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What to Talk About in a Crazy Election Year

This should have been the best week yet for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Every poll shows the presumptive Democratic nominee is already considered dishonest and corrupt by a majority of the country, so it couldn’t have helped that the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday publicly excoriated the former Secretary of State and her colleagues for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” conceded that state secrets might well have fallen into enemy hands as a result, and definitively refuted many of the lies she’s long been telling about it. That he did so while exonerating her from any criminal charges hardly helped, as he struggled to explain why to the resulting Congressional hearing on Thursday and the polls were already showing that a majority of the public thought it smacked of unforgivable dishonesty and corruption and even some of her most reliable apologists in the press were admitting that it did indeed look pretty bad.
All that any old presumptive Republican nominee had to do get a much-needed bump in the polls out of it was to deliver a well-written speech that factually outlined all the perfectly valid reasons every objective American should be outraged about the whole sorry affair, then get the hell out of the way and make sure he didn’t provide anybody any reason to talk about anything else. In this crazy election year the formerly Grand Old Party doesn’t have any old presumptive nominee, however, but is instead saddled with Donald J. Trump. The self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul’s greatest talent is for always giving people something to talk about, and even in what should have been his best week yet he couldn’t resist providing some entirely unnecessary distractions.
The presumptive Democratic nominee’s horrible week began over the weekend when some lucky Phoenix television reporter was tipped off that her ex-president husband, widely considered a thoroughly dishonest and corrupt creature in his own right, had left his private plane at the city’s airport to meet on the private plane of the Attorney General overseeing the Justice Department’s investigation in his wife’s extremely careless handling of very sensitive and highly classified information, which even the most reliable apologists had to admit made the whole affair look even worse. Around the same time the presumptive Republican nominee was “re-‘Tweeting'” an internet “meme” that showed an unflattering portrait of the presumptive Democratic nominee imposed over a pile of cash and a red star where the text accused her of being “the most corrupt candidate in history,” and because the red star had six points just like the Jewish Star of David and originated on an unabashedly white supremacist site that also cheered the death of Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Elie Weisel there was inevitably some talk about that.
Despite the presumptive Republican nominee’s annoying habit of occasionally “re-‘Tweeting'” bogus statistics and rude “memes” from white supremacists web sites, even such philo-Semitic goyem as ourselves aren’t so hypersensitive to anti-Semitism that we noticed the star had six points or thought to associate them with any Jewish stereotypes, so we were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to any amateur staffer who had “re-‘Tweeted'” the image. In any case it wasn’t such a big deal as the extremely careless handling of very sensitive and highly classified information by the presumptive Democratic nominee, and we expect that almost everyone was willing to let this minor screw-up pass from the news cycle except for the presumptive Republican nominee himself. He kept “Tweeting” and kvetching about it, and the man who promises to make America great again by hiring the best people publicly criticized the amateur staffer who had changed the six-pointed star to a less offensive circle, and he “Tweeted” a photo of some children’s toy that also featured in a six-pointed star on its packaging in a context that had nothing to do with greed or corruption and came from the Disney corporation rather than a white supremacist web site, and he thus happily obliged all those apologists for the apologists for the presumptive Democratic nominee who would have preferred to write about something other than her obvious dishonesty and corruption.
The presumptive Republican nominee did get around to that more important matter during a typically well-attended and enthusiastic rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday, and with what we have to admit was a fairly well-written speech that factually outlined all the perfectly valid reasons America should be outraged about it. Then he went into a seemingly impromptu and stream-of-consciousness rant about how the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, although a “very bad guy,” had nonetheless been a bulwark against terrorism. “But you know what he did well?,” Trump asked the crowd, answering his own question by saying “He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were a terrorist — it was over.” The presumptive Democratic nominee’s press apologists were mostly willing to let this slide, given in its implicit criticism of the same George W. Bush that they and the presumptive Republican nominee accuse of lying to start the Iraq war, even if it was unclear whether Trump was blaming Bush’s entry into the war or President Barack Obama’s pull-out for turning Iraq into the “Harvard of terrorism,” but on both the left and right people were talking about Trump’s grossly ahistorical account of the facts. Although Hussein did indeed kill a lot of terrorists who had plotted against him, along with many thousands of people who had merely sought peacefully political resistance to his rule or otherwise expressed some dissatisfaction with, he was also a gracious host to a an all-star roster of Islamist terrorists who didn’t oppose rule, and a generous benefactor to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and hardly an exemplar of the supposedly stable Middle East that Trump now claims was de-stabilized by either the Iraq War or its early end, not to mention whether Trump seemed to be endorsing such stern tactics for American policy.
One could argue these points all day, but that would mean arguing about something other than the more pertinent and politically exploitable facts about the presumptive Democratic nominee’s extremely careless handling of highly sensitive material and inarguable long history dishonesty and corruption, which is surely what any old presumptive Republican nominee other than Donald J. Trump would prefer people be talking about. Trump always prefers that people are talking about him, however, so he offered yet a third distraction from the presumptive Democratic nominee’s travails by scheduling meetings with the formerly Grand Old Party’s members of Congress.
On the same day the congressional Republicans were holding the hearings that made the FBI chief look ridiculous and promising authorizations for fresh investigations and quite persuasively arguing that the presumptive Democratic nominee is indeed at least as dishonest and corrupt as a majority of the country already believes, the presumptive Republican nominee was in a closed meeting with many of his party’s members vanquished squished roll-over establishment types, and by all accounts it did not go well. Several of the Senators in attendance have been either ambivalent about or more openly hostile to their party’s presumptive nominee, and as is his wont Trump preferred the vinegar rather than the honey approach to persuading to be more supportive. Trump reportedly greeted Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake by saying “you’ve been very critical of me” and threatening verbal attacks against him that would make his re-election impossible, and Flake reportedly responded that he wasn’t up for re-election because “I’m the other Senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured,” which defiantly recalled when the presumptive Republican presidential ridiculously called into question the prisoner of war heroism of past Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. Not in attendance was Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who withdrew his endorsement of Trump last month when the presumptive Republican nominee lambasted the Indiana-born judge in one of his scam university lawsuits as a “Mexican,” but Trump reportedly called the reluctant Republican a “loser” and vowed he was going to be out of office after Trump wins the electoral votes of Obama’s home state of Illinois. In attendance was Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, perhaps Trump’s most outspoken Republican opponent, and although he declined comment after the meeting his spokesman later allowed that “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place, and with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire.” The presumptive Republican president also reportedly promised his fidelity to the First and 12th articles of the Constitution, although there is no 12th article, and in a meeting with the generally more receptive Republicans in the House of Representatives he urged they “say only great things” about him.
Such bully-boy tactics will surely play well with Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters, who seem to find it all very alpha male, but we don’t expect it to play well with the majority of country that is telling pollsters they’re resolved to vote against him and even the majority of formerly Grand Old Party members who voted in the admirable likes of Flake and Kirk and Sasse and are saying they’d rather vote for someone else as their party’s presumptive nominee. It certainly doesn’t speak well to his common political sense that he wouldn’t prefer everyone was talking about how very awful that presumptive Democratic nominee is instead.

