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He Lies, But At Least He Fights

One of President Donald Trump’s former campaign managers spent more than five hours testifying to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and it was quite a show.
If you can’t quite recall the name of Corey Lewandowski, he was the guy who managed the Trump campaign before Paul Manafort, who is currently serving time in federal prison for various financial and perjury crimes. Lewandowski was caught on videotape manhandling a female reporter, and although the local officials decided the incident didn’t rise to the level of criminal assault he was fired from the campaign, but Trump continued to praise his pugnaciousness. After winning election Trump continued to consult with Lewandowski, and according to the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller the president asked private citizen Lewandowski to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation, one of several instances in the report which document attempts by the president to obstruct justice, which is what the House Judiciary Committee wanted to ask about.
Lewandowski was every bit as pugnacious as Trump could hope for, and spent most of the five hours dodging questions on the claim of executive privilege, although he’d never been an employee of the executive branch, and asking his interrogators to read long portions of the special counsel’s report, and impugning their motives for asking such pesky questions, and personally insulting some committee members. At one point a questner compared Lewandowski’s testimony to the tooth fairy, and Lewandowski castigated for him for undermining his children’s faith in the fairy tale.
Despite his best efforts, Lewandowski did ultimately admit under oath that Trump had in fact asked him to tell Sessions to kibosh the special counsel, which Lewandowski had told the special counsel about under oath, so the Democrats running the committee got what they were after. It remains to be seen if the general public cares about a rather clear cut if clumsy attempt by the president to obstruct justice, which came to naught when Lewandowski went “on vacation” without carrying out the order, which he had no legal authority to make in any case, but if public opinion continues to turn against Trump it might prove handy ammunition.
The most striking moment to us was when Lewandowski freely admitted that he outright lied on Ari Melber’s MSNBC show when he said that “I don’t ever remember the president ever asking me to get involved with Jeff Sessions or the Justice Department in any way, shape, or form, ever.” If you’re not familiar with Melber’s program he’s a typically leftward biased MSNBC host with an annoying penchant for allusions to hip-hop lyrics, but he doesn’t just make things up, and he asks hard questions of people on both sides and gives them a chance to answer, truthfully or not. “I have no obligation to be honest to the media,” Lewandowski unapologetically explained, adding “They’re just as dishonest as anyone else.”
Trump “tweeted” effusive praise for Lewandowski’s performance, and Lewandowski “tweeted” during a break in the proceedings about a potential run for the seat of famously mild-mannered Democratic Sen. Jean Shaheen in New Hampshire. We’ll leave it to the people of New Hampshire to decide that matter, but we’ll also hope they keep in mind that Lewandowski freely admits he feels fully entitled to lie to the American public on national television. That seems to be the current standard, but it shouldn’t be.

