A Virtual Convention

The Democratic National Convention started on Monday, but like the 2020 version of everything else it was far different than usual. There were no ballrooms filled to the brim with button-wearing delegates, no bands playing campaign theme songs, and no network cameras or press scribes filling their notebooks.
That’s because the coronavirus version of the convention is “virtual,” with the candidates and delegates and party officials spread all over the country but connected by the modern miracle of the internet. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same old show.
Otherwise, it was the same old show.Some very famous celebrity we’ve never heard introduced four speakers, all of whom spoke on behalf of presumptive nominee. The choice of speakers, though, was a bit unusual.
Up first was Vermont Sen. and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Democratic party’s sizable bolshevik faction and the runner-up in the last two Democratic primary races. He spent the first part of his speech castigating Biden as a corporate sell-out for not endorsing Medicare for all and other far-left pipe dreams. This was a big favor to Biden, as it reassured swing voters that Biden’s not the looney left figure that Trump hopes to portray, and Sanders finished by imploring his followers to not let Trump win. He was followed by Michigans constantly upbeat and staunchly centrist Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who gave the impression of a fully unified Democratic party.
The next speaker was highly unusual because he’s a Republican, former Ohio Sen. and Governor John Kasich. Kasich has been one of the very, very few Republicans willing to criticize Trump, and eventually the criticisms mounted to a point that he’s endorsing the Democratic nominee. He can expect to be reviled by his erstwhile party, at least until he’s called upon to help revive it. The finale was by former First Lady Michelle Obama, whose famously heartfelt style came through as she described her personal relationship with Biden, but was able to strike a far harsher term when criticizing Trump.
All in all, a pretty good start for the Democrats. Assuming anyone was paying attention.

— Bud Norman


A Decent Day for the Democrats and a Good Day for the Rest of Us to Deal With Other Pressing Problems