— Bud Norman

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The Damning Non-Indictment

The big news on the Fifth of July was that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had concluded after a prolonged investigation that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee should not be indicted on federal charges for endangering national security and attempting to avoid domestic scrutiny of her awful record as Secretary of State by conducting her official business on an unauthorized and insecure e-mail account. The presumptive Democratic nominee and the serving two-term Democratic president who was campaigning with her on the Fifth of July were well pleased by the results, but we can’t imagine why anyone else would be pleased.
The current head of J. Edgar Hoover’s and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s formerly well-regarded FBI had famously defied on principled terms both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, so there was some hope among thus of us on the right that at least he would force the Democratic president’s appointed Attorney General to let the presumptive Democratic nominee off the hook, but at least he didn’t let them off the hook entirely. The brief and no-questions-taken-from-the-press announcement of her clean bill of health acknowledged that her e-mail practices as Secretary of Sate were indeed unauthorized by law and might well have have led to national-security-endangering breaches by hostile foreign governments, which should be enough to disqualify any old major party’s candidate from consideration for the president of the United States, but it also slightly plausibly cited a lack of proof of criminal intent. That law the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States was being investigated for breaking specifically mentions “gross negligence,” however, and if questions had been allowed and we’d somehow been in on the announcement we would have loved to ask why “criminal intent” is required to prove “gross negligence.” The announcement also refuted many  of the lies that Clinton has been telling about the matter all along, including her insistence that there was only a “security review” and not a criminal investigation, and none of it reflects well on her, but the all important headline is that once again Clinton won’t be facing charges.
Even if they did bring charges we doubt it would have much difference. A recent poll showed that half of the country’s Democrats would have wanted her to fight on in the presidential race despite an indictment, and we’re sure would all of them would reply that the only another choice in a binary election is to elect the presumptive Republican nominee. There’s still a chance that one of those hostile governments that hacked the presumptive Democratic nominee’s e-mails is Russia, whose strongman leader currently has a mutual admiration society going with the presumptive Republican nomination and will happily transmit some of those top-secret e-mais to embarrass her, and there’s still the matter of the FBI investigation regarding her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations it received from foreign countries during her tenure as Secretary of State, but for now it seems likely that the presumptive Democratic nominee will eventually be the actual Democratic nominee. This is bad news for the presumptive Republican nominee, who has such ethical and gross negligence issues of his own that Clinton is probably the only Democrat he has an outside chance of beating, and it’s bad news for the rule of law and the country at large.

