An Uncivil War in the Kansas Republican Party

Our old-fashioned “flip phone” made that strange warbling sound that announces the arrival of a new text message, and it turned out to be one of the oddest political videos we’ve ever encountered.
The ad was an attack on former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the leading contenders in largely overlooked Republican primary race to choose a nominee to run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring longtime Sen. Pat Roberts. There are plenty of valid reasons to criticize Kobach, including concerns by many traditional Republicans that he could lose to a moderate woman Democrat in the race just he did in the gubernatorial election less than two years ago, but that’s not what the advertisement is about. Produced by a political action committee called Keep Kansas Great PAC, which says “We support candidates who will stand with President Donald Trump to defeat the extreme liberal agenda,” the ad accuses Kobach of insufficient fealty to Trump and Trumpism.
Which comes as a surprise to most Kansans. You needn’t be a Kansan to have heard of Kobach, whose staunch opposition to be illegal and legal immigration as Secretary of State made him a nationally known figure and endeared him to Trump. Kobach was appointed chairman of a commission charged with proving that voting by illegal immigrants was the reason for Trump’s 3 million ballot loss in the popular vote, has been an outspoken advocate for anything Trump might say or do, and has carefully copied Trump’s flamethrower rhetorical style. His current campaign slogan is “Make Kansas Great Again,” and he proudly touts his ties to Trump and the praise the president has showered on him.
The Kobach commission was disbanded before it could write a report, largely because both Republican and Democratic governors refused to comply with his requests and efforts to nationalize voting, with even Kansas being bound by state law from providing requested information, and Kobach suffered another embarrassment when he chose to defend a controversial Kansas voting law that was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and not only lost but wound up paying expensive fines for multiple counts of contempt of court. Then he lost the gubernatorial election to Gov. Laura Kelly despite Kansas being a reliably Republican state and despite Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement.
Trump still wanted to make Kobach his “immigration czar,” but changed his mind when Kobach had a list of exorbitant demands that included a private jet, and thus the Keep Kansas Great PAC has some basis for saying in its ad that “Kobach let President Trump down.” The ad also rightly notes that Kobach has the financial support of the Club for Growth, a well-funded-by-billionaires PAC that promotes a low-tax small government agenda which was pretty much the quintessence of Republican conservatism until Trump, and it staunchly opposed to Trump’s candidacy in the ’16 election. Since then the Club for Growth has retreated from presidential politics altogether and focused on electing budget hawk candidates to Congress, but Trump of course still holds a grudge against the Club for Growth and so do his die-hard supporters even though they probably continue to agree with everything the organization stands for.
The ad only attacks Kobach and doesn’t endorse anyone else, but elsewhere the Keep Kansas Great PAC has endorsed state Rep. Roger Marshall, who seems intent on running as a even Trumpier than the exceedingly Trumpy Kobach. Marshall is also an obstetrician and gynecologist, and the Club for Growth paid for attacks ads in the state’s biggest newspapers featuring patients who criticized the doctor’s “bedside manner,” which is all the more reason for Marshall to attack the Club for Growth and its past anti-Trump blasphemies.
A third very viable contender in the race is Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a longtime state legislator who is very conservative who has always tried strike a moderate tone, but has lately been trying to out-Trump her competitors.
A traditional and NeverTrump Republicans who are watching this from the political sidelines, none of this makes much sense.
Trump easily won the state’s electoral votes when he ran against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, just as any old Republican nominee would have done, but Trump has never been overwhelmingly popular in this state. He came in a distant third in the Republican caucus, even the state’s Republican congressmen dhave dared criticize the Trump trade wars that have ravaged the state’s dominant and export-dependent agricultural and aviation industries, and Trump’s unapologetic amorality is still troubling to a certain portion of the state’s many Christians. Latino immigration is pretty much all that’s sustaining what’s left of economic activity in the southwest quadrant of the state, and plays a peaceable and productive role in the economy and culture of the urban areas, so nativism isn’t so appealing to the general population as some Republicans seem to believe.
The Club for Growth style of conservatism is currently out of fashion, too. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback proposed proposed a rather extreme policy of severe tax and budget cuts, helped a majority of like-minded candidates win primaries over more cautious Republican majorities and get it passed, and although we liked it in theory it objectively didn’t turn out as promised in taxes. The ensuing budget deficits led to cuts in spending on education and roads and prisons and other essential states that alarmed the sorts of good government conservatives who had dominated the Republican party since Kansas entered the Union as a free state loyal to the party of Lincoln. That’s how Kansas wound up with a Democratic governor and a legislature that’s still majority Republican only because the old establishment fuddy-duddies won a lot of primaries against the firebrands.
Kansas has long been willing to send Democrats to Topeka but has very rarely sent them to Washington. The last Democratic Senator from Kansas was way back during the Great Depression, he only lasted one term, and usually Senatorial elections are a foregone conclusion around here. This time around seems different, though, and the way things are going there’s an outside chance the state’s Grand Old Party might well continue its recent losing streak. In the midterm election a Native American lesbian kick boxer won a House seat in the educated and affluent northeast, a more moderate Democrat almost won another seat, and only the moderate Republican who’d wrested the First Congressional seat from a fire=breathing Club for Growth favorite won by the usual Republican landslide.
The Democrats seem likely to nominate state Sen. Barbara Bollier, an ex-Republican and retired anesthesiologist who reminds us a lot of our currently popular Democratic governor, who shut down the schools early on and imposed strict shutdown rules in response to the coronavirus and is currently doing better in the statewide approval polls than Trump, and the sporadic polling that’s been done in the largely overlooked shows her in a very tight race with the front-running Kobach. Between now and election day either the economy will be tanking or the coronavirus death toll will be spiking, and no matter which outcome Trump chooses he will have trouble blaming it on Democrats or immigration.
A moderate Republican willing to distance himself or herself from Trump while defending his more sensible policies would probably do well against a moderate Democrat obliged to oppose everything Trump does, but that candidate apparently can’t win a Republican primary. At least that’s what the leading contenders seem to think.

