Bluntness is Not the Best Policy

President Donald Trump has a penchant for frankly blurting out whatever is on his mind at the moment, and he became president largely by persuading a plurality of the electorate  that’s somehow a good thing. What served him well enough as a presidential candidate has often proved a problem during his presidency,however,  as happened several times on Thursday.
The biggest headlines were about Trump telling a bipartisan gathering of congress members that he objected to allowing immigration from such “shit-holes” as Haiti and El Salvador various African countries, and then opining we should be bringing in more immigrants from countries such as Norway. Relatively little attention was paid to the barnyard epithet, and at this point Trump has so degraded the level of political discourse with his cussing that we no longer bother to bowdlerize it with those pointless asterisks that much of the mainstream media still quaintly use, and by now we even relish rubbing the wayward Trump apologists among our evangelical brothers’ and sisters’ noses in it, but the apparent prejudice of the remark was more widely noticed.
There are perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments to be made for favoring immigration from some countries rather than others, and for perfectly valid and not at all racist reasons Haiti and El Salvador and several African countries are among the less desirable and Norway is among the more desirable, and we would have preferred that Trump make that case. He’s not much good at that kind of rhetoric, though, and what we he wound up blurting out instead was not only vulgar but clearly suggested a prejudiced state of mind. All the Democrats from districts with large hispanic and Caribbean and African-American populations were entitled to their outraged comments, the Republicans from Florida and the impeccably conservative yet ethnically Haitian Utah Rep. Mia Love joined in the denunciations, and no one in the remaining respectable precincts of Republican opinion defended the remark.
The talk radio talkers and the rest of the Trump apologists in the less respectable precincts Republican opinion will try to wed the remark to those perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments for immigration reform, and they’ll rightly note that none of those offended Democrats plan to spend any vacation time in Haiti or El Salvador or several African countries, and the true die-hards will continue to love Trump for saying out loud what they’re thinking. Their chances of persuading the rest of the country have been severely diminished, though, and the arguments that Trump isn’t a racist are even harder to make. We’d also note that there are bound to be a few impeccably conservative Republicans such as Love coming from even the most shit-hole countries, that few Norwegians and people from other first world countries are yearning immigrate anywhere, for obvious reasons, and that Trump isn’t lately doing much to make America a more attractive alternative.
Trump also “tweeted” his objections to the routine re-authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, apparently in response to an earlier “Fox & Friends” report about how the act had authorized part of the ongoing probe into the “Russia thing,” which was followed by a phone call from House Speaker Paul Ryan explaining the respectable Republican opinion on the matter, and 101 minutes after the initial “tweet” Trump followed by another blurting of whatever was then on his mind by saying that “Today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get Smart!” By all accounts, things grew testy when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to explain that to the smarty-ass press corps.
There was also the expected late-night comedy show guffawing about Trump’s boasts that his earlier profanity-free and not at all racist 53 minutes of televised meeting about immigration had gone so well that the network anchors had sent him letters calling it the best meeting ever, which was obviously and laughably untrue, especially after he wound up promising to sign whatever those congressional swamp creatures passed, and some other ridiculous blurting out of whatever of was on his mind at the time which we can’t quite recall now.
There’s a reasonable and not at all racist argument to be made that Trump is doing some things right, and that insisting on a more restrictive immigration policy is among them, and at the very least he hasn’t kept the stock market from soaring the unemployment rate from dropping at the same steady rate of the past few years. The election year argument that Trump should keep blurting out whatever’s on his mind without a moment’s consideration of  the consequence of a president’s word, though, is looking more stupid than ever.