Some annoying automotive and home repair chores and a much-needed dollar-night home game by our Wichita Wingnuts over at the local ballpark kept us preoccupied through most of Tuesday, so we were mostly spared the more irksome task of watching the Democratic National Convention. A quick mid-afternoon look around the internet turned up a Washington Post headline gloating that there was less booing of the soon-to-be nominee than on Monday, although that glum admission seems to have since disappeared from their internet site, and apres ballgame we checked once again to  find that the Democrats had gone right on ahead and made Hillary Clinton their nominee, after a slew of mostly un-booed speeches by former president and presumptive First “Gentleman” Bill Clinton and some other tawdry celebrities, and judging by the general gist of the coverage that awful Clinton woman had a far better day than our more deserving selves.
Monday’s un-ignorable outbreak of booing came mostly from the supporters of self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had waged a pesky but runner-up insurrection against the party establishment’s long preferred candidate, but on Tuesday he took to the stage to confess abject defeat to the party’s hated Wall Street establishment and utter terror of the Republican nominee and urge that all rules once again be suspended on behalf of Clinton to allow her a unanimous nomination vote. At last week’s desultory Republican National Convention the pesky anti-establishment insurrectionist had congratulated the newly established winner on his victory but declined to offer an explicit endorsement and instead urged party members to “vote your conscience,” which gives us hope that there’s still some shred of integrity clinging to the Republican Party’s soul but will surely be spun by most of the media that the Democrats are by now the more united of the two parties. The usual diverse selection of reviews we perused about the rest of it were mixed, to say the least, but all in all Clinton and the Democrats seem to have at long last held their own through a news cycle.
Even the most Never Trump yet Never Clinton and by now reluctantly None of the Above press organs such are ourselves that are left of what used to be called “conservatism” had to scoff at the sight of an old and gaunt and frail Bill Clinton trying to “humanize” his harridan of a wife with nostalgic recollections of their storybook romance and lasting marriage, as if anyone who around at the time won’t recall what a farce the younger and chubbier and more randy President of that long-ago and longed-for era of the Roaring ’90s made of it, and even the more polite “mainstream” outlets wound up acknowledging the need to “humanize” a woman who’s been in the public eye for what seems the past couple of centuries or so. Our lefty friends on Facebook seemed to love it, though, especially those endearingly innocent younger ones whose first inklings of fellatio and cigar tricks and other late night comic fare slightly predated the Roaring ’90s, and even the more seasoned members of the sisterhood who used to talk about inordinate power relationships and other outrages when Republicans did far less were still willing to give him an admittedly less enthusiastic thumbs up. An ideologically consistent feminist Sanders supporters would have decried the obvious hypocrisy of it all, but Sanders himself was calling for the suspension of the rules on her Clinton’s behalf, and the elder sisterhood and the third or fourth or five wave of whatever it is of the most up-to-date feminism was on board, and by now the suicidally committed sort of None of the Above ideological integrity seems to reside only with what’s left of what used to be called “conservatism.”
In our admittedly half-assed perusal of the rest of it, we noticed in a report from former our one-time freelance employer “People Magazine” that one of the acts was the television actress and writer Lena Dunham, best known as that naked chubby chick from HBO’s critically-acclaimed and little-watched “Girls” show, and a more comely young Latina with the unlikely name of America Ferrara, who is apparently famous for something or another, riffing on the Republican nominee’s sexism and racism. The chubby white chick groused that Trump would consider her a “2,” and the comely young Latina said that Trump would probably consider her a rapist because she’s of Mexican descent, although she’s actually apparently of Honduran descent, the joke being that Trump wouldn’t note any difference between a Honduran and a Mexican. We so wish we could object to this quadrennial disparagement of the sexism and racism of the Republican nominee, but Trump actually does have an annoying habit of going on shock jock radio shows and rating women on scales of one to 10 and we can’t help recalling someone we know who said he was going to vote for Trump in a primary because his only other options were a couple of Mexicans, and how when we pointed out that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were actually of Cuban descent he snarled “What’s the difference?” In a typical election year we’d gleefully ridicule the Democrats’ alliance with such celebrity nitwits as Dunham and Ferrara and that awful Michelle Obama woman who was much more all the rage among our liberal Facebook friends a day earlier, and we’ll gladly do so even this year, even if the Republican nominee himself didn’t dare take on the current First Lady in his “twitter” tirades, but this year we are compelled to admit the Republican convention did feature Scott “Chachi” Baio.
From our suddenly objective perspective we’d say the Democrats on Tuesday regained any ground lost on Monday, and might yet pick up a crucial couple of fractions of a percentage point if the nominee can somehow come across seemingly human on Thursday’s acceptance speech. The Democratic National Convention so far is the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing, as per the old drama critic joke, and the necessary corollary of that same of joke is that it’s kind of thing you’ll hate if you hate that kind of thing. So far we hate everything on every channel, even to the point we feel a certain angry gratitude for the irksome distractions of automotive and home repairs.
At least the Wichita Wignuts’ four-run second inning was enough for a 4-2 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs, extending their lead in the American Association’s Southern Division, and they even struck out the designated “beer batter” in the sixth to win the crowd a promotional $3.50 price on a sizable and delicious Shiner Bock beer. At this point there’s no telling who will prevail in this crazy presidential race, but no matter how it comes out, such small favors will sure come in handy.

