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No All-Star Game at the Halfway Point

The presidential political season has now passed the halfway point, without anything nearly so entertaining as the all-star games that mark the middle of more respectable professional sports, and although the front-runners in both leagues padded their leagues on Tuesday padded their leads the outcomes are at least still somewhat in doubt.
Over on the Democrats’ senior circuit, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was awful in each of those capacities, won decisive victories in the populous and all-important “swing states” of Ohio and Florida, as well as the Democratic stronghold of Illinois, and the populous and possibly Democratic state of North Carolina, and is neck-to-neck with her lone challenger in the populous and even more possibly Democratic state of Missouri. Such a good night gives her a better than two-to-one lead in the delegate count, with all the super-delegates and other cards stacked in her favor, but she’s also had some bad nights, and against the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, at that, and he looks to be sticking around. Sanders’ supporters are quite committed to his crazy cause, and quite sanely if inadvertently aware of Clinton’s dishonesty and corruption and incompetence and purely opportunistic stands on the issues, as well as generally low moral character, and they’re coughing up twenty bucks at a time to keep funding his anti-establishment insurgency at a faster pace than the hated Wall Street fat cats can fund her unappealing campaign, and even if the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t get a game-changing indictment against her for her irregular and national-security-endangering e-mail practices, or her scandal-ridden family’s highly suspicious “foundation,” she’s still got problems between now and her long-predicted coronation.
By now Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are so high that the current Democratic administration might be tempted to let the FBI proceed with that indictment, so that some wild card might be played at a contested convention, but Tuesday night’s Republican results suggest she might be running against pretty much the only person in the United States of America with even worse polls numbers. Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul, also racked up a sizable win populous and swing-state Florida, as well as Illinois and North Carolina, and is quite narrowly leading in Missouri as we write this, and with the winner-take-all rule in Florida and the more convoluted systems elsewhere he added to an already sizable delegate lead. There’s no denying it was another good night for Trump.
He’s got his problems, too, though, even if his own looming legal problems are merely of a multi-million dollar civil nature. He was humbled in Ohio, where favorite son Gov. John Kasich handily won all the delegates in a winner-take-all primary and some potentially important bargaining chips in the potential contested election, where they almost certainly would not go to Trump until at least the final ballot, and he was dogged in Missouri by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has several wins against Trump and almost certainly would have won Missouri if not for the presence of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is now mercifully out of the race after his un-favorite son finish in his home state, and the intra-party opposition to Trump is also committed and contributing and increasingly well-organized, and the deal-maker’s deal is far being made.
Even if he does seal the deal on a nomination, there are still those worse-even-than-Clinton’s polling numbers, and it’s hard to imagine that one of Trump’s stream-of-consciousness rants during his nomination acceptance speech will do much to change, and a certain number of us are going to start choosing between the Constitutionalists and the Libertarians and any other conservative-sounding third party, while a certain number of similarly picky picky Democrats will be investigating the Socialist and Green and other liberal-sounding parties, but until then there’s at least some outside chance of an honest conservative versus an honest liberal.

— Bud Norman

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The Latest Episode of the Perils of the GOP

