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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

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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

Vive La France, Or What’s Left of It

The big news on Sunday was from France, of all places, where what’s left of the global establishment prevailed in a presidential election over the rising global anti-globalist populist movement. No one in France expects the election will herald a glorious new age in that long-declining country, given that it was a choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, but the rest of the world is still debating what it might mean everywhere else.
Emmanuel Macron won by a comfortable 66-34 margin, which is even more comfortable than all the much-maligned polls had predicted, by running as a putatively independent candidate was was “neither left nor right.” He was a longtime member of the Socialist Party, which is one of the two major parties and the closest equivalent of the Democratic party, but had shed the party label when the Socialist incumbent reached an eye-popping 4 percent approval ratings, and would be considered far-left by even current American standards, but he could plausibly claim the centrist position in France. He’s a former investment baker who’s more comfortable with free market capitalism than Democratic runner-up and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, more unequivocally pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization than the Republican president, and takes a pro-free trade position while promising restrains on all the regulatory meddling from Brussels.
Macron is also 39 years old, making him the youngest leader of France since Napoleon Bonaparte, which has been a while, and he’s got a 64-year-old wife, which the polls show endeared him to a certain demographic of the French electorate. All politics is local, too, and France is so far outside our locality that we can’t imagine what other oddball issues might have played a role in the election, but so far as we can tell from this far-off vantage point his biggest advantage was that he running against Le Pen.
All the international media described her as the “far-right” candidate, which is accurate enough in an international context, but that doesn’t translate well into American. She was outspokenly opposed to unfettered immigration from the Islamic world and stridently insistent the immigrants conform to traditional French values, and opposed to the infringements on French sovereignty imposed by the European Union, and didn’t cotton to all the free trade involved, so even much of the talk-radio segment of America’s conservative media embraced her as one of their own. The old conservative hands who still write down their words noted that she was until recently the candidate of her father’s National Front Party, which advocated not just nationalism but an industry-socializing and all powerful socialism, and had only renounced the party affiliation because its Vichy roots and unabashed racism polled poorly, and that she wasn’t any kind of conservative recognizable by American standards.
Everywhere in the international media from the center-right to the far-left is celebrating Macron’s victory, but from here on the plains it seems another premature celebration. Macron’s economic prescriptions don’t seem any more likely to fire up the long-moribund French economy than those of his successor with the 4 percent approval rating, and his blithe attitude toward all those undeniably troublesome Muslim immigrants will likely add to that unprecedented 34 percent that a “far-right” candidate just earned in oh-so-enlightened France. The similarly commonsensical Geert Wilders has also lost in Denmark, where the Muslim problem also brought out a signifiant minority, but the “Brexit” vote that pulled Great Britain out of the European Union and the election of President Donald Trump in America, of all places, suggests that the international center is still being pulled in a nationalist direction.
Our hope is is that Macron will take a calculatedly centrist position on immigration, that political parties all around the world will be similarly commonsensical and not leave the nationalist-socialist types to address it, and that France and the rest of us will continue to limp along that rocky path of freedom.

— Bud Norman

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The Latest Installment in As Trump Turns