— Bud Norman

Do Not Remain Calm, Democrats, All is Not Well

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took a slight lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Real Clear Politics’ widely watched average of polls on Monday, and at least three pundits were urging that the Democrats not panic about it. Given what was going on both outside and inside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, those pundits’ pleas for calm recall that scene in “Animal House” where Kevin Bacon is urging the townsfolk fleeing a fraternity-induced riot to “remain calm, all is well,” just before he is squashed into the sidewalk, Wile E. Coyote style, by the terrified trampling horde.
Outside the Wells Fargo Convention Hall there were large groups of angry supporters of self-described socialist and Democratic runner-up Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and shouting the same “Lock her up” chants that were de rigueur at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and even on the credentials-only inside the presumptive nominee hardly fared better. Surly Sanders delegates were booing any mention of Clinton’s name even during the opening prayer that the rigorously secular Democrats still offer for some reason or another, and kept it up even when Sanders himself was speaking on behalf of the presumptive nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Denbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was denied a speaking slot and will resign her post at the end of convention because of the leak of thousands of e-mails showing she had long plotted against Sanders on behalf of Clinton, endured a similar chorus of boos while addressing her home state of Florida’s delegates. Speeches by such liberal icons as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michele Obama and and illegal immigrant girl were better received, but hardly any reason to delay the panic.
Those Kevin Bacon-ish pundits pleading for Democratic calm could rightly point out that Trump’s lead is indeed slight, well within the margin of error, and that other usually reliable forecasting models continue to show Clinton with a lead, although also slight and well within their margins of error, and that of course the election remains a few months away, but a few months ago everybody had Clinton up nearly double digits so the clear trend is not encouraging for Clinton supporters. They rightly note that Clinton has far more money and a larger campaign apparatus, but the dissolution of her once formidable lead has come as she’s vastly out-spent her opponent on attack ads. They also note the Trump’s long forestalled lead came with the usual “convention bump,” but that was no usual convention the Republicans held and it didn’t get the “yuuge” ratings the candidate expects probably would have cost the usual candidate a point or two, and what’s going on in Philadelphia doesn’t seem likely to undo the damage.
Hope springs eternal in the Democratic soul, so there are also reassurances to the faithful that Trump will surely do something to disqualify himself from the race, but all hope has already been extinguished in our formerly Republican souls and we can’t think of any reason our leftists friends should have any. If they’re hoping that Trump will mock somebody’s handicap or disparage American prisoners of war or publicly boast about his penis size or peddle some bizarre and slanderous conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination he’s already done that, and much more, and got a bump in the polls every time. If they’ve got their fingers crossed that he’ll make some more dangerous statements about paying America’s creditors less than promised or not fulfilling our treaty obligations or taking The National Enquirer seriously, that all happened while he was taking his slight lead in the race.
Trump prevailed with such unprecedented tactics against a crowded field of better-funded and better-organized Republican challengers, who varied in quality but in every case were more appealing public figures than Clinton. What those pleading-for-calm pundits won’t tell their readers is that Clinton is such a thoroughly awful candidate in every way that her unfavorable ratings are now even higher than Trump’s, which is saying something that should provoke a widespread and bipartisan panic throughout the land. Her tenure as First Lady was mostly spent enabling her perv husband’s sexual assaults, which Democrats at the time applauded because at least he was pro-abortion, but these days the feminist wing that was supposed to go all sisterly solidarity for the First Woman President are carrying mattresses around campus to protest a mythical “culture of rape” with the Republican nominee praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and quite obviously insincere about his recently acquired anti-abortion principles nobody’s all that anxious about the looming theocracy these days. Her brief and inconsequential time in the Senate was mostly spent plotting her presidential run, which she lost to an even more junior and inconsequential Senator, and her run as Secretary of State was one disaster after another. She’s humorless, apparently in ill health, and every bit as mean and morally compromised as her more entertaining and robust opponent.
The longtime political operative doesn’t seem to understand this strange American moment nearly as well as the longtime reality television show star she’s running against, too, and thus has wound up on the wrong side of big issues. That 11-year-old illegal immigrant girl given a spot on the Democratic convention stage sure was cute, but no so cute as to dissuade the majority of Americans who are so eager for some semblance of immigration law enforcement that they’re even willing to indulge wild fantasies about giant walls that the Mexicans will pay for.
Her frequently stated belief that all Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people who have nothing to do with terrorism is more consequentially wrong than Trump’s wild overstatements about how they’re all out to get us and we have to start getting tough even on the Gallic French and Teutonic Germans who have been willingly living among them. Trump’s protectionist trade policies are so similar to the self-described socialists Sanders’ that he’s making an unlikely plea to Sanders’ supporters, and although Clinton has been dragged into pretty much the same disastrous and suddenly bipartisan position her past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade-friendly policies make her seem the less sincere of the two remaining contenders.
She’s also stuck with the race-baiting “Black Lives Matter” movement that isn’t playing well outside the black community that was going to vote for any old Democrat anyway, while Trump is so law-and-order that he once called for the execution of the young black and hispanic men convicted of raping the “Central Park Jogger” and then continued to do even after they were exonerated by incontestable physical evidence, which won’t endear him to those black voters who were going to vote Democrat anyway and probably won’t much bother many of his own supporters. Trump is against Obamacare, which is good enough for his supporters, and although his vague descriptions of a replacement that would “take care of everybody” and the “government’s going to pay for it” probably won’t win him many new supporters at least it will make it hard for Clinton to pull out the usual heartless capitalist cliches. Trump’s newfound enthusiasm for government-paid child care and “LGBTQ” issues right up to and including that creepy guy hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers obviates much of the old Democratic playbook, too, and somehow in this strange American moment it didn’t keep him from romping to a Republican nomination.
At this point Democrats might as well start facing the dreary fact we were forced to confront last week that either one of these dreadful candidates might win, and that in either case the country is going to lose. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, we advise trample them as you flee in horror and leave them squashed on the sidewalk in Wile E. Coyote fashion.