— Bud Norman

The Race Plods Along

The votes keep coming in, but so far they haven’t added up to a clear winner in either of the presidential races. There are two front-runners who continue to front-run, but neither can feel comfortable with their leads.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and once-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton continues to slog it out with self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, of all people. Clinton picked up another convincing win in Mississippi on Tuesday, continuing a winning streak in southern states where all the white people have long since registered Republican and the Democratic parties are dominated by blacks, who for some vague reasons seem to prefer Clinton to the nebbishy socialist from a lily-white state whose efforts at identity politics have often been clumsy, but she lost a squeaker in Michigan, where the racial demographics are more typical of the country at large, and which the Democrats rely on in general elections.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it keeps happening, and this is before Clinton is either indicted on felony charges or has the Federal Bureau of Investigation furiously leaking all the reasons she should have been indicted but was saved solely by naked political favoritism, which can’t help, so we expect this race to continue. The peculiar rules of the Democrat’s delegate selection process seem to award Clinton a “super delegate” or two no matter how she performs at the ballot box, and it remains to be seen how the broad diverse tapestry of the Democratic party will respond to some nebbishy white guy’s call for a socialist revolution, and she continues to more-or-less front-run in the polls, but we have to imagine there is some panic afoot in the party’s smoke-free back rooms. They might even decide to go ahead and let the woman get indicted just to get her out of the race and allow some hair-plugged white knight or faux Indian princess to come to the rescue, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on our part, but any scenario seems bleak for the Democrats.
They do have the last-resort advantage of running against Republicans, though, and the loyal opposition seems determined to help out. After wins in Michigan and Mississippi and Hawaii, the front-runner is still Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul, whose national unfavorable ratings in one recent poll hit an eye-popping 67 percent, which is even worse than Clinton’s, which is saying something. The wins added to a solid but not insurmountable lead in the delegate count, and was sufficient for Trump to boast that it’s all over and time for the entire party to rally around his vaguely defined cause, but surely he’s a shrewd enough negotiator to know that’s not going to happen. A consistent two-thirds of the party continues to vote against him, with a large chunk of it having highly unfavorable views of him, and much more than a few of us are willing to fight him until the very end and beyond, and a careful look reveals that all the undecideds who haven’t yet become enamored of Trump after so many months of saturation media coverage of his garish insult comic routine are predictably deciding they don’t like him, and all this is just as the effective-because-they’re-true negative ads have been starting to come out.
Worse yet, from Trump’s bottom-line perspective, the fractured field that has allowed his pluralities to prevail in so many contests is narrowing, with Tuesday’s results effectively knocking Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out of the race, although he might risk humiliation by continuing to campaign in his home state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s narrow-third place finish in neighboring Michigan won’t keep him from contesting his home state as a favorite son, but if he wins that he denies Trump some much-needed delegates, and if he doesn’t it will all come down to Trump against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who picked up another upset win in Idaho and once again out-performed the polls in his losing efforts, leads Trump in head-to-head matches in the polls, and is clearly eager to be alone on a debate stage with Trump.
This might end in a race between two of the most deservedly disliked and distrusted people in America, or a nebbishy socialist and an evangelical capitalist, or some combination thereof, or maybe even some hair-plugged white knight or faux Indian princess will come to the rescue, and we’ll even hold on to some faint hope of another deus ex machina.

