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Trump’s Bad Week, and We Dare You to Say Otherwise

Several of our beloved Republican friends and family members are imploring us to take it easy on President Donald Trump and his heroic efforts to make America great again, but this is a hard time to oblige them. Try as we might, we just can’t muster any kind words for the past week of Trump’s presidency.
It all started last Tuesday, a midterm election day when the Democrats won a slight majority in the House of Representatives and the Republicans only slightly padded their majority in Senate despite an unusually favorable electoral map and generally healthy economy. On Wednesday Trump declared a near total victory during a even more contentious than usual news conference, complaining that a black woman reporter from the Public Broadcasting System’s questions about Trump’s embrace of the “nationalist” label was racist, and calling a white male Cable News Network reporter whose press pass was shortly thereafter revoked by the White House a “rude and terrible person,” and he also taunted all the losing Republican candidates in districts and states that Trump lost by a landslide for for failing to fully embrace him, and vowing a “war-like stance” against in incoming Democratic majority in the House.. Later that day he forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an otherwise loyal foot soldier who had committed the unforgivable sin of ethically recusing himself from from a special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” and temporarily replaced him with a little-known Justice Department official who was on the televised record saying he would put an end to that pesky “Russia thing” problem.
By the end of Wednesday the counting of all the early votes around the country had bolstered the Democratic landslide  in the House to post-Watergate record levels and diminished that slight Republican majority in the Senate, and several prominent congressional Republicans were openly objecting to to Trump’s temporary appointment of an obvious political hack who was clearly chosen to protect Trump from that pesky “Russia thing” investigation. When a Harvard-educated black woman reporter from CNN asked the obvious question of the day during an impromptu news conference if the appointment had been made to thwart the special counsel investigation, he snarled that “That’s a stupid question, but I’ve been watching you, and you ask a lot of stupid questions.” He then completed the trifecta by calling the other third prominent black woman in the White House press corps a “total loser,” even though she was mostly out of the news of the day.
By Thursday Trump was distancing himself from that political hack he’d appointed as acting Attorney General, saying he didn’t know the guy and only appointed him because he’d been chief of staff to the Attorney General he had just forced to resign, which gave all the other networks a chance to gleefully replay Trump’s assurances to Fox News viewers that he knew the interim appointment well. Meanwhile the Democrats’ victorious midterm election day totals swelled, and Trump was “tweeting” plausible yet unconfirmed allegations that the Democrats were cheating and that any results that don’t favor the Republicans are illegitimate.
On Friday Trump was flying to Europe for a solemn centennial commemoration of when the United States and its longtime French and English and other democratic allies won a temporary victory in World War I, but Trump managed to mangle even that golden opportunity. Before he touched ground on French soil Trump “tweeted” his disapproval of the French President Emmanuel Macron, based on some bad reporting about French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a formidable pan-European military force, which Trump incorrectly considered a threat to the United States even though it was the sort of European militarism he’s long urged.
Saturday was cold and rainy in France, and thus Trump cancelled a trip to a cemetery where more than a hundred thousand American veterans of World War I were buried, even though all those effete Euro-weenie heads of state were somehow able to make their way to pay their respects to their country’s fallen heroes.
Sunday marked the centennial of that 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when America and France and England and the rest of our allies won a hard-fought victory in World War I, and although it was only a brief respite from World War II that effete Euro-weenie Macron gave a compelling speech that it was won because of the democratic western world’s cooperation and despite the the unabashedly self-intered nationalist impulses that caused it. We note that Trump paid his presidential respects to America’s fallen heroes but didn’t give give a similarly compelling defense of his unabashedly self-interested nationalism, and don’t expect that he’ll do so until the next never-ending campaign rally of die-hard fans, who know as little about history as Trump does.
Today is another Monday in America, where the economy seems to be humming along well enough despite the recent downturns in the stock markets and all the nationalist trade wars Trump is currently waging, and there’s no denying that some of Trump’s critics are rude and terrible people, and there’s always a chance that “Russia thing” might prove overblown. Even so, we can’t currently muster any defense of Trump’s presidency.

