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A Corker of a Feud

Reality shows usually derive their drama from petty disputes between the main characters, and President Donald Trump’s current action-packed series is no exception to the rule. Trump’s latest spat with Tennessee’s Republican Sen. Bob Corker, though, is likely to spill over into the real reality.
If you’ve been following the show since it debuted with the main character descending from the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy, you might recall Corker as the mild-mannered and impeccably mainstream Senator who was one of the first Grand Old Party establishment types to endorse Trump’s candidacy after Trump had all but wrapped up the Republican nomination. Corker even so went so far as to describe Trump to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as “courteous, kind, and respectful,” and “not at all what people think,” and his name was floated as a possible pick for Vice President or Secretary of State, but since then the relationship has gone sour.
As chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee Corker shepherded a Russian sanctions bill that was clearly intended to curtail Trump’s ability to negotiate with that country. Following Trump’s widely criticized response to the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia, Corker was one of several congressional Republicans who joined in the criticism, going so far as to say “The President has not been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” During the recent episodes when Trump was feuding with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over his efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict with North Korea, Corker that Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were among the were among the few administration officials “that help keep the country from chaos.”
On Sunday Trump did his usual illiterate counter-punching with a series of three “tweets” firing back at Corker, all with the usual vehemence. “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election reelection in Tennessee. I said’NO’ and he dropped (said he could not win without…” one read, which was continued in the next “tweet” with “… my endorsement.) I said ‘NO THANKS!’ He wanted to be Secretary of State, I said “NO THANKS!” He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran deal!” The third “tweet” added “Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”
The part about Corker being largely responsible for the Iran deal is entirely untrue, as Corker was an outspoken critic and a key reason President Barack Obama didn’t dare submit it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty and thus had to sign it as a presidential agreement, which is why Trump should be grateful he can now undo it by executive action. Corker contends that Trump had called him to offer his endorsement as an inducement to run again, that he withdrew his name for consideration for Secretary of State before Trump reached a decision, and that he’s not seeking for re-election for reasons other than cowardice. Given both what we’ve learned about both men over their long public lives, we’re inclined to believe Corker on each count.
In any case Corker isn’t running for reelection and is all the more unintimidated by Trump’s “tweets.” He responded with a phone call to The New York Times to categorically deny all of Trump’s “tweeted” claims, and to say that the president is treating his office “like a reality show” and that his handling of the North Korean crisis puts the country “on the path to World War III.” Corker even went to his own “Twitter” feed to opine that “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
The spat has received plenty of media attention, of course, and most of the commentary has been about how it will affect Trump’s ability to get his legislative agenda passed. Republicans can only afford to lose three votes from their slim majority in the Senate, which includes “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and the ugly Rand Paul and the unheroic John McCain, among several other members that Trump has gone out of his way to insult, so the general conclusion has been that enmity of the gutless Corker will likely further complicate the art of the legislative deal for Trump. There’s a counter-theory on the talk radio shows that Trump’s feuds with his own party are a brilliant strategy, which involves burning down the Republican party and bring forth a Trump-ian Phoenix from the ashes in order to defeat the almost-as-hated Democrats, but it’s hard to see that playing out soon enough to get anything passed before the next mid-terms.
So long as the Republicans are blamed for their legislative failures and the Republican president is held blameless that will probably be fine with Trump, but we worry Americans in general and Republicans in particular might have bigger problems. Corker is a fellow mild-mannered and impeccably mainstream Republican, even if he isn’t so wised-up as ourselves that he once went on cable television to describe Trump as “kind, courteous, respectful,” and we think he might be right about the adult day care at the White House with the adult supervision occasionally gone missing.
We’re not the only ones who can’t shake that nagging worry, or even the only Republicans. Corker claims most of his colleagues share his concerns, and so far few congressional Republicans have taken a public stand with Trump in in feud, and a very stalwart Pennsylvania GOP congressman from Pennsylvania who’s also not seeking went on the MSNBC cable network to admit his own worries. The latest poll from the Associated Press has Trump at a new low approval rating of 32 percent, with only 27 percent of women favorably inclined, and more worrisome it showed a positive 67 percent among Republicans. That’s a landslide in a general election, but in the past few hyper-partisan decades presidents have usually scored around 90 percent in their own parties, with the political Mendoza line set at around 80 percent, and the defection of nearly a third of the Republican grass-roots and a significant number of its elected representatives should give pause to the other two-thirds of the party.
Stay tuned, though. According to another recent episode, this is just the calm before the storm. Also, there’s an intriguing subplot involving Trump’s first wife and his third wife and First Lady to keep you diverted until the next twist.

— Bud Norman

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The Enduring Truth of the Latest Outrageous Fiction