— Bud Norman

As the Sands of the Hourglass, So are the Days of the Democrats

The Republican Party’s reality show is getting the bigger ratings and all the critical attention, but the Democrats’ presidential nomination race is also well worth binge-watching. In case you’ve missed the more recent gripping episodes, there’s now a tantalizing possibility that the heroine of the tale will face federal indictment on criminal charges, her husband’s past and recent sex scandals are starting to affect the plot, the lovably eccentric kook who was once a minor comic-relief character is now within striking distance of her in all the polls, and there’s enough behind-the-scenes court intrigue to fuel another few seasons of “The Tudors” and “House of Cards.”
Although the lovably eccentric kook who was originally included for only comic relief has generously declared that he’s “damned sick and tired” of hearing about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which viewers might recall from previous episodes were transmitted by an unsecured and seemingly illegal private server, the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps anonymously leaking to the press and openly testifying to Congress that they remain very interested in the matter. The latest news has the FBI leaking that they’re also looking into the big-bucks donations from foreign countries that were flowing into the Bill and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation while the eponymous Hillary was dealing with those same foreign countries as Secretary of State, and a best-selling book and a large number of reports indicate there is also something of interest to be found there. No matter what is uncovered by the investigation an indictment will have to be brought by an Attorney General appointed by President Barack Obama, who still looms as large as the Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi characters from the all-important prequels, depending on your tastes, which makes for some darned intriguing court intrigue.
Almost all of our Republican friends glumly assume that no Obama appointee would ever allow even the most undeniably evidence-backed federal indictment on criminal charges against a prominent Democrat, especially the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and even more especially one named Clinton, and the long-awaited First Woman President, at that, and most of our Democrat friends gleefully make the assumption. Their glum and gleeful cynicism might well prove justified, given the conspicuous lack of indictments in countless scandals that the press would have happily made a federal case of during Republican administrations, from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to that Obamacare web site to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives and right up to Clinton’s e-mailing and fund-raising methods, but by now we’re cynical enough to hold out hope for one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction plot twists.
Having followed the soon-to-close but still-awaiting-that-final-cliffhanger Obama reality show over the past eight years or so, we’ve long noticed that he doesn’t much like any of the Clintons and is quite petty enough to let such personal dislikes affect his judgments. Nor does he seem to have any loyalty to his political party, which has been reduced to 1920s-levels in Congress and state legislatures and governorships even as he has seized unprecedented presidential powers, and his press spokespeople and his equally dutiful press people have strangely silent about Clinton’s legal matters. An indictment could either usher in a Republican presidency, which could be easily blamed for everything that happens in the four-year aftermath of the Obama administration, or hands the Democratic nomination to that lovable kook or any of the other Obama-approved eccentrics who have been waiting in the wings, and they somehow prevail over some equally unpopular Republican villain to institute yet another four years of left-wing craziness, and in either case Obama’s purposes are served. We’re not making any predictions, but it’s tantalizingly possible enough to keep us tuned in.
In any case, it signals more perils for the Pauline heroine of the Democrats’ reality show. We no longer cling to any boyish fantasy that the FBI is staffed by the likes of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. or Jimmy Stewart, but given the agency’s recent leakiness there is reason to hope that they’ll at least let some enterprising reporter or another know about they case they’ve built, which is sure to be unhelpful to Clinton’s candidacy. The cynics in both parties will glumly and gleefully note that Clinton’s have always gotten away with everything, and all the shrewd gamblers have always advised to never bet against a streak, but our cynicism is such that we glumly note that time changes everything. The Bill Clinton sex scandals that were easily overlooked during the cultural right scare of the ’90s aren’t so easily forgiven in the ‘teens, when Democrats believe a “culture of rape” is permeating the undeniably leftist-dominated campuses but not the town squares of European cities suddenly overrun by immigration from less feminist cultures that best go unnamed, and the Republican front-runner is a thrice-married casino mogul who can’t quote a single Bible verse, and suddenly that whole “war on women” that the distaff Clinton was supposed to win seems laughable. Besides, the masculine Clinton is best remembered for the Welfare Reform Act he was forced to sign and President Obama unraveled with executive orders, and the decrease in crime that resulted “mass incarceration” laws that are now the bane of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and for Republican-imposed balanced budgets that Democrats no longer care about.
Throw in the fact that in the Democratic voters are now mostly concerned about income inequality and those evil bastards on Wall Street, and it’s no surprise that the lovable kook and self-described socialist and relatively penurious Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now catching up in the national polls and within striking distance in the first two crucial rounds of the race of the suspiciously wealthy and Wall Street-supported “front-runner.” Once the supposed front-runner is either indicted on federal criminal charges or not indicted for the most obviously suspicious reasons, you’ve got a real race going on rather than the promised coronation. Even the most polite press can’t help noticing such things, and hopefully speculating about some eccentric waiting on the wings to inherit Obama’s still on-going campaign operation, and of course that will further twist the plot.
There’s plenty of drama left on the Republican side, where another character unpopular with the broader audience seems to be winning, but these Democrats are well worth watching.