— Bud Norman

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An Odd and Unsettling Election Day

At some point this afternoon we’ll drive over to the lovely and friendly Woodland Methodist Church up in North Riverside to cast our midterm election votes, and although we’ve dutifully voted in every American and Kansas election since our long-ago 18th birthday this time will seem different.
This time we’ll be casting several of our votes for some damned Democrats, and in the Fourth District congressional race we’ll symbolically throw away our vote on the unknown Libertarian candidate as a “none of the above” protest, and we can’t venture any guess how any of it will turn out. In the past we’ve almost always voted a straight damned Republican ticket, and left the polling place fairly confident that at least here in Kansas we were on the winning side, but this time we’ll not venture any predictions about anything and have no rooting interest in the outcomes except for a faint hope that the center will somehow hold here in the center of the country.
The conventional wisdom of the polls and pundits is that the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representative by a slight or perhaps significant margin, and that thanks to a fortuitous electoral map the Republicans will retain control of the Senate and perhaps slightly pad its currently razor-thin margin in that chamber, and that seems both plausible and agreeable to us. We’re old-fashioned “Bleeding Kansas” Republicans from the racially egalitarian Party of Lincoln and the internationalist party of Kansas-raised President Dwight Eisenhower, but given the choice between the admittedly nationalist Republican Party of President Donald Trump and the crazier sorts of self-described socialist Democrats running in some far-away districts we’ll settle for a temporary stalemate.
Here in Kansas, at least, most of the damned Democrats seem willing to meet the damned Republicans halfway on a plan that will pave the roads and fund the schools and fulfill other essential state services without a tax hike, and we’ll note that most of the past Republican statewide and federal office-holders we once proudly voted for have also reluctantly agreed to the same desultory compromise. Even so, there’s no telling how things might turn out around here..
As for the rest of our currently  crazy country, where the damned and admittedly nationalist Republican party of Trump is apparently running neck-to-neck against the damned and admittedly socialist Democratic party of the moment, we’ll venture no predictions and just hold out faint hope that somehow the center holds.