The big news from the presidential race on Wednesday was Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s latest shake-up of his campaign staff, and if you’re a binge-watching fan of Trump’s ongoing reality show it makes for some interesting plot twists.
A formerly peripheral character named Stephen Bannon has stepped into a starring role, an entirely unexpected yet predictably blond and comely character named Kellyanne Conway has been introduced, the ambiguously villainous Paul Manafort role has been reduced to cameo appearances, and the obvious implication is that the more or less traditional Republican nominee Trump we’ve seen lately will go back to being the boorish and braggadocios and insulting self-proclaimed billionaire real-estate-and-casino-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul who won the Republican nomination.
That Bannon fellow is the new “chief executive” of the campaign, and he once worked for the Goldman Sachs investment outfit that both parties are running against and then went on to produce a documentary about former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee and reality show star Sarah Palin among other ventures, has most recently been in charge of the Breitbart.com news site that has cheered on all of Trump’s most outrageous utterances since way back when there was still a chance the GOP might not nominate someone more traditionally Republican. The Conway woman is apparently a pollster who has long provided Trump with what he wants to hear over his varied private sector careers, and the assumes the more recognizable title of “campaign manager.” That Manafort fellow replaced the combative Corey “Let Trump Be Trump” Lewandowski as “campaign chairman” shortly after a controversy regarding Lewandowski’s allegedly rough treatment of a female reporter, ironically enough from Breitbart.com, ostensibly with the mission of molding Trump into a more traditional Republican nominee, and despite the recent press revelations about his shady dealings in the very same Ukraine that Trump insists the Russians haven’t invaded and might be entitled to in any case he’ll keep the now meaningless title during his cameo appearances.
The timing seems odd, because over the last several days that more-or-less traditional Republican nominee shtick seems to have been working for Trump. He read an obviously pre-written-by-someone-else speech from a tele-prompter about immigration and Islamic terrorism, and made the common sense case that America should be exceedingly cautious about accepting large numbers of immigrants from lands where Islamic terrorism is popular. This contrasted effectively with the Democratic nominee’s crazy talk that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism and her crazy message of y’all come in, and it left out all his own crazy talk about using bullets dipped in pig’s blood and chopping the heads off of terrorists and killing their families and routinely torturing detainees and trying even American citizens in military tribunals, so even the most traditionally Republican press organs were giving him some begrudging respect. We’re so hide-bound we couldn’t help noticing that he once again repeated his easily disproved lies that he’d been opposed to the Iraq and Libyan interventions from the outset, which reiterated his utterly ridiculous and not all Republican belief that the Middle East would have been happily stable and peaceable if not for America’s meddling influence, and that underneath all the tough talk was an “American First” isolationism, but at this point we’re among a small minority up against a bi-partisan consensus.
Trump followed that up with another pre-written-by-someone-else and tele-promptered speech in Wisconsin, not far from where nihilistic race riots were still raging in Milwaukee in the aftermath of a seemingly justified fatal shooting of an armed and dangerous black man by the police, and it also contrasted effectively with the response of a Democratic nominee who is obligated to both the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the reflexively anti-police administration that are making excuses for and subtly egging on the riots. We wouldn’t go so far as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani did and call it “the best Republican speech ever,” as Abraham Lincoln’s addresses at Gettysburg and the Second Inaugural still really swing for us, but we had to give it some begrudging respect. He even made a plausible appeal to the black Americans who are disproportionately the victims of crime, but we think a more or less traditional Republican nominee who doesn’t have a settlement with the Justice Department over his discriminatory renting practices or an expensive full-page ad calling for the execution of some black rape suspects who were later cleared by physical evidence in his background would be a better messenger.
In any case, the more tele-promptered and traditionally Republican shtick seems to have shaved a few percentage points off the comfortable poll-averaged lead that crazy Democratic nominee had built up while Trump was accusing a vanquished Republican rival’s father of being in on the Kennedy assassination and grousing that an Indiana-born yet “Mexican” judge shouldn’t have been presiding over one of the three trials regarding the scam Trump University and musing in the most indecipherable way about how “Second Amendment people” might forestall future Supreme Court picks and that the president being the literal rather than figurative “founder” of the Islamic State and any number of other unnecessary distractions he’d written into his ongoing reality show. Given that the Democratic nominee talks plenty crazy herself, we’re not at all surprised. The changes in the Trump plot line therefore make no sense to us, but in this crazy election year we’ll concede that’s probably because we’re more accustomed to politics than the reality show genre.

— Bud Norman

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This is the “This Week” That Was

