth by his scale-of-one-to-ten ratings of their physical attractiveness, and pulling women by the waist and patting their derrieres and forcing kisses and stopping just short of grabbing them by the pussy. He’s also seen yukking it up and comparing notes on the assembled pulchritude with fellow Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who is now a convicted sex offender and currently resides in a federal jail awaiting trial on more charges of exploiting underage women, and is someone Trump now claims he never liked.
The footage is from a 1992 segment on NBC’s talk show “A Closer Look,” hosted by Faith Daniels, who recalls that Trump forced a kiss on her while her husband’s head was turned, which the videotape confirms. At the time Trump was newly-divorced from his first wife and not yet married to the mistress who would become his second wife, and a recently bankrupt real estate and casino mogul who was known for calling all the New York City tabloids to boast of his sexual exploits. He clearly relished his reputation as the playboy of the western world, and was eager to play the part before NBC’s cameras.
These days Trump has a third wife and is the darling of the “family values” religious right wing of the Republican party, and swears he doesn’t have a sexist bone in his body, but he’s probably unconcerned about the footage. On our drive home from a northeast side dive we heard one of the right-wing talk radio talkers talking about how everyone already knew that Trump was a hound dog and he became president anyway, and the die-hard fans seem to take his pussy-grabbing tendencies as further proof that he’s the sort of dominating alpha male we need to make America great again.
Trump credibly claims to have had no contact with Epstein since the sex crime conviction, and has defenestrated the Secretary of Labor who gave Epstein a sweetheart deal back when he was a U.S. Attorney, and former President Bill Clinton was also a pal of Epstein, so Trump should also survive his past friendship with the world’s most notorious sex offender.
In the long run it’s just one of those aged filler stories that the media need to fill a slow summer news day, but we still say it doesn’t look good. That America has elected two different presidents who were once pals of Epstein troubles us, and there’s no telling what Epstein’s upcoming will reveal. We never did like any of those guys we grew up with who rated women by their looks and pulled waists and forced kisses and grabbed pussies, and we still believe that more thoughtful and respectful types are needed to sustain American greatness.