— Bud Norman


A Good Day, All in All

There was a lot of good news on Tuesday. Republicans won control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives, reelected a few governors who will now be formidable presidential candidates, and the drubbed Democrats are blaming their already unpopular president. Still, our reaction is a sense of relief rather than elation.
That unpopular president will remain in office for another two years to create all sorts of domestic havoc with his pen and phone and penchant for ignoring constitutional restraints, he’ll still have plenty of legitimate authority to continue his disastrous foreign policy, and the best one can hope for from the newly Republican Congress is that they’ll limit the damage. Although the president was brusquely rebuffed by the electorate that will likely make him all the more defiant of public opinion, and the election results cannot be seen as a widespread public embrace of any Republican principles rather a much-needed obstructionism. Several races were saved by a temporary truce between the warring factions of the Republican party, a welcome development, but the divisions remain and the elections will likely bolster the less conservative side. Such godawful Democrats as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall survived the night, too, and such sizable states as New York and California remain lost causes.
Our reflexive Republican gloominess notwithstanding, however, there really was a lot of good news. The sound of “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid” is soothing to our ears, and a more conservative and assertive House majority might well prod its Senate colleagues into a more confrontational stance. The surviving Democrats won’t feel any further obligation to rally around a lame duck president who did little to offer them help and often seemed intent on sabotaging their campaigns, and whatever mischief the president might attempt on his own is going to be a good issue for the Republicans to run on in the next presidential race should the country survive to that late date. That nonsense about a “Republican war on women” fell so flat it probably won’t be revived any time soon, shameful efforts to increase black turnout with talk of Republicans gunning down innocent black children in the streets didn’t prevent their candidates from losing in Georgia and North Carolina and other southern states, and even great gobs of money from labor unions and fashionably liberal billionaires and gullible unemployed hipsters living in their parents’ basements under a fading “Hope and Change” poster couldn’t buy a win in the most hotly contested races.
Some pretty impressive politicians also stepped into the spotlight, too. We’re expecting good things from Senator-elect Joni Ernst in Iowa and Representative-elect Elise Stefanik in New York and Utah’s Representative-elect Mia Love, among others who won their first races, and we can also hope that their hard-earned wins put a final nail in the coffin of that “war on women” nonsense. Gov. Scott Walker’s comfortable margin of victory in Wisconsin, which was his third win in four years after a brutal recall effort two years ago, and came despite the more bare-knuckle sort of tactics by the pubic sector unions he had bravely challenge, sets him up nicely for a presidential run that we would be inclined to support. Wins by the similarly successful governors Rick Perry of Texas, John Kasich of Ohio, and Rick Snyder of Michigan indicate that the party will have a strong field of candidates outside of Washington, D.C., to choose from. Almost as satisfying was that such odious Democrats as Texas gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis and incumbent Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and Wisconsin gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke not only lost but wound up as laughingstocks in the process.
Things worked out well here in Kansas, as well, although it was too close for the comfort to which we have become accustomed. Gov. Sam Brownback had to sweat out a tight race, having annoyed the teachers’ unions and the Republicans who had been nicked by his budget-cutting and the hard-core Democrats who for some reason seethe with a red-hot hatred for every curly hair on his head, but he won despite the further disadvantage of not being able to tie a gubernatorial candidate to that unpopular president. We know Brownback to be a good man, but we’re mainly glad that the Democrats won’t be able to claim that his tax-and-budget-cutting policies had been repudiated.  In a race without an admitted Democrat, Sen. Pat Roberts won by a more comfortable margin, although not nearly what a Republican incumbent should expect in this state.  We attribute the victory mainly to that unpopular president and the putatively independent opponent’s inability to avoid an association with him, but also to the endorsements of such locally beloved conservative icons as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been at the forefront of a national effort to restrict voting to eligible voters, survived an challenge that had been well-funded from donors around the nation who seek make voter fraud easier. All the Republican congressional incumbents won handily, including the First District’s Tim Huelskamp, whose conservative fervency had so annoyed his own party’s leadership that he was stripped of important committee assignments and was at one point thought vulnerable. Our favorite Sedgwick County Commissioner won, too, despite the reservation of the Republicans with a business interest in county politics and the Democrats’ lavish backing of an heiress to a local black political dynasty.

All the state and local races were close enough that the Democrats around here had great expectations, so it was also nice to see their hopes dashed yet again. Tuesday might not prevent another desultory couples of years, but it did provide some compensatory satisfactions.

— Bud Norman

Feeling the Hate

Being so darned loveable, and hewing so faithfully to a live-and-let-live philosophy of life, we’re always surprised to be reminded how very much some people hate us. Perhaps we shouldn’t take it personally, as many of the people who loudly proclaim their hate for us don’t actually know us at all, but it’s rather disconcerting nonetheless.

Just as the tropical storm Isaac has unleashed a flood of water on many an unfortunate fortunate soul in Louisiana, the Republican National Convention in Florida seems to have caused a torrent of vile emotion among the left that has breached the metaphorical levees of civility and threatens to drown the proceedings in hatred. As registered members of the Grand Old Party, who have consistently voted in its primaries and usually wind up voting for its members, we can’t help feeling a bit offended.

The actress Ellen Barkin, for instance, is hoping that some act of God or another will smite us. She reportedly “tweeted,” in reference to the Republican conventioneers, “C’mon #Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean!” We’ll admit that we’re not the least bit anti-life, but we very much favor an educational system that will teach people to communicate without resort to numeral signs, we have no quarrel with womankind — only certain women — and we’re not irrationally fearful of foreigners, we haven’t bashed any gays, and we can’t think of anything racist we’ve done lately, but we expect that we’re still Republican enough that she’d like us to see come to hurricane-related harm.