— Bud Norman

A Day in the Life of an Epidemic

The coronavirus crisis has had an extremely discombobulating effect on us. Isolated from society and thus loosed of any social obligations, we’ve gradually become completely nocturnal over the past several weeks.
From birth we’ve been night owls, but now we’re awake from sundown to sunrise, and only enjoy the last and first hours of sunshine. For the past few days we’ve had trouble getting any sleep at all, and yesterday — or was it the day before? — we gave up on tossing and turning and ventured out in the early afternoon to drive around on inexpensive gasoline and enjoy the nearly perfect spring weather. We spotted an old friend drinking coffee and smoking a cigar outside a quaint Riverside coffee shop which was still serving through a walk-up window and stopped to have a socially-distanced chat, which was our first human contact in a while.
We always talk sports or politics with this friend, and with no sports going on we wound up talking mostly about the politics of the coronavirus. Our friend remains a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump, but he acknowledged that things aren’t going entirely well and we settled for that begrudging admission and happily avoided an argument. Another friend who works for the biggest store of the biggest local grocery chain showed up, and from a social distance he told us about all the extraordinary amount of disinfecting he’s been doing lately, and we wished him well with his heroic efforts.
Despite two large cups of coffee we were needing a nap by the time we arrived home, and it wound up lasting until about 10:30 pm, when we awoke in the middle of another very weird dream and checked in on the news. The death toll had continued to rise, Trump had announced the complete ban on immigration he’d been wanting even before the arrival of the corona virus, and Georgia’s governor announced an end to most of the restrictions that had been in place, the price of oil continued to drop and drag down all the stock markets with it.
Otherwise a very slow news day, so lacking the energy get outraged about any of it we decided to write this dreary slice-of-life tale instead. Here’s hoping you’ll all have a better day.