Last week’s Democratic National Convention seems to have “bounced” nominee Hillary Clinton back into a slight lead in Real Clear Politics’ average of all the polls, and over the weekend Republican nominee Donald J. Trump got off to an awful start on “This Week.”
For those of you who are either in bed or heading to church during the program, which are the only two places any self-respecting person would be at such an ungodly time, “This Week” is the American Broadcasting Company’s version of those oh-so-serious Sunday morning political shows. It’s hosted by George Stephanopolous, a former Clinton family consigliere who never quite got over the habit, and Republicans have long groused with considerable justification that he strives to make them look stupid. Trump, alas, made the job all too easy.
The interview starts promisingly enough, with Trump boasting that his acceptance speech drew more viewers than Clinton’s, and gloating that “I have one of the great temperaments” and that it is such a “winning temperament” that it beat 16 Republican challengers while Clinton has a “bad temperament” that is such a “weak temperament” that it could barely beat a self-described socialist such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Things started going downhill, though, when Stephanopolous asked “What exactly is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?”
Rather than accusing Stephanopolous of asking a loaded and entirely unfair irrelevant question that is so typical of the biased “lame stream” media, which would have been hard for even Trump to do with a straight face, Trump answered that “I have no relationship with him.” Which of course allowed Stephanoplous to mention the three separate occasions when Trump had boasted that he did have a relationship with Putin, to which Trump offered the explanation that “Because he has said some nice things about me over the years. I remember years ago, he said something — many years ago, he said something very nice about me. I said something good about him when Larry King was on. This was a long time ago, and I said he is a tough cookie or something to that effect.” When Stephanopolous was once again so rude as to mention those three more recent public occasions when Trump did boast of speaking with Putin during their appearance on the same “60 Minutes” episode, Trump acknowledged that their separate interviews on the program were conducted on different sides of the world and demanded to know “What do you call a relationship?”
Asked about the Democrats’ criticism of Trump’s recent statements that he would not necessarily honor America’s North American Treaty Organization obligations, and might recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Trump explained that “They only fear one thing, losing the election.” He explained his remarks on Crimea by saying “I’m not going to be mean to anybody. George, you know me pretty well. I don’t bow,” and clarified his position on NATO by saying “I’m all in favor of NATO. I said NATO is obsolete,” and then claimed credit for the organization’s anti-terrorism stance. Asked why a call for arming Ukrainian rebels to resist Russian occupation was dropped from the Republican platform, Trump insisted he was not involved but admitted that his people were.
At which point the interview went even further awry.
“Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas,” Trump said. “(Putin’s) not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand, he’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.” To which Stephanopolous reasonably asked, with a rather stunned look on his face, “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Trump had a rather stunned look on his own face when confronted with this well-known and indisputable fact, but recovered well enough to say “OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet.”
This was followed by a critique of the Obama administration’s Russian policy, which is indeed a ripe target for a counter-attack, but it’s hard to imagine any other Republican in the history of the party making a bigger mess of it. Pretty much any other Republican in the history of the party would have noted that Obama and the Secretary of State who is now the Democratic nominee had betrayed our Polish and Czech allies by reneging on a missile-defense treaty and then offered that ridiculous “reset” button and promised on a hot mic to offer even greater “flexibility” in a second term, which clearly encouraged Russia’s recent revanchism, and even wound up selling Russia a big chunk of America’s uranium reserves shortly after a couple of generous contributions to the past Secretary of State and current Democratic nominee’s phony-baloney “family foundation,” all of which Trump neglected to mention. Pretty much any other Republican wouldn’t be bogged down by Trump’s even friendlier policy pronouncements, though, or his own sizable contributions to that phony-baloney “family foundation,” or his instinct to link the failures of the Obama administration to that free-loading bunch of bums in a NATO pact that Trump is all in favor of and has said is obsolete.
As bad as it was, the Russo-American issue wasn’t even the part of the interview that generated the worst press of the weekend. Trump was also asked to respond to a speech given at the Democratic convention by Kzir Khan, the father of a Muslim Army Captain who died fighting for America in the Iraq War, who had criticized Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Pretty much any other Republican would have gratefully acknowledged the family’s sacrifice, and respectfully made the case that American policy must nevertheless realistically assess the costs and benefits of admitting large numbers of Muslim immigrants that will surely include less patriotic sorts. Pretty much none of them would speculate that the father’s speech had been written for him, or gratuitously note how the fallen soldier’s mother had stood silently by her husband during his speech, or add that “She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” and certainly none would have compared their efforts to get rich to the sacrifice of a Gold Star family.
There was also a claim that the National Football League had written a letter to Trump expressing their concerns about the presidential debate schedule, which the NFL promptly denied, and which will probably be more widely noted than any of the rest of it because the NFL is such a big deal. All in all, this week got off to a bad start for Trump on “This Week.”

