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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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That Big Event in Singapore, According to Various Media

“Little Rocket Man” and the “Dotard,” also known as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and American President Donald Trump, shook hands Monday on a Singapore stage festooned with American and North Korean flags, then sat down and smiled together for the cameras of the world’s media, and everybody agreed it was a very big deal. Of course there was also much disagreement about how to cover it.
The more cautious and respectable American press outlets, even those considered left-of-center and overly eager to report news casting a negative light on Trump, stuck mostly to the objective who, what, where and when it, and were especially cautious about the unavoidably subjective why of it, but they also frankly acknowledged what a very big deal it was. The Washington Post’s top-of-the-front-page headline was “Trump, Kim shake hands, begin historic summit,” and the “lede” paragraph — as we spell in the newspaper biz — quoted Trump’s prediction that “We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.” The New York Times’ top-of-the-front-page headline was “Handshakes, and Hope for an Agreement,,” which was just as careful and also adhered to our preferred style of capitalizing headlines, and the “bullet items” — as we call them in newspaper biz — stressed that it was indeed a very big deal but also very complicated as to how it might turn out.
The Cable News Network, or the “fake news CNN” as Trump calls it,  was similarly cautious in its coverage., with the anchors talking about how historic it was and the guest commentators expressing both hope and worries.  Over at the MSNBC cable news network, where they frankly acknowledge a left-of-center perspective and unabashedly delight in anything factual they can come up with that sheds a negative light on Trump, even Rachel Maddow was acknowledging it was a big deal. She had several guests fluent in the Korean language with impressive credentials for commenting on the military and political and economic and diplomatic situation who had some pretty convincing reasons to be worried it will all go awry, but they all had to admit a possibility they still hoped for that things would turn out well.
Meanwhile, over at Fox News, Sean Hannity was already spiking the ball in the end zone in on Trump’s behalf. He parroted Trump’s attempts to downplay expectations, and that “it’s a process, a long a process,” and helpfully recalled all the times North Korea had duped past Democratic and pre-Trump Republicans and hopefully assured his viewers Trump wouldn’t make that same mistake, and ran some old footage of President Ronald Reagan confronting Russia. As far as Hannity is concerned, if Trump wins an unexpected-by-almost-everyone complete capitulation from Kim he’s a sure bet Nobel Peace Prize winner, and if he walks away without any agreement at all he’s the second coming of St. Reagan walking away from the Soviets at Reykjavik, so it’s a win-win for Trump either way. Due to the time zones the historic handshake occurred after the morning and afternoon right-wing talk radio talkers went off the air, and they’ll be on before today’s-in-Singapore’s actual summit begins, but we’re sure that Hannity and the rest of them will see it pretty much the same way.
The National Review and The Weekly Standard and the rest of the cautious and respectable pre-Trump right-of-center publications are weeklies, and go home to their wives and children at a decent hour, so they haven’t yet weighed in, but we expect they’ll have some of the same worries that were voiced on Rachel Maddow’s show. The Weekly Standard did get in a short story about the involvement of Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, the former National Basketball Association rebounding champion and “Apprentice” contestant who is somehow on the scene and somehow  figures in all of this, but that’s not hopeful, although Trump did rightly note he was once a hell of a rebounder despite being short by NBA power-forward standards. Even if Trump does walk away from today’s summit he’ll have granted an odious third world dictator a long-desired starring role on the sage he walks away from, and with an endorsement of his abysmal human rights record in dealing with his own people, and for many other reasons it’s not at all analogous to Reagan walking out of Reykjavik. Trump’s many domestic scandals and recent squabbles with our traditional allies do seem to make him more desperate for any old deal that odious third world dictator might be willing to cut, too. We like to think we’re a cautious and respectable pre-Trump right-of-center publication, and without any wife or kids to worry about we’re up late and watching the latest developments, so we’ll hedge our bets just like those other cautious and respectable right-of-center and left-of-center institutions we’ll go no further than saying that we’re hoping for the best but still have our worries.
At least Trump and Kim are smiling for the photo-ops, rather than calling one another “Little Rocket Man” and the “Dotard.” As Trump is so fond of saying, “we shall see.”