— Bud Norman

As the Primaries Turn

The latest episodes in the competing mini-series about the election of the next president have lately taken some interesting twists. Over in the Democrats’ show there is suddenly speculation whether the front-runner will soon be indicted on federal charges of endangering the national security, while on the Republican channel the front-runner is openly speculating if his most troublesome rival is legally eligible to be in the running. Both plot twists might yet prove red herrings, but at least they provide an amusing distraction from all that boring talk of stock market meltdowns and North Korean bomb tests and the usual unpleasantness in the Middle East.
There has long been a tantalizing possibility that former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might be in legal jeopardy for using a personal and unsecured e-mail account to conduct her official State Department business, and to many it seemed all the more tantalizingly possible after former United States Attorney and current cable news pundit Joseph DiGenova went on a popular conservative talk radio show and confidently predicted that the combined outrage of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the government’s broader intelligence community would force Attorney General Loretta Lynch to bring charges. DiGenova’s predictions have often proved prescient, he’s known for having reliable sources in the FBI and the intelligence community, and Clinton’s e-mails sure do look like a clear violation of the law, and her claims that there were no classified documents on the “home-brew” server she kept in a shady company’s bathroom have already been revealed as blatant lies, so it’s at least plausible. The counter arguments from the more skeptical pundits that President Barack Obama’s Attorney General is going to bring charges against the Democratic party’s presumptive presidential nominee no matter what evidence some disgruntled executive branch employees might muster are also plausible, though, so at this point we offer no predictions.
Some slight surviving shred of faith in the American government allows us to hold out hope that FBI Director James Comey will live up to his ruggedly independent reputation and his boast to Congress that he “doesn’t give a rip about politics” in the investigation, and we’re by now cynical enough to wish that Obama’s pettiness and self-centeredness will allow him to allow his Attorney General to play some Chicago style politics with his erstwhile rival, but neither lead to any conclusions. We will venture that anything short of an indictment won’t alter the Democratic presidential nomination race, where Clinton’s most troublesome rival has already declared that he’s “sick and tired of hearing about her damned e-mails,” but we would like to think that a full revolt by the FBI and the intelligence making clear how very political a non-indictment is would have some effect on a general election.
The general election will co-star a Republican, though, and at this point it seems likely that he or she will have her or his own problems to deal with. Still ahead in all the national polls is billionaire real estate mogul and reality show star Donald Trump, but he’s lately feeling enough heat from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that he’s unleashing his famously scathing criticisms on the rival. He’s even suggested that Cruz, born to an American-born mother and Cuban-born but naturalized-American father, might not be eligible for the presidency because Cruz was born in Canada during his parent’s brief career-related stay there. Such birthplace chatter is as old as the presidency of perhaps-Canadian-born Chester A. Arthur, and has persisted through the presidential campaigns of Mexican-born George Romney and Arizona Territory-born Barry Goldwater and Panama Canal Zone-born John McCain right up to the current president, who Trump had previously and unconvincingly claimed was born in Kenya, but it hasn’t yet kept anyone from winning the presidency. Cruz cheekily responded to the speculation, which didn’t quite rise to the level of an outright accusation, with a “tweeted” clip of that infamous “Happy Days” episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark, a sly pop cultural reference that should suffice to put the matter to rest.
We note that Trump has also questioned Cruz on theological grounds, telling an audience of Iowa Republicans in advance of that state’s Christian-dominated primary that “you’ve got to remember, in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay?” Whether a thrice-married casino magnate can successfully persuade evangelical Iowans that he’s more their type than a once-married Baptist with a perfect pro-life voting record and no ties to the gambling industry and the same anti-communist heritage as beloved sit-com character Ricky Ricardo remains to be seen, but we do have our suspicions how that might turn out. Trump has also proposed a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese goods, which would raise the price of an average shopping trip to Wal-Mart by approximately 45 percent and start a global trade war with little prospects of victory, but that also seems a desperate gambit.
The bomb-throwing and government-shutdown-threatening Cruz is every bit as infuriating to the Republican establishment as Trump, whose rise to the top of the polls has largely been fueled by an understandable anti-establishment sentiment among Republicans, and Cruz is perhaps even more beloved by those bellicose talk radio talkers who have further fueled Trump’s rise, so Trump’s sudden turn against him is not unexpected. We don’t expect it will hurt Cruz in the Republican primaries, but it provides some fodder for a whispering campaign by the Democrats in the general election, even if they aren’t afraid to say it more loudly for fear of reviving the old rumors about Obama’s Kenyan birth or a sense that Democrats just don’t like “the other,” and we’ll nervously watch how it plays out.
If the presidential race turns out to be a match between a convicted felon and a constitutionally-ineligible foreigner, we’ll be rooting for the constitutionally-ineligible foreigner.