— Bud Norman

Distraction and Desperation

With less than six days before the midterm election polls close the news is even busier than usual.
Some lost and lonely loser in Florida stands accused of sending mail bombs to at last a dozen prominent Democratic politicians and activists, and another lost and lonely loser is in a Pennsylvania jail awaiting charges of slaughtering 11 Jews as they worshipped God in a Pittsburgh synagogue. An hilariously inept plot to frame the special counsel investigating the “Russia thing” for ’70s-era sexual harassment has fallen apart, and is now the subject of a federal investigation of its own. There are the usual campaign issues, too, such an ongoing debate about mandating that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions which the Democrats seem to be winning and the Republicans are reduced to lying about. The economy continues to chug along well enough, but lately the stock markets have been up and down and mostly down.
Given all that, we’re not surprised that President Donald Trump is mostly talking about the impending invasion of Middle Eastern terrorists and Central American lepers who are marching the last 900 miles or so of their journey to America’s southern border, along with the rest of the invading army of dark-hued others who are already here. Trump is promising to send as many as 15,000 American troops to join the thousands of National Guardsmen and Border Patrol agents currently in place to turn back a few thousand unarmed and no doubt worn out asylum-seekers, and threatening to repeal the 14th amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship with an executive order. All the die-hard fans are cheering it on at Trump’s non-stop rallies and on certain conservative media, but to most of the rest of us it smacks of desperation.
The last invasion of the southern border by thousands of walking and unarmed asylum-seekers mostly petered out by the time it arrived at the border, with the usual Border Patrol contingent well able to handle the resulting 14 arrests for illegal immigration, and this one looks no scarier. Trump freely admits he has no proof that it’s being organized and funded some of those prominent Democratic politicians and activists who recently received pipe bombs in the mail, and none of those certain conservative media have yet to document any Middle Eastern terrorists or lepers, so more military power than we’re currently deploying against the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State combined seems an overreaction. We still like to think ourselves law-and-order conservatives, but we hail from a more hopeful era when even the most rock-ribbed Republicans thought that the border laws could be enforced without violating the Posse Comitatus Act or America’s treaty obligations to grant due process to the claims of asylum-seekers, and without building tent cities and orphaning children and all the other cruelties that today’s law-and-order crowd seem to crave.
Back in that more hopeful era the law-and-order sorts of rock-ribbed Republicans used to venerate the Constitution and insist it be interpreted according to its plain language, and to disdain the use of executive orders by power-grabbing presidents, but that’s no longer the case. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution plainly states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside,” and way back in 1895, when there was a “Yellow Peril” that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act and long before the damned liberals infested the judicial system, the Supreme Court ruled that plain language meant that even though a impoverished cook named Wong Kim Ark was born to Chinese parents his birth on American soil had conferred him American citizenship. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the legal scholar who’s married to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and numerous other old-fashioned Republican types agree, and even many of the Republicans who think we would well be rid of birthright citizenship say that it shouldn’t be accomplished by the stroke of a presidential pen.
Trump in turn “tweeted” back that “Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” The entirely autodidactic constitutional scholar then laid out his argument in two separate “tweets.”
“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree …
“Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) “stuff.” Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be decided by the Supreme Court!”
Such elegant English prose is hard to argue with, but we’ll take a stab at it. Birthright citizenship might well be ended some day, and perhaps for good reason, but surely it makes some difference if it happens the constitutional way or or some other way. We have no more idea what “subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ than Trump does, but we suspect the Supreme Court of 1895 had a grasp of the concept, and we’ll dare Trump to say that only the citizens in the United States are subject to its jurisdiction. We’ll also note that White House press secretary couldn’t name of those legal scholars who agreed with Trump, and that don’t consider former Senator Harry Reid any sort of constitutional authority. The nasty term “Anchor Babies” refers to immigrants who bring their family into the country through the nastily-termed “chain migration,” and although that’s also a fair debate we’re disappointed that Trump prefers to discuss it in admittedly nasty terms. We’ll take Trump’s word for it that he’ll keep us safe, and we’ve little doubt that any executive-ordered alterations to the previous understanding of the 14th Amendment will be settled in the Supreme Court, and we’ll be interested to see how those plain-text originalists that Trump appointed rule on that.
In the meantime, Trump will have trouble distracting attention from all the rest of the news, little of which currently benefits his Republican party. The pipe bomber and the Synagogue shooter can’t credibly be blamed on the damned Democrats, as all the mail bombs were sent to his most frequent “tweet” targets, and he was snubbed by both Republican and Democratic public officials and some of the grieving families when he paid a consolatory visit to Philadelphia. The “Russia thing” chugs along, Obamacare is somehow polling better than the Trump tax cut, the stock market goes up and down, and that slow-walking invasion is still a thousand long miles away and the midterm elections are just five short days hence.