— Bud Norman

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And So It Begins

The arduous process of picking a new President of the United States begins today in Iowa, as it quadrennially does for some reason or another, so there’s nothing we can do about it now. While at church on Sunday morning we offered up a humble prayer of gratitude that America still has some say in the matter and a plea that it choose wisely, and we suppose that’s the best we can do at this point.
Watching the returns will likely test our faith, however, as any sort of providential outcome seems unlikely. The Iowa Democrats are choosing between former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most thoroughly corrupt and incompetent crony capitalist of our time, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose most admirable quality is his willingness to admit that he’s an outright socialist bent on eradicating capitalism altogether, and that at least he’s not charging big speaking fees to those evil Wall Street types and isn’t under the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile the Iowans of our Republican party are reportedly choosing between front-running Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul who prides himself on his unabashedly corrupt and inarguably competent crony capitalism, and underdog Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose more red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and strict constitutionalism and unabashed evangelical Christianity have suddenly made him the target of both the “establishment” and “anti-establishment” wings of the party, although there’s still a chance that a conservative-but-more-pragmatic sort such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio might at least do well enough to alter the storyline somewhat through the next less-noticed 49 rounds of the party primary process.
The Democrats’ descent into this madness has been going on at least since George McGovern’s nomination back in ’72, and except for a few brief moments of political sensibility during times of war as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s administration, but the Republicans’ situation seems rather all of a sudden.
Until last summer, Republican presidential nomination races always had a comfortingly familiar feel to them, with us more rock-ribbed and ideologically-grounded conservatives out here in the hinterlands squabbling with those pointy-headed and lily-livered country club types back east over matters of tactics, but eventually uniting for a shared disdain for those outright and all-but-in-name socialists and multi-cultural bullies over on the Democrat side, and if we lost we squabbled over the blame and if we won squabbled over both the credit for what went right and the blame the for what went wrong despite the victory. In any case we all at least paid lip service to the non-crony sort of capitalism, we all grumbled about the breakdown of the constitutional order, and even the most secular country club types acknowledged a certain necessary Judeo-Christian underpinning to the whole western civilization project that we also all agreed upon. Then all of a sudden a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show star shows up boasting of all the politicians he’s bought off and all the married babes he’s bagged and the billions he’s made along the way, and the four bankruptcies and the failed airline and the defunct football league and the highly dubious if not downright fraudulent eponymous “university” and all the other debacles of his career go unmentioned, and he fires up the population by addressing the unaddressed immigration problem with righteously indignant but outrageously unworkable ideas, and his past employment of illegal workers and his politically criticism of the hated “establishment” Republican Mitt Romney for suggesting a more sensible “self-deportation” policy just one presidential election ago are similarly forgotten, and with a few late night insult comic jabs against prisoners of war and the handicapped and an admirable woman rival’s face he became the politically-incorrect hero of the “anti-establishment” wing. Then he began boasting of how the “establishment” loved him, and its most formerly hated exemplars began to sing his praise, and both talked of how they could cut some good crony capitalist deals together, and suddenly it is hard to see how any red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian can compete against both wings.
One hopeful theory holds that many the fans of the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul and political newcomers unlikely to brave a cold and long Iowa night of caucusing, or be able to find their way there, but some of the pollsters are calling for what Trump would call a “yuge” turn-out, and they might prove right. There’s not the enthusiasm for red-in-tooth-in-claw capitalism that one might hope for in a state that’s swung a sweet crony-capitalist deal on the engine-corroding and consumer-gouging and doing-little-for-the-ecology ethanol subsidies, which the deal-making real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul has promised to sweeten beyond what even any Democrat has proposed, and strict constitutionalism and evangelical Christianity might not prove as significant a negotiating point. We have no disputes with the Democrats or Republicans of Iowa, and although we’ve found it a hard state to hitch-hike through in the winter we are great fans of Grant Wood and that deep-brown dirt they’ve got, but so long as they’re first in line to pick the next president we don’t see how we’ll ever get rid of that ridiculous ethanol subsidy.
Iowans are disproportionately white and rural and union-enrolled and otherwise atypical of the broader American population, too, but so long as the state’s Democrats keep picking either an establishment or more frankly socialist candidate they’ll been immune from any criticism about, Whatever candidate the Iowa Republicans choose will be subject to all sorts of quota-driven scrutiny. Both candidates will reap much publicity and considerable momentum going into the next round of voting in New Hampshire next week, and after that second round of 50 all the press will be writing their premature obituaries the same way they do after the second of of a best-of-seven professional basketball series. Sometimes those premature obituaries proved prescient, so we will wait and see.
The red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian is at long last blasting away at the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul’s crony capitalism with an ad we think states the case rather succinctly, and what’s left of conservatism’s intelligentsia is arousing itself on behalf of the cause, and even some of those right-wing radio talkers are suddenly asking questions, but it’s probably too late for today’s voting, and today’s voting will be big story until next week’s voting, so we’ll wait and see. In the meantime, we’ll take whatever deal we can get.

