Hope, Change, Making America Great Again, and Deja Vu All Over Again

A certain sense of deja vu pervaded our Wednesday, which recalled a similarly sunny but cool fall day just eight short years ago. We vividly remember how a charismatic but otherwise unqualified candidate had won the presidency with a vague set of proposals and a cult of personality, replacing a president of the opposition and joined by majorities of his own party in both chambers of Congress, and how there was much optimism among so many of our friends that a new era of hope and change had commenced.
Eight years later all the hope has changed to bitter disappointment, which has given way to a charismatic but unqualified candidate of the opposition with a very different set of vague proposals and an even more markedly different cult of personality, but he’s also got majorities in both chambers of Congress, and some of our very different sorts of friends are optimistically talking about making American great again. Maybe this time they’ll be right, but we sense the same sort of pride that always goeth before a fall.
When Barack Obama became president with Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as the Senate majority leader, and a squishy Supreme Court as the only remaining impediment to their power, the Democrats were unbearably cocky about it. Their more effusive cheerleaders were predicting 40 years of unbridled power, with the Republicans going the way of the Whigs, and utopia surely awaiting at the end of it. The president who had questioned his predecessor’s patriotism for running up half-trillion dollar deficits immediately started running full-trillion-plus dollar deficits with much of it wasted on a “stimulus package” of infrastructure spending that didn’t stimulate anything except the housing prices in the swelling D.C. suburbs. They also passed a radical re-making of the entire health care sector of the economy without a single Republican vote, promising that people who liked their doctor could keep their doctor and that the average family would save $2,500 a year and not a single dime would be added to those swelling deficits, all of which the Republicans refuted and would later prove to be utter balderdash. On the foreign policy front they immediately reneged on a missile defense promise to the Poles and Czechs, a token of their sincere desire to “reset” relations with the Russians, sold out the anti-communists of Latin America by backing a Marxist coup in Honduras, and traveled the Islamic world apologizing for anything that the United States might have said or done to provoke its 1,600-year-old jihad against the west, none of which has made the world any more peaceful.
After just two years of such nonsense the Republicans arose like a phoenix from the ash bin of history to re-take the House, added to their filibustering minority in the Senate, and had a grassroots “Tea Party” movement urging an ever more confrontational stand. They overplayed their hand enough to help Obama win reelection against a vastly more qualified but easily caricatured Republican nominee in ’12, but the Republicans held their House majority and by ’14 once again controlled the Senate, along with the biggest number of governorships and state legislatures since the days of Harding and Coolidge, which slowed if not stopped the Democratic agenda. That health care makeover was still veto-proof but at least didn’t expand, the debt continued to grow but the deficits were reduced back to those half-trillion figures of the preceding administration, the administration proceeded with an utterly ridiculous deal with the Iranians regarding their nuclear weapons ambitions but didn’t dare call it a treaty and thus settled for an executive action that could be more easily by repealed by a future Republican administration, and Democratic attempts at gun control and illegal immigration reform were also thwarted and the Democrats once again had to settle for more easily-revoked executive actions.
This wasn’t nearly confrontational enough for the more fervid “Tea Party” types, who were constantly telling one another via talk radio that the damned Republicans had just rolled over and given Obama everything he wanted, which came as quite as surprise to Obama and all the other National Public Radio listeners who were always hearing about the Republican’s stubborn obstructionism, so in ’16 they went with a candidate so impeccably anti-establishment candidate he promised to destroy both the Democrats and any Republicans who had ever had anything to with them. Donald Trump was a longtime Democrat and generous contributor to Democratic causes until recently, and had often spoken in favor of a Canadian-style “single payer” health insurance system or even an entirely socialized British-style of medicine, and his signature protectionist trade policies were pretty much the same as the Democratic party’s self-described socialist challenger and portended a similar desire to meddle even further in the rest of the economy, and he was promising to double his Democratic rival’s supposedly stimulative spending on infrastructure, and he was far friendlier to the Russkies and even more hostile to America’s allies than Obama, and just four years ago was criticizing the Republican nominee’s sensible enforcement policy on illegal immigration “cruel,” and he didn’t seem to know much about a whole lot of things, but that just proved he wasn’t one of those know-it-all establishment types who had supposedly proved so spineless. He was rude and crude and quick to pick pointless fights, but that only endeared to him Republicans who had endured eight years of Obama and were eager for confrontation for its own sake.