— Bud Norman

The First Lady’s Regrets

Times are tough all over and we don’t want to hear your gripes, especially if you’re the First Lady of the United States of America. Still, Michelle Obama took the occasion of Tuskegee University’s commencement ceremony to lament that nobody knows the troubles she’s seen.
The more polite pressmen over at The Hill described the speech as “Michelle Obama speaks of emotional toll of being first black first lady,” without the usual respectful capitalization in the headline, which is no doubt some sort of racist slight, and The New York Daily News went with an even more anodyne “Michelle Obama delivers Tuskegee University commencement address,” which could easily be understood as censorship of the truth she was she speaking to power or some such racist explanation, but we’ll go right ahead and call it the whining of a spoiled brat. To say that Obama lives like a queen is a gross overstatement, given the wide disparity between what America’s ostensible republic spends on her and what any official monarchy spends on its queen, and how Obama has more ostentatiously flaunted her privilege than any uneasy head that wears a crown would ever dare, and how relatively obliging the media coverage is, so her ordeal as First Lady hardly inspires our pity.
She recalled that when her husband was winning election as President of the United States someone described their celebratory fist-pump as a “terrorist fist-jab,” that someone else accused her of “uppity-ism,” and that yet another person somewhere or another referred to her as “Obama’s baby mama,” and we don’t doubt a word of it, this being a populous country full of 320 million people who say all sorts of nasty things about one another. It seems a rather small inconvenience compared to the compensations of being First Lady, though, at least from our perspective as regular American schmucks who routinely endure worse insults despite our straight white Christian male privilege, and often from the First Lady’s husband’s administration. She generously concedes that other potential presidential wives were subjected to questions about what kind of First Lady she might be and what causes she might champion, but said that “as potentially the first African-American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” All we can remember of the ’08 press was coverage of her muscled arms and middle-class upbringing and a few snide conservative press pieces about her resentful and poorly-written thesis at Princeton and her well-paid gig as a “diversity officer” at a hospital receiving even greater amounts of money from a state where her husband was a prominent Senator, but we can see how that questions about too loud and too angry were worth asking, and at this point we’re keen to know just how emasculating is enough.
The First Lady of the United States went on to empathize with her fellow African-Americans who have felt “invisible” for the past many decades, as if she hasn’t been all too visible, and shared her fears of those pesky traffic stops by police officers, as if she knows what it’s like to be even a white male driving a red convertible without a safety belt, one of those pointless violations that her party adamantly supports even though it increases the chances of a a newsworthy encounter between the police and an unarmed black male. Just like her party has supported policies that have kept black unemployment high and black household income down and effective law enforcement in black neighborhoods subdued. Obama also told her audience not to become cynical, to continue supporting the same Democratic candidates that have prevailed over the past decades in Baltimore and the rest of those of oppressed portions of America, but we hope that the graduate of such an august institution of higher learning as Tuskegee University will have some questions.