Those with a good memory for all the accumulated outrages of the past seven and a half years or so might vaguely recall the name of Jonathan Gruber, “the architect of Obamacare” who couldn’t keep himself from gloating at an academic conference about all the clever lies that were used to foist that awful law on an unwitting land. Some enterprising internet muckraker got his hands on the video of his remarks well after the fact, it gradually “went viral” on all the conservative sites at a time when the more conservative party was still firmly opposed to federal control of the health care system, and the uproar was sufficient that even the more polite media were forced to acknowledge for a brief news cycle that it really was rather outrageous. We’d almost forgotten the name ourselves, despite our good memories and constant score-keeping, but were reminded by the recent gloating of Ben Rhodes and the outrage it has produced for this brief news cycle.
Rhodes is described by even such a polite medium as The New York Times as “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru,” and he was so comfortable with the paper’s politeness that he felt free to boast that President Barack Obama’s even more catastrophic-than-Obamacare deal with Iran regarding its obvious and undeniable and still-ongoing nuclear ambitions was also sold on a pack of lies. He frankly acknowledged that the Republican argument of the moment that the election of a supposed “moderate” president didn’t mean that the hard-liners in the Iranian theocracy weren’t still in charge was entirely, and that Obama’s claim the Republicans opposed to the deal were effectively in cahoots with those hard-liners fighting their own country’s more radical elements was the sort of ingenious fiction that he once aspired to as a creative writing major.
Even such a polite medium as The New York Times couldn’t help noting that the 38-year-old “Boy Wonder of the White House” didn’t have any more applicable academic credentials to become the president’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and speechwriter other than their shared disdain of the policies of the George W. Bush administration and preference for spinning tales, and even the headlines of such usually diplomatic sources as Foreign Policy Magazine have resorted to language that we do not condone but concede is pretty much apt, and we must admit that even our more liberal counterparts once again have acknowledged that this is pretty darned outrageous.
We’d like to think that after another half year or so things will start to get better, but at this point it is a dim hope. The presumptive nominee of the putatively more conservative party lists health care as one of the core responsibilities of the federal government, and has expressed his admiration for Scotland’s totalitarian systems, but assures us it will be a great deal, believe him, and the more liberal party’s presumptive nominee is offering the suddenly seemingly plausible offer of dancing with the devil we know, and the Democrat is standing by the deal and the Republican won’t disavow the deal because promising he can out-deal the Iranian rug-merchants just as he out-dealed all his casino-and-strip-joint creditors, and both seem quite certain that their fanciful fictions can be sold to a gullible public just like the rest of the outrageous reality shows they’ve been starring in for many years.

— Bud Norman

On the Day After Labor Day

Today is the day after Labor Day, and it’s supposed to be very different from last Tuesday. According to the authoritative folklore the lazy, hazy days of summers are now officially over, no matter what the thermometer might say, and all sorts of new rules are suddenly in place.
White shoes and straw hats, for instance, are now a fashion faux pas until Easter. The part about white shoes is of little consequence to us, as we switched to the black Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars as year-round footwear long ago, but the straw hat thing is going to be more problematic. Around here the thermometer is still reaching three digits, and this might yet prove one of those summers that stretches into the Kansas State Fair and the big acoustic music festival down in Winfield, in which case the wool driving cap we favor in the fall and winter months would surely fry our brain, and our good friend “Hatman” Jack Kellogg, proprietor of Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works over in the nearby Delano neighborhood, gave us a great deal last spring on a very handsome Panama fedora that often fetches compliments from pretty young women, so we’ll probably defy the fashion rules for another few weeks or so. Nobody around here pays any attention to the fashion rules anyway, and at least we can console our conservative heart that we’ll continue to put on a coat and tie for any funerals or weddings we have to attend.
Another rule, more recently enacted, is that football season is now fully underway. There’s nothing we can do about that, but it won’t divert our attention from the more pressing matter of baseball. Our beloved Wichita Wignuts clinched an American Association division title and playoff spot even before they defeated the Grand Prairie Airhogs by a score of 4-2 on Labor Day, with us and our beloved Dad in attendance at the historic Lawrence-Dumont Ballpark, and a New York Yankees’ victory and a Toronto Blue Jays’ loss leave our beloved Yanks only a half-game out of their division lead and with a comfortable cushion in the wild card race, so until the Big 12 conference schedule gets underway our priorities will be unchanged by the calendar. We did take note and were bemused, though, about that unintentionally ribald and hilarious half-time marching band blooper¬†at the half-time of a gridiron contest between our Kansas State University Wildcats and the South Dakota State University Coyotes.
Another post-Labor Day rule is that we’re not supposed to take note of such frivolous things. On the day after Labor Day the kids are all back in school and their buses are once again slowing traffic, the recently tanking stock markets are back in business, business at large is back in business after all that laziness and haziness of summer, and the public’s attention is suddenly attuned to more serious matters. With an election year looming the Average American is now presumed to paying more sober attention to the presidential nomination campaigns, which we hope will lower front-running Republican candidate Donald Trump’s inexplicable numbers, and we can’t even guess what effect it might have on a Democratic race where formerly front-running Hillary Clinton now finds herself losing to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. One can hope that this arbitrary seriousness will affect the meager chances of staving off the administration’s awful nuclear with Iran, and we’re pleased to note even on a Labor Day that our local congressman is still fighting it with a faint hope that those even more awful side deals between Iran an the International Atomic Energy Commission, and we’re glad that our congressman is on the job about it, but the mere turning of a calendar page doesn’t offer much hope.
The calendar does inevitably impose its will, however, in ways that even we and the added strength of popular opinion cannot resist. It’s a long, long way from May to December, as a favorite old song of ours notes, but the days grow short when you reach September. We couldn’t help noticing that the sky was already darkened to a Maxfield Parrish hue and the headlights were on by eight o’clock, and couldn’t help remembering back to that short time ago on the summer solstice night on this far western edge of the time zone when the sunshine lingered until a glorious 9:30 p.m. or so. We don’t have much to show for the intervening cycles of the universe, and yet hope to have done more before we reach that longest night, so we guess that now is as good a time as any to get back to business and be serious and acknowledge that football is actually happening. We’ll do our best at it, but so far today somehow seems a lot like last Tuesday.

— Bud Norman