The Two “Jokers” in the News

The two big stories in the news all weekend were about “Joker,” the comic book movie that’s been drawing a huge box office take and generating even more controversy, and of course the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry regarding President Donald Trump, whose seeming solicitations of foreign meddling in the next election are also quite controversial.
Which strikes us interesting coincidence, given that Trump’s defenders on the Sunday morning news shows were insisting that Trump was only joking when he stood before all the network cameras and microphones asked various foreign governments for dirt on a potential election rival.
As much as we’d like to weigh in on the “Joker” controversy, we haven’t seen the movie and probably won’t until it shows up on Netflix, as we have little interest in even the most controversial comic book movies, and we don’t pass judgment on any movies we haven’t seen. So far as we can tell it’s the same controversy we’ve gone through with “The Wild Bunch” and “Bonnie and Clyde” and “A Clockwork Orange” and “Kids” and “Fight Club” and other disturbing and hard-to-watch films about amoral protagonists that are nonetheless praiseworthy cinematic commentaries on their times and the human condition, but we don’t much like comic book movies and might well quit “Joker” halfway through a Netflix viewing, as we’ve done with other much-hyped comic book movies.
By now we’ve been through a lot of political imbroglios, too, but this whole “the President was only joking” defense is something that only came along with the Trump presidency. We remember President Ronald Reagan being caught on a “hot mic” saying he’d launched a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, but in that case he was clearly joking with what he thought was a few understanding friends, and no harm came from it. In this case it’s not nearly clear Trump was joking when he stood in front of the cameras and microphones and cameras and urged the Ukrainian and Chinese and Australian governments to investigate a potential rival, and it’s arguably harmful to America’s international relationships.
There’s now a second “whistle-blower” alleging that Trump asked the Ukrainian president during a discussion about America’s military aid to the beleaguered country to investigate a potential electoral rival, this one said to have even better credentials and first hand knowledge, which will likely further bolster the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. So far, the President seems to be saying so “what if I did solicit foreign interference in an American election?” while his Sunday morning news show apologists are insisting he’s only joking.
On the American Broadcasting System’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan responded to a question about Trump’s quotes by asking “George, do you really think he was serious about thinking that China’s going to investigate the Biden family?” Meanwhile, on the Columbia Broadcast System’s “Face the Nation,” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt was saying “I doubt the the China was meant seriously, to tell you the truth.” Earlier, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had explained to the media that “I think he did it to provoke you to ask me and others and get outraged by it.”
Our guess is that Trump will ultimately go with the “so what if I did?” strategy and leave his Sunday morning apologists under the proverbial bus. He famously asked the Russians on live television to hack his 2016 Democratic opponent’s e-mail, told Stephanopoulos that he didn’t see anything wrong with accepting campaign help from a foreign government, and has lately said on all the networks that the ChiComs and Aussies and the Ukrainian comedian all chip in. He didn’t seem to be joking in any case, and by now he really can’t make it any clearer that he seriously doesn’t see anything wrong about it, but the die-hard fans don’t seem to mind.
Although we can’t find the link, we saw recently saw some YouTube video of a Democratic congresswoman in a swing district defending her pro-impeachment inquiry vote in front of a hostile town hall, and when she made the by now hard-to-refute argument that Trump had solicited foreign help in an American election much of the crowd started chanting “fake news, fake news.” When she cited Trump’s own statements and other hard-to-refute evidence the same members of the crowd started shouting that Trump was merely seeking evidence of his opponent’s corruption from those foreign governments. They seemed to like that better than the “he was only joking” defense.
All of the damn Democrats and most of the inexplicable independents will take a dimmer view of an American president openly inviting foreign interference in an American election, however, and something in our old-fashioned Republican souls doesn’t like it any better. We’d like to think Trump is only joking, but we don’t think it’s something an American president should be joking about.

— Bud Norman

Back Where They Came From

Sunday was a slow news day, so naturally President Donald President gave all the media something to write and talk about with another controversial “tweet.” This time he suggested that four minority congresswomen should go back where they came from.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump “tweeted” in his usual idiosyncratic prose style. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.” He later added that “I’m sure Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Trump was apparently referring to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. All four have lately been prominent in the news for their attempts to drag the Democratic further to the left, and their willingness to publicly criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her relatively centrist positions.
There’s some speculation in the media that Trump was attempting to further divide the Democratic party, but it had the effect of united Democrats in their condemnation of the “tweet.” Pelosi replied that Trump was trying to “make America white again,” all of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination denounced the “tweet” as racist and divisive, and the rest of the party piled on. Most of the media were similarly appalled.
There were no criticisms from congressional Republicans, but neither was anyone in the Grand Old Party offering praise. When acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan was asked about it on “Face the Nation,” he said “You’re going to have to ask the president what he means by those specific ‘tweets.'”
The die-hard fans will surely love it, on the other hand. “Donald comes right and says what we’re all thinking,” the die-hard fans always say, and they’ve always thought that dark-hued people from “shit hole countries” should go back where they came from. There are excellent and not at all racist arguments for conservative stands on every issue from economics to border enforcement, and we miss a Republican party that used to make that case, but in the third year of the Trump administration the brazen appeals to prejudice are what fires up the base.
Which is not say anything nice about Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Tlaib and Omar. They’re all loony-left, as far as we’re concerned, to the point that our pre-Trump Republican selves and even Trump himself are in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of rooting for Pelosi. They all advocate a failed socialism and a radical environmentalism and a divisive ethnic identity politics, and their anti-western alliance foreign policy instincts are arguably worse than Trump’s.
An educated and articulate president would be able swat away such left-wing silliness with a few minutes of factual and logical rhetoric, but Trump is not at all that president. Tlaib and Omar have both made statements that even fellow Democrats considered anti-Jewish, but Trump’s denunciations made it clear he was anti-Muslim. As ridiculous as Ocasio-Cortez’ “New Green Deal” is, Trump made up things that aren’t in the plan to ridicule. We’re not sure what Trump’s beef with is Pressley, other than she’s black and a woman and liberal from Massachusetts, but that should suffice for Trump’s base to want her send her back with the rest of them to where she came from.
Unfortunately for Trump and the die-hard fans, Ocasio-Cortez comes from New York, Pressley comes from Massachusetts, and Tlaib comes from Michigan. Omar was born in Somalia, which was indeed a failed state even then, and was then a refugee for four years in Kenya, but she can hardly be blamed for that, and at the age of 10 she was granted asylum by a more welcoming America and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 17. She’s a hijab-wearing Muslim with crazy ideas about everything, but she’s a certifiable American citizen and duly elected member of the United States Congress, and for now there’s no sending her back where she came from.
Trump gave the die-hard fans something to cheer about, but we doubt he won any new fans in the process. He has more than year before the next election to woo those non-racist and mostly female educated suburban voters who used to vote Republican and are satisfied with the economy and relative lack of war but hate pretty much everything else about him, but Trump apparently believes he can win reelection with the “lock ’em up” and “send ’em back where they came from” vote.
Unless the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Tlaib and Omar get their way, it seems a long shot bet to us.

— Bud Norman