— Bud Norman

The First Casualty of the Trade War

Trade wars are good and easily won, President Donald Trump assures us, but we have to admit they make us nervous. Somehow we can’t find a single case in the past several millennia of economic history where a trade war was anything but disastrous and anybody actually won, and with the bluntness Trump’s fans so admire we’ll just come right out and say that we don’t expect his generalship will make his ongoing trade wars come out any better.
Since taking office Trump has been taking on pretty much the entire world, having won the presidency partly on the gripe that the entire world has been taking advantage of America ever since it emerged from the post-World War II ashes as the world’s preeminent economic and military and cultural power, but his biggest battlefront has been with China. On Friday Trump further raised the tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from an already-high 10 percent to 25 percent, which he apparently is allowed to do under the current constitutional order, and before the closing bell on today’s stock markets China is expected to retaliate in kind. The stock markets have been wildly down and then incrementally up throughout the squabble, on fears that Trump is screwing up a carefully built post-World War II international economic order that has for the most part brought increased peace and prosperity to the world and then faint hopes that the great dealmaker might yet deliver on his promise of the greatest deal ever made.
China is indeed a devious trading partner that dumps its excess supplies on world markets and steals intellectual property and occasionally manipulates its currency and exploits more or less slave labor, as Trump claims and even the looniest Democrats agree, so we’ll not deny that a tough negotiating stance is required. Even so, China has emerged from its post-World War II ashes with an economy that is huge by any measure and even bigger than ours by some suspect measures, and it’s a major client of the agricultural and aviation export industries that make up a huge chunk of our beloved Kansas economy, and we’d prefer it was dealt with in a cautious, carefully deliberated way, informed by history and the best expert opinion. Cautious and carefully deliberated and informed by history and expert opinion is clearly not Trump’s style, on the other hand, so for now we’ll remain just as nervous as the stock markets.
We’re just as rank amateurs about all this global economic order stuff as Trump, but with a bravado he might admire we’ll say we’ll go right ahead and say we would have played it differently. China is indeed taking advantage of America in various insidious way, but it’s doing the same to the rest of the world, so we would have availed ourselves of that Leader of the Free World status America’s wiser leaders rightly earned in the post-war years to unite the rest of the Free World and its overpowering economic might against China, which would surely realize it couldn’t take on the rest of the planet, and might even agree to free trade and human rights and full membership in the modern world. Rank amateurs that we are, we note that even the looniest Democrats and the most impeccably credentialed old-fashioned Republican foreign affairs and trade policy experts seem to agree.
Trump is a bolder sort of fellow than ourselves, however, and he chose to take on the rest of the world, so we have no choice but to hope he’s right. His routine renegotiation of the re-branded North American Free Trade agreement has a few billion in upsides for Wisconsin dairy farmers and a few other industries, which Trump claims are the difference between the worst and best trade deal ever negotiated, but it’s currently stalled in the Republican-majority Senate because of the tariffs Trump used in the negotiations that are currently hurting the economies of states held by free-trade Republicans. Meanwhile in the rest of the Free World the European Union is going through a nasty divorce from the United Kingdom. and Trump is taunting the British Prime Minister with sneering “tweets” and threatening the EU with higher tariffs, and demanding they all pay more for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Trump’s Latin American foreign policy seems in retreat in Venezuela, we can’t discern any policy for the “shit-hole” countries in Africa, North Korea is once again conducting missiles test in Asia, where we’re threatening trade wars against everyone, and the possibility of a united front against those undeniably devious Chinese seems remote.