— Bud Norman

An Ordinary Flap in an Extraordinary Year

The Republican presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz committed one of those unforced errors the other day, and it’s a doozy. A high-ranking staffer “tweeted” his outraged reaction to an erroneous report in a college newspaper that rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had casually disparaged the Holy Bible, the story was quickly retracted, the high-ranking staffer was quickly fired, and there was much indignation from Rubio and some inevitable snarky “tweeting” from the front-running Donald J. Trump, and at the very least it’s a whole news cycle that Cruz did not need at this moment in his beleaguered campaign.
In an ordinary election an apology and a sacrificial firing would probably suffice, and after a day or two of press flagellation that matter would be long forgotten, but this is no ordinary election for Cruz. His hard-earned tough-guy anti-establishmentarian image has made him a target of the “establishment,” or whatever remains of it, but so far he’s gone only one-for-three against the tough-guy anti-establishmentarianism of a boastful billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television mogul who also boasts he can make the right deals with whatever’s left of the “establishment.” Despite his Baptist preacher’s son credentials he’s even losing a lot of the evangelical Christian to a thrice-married gambling mogul who mocks the handicapped and boasts about all the married women he’s bedded and really did try to have an old widow thrown out of her home, and now he’s forced to publicly apologize to Rubio, who was virtually tied with him for second place in South Carolina and is suddenly the darling of the not inconsiderable number of Republicans who are starting to think that maybe an “establishment” isn’t the worst thing that can happen to their party.
So both of Cruz’s rivals in what is shaping up as a three-way race stand to benefit, and perhaps even beyond the news cycle. Both Trump and Rubio have been relentlessly questioning Cruz’s honesty, and although their accusations have often been lies some of it is bound to stick after a while, so admitting that a campaign has even inadvertently spread a falsehood does not help. It’s not the first time, either, after another staffer passed along an erroneous report from the Cable News Network that fading rival Dr. Ben Carson was dropping out of the race just before Cruz won a crucial victory in the Iowa caucus, which the second-place Trump was happy to claim was a theft of his rightful victory, and they also sent out those awful letters telling people they’ve checked on their voting records, and there’s been enough of it unsettle some potential supporters. The incident also raises the question of why Cruz would have hired a high-ranking staffer who wasn’t suspicious of a college newspaper report claiming that such a savvy politician as Rubio, of all people, had disparaged the Holy Bible, of all things, and in front of Cruz’s Baptist preacher father and his own young son and one of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras at that.
We don’t doubt the sincerity of Cruz’s apology, and we’re sure that he had no intention of questioning another candidate’s faith, and we wish this were an ordinary election where that would suffice, but this crazy time around the apology is probably the worst of the damage done. Trump has openly questioned Cruz’s faith, and he once regaled an Iowa crowd by ridiculing Carson’s biographical story of overcoming a childhood temper through prayer and Christian faith, saying he was still “pathological” and akin to a pedophile, even though he did later wax indignant about what Cruz did to his good friend in passing along that erroneous CNN report, and he never apologizes, just as he never apologizes for disparaging women’s looks or mocking handicapped people or belittling American servicemen who suffered wartime captivity for their country or using the most vulgar language in front of the old women and young children, and this time around about one-third of the Republican electorate seems to love him for it. Not acknowledging or apologizing for an obvious mistake, apparently, is what it takes to make America great again.
Which leaves the aggrieved Rubio as perhaps the biggest beneficiary from this campaign brouhaha. He still has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do — as fellow Cuban-American Desi Arnaz used to say — about that crazy immigration deal he cooked up with those dastardly Democrats, which raises questions about his own honesty and competence, but there are honesty and competence questions about everyone. We could go on all day posing questions about it to Trump, and perhaps even longer about either of the potential Democratic nominees, but for at least a news cycle Rubio has an edge over the other guy that will meet Trump in a two-way race. We’d like to see whichever victor emerges go into that matchup without being too bloodied by the preliminaries, and hope that Trump suffers a few more slips he’s forced to not apologize for, but everybody needs to improve their game.