— Bud Norman

Judgment at Nurnberg

Sam Nunberg was previously a peripheral figure in the “Russia thing” subplot of President Donald Trump’s ongoing reality show, but he had a memorable star turn on Monday. The former Trump campaign aide gave interviews to The Washington Post and the Associated Press, spoke several times to both the Cable News Network and MSNBC, and it made for compelling reading and watching. It’s not often, after all, that one gets to watch a complete nervous breakdown in public.
As a former Trump campaign aide, Nunberg was recently served a subpoena by the special counsel investigating the “Russia” which demanded both his testimony before a grand jury and several years of e-mail correspondence with other Trump campaign officials. Nunberg started his Monday by telling the Post that he intended to ignore it. “Let him arrest me,” Nunberg said of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Nunberger also complained that both he and the man he repeatedly describes as his “mentor,” the self-described “rat fucker” for President Richard Nixon and longtime lobbyist for the world’s worst dictatorships and occasional Trump advisor Roger Stone, have been “badly mistreated” by the special counsel.
Nunberg was just as defiant in his televised interviews, and even more apparently unhinged. He complained about being fired from the Trump campaign due to the machinations of campaign Corey Lewandowski, who was also later fired but is still obviously quite disliked by Nunberg, and he also opined frequently after being fired himself he hoped that Trump would lose to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, although he also complained that Clinton should have gone to prison for her e-mails. During a call to a New York City station he described White press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a “fat slob,” also he added that it’s “unrelevant,” and on one of the national broadcasts referred to her “big fat mouth,” which prompted his female interlocutor to scold him for his sexism, and he once again admitted it was irrelevant to his main point that she’s also an idiot.
Nunberg was similarly scathing about other past and present Trump administration officials, and blamed them for the president’s low approval ratings. He contended that if he and Stone were still calling the shots that Trump at 55 percent approval in all the polls, crediting himself for the border wall and his mentor for getting Trump past that time he scoffed at Sen. John McCain’s war heroism. He said repeatedly that the questions he was asked in an earlier interview with the special counsel’s team had led him to believe they had something on Trump, although the whole “Russia thing” couldn’t have happened because Putin would have never trusted Trump to keep it quiet, but also emphasized that any allegation he or Stone had to do with it was a “witch hunt,” and often returned to his complaints that Clinton would have been locked if she weren’t a Democrat.
Maybe it was the Trump-bashing, or some kindhearted liberal instinct to intervene in a fellow human’s public self-destruction, but even on CNN and MSNBC the interviewers and their panelists were trying to throw Nunberg a lifeline. Whenever Nunberg frequently asked his questioners why he should spend hours going through high e-mails and wasting his time with some grand jury investigation, they all tried to gently suggest it was because the law apparently required him to do. One of the shows had a panel of presumably left wing lawyers, and while they all added the requisite provisos about offering no legal advice they also cautioned that defying a special counsel subpoena can land a fellow in jail.
Nunberg scoffed at the idea of jail time, and when the lawyers and the interviewers pointed out that the last person to do was Susan McDougal, a former business associate of President Bill Clinton who defied a subpoena in that whole “Whitewater thing” and wound up doing 18 months, he shrugged and noted that was a long time ago. He also noted that several times that his lawyer was probably going to drop him for defying such sound legal advice.
It got so bad that MSNBC’s beguilingly bespectacled Katy Tur, who was an early Trump antagonist and punching bag in new newspaper days, ended her interview by warning Nunberg he might be held in contempt of court thanking him for a “remarkable” interview. Nunberg wondered aloud what was remarkable about it, and she replied “Everything.” CNN’s Erin Burnett ended her remarkable interview by noting that White House sources were already saying Nunberg was “either drunk or off his meds,” and said live and on air that she smelled alcohol on his breath. Nunberg assured her he hadn’t been drinking, and had been taking all his anti-depressants.
By the end of the day Nunberg was telling the AP that he’d probably go along with the investigations after all, and we expect he’ll wind up spilling whatever beans he has to spill before it’s all said done, even the stuff about Stone, which likely be tied to Trump..
If it turns out to be harmful to Trump he’ll be able say that Nunberg is a kook he fired a long time ago, but he wouldn’t have been able to fire Nunberg if he hadn’t hired the guy in the first place. Nunberg started working for Trump way back in 2011, when Trump first contemplated a presidential run, and was still there past the day when Trump survived his insult to McCain, and we don’t doubt that he really did come up with that kooky border wall idea. When Trump first bragged on the campaign trail about how he only hired the best people Nunberg was one of those people, and Nunberg’s criticisms of the best people Trump still has on hand do have a certain ring of truth about them.
Nunberg might yet prove a peripheral character in the whole “Russia thing,” but it really is remarkable.

