From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

There’s nothing we can find in the Democratic National Committee’s recently “hacked” and by now widely-disseminated-across-the-internet computer files that indicates how much they’re paying their information technology and opposition research employees, but whatever it is they’re grossly overpaid. It’s embarrassing enough that an outfit in the business of the running the entire country can’t fend off such predictable cyber espionage, especially when there’s an ongoing criminal investigation into party’s presumptive presidential nominee’s similarly sloppy systems while serving as Secretary of State, but that newly-revealed case they came up with against the Republican party’s presumptive nominee was more cringe-inducing yet.
Hilariously stamped “confidential” on each of its 237 printed-out pages, the report does indeed make a convincing case that the presumptive Republican nominee is a rather nasty piece of work. “One thing is clear about about Donald Trump. There is only one person he has ever looked out for, and that is himself,” the report begins. “Whether it’s the American workers, the Republican Party, or his wives, Trump’s only fidelity has been to himself. Trump will say or do anything to get what he wants without regard for those he harms.” The following 236 pages have ample and needlessly repetitive citations to back it all up, along with all the mocking the handicapped and disparaging American prisoners of wars and downright creepily sexist statements and the four corporate bankruptcies and all the out-sourcing and hiring of foreign workers that the anti-outsourcing and anti-immigrant nominee did and the generally annoying schoolyard bully-boy persona he’s nursed in his long career as a reality star, along with most but not nearly all of the rest of the by-now familiar litany, and it’s all in Trump’s own spoken or written or “tweeted” words, along with the undeniably racist and sexist stuff he’s “re-tweeted,” and by now we don’t feel at all obligated to deny any of it, but by now the Democratic National Committee will have to come up with something better than that.
Such once respected and formerly Republican publications as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The New Criterion and The Central Standard Times have been making the same points since the onset of the Republican primary campaign, when there were two or three men and one woman in the 17-person field that we thought would have made formidable nominees and fine presidents, and 12 others we would have found at least tolerable and likely electable, and it’s all too plain to see how that has worked out. We’d like to think we’ve been even more thorough in our criticisms of the presumptive Republican nominee than that 237-page report, and made the case with more literary flair, but What those sloppy and incomplete and surely overpaid cut-and-pasters don’t understand, and which has at long last dawned on us, is that none of it matters. Much of it is by now “old news,” as the presumptive Democratic and her former president husband have long used to describe their lifelong histories of scandals, and a lot of people seem to like the idea of a Nietzschean will-to-power type who will crush his enemies and revel in the lamentations of their women just like fellow celebrity former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in that “Conan the Barbarian” hit, and even such reluctant sorts of Republicans as ourselves we can see the appeal given that the presumptive Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She’s a nasty piece of work, too, and we and all the rest of the once respected and formerly Republican publications have been making that case since way back when the presumptive Republican nominee was inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his interviewers how great she was and contributing a six-figure check to her family’s phony-baloney influence-peddling “family foundation.” If the undoubtedly overpaid “oppo researchers” at the Republican National want a hacked report with at least more completeness and literary than their Democratic counterparts, they can feel free to have “fair use” to our many years of ridicule and denunciation and carefully cited criticisms of this awful woman. All that already well known and soon to be revived talk about Trump’s well-publicized and oft-bragged-about and thoroughly tawdry sex life is pretty much negated by any mention of the word “Clinton,” which is by now a double entendre, and at least he was the only one of the two in the current race who was getting all the action, so far as we know, and America always love a winner, except for that significant percentage of the electorate that seems to identify with victims. If Clinton never shafted any private sector workers, as Trump surely did, it’s only because she rarely hired any in her long and inglorious tax-supported history, and if Trump never peddled any public sector favors, as Clinton surely has, it was only because he’d never before offered his talents to public service and instead been in the public sector buying favors and then bragging about it on a Republican debate stage. As to which of these two awful people has ever demonstrated any fidelity to anyone but themselves, we’ll leave it to the rest of this suddenly strange country to decide.
We’re not inclined to offer advice to Democrats, but we feel such pity for those sorry but overpaid souls in the national committee’s “oppo research” department that we’ll suggest they not bother at all with Trump’s outrageously over-the-top remarks regarding immigration from Islamic countries, because as crazy as it admittedly is it isn’t quite so crazy as the presumptive Democratic nominee’s insistence that Islam has noting to do with terrorism, and it reminds everyone that her entire tenure as Secretary of State was just awful, and that people tend to believe the presumptive Republican nominee’s false claims that he’s called every major foreign policy decision of his lifetime perfectly, believe him. The report suggests attacking Trump on his calls for lower income tax rates at the top brackets and his opposition to a rise in the minimum wage, which once warmed our formerly Republican hearts, but by now Trump has of course abandoned these positions for the moment and is out-bidding the Democrat for the disgruntled support of her self-described socialist challenger. Back in the old days the presumptive Democratic nominee’s then-president husband gave rise to the term “triangulation” describe how they roped in all their party’s base without overly offending the Republicans, but we will warn his wife’s “oppo research” team that their opponent is also pretty good at it.
What that hapless Democratic “oppo research” team needs, if we were inclined to give them some advice, is something that even haven’t yet come up with on Trump. The estimable Jonah Goldberg over at the once respected and formerly Republican National Review noted that Trump has plausibly bragged about how he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, but amusingly wondered what might happen if Trump were to shoot a gorilla, and whether it would make any difference if the gorilla had come from Mexico or some Middle Eastern country. Something along those lines will probably be necessary, as the public now seems inured to the idea of some scandal-ridden miscreant running the country, and the polls show that the vast majority of the public can’t stand either of them, and our best guess is it will come down to some weird season finale twist in this gruesome surreality show.

