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Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams

For now we suppose there’s an outside chance, as some of the right-wing talk radio hosts and their callers are already speculating, that whoever mailed five crude pipe bombs to prominent Democratic politicians and a rich donor to liberal causes and a major media company frequently critical of the current Republican government is some crazed leftist trying to make the right look bad. There’s a better chance it was some crazed person on the right, as we figure it, but in either case it’s a sad state of affairs.
The first of the pipe bombs arrived at the home of billionaire activist and generous bankroller of liberal causes George Soros. On Wednesday another arrived at the office of former President Barack Obama, and another at the residence of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A fourth was addressed to former Obama administration Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan at the Cable News Network, although Brennan is currently employed as an analyst by the National Broadcasting and MSNBC networks. The fifth was sent to an incorrect address for Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, but was sent to former Democratic national committee chairwoman and current Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose misspelled name was listed on each package’s return arrest. Another suspicious package was reportedly mailed to California Rep. Maxine Waters and intercepted in the congressional mail-room, but Federal Bureau of Investigation is not yet listing it among the incidents under investigation.
Perhaps it’s possible that some crazed leftist figured that any of these people would be acceptable collateral damage in a successful false flag operation to discredit the right, but we note there are also plenty of crazed people on the right who have an intense animus toward all of the intended victims.
President Donald Trump has recently accused Soros of financing an invasion of Latin-American and Middle Eastern terrorists currently walking their way across Mexico to America’s southern border. He spent years peddling the story that Obama was a Kenyan-born imposter who unconstitutionally became an America-hating president, and continues to lead chants at his rallies to have “Crooked Hillary” locked up for various thus-far unproved-in-court crimes. Trump revoked Brennan’s top-secret security clearance in retaliation for on air-criticism, and has criticized the career civil servant as a “political hack” and “very bad guy.” Trump has openly wished he had an Attorney General who would be as much a political hack on his behalf as he believes Holder was on Obama’s behalf, but that’s a rather back-handed compliment. As for Waters, a leading advocate of impeaching Trump, the president never fails to refer to her as “a very low-IQ individual.”
None of which is an incitement to murder, but Trump has urged rally crowds to rough up protestors, recently praised a Republican congressman for committing criminal assault against a reporter, continues to lead the “lock ’em up cheers” about a growing list of political adversaries, accuses such media as CNN and MSNBC of being “enemies of the people,” and often expresses a belief that his critics hate America, so it’s within the realm of possibility that some die-hard fan got a bit too riled up by the rhetoric.
The vast majority of law-abiding Trump supporters can rightly ask what about the harsh rhetoric heard on the left. Obama won the presidency telling his supporters to “bring a gun to a knife fight,” Clinton has recently told an adoring crowd of Democrats that civility toward Republicans is no longer possible, and Holder was widely quoted advising his party that “When they go low, we kick them.” Brennan did once say that Trump’s Russia policy was treasonous, Waters has urged on the harassment that Trump administration officials now routinely endure when they try to eat in a restaurant or shop in a store. and Soros has supported some unsavory causes. The left is just as paranoid about deep-pocketed conservatives activist Charles Koch as the right is about that Soros fellow, and now both men have survived assassination attempts. When a crazed leftist shot up a Republican congressional softball team’s practice back in ’17, seriously wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and others, the right alleged that left’s rhetoric was a contributing cause, and they made a strong case.
But to venture an answer to the right’s favorite rhetorical question of what about the left’s language and behavior, we ask what about it? The left’s abominable language and behavior is no excuse for equally abominable language and behavior on the right, the current escalation of the war of words on both sides is likely to further escalate the alarming physical violence that gangs of young toughs on both sides have lately engaged in around the country. As lifelong Republicans who used to be considered conservative, we’d like to see our side once bring about a return to normalcy with malice toward none and charity to toward all, to borrow a couple of by now very outdated slogans of the Grand Old Party.
Trump has condemned the attempted bombings as “despicable acts” and said that “In these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” That uncharacteristically presidential statement got a big laugh later the same day when it was quoted at a symposium where Brennan was being interviewed, Brennan got another big laugh when he reacted by asking “That was said by Donald who?,” and for now we can’t begrudge the left’s giggles about it. The laughter might stop if Trump recants his praise of a criminal assault on a reporter, restrains himself from whipping up the rally crowds against the other “enemies of the people” in the press cages, withdraws his promise to pay the legal bills for anyone who punches a protestor, stops pressing for the imprisonment of his political opponents, and generally tones down the insult comic shtick, but until then his unifying message rings undeniably hollow.
Here’s holding out faint hope those damned Democrats dial it down a few notches as well, as there’s no denying they’ve also got some quite crazed and easily incited characters on their side, but these days they’re largely an undeniably nasty bunch who also seem eager to win by any means necessary and at any cost to the national comity.
Most of the Democrats and Republicans we know around here are reasonable sorts of people disinclined to mail pipe bombs, however, and seem willing to settle their differences at the ballot box. So for now we’ll hold out a slightly stronger hope that what’s left of the center will somehow hold.