Trump and his most ardent admirers would have us believe that he’s a self-made multi-billionaire who can easily best these Chinese bums in international trade negotiations, but we’ve read enough of the “fake news” to know that he’s a billionaire’s son who’s gone bankrupt six times in casinos and strip-clubs despite house odds and bare breasts, and ran airlines and football teams and scam universities and other ventures in into the ground, and given his well documented business record we don’t trust in his acumen to run an international economy. He’s lately been crowing about all the money his tariffs have been bringing to the federal treasury, but his national economic council director Larry Kudlow had to acknowledge on one of the Sunday news shows that the money is coming from American consumers rather than China, and sooner or later the average Wal-Mart shopper will notice that Trump tells a lot of lies about his trade wars. Our guess is that those wily Cheese have already noticed, and that we’re in for a bumpy ride.

— Bud Norman

The Washington Post vs. The National Enquirer

The publishers of The Washington Post and The National Enquirer are currently feuding, and it’s as tawdry a spectacle as you might expect.
Jeff Bezos owns the eminently respectable Washington Post, and he also owns the retailing giant, which makes him one of the richest men in the world, and thus it has been widely reported in the Post and elsewhere that his recent divorce was the most expensive in history. A fellow with the unfortunate name of David Pecker owns the notoriously yellow National Enquirer, and naturally the inquiring minds of its supermarket readership wanted to know all about that. In January the tabloid known for its short attention span-sized stories ran an 11-page story about Bezo’s affair with some other big bucks businessman’s wife, and it somehow included some daringly salacious text messages Bezos had sent to his apparent paramour. Bezos didn’t deny go iit, although he unleashed some high priced lawyers to find out how the tabloid had acquired his legally-protected private texts, and for the moment the advantage seemed to belong to Pecker.
On Wednesday, though, Bezos blasted back that Pecker had tried to blackmail him with “intimate photos,” and offered an e-mail “confidential & not for distribution” e-mail sent by Chief Content Officer of The National Enquirer’s parent company to Bezos’ lawyer. The e-mail discloses that “in addition to a below-the-belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pic’ — The Enquirer obtained nine further images.” The e-mail goes on to describe some more tame “selfies” of Bezos but also a photo of his alleged paramour “smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene,” as well as other salacious shots. Bezos isn’t denying any of it, but instead has stated that “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.” Despite the admitted personal cost and embarrassment the photos do indeed seem to threaten, we think the advantage now clearly goes to Bezos.
The tawdry backstory to all this makes it all the more embarrassing for Pecker, and has some embarrassing political implications for President Donald Trump. Pecker and the president are good buddies, and The National Enquirer has a long history of running stories about Trump’s political opponents — including the fanciful claim that Republican primary opponent Sen. Ted Cruz’ father was in on the assassination of President John Kennedy– and it has since struck a cooperation deal with an investigation into the tabloid’s efforts to squelch stories about Trump’s alleged affairs with a pornographic video performer and a nude model, and whether or not that violated campaign finance laws. Bezos’ Post has been less friendly to Trump, who daily fulminates about their damnably factual accounts of his administration and frequently threatens new taxes and Post Office regulations against
It darn sure looks as if Bezos was cheating on his wife with some other big bucks businessman’s wife, and that they took some embarrassing “selfies” along the way, but the other players in this tawdry tale don’t come off looking any better. Bezos is far richer than than both Trump and Pecker combined, even after hat that record multi-billion dollars divorce settlement, and despite the best efforts of Pecker it darn sure looks as if Trump has prolifically cheated on all three of his wives, and who knows what Pecker has been up to, and Bezos hasn’t been forced into any cooperating witness arrangements with the feds, so we figure Bezos is better able to absorb the personal costs and embarrassment of this tawdry affair.
In any case, we’ll rely more on The Washington Post than The National Enquirer for news about the Trump administration, and expect that  it will also be plenty tawdry.