— Bud Norman

When Nepotism Doesn’t Work

For most of America’s history the public didn’t have to concern itself with what the President of the United States’ son or son-law were up to, but that’s another one of those things you can no longer count on the age of President Donald Trump. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and presidential namesake son Donald Trump Jr. were both once again prominently in the news on Tuesday, and neither looked at all good.
Trump ran for president on the promise he would appoint only the very best people, and it’s turned out that the very best person to negotiate Middle East peace and end the country’s opioid crisis and re-invent government happens to be his favorite child’s husband. Press reports indicate that Kushner has also been charged with the tricky task of reforming America’s immigration policies, and that he’s also struggling with that.
Kushner met with the Senate’s slim majority of Republicans on Tuesday, and although it was a closed-door meeting the inevitable leaks suggest it didn’t go well. Kushner reportedly had trouble answering questions about the several million so-called “dreamers” who were illegally brought into the country as children and have since been verifiably blameless quasi-citizens, which is a political problem that a hard-line anti-immigrant Republican administration will need some pretty damned convincing answers for. Kushner reportedly made a case for a merit-based immigration system that would favor highly skilled workers and scientists and engineers, which still seems reasonable enough even as the booming economy Trump routinely brags about needs ever more hammer-swingers and assembly-line workers to keep up with demand, and some well-credentialed and high-tech and Republican-leaning friends of ours are complaining about foreign competition on the job market.
Despite the president’s son-in-law’s best efforts, we don’t think we’re any closer to a much-needed bipartisan reform of immigration law than we are to Middle East peace or an end to the opioid crisis or the reinvention of American government. Trump seems to think that his favorite child’s husband is smart, which we begrudgingly admire, but to us the kid clearly isn’t that damned smart.
Meanwhile, the president’s namesake son has agreed to an another round of grilling from the Senate’s intelligence committee about that “Russia thing” Trump hoped he had put behind him when a special counsel investigation declined to indict him on anything. The special counsel’s report did include some suspicious facts about the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operates, notably the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. has admitted taking with some government-connected Russians he clearly understood to be working on behalf of his father’s campaign, and even though the Republicans control the Senate intelligence committee they still have some reasonable questions about that. The younger Trump was able to negotiate that his testimony won’t be in public, but it will be under oath, and given how restive the farm state Republicans are about the elder Trump’s trade wars we expect it will be entirely and embarrassingly leaked to the press.
There are still plenty of people left in prominent political positions who aren’t related to Trump through blood or marriage, on the other hand, so we’ll hold out hope it all somehow works out.

— Bud Norman

Goodbye, Kirstjen, Hello Whatever Comes Next

The big news over the weekend was Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen becoming the latest sudden departure from the administration of President Donald Trump, and what comes next should be a big story in the coming days. Nielsen’s reportedly forced resignation shortly followed Trump’s withdrawal of Ronald Vitellio’s nomination as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with Trump saying he wanted to go “in a tougher direction,” and there’s no telling where that might lead.
Despite Trump’s very tough talk and very tough actions regarding illegal immigration, there’s lately been a significant uptick in asylum-seekers and other immigrants trying to cross America’s southern border, and Trump is clearly displeased. Both Nielsen and Vitellio were fully on board with family separations and a sea-to-shining-sea border wall and other controversial Trump policies, but Trump won office largely tough talk and promises of tough action along the border, so of course he wants to go in an even tougher direction. Short of shooting any asylum-seekers or other immigrants tying to cross the border on sight, however, even the cruelest toughness might not provide a solution.
In her reportedly forced yet very gracious resignation letter, Nielsen wrote that “I hope the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s border and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse. Our country — and the men and women of DHS — deserve to have all the tools and resources they need to execute the mission entrusted to them.” Which strikes us as quite craftily worded, given the short notice.
Nielsen still endorses Trump’s legislative agenda even as she’s being defenestrated, but she slyly alludes to the fact that she’s on the way out because she felt constrained by the current laws of the land. Given that her up-to-the-legal-limits tough gal approach never fared well with either Congress or the courts or popular opinion, her hope that an even tougher successor is probably faint and at least partly facetious. Nielsen’s tough-yet-law-abiding tenure never got good press, and we noticed that the Cable New Network kept featuring the most unappealing photos of her on Sunday, even though she’s objectively rather attractive by cabinet secretary standards, and any successor Trump might choose won’t fare any better. Good luck getting the feisty Democratic majority in the House or the slight Republican Senate majority and its skittish border state members to go along in a tougher direction.
All of which is a shame, as far we’re concerned. There’s a strong case to be made for some of Trump’s immigration law reforms, although we’ll stop well short of that shooting-asylum-seekers-on-sight that he’s probably tempted to do and his die-hard fans would surely endorse, but they’re not likely to get done in the next two years. or probably a few more years after that. In the meantime the most sensible proposal seems to be the one by formerly-far-right-wing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to fund enough extra immigration judges to handle the current backlog on the border according to American law and international treaty obligations.
On the whole, we’re going to miss Secretary Nielsen. Not only was she objectively rather attractive by cabinet secretary standards, she also struck as one of the few remaining grown-ups in the administration. She’s was the protege and hand-picked successor of Four Star Marine General John F, Kelly, who had taken a hard line at the DHS, and who was briefly the White House chief of staff who was expected to impose some order on the White House, and we expect that also had something to do with Trump’s dissatisfaction. Trump seems intent on being even tougher than the law allows, as usual, but we’ll see how that works out.