The Republican presidential race is quickly becoming our favorite television show, almost to the point that we wish it were already over and we could “binge watch” the entire season to to its cliff-hanging conclusion on Netflix. Tuesday night’s installment was the best yet, with some intriguing plot twists and a refreshing focus on some fascinating but previously minor characters, and some travails of the formerly featured players, as well as much better production qualities.
Our cheapskate ways and aversion to popular culture preclude us from purchasing cable television, so we give thanks to the Fox Business Network, which is obviously the business news affiliate of the notoriously capitalistic and greedy Fox News organization, for making it available for the free on the internet, unlike the previous debate producers at CNBC, where the “C” stands for cable or capitalism and the “NBC” stands for the righteously anti-capitalist and pro-share-the-wealth National Broadcast Company, which insisted that everyone pay for its product. We further thank for them asking actual questions of the candidates, rather than spewing sneering diatribes ended with a question mark, because as much fun as it was to watch the Republicans bash the moderators in the last debate this episode was even better.
Previous episodes had somehow established two political neophytes, blustery real estate billionaire Donald Trump and soft-spoken neurosurgeon Ben Carson, as the frontrunners, but this time both seemed relegated to supporting roles. Another non-office-holder, former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina, seemed to get more air time and to make more of it. When the questions veered from economic issues to foreign affairs, Trump started talking about letting Russian President Vladimir Putin run the Middle East, Carson rambled in his efforts to reconcile his past dovishness in Afghanistan and Iraq with a more popular hawkishness, and Fiorina got the biggest applause of the three with some very tough talk about the need to project American power. Of the three candidates untainted by previous positions in government, which voters suddenly seem to find very attractive, we’d rate her performance the best.
Trump was conspicuously less prominent than in past debates, and his bully boy persona seems to be wearing thin. Much of his ire was aimed at former congressman and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who otherwise would have gone entirely unnoticed, and Trump’s argument that Ohio’s recent economic rebound was merely a matter of “striking oil” was easily rebutted, and his sneer that “I don’t need to listen to this man” was booed by many people who certainly never had any intention of supporting the recently mushy Kasich but feel that his long record of public service at least entitles him to have his say in a Republican debate. His complaint that Fiorina too often interjected herself into the debate was briefly cheered by his supporters with their usual pro-wrestling fan enthusiasm, but it surely gave his feminist and other female critics another reason to hate him, and there were enough old-fashioned chivalrous males and less aggrieved women in the audience at a Republican debate that he endured another round of boos. His best moment came when he criticized the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership boondoggle, emphasizing that he supports free trade but credibly claiming that he could have negotiated a better deal, but even that didn’t get much applause.
Carson’s more polite presentation fared somewhat better. He stumbled badly when the discussion ranged into foreign policy, noting how darned complicated it all seems to be, but he had good moments talking about capitalism and entrepreneurialism and risk-taking and the economic anxieties of the middle class. At not point was he booed for his boorish insults, and the phony-baloney scandals about him that the press have lately concocted went unmentioned even by Trump, and the first wave of punditry raved about his performance, so our guess is that he didn’t suffer so much as Trump.
Among the candidates who are tainted by previous public service, we’d say that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and especially Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas seemed the likely winners. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul had a good moment talking about the Democrats’ hysteria over climate change, as befits a Senator from a coal-mining state, but his isolationist views and stubborn insistence that a hefty military budget is not conservative made him a whipping boy for the rest of the candidates. Cruz got the best of it by noting that the defense of America is expensive but not nearly expensive as not defending it, Rubio got in a couple of good lines about the necessity of America being the world’s greatest military power, Fiorina also got some licks in, and even the most weak-kneed of the candidates made clear that the Republican party and conservatism still stand for a stronger national defense than any Democratic candidate might prefer.
There was some hearteningly radical talk about abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and other sensible tax reforms from all the candidates, with Cruz going the furthest, and even Trump was forced to concede that all the plans put forth were preferable to the status quo or any adjustments the Democrats were considering. Another big topic was illegal immigration, and although Trump and the obviously irrelevant Kasich had a sharp exchange about the feasibility of deporting every illegal immigrant it was clearly that even of the mushiest of the lot would be more strident than even the stiffly-spined Democratic on the issue. All the candidates came off more stridently capitalist than any of the Democrats, as well, and still sounded more authentically populist in their opposition to crony-capitalism than even the most ardently socialist can claim to be. On most of the poll-tested push-button issues, the eventual Republican nominee will be positioned.
The latest debate gave more time than the previous ones to Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and they made less of it. Bush’s closing statements had something to do with the Veterans Administration and not much else, according to our admittedly bored notes, and we expect that Kasich’s strong stand as the least strident of the candidates in his opposition to illegal immigration was surely the death knell of his candidacy. There’s no telling how the installment will go, but for now our best guess is that that Bush and Kasich are out, Trump is trending downwards, Carson stays steady, Fiorina retains an outside chance, and that Rubio gains but Cruz does even better, whoever emerges will be better than the Democrat candidate, whose identity remains a mystery, and that there’s no telling how that might turn out.