— Bud Norman

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Let Us All Eat in Peace

As regular readers of this publication are well aware, we’re not fond of President Donald Trump, nor are we fond of any of his administration officials, except for a few who are frequently on Trump’s bad side. Still, we wouldn’t refuse any of them service at our restaurant, in the off chance we had one and the even more off chance Trump or any of his administration officials happened to walk into it, nor would we attempt to boo any of them out of any public space we somehow happened to share.
That’s just our old-fashioned Kansas conservative way, though, and it seems a number of more well-helled and up-to-date liberal types in Washington, D.C., and Lexington, Virginia, disagree. White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were both recently heckled by numerous fellow diners and driven from Mexicans restaurants in Washington, Nielsen was later awakened by an angry crowd chanting outside her home before dawn, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party were asked by the owner of restaurant in Lexington to leave. In the all the discussion that ensued from all the brouhaha some leftward media expressed solidarity with the hecklers, and California’s Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters got some headlines by urging her followers that no Trump administration be allowed to gas up their car or buy groceries or eat a restaurant meal without harassment.
As much as we dislike Trump for our own old-fashioned Kansas conservative reasons, and have to admit that his urging his followers to punch out protestors and promising to pay their legal bills and other vulgar utterances have also debased the civility of our public discourse, and despite the chuckle we got out of a late-night comedian saying that it takes some serious chutzpah for either Miller or Nielsen to visit a Mexican restaurant, we’d rather both sides of America took time off from these dreary debates for mealtimes and grocery-shopping and theater-going and other previously sacrosanct moments of a human being’s life.
The venerably pre-Trump conservative magazine National Review agrees, and so does the old-fashionedly liberal editorial board of the The Washington Post, as well as most of the the rest of mostly apolitical America. Still, there’s clearly more than a few on both the left and right fringes of the political spectrum who seem to be itching for a fight.
The aforementioned Waters has been a racialist demagogue since before even Trump got into the game, and first became nationally-known by encouraging the constituents in her ever-shifting district to continue the Los Angeles riots of 1992 until some Korean immigrant shopkeepers started effectively firing back with semi-automatic weapons, and after all these years we’re even somewhat less fond of her than Trump. Her more or less clarion call for mobocracy are not uncommon on the leftward edges of the political spectrum, too, and that’s one reason we’re still old-fashioned Kansas conservatives.
Meanwhile, the racialist demagogue Trump has “tweeted” back at the “low-IQ individual” Waters that he’s got plenty of his own supporters who are also itching for a fight. Several of them have already egged the Red Hen Restaurant that denied Sanders service, except that they mistakenly egged an entirely innocent restaurant of that name in Washington, D.C., rather that the admittedly guilty one in Lexington, and one way or another that fight the farthest fringes seem to be itching for will likely end badly.
The good news is that both National Review and The Washington Post are calling for a political time-out during eating and grocery-shopping and theater-going and family and sleep time, and that most Democratic and Republican politicians agree on this point. Somehow, the center might hold.
Still, longtime readers of this publication know our recurring nightmares about the last days of the Weimar Republic in pre-Hitler Germany, when the Commies and the Nazis were brawling it out on the grimy streets of decadent Berlin. We’ve always figured that in such incomprehensibly dire circumstances we would seek asylum elsewhere, but in this mean old world we don’t know where we might have found it. When we challenged a post-Trump Republican friend of ours that he would have defended iconic Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to turn back the St. Louis ocean liner full of Jewish refugees, he admitted he would do so even now knowing with the 20-20 hindsight of history that it condemned all the passengers to concentration camp deaths, and that if by historical chance we’d needed the chance we would have also been passengers on that voyage, and given her racialist demagoguery and the demographic make-up of her district we’re sure Waters would have gone along with it as well.
At this point we’re willing to let the “Trumpanzees” and the “lib-tards” brawl it out on the decadent of streets of America, at least as far as possible away from our surprisingly serene streets of Wichita, Kansas, and hope that the center will hold, and our daily meals will at least be peaceful.