— Bud Norman

Calling a Bluff on a Trump Card

Donald J. Trump, the bullying billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-show mogul who is somehow the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has long had a habit of frequently threatening and oftentimes even filing frivolous lawsuits against anyone who gets in his way. This time he’s making the threats against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is suddenly challenging Trump’s front-runner status, but Cruz seems an unpromising target for such slip-and-fall-lawyer legal tactics.
There’s a reason, after all, that Cruz’s many Democratic detractors prefer to portray him as evil rather than stupid. Cruz is a graduate of almighty Harvard’s oh-so prestigious law school, where even such leftist professors as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe acknowledged his brilliance. Only the most brilliant law students find work as Supreme Court clerks, and Cruz stood out among them as a trusted clerk of the great Chief Justice William Rehnquist. During a brief exile from politics Cruz earned millions as an associate at one of the country’s most prestigious firms, which by Trump’s bottom-line standards suggest some legal acumen. Upon his voluntary pay-cut return to public service as the state of Texas’ Solicitor General, he was mostly victorious in his nine arguments before the Supreme Court, and even in defeat earned a reputation as a formidable lawyer that is now begrudgingly acknowledged by the likes of Politico and The New York Times.
Cruz also relishes the same politically-incorrect and anti-establishment tough guy reputation that has somehow propelled a bullying billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-show mogul such as Trump to front-runner status, so he would seem especially unlikely to cower in the face of some frivolous threat. Sure enough, Cruz’s Wednesday press conference could be aptly summed up by Clint Eastwood’s pithier “Go ahead, punk, make my day.
In response to one of those cease-and-desist letters that well-lawyered people are always sending out to easily-bullied types these days, Cruz defiantly insisted he would not cease nor desist from airing a campaign commercial that showed some old footage of Trump telling one of his constant interviewers that he had “New York values” about a wide range of social issues, up to and including late-term and even partial-birth abortion, which is to say values that are in many cases in conflict values of the electorate in the upcoming South Carolina primary. Trump’s claim is that the commercial is slanderous, and try as we might we can’t quite surmise his argument why. The closest we ever got to an argument before the highest court in the land was running briefs between offices during a delightful teenaged summer as Supreme Court messengers, but even we know that the truth is always an absolute defense against a slander charge, and we spent enough time in the newspaper business to know that the thank-God-for-it Sullivan decision sets an extraordinarily high standard of proof for slander against any public figure, which allows us even from our humble internet porch to poke unremitting fun at the likes of the thin-and-orange-skinned and ridiculously coiffed Donald J. Trump, so we expect that the more knowledgeable-about-these-things Cruz will quickly prevail in the courts.
Cruz also seem undaunted by Trump’s threat to challenge his eligibility to serve as President of the United States unless some groveling apology for all disagreements was forthcoming. Although Cruz was admittedly born in Canada, as well as he can recall, and although his father was a naturalized citizen who had fled a dictatorship in Cuba, his mother was a natural born citizen who had lived the requisite number of years in the country, and that’s good enough for the Illinois election board, and we expect that most Americans will also be satisfied. We note that Trump hasn’t yet filed suit, whatever standing he might have, or whatever lawyers he might hire to find some, and further note that he’s willing to let this matter of constitutional law drop if he gets an honor-satisfying apology.
There’s also the problem that Trump would be deposed on video after filing suit, and that Cruz has indicated interest in doing the honors himself, and that it wouldn’t go according to World Wrestling Entertainment rules.
Perhaps this will be prove another one of those brilliant maneuvers that Trump has made on his way to front-runner status. Trump does have considerable legal experience of his own, after all, after two divorces and one post-divorce lawsuit regarding a decree that the party of the second part never say anything bad about him, as well as at least 169 federal lawsuits that he brought against others or were brought against him, including one suit against two fellows named Trump for doing business in their family name, which alleged that Trump’s Trump trumped all other Trumps’ Trump, even though the defendants’ family had been using the name longer than Trump’s family, and there was the successful lawsuit brought by the Justice Department for anti-trust violations, and the ongoing lawsuits by the New York State Attorney General and a lot of disgruntled students over the scam Trump University, as well as all the nuisance suits that billionaires attract, so maybe he knows what he’s doing. If  so, we’ll be intrigued how it plays out. Trump can make good on his threat to have an opponent’s political advertisement banned by the government, and it will cost Cruz some campaign funds to deal with it and fringe media that openly support Trump will be gleeful about, but the case will be quickly laughed out of court and pilloried in the press and laughed at on all the late night comedy shows, and for one brief news-and-joke cycle Cruz won’t be the butt of the jokes. Trump’s “birther” bit has about as much chance of knocking Cruz out of the race as it did of knocking Barack Obama out of the presidency, and we notice that he hasn’t filed that suit yet.
Trump could back off his threats, with some blustery explanation about how he won again, because he always wins, and so he couldn’t have lost, and perhaps that will satisfy his fans. We’ve witnessed these sorts of confrontations between tough guys before, though, and we’ve never seen anyone pick a fight and back off a winner.