— Bud Norman

The Classics and the Current Scene

There’s a certain unmistakable craziness afloat these days everywhere along the political spectrum throughout western civilization, and in times like these our temperamentally conservative soul seeks solace in classical history and its constant assurance that our remarkably resilient culture has been through all this sort of thing before. Western history is not altogether reassuring, though, as it also frankly reveals that such times are awful to live through, whatever happy chapters might await some day long past our passing.
We were last reminded of this when Europe’s vexing problems with the recent wave of Middle Eastern and North African refugees started washing ashore, and trainloads of unaccompanied minors were crossing into the United States from only slightly more assimilable cultures, and some scholarly fellow reminded us of Edward Gibbons and his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” which described how the Goth invaders welcomed by the Romans “still wore an angry and hostile aspect; but the experience of past times might encourage the hope they would acquire the habits of industry and obedience; that their manners would be polished by time, education, and the influence of Christianity, and their posterity would insensibly blend with the great body of the Roman people.” It seemed an eerily apt description of the western elite’s optimistic multi-cultularism, except that they no longer put in any stock in that Christian influence and no one who’s paying any attention any longer takes western education seriously, and the rest of it also seemed eerily familiar. “Notwithstanding these specious arguments, and these sanguine expectations, it was apparent to every discerning eye, that the Goths would long remain the enemies, and might soon become the conquerers of the Roman Empire. Their rude and insolent behavior expressed their contempt of the citizens and provincials, whom they insulted with impunity.”
After that desultory blast from our historical past, a recent round-up of headlines from across Europe will sound discomfortingly familiar. Although the European press was slow to give up its specious arguments and sanguine expectations it now begrudgingly concedes that at a welcoming party for newly arrived “refugees” in Germany the honorees seized the opportunity to grope and sexually assault their hosts, that similar behavior by recent immigrants was epidemic in public squares around the continent during New Year’s Eve celebrations, that rape and other violent crimes by the new arrivals are now common, and that the welfare-dependent new arrivals are expressing their contempt of the citizens and insulting them with impunity, and that they may yet prove the conquerers who usher in the Dark Ages. This is by now apparent to every discerning eye, even in a Europe that doesn’t have a First Amendment and a resulting right-wing press, so the main concern is now with hoping that it doesn’t benefit those awful right-wing parties.
So far as we can tell, being here on the prairie and thus so far away from the action and reliant on the heavily-censored press, many of these awful right-wing parties are merely proposing a sensible alternative to cultural suicide. The Fleet Street press is pretty puckish even without a First Amendment, and reading of even their most critical suggests that the dreaded United Kingdom Independence Party merely wants independence from the suicidal European Union and its immigration policies, which seems reasonable enough, and we’re not at all scared even by that Geert Wilders in Holland, who is banned almost in every respectable jurisdiction, and certainly not by Holland’s agnostic Somalian refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in for fear of her life in America because of those offended by her steadfast defense of of western rather than Islamic values, and who has also been banned from American campuses, and neither do we fear the continuing influence of Pim Fortuyn, the homosexual and secularist and libertarian who was assassinated by a radical environmentalist for launching the “right-wing” crusade against mass immigration. Even in the worst case scenarios, we wonder if any of those “right wing” parties are any crazier than those more respectable parties with their specious arguments and sanguine expectations about the new arrivals neatly fitting in with the churches and gay bars next door and diversity-tained companies next door, and we note that the European press has admittedly been surpassing the facts lest those right-wing parties seem reasonable.
Still, we cannot dismiss the more respectable left’s worries. Classical history also warns us against that strain of patriotism that mutates into nationalism, and all the troubles that has caused in just the past century, and a lot of those European right-wing parties do seem to veer off in a troublesome direction. No matter how comely its leadership, the National Front in France hasn’t yet disavowed its Vichy roots, whatever purposes they might serve American interests many of those anti-Putin forces in Ukraine have roots in the worst of Europe’s history, some of the other vigilante groups around the continent are also a bit rowdy for our tastes, and at this point there are more anti-immigrant parties popping up around the west than we can vouch for. By now our only hope is that Europe allows enough room for frank discussion to come to a reasonable conclusion, and that hope seems faint.
“Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot still shrewder; but to provide against having to do either was to break up your party.”
The impeccably conservative Kimball dredged up this ancient comment by the Greek historian Thucydides, commenting on long ago events, to convey his current distaste with the Republican and therefore right-wing presidential candidacy of real estate mogul and reality show star and recent Democrat Donald Trump, currently the front-runner in his party’s race, and we have to agree this desultory blast from the past is redolent of a round-up of recent headlines from the campaign. We don’t mean to equate Trump with the worst of Europe’s current right, and we certainly don’t mean to equate him with the best of it that wishes to merely forgo civilizational suicide, but we do think he’s a recklessly audacious and imprudent sort who confuses frantic “tweeting” and shock jock taunts with manliness and who has pulled off countless improbable plots and divined far more implausible ones, and we do share Kimball’s discomfort. He’s settled on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose right-wing views and reckless audacity have arguably infuriated the supposedly right-wing Republican elites even more than Trumps, and we’ve tentatively reached the same conclusion, although after reading so much history we’re reluctant to place much faith in any mere man. The craziness on the left seems all the more frightening, though, where a self-described socialist and the epitome of a western elite vying to see who can offer the most specious arguments and sanguine expectations, and even the most ancient histories can’t provide any comparable craziness as a guide.