— Bud Norman

The Presidential Races and the Growing Realizations

The big newspapers are already full of stories about the ’16 presidential race, and even at this all-too-early point it often makes for interesting reading. There are the inevitable second thoughts about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s nomination, some comic relief from Vice President Joe Biden, and even a budding realization that the Republican contest isn’t shaping up according to the conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom.
Clinton has been deafeningly silent lately, so there’s not been much to report about her except for the polls showing her trailing undeclared candidate Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in both Iowa and New Hampshire, which does not serve the favored press narrative about inevitability. Warren is a darling of the left wing activists who play an outsized role in the Democratic nominating process, just as Iowa and New Hampshire do, but is little-known outside those circles, so the results are not encouraging for the better-known and far better-funded and better-organized Clinton. The conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom that name recognition and money and organization will ultimately prevail often proves true, but when such formidable advantages can’t gain an early lead in the early elimination round states against such a fake Indian and even faker left-wing populist of a first-term Senator such as Warren it seems a harbinger of an exception to the rule. The scrutiny that would follow the announcement of a Warren candidacy might well do her in, since even the friendliest media will be obliged to explain the whole fake-Indian scam and her more extreme soak-the-rich rhetoric and her general left-wing kookiness, and the media more friendly to Clinton will be most eager to pile on, but those left-wing activists are clearly unenthused about Clinton and likely to find some other darling to rally around.
He almost certainly won’t be Vice President Joe Biden, as even the loyal scribes of the Associated Press can now see. Biden seems to have no money, no organization, and even after six years of being Vice President of the United States he has little name recognition. If not for being so unfamiliar to the public Biden would be an even more unlikely nominee, as his prolific gaffes would be the popular catchphrases of the day if he were Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin or any other Republican. Biden’s latest gift to the late night comedians was giving a shout-out during a speech to his “butt buddy,” a vulgarism usually understood as describing a homosexual partner, but he can be grateful that won’t be so widely discussed as a misspelling of “potato” or an entirely fictional remark about seeing Russia from his house. No one ever became president by having the press politely ignore him, though, and Biden is unlikely to prove an exception to that rule.
The big newspapers retain an inordinate interest in former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his inside-the-Beltway rivals, especially former protege and potential rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, but they’re slowly wising up to the probability that the Republican race winner will come from far outside the Beltway. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the darling of the right-wing activists who play an inordinate role in selection the Republican nominee, he’s leading the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which play that same crucial role in the GOP’s nominating process, and he’s also the favorites of the Republicans who showed up at the party’s annual Kansas Day gathering, who are about are about as Republican as Republicans get, and he’s even got some money and a growing organization, and after three elections and six years of relentless attacks by the labor movement and the Democratic establishment and its media allies he’s even got some name recognition. His prominence in the race is such that The Washington Post felt obliged to run one of its quadrennial back-to-schooldays hit pieces.
The Post’s effort will have little effect on Walker’s chances, we suspect. There are none of the hazing stories that were attributed by the paper last time around to Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and even some quotes from loyal friends who recall that they wouldn’t even let the well-behaved Walker in on their more harmless college pranks, as well as tales of his countless kindnesses to a particularly accident-prone friend, but there is the shocking revelation that the remarkably successful two-term governor was frequently late and largely uninterested in his French classes and remains 36 credit hour short of a college degree. The paper portrays this as a great mystery, and chose to run the story at a time when Walker was overseas on a trade mission and conveniently unavailable to provide the solution, but still leaves open the possibility that he simply chose to begin what has turned out to be an exemplary career in public service rather than pay for another 36 hours of over-priced college education. This will seem a disqualifying failure to the sorts of people who are impressed by Elizabeth Warren’s former post on the Harvard University faculty, but we expect the rest of the country will not find it a matter of concern.
Ivy League credentials are not always sufficient for the presidency, as the last four administrations and numerous previous ones demonstrate, and autodidacts such as Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman have occasionally distinguished themselves in the office. The story might even further endear Walker to a country largely populated by people who do to have Ivy League diplomas, and inoculate him against the usual charges of elitism and privilege that are invariably made against the Republicans who hod tony degrees. The Post story also reveals that Walker is the son of a Baptist minister who chose to attend a Catholic university, inadvertently burnishing his ecumenical reputation with the Republican party’s religious wing, and will not convince anyone that Walker does not possess a serious intellect. We note elsewhere that Walker has proposed legislation that would permit people in the state’s higher education system to gain credits for life experience, and most people who have experienced both college and real life will agree that the benefits that Walker has brought the state after many years in public office should surely be equivalent to 36 hours of university lecturing.
This is far too early to make any predictions, of course, as the press should have figured out by now, but will venture to say that conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom should not be trusted.

— Bud Norman