— 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 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

Manliness and Modernity

Although we’re not at all the macho type, and try to maintain a gentlemanly demeanor whenever possible, we can’t fathom the modern aversion to masculinity. We notice it daily, in the stories about schools cracking down on the most traditionally boyish behaviors, in the sit-coms and chick flicks that ridicule regular guy activities, in those Obamacare ads with the cocoa-sipping boy in his pajamas, and in almost every encounter with those bearded and tattooed and yet oh-so-sensitive hipsters at the local dives. We’ve recently come across two articles, however, that take it to an infuriating level.
One was at a newly-discovered web site called The College Fix, which reported on Vanderbilt University’s “Healthy Masculinities Week.” Kicking off the event was a speech by Jackson Katz, apparently the first man to minor in Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who showed clips from his film “Tough Guise” and fretted about how the G.I. Joe toys and action movie stars have been flexing ever big arms. There was also a screening of the film “The Mask You Live In,” which features a former National Football League player warning that “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man.'” There was also a panel on “Maintaining Bro Status,” in which one panelist, ironically named Bill Savage, expressed his contempt for the phrases “man up” and “don’t be a pussy.” Other panels addressed such topics as “Masc 4 Masc: Policing Masculine Identity in the Gay and Bi Communities,” and “Masculinity XXL: The Portrayal of Manhood in ‘Magic Mike.'”
One shudders to think how the famously rough-and-tumble Cornelius Vanderbilt, eponymous founder of a suddenly ridiculous university, might have reacted. We’re certain Vanderbilt would not have fretted that America’s fictional he-men lately have bigger biceps, or that even point guards and other formerly lean athletes are also sporting them, which apparently went unmentioned at the panel but is something peculiar that we’ve noticed the last several basketball seasons, and we expect he would advise the panelists to man up and not be a pussy. This is not to say the southern gentleman and educational philanthropist would be urging rape and pillage and unrestrained flatulence and similar sorts of fraternity hijinks, just that he wasn’t the sort to advise not being a man and being a pussy. There is a middle ground, in our experience, and by our reckoning Vanderbilt occupied that area better than any of the panelists at his namesake university.
We can’t even guess what the late Col. Vanderbilt might have thought about policing masculine identity in the gay and bi communities, or that illiterate “Masc 4 Masc” in the title, and we’re not even sure what we think about that. If the panelists are talking about banishing all the bulging biceps and leather-jacketed machismo in those Tom of Finland cartoons that all our homosexual friends seem to adore, we suspect the gay and bi communities will respond by manning up and not being pussies. Although we haven’t seen “Magic Mike,” and can’t comment on whether it promotes an XXL or otherwise unhealthy masculinity, we are given to understand that it’s about a male ecdysiast whose bulging biceps and otherwise buff physique make him wildly popular with a female audience, which seems plausible enough. All sorts of people seem to like bulging biceps, and it’s going to take a lot of hectoring from academic panels to change that.
One can always count on The New York Times to help with the effort, though, and it’s latest contribution is a list of “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man.” Not all of them are awful, and we even rather like the idea that “The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot,” and “The modern man uses the proper names for things,” and although we’re not familiar enough the terminology to be sure we also like the sound of “The modern man has never ‘pinned’ a tweet, and he never will.” Most of the rest is pure bosh, though. We’ll not argue with the part about knowing a spouse’s shoe size or showing consideration for one’s fellow movie-goers, even if the former does seem a bit excessive and the later is merely common courtesy, but other rules for the modern man are far more modern than manly. “The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week,” for instance, or “The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.” The modern man also has a melon baller and all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-Ray, prefers daughters to sons, re-charges his wife’s batteries and buys her flowers for reasons other than special occasions or apologies, makes sure the dishes are dry before putting them in the cabinet, and otherwise act in a manner that the pre-modern man described as “whipped.”
The New York Times’ version of the modern man sleeps on the side of the bed closer to the door in order to protect his spouse from an intruder, but its 25th rule is that “The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and never will.” In this case we hope the modern man has some awesomely bulging biceps to deal with that intruder, who probably doesn’t read the Gray Lady and is old-fashioned enough to be carrying a firearm. We’re also told that “The modern man cries. He cries often,” and that “On occasion, the modern is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.” The modern man will presumably hope that won’t occur on the night an armed intruder enters his marital bedroom, but if it does he’ll be entitled to a good cry.
So much for modernity. Say what you will about the old-fashioned variety of manliness, but back in the bad old pre-sexual revolution days no one was complaining about a “culture of rape” on the nation’s campuses. The dad of yesteryear might not have been checking the dryness of the dishes he’d done or buying melon ballers, but it was far more uncommon to find a home with no father at all. The husband of yesteryear might not have been so solicitous of his wife, but he seems to have suffered a far lower divorce rate. The old notion of manliness also entailed self-reliance, a willingness to defend family and country even if it required a gun, and an instinctive disdain for the pointy-headed drivel that lately emanates from academia and the elite press, so perhaps we can understand the modern aversion to masculinity.