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South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

About the best that can be said for the mess on the American-Mexican border town of Tijuana is that so far no one has died, but we are thankful for that. Given how complicated the causes, and the error-prone human nature found on both sides of the border, it could have been worse.
As you surely know by now, no matter where you get your news, a few thousand refugees from impoverished and gang-war-ridden countries in Central America have been walking through Mexico the past several weeks, and they’ve recently arrived in Tijuana. To hear the left-of-center media tell it they’re mostly mothers and children yearning for a chance to work at a tax-pahing minimum wage toward the American dream, and to hear the right-of-center media tell it they’re mostly bad hombres invading our country to rape your wives and daughters.
Given our long experience of human nature, we’ve been inclined to believe that any few thousand homo sapiens you might find anywhere will probably include both the best and worst and humankind, and we’ve followed the news with that in mind. By Monday, though, some of the undeniably bad hombres among the refugees were throwing rocks at both Mexican and and American law enforcement officers, and even the left-of-center media have conceded that started the ensuing tear gas and unpleasantness.
Most of the left-of-center media outlets accurately noted that the use of tear gas is banned by international laws of war, but they also had to admit that it’s routinely used to quell domestic riots in most countries around the world, and that even American law enforcement officers adorned in the most up-to-date shields and helmets can’t be expected to let a bunch of rock-throwing bad hombres invade their country.The left-of-center news media had some compelling and not at all fake news photos of loving mothers dragging their entirely innocent daughters away from the tear gas, but they couldn’t convincingly argue that human nature and some bad hombres on the southern side of the border were mostly to blame.
President Donald Trump has instructed his federal employees to treat a rock thrown at them the same as a rifle shot fired at them, and issued an executive order allowing them to use deadly force against such provocations, so we’re glad it hasn’t yet come to that. As bad as some of these hombres have proved to be, we’d like to think that America can still keep them out of the country while giving a fair hearing under American and international law to the asylum claims of some of those hard-working mothers and their undeniably innocent children. Those on the left-of-center seem want to let them all in, however, while those on the right-of-center seem eager to shoot first and ask questions later, and once again we’re left hoping the center will hold.

— Bud Norman

Trump Trumps Easter

There’s a longstanding tradition in America that politicians refrain from making news on Easter Sunday, but President Donald Trump doesn’t care much about longstanding traditions. He “tweeted” an all-caps but otherwise fairly traditional happy Easter greeting to the country, but while his many evangelical Christian supporters were celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, Trump was “tweeting” disparaging remarks about Democrats and threatening to deport all the so-called “dreamers” and tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement.
By now it’s well known that Trump does not like being upstaged, and has a tendency to fire subordinates who wind up on magazine covers, which does not bode well for current Time Magazine cover boy Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but trying to steal the spotlight from The Savior on Easter Sunday strikes us as especially Trumpian. The blasphemy aside, it seems another case of Trump wading into a fight chin first.
Those so-called “dreamers” are so called because of the acronym of the failed legislation that President Barack Obama pretty much enacted by executive fiat with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which deferred any deportation actions for any illegal immigrants who had arrived here through no fault of their own as children, and it’s one of those very thorny and hot-button issues best left to the Monday after Easter Sunday. Trump got a head start on the conversation by “tweeting” about the “ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws” impeding border enforcement, and ominously warning the situation was “getting worse. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
The bad timing aside, Trump is making some losing arguments. Despite a recent uptick in his approval ratings Trump still polls worse than those telegenic “dreamers,” many of whom are undeniably sympathetic and stellar semi-citizens, and tear-jerking footage of their forcible removal from the only land they’ve ever known will be hard to “tweet” away. Trump is convinced he can successfully convince enough voters it was the Democrats’ fault, as it wouldn’t have happened if they’d only given him enough money to build a wall along the entire Mexican border, which he’d repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for, but it’s going to be a hard sell in Latino-heavy districts and elsewhere.
Those darned Democrats do indeed have some damned dumb ideas about border enforcement, but it’s hard to explain that in “tweet”-sized characters, no matter how many capitalizations and exclamation marks you use. It’s an argument best made calmly, without racial animus, and in parseable sentences, but that’s another thing Trump doesn’t do. The report of “caravans” of illegal immigrants heading to our southern border apparently came shortly after the Fox News network reported, and although it might prove true we’d prefer the president was checking with his own intelligence agencies.
That disquieting Easter “tweet” about the Nuclear Option is another idea that might not work out for Trump. The Senate’s longstanding tradition of requiring a 60-vote supermajority for certain legislation has historically come in quite handy for both parties over the years they’ve been in the minority, and given the Republicans’ already razor-thin 51-to-49 advantage it’s well within the realm of possibility they’ll once again be needing that filibuster power within a year.
Holy Week is now officially over, and we’re back in the secular world, where Trump hogs the spotlight. We don’t envy him the role.