— Bud Norman

Trump “Tweeting” Away a Promising Day

Thursday should have been a much-needed favorable news cycle for President Donald Trump. There weren’t any new bombshell revelations about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia, the president had ample airtime to brag about the reasonable energy policies he’s enacted by reversing all of President Barack Obama’s unreasonable rules, there was still a slight chance of the Republicans passing some sort of health care bill, and there was a meeting scheduled with the South Korean head of state that at least included plenty of photo opportunities to show off his presidential gravitas.
Alas, the big story of the day turned out to be the president’s most recent “twitter” fight with a couple of relatively obscure morning cable television news hosts.
Even after all the endless commentary we’re still not sure what prompted Trump’s latest “twitter” outburst against Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of the MSNBC network’s “Morning Joe” program, but it was enough that he called Scarborough “Psycho Joe” and Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” and gloated that they had sought his company at his Mar-a-Lago resort over the New Year’s weekend but she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” and “I said no!” Whatever they might have done to provoke such schoolyard taunts,in the absence of any bombshell revelations about Russia and despite the significance of energy policy and f health care policy and what happens on the Korean peninsula it was bound to dominate the news cycle.
We cut off our cable many years ago and tended to sleep past the morning shows long before that, so we’re only familiar with “Morning Joe” from the publicity that Trump has generated for the show, but we surmise from all the news that the program and the president haven’t been on friendly terms for some time now. The recently-engaged co-hosts probably have been unfair in at least some of the criticisms, as we surmise from the fact that they’re broadcast on the MSNBC network, but they’ve also probably been spot on in some of the criticisms, based on what we’ve seen of Trump, and in any case they don’t seem worth throwing away what should have been a favorable news cycle for the president.
Trump’s official spokespeople in the administration and the unofficial ones in the alternative media did their best to defend the “tweets,” but they had a hard time of it. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, filling in for the suspiciously-absent-of-late White House press secretary Sean Spicer, accurately but unconvincingly noted that many of Trump’s most stalwart supporters voted for him because of his habit of hurling schoolyard taunts against anyone who disagrees with him. The right wing talk radio hosts were recalling the sexual depredations of President Bill Clinton and even further back to the President John Kennedy, which is true enough but hardly excuses the current president’s more recent allegedly sexist “tweets.” The audience for the White House spokespeople and those right wing radio talkers probably bought it, but our guess is that among that the majority of the country it wound up another unfavorable news cycle for the president.
The House Majority leader and other prominent congressional Republicans declined to defend the “tweets,” including some women Senators whose votes are crucial to the passage of that Republican health care legislation, and even Trump’s most outspoken defender on Fox News admitted after running through all the past Democratic outages that the “twitter” blasts didn’t do anything to advance those many reasonable parts of his agenda. Trump’s most ardent defenders are still pleased that “at least he fights,” but given all the punches he’s taking from the early morning news and late night comedy shows and all the cable news in between it’s going to take some pretty darned clever nicknaming to overcome all of that.
Ignoring all the schoolyard taunts from the early morning and late night hosts and proceeding with sensible energy policies and averting national bankruptcy with a stingy but sensible health care reform and averting nuclear catastrophe on the Korean peninsula would be the best response, but that doesn’t seem Trump’s style. The same impulsive counter-punching that prompted those “tweets” won’t refute the bombshells yet to come about the Russia thing with Russia and Trump, will likely overshadow all those reasonable energy policies, it seems unlikely to prevent yet another one of the bankruptcies that have plagued Trump’s career, and we imagine that much of that meeting with the South Korean head of state will concern his recent insistence that the country pay more than was previously negotiated for a missile defense system that has as much to do with America’s security as South Korea’s, which is yet another frighteningly characteristic tendency of Trump. Also, the photographic evidence suggests that whatever her other faults the distaff  early morning cable co-host wasn’t bleeding from a facelift, and we’d have to say she’s objectively better-looking than the president, as if that makes any difference
Still, it could have been a much-needed favorable news cycle for Trump. We hope he’ll have one soon, as it would be a boon to us and the rest of America, but in any case we’ll keep our cable cut and try to sleep past the morning shows and hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