— Bud Norman

The Republican Race Just Got Angrier and Better

The average Republican primary voter’s seething anger toward the party’s congressional leadership has been the driving force in the party’s presidential race thus far, to the point it’s driven the electorate so stark raving mad that until recently itDonald Trump has been pushed to the top of the polls, and this looming budget deal that the leadership has concocted with President Barack Obama is not going to calm any conservative’s temper.
The deal is just plain awful in every way. It effectively ends the “sequestration” budget cuts that lowered the government’s share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product from 25 to 20 percent and reduced the annual budget deficits back to the level of the Bush administration, which admittedly doesn’t seem like much, and it also caused cuts in defense spending that are painful to conservative sensibilities, but it was arguably the best the leadership could get and inarguably the most that the leadership could brag about. This is in exchange for promises of budget cuts in 2025, which are unlikely to be worth as much as the magic beans that the Democrats had also offered, and basically represents a complete and utter capitulation to Obama and his free-spending ways. There’s nothing in the deal that addresses Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts business or the Environmental Protection Agency’s rapaciousness or any other other conservative budget complaints, it goes the wrong way on entitlement reform, and it outlasts the Obama administration and thus spares him any more fights over how he spends the public’s money.
As awful as it is as policy, it’s even worse as politics. Aside from infuriating their own average primary voter, and in a futile attempt to lure the sort of uninformed general election voter who is far more likely to be lured by whatever free and shiny object the Democrats are offering, the Republican party’s official leadership are weakening their position with the solid majority of respondents to almost every poll we’ve ever seen who think the government should spend less and do less. The official Republican leadership’s spin on it seems to be that Boehner shrewdly sacrificed his standing with his party’s vast membership, such as it was, to ensure that incoming Speaker John Ryan can begin his more steadfastly conservative reign untainted by the sins his predecessor had so selflessly taken upon himself. This is all going to going down with Ryan’s gavel, though, and he’s not going to get any credit for it from the more establishmentarian organs of the mainstream press, who are already gearing up to portray him throughout the presidential campaign as the right-wing crazy that he used to be back in the good old days of ’12 when he was chosen as the party’s running mate to placate a conservative base weary of the establishment nominee Mitt Romney. Since then Ryan’s gone wobbly on illegal immigration and government shutdown brinksmanship and other causes dear to conservatives’ hearts, however, and by now no knowledgable observer expects a reign more steadfastly conservative than Boehner’s. Thus we have an emboldened left, a dispirited right, and an uninformed middle that will be reassured by the 3l-second network news snippets in between pop songs that the Republicans are still crazily right-wing and the Democrats are still winning.
The average Republican primary voter gets his news in three-hour chunks from talk radio and in page after pixelled page of reliable conservative news sources on the internet and sometimes even on a printed page, and his response to all of this will naturally affect the presidential race. Our guess is that the already flourishing anti-establishment candidates who are completely untainted by any previous elective office will continue to do well, and it will be interesting to see if blustery real estate billionaire Donald Trump or soft-spoken physician Ben Carson gets the best of it, or if the formidable but fading high executive Carly Fiorina can get back in the mix. As the best-selling author of “The Art of Deal,” with a hard-to-deny reputation as a ruthless dealmaker, Trump should gain some advantage, although we’re still convinced what kind of a deal the relatively recent Republican and only occasionally conservative fellow consider would consider good. Among the establishment politicians, both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are presented with an excellent opportunity, and it will be interesting to see which one makes the most of it. Given the understandably seething anger of the average Republican primary voter, we expect they’ll try to out-do one another in their willingness to gum up the works. If we were betting men, and if he we had any money to bet, we’d go with Cruz.
Both men came into office by besting the “establishment” candidates in their states, with Rubio the most celebrated because he had upset the hated Rockefeller Republican and soon-to-be Democrat Charlie Crist in his primary, and in a swing state at that, but since then Cruz has proved the more reckless provocateur. His filibustering attempts on previous budget showdowns were widely blamed for the inevitable frenzy of news stories about National Parks closing and old folks dying while their Social Security checks went undelivered and Earth spinning out of its orbit that inevitably followed, as well as the electoral disasters that also didn’t happen, so of course the average Republican primary voter, if not the uninformed voter hearing those 30-second news snippets, has looked kindly upon him ever since. As the most notoriously anti-establishment of the elected officials, he’s well positioned to lead a charge here, and he strikes as the sort who seize it.
Rubio might surprise us, though. We still fondly recall the handsome young fellow who vanquished Crist, and all the rousing speeches about capitalism and constitutional guarantees of liberty and all that full-throated Cuban anti-communism, and we can’t help thinking he’d make a good pick against whatever crazy lefty the Democrats might come up with. Although the 30-second news snippets will continue to characterize him as a right-wing crazy he still needs to shore up that credential with we actual right-wing crazies, so a good old-fashioned Jimmy Stewart-style filibuster would do him even more good. It would also remind the public that he’s a Senator doing his job, which further refutes a minor controversy about all the Senate votes he’s been missing lately while out on the campaign trail, and ensures his name showing up in a lot of headlines that even the most uninformed voters are likely to spot.
Former Florida governor and Bush family scion “Jeb!” Bush tried to exploit the mixed votes in this weeks presidential debate, and the general consensus of pundit opinion is that Rubio responded nicely by contrasting his record with presidential candidates ranging from Sen. John McCain to Sen. Barack Obama, and that Bush’s already faltering campaign took another hit. We can’t see how the oh-so-establishment candidate from the oh-so-establishment family ever thought he stood a chance, and we can’t see how he’ll get one out of a budget deal that confirms every seething angry anti-establishment suspicion of the average Republican voter. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also had a good night slapping around the media in the last debate, but he has a certain East Coast attitude about guns and a shoddy record on Muslim jurists and other issues dear to the hearts of more heartland conservatives, as well as the audio of him of praising Obama’s Hurricane Sandy efforts and photos of them hugging together on the New Jersey shore like the end of some of Will Smith-Josh Rogan “bromance,” so he also never stood a chance and doesn’t stand to gain one from this awful budget deal.
Whichever candidate winds up winning the nomination on the seething angriness of the seething angriness of the average Republican primary voter, we don’t worry that all the pandering will hurt their chances in a general election against what left-wing crazy the Democrats put up. For all the effort packed into those 30-second spots to make the Republicans look extreme, the Democrats are staking out wildly unpopular positions on guns, illegal immigration, law enforcement, abortion, and even on the economic issues that take more than 30 seconds to explain. If Rubio or Cruz have to explain their brinksmanship on a budget showdown to a general electorate, they can say that they did it so that the government would have to spend less and do less, which always polls well, especially after the National Parks are re-opened and the old folks never did miss a Social Security check and Earth stays in its orbit. Given the mood of the average American voter, who by now regards both the Democrats and Republicans with a seething angry suspicion, the candidate that is mostly convincingly running against both parties stands to do well.