— Bud Norman

War Stories and Apologies

Much ridicule has already been heaped upon NBC News’ anchorman Brian Williams for his exaggerated war stories, and even more for the apology he posted on Facebook, so we’re loathe to add any more to the pile of scorn. Better to take the opportunity of all the distracted attention and favorable comparisons to confess our own exaggerations and offer our own apologies.
Not that we begrudge Williams’ many critics their gleeful mockery, and we don’t condone Williams’ false braggadocio or accept his seemingly insincere claims of contrition. Williams’ embarrassment is a boon to the conservative cause,  as it further calls into question the veracity of his entire reliably liberal network and provides yet another rejoinder whenever some liberal sneers about Fox News, and it even forces the press to recall presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s similarly fabulist tale of zig-zagging across the tarmac dodging Bosnian sniper fire, which is always good for a chuckle or two if you try to envision it, so some measure of schadenfreude would be too much for even the most compassionately conservative soul to resist. There’s also something slightly infuriating to a hawk’s sensibilities about an NBC anchor, of all people, trying to glom on to a bit of Iraq War glory, and when you watch the guy’s newly dredged-up appearance on the Late Night With David Letterman program, holding the audience in thrall with the umpteenth telling of a rocket propelled grenade hitting his helicopter and how “we” brought it safely down and won the day, with the supposedly wised-up host falling for it to such an extent he utters “war hero” as he heads into a commercial break, there’s a certain temptation to find out what five-star restaurant the guy will be eating at tonight and show up to punch him in the nose. Still, we humbly decline to heap any further ridicule.
Who among us, after all, has not “misremembered” being shot down in a helicopter by a rocket propelled grenade? We’ve had some bumpy airline landings in our time, and after all the drinks that it takes us to get through an airline flight we could have easily mistaken any of them for a bombing mission on the Memphis Belle. Perhaps our neighborhood is just getting a bit seedy, but it seems that lately one encounters so many rocket propelled grenades in the course of a day’s chores that it’s hard to remember when it did or didn’t happen. We note that all of the NBC crew that always accompanies Williams on his death-defying missions seem to have “misremembered” the events as well, or at least declined to offer any corrections, and the NBC management seems to have had little trust in the memories of the numerous servicemen who have written over the past 13 years of Williams’ re-tellings to offer an alternative version of events, and anyone who’s seen “Rashomon” knows how tricky memories can be.
Despite our own constant endeavor for truth, honesty, and journalistic integrity, even we have been known to exaggerate our wartime exploits. In the interest of full disclosure we will confess that, despite our claims one beery evening at the old Cedar Lounge, we were not the first to land on Omaha Beach. We were in Omaha once, and were the first to arrive at a picnic on a sand dune along the Missouri River, but the part about taking out a Nazi machine gun nest was apparently “misremembered,” as we have since learned that the D-Day invasion took place 15 years prior to our birth. We offer our apologies to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and all the other brave men who made that great victory possible. Contrary to what we once told a rather comely young woman at a cocktail party, we were not among the last holdouts of the French Foreign Legion at Dien Ben Phu. That battle apparently also preceded our birth, so we seem to have “conflated” it with a hazing incident at a Boy Scout camp, and in any case it made no impression on the young lady, who had never heard of Dien Ben Phu, so we regret the error. We find ourselves in the humiliating position of apologizing to the French. To retract a story we once told in a job interview, neither did we ever lead an undersea army against SPECTRE’s nuclear-armed scuba mercenaries to save Miami from total destruction, which is apparently the climactic scene of the James Bond thriller “Thunderball,” although we still insist that could have happened. We offer our apologies to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and especially to Sean Connery, who actually was James Bond and actually did that.
We’ll let the taunters “tweet” their tsk-tsks, the satirists spew their snark, the pundits propound their disappointment, and the ravenous pack of press folk eat their own, but we’ll take the high ground. That’s a lesson we learned way back when we served with Gen. John Sedgwick, eponym of our very own Sedgwick County, during the Battle of Spotsylvania against those bloodthirsty rebs, but there’s a rip-roaring a story for another time.

— 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