— Bud Norman

Our First Kind Words for the First Lady

Unaccustomed as we are to saying nice things about the First Lady, we have to offer her our kudos for the fashion statement she made Tuesday in Saudi Arabia. She was wearing another one of those garish garments that all the fashion critics swoon over, but it conspicuously did not include the submissive sort of head cover that women are expected to don in deference to the Islamic kingdom. One can only hope that the rest of the diplomatic entourage will be just as bold in asserting western values over foreign custom.
The Saudis are already miffed about America’s recent lack of assertiveness in the region, with the recently deceased king making no secret of his disdain for the administration’s disappearing “red line” in Syria, its solicitous courtship of Shiite and Persian Iran during that country’s ongoing attempt to build nuclear weapons that will threaten Sunni and Arab countries, and its general lack of reliability to longstanding allies. Which is why the president and his wife were flying into Saudi Arabia for some placating words with the new king. The visit will no doubt include assurances that America continues to overlook the country’s horrible human rights record and support for terrorism and world-wide funding of a radical Wahhabi strain of Islamism, and probably some talk about the president’s Islamic parentage and education and his instinctive empathy for the victims of western colonialism and all that, but the reputed Obama charm will have to be more effective than usual. The troublesome Islamic State continues its rampage in Syria, where the troublesome dictator is still in power, American allies in neighboring Yemen have recently had to head for the hills, no one in the Middle East can help noticing that even America’s friendship with Israel has been severely strained, and it will take some rather silver-tongued oratory to teach the Saudis to stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb. There’s a new king in Saudi Arabia, but the view from the throne remains the same.
At this point we can’t think of much more the president might have to offer except an I-Pod full of speeches about the Islamic world’s glorious contributions to world civilization and the Republicans’ diabolical desire for dirty air and dirty water. Retreat and apologia haven’t had the intended pacifying effect on the Middle East, the spats with Israel have not only failed to ingratiate us with the Sunni and Arab countries that suddenly find themselves threatened by the same Shiite and Persian Iran but have also reinforced an American reputation for fecklessness, and resuming our former role as a deterring power in the region is of course impossible for ideological reasons. In the post-FDR and pre-Obama era all the talk on a trip to Saudi Arabia would have been oil prices, which have lately been low due hydraulic fracturing and the Saudi’s efforts to undercut America’s domestic industry as well as the Iranian government into submission, but this issue attracted little attention in the news coverage. Given Obama’s ideological opposition to fossil fuels and his political desire to take credit for the oil boom, we would have been interested to hear what he said if the subject ever did come up.
So, we figure the First Lady might as well keep her head uncovered while visiting Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it was just a fashion statement, or just a manifestation of that sense of entitlement that is so frequently annoying in a domestic context, or even some signal that the administration is about to sign off on Persian and Shiite hegemony in the Middle East, but we’d like to think she was making a small gesture on behalf of the right of women everywhere to freely choose what they wear. This would imply a broader criticism of the treatment of women in much of the Islamic world, and call into question the validity of the cultural relativism that has become an unassailable tenet of the western left, and although we doubt she intended to go quite that far we credit her with taking a small step.

— Bud Norman

Settling for Less Than a Third Term

There is speculation in the press that First Lady Michelle Obama will make a run for the Senate in ’16, and we are heartened to hear it. As much as we dread the prospect of her ever holding any public office, it is an encouraging sign of the left’s lowered expectations that she’s settling for something so inconsequential as the Senate.
Way back in ’08, when hope and change and every liberal chin were in the air, the ambitions were greater. Candidate Barack Obama was sending tingling feelings down the legs of television commentators, being hailed by his awestruck admirers as a “messiah” and “an attuned being with powerful luminosity and high-vibration intensity who will actually usher in a new way of being,” his wife was promising that “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual,” the man himself proclaimed that his nomination to the presidency marked “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” and all of the smart people and most of the electorate bought into it. Our most earnestly pro-Obama friends confidently predicted that by the middle of Obama’s second term the country would be clamoring for the repeal of the 22nd Amendment to allow for his third term, or that Michelle Obama would win by a landslide to provide another eight years by proxy.
As unlikely as it sounded, even at the time, the trick had been successfully tried before. When Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace ran into term limits back in the late ’60s his wife, the delightfully named Lurleen Wallace, became the state’s first and thus-far only female governor on a promise to continue all of his policies. Both Wallaces were strict segregationists, so the Obamas might prefer another precedent, but at least they were Democrats and showed that it can be done. There’s also former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s successful run for  Senate in New York after she took her carpet bag to that reliably blue state, but the Obamas will probably also prefer not to cite that. In any case neither analogy quite fits, as Alabama was clamoring for more of George Wallace and New York couldn’t get enough Clinton, proving that craziness has taken hold in all sorts of places at all sorts of times, but even our most earnestly pro-Obama friends aren’t saying anything about either the 22nd Amendment or a Michelle for President campaign.
This suggests that some sanity is creeping back into the body politic, and we welcome that, but it is distressing to think that there still enough of the craziness left that Michelle Obama might wind up in the Senate. She’d be running in Illinois, where her husband was an ever “present” legislator for several years before winning his own Senate seat and then carrying the state twice by large margins in presidential races, and although Republican Sen. Mike Kirk is generally well-regarded and is so clean by Illinois standard that he hasn’t so much as been sent to prison he would be hard-pressed to match the fund-raising and media cover and star power of another Obama campaign. Recent polling suggests that former Obama chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unpopular, the state’s dire fiscal situation and lowered bond ratings and high unemployment and general dishevelment is widely noticed, and those down-state Republicans are highly energized, but it’s still Illinois and anything is still possible there.
First Ladies have always enjoyed a certain status as women who married well, too, for at least as long as we can remember. Jackie Kennedy was probably the most revered of our days, what with the good looks and the high fashion and all, and Hillary Clinton benefited even further from the public sympathy for her husband’s serial infidelities, but even someone so un-telegenic as Pat Nixon always topped the most-admired polls even, and the gracefully non-controversial Laura Bush held the spot even as her husband was being pilloried in the press and popular culture. Michelle Obama will reap the same benefits, and a press ridden with white guilt will strive to give her just a bit more, so as long as she isn’t running for president she should be formidable.
Any possible Michelle Obama campaign is still two years away, however, and if current trends continue her name will be less valuable even in Illinois, but we suppose she could run on her own qualifications as a candidate. She went to Princeton and graduated with honors on the strength of the papers she wrote about racist and awful it was, parlayed that and her husband’s political connections into a three-hundred-grand-a-year diversity gig at a hospital, spent her years as First Lady staying at ritzy vacation spots and living high on the taxpayer hog while giving speeches about how tough she used to have it, promoted a school lunch menu that children everywhere hated, and fueled endless tabloid rumors about her marriage with photographs of herself sizing up the French Prime Minister’s far hotter wife or glaring with clearly hostile intent at her husband as he poses for “selfies” with comely European heads of state and otherwise looks foolish on the world stage. She famously declared that her husband’s likely victory in a presidential race was “the first time in my adult life I’ve been proud of my country,” a quote that Sen. Kirk might want to revive in his campaign advertisements, and she’ll have to make a case why she’s still proud that Barack Obama hasn’t allowed us to live our lives as usual. The people of Illinois might buy it, but at least she won’t be selling it to the entire country.