— Bud Norman

Hillary and Sanders and Sexism

Although we keep reading in the respectable press that Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential nomination is once again inevitable, and her ascension to the presidency more or less a fait accompli, we still harbor hopeful doubts about it. The pre-written and utterly ridiculous accounts of her routing of the Republicans during that Benghazi hearing can’t last forever, and we we can’t help noticing that she’s already resorting to some desperate pouting about her womanhood and victimhood.
That rout of the Republicans during the Benghazi hearings only makes sense, after all, if you’re relying on the respectable press. Those unfortunate souls with nothing better to do than slog through all the videos and transcripts learned that Clinton was proved to have ignored at least 600 requests for enhanced security at the Benghazi consulate prior to the forewarned terrorist attack, that she knowingly lied to the families of four dead Americans and the rest of the country that it was a spontaneous demonstration against a little-known YouTube video rather than a forewarned terror attack, and that an obscure filmmaker was imprisoned and profuse apologies were issues to the Muslim world for enforcing the First Amendment and allowing the slander of the prophet of Islam as result. The accounts of the respectable press will suffice for Clinton for now, but eventually all that indisputable footage will surely end up in an eventual Republican candidate’s well-funded and widely disseminated attack ad.
More worrisome to the Clinton campaign, and more hopeful to us, is the resort to womanhood and victimhood. It started in the first debate, when Clinton cited her sex as a her most important difference to President Barack Obama, who won the office as The First Black President just as Clinton intends to win it as the First Woman President of Any Racial Heritage, and she’s lately upped the ante during a tiff with pesky challenger and self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over gun control. One of Sanders’ rare crowd displeasing moments during the first debate was when he was forced for to defend his past opposition to gun, which has earned a D- minus grade from the National Rifle Association that is suddenly a disqualifying grade in a Democratic nomination race, and he clumsily defended it as a vote from a “rural state” that is mostly hippies running dairy farms to supply the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream empire with organic milk is just as insistent on its gun rights as Kansas, rather than admitting the more plausible-to-Democrats explanation that  it was because of his longstanding commitment to armed socialist revolution. Since then Clinton has been openly embracing an Australian-style gun-grabbing law that the Democrats used to insist they would never attempt, and Sanders has vociferously responded, which Clinton has described as a sexist “When women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
This might well prove savvy in a Democratic primary, where there are a preponderance of women, and no doubt more than a few of them who believe they have at some time been wrongly accused by some man of shouting, but we expect it will prove less reliable in a general election. The general electorate, which is still approximately 50 percent male and still includes a fair number of married women who will understand the futility of this complaint, might not prove so forgiving. In any case, the First Woman President won’t get the same 95 percent of the woman vote that the First African-American President won from the African-American vote, and to whatever extent the general electorate remains stubbornly sexist it is looking for a woman who won’t blame her failures on sexism, and that whole Australian-style gun-grabbing thing seems unlikely to play well in a country where not only men but women who have been spooked by that whole culture-of-rape narrative the left is peddling are committed to their God-given and constitutionally-protected right to arm one’s in self defense.
The whole I-am-woman-hear-me-roar thing was bound to surface sooner or later, although we expected it when the Republicans settled on some white guy or another, and especially if it was the boorish Donald Trump, but that it’s already being deployed against the likes of a self-described socialist and Vermont Senator such as Bernie Sanders smacks of desperation. She seems to be benefiting from the double standards of current political discourse, and we’re quite sure that any male politician who had endured such serial humiliations from a spouse would be an object of ridicule rather than sympathy, and with all those men and all those respectably married and Republican women in the mix we think the pitch might yet fall short of an electoral majority.