— Bud Norman

With Eleven Long Days to Go

There are now just 11 days before some very consequential elections throughout the country, but there’s hardly any room for that on the front pages or even in the 24 hour news cycle. The number of suspected pipe bombs that have been sent to prominent critics of President Donald Trump is now ten, the Saudi Arabian government continues to provide fresh explanations for its brutal murder of an American resident, some five thousand refugees from Central America are continuing their thousand mile walk toward America’s southern border, and as usual President Donald Trump takes up a lot of the space.
Even so, we’ve been keeping an eye on several races of local and national interest. It still looks as if Democratic nominee and liberal dreamboat Rep. “Beto” O’Rourke will come closer than most Democrats typically do down there in Texas but will still lose to Republican incumbent Sen. “Ted” Cruz in their widely watched race. So far as we can tell from this distance the Democrats seem to have a very good shot at flipping a Senate seat in Florida, where all the polls show Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum leading Republican nominee Rep. Ron DeSantis.
There’s another intriguing Senate race in Arizona, where Democratic nominee Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is clinging to a well-within-the margin-of-error lead over Republican nominee Martha McSally. That Senate race in Tennessee is worth watching, too, as former Gov. Phil Bredesen has a good shot at beating of beating Rep. Marsha blackburn and becoming the state’s first Democratic senator since Al Gore. Not to mention a surprisingly close race for governor of Georgia between Democrat nominee and state Rep. Stacey Abrams and Republican nominee and Secretary of State Ted Matz.
For the moment the consensus of the pollsters and the pundits is that the Republicans have a very good of chance of retaining control of the Senate, while the Democrats have an even better chance of winning the House, and we’re inclined to agree. There are still 11 front pages and 24-hour news cycles to go, and God only knows what they might bring, but the early voting has already begun and certain trends seem likely to persist for a while.
So far, and for so far as we can tell, those trends are not favorable to the Republicans. The Republicans might well win most of the aforementioned Senate races, and in North Dakota Republican nominee Rep. Kevin Cramer seems a sure bet to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and the fact that all of the Democratic incumbents were elected in the anomalous year of 2012 leaves them playing defense in several swing states and red states, but that should only make it all the more worrisome to Republicans that it’s so close. That far better chance all the polls and pundits give to Democrats to win the House should be all the more troubling to the Republicans, as it reflects the popular vote rather then the random chances of the electoral map.
Part of the problem is that the Democrats have been running some candidates with centrist pitches and made-for-TV-ads biographies, including veterans and business moguls and somehow unblemished records in public office, while the Republicans have chosen a few not-ready-for-prime-time contenders. Even for the sharper Republican candidate, several issues are breaking the Democrats’ way.
The Republicans seem to be getting less than their usual share of votes in the rural areas, too, and the news has plenty of farers on the record grousing about how the recent trade wars have severely reduced their income. A large number of well-educated suburban white women who usually vote Republican have abandoned the party in every special election since President Donald Trump was elected are expected to do so again, although that might well be a mere coincidence. The Democrats are also making political hay of the landslide popularity of that coverage-for-preexisting-conditions clause in Obamacare, and all the Republicans who once ran on their promise to repeal the law and reign in entitlement spending are reduced to lying that they certainly never meant to repeal that part, and that it’s actually those lying Democrats who want to kick out all those poor people with preexisting conditions and make cuts in Medicare. Meanwhile, the pipe bombs and the Saudi murder and the unarmed marching refugees still a thousand miles away from the border don’t seem to help, and neither most the news that Trump daily commands.
Several of the Democrats’ rising stars are young or black or Latino or Asian or women, and in the case of the surprisingly possible next governor of Georgia she’s both black and a woman, and even here in Kansas we’ve got a lesbian Native American kick boxer who seems to have a good chance of flipping a Republican House seat. Meanwhile the Republicans have mostly chosen the usual straight old white guys, except that white woman who’s slightly behind another white woman in Arizona and that white woman in Tennessee who lost the endorsement of pop chanteuse Taylor Swift and many of her fans to a straight old white Democratic guy. The Republicans’ current reputation as the Grand Old Party of straight old guys has made it quite popular with straight old white guys, but these days there are only so many of us, and some significant portion of us on both the right and the left would prefer a party that was more welcoming to freedom-loving and entrepreneurial and individualist individuals of every sex, class, race, religion, and sexual predilection, so it doesn’t seem a sound a long-term strategy.
Lying about the Republican party’s past opposition to mandating coverage of preexisting conditions won’t help, either, although we have to admit that reiterating the sound arguments Republicans once made likening it to buying home insurance while your house is on fire would probably once again go down in flames. The Secretaries of State who are running for governor against that black woman in Georgia and a white woman here in Kansas have both been credibly accused of suppressing the black and Latino vote, and although it might work in both of the very close races it’s not a long term solution to the Republican party’s problems, and could well be used against them down the road.
At this point we’re holding out for gridlock, with neither party able to impose it’s will on other, and with 11 long days to go we like our chances.

— Bud Norman