The anger Trump eagerly embraced made for a very different sort of cult of personality than the hippy-dippy peace-and-love and hope-and-change mantra of the Obama acolytes just eight years earlier, but it has the same indifference to careful consideration of objective facts or the possibility of political compromise, and looks just as likely to overreach. It comes into power along with majorities in both chambers of Congress, and hopefully with a less squishy Supreme Court as well, and we’re sure that the Democrats will soon regret that it’s also empowered by the last eight years of precedents on executive action.
Those supposedly insufficiently confrontational congressional Republicans did force Obama to resort to those executive actions, and we look forward to seeing their unappreciated work rewarded when a putatively Republican president easily undoes them, but we wonder if they’ll bother to resist any extra-constitutional executive actions a president putatively of their own party makes, and we dread seeing what they’ll be. Trump’s plan to cut taxes and increase spending on infrastructure and the military not touch any of the entitlements that take up the lion’s share of federal spending, not to mention his past statements about government-paid health care for everyone, aren’t likely to help with that debt problem that gave rise to the “Tea Party” movement that fueled the rise of Trump, and we’ll be interested to see how many of those Republican congressman who ran on that very issue will mount a dissent.
Throw in the very real possibility that Trump actually meant a lot of that crazy talk he spewed during the campaign about renegotiating the national debt and slapping 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods and not honoring our military treaty obligations, as well as the very real possibility that the Republican congressmen that the more fervent “Tea Party” types have long derided as spineless will accede to it, along with the certainty that the majority of the country that didn’t vote for Trump will be nurturing their own grievances and honing their own readiness for confrontation, and we can well imagine that the next mid-term elections with also have a certain sense of deja vu about it.

— Bud Norman

Trudging to the Polls on a Chilly Election Day

At some point this afternoon we’ll take that familiar stroll through our picturesque old neighborhood to the lovely Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on the scenic west bank of the Little Arkansas River, where we’ll stand in line and flash our photo identification to a friendly volunteer poll worker and exercise our constitutional right to cast our votes for a variety of offices. It’s a longstanding Election Day ritual we’ve always found quite cathartic, no matter how things turned out at the end of the day, but in this crazy election year it will seem a desultory chore.
There’s an old-fashioned Republican congressman in our district who we’ll be mostly pleased to support, and a slightly less rock-ribbed Republican senator we don’t mind voting for, and we’ll also cast a hopeful vote for whatever Republican is running against that left-wing Democrat who represents our anomalously liberal district in the Kansas House of Representatives. We’ll unenthusiastically vote the conservative “no” position on those five controversial state Supreme Court justices who are up for review, and a straight GOP line down to those little-known offices at the bottom of the ballot, but for the first time in our lives we won’t be voting for the Republican at the top of the ticket.
In this crazy election year the Grand Old Party’s nominee is a thrice-married and six-times bankrupt real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-beauty-pageant-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show-and-scam-university mogul, who boasts about the married women he’s slept with and the politicians he’s bribed, mocks the handicapped and disparages prisoners of war and impugns the motives of anyone with a contrary opinion, routinely pays his creditors less than promised and leaves his investors and employees short while somehow making money off his numerous failed businesses, and brags that he can grab women by the wherever and get away with it because he’s a “star.” Throughout a long, long campaign he’s proved himself thin-skinned and easily provoked, every bit as petty and vindictive as he claimed to be in his stupid but best-selling books, as exclusively self-interested as he’d always been in the 69 years before he entered politics, completely unable to restrain whatever idiotic thought pops into his head and then inclined to lie that he never said any such thing even though it’s on tape, and he’s crude and vulgar and ridiculously coiffed to boot.