— Bud Norman

Brown, Brownback, and Black

First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech in Kansas over the past weekend, and by all press accounts it was a big hit. The press here is every bit as liberal and inclined to fawn over her as it is anywhere else in the country, though, and the speech was delivered in a state capital that is full of government workers with the same liberal and fawning political proclivities as their public sector counterparts elsewhere. We suspect that the more authentic sort of Kansans shared our skepticism about her remarks.
Distaff Obama did not venture here with any hopes of turning our blood-red state blue, but rather to mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision that began the end of segregated schooling in America. Being very traditional Republicans from the Bleeding Kansas days we are opposed to any government-enforced segregation in public institutions, so we also celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, even if we wish it had been made on strict constructionism and radical Republican-inspired 14th Amendment grounds rather than all that silly social science playing-with-dolls nonsense that permeates the decision, but Obama went far beyond that bedrock principle with more up-to-date notions about diversity that warrant questioning. She argued that this year’s high school graduates should instruct their elders on the benefits of ethnic diversity in schools, bemoaned the success of retrograde racists in re-segregating America’s schools, and left an unmistakable inference that her husband’s brand of liberalism is the solution to lingering racial strife, all of which are unmitigated bunk.
“It’s up to all of you to drag my generation’s and your grandparents’ generation along with you,” the First Lady told Topeka’s diversely-educated graduating high school seniors, urging they correct any offensive opinions that their elders might utter. This seems laudable on those occasions when grandpa goes off on some racist rant about keeping the colored folks in their place, even if we’d urge a respectful “‘c’mon, gramps,” rather than a high-minded oration that might result in a slap to the uppity young ‘uns face, but we can’t help wondering how often that comes up in this enlightened day and age. Brown v. Topeka Board of Eduction was handed down 60 years ago, after all, so most of those graduates’ grandparents matriculated during the post-Brown hippie era and enjoyed the same benefits of a multi-cultural education. Our own experience of public school diversity suggests that the main effect is being beaten up and robbed of lunch money by children of all colors, and we still wonder if a school that stressed readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic wouldn’t have been preferable no matter the ethnic composition of the student body, but at it least it taught us not to go off on racist rants about keeping the colored folk in their place even in the comfort of a family gathering. Such rants are even more unlikely in Topeka, where much of the population is gainfully employed by some state-funded diversity program or another, so we are not surprised the youth of that city were so eager to accept the invitation to sassiness. These days racism is so broadly defined that any mild criticism of Obama administration policies is included, and permission to rebuke such outrages understandably plays well with Topeka’s youth.
“Many young people are going to school largely with kids who look just like them,” Obama told the graduates, who were left with the impression that her political opponents must be to blame for this unfortunate turn of events. The students and their parents mixed boos with a few cheers when Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was introduced at the speech, as the state’s press gleefully noted, although it’s understandable in a company town where the CEO is doing some necessary downsizing, but Brownback was predictably pro-Brown v. Board in his brief remarks and presides over a state with a far better record of desegregation than such reliably Democratic jurisdictions as New York or California, and such ham-fisted efforts as school busing and the current administration’s insistence on union rule and discipline-by-quota and resistance to quantifiable readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic are the most plausible reasons why so many well-heeled Democrats including the Obamas have pulled their children out of the public schools.
That bit about “kids who look just like them” rankled, too. We’re old enough to recall a time when it was considered an egregious breach of racial etiquette to comment on the resemblance between any two black people, no matter how doppelganger-like that similarity might be, but these days even the President of the United States and his First Lady seem proud to assert that peoples of certain color all do indeed look like. As people of pallor we resent implication that we resemble the late Marty Feldman, and we take umbrage on Denzel Washington’s behalf that anyone would think he looks like that guy who played “J.J.” on the old “Good Times” sit-com. It’s the sort of thing that grandparents should chide their grandchildren for suggesting, if that were still socially acceptable.
Worst of all, to our ears, was the unspoken but unmistakable claim that what’s needed is more of the divide-and-consquer identity group politics that is a hallmark of the Obama administration. The government should be color-blind in dispensing its services, as Brown v. Topeka Board of Education asserted, but it should leave the rest of it to the people to work out. It’s a tricky process but we’re doing a better job of here in blood-red Kansas than in the more enlightened states Back East and Out West, and the First Lady’s advice to rag on ol’ hippie grandpa for grousing about Obamacare issn’t helpful.