— Bud Norman

Cultures of Rape, Cultures of Denial

Few Americans are up to date on the latest events in Cologne, Germany, or Rotherham, England, or Malmo, Sweden, and far too many Americans are altogether unaware that such places even exist, which is a shame. Here in America we’re understandably preoccupied with our own problems ranging from rape to immigration to our entirely unsatisfactory presidential contest, but the events elsewhere should provide some applicable lessons.
It took a few days for even the most knowledgable Germans to learn to about it, but the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne and Hamburg were marred by the coordinated attacks of gangs of as many as a thousand young men robbing and groping and often raping young women revelers in the public squares. It took a few years for the English to learn that more than 1,400 young women and girls in Rotherham were systematically abused by organized gangs over a 16-year period. Even now most Swedish media would rather not admit that their country rivals Lesotho, South Africa, as the “rape capital of the world,” and that its third-largest city of Malmo can probably claim that awful distinction. The American media are mostly just as reticent about the matter, and not just because of their audience’s stubborn parochialism.
Even the most polite press have been forced to admit that those gangs in Cologne and Hamburg were described by their victims of being “North African or Arab,” the gangs that terrorized Rotherham are described by even the most discreet British presses as “Asian,” and by now only the most steadfastly proper publications in Sweden deny that the horrific rise in their country’s rape rate is caused by its carefully undefined “immigrant population.” Most of the American media are just as reticent as about it, given their fealty to a variety of storylines that are severely complicated by these facts.
When forced to confront such inconvenient truths, the more forthright of the liberals will bravely argue that tales of rape and pillage have always been used by white folks to oppress the “other,” from “The Birth of a Nation” to lurid pulp tales of the Sheik of Araby’s harem to the white slavery of the Yellow Peril, and that after all a rapist of color is no more deplorable than the more pallid sorts of rapists, and we’ll stipulate to all of that. We’ll also stipulate to the undeniable fact that most “North African and Middle Eastern” and “Asian” and immigrant people and whatever else you want to call Muslims are not inclined to rape. Such arguments are of little consolation to the victims of Cologne and Rotherham or Malmo or countless other cities throughout the west, however, or to those who love them, and there’s no denying that the victims are increasing in number or that is has something to do with a policy of admitting large numbers of immigrants from cultures with vastly different notions from the west regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings.
Better to leave to such matters unmentioned, so far as the polite press is concerned. The polite press is more concerned with the “culture of rape” that supposedly permeates the modern American campus, where the administration and other smart folks claim that one in five co-eds endure a rape along with that all that crushing student loan debt, and celebrates a Columbia student who hauled a mattress around campus for years to protest the treatment of her thoroughly-debunked claim she was raped by a foreign student, and worries about such sexist micro-aggressions as presuming a student’s preferred pronouns, and never seems to notice that the modern American campus is the most liberal institution in America. They’re also busy promoting an open-door policy toward parts of the world that have vastly different notions regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings, not to mention the rights of homosexuals and transgendered reality television show stars, so they’d rather not get into a discussion of how that fits with the happy rainbow multi-cultural storyline. They’ve also got the difficult chore of sustaining the candidacy of a feminist heroine whose husband has been believably charged with everything from groping to rape to jet trips with pedophile billionaires to islands full of underage sex slaves.
The modern liberal can somehow reconcile all of this. Bill Clinton’s worst offenses can be forgiven because of his support of abortion, and of course of his wife shouldn’t be held responsible for the behavior she merely enabled. Multi-culturalism trumps feminism, just as everything else always seems to trump feminism in liberal politics, and if Donald Trump is predictably rude enough to point that out, well, Donald Trump is easily ridiculed in liberal circles. The feminist hero is insisting that all should be welcome and that Islam has nothing to with anything but peace, and that all victims of sexual abuse save her husband’s should be believed, and the news from Cologne, Rotherham and Malmo will go largely unmentioned, and the crackdown on collegiate sex and the welcoming of millions of unassimilable young men from parts of the world with vastly different views regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings will all somehow make sense.