The Passing Storm and the Gathering Storm

A windy and gully-washing thunderstorm rolled through our portion of south central Kansas on Thursday evening, and we wound up watching some ominously dark clouds continue to gather over Washington, D.C.
The storm hit as we were driving through downtown, and because it seemed to imminently threaten the tennis ball-sized hail that had been reported nearby on the radio we took refuge in one of the parking garages. With the car safely tucked under several feet of concrete we decided to wait out the storm with a beer at the nearest tavern, which happened to be a friendly little gay bar ironically called Rain, so we weren’t the least bit surprised to find Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC blaring from one of the several televisions. She was gleefully to the point of gigglingly reporting on the latest developments about the Russia thing with President Donald Trump and Russia, and we had to admit she had some juicy stuff.
The special counsel who was appointed after Trump fired the Federal Bureau of Investigation is actively pursuing an obstruction of justice case according to The Washington Post, which also reports that the business dealings of the president’s son-in-law and all-purpose advisor Jared Kushner is also getting the fine-tooth-comb treatment, and the Vice President has lawyered up with a high-powered attorney whose previous cases have included the Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals. None of this is conclusively damning, of course, but neither does any of it look at all good. Trump retaliated with some “tweets” about the investigators being “very bad people” and how his vanquished Democratic opponent “Crooked” Hillary Clinton did all sorts of very bad things that didn’t result in any charges, but Maddow and the rest of the mainstream media seemed just as gleeful about reporting that.
Trump is right that Clinton was crooked and did so some very bad things, and her husband did meet the Attorney General while she was being investigated by the Justice Department, and the fired FBI director did follow an order to refer to that investigation as a “matter,” and he’s also quite right that many of his tormenters were hypocritically fine with that. As we always remind our remaining Republican friends, we were tormenting Clinton back when Trump was contributing to her campaigns and inviting her to weddings and praising her as the best Secretary of State ever, and we strongly suspect that a more apolitical justice system would have found her guilty of something. One can hardly begrudge Trump and his allies the satisfaction of making the points.
You won’t find us joining in on any “lock her up” chants, though, and Trump seems quite hypocritical for his sudden insistence that an investigation is not a proof of guilt, and we don’t expect that Trump’s “tweet” will persuade anyone who’s not already a die-hard supporter. No matter what Clinton might have done in her long and tawdry career, up to and including that satanic child sex abuse ring she was allegedly running in the back of a pizza joint, that does not have any bearing whatsoever on the question of whether Trump or any of his close associates have done very bad things. Our most determinedly pro-Trump friend argued the other night that Trump should be legally entitled to do everything illegal thing that the past two Democratic administrations have gotten away with, and at that point the country can get back to everyone doing things on the up-and-up, but we don’t think that will prove any more persuasive.
The argument that Trump’s investigators are very bad people will also be a tough sell. The special counsel is Robert Mueller, who was chosen as FBI director by President George W. Bush and after ten scandal-free years was asked to stick around for an extra two years by President Barack Obama, so he enjoys a bi-partisan reputation as a non-partisan player. He’s also known as tough and ruthless, but those are qualities Trump usually finds endearing, and he’s very much a member of the establishment that Trump has vowed to burn down and so many of his supporters loathe, but surely the broader public will expect more credentials from a special counsel than from a president.
Another interesting development gleefully noted by the mainstream media were some prominent Republicans who were making that point that if Trump has nothing to fear from an investigation he should welcome it, as only a thorough vindication by a widely respected investigator will lift the cloud of suspicion, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see more Republicans taking this sensible stand. If you dig deeper into the news you might have noticed that some Republican members of the House of Representatives are steaming to the point of leaking that Trump has lately chastised them for drafting a “mean” bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, including moderates who were muscled by Trump into voting for what they thought was a too-austere bill and conservatives who were muscled by Trump into voting for what they thought wasn’t austere enough. If you don’t believe leaks, Trump also “tweeted” that the country needed to spend far more money on health care, rather than the less that he’d muscled those members into voting for, and one can hardly blame them if they’re not entirely loyal on that Russia thing with Trump and Russia.
Trump had a pretty good story about an unfortunate man released from North Korean captivity in horrible medical condition after two years, and the man’s father making a strong statement about how Trump had succeeded where Obama had failed, which fits into a usual narrative that the Obama foreign policy was weak and feckless, with Trump’s arguably more reckless approach being arguably more effective. There was also that story about the Australian Prime Minister cracking up a crowd with his mocking of Trump, however, and the sense that there’s a lot of that going on around the world.