— Bud Norman

The Perfect Scandal

Dennis Hastert was such a forgettable Speaker of the House that we had completely forgotten about him, but we have lately been reminded of his existence by all the gleeful news reports about his indictment by a federal grand jury. He’s charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a series of relatively small bank withdrawals, which is not particularly scandalous by Washington standards and raises the question of why the government is empowered to ask people nosy questions about relatively small bank withdrawals in the first place, but the inevitable unlawful leaks about the case have claimed the withdrawals were used to hush a sexual relationship with a young male who had been a student of Hastert’s during his days as a high school teacher and wrestling coach, which explains all the gleefulness of the press.
Hastert is a Republican, and a self-proclaimed “traditional family values” Republican with his name on a building at a Christian college at that, so the irony is far too delicious for the press to resist. The hypocrisy of Democrats who rail against income inequality while enriching themselves through government service to the one percentile, or decry the Republican “war on women” while rallying around the enabling wife of a serial sexual harasser, is more easily ignored when there’s a story like this afoot. There are still scores to be settled from the impeachment charges that were filed during Hastert’s speakership against President Bill Clinton after he lied under oath about his heterosexual sex scandals, too, and with Hastert having acquired the job after two Republican predecessors were found to have cheated on their wives there’s yet more ammunition for the old argument that there’s no longer any sense in expecting our leaders to hew to a higher standard of sexual conduct and that we should all just go ahead and do it in the road. Given the facts as they have been established thus far, and their usefulness for a variety of Democratic narratives, we expect the Hastert story should push the Islamic State, Hillary Clinton’s slush fund foundation, the recently shrinking economy, and everything else of greater public importance off the front pages for weeks to come.
Still, there’s no denying it does seem a very tawdry affair. Aside from the decades-old but still-sickening allegations of sexual exploitation of a student, which are bad enough, there’s also the matter of how a former high school teacher turned public servant had enough money on hand to pay the $1.7 million in blackmail that Hastert is alleged to have paid. Much of Hastert’s wealth is said to have come from real estate deals, including properties whose value was increased by laws passed during his speakership, and the rest has come from a lucrative lobbying career commenced shortly after he left Congress. Even those questions about why the government is empowered to ask people nosy questions about relatively small bank withdrawals are answered by the Patriot Act that Hastert helped to enact. If the facts as they have been established thus far prove true, Hastert will richly deserve the ignominy that is currently being heaped on him.
Nor is there much that even a die-hard Republican can muster in his defense. We were surprised to re-learn that Hastert was the longest-serving Speaker of the House in history, but one can liken that to the record-setting yet forgettable reign of Larry Holmes as world heavyweight champion, who remains overshadowed by his flamboyant predecessor Muhammad Ali and memorably thuggish successor Mike Tyson, just as Hastert is less well-remembered than his pugnacious and effective predecessor Newt Gingrich and his “first woman” and downright awful successor Nancy Pelosi. Chosen for his dull personality and happy talk of bipartisanship and presumably scandal-free past, Hastert spent his time in power going along with Clinton and then helping George W. Bush push through that Medicare drug plan and the rest of his big government heresies, and was otherwise so good at avoiding controversy that even such news junkies as ourselves had completely forgotten him.
One might note that a recent rash of underplayed stories about sexual exploitation of students by teachers mostly involve women educators in public schools, and that by up-to-date standards an emphasis on cases such as Hastert’s alleged behavior should be considered heteronormative, and that tawdry tales of lucrative careers in public service are quite bipartisan, with the presumptive Democratic nominee being a prime example, and that Republican presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul is currently being pilloried in the press for opposing repeal of the Patriot Act in defiance of a Democratic president who now likes all of the governmental powers it endows, and that the Patriot Act was intended to target terrorists rather people with other reasons for making relatively small bank withdrawals, and that the presumptive Democratic nominee’s husband has been a frequent flyer on the private jet of a known pedophile,  and that everyone isn’t cheating on a spouse and higher standards of conduct should still be expected from public officials regardless of their party affiliation, but it will be of no use. Unless new exculpatory facts unexpectedly emerge, Hastert has handed the Democrats’ media allies an extraordinary gift, and Republicans can only hope that readers will notice the other sickening facts that somehow make it onto the inside pages of your local newspaper.