— Bud Norman

The Ticking Clock and the Ensuing Blame Game

As we start to write this the clock on The Washington Post’s internet front page is showing 23 hours and 51 minutes and 21 seconds left to avert a government shutdown, although it’s already down a few seconds more by now and time will be even shorter when you read this. There’s still plenty of time left to avert the worst possible outcome, which probably wouldn’t even be all that bad, but at this point we can’t see things turning out very well.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives managed to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through February 16, but the chances of the Republican-controlled Senate passing a similar continuing resolution look bleak. The Republicans control the House by a sizable enough margin that they could afford to lose a few votes from some hard-liners on spending on immigration and other matters, and they even picked up a few stray Democratic votes with peculiar local politics. In the Senate the Republicans now have a razor-thin 51-to-49 margin thanks to the recent electoral debacle in Alabama, and the absence of Arizona Sen. John McCain due to health problems has sharpened that edge, and except for one senator from President Donald Trump-loving West Virginia none of the Democrats have any political incentive to help the Republican-controlled congress and the Republican president from averting the embarrassment of a government shutdown.
Even if the Republicans are willing to offer the kinds of concessions that would outrage their core voters and somehow get something passed on the Senate side, it would all have to be worked out in a conference committee, which takes some doing, and as we write this The Washington Post’s doomsday clock has ticked down to 23 hours, 29 minutes and 10 seconds. Even if everyone talked as fast as those guys who read the side effects disclaimers on the pharmaceutical advertisements and something got passed by both chambers, it still has to be signed by Trump, who is the wild card in everything these days.
These all-too-frequent continuing resolution debates are threat of always complicated, but this time it involves complicated questions about immigration policy and health care, and of course Trump also complicates things further. The Democrats want the continuing resolution to continue protections for illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children and can now prove their good citizenship, and the that’s polling so well the Republicans are largely willing to go along if they also stricter border enforcement from now on, which also polls well. Meanwhile there’s another deadline looming to reauthorize the Child Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage to the children of families too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid yet too poor to pay for private sector health insurance, and although it polls so well it’s always had bipartisan support the Republicans failed to meet a previous deadline for its reauthorization and the Democrats thus have a huge bargaining chip.
In a televised and much-discussed meeting with a bipartisan gathering of senators earlier in the week Trump promised to sign whatever they came up with regarding immigration, but he quickly backtracked to insist that what every they came up with would have to include funding for a big, beautiful wall along the Mexican border and various other strict border enforcement efforts, and that he was still willing to hold those upstanding illegal immigrants brought here as children hostage to get it. Then he was angrily denying his Chief of Staff’s comments to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a cable news network that Trump’s views on the big, beautiful wall and other border issues had “evolved” since his campaign days. Then Trump “tweeted” that he didn’t like the reauthorization of the CHIP program in Republican bills, staking out ground to the left of both the Republicans and Democrats by insisting it should be permanently reauthorized rather temporarily reprieved by a continuing resolution on spending.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was preemptively blaming the Democrats for a government showdown on Thursday, as Republican senate majority leaders are obliged to do, but he also frankly acknowledged to the press that “We don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” and with a politely bowdlerized nod to a recent presidential comment that has even further complicated the immigration debate he added, “This has turned into an s-show for no good reason.” McConnell is not only hated by all the Democrats, as all Republican senate majority leaders are, he’s also hated by that large swath of the Republican party that has the Grand Old Party’s establishment, but we think he has a valid point.
We’ll also give due credit to the equally-loathed-by-both-sides Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for corralling enough of his herd of mavericks and enough stray Democrats to get something to pass in the House, and although he’s carefully avoided any public criticisms he can’t give much credit to Trump. If the government does shut down and those upstanding illegal immigrants start getting deported and whole bunch of kids lose their health insurance in 22 hours and 37 minutes and 33 seconds, as The Washington Post times it, it’s likely that at least a majority of the hated Republican establishment will have voted to avert it.
Our guess is that won’t make much difference in the opinion polls, among Democrats or a large swath of the Republican party or any of those self-described independents. The Republicans control both chambers of Congress and in a certain sense the White House, and those arcane rules about a sixty-vote majority being needed in the Senate and all the nuances of immigration and health care are far too complicated for most folks to consider, so the Republicans will probably wind up shouldering their usual blame for all these all too frequent government shutdown. The Republicans will divide themselves between those who blame the mercurial Trump or that set-in-stone Republican establishment, and the Democrats will unite in their indignation with both.
The good news for everybody is that government shutdowns aren’t so awful as they sound, and that if this one happens it will likely be short-lived. Sooner or later both that hard-nosed if out-of-his-water negotiator Trump and those more hep-to-the-game but lily-livered Republican establishment types will once again government operations and give all sorts of concessions to the Democrats, including several that poll so well that a savvy party would have been on board all along, and if it doesn’t include a border wall that was a stupid and badly polling idea all along.
The bad news for everyone is that the best we can expect is yet another continuing resolution to keep the government somehow afloat through February 16, with the same motley assortment of Democrats and Republicans that Trump guy all reviving all the same noisome arguments. Once upon a time in America the two chambers of America’s congress used to pass annual budgets, presidents would sign, some longer term agreements were also agreed upon, and the nation’s businesses and taxpayers and our foreign allies and adversaries could plan accordingly, and for the most part it worked out well.
That all broke down long before Trump took office, so we can’t blame him for that, but with 22 hours and 10 minutes and nine seconds remaining on The Washington Post’s doomsday clocked neither he nor that hated Republican establishment nor any of those damned Democrats deserve any credit for fixing it.