— Bud Norman

Politics and the Single Woman

Like so many of us, the Republican party seems to have a problem wooing single women.
Although the “gender gap” that has allowed the Democrats to win strong majorities of the distaff vote is so widely acknowledged it has become a quadrennial cliché, a closer look at the data reveals that the GOP’s more specific problem is with the unmarried variety of women. According to the almighty exit polling Mitt Romney won the votes of women with husbands by the same 11 point margin that he lost the overall female vote, and similar disparities have occurred for the past several elections.
A widely believed theory attributes this phenomenon to the Republican party’s well-known opposition to abortion, and this seems plausible enough. Some polls show that women are split almost evenly on the issue, as is the country at large, but it is a reasonable assumption that the single women are more likely to favor abortion rights than their married counterparts. Still, given the apparent permanency of Roe v. Wade and the abundance of other issues that are of importance to even the most avid abortion enthusiasts, there must be more to the problem.
We suspect that that the economic insecurity that comes with being single is a more important factor. Without the a spouse to rely on during times of unemployment, or even during the times of less-than-affluent employment, women are more likely to look to the government and its varied entitlement programs for support. Obama’s never-ending re-election campaign seems to have reached the same conclusion, as it made a specific appeal to such anxieties with its much-ridiculed “Life of Julia” web site and countless speeches that also enumerated all the government-bought goodies that Democrats are in business to provide.
This notion is bolstered by the fact that single men are also more likely to vote for Democrats than their married counterparts. Indeed, in the last election Obama won the single voters by a whopping 62 to 35 percent while Romney won the married folks by a slightly less whopping 56 to 42 percent. Single men are still somewhat less likely than single women to vote Democrat, which we would chalk up to a persistent if diminished desire for self-sufficiency that tradition has inculcated in the male of the species, but the financial worries that also afflict single men apparently makes the welfare state ever more attractive to menfolk as well.
The problem with single women wouldn’t be so severe if there weren’t so many of them. Unmarried American women now outnumber the married ones, a fact that would have been thought unthinkable just a few short generations ago, and the disappearing stigma against illegitimacy and the decline of other old-fashioned notions about marriage make it unlikely that the trend will soon abate. Indeed, a widespread belief we’ve noted among the single women of our acquaintance that the mores of a few short generations ago were somehow oppressive is probably another reason that a Republican party that is proudly associated with the old-fashioned values of that lost era is probably yet another reason for the gender gap.
It is not at all clear what the Republican party can do it about, short of giving up on its reason for being and trying to outbid the Democrats for the votes of single men and women. The government could stop the numerous welfare policies that encourage single motherhood, revise divorce laws that make marriage a less attractive option for men, and otherwise stop discouraging people from getting married, as well as emphasizing the social costs of illegitimacy, but that would require the Democrats to act their self-interest and thus is unlikely to happen. Republicans could also try to explain that their economic policies make it more likely for both men and women to get jobs that would free them from dependence on the government, but they’ve been doing that for the past many years with desultory results.
The Republicans still have many exceptional single women in their ranks, and should give them a more prominent role in shaming their liberal sisters into the self-sufficiency that feminism once claimed to stand to for. As many a single man has unhappily discovered, though, those women are exceptional.

— Bud Norman

Try to Act Surprised

There were serious stories in the news Wednesday, such as the latest evidence that the Obama administration lied about the nature of the deadly attack on the American embassy in Libya, but it was nonetheless hard to ignore the latest antics of Gloria Allred and Donald Trump.

Two of America’s most shameless attention-seekers both garnered some coveted headlines in the midst of an important presidential election with much-hyped attempts at an “October surprise” on behalf of their preferred candidates. Although both succeeded in their primary objective of getting their names in the papers, neither is likely to have a significant effect on the race.

The latest ploy by Allred, a crusading feminist lawyer known for intruding herself into all manner of passing controversies, was to demand that a Massachusetts court unseal Mitt Romney’s testimony in a bitter divorce trial. This sounds titillating enough, except that it wasn’t the happily married Romney’s divorce, there is no suggestion that Romney had anything at all to do with the split, and his testimony only concerned the rather dull matter of the value of some stocks the estranged husband and wife were squabbling over. Romney’s assessment of the stocks seems to have cost the wife some money in the eventual settlement, leaving her with a continuing resentment of the Republican nominee, and Allred apparently hopes that scorned women everywhere will react by rushing to the polls to vote for Obama.

Romney’s reaction was to instruct his lawyer not to contest the matter, assuring the public that he was happy to let them read his testimony, then get back to the more serious business of reminding voters how many women remain unemployed in the era of Obamanomics. Given that Obama probably already has the high-society divorcee vote locked up, this seems a sound response.

Trump, the billionaire real estate developer and reality show star with the famously bad hair, grabbed his share of the spotlight with an offer to donate $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice if Obama will only release his hermetically sealed college and passport records. There is speculation that the records will reveal Obama was admitted to Columbia as a foreign student and traveled abroad on a foreign passport, popular conspiracy theories that are plausible enough, but the more likely benefits of the gambit are to draw attention to Obama’s secretiveness about his past and raise doubts about what he might hiding.

We’ve not yet heard the Obama campaign’s response to Trump’s offer, if they’ve bothered to make one, but we expect the president will decide that his favorite charities can get along well enough without an extra $5 million. Obama’s campaign has bigger troubles than Donald Trump, including those new revelations about Libya, and the public will probably pay little attention to distractions.

— Bud Norman