— Bud Norman

The Grand Tour

Way back in our younger days it was a widely accepted truism that only Nixon could go to China, but these days anyone with the airfare and cost of a decent hotel can do it. Even First Lady Michelle Obama, who can simply put the trip on the taxpayers’ ever-swelling tab, is currently on tour on in China.
First Ladies usually get the kid-glove treatment from the press, especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents, and most especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents who can claim some historic ethnic first or another, but this trip has garnered some unusually critical coverage. That’s partly because of Obama’s inexplicable decision to not bring along her usually adoring media groupies, partly because of the explanation that it’s a “non-political” trip makes the undisclosed but easily guessed-at price-tag seem all the more extravagant, and to no small extent because she has come across as what in our younger days was known as an ugly American.
Granted, the sneering coverage has come from British press that is always snarkier and less politically-correct than its American counterpart. The reliably conservative Telegraph headlined that because of the refined behavior of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s wife “China Claims Victory in Battle of First Ladies.” The even snarkier but less reliably conservative Daily Mail reported that the Obama entourage was racking up an $8,350-per-night lodging bill for their 3,400-square-foot suit, and that despite such amenities as a 24-hour butler the First Lady’s mother was driving the hotel staff to distraction with her constant demands and criticisms. The temptation to crack the inevitable mother-in-law jokes must have been difficult for the American press, but they resisted admirably and contented themselves with straight-forward coverage of Obama’s public pronouncements.
Even the most straightforward accounts could not help embarrassing to the First Lady, however. At one point Obama was lecturing the Chinese on the need to tolerate dissent and political criticism, noting with pride the unending tolerance she and her husband have for such lese majeste, but the reports’ failure to mention the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups or its vilification of prominent opponents was conspicuous. Other reports proudly quoted Obama urging the Chinese to undertake educational reforms, with USA Today adding that “she has won praise for her approachability and admiration for her comments supporting freedom of speech,” but surely only the most star-struck readers weren’t reminded of her husband’s obeisance to the teachers’ unions and opposition to charter schools or vouchers or any other serious educational reform. One hopes that the first kids are enjoying the pricey visit, and not proving too much a pain in the neck to the hotel staff, but otherwise it’s hard to see what the taxpayer is getting for his money in this visit.