A rather attractive woman who was also waiting out the storm struck up a conversation with us as we were watching the news according to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC, and she remarked that Trump doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, and we couldn’t disagree. She’d complimented our straw fedora and and seemed a bit flirty, but we figured she was probably just mistakingly trying make another fashionably homosexual friend, so we wound up having a nice chat about how very strange the world seems these days. Eventually the storm passed, as storms always do, but on the way home we had to avoid all the streets prone to flooding and dodged plenty of down tree limbs on the way home. The power and internet where still working when we arrived, but no matter the forecasts we checked the storm brewing in Washington looks far more damaging.

— Bud Norman

Your Candidates For Commander-in-Chief, Alas

While President Barack Obama was making another stop on his diplomatic trip to the Far East Wednesday, his would-be successors were appearing on the MSNBC cable network’s “Commander in Chief Forum,” with both spending a half-hour or so answering a series of questions about defense and foreign policy from the National Broadcasting Company’s Matt Lauer and selected members of a an audience comprised mostly of military veterans. None of it, needless to say, was at all reassuring.
A dear friend’s 70th birthday party and a principled lack of cable access kept us from watching the event live, but thanks to the modern miracle of YouTube we were able to watch all the grilling of both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, and without commercial interruption at that. We can’t recommend you do, though, as the lack of direct confrontation between the candidates made for rather dreary viewing.
An unfavorable coin toss determined that Clinton would be given the first half-hour, ending that remarkable 6-for-6 coin-flipping streak that helped her win the Iowa caucus, and her bad luck didn’t end there. She had a well-crafted introductory statement about her long experience in foreign affairs as a First Lady and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Secretary of State, and how it has honed her judgment, but that just walked right into Lauer’s first question about that unindexed and yet ongoing e-mail scandal of hers. She had a well-rehearsed answer acknowledging that it had been a mistake to use a private server for many of e-mail communications, insisted she had used only the government server for anything with a “header” indicating it was classified. She clearly hoped that no one would know that much classifiable information was coming to her attention before it could be classified, and that someone with better judgment would have treated it as such, and that there are plenty of other holes in her story. Alas, the next audience member was an Air Force veteran whose work had required security clearances, and who was convinced that he would have been jailed for the actions Clinton has now admitted, so she had to run through yet another variation on the same unconvincing lines.
Lauer then asked about Clinton’s vote as a senator in favor of the Iraq War, which is by now such an unpopular affair that the Republican nominee is bragging that he had always opposed it and that George W. Bush had lied the country into the mess. Clinton once again apologized for the vote, and rightly noted that Trump’s claims to have been opposed all along are completely baseless, then made a plausible argument that her willingness to admit and learn from mistakes has improved her judgment. Although still on the defensive she seemed to be punching back at that point, but the next question was about that awful deal the Obama administration struck with the Iranians on their nuclear weapons programs.
Clinton first noted about how she had worked to impose harsh sanctions on the Iranian government, without acknowledging that the sanctions had begun under the previous administration, then boasted that had succeeded in forcing Iran to the negotiating table. Given the worse-than-Nevill-Chamberlain sort of appeasement that resulted from the negotiations this hardly seems a success, but at least the worst of the deal was finalized by her successor as Secretary of State. She’ll be very tough in enforcing that awful package of appeasement, Clinton assured the audience, and she also talked tough about Iran’s many other outrages, and we had a certain sense that she was trying to put at least some distance between herself and the Obama administration.
There was also talk about the sorry state of the Veterans Administration, which Clinton can’t be readily blamed for and which she seemed plenty outraged about, and when asked to explain her policy toward the Islamic State “as briefly as you can” she sounded very hawkish even as she promised there would be no ground troops in either Iraq or Syria. She also talked about going after Islamic State leader Bagu al-Baghdadi, “just like we did with Osama bin Laden,” reminding the audience of the Obama administration’s biggest hit of the past seven-and-a-half-years, and finished with a vow to be tough on terrorism but making no promises to prevent it altogether.
Even Trump’s most media-averse admirers would be hard pressed to find fault with Lauer’s performance, which kept Clinton on the defensive through most of the interview. A more thorough interrogation about the e-mails would have required the hours that Republican congressional investigations spent on the matter, so we’ll also give Lauer some reluctant credit for compressing it into a few challenges about her most outrageous claims. Even Clinton’s most die-hard detractors would have to admit that she seemed quite feisty in her defense, however, with none of the coughing fits or fatigue or seizures or other afflictions that have lately been talked about all over the internet, and unless you’re already well aware of what she was talking there were no takeaway gaffes. We imagine that her most avid fans were well pleased with the performance, that her most disdainful detractors were not at all swayed, and that anyone in the undecided ranks would be waiting to hear what the Republican might say.