— Bud Norman

Humor, Heart, and Hillary

Back in the days when Johnny Carson used to host “The Tonight Show” he occasionally featured a comic who joked that “I do impersonations of people, and I’m often mistaken for one.” Although we’ve long since forgotten the comic, we were reminded of the line by a New York Times report about Hillary Clinton’s most recently revised campaign strategy.
The Times isn’t so impolite as to say that she is going to attempt an impersonation of a actual person, but its headline does hilariously promise “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to the lead paragraph the humor will include “no more flip jokes about her private email server,” and the heart will supposedly be demonstrated by “no rope lines to wall off crowds, which added to an impression of aloofness,” as well as “new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes wooden and overly cautious.” If she’s looking for some intentional humor as well she’s welcome to that old line, but we doubt that her aloof and wooden delivery would put it over.
A woman who hasn’t driven a car or microwaved a burrito or figured out how to send an e-mail for the past 25 years is hard-pressed to convince anyone that aw shucks, she’s just a regular gal at heart. One that has ruthlessly dealt with her husband’s serial sexual harassment victims and too-honest White House travel office managers and obscure anti-Islamic videographers and any big-money donors to her family’s foundation, and not nearly so ruthlessly with the likes of Vladimir Putin and the Chinese communists and the mullahs of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood almost everywhere, will find it a particularly hard act to pull off. Clinton was never any good at it, even before all the baggage and the years of pampered living accumulated, and her crack team of public relations experts seem no more suited to the task than they were back when her inevitable candidacy lost to a little-known radical back in ’08.
The little-known radical Clinton currently trails is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose humor and heart are such that he’s a self-described socialist and a plausible advocate of all sorts of Democratic craziness that Clinton’s many corporate boards and big money donors won’t allow her to pursue, so no matter what folksy accent she might try to impersonate Clinton will be hard pressed to match her opponents insane but undeniably authentic appeal. There’s also talk of Vice President Joe Biden getting in the race, who would immediately enjoy the apparent imprimatur of the same Obama administration that is currently pursuing a criminal investigation in the matter of Clinton’s suddenly humorless private email server, and although even his most ardent supporters admit he’s something of a buffoon even his harshest critics concede that he’s a humorous and heartfelt buffoon. No matter what Democrats might decide to enter a suddenly winnable race, Clinton will be at a disadvantage regard humor and heart and the ability to impersonate an actual person.
The problem is such that some polls show Clinton trailing the top Republican contenders, even the ludicrous front-runner Donald Trump. This situation is dire not only for Clinton but for the country at large, which would be faced with a choice that makes Nixon versus McGovern look like a golden age of American politics, but it does suggest a more realistic strategy for Clinton to pursue. Although we have no use for the bombastic braggadocio of Trump we will concede that he’s at least honest enough to eschew all that aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular-guy hokum, and that it seems to be working for him. He flashes the bling and dishes the disses with all the sneering disdain of the most hard-core gangsta rapper, and well enough that he’s getting an uncanny-for-a-Republican 25 percent of the black vote, although we suspect his hard-line stance on illegal immigration also has something to do with that, and it suggests that the public isn’t necessarily looking for a regular guy to be president.
The guy who served the last two terms ran on the exoticism of his life story, emphasizing the interracial birth and the hauntingly absent father and the hippie grandmother and the Indonesian madrassa schooling and the typical white people grandparents who sent him through an elite prep school and Ivy League education, with the strange halo effect in all the press photographs and the crowds chanting his name as if he were some of maharaja, so the Democrats are at least as susceptible such nonsense as Republicans. In the past Clinton has brusquely assorted her immunity from criticism, such as that time she scolded a congressional committee looking into those four deaths at an insecure consulate in the anarchic country of Libya by sneering “What difference, at this point, does it make,” and all the Democrats stood and cheered. A bold declaration by Clinton that she’s still immune to criticism, and still entitled by some birthright to her rightful place on the American throne, and too frightening a harridan to be opposed, might well be the winning argument. It’s worked so far, at least among the Democrats who will be nominating the party’s nominee.
In any case, it would be more convincing than her impersonation of a person.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Plot Thickens

There’s serious talk going on about Vice President Joe Biden running for president, and it goes to show how very panicked the Democratic Party is about having former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its nominee.
Given the ongoing e-mail scandal and all the other equally damning scandals of the past 25 years or so and how very few accomplishments were associated with all those highfalutin titles and how very horrible a candidate she is, we’re not at all surprised that Democrats would be looking around for someone other than Clinton. That they’re considering Biden, though, suggests a party even more desperate than we would have thought. Biden is a two-time loser of the nomination, an inconsequential Vice President even by the low standards of that office, and a gaffe-prone buffoon who malapropisms have been ridiculous to even the such liberal ridiculers as the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” More surprising and scarier yet, if you’re a Democrat who happened upon this site, is that Biden will likely make a formidable contender.
Clinton is already losing ground to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current darling of the party’s far-left faction, and a long-time senator and Vice President would likely take more votes away from her than from the the Sanders and his base of people looking for an outsider option. He’d likely enjoy the implied endorsement of President Barack Obama, too, who has lately been deafeningly silent about all the federal investigations into Clinton’s e-mail, and without the black support that entails Clinton’s candidacy will be further eviscerated.
Biden has also been reportedly meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and discussing the possibility of a couple of one-term presidencies between the two, and that further thickens the plot. Warren, a fake-Injun-Harvard-professor-turned-far-left-populist-Senator, is the most avidly longed-for choice of the Democratic Party’s far-left base, even if she has thus far stood by her refusal to enter the race. The media speculation is that Biden might run with Warren as his pre-announced running mate, on a promise that he would serve only one term due to his seasoned age, allowing Warren to succeed him as president, fulfilling the Democrats’ destiny of electing both a black man and white woman to the presidency, and we can see such a promise beating out even the self-described socialist and any of the more scandal-ridden insider opponents.
At this point it’s all purely speculative, of course, but the inevitability of Clinton’s nomination does seem very much in doubt. If she does wind up with the nomination she’ll be likely be brushed and battered by the the fight for it, and without the enthusiastic support of the coalition that has won the last two presidential elections for her party, and as someone who had to fend of the buffoonish likes of Joe Biden.