– Bud Norman

King for a Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America, and we’re tempted to take it easy for the full 24 hours like all the federal workers. It’s a good day for pundits to take stock of racial relations in the country, though, and we can’t quite resist it.
On the whole we assess the state of the union’s racial relations as strong, at least based on our daily experience of the country. Here in Wichita, Kansas, in the very heart of the contiguous United States, our more or less white middle-aged Republican selves are constantly encountering all sorts of people, and for the most part it goes well. Some very dear black people worship with us every Sunday morning, some Laotian and East Indian immigrants supply us with all our legal vices through the week, we weekly enjoy the carne asada chips from the Taco Lopez drive-through window manned by some lovely senoritas whose immigration status we’ve never bothered to question, and the very, very spicy chicken fried rice rice from a family of Thai immigrants that is also favored by the movie star Harrison Ford when he’s in town to get maintenance on his Wichita-built jet. Whenever we arrive at the door of a convenience store or mall or a public office there is almost always somehow who comes from God knows what sort of background, and we happily note almost of these encounters go swimmingly well.
As we look at the news, though, things seem somehow more complicated. When President Donald Trump ritually proclaimed the extended Martin Luther King Jr. weekend Day on Friday, clearly uncomfortable around all the black people surrounding him, he had to duck out of the room to dodge the questions about his reported comments than Latin American and African countries are by comparison to Nowrway “shit-holes” — by now presidential language, despite our old-fashioned objections to such profanity — and refuse to answer a shouted question if the president of the United States is a racist.
The question has frequently been raised in the past, and Trump’s indignant answer was always the characteristically superlative claim that “I’m the least racist person you’ve ever met.” He didn’t bother to reclaim the boast while proclaiming the extended Martin Luther King Day Jr. weekend, though, and instead ducked out on some questions our old-fashoned party-of-Lincoln Republican would have liked to have answered. Given trump’s proudly stated stands against Mexican-deervived judges and unjustly accused-of-capital-crimes African-Americans and critical Gold Star families of the Islamic faith, and we can’t blame any of our diverse friends for being displeased.
If Trump and all those anti-Trump social justice warriors would just butt out of it, we think the rest of us could work it out well enough.