— Bud Norman

The Right to Bear Flabby Arms

Sooner or later the do-gooders were going to get around to the fat people. Picking on the smokers, tokers, gun-toters, and taxpayers was never going to sate their lust for lovingly-applied power, and fat people make such an inviting target for even the most well-meaning bullies.
The crusade suffered a setback on Monday when a court threw out New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on “sugary drinks” larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, but that surely won’t be the end of it. Bloomberg, a media magnate-turned-municipal nanny who seems intent on proving the old Wallis Simpson adage that you can never be too rich or too thin, has already vowed an appeal. Having already prevailed in his war on smokers and gotten away such heavy-handed anti-heaviness tactics as his ban on trans-fats and salt shakers, Bloomberg has every reason to expect that he’ll prevail yet again.
We had hoped that the court would find a citizen’s right to order any size soda he damn well chooses somewhere within all those penumbras and whatnots where they found a right to abortion, but instead they found the ban merely “arbitrary and capricious” because it was enacted by the mayor’s health board rather than the city council and applied only to restaurants and not convenience stores or other purveyors of jumbo-sized pop. This means that the mayor need only ram it through an equally self-righteous majority of councilmen and then make it even more far-reaching, so we expect that the beautiful people of New York City will soon be spared the unsightly spectacle of their heftier fellow citizens waddling around sucking up caffeinated calories from bucket-sized cups. The meddlesome mayor has graciously announced that he “probably” won’t mandate gym memberships and no-pain-no-gain workouts, and thus far his assaults on too-loud earphone use are only rhetorical, but by the time Bloomberg is finished even the most fashionable New Yorkers will likely be pining for the decadent freedom of a small prairie town.
Whatever the fate of Bloomberg’s soda ban he can count on the continued assistance of Michelle Obama, the famously buff First Lady who has made fat kids her favorite cause. Obama’s latest effort against childhood obesity came in a speech at George Washington University, where she suggested that “product placement” in grocery stores could create a world in which “kids are begging and throwing tantrums to get you to buy more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” Setting aside the question of whether Madison Avenue’s most sophisticated techniques could ever cure a normal child of his sweet tooth, there’s something slightly discomfiting about the notion of the government compelling private enterprises to employ shrewd marketing techniques to promote its own notions of what individuals should do in their private lives. This sort of thing is sometimes called fascism, at least when Republicans do it, and good intentions make it no more palatable.
Those of you who don’t smoke, stay trim, and keep your earphones turned to a Carpenters level of volume should be congratulated on your virtuous lifestyles but should not feel immune from the nosiness of the nanny state. You’re doing something they don’t like, and after they get all those fat people whipped into shape they’ll sooner or later get around to you.

— Bud Norman

Permanent Vacation

It’s only the sexual hypocrisy that society finds galling. Whenever a big-haired televangelist or family values-spouting politician gets caught with a hooker, or is discovered in some similarly salacious behavior, the ridicule rains down and the offender is roundly condemned in the press.

The hypocrisies more common to the left are somehow more tolerable. An environmentalist who rides a private jet to a conference to rail about carbon footprints, a poverty activist who pockets a six-figure income, or a politician who campaigns on a soak-the-wealthy platform while living the lifestyle of the rich and famous can expect that the gap between his rhetoric and his behaviors will go largely unremarked.

Which is probably why Michelle Obama doesn’t mind being photographed by the paparazzi as she slaloms down the fashionable and high-priced slopes of Aspen, Colorado.

There is a sensible rule against commenting on First Ladies, and one shouldn’t begrudge a First Lady some time off the job, as hectoring everyone to eat their vegetables and being a celebrity is no doubt tiring work, but the spectacle of Michelle Obama indulging in her family’s 16th lavish, extended, and largely taxpayer-funded vacation demands that an exception be made. This is the same First Lady, after all, who advised that American women “Don’t go into corporate America” and boasted that she and her husband had made the choice “to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry.” The same First Lady who decried America as “just downright mean.” The same First Lady whose husband has declared that “At some point you’ve made enough money” and is running for re-election with an explicit appeal to class resentments.

The young leftists railing against the wretched excesses of the hated “one percent” don’t seem to mind, and the late night comics and the high-brow pundits aren’t making much of it, but perhaps it won’t go unnoticed by the many Americans who will be forgoing vacations entirely because of hard times and high gas prices.

— Bud Norman