— Bud Norman

The Political Pre-Season Begins

Alright then, we’ll admit it, we didn’t watch the entirety of the first debate of the Republican presidential nomination race. We’re as addicted to this story as any other reality show watcher, and we already have our rooting interests in the plot line, but our older brother is in town and there’s this great Mexican restaurant over in the nearby barrio and we cut off our television cable years ago, and besides, it all has such a sense of those meaningless pre-season games that the National Football Leagues starts all too early, so we we figured we’d rely on the more diligent internet sources for our opinions of it all.
Pretty much everyone on our right-wing reading list seemed to agree that former Hewlitt-Packard honcho and failed California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina won the “jayvee team” debate among those who didn’t poll in the top ten, with accomplished two-term Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal coming in second, and the arguably even more accomplished two-term Texas Gov. Rick Perry exceeding expectations well enough to come in a credible third. The other three really aren’t worth mentioning, as any experienced reality show viewer can rightly assume they’ll soon be written out of the plot. We’d like to see Fiorina, Jindal, and Perry all get into the prime time debate, and can easily name three candidates we’d be happy to see them replace, so we’re heartened by the reviews.
There doesn’t seem to be much consensus about the main event. which suggests that nobody won. So far as we can tell from the snippets at the Fox News Channel’s website, real estate magnate and literal reality show star Donald Trump apparently was his usual bombastic and buffoonish self, but there’s no telling whether that will add to or detract from his poll-leading numbers. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave a reassuringly ambiguous statement about his past support for the “Common Core” curriculum, the unabashedly libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a spat about national intelligence-gathering that most of the judges scored a win for Christie, neurosurgeon and political neophyte Dr. Ben Carson seems to have had no gaffes but no impression, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s just-regular-hillbilly-folk schtick seems have done its usual black magic, and the rest of it seems equally pointless.
Of course there’s much chatter about how tough the Fox moderators were in their questioning, but we figure all the candidates should be prepared for far worse then they meet the rest of the press. Our early favorite, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, used the opportunity of a question about his past support for “comprehensive immigration reform” to explain that he was previously wrong but has since been looking at the issue from a more national perspective and is now right, and when we try to imagine Trump speaking the words “I was wrong” we impressed by his candor.
If Trump didn’t commit his inevitable self-immolation and our guy Walker didn’t boost his numbers, and the more worthy contenders didn’t move into contention, we’ll not be worried. This is Grapefruit League and Cactus League stuff, and the numbers won’t count until some very cold days that won’t arrive until winter, and the lady at the bar we were at our brother earlier tonight who was shouting the pre-season football was about to arrive even as a Kansas City Royals victory was underway on the television care mores about that game that we care about this political game. The political game will wind up making a difference, but what happened in that debate we mostly skipped probably won’t.