— Bud Norman

A Won Battle in a Lost War

The terrorist gang calling itself the Islamic State has lately been take a beating in the Middle East, where an odd coalition of Arab and Kurdish and American and other western forces has recently driven them out of the self-proclaimed capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate, but on Halloween they managed to do some damage in the heart of New York City. Yet another man with a Muslim name shouting “Allahu akbar” drove into the bicycle and pedestrian lane of a well-travelled thoroughfare with a rented pickup truck, killing at least eight people and injuring another, and authorities found a note in the truck about the driver’s allegiance to the Islamic State.
So far the Islamic State hasn’t taken the credit they usually insist on after any act of senseless carnage, but in this case the driver was taken was alive, and they’re careful to not complicate the legal case of anyone who has acted on their behalf. The terrorist gang had recently urged its internet fans to do something in the west on October 31, too, and the attack follows the same modus operandi that Islamic State-inspired terrorists have followed in Great Britain and Germany and Sweden and other western targets. There’s no denying that the Islamic State is down in the Middle East, but not yet out enough that it can’t kill at least eight people in New York City.
The dead included five Argentines and a Belgian, so the Islamic State can eventually claim a strike against the heart of the cosmopolitan west. We hope they find it scant compensation for the loss of their caliphate and their inevitable destruction by not only the west but the best of the Middle East. As horrible as the toll was, and for all our prayers and sympathy for the victims’ family and friends, this latest case of a guy with an Muslim name shouting “Allahu akbar” as he wreaks carnage demonstrates the weakness of the cause.
This time around even the Mayor of New York City, who is so far left that even the right wing media are hard-pressed to caricature him, immediately acknowledged that it was an act of terror. All of the hated mainstream media quickly and frankly acknowledged the Islamic shouts of “Allahu akbar,” and by now few in America and the broader west are denying the threat of radical Islamism or making any excuses for it. New York City is currently the capital of the cosmopolitan west, they’re clearly fed up there, and here in the heartland we share the sentiment. The Islamic State can stage its war against the west, but the west and some fierce Arab and Kurdish allies are waging war against them, despite the disputes they all have with one another and themselves.
As horrible as it was, and for all our sympathy and prayers for the victims’ family and friends, it once again fell far short of the carnage that resulted from al Qaeda’s attacked on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist gang should also glumly note that this time around the death toll that some gambling addict was recently able to rack up from a Las Vegas hotel room. and that these futile acts of carnage aren’t going to restore their caliphate.
Since al Qaeda pulled off the last “spectacular” attack on western soil, the radical Islamist ideology has been losing the ensuing war. They made for a tough slog in Iraq, won some arguable diplomatic wins in Iran, and the whole of the Middle East is as messy as ever, but even in its current sorry state the west seems more likely to prevail than the radical Islamist ideology. The west’s mostly unified resolve has maintained an American presence in the Middle East from President George W. Bush’s interventionist administration through President Barack Obama’s more reluctant terms, and so far successfully continues in the isolationist “America First” administration of President Donald Trump.
Trump has also argued for severe restrictions on immigrants from countries where radical Islamism is prevalent, such as the one who inflicted the carnage in New York City, and that once again seems one of his good ideas. In this case, though, the suspect is from Uzbekistan, one of the former Soviet “stans” that seem to generate the most terrorists, none of which were included on the list of countries subject to Trump’s “extreme vetting,” so that makes the domestic politics more complicated. Still, we expect that neither those die-hard Trump supporters nor those effete New York City liberals nor many Americans in between will consider surrendering to such a clearly losing cause. There are some fierce Arab and Kurdish allies in the fight with us, too, and whatever our eventual squabbles with them we hope and expect they’ll also outlast our mutual foes.
The radical Islamist ideology is stubbornly persistent, though, and will likely continue such carnage for a while. That al Qaeda gang hasn’t been heard from much since that long ago September day, but the Islamic State has proved trouble since then, and after they’re wiped out something will come along to replace it. We’ll all soon be back to the “Russia” thing and the stock market and the World Series and all of the rest of the news, though, and no matter the occasional carnage, no matter horrible it is, the best of humankind will ultimately prevail.