— Bud Norman

Making Conservatism a Crime

That grand jury indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is outrageous, dangerous, and unsurprising. Such blatant abuses of the judicial process are by now an all too familiar tactic of the Democratic party.

Similarly heavy-handed legal actions have been employed with varying degrees of success against former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who was forced to resign his post as House Majority leader during a years-long process of clearing his name,  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose prosecutorial investigators never came up with anything but allowed the media to report that he was being investigated by prosecutors, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who might or might not have had anything to do with a bridge closing that did actually occur but is getting far more media scrutiny thnt the Democratic governor suspected of equally appalling behavior over in neighboring New York. There’s a former Attorney General here in Kansas who is still trying to get his law license back after offending the state’s legal establishment with his anti-abortion stances, some past political opponents of the president who had their ballot eligibility questioned or their divorce records unsealed, a prominent conservative writer is being sued by a mad climate scientist, and we expect there are many more we haven’t heard of.
Each of them should feel honored, as such brusque treatment is usually reserved for politicians the Democratic Party regards as threatening, but we can well understand their outrage. Being subjected to the vicissitudes of the court for one’s political opinions is the sort of thing that was widely decried back in the bad old days of McCarthysim, and they’re entitled to wonder why they aren’t afford the same sympathy that Hollywood and bon pensant opinion routinely bestows on those old screenwriting commies who were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee. That the legal tactics are often far more effective than the blacklist ever was in keeping the movies all-American must be all the frustrating, but in Perry’s case there’s some hope for an old-fashioned happy ending.
The Perry indictment is a result of the night that the Travis County District Attorney got rip-roaring drunk and was arrested for driving while intoxicated on her way home. A dashboard camera in the arresting officer’s vehicle showed that she was staggering and surly during the arrests, tests showed she had twice the legal blood alcohol contest allowed by law, and videos that became a YouTube sensation show she was abusive to the officers and attempted to use her political position during her booking. Like many other Texans, Perry thought this was conduct unbecoming the official in charge of enforcing the laws of a Texas county and demanded her resignation. As governor, Perry also threatened to exercise his constitutionally granted right to veto funding for her “Office of Public Integrity” unit if she didn’t resign, and he eventually made good on that threat. The subsequent Travis County District Attorney has now convinced a grand jury that this amounts to threatening and coercing a public official, both felony charges that entail lengthy prison sentences, and Perry is now officially indicted for the purposes of any headline writers who want to smear him and is obligated to defend in his innocence in a years-long series of appellate state and probably federal courts. This will probably play according to the Democratic script in Travis County, which is mostly Austin, which is mostly state bureaucrats and a typically progressive university and some high-tech yuppies and God only knows how many tattooed hippie freaks, and is the same Democratic bastion in that otherwise Republican state that started the ordeal of Tom DeLay, but it’s unlikely to have the same appeal in the rest of Texas or the rest of the country.
Those YouTube videos are well worth watching, as they’re the best drunken comedy since the heyday of the late Foster Brooks, and anyone familiar with the story will surely concur with Perry that the star did not deserve public funding to enforce the integrity of her fellow public officials. After so many years of Republican governors the state court system probably has enough sensible judges to ultimately conclude that it is quite legal for a governor issue a veto on such grounds, too, and Perry will prevail in both the court of public opinion and the actual court. In so doing he might he even draw the public’s attention and even its scorn on the under-handed tactic of making conservatism a crime. Already some of the more principled liberals are fretting about where this might lead if conservatives should ever decide to take up the game, and we expect even those uninformed types who are spooked by the word “indictment” in a headline will eventually grow wise.

— Bud Norman