— Bud Norman

The Show Goes On and On

We’ve been following this “sequester” business with rapt attention, but we’re of the sort that enjoys a good farce. More normal people are apparently rather bored with the whole affair.
Or so it would seem from the latest batch of opinion surveys, which indicate a widespread weariness with the topic. A high 38 percent of respondents to the Gallup poll admitted that they are not following the story closely or at all, an even higher 48 percent made the same confession to the Pew Center, and it is likely that many of the people who claimed to be following the story closely or at least somewhat were fibbing for fear of looking foolish. To the extent that people have been paying attention, they don’t seem to be very worried, with about 40 percent telling Pew that they won’t mind seeing the budget cuts go into effect and about one-fifth being shrewd enough to offer no opinion at all.
One can hardly blame these folks for the lack of interest. After a seemingly endless series of debt ceiling debates and “fiscal cliff” controversies it is asking a bit much of the public to bone up on yet another budgetary brouhaha, especially with yet another round on the debt ceiling fight scheduled for next month, and there really isn’t anything special about this spat. Even a cursory glance at the news reveals that it’s only a matter of $44 billion, a mere nick in a $3.8 trillion budget, and no one seems to believe that even the most successful resolution of the matter would have much effect on the broader economy.
Still, those switching to another channel to avoid the “sequester” show will be unlikely to find a more hilarious comedy. Thursday’s episode alone featured enough wacky subplots to fuel the typical sit-com for a season. California’s Rep. Maxine Waters, who is always good for comic relief, warned that the budget cuts will cause 170 million Americans to lose their jobs. Homeland security honcho Janet Napolitano, another side-splitter, went on television to say that she “regretted” the “poorly timed” release of detained illegal immigrants even before the budget cuts went into effect. There was also the spectacle of the Washington press elite savaging the reputation of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who had been the most elite pressman in the city until he challenged the Obama administration’s self-serving version of how the whole “sequester” business got started in the first place. Adding yet another humorous twist, the President took time out from flying around the country in his $180,000-an-hour jet to warn that there is no fat to be trimmed from the budget and scheduled his first face-to-face meeting with the congressional leadership on the months-old matter just a few hours ahead of the deadline for the budget cuts to take effect. In a move that would be considered “jumping the shark” on any other sit-com, the president even set aside a full seven minutes for the meeting.
There’s no predicting where such a wacky plot will go next, but our best guess is that it’s heading toward another one of those anti-climactic finales common to budget debates and other long-running television shows. What everyone’s waiting to find out is who will get the blame, of course, and that’s more easily predicted. Over at the Washington Post some of the writers seem concerned that the aforementioned poll results show that Obama has failed to whip up the intended frenzy of fear about the budget cuts, but those same polls indicate that a slight majority of Americans are willing to place the blame on the Republicans even if nothing noticeably bad happens. That’s become a natural instinct for a slight majority of Americans, and it doesn’t require that any attention be paid.

— Bud Norman

The Devil She Says

Demonizing one’s political opponents is a longstanding tradition in America, but few politicians have done it quite so literally as Rep. Maxine Waters.

The California congresswoman recently took the stage at her state’s Democratic convention, serenaded by a recording of “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” and gave a stemwinding speech in which she described House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as “demons.” Demons who are “destroying this country rather than bringing us together,” at that.

Hearing a Democrat invoke such religious language is surprising enough, but especially so when the accusation is hurtled at the likes of Boehner and Cantor. Boehner is best known for being lachrymose, hardly a habit one associates with demons, while Cantor is little known at all, largely a result of a low-key personality uncommon among demons. Both men are far too accomodating for the tastes of the average of Republican, who would much prefer they went about their obstructionism with a bit more demonic zeal.

The accusation is all the more galling coming from Waters, who was an apologists for her constituents’ hate crimes during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, steadfastly defended the government’s insistence on subprime lending right up to the moment it caused a financial meltdown, and advocates the nationalization of the energy industry, among other policies that are least as destructive as anything a demon might conjure.

Readers with a long memory for political fads will recall that a year or so ago, around the time Sarah Palin shot all those people in Arizona, Democrats were briefly enthused about “civility.” Apparently the fad has passed.

— Bud Norman