–Bud Norman

The Race Is On

We’re still habitually writing 2014 on checks, but already the 2016 presidential race is underway. The Democrats still haven’t decided whether they’ll have a race or just hand a crown to Hillary Clinton, but there’s more than enough going on with the Republicans to keep the press happy.
There was a big confab of conservatives in inordinately influential Iowa that attracted many of the likely candidates, a few more likely candidates were conspicuous by their absence, a pair of very famous people have indicated an interest in joining the fray, and there seems to be a very wide and diverse field forming. All of it neatly serves one or another of the preferred press narratives, and while the potential Democratic candidates are dithering all the respectable media attention can be paid to those crazy Republicans and their traveling freak show.
The spectacle of Republican hopefuls seeking the support of conservatives, of all people, was almost too much for The Washington Post to bear. That oh-so-respectable publication’s report from Des Moines frets that the gathering of conservatives there “highlighted anew the thorny patch ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party’s conservative base without compromising their hopes for a general election.” They note that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was being lauded elsewhere in the paper for promising “adult conversations on big issues,” and former Massachusetts Governor and past presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is ruefully described as a past casualty of conservatism, declined invitations to the event, and one can’t help noticing the “tsk-tsk” between the lines as they contemplate the notion that such pillars of the party establishment did not feel welcome among such rabid Republicans as one finds in places such as Iowa.
As much as we appreciate The Washington Post’s deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be endangering their prospects of winning a presidential race, we think their worries are unwarranted. The conservatives’ insistence of stricter enforcement of immigration law and preference for lower taxes, the two issues the paper cites as reasons for Mitt Romney’s defeat in ’12 election, will likely prove a benefit to any Republican candidate after Romney’s resulted in tax hikes and amnesty for trainloads of unaccompanied minors from Central America. The reporters can’t seem to think of anything else on the conservative agenda that would compromise their hopes for a general election, and neither can we. A greater worry would result from nominating a candidate that fails to bring out the conservative base, as happened with Romney.
There’s still abortion, same-sex marriage, and a host of other social issues, including almost daily new ones involving acronyms and neologisms and exceedingly rare behaviors that are still unfamiliar to most Americans, so the quadrennial stories about the Titanic of the Republican party ramming into the iceberg of conservatism can always make do with that. In yet another Washington Post dispatch we learn that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped the Iowa event not because he was insufficiently conservative but in order to accept an invitation to speak at a “controversial” prayer rally in his home state, where he “called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.” This particular prayer rally is apparently controversial because it was organized by the American Family Association, which hews to traditional Christian beliefs about sexual morality, but the paper doesn’t go so far as to find anything controversial Christians retaining a freedom of speech. Once again there’s that deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be making a mistake, but if opposition to abortion was such a challenge to general election chances the party wouldn’t have won anything in the last 43 years, and while same-sex marriage is polling a bit better than even these days we don’t sense that the public wants to start enforcing proper opinions on the matter, and by 2016 the Democratic party’s association with all the craziness that’s going on in the cultural left won’t do it any benefit. Jindal has also lately been outspoken about the Islamic roots of Islamic terrorism, and we can’t expect that the press will also find that controversial, but it shouldn’t prove a general election problem.
For the benefit of the press caricaturists who wish to to portray the craziness of the Republicans, however, we might see the entrance of former Alaska Governor and past vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as well as real estate mogul and television reality show star Donald Trump. We rather like Palin, and delight in the way she drives all the right people insane, but after too few years in office and too many years of relentless ridicule by the late night comics of the left she’s unlikely to win the nomination and all too likely to distract from the more accomplished candidate who does. We don’t particularly like Trump, and find no reason whatsoever he should be president and see no plausible argument that he ever could be president, but he does have an undeniable ability to attraction attention to himself. Between the two the press could easily pay diminished attention to an otherwise impressive slate of candidates, and those late night comics of the left will surely do so.
Among the candidates that have impressed us is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bold reforms have so enraged the public sector unions that he was forced to survive a recall election that featured state legislators fleeing to other states as rowdy mobs rampaged through the state capitol, as well as a bruising but successful re-election campaign, and we note from the oh-so-respectable but frequently reliable The Hill that Walker a big hit at the Iowa gathering. The paper went so far as to say he “shows fire,” a significant compliment given the governor’s reputation in the press as a rather blandly polite midwestern sort of fellow, although we think blandly polite might play well after eight years of the world’s greatest orator and most petulant president, and it further noted that he stressed his own conservatism, which we sense they did not intend as a compliment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Walker’s home state reported that he told the Iowans to “go big and go bold,” but over at the National Review they note that Wisconsin’s legislative agenda includes a right-to-work law and a gambling casino, and worry that the governor’s presidential ambitions might prevent him from going big and bold on either issue. We’ll be watching to see how the governor responds, and will be disappointed if he doesn’t back the right-to-work bill in order to prevent a round of drum circles and hippie sleep-ins at the capitol building. Right-to-work is good economics and, well, a right, and even in Wisconsin it’s good politics these days, and nightly newscasts full of dirty hippies protesting your policies isn’t going to hurt a bit. The gambling thing is trickier, as even conservatives are split on the advisability of the government getting into the monopolized gambling business, but after all Walker’s been through he should survive any outcome on the issue.
Walker’s just one of several Republican governors who have brought greater prosperity to their states with conservative reforms, however, and at least three senators who have an expressed an interest in the presidency also warrant consideration. We can’t see the party giving Romney another chance, and we expect that Bush’s stands on immigration and common core and a general sort of big government-run compassionate conservatism associated with his family will be more than money and organization can overcome, but even those men have real accomplishments they can point to. Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former high-tech businesswoman Carly Fiorina have never held public office, and Fiorina lost a senatorial bid in heavily Democratic California, but both bring impressive resumes and appealing personalities and common sense conservatism as well the ethnic and sexual identities that Democrats like to claim. They represent a wide range of views being passionately debated in the party, which could be considered a sign of Republican vigor, but the stories will tell of petty infighting between the crazies and the moderately crazy. Should the moderately crazy prevail, once again, the press will then begin to describe them as merely crazy.
Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, the few stories we find about potential challengers usually mention Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t so frank about her political ideology. We’ll be on the lookout for any stories fretting that any Democratic nomination race that might break out would drag Hillary Clinton too far to the left, but given that socialism isn’t so controversial as Christianity and the press isn’t nearly so concerned about the political fortunes of the Democrats it might take a while.