— Bud Norman

On “Tweeting” and Terrorism

The good people of Great Britain suffered another horrific terror attack by radical Muslims over the weekend, the third in as many months, and the best thing America could do about it was to offer our sympathy and full support and try to discern whatever lessons might be learned. For at least a respectful moment or two, it was probably best advised to avoid any disrespectful “tweets” about it.
President Donald Trump did “tweet” to the British people his sympathy and promise of our country’s full support, with his apparent sincerity emphasized by many capital letters, but that came in the midst of a “Twitter” storm that wound up needlessly antagonizing many of them. He made some good points, too, but he didn’t make the complicated arguments very well in his allotted 140 characters. All in all, it was another argument for someone in the “deep state” to revoke the presidential “Twitter” account.
Which is a shame, because for all his faults Trump does seem to be one of the rare world leaders who somehow grasps some of the more obvious lessons to be learned from Britain’s heartbreaking situation. All of the recent attacks were clearly motivated by an Islamic ideology that has been a persistent if not always dominant force in the Muslim world for the past 1500 years so, and would not have occurred if Britain hadn’t unwisely decided to start allowing mass immigration from the Muslim world some 60 years ago, and there’s no compelling reason that America should repeat the mistake. Britain has also clearly erred by not insisting that its Muslim citizens and residents adhere to established western values and find some peaceable and productive role among it, and say what you will about Trump at least he also doesn’t fall for that multi-cultural and morally-relativist blather. Had Trump merely “tweeted” his sympathy and support, and otherwise stayed out of the way while the rest of the world absorbed the obvious lessons, he might have won a rare news cycle.
Instead, Trump “tweeted” some invitations to losing arguments. He renewed a long-standing “Twitter” feud with the Mayor of London, a fellow with the telling name of Sadiq Kahn, charging that “At 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!” London’s Mayor is usually one of those multi-cultural and morally-relativist blatherers, as far as we’re concerned, but in this case he’d called all the local constabulary’s literal big guns in response to the situation, and that was what he was actually telling his fellow Londoners to not be alarmed about. Most Londoners, if not most Americans, scored that a win for the multi-cultural and morally-relativist weenie. Trump hasn’t yet gotten around to getting an ambassador to the United Kingdom confirmed in the Republican-controlled congress, so even the Obama-holdover acting ambassador wound up siding with the Mayor, which is probably just as well for Anglo-American relations.
Trump’s reasonable resistance to mass Muslim immigration included an arguably unreasonable campaign promise to ban any Muslim whatsoever from entering the country, which for the coming months has his arguably reasonable restriction on travel from six certain countries all tied up in court, so of course he “tweeted” about that. None of the perpetrators of any of the recent British terror attacks would have been affected by Trump’s proposed travel restrictions, of course, and have no no bearing on the legal merits of the case, and Trump probably should have let his lawyers make the arguments.
Trump also injected the domestic gun rights debate into the issue, noting that the attacks were carried out with cars and knives, but we wish he hadn’t. We’re staunch advocates of gun rights, and in the context of our domestic politics we well understand the argument that killers won’t be deterred by the lack of handgun, and that their potential victims should be free to defend themselves by any means, but Trump simply handed the gun-grabbers the argument that the terrorists wouldn’t have been more lethal if they had access to the weapons that Britain’s extraordinarily restrictive laws seem to effectively ban. A well-armed citizenry might have limited the carnage of firearm-bearing terrorists, but an efficient police and a stiff-upper-lip citizenry that retaliated against the knife-weilding terrorists with nearby beer bottles also limited the carnage, so it’s an inopportune time to bring all that up.
There’s a British parliamentary election coming up that will also choose a new Prime Minister and cabinet, but we’re pleased Trump seems to have somehow not weighed directly in that. From our prospective from across the pond and another half-continent away, we’re rooting for the Tory incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May, who seems to have absorbed all the obvious lessons, and we expect that despite their awkward relationship Trump has the same preference. Trump is not very popular in Great Britain, though, and probably less so after his latest “tweet” storm, so we expect she appreciates the silence.
Trump’s supporters should hope for some more of it, too.

— Bud Norman