— Bud Norman

That Uncertain Time of the Year

For some reason or another Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” issue always gets some amount of attention, even though it’s the only time other than a dental appointment when you’re likely to be aware of Time Magazine’s continuing existence, and this year they have designated Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for the honor. By now it’s no bigger a deal than an Academy Award or a Nobel Peace Prize or any of the other once-prestigious titles, at least as far as the average person is concerned, but it’s always a reliable indicator of what the more important sorts of people are thinking.
In this case it’s clear they’re thinking that a massive influx of immigrants from the most troubled parts of the world is just what western civilization needs to maintain its economy and sense of self-righteousness. Merkel didn’t get such profuse praise from the press when she took power as a center-right alternative to Germany’s previous more liberal leaders, and certainly not when she was wisely rejecting President Barack Obama’s pleas for a coordinated stimulus effort to revive the world economy after the 2008 recession, or when she was stubbornly insisting that Greece’s latest bail-out come with harsh conditions of fiscal rectitude, but now that she’s insisting Germany and the rest of Europe welcome millions of refugees from the Middle East’s wars and general inhabitability she enjoys a newfound respectability. Her stand on immigration is not popular in Germany, or anywhere else in the western world, but that impresses the editors of Time Magazine all the more. “She is not taking the easy road. Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow,” the article enthuses, “For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time’s ‘Person of the Year.'”
It seems to us that Merkel is asking her people to surrender their country to an incremental invasion by a markedly inferior culture, that her imposition of her own will over that of her people is itself tyrannical, that she’s doing it for the merely expedient reason of coping with her country’s below-replacement-rate fertility, which is likely a result of an enervating social welfare system and civilizational self-doubt that the centrist and childless Merkel has not addressed, and although we’ll readily agree that moral leadership is in short supply around the world she hardly seems an exception to that rule. Nor do we expect that that such leadership will inspire many followers, in Germany or elsewhere, so her influence on events will likely be short-lived. Those who prefer political correctness and economic expedience to the survival of western civilization will applaud Merkel’s defiance of popular opinion, but they won’t prevail without an ugly fight.
with such respectable leaders as Merkel currently in power in most western countries, the widespread public opposition to their insane policies has too often found voice in the most disreputable sort of parties. The National Front is the big beneficiary in France, similarly nationalist and authoritarian parties are rising throughout Europe, and of course in America all the news is about Donald Trump’s front-running status in the Republican primary race. This makes the likes of Merkel all the more attractive to the likes of Time Magazine, but it won’t make much difference.
Trump’s “tweets” on the issue suggest he is slightly miffed he didn’t get the honor, and we’ll concede that he’s far more likely to have the greater ultimate influence on events than Merkel and all the other open-borders leaders around the world, but at least the editorial didn’t include him with such past “Persons of the Year” as Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini. We note he was at least among the finalists for the title, along with the former Bruce Jenner, the Black Lives Matter movement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the guy who came up with the “Uber” application. Putative Leader of the Free World Barack Obama didn’t make the cut, despite his own moral leadership on behalf of western civilization’s collective suicide, and neither did any of the Republican candidates who are forcefully arguing for sensible immigration policies, so it’s going to a take a hell of a person next year to set things right.