What the Republican had to say was hard to parse, as usual, but so far as we can tell it boiled down to him saying that everything was going to be great with him in charge, believe him. Asked what experiences he had to demonstrate the judgment to run America’s foreign he mentioned his vast business empire, which includes deals in countries overseas, some of which of are really taking advantage of the rest of the United States, believe him, so surely he could tell when it was necessary to put American military lives in harm’s way. He reiterated his lie that he was speaking out against the Iraq War before it was launched, citing an interview in GQ magazine that appeared about a year into the war as proof, and added that the Obama administration’s withdrawal from Iraq was also a “total disaster.” Trump was asked about his well-known propensity to say outrageous things, and his own recent admission that he has occasionally chosen wrong words, and how that might affect his performance as a head of state, and Trump went on about how certain wrong words were needed to defeat all those more qualified Republican candidates that stood in his way to the nomination. He then mentioned his recent trip to Mexico, where he was respectfully greeted with diplomatic protocol and didn’t say anything to get him kicked out, then bragged that the trip had been so successful that some Mexican official who arranged the trip was fired due to the Mexican public’s ensuing outrage over the invitation.
Lauer revived an old Trump quote claiming to know more about the Islamic State than the American military’s generals did, and Trump noted that the generals have no been successful thus far, although he blamed Obama and Secretaries of State Clinton and John Kerry for the failure, and that there might well be an entirely different group of generals he’ll be dealing with that, and that they’ll be the types who won’t have MacArthur and Patton spinning in their graves. He even suggested that his secret plan for defeating the Islamic State will await the 30 days he’s giving the generals to come up with their own plan, and that their might might even be incorporated into his secret plan, but in any case it’s going to be a great plan, believe him.
Whatever that plan might turn out to be, be assured that if it amounts to any military action at all it’s going to include plenty of old-fashioned plunder. Trump has embraced the far-left’s chants about “Bush lied, people died,” but he clearly has no use for that “No blood for oil” slogan, and explained that “I’ve always said we shouldn’t be in there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil.” At this point Lauer made a rare interruption to ask how that might be accomplished, and Trump acknowledged that some people would be “left behind” to get the job done, and Lauer didn’t ask how many of these people there would be, or how many soldiers and airmen would be needed to protect them, much less the many hundreds of miles of pipelines and supply lines need for the project, not to mention the fallout from the inevitable worldwide outrage over the planet’s mightiest military power claiming waging openly proclaimed wars of plunder.
A woman who was introduced as a Democrat and a graduate of the first West Point class to include women got to ask a question about illegal immigrants being allowed in the military, seeming to favor the idea herself, and she got a big hand for that first woman West Pointer distinction, and with his usual keen sense of the crowd Trump said he would work with that. The next questions were about Russia, though, and not so easily handled.
Whatever concerns the people of Mexico or those unfortunate oil-rich lands currently held by the Islamic State might have about a Trump administration, the future of Russo-American relations look rosy indeed, believe him. Trump once again confidently predicted he would have “a good relationship with Putin, and a very good relationship with Russia,” again promised that “as long as he says good things about me, I’ll say good things about him,” protested an interjection by Lauer about the likelihood that Putin’s government hacked the Democratic National Committee by saying “nobody knows that for a fact,” lamented that Obama and Putin were photographed exchanging icy stares during the Group of 20 summit, and seemed sure he’d get a more respectful Air Force One greeting from the Russians than Obama got from the Chinese. Trump suggested a possible alliance with the Russians against the Islamic State, made no mention of Russia’s aggression in Georgia and the Ukraine and threats against much of the rest of the former Soviet empire, and when asked about such issues he said “it’s possible” that Putin will abandon his revanchist ambitions in the event of a Trump administration.
Trump was also asked about the VA, a problem he also cannot be credibly blamed for and is plenty outraged about, and he offered what seemed a sensible idea of providing vouchers for veterans to seek care in the private sector when waiting lines at the government-run doctor’s office became dangerously long. Clinton had scored some points with the veterans by opposing “privatization,” which according to the polls even scares veterans in this day and age, and we note that Trump took pains to insist his plan wasn’t “privatization.” We’d prefer a capitalist-minded Republican who’d embrace the term and make the compelling case for it, and there’s no better case to be made for it than government-run health care, but these days that’s too much to ask for. One of the last questions was about the large number of sexual-harassment charges being alleged in the military, and Trump was reminded of a “tweet” that read “What did these geniuses think when they put men and women together?,” and he defended it by saying “Many people say that.” He added that it was necessary to keep the military court system, and then later that we need to establish a military court system, and he did come out forthrightly in favor of imposing consequences for sexual assaults.
Lauer’s now being pilloried by the left for failing to press Trump on many of these statements, but from our never-Trump perspective on the right we’ll grudgingly concede that it would have been awful hard to compress all the questions into a mere half-hour. With about two-thirds of Clinton’s interview spent on the defensive we’ll have to kick our feet against the sand and lower our heads and say it seemed fair enough, all in all, and that the candidates had only themselves to blame.
Trump probably came out of it slightly better than even, poll-wise. Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters got the the “take their oil” rhetoric they’ve come to expect, while Trump’s most die-hard opponents will glumly concede that at least he didn’t repeat his talk about the indiscriminate torture of detainees and the killing of their civilian relatives and the neo-con overreach of the past 16 years of American foreign policy, and the sensitive souls of the Huffington Post were even worried that might have seem slightly presidential to those who can’t spare the time to think through the implications of that “take their oil” policy. Most of Trump’s most disdainful opponents won’t bother with that, either, but in any case they’ll not be swayed.
Clinton and Trump will face each other head-to-head later this month, unless Clinton succumbs to fatal illness or Trump finds some scheduling or moderator issue as an excuse to dodge it, depending on which internet rumors you prefer to believer, and that might be more fun. At this point, though, we don’t expect it will be any more reassuring.