Our pain is slightly alleviated by the realization that we have only vaguest idea of who Ellen Barkin is, and that she’s apparently not the Hollywood hottie such used to be, but we’re stung by the similarly angry death wishes of the somewhat more familiar Samuel L. Jackson. The actor, who specializes in playing angry criminals, took to his “Twitter” account to lament that God had spared the Republicans His angry wrath. Littering his vengeful theology with numerous profanities, Jackson declared the lack of carnage at the convention “unfair shit,” although he later apologized to “God, Tampa, da GOP & Isaac(sp)!,” adding the equally illiterate “Who played the Race card?!”

Racist and sexist though we may be, we were quite taken with the convention speech delivered by Mia Love, a small town mayor and congressional candidate who looked to be both African-American and female. Because Love was speaking at a Republican convention, however, we found that some disapproving on-line vandals had altered a Wikipedia page about her to describe her as a “nigger” and a “whore.” Such language apparently proves one’s anti-racist and anti-sexist bona fides on the modern left, but it struck us as rather rude.

Love wasn’t the only proud black woman being abused at the convention, as no less an impressive person as Condoleezza Rice was subjected to an attempted citizens’ arrest by the radical leftist Code Pink organization, which had already found her guilty of war crimes. Groups such as Code Pink never seem to attempt citizens arrests of dictators such as Saddam Hussein, who killed more Iraqis than Rice ever did, but we suspect that’s because it would entail more risk and less self-righteous satisfaction.

There numerous other examples of such hateful rhetoric, coming from sources ranging from journalists to anonymous “Twitter” account-holders, and little of it bears repeating here. We think it worth noting, though, that the convention which inspired such fevered language was strikingly free of racial slurs, sexist epithets, and wishes for the deaths of others. Republicans are devious that way.

— Bud Norman

About Those Speeches

The art of political oratory has become so degraded in America that Barack Obama was able to pass himself off as a silver-tongued speaker just four years ago, but we still enjoy hearing what passes for speechifying these days. What we heard on the radio Tuesday from the Republican National Convention was mostly pretty good, at least by contemporary standards, and likely to compare well with next week’s efforts by the Democrats.

We missed most of the address by Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, candidate for congress, and a rising star of the conservative movement, but saw that her address won plaudits from the right-wing commentators and by all accounts “electrified” the crowd. The portion we did hear was indeed rousing, stressing the traditional Republican values of self-reliance and personal responsibility with a convincingly personal touch, and we expect we’ll be hearing more from her in the comings months. Those watching the convention on MSNBC apparently missed all of the speech, as the left-wing network simply cut away from all of the black and Latino speakers lest their audience be confused about why a crowd full of racists were cheering so loudly for a black woman such as Love.

Former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential contender Rick Santorum also spoke, and while he probably managed to get his many supporters enthused about the Romney candidacy we don’t expect the speech had much appeal beyond his fans. The speech was a strange extended metaphor about hands, starting with the gnarled but strong hands of his coal-mining father and running through the various sorts of hands he shook while campaigning, and although it had some kind words for traditional Judeo-Christian values it was light on the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that scared the children and the secular reporters during the campaign.

Even the ABC reporters who kept interrupting the speakers on the radio were hard-pressed to find much fault with a rousing speech by the nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, who gave an endearingly personal account of her husband’s career. The main chore facing the Romney campaign, which has been besieged by the most extravagant sort of negative advertising, seems to be convincing the public that he’s not a top-hatted villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks for cackling laughs, and the speech was probably effective at countering that cartoonish image. By hearing it on the radio we missed out on the full effect of her classy good looks, but even so we found it very compelling and just the sort of thing that should have particular appeal to the kind of women who are susceptible to the Democrats’ most outrageous slanders.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie gave a good speech, but that was disappointing because we’d been expecting a great one. The famously burly governor of New Jersey has some heretical views typical of his region, especially on gun rights and radical Islamist jurists, but on the crucial issue of fiscal sanity he’s been heroic, and he’s achieved great things in a stubbornly liberal state by stating the cold, hard facts of life with his legendary bluntness, so it seemed certain that he’d lay it on with extra gusto in a prime time spot. Alas, although he talked about being blunt he failed to do so, and left us wanting more.

Perhaps we’ll get it when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make their acceptance speeches. Both will probably attempt to be at their most likeable, but they’re genuinely likeable guys if you don’t happen to hate successful people, so the effort shouldn’t prevent them from laying out the difficult truths that Christie spoke of. We don’t anticipate anything along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “The War Inevitable” or Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, but it should be pretty good.

— Bud Norman