— Bud Norman

Of Islam, Anti-Islam, and Other Extremisms

Both of the apparent front-runners for the nominations of America’s two major political parties have now weighed in on the latest deadly instance of radical Islamic terrorism, and a long-dreaded clash of civilizations suddenly becomes all the more inevitable. One party continues to insist there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism, at least a daunting plurality of the other party is willing to embrace the most extreme measures to combat it, and no one is getting noticed by advocating a more hopeful path down the middle.
Although former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton still steadfastly refuses to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” and prefers to more politely speak of a “perverted form of Islam” and “jihadism,” she and her party have lately been talking some tougher talk. Her former boss has acknowledged that the recent massacre in San Bernardino was an act of some sort of unspecific terrorism, and even went so far as to hint it had something to do with that perverted sort of Islam, his Attorney General is walking back talk about prosecuting any criticism of even the perverted sort of Islam that might cross over from First Amendment bounds to “edging toward violence,” there’s an effort to get everyone on the “no fly list” from buying a gun, and Clinton wants to crack down on the politely-named movement’s internet communications. All of which seems calculated to postpone that clash of civilizations until the most inopportune moment for the west.
A begrudging presidential acknowledgement that what happened in San Bernardino was terrorism heartening, as was the long awaited acknowledgement that what happened in Fort Hood was as well, and it’s nice to hear an Attorney General affirm her commitment to the First Amendment, although we still wish her earlier statements hadn’t made it necessary, and we expect that with pressure from recently terrorized France and Russia that the bombing of the Islamic State will soon become more effective, but they’re only going so far as their dreadful poll numbers will push them. That talk of a “perverted form of Islam” ignores the apparent meaning of more than 100 Koranic scriptures commanding jihad, or “jihadism” if Clinton prefers, as well as the past 1,400 years of Islamic clashes with the west, which predate global warming or George W. Bush or the statehood of Israel or western imperialism or any of the Democratic party’s usual excuses, and it raises understandable doubts about their ability to combat that which they dare not name.
The tough talk about denying guns to those on the “no-fly list,” which all the up-to-date Democrats were rightly decrying as a ridiculous abuse of due process for any innocent sucker that happened to land up there, including former Sen. Ten Kennedy and some conservative journalists and 70-some employees of the Homeland Security Department, an agency which we’re assured is efficiently protecting us, is transparently part of a broader effort to deny guns to all law-abiding citizens. Clinton’s call for a crackdown on the Islamic State’s use of “social media” makes a certain amount of sense, but there’s also a certain suspicion that it’s part of her party’s publicly stated broader plans for regulating the internet, and there’s even a vague worry on our part that our own electronically published worries about the past 1,400 years of clashes between Islam and the west might be considered “edging toward violence.”
In any case, we are not all reassured that the Democratic party or any of its potential leaders are able to frankly confront the current crisis. Their continued insistence on an unprecedented flow of immigration from the Middle East, including tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, most of whom are fighting-age young men who are neither Syrian nor refugees from any war, along with their general preference for open borders, along with all that blather about beginning to start to commence a dialogue that will lead to a process that will lead to a framework for a potential understanding that will someday result in an agreement to solve this mess, suggests they are not serious about any of it. Their unwillingness in every issue, both foreign and domestic, to stand up for core western values, save its tolerance for Islam in all forms, only compounds an unavoidable mistrust.
Such cowardly obfuscations and willful blindness to harsh reality creates an opportunity for any politician shrewd enough to speak more bluntly, and of course Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is both shrewd and blunt enough to seize it. In front of a typically large crowd of adoring fans in South Carolina Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which goes beyond any of his rivals’ principled stand against that influx of supposed refugees, beyond even our own steadfastly Christian and rooting-for-western-civilization position, and into a realm that the more squishy moderate middle of America is likely to find uncomfortable. We expect that most of America will find Trump’s position the more sensible and comfortable of two extremes that have been offered, as we reluctantly admit we do, but we hold out hope that a more sensible solution can be found somewhere in between. All that blather about the majority of Muslims preferring peace and prosperity to war and poverty can’t be all wrong, given how human nature prevails in every corner of the world, and we’ll surely need some of their help as we’re forced to wade into the chaotic Muslim world, but Trump’s rhetoric cannot help in enlisting their essential support.
If you’re willing to listen to the entirety of Trump’s interminable South Carolina speech, you’ll notice that there’s little reference to to the history of western civilization and its longstanding clash with Islam, or the superior nature the Judeo-Christian west and its tradition of religious tolerance and careful democratic deliberation, but mostly an appeal to the public’s understandable outrage, and some self-regarding revisionist history about the Iraq War that does not jibe with his newfound bellicosity, and a whole lot about how very rich and successful and popular and utterly awesome is Donald Trump, and that none of it is at all Churchillian. The crowd goes wild, just as those Obama crowds used to go wild hearing about very special he is, with the same unquestioning approval of how his unique awesomeness will surely solve that 1,400-year-old squabble between the west and Islam, but we are left with the same lingering doubt.
The only possible Democratic nominee other than Clinton is a self-described socialist who thinks climate change is the bigger problem, but at least the entirety of the Republican field, even the most squishy establishment of them, is taking a more clear-eyed view of the matter than that. None of those challengers will get nearly as much media attention as Trump, who has reaped the benefits of being the hated press’ favorite target, but we hope their more carefully considered positions will be given some consideration by the Republican party’s primary voters.

— Bud Norman