— Bud Norman

The Presidential and the Personal

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s newly fledged campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on the American Broadcasting Company’s “This Week” program Sunday morning, boasting that her candidate had just had “the best week” of his campaign. She had a strong case, as Trump had given well-reviewed speeches on crime and immigration that staked out sensible positions, generally avoided any of the widely-publicized craziness that has marked his campaign, and seemed to signal a more presidential tone with an uncharacteristic admission of “regret” for any unspecified comments he’s made “in the heat of debate” and “particularly where it may have caused personal pain.” Throw in the latest “uh oh” developments on the widely distrusted and disliked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s various ongoing scandals, and it was enough to shave a full point off her lead in Real Clear Politic’s average of the polls.
Conway also boasted that her candidate “doesn’t hurl personal insults,” but we expect that “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and “Little” Marco Rubio and Carly “Look at the Face” Fiorina and Megyn “Bleeding From Wherever” Kelly and that New York Times reporter with the unfortunate bone ailment would agree the case for that claim is quite weak. By the next morning a “tweeting” Trump was adding someone named Joe Scarborough and someone else named Mika Brzezinski to the list of people has hurled personal insults at, and that long awaited presidential tone seemed to have vanished into the pixels of the internet.
Reportedly these Scarborough and Brzezinski people host some television program called “Morning Joe” on the MSNBC cable network, but we cannot attest to this. We rarely watch television, steadfastly refuse to pay a cable company for the dubious privilege, wouldn’t be watching MSNBC in any case, and that “Morning Joe” title suggests it runs a time when we’re contentedly sleeping or grouchily brewing a couple of mugs of more literal java. So far as we can tell from the press Scarborough is the crazy-left MSNBC’s token Republican, much as the Obama-loving David Brooks is the token Republican at The New York Times and the NeverTrumping Jennifer Rubin has the title at The Washington Post, and Brzezinski is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who we sadly remember as a counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, but apparently they had once enjoyed a happy relationship with Trump. Ever since he wrapped up the Republican nomination all that “free media” Trump once trumpeted has been coming with a price, though, and he seems to have taken the more critical tone on “Morning Joe” rather personally.
“Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of @JoeNBC and his very insecure longtime girlfriend, @morningmika,” Trump “tweeted” at an absurdly early hour Monday morning, adding a defiant and exclamation-marked “Two clowns!” Although we’re not at all hepped up to the latest internet lingo we presume that “@JoeNBC is” a “Twitter handle” for Scarborough and “@morningmika” is some enigma machine-generated codeword for Brzezinski, and so far as we can tell from the scandal rags that part about a “very insecure longtime girlfriend” is a reference to some recent gossip that Scarborough and Brzezinski are partners both on and off the air. That rumor had already been reported on in the notorious “Page 6” in the tabloid New York Post, which has both endorsed Trump and run naked pictures of his third wife in sapphic poses on its front page, but when things calm down we’ll eagerly await whatever juicy details Trump has to add about the “real story,” along with his explanation of how he came to know such irrelevant information.
Whatever off-screen canoodling this Scarborough person and that Brzezinski person might or might not be doing does nothing to add or detract from their opinions, which we don’t care about in the least anyway, and surely a guy who has publicly boasted about all the married babes he’s bagged and whose third wife is showing up naked in sapphic poses on the front page of the Trump-endorsing New York Post is not the guy to call them out on whatever they might have been up to. At this late point in the sexual revolution we’re more more interested in the 15,000 e-mails to and from the Democratic nominee that have lately turned up, the very existence of which are a scandal and include countless more that only add to her already burdensome 25 plus years of scandals, and we’d think a Republican nominee would also be more concerned with that.
This Republican nominee takes things personally, though, and apparently there was nothing in those 15,000 previously stonewalled e-mails about him.