— Bud Norman

Romney Rides Again

The Washington press is abuzz that Mitt Romney seems poised for another run at the presidency, but we wonder how many of the people who will be voting in the Republican primaries and caucuses share the excitement.
There’s no wondering why the press is excited. The investment mogul and former Massachusetts governor and past Republican nominee adds a familiar name to to their too-early-to-read campaign reports full of little-known governors and congressional long shots, sets up an intriguing storyline about the inevitable fight for big-money donors and the party establishment’s support against a former Florida governor with the familiar last name of Bush, and otherwise serves a favorite press narrative about top hat-wearing and moustache-twirling plutocratic Republicans and their internecine battle with the tin foil hat-wearing conservative crazies. Romney will also be a legitimate contender for the nomination, given all that big-donor money and establishment support and the fact he was once palatable enough to the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses to become the past nominee, so there are even valid journalistic reasons for the attention being paid.
Presidential re-runs are not unprecedented, of course. In the early 1800’s Charles Pinckney was twice the candidate of the Federalist Party, losing both times, which helps explain why there is no longer a Federalist Party. Grover Cleveland won, lost, then won again for the Democrats in the late 1880s. William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic nomination three times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with his brand of prairie populism, and lost the general election in each case. Thomas Dewey was twice the Republican nominee in the ’40s and twice the loser to Franklin Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson was twice the Democratic nominee in the ’50s and twice the loser to Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon was the Republican nominee in ’60 and lost but came back “tanned, rested, and ready” to win in ’68, so unless you remember how that turned out the record isn’t entirely gloomy.
There were those polls a while back showing that Romney would have won a re-match with President Barack Obama, too, and the next batch of surveys will no doubt show that he has a lead on all the candidates whose names are being thrown in the mix. Whoever survives the early blows between Romney and Bush will have the “establishment” support to himself while a wide field of contenders are still battling for “conservative” bloc, and that does provide a plausible plot for the Romney scenario. Money and organization and professional expertise matter, as well, and Romney will have plenty of them. There’s also an argument to be made that he would be a good president, and we proudly made the argument that he would have been better than Barack Obama, and that also matters even if it won’t be a part of the press narrative.
All of that will earn Romney a look from Republicans, but we expect it will be quite skeptical. A more robustly conservative candidate running an effective national campaign could have beaten Obama at any point in the last two years, which Romney failed to do when he had the chance, and that lead you see in the next batch of polls is over a group of more conservative Republicans that have not yet announced their candidacy much less launched a campaign. Among those little-known governors and congressional long shots are some impressive candidates, and they comprise a field far more formidable than Romney faced last time around.
Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry imploded with poor campaigning after a surgery and the weight of the deals he had made on immigration to win a crucial share of the Latino vote in his home state, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was tarred by personal scandals and lobbying ties and the years of vituperation by the left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum couldn’t resist being lured into divisive social issues, former pizza magnate and future talk show host Herman Cain had a sex scandal, “tea party” favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann dropped out early on, promising former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty dropped out for no apparent reason even earlier, and the likable and competent Romney suddenly seemed the best shot. This time he’ll face the likes of Gov. Scott Walker, who has won three elections to serve two astoundingly successful terms despite the most furious efforts of the Democratic left, Governors Rick Snyder and John Kasich of Michigan and Ohio, respectively, who have won re-election in their crucial states with the same sort of conservative policies, as well as a fully-recovered Perry who managed to demonstrate his anti-illegal immigration bona fides before leaving office, and the likes of Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul and Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz, who have shown the sort of boldness conservatives desire on economic issues and represent the polar ends of a crucial intra-party debate on foreign policy.
Any candidate that emerges from that field should be able to win the nomination. Our guess is that the Romney will win the fight with Gov. Jeb Bush for the “establishment” mantle, given that Bush has irrevocable positions on illegal immigration and that horrible “Common Core” curriculum that the federal wants to impose on local education systems that are anathema to all but the wealthiest Republicans, but the Washington press doesn’t seem to understand that “establishment” is now a most foul epithet among the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. The intense scrutiny that the other contenders have already endured suggests there won’t be scandals to knock any of them out of the race, and they’ll have strong arguments to make about Obamacare and regulations and taxes and getting the government out of the way that the technocratic Romney will have trouble countering. He’s a legitimate contender, but by no means a front-runner.
We might be proved wrong, of course, in which case our only consolation is in knowing that Romney would be a better candidate than anyone the Democrats might put up.

— Bud Norman

Sayonara Santorum

Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, and that’s probably best for both him and his party.

The stated reason for the former Senator’s withdrawal is the poor health that has recently afflicted his young daughter, and that might even be the real reason, as one of the several admirable qualities that Santorum has demonstrated during the long campaign is an uncommon devotion to his family. There were other good reasons for Santorum to call it quits, however, and it is almost certain they also played a part in the decision.

Santorum had already lost the nomination, barring some uncharacteristic self-inflicted catastrophe by front-runner Mitt Romney, and it was becoming increasingly likely that he would suffer a humiliating and potentially career-ending loss in the primary of his home state of Pennsylvania. Dropping out of the race and ceasing his attacks on the party’s all-but-certain nominee now, especially with a plausible reason having to do with his family, will allow Santorum to remain an influential figure in the GOP and perhaps even make another and more practiced run for the presidency in the future.

Santorum’s withdrawal also allows the Republicans to begin repairing some of the damage that has been done by the internecine fighting that has marked the primary campaign. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will remain in the race, for reasons known only to them, but the former has ceased his sniping at Romney and the latter has avoided any attacks on Romney from the outset, so the Democrats shouldn’t get any more help making a case against the Republican nominee.

There were a few less-than-admirable qualities that Santorum also revealed during the race, and they all helped the Democrats and their media allies caricature the Republicans as a party of religious zealots. Although Santorum spent most of his time on the campaign trail talking about how to fix the country’s broken economy, by far the most important issue to voters, he too often allowed hostile reporters to lure him into pointless statements about banning contraception, Puerto Rican statehood, John F. Kennedy’s 62-year-old speech about separation of church and state, and other red herrings that fit the contrived narrative of the opposition.

The downside of Santorum’s withdrawal, of course, is that Romney’s many enemies in the news and entertainment media will not be able to focus their efforts entirely on his campaign. After going to such lengths to emphasize the extremism of Romney’s opponents, though, the media will at least have a harder time convincing the uninformed voter that he’s dangerously far to the right.

— Bud Norman