— Bud Norman

An Inauspicious Beginning

We give a cordial welcome to any new readers who might have been redirected to these pages by some strange glitch in the Obamacare web sites. No health care insurance plans can be found here, and we are quite unable to provide any subsidies, but we can offer plenty of commiseration to anyone frustrated by the federal government’s inept attempts at running the nation’s health care system.
Tuesday was the much-ballyhooed debut of Obamacare’s “health-care exchanges,” a key feature of the controversial law’s convoluted scheme, and by all accounts it did not go well. The computerized marketplace established by the government to enroll Americans in an approved health care policy was overwhelmed by traffic, marred by a variety of other technical problems, and proved infuriatingly confusing to those lucky enough to make a connection. Even the highly supportive staff at the MSNBC news outfit gave up on trying to demonstrate the program’s success after being put on hold for 35 minutes.
Should the fiasco shake your faith in the almighty power of the federal bureaucracy to micro-manage the one-sixth of America’s economy that is our once-vaunted health care system, which might even cause you to question its ability to run the other five sixths, be assured that some carefully-crafted excuses have already been offered.
One attempt to find a silver lining somewhere in the gathering storm clouds is the official line that the computer system was simply unable to cope with so darned many people trying at once to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that Obamacare so generously affords. Too much “interest” in the exchanges was how they put it, as if the interest was a result of widespread enthusiasm for the law rather the heavy fines it will impose on anyone who doesn’t slog through the obligatory labyrinthine to obtain coverage, so what might look to an uninformed observer like an abject failure is actually proof of too much success. When Venezuela’s socialistic price controls resulted in a toilet paper shortage earlier this year its government officials cited the problem as proof that they had succeeded all too well at feeding the people, but the Obamacare apologists might well have broken this previous world record for audacity.
Another explanation was that too many of the people seeking health coverage on the exchanges simply weren’t sophisticated enough to deal with the process. One might expect that the largely elderly, or low-income, or unemployed population that would be most in need of the exchanges’ offerings were not the most computer savvy among us, but apparently the possibility was never considered by the people now in charge of running health care in America. This is not reassuring.
Obamacare’s eponymous President Barack Obama downplayed the problems by noting that even such exemplars of the private sector as the Apple computer and telephone empire have experienced similar technical problems. No one is compelled by law and the threat of fines to deal with Apple, however, and that provides the company with an incentive to find a quick fix which does not exist for the firmly entrenched bureaucrats running the Obamacare scheme. These words come to you through an Apple-made device which has proved far more reliable and efficient than any branch of the government, and we would prefer that some similar self-interested companies were competing for our health care dollars without governmental interference.

— Bud Norman