His ever-shifting positions on the issues are perhaps even worse, at least from our old-fashioned Republican perspective. He’s peddling a protectionist trade policy that won’t protect his gullible supporters from the inevitable changes in a technological economy and will more likely provoke a trade war that is ruinous to the entire world. His promises to erase the nation’s debt by negotiating better trade deals is preposterous, his previous suggestions that he’d simply pay less than promised just as his he’s always done in his oft-bankrupt business life would be catastrophic, his Obama-style infrastructure spending certainly won’t reduce the debt, and his claims that he can micromanage the entire American economy the way he does his oft-bankrupt businesses does not reassure our free market selves. He takes a harsh rhetorical line against the recently decline rate of illegal immigration, but that pointless wall he’s building won’t prevent visa overstays, he’s all over the place about deporting those who are already here, as recently as the last presidential election he was criticizing the Republican nominee’s more sensible enforcement plans, and Mexico won’t be paying for that wall and the harshness of the nominee’s rhetoric has only made border enforcement more widely unpopular. His talk about turning the alliances that won the Cold War into protection rackets and allowing nuclear arms races in east Asia and the Middle East is what the diplomats call “crazy talk,” and we have no reason to trust his secret plan to crush the Islamic State and don’t like the way he’s criticized the recent and largely successful efforts to do just that.
None of our Republican friends can persuasively refute any of this, and few even try, but many have nonetheless urged us to vote for the party’s nominee rather than let a Democratic president pick any of the Supreme Court justices. It’s a plausible argument, given how very bad any Democrat’s appointees would inarguably be, but the Republican nominee has effusively praised the Kelo decision that allows governments to seize other people’s property on behalf of real estate moguls such as himself, seems to have no problem with that Obergefell decision that re-defined a millennia-old definition of marriage, agrees with the individual mandate that was the key matter in the Obamacare decision, disregards the rulings against the stop-and-search policies he advocates, has vowed to jail political opponents that he’s already found guilty, and promises to overturn the more longstanding Sullivan decision that allows the press to freely criticize him, so we hardly look to him as a protector of the Constitution. His frequent praise for dictators who have similarly punished their opponents, along all the extra-constitutional steps he’s vowed to take and the rest of his strongman posturing, only adds to our unease.
Of course there’s no way that we could bring ourselves to vote that Democratic nominee, either. She’s the Democratic nominee, for one thing, and thus portends all the collectivist and modernist and post-modernist tax-and-spend craziness that necessarily entails. The self-described socialist who almost won the Democratic nomination pushed the eventual nominee into a protectionist stance that is only better than the Republican nominee’s to the extent that she probably doesn’t really mean it, she’s just as determined as the Republican to ignore the looming debt crisis, her claims to be able to micromanage the economy are no more plausible than her opponent’s, and her y’all-come-in immigration policies make that pointless border wall seem a sound idea. Her foreign policy record has already undermined our allies’ faith in America, and effectively acquiesced to an Iranian bomb that will set off a Middle East nuclear arms anyway, and her own extra-Constitutional and authoritarian tendencies are also apparent.
The Democratic nominee’s much-touted resume reveals her own disqualifying character issues, too. As First Lady of Arkansas and then The United States she spent most of her time enriching herself with highly improbable cattle futures deals and firing honest White House employees to replace them with her Hollywood friends’ businesses and impugning the reputations of the women that her husband had voluntary and involuntary tawdry sex scandals with, her short time in the Senate proved profitable to herself but produced nothing for the public, and her disastrous four years of ill-thought interventions and even-more-ill-thought non-interventions as Secretary of State left every part of the world worse off but added many millions to her family’s phony-baloney foundation. She also habitually tells outrageous lies even about things that she should know can be easily refuted with a few keystrokes and a couple of mouse clicks, and of course there’s that whole e-mail thing that probably should have resulted in charges of mishandling classified information and a proper trial.
Which makes that walk to the polling place a desultory chore, no matter how pleasant the fall weather on a short stroll though such a picturesque neighborhood to such a lovely church and temporary altar of a hopefully durable democracy. Once we get there we’ll write-in a vote for that quixotic Mormon fellow who’s done hazardous duty in the Central Intelligence Agency and the financial sector and even on Capitol Hill, and has become a favorite of some of the erstwhile Republican intelligentsia who prefer the austere old-time GOP religion to the Republican nominee’s new prosperity gospel version, mainly because we can’t bring ourselves not to vote in a presidential election. As we trade along the sidewalks of Riverside toward our destination we’ll console ourselves that the gesture might do some infinitesimal good, as it keeps both of those awful major party nominees at least one vote short of that 51 percent they could call a mandate, and signals at least one more vote for that stubborn segment of the erstwhile Republican party that still stands athwart history shouting “stop,” as the late and great William F. Buckley would surely have put it. At least the record will reflect that someone took a stand at scenic spot on the Little River Arkansas against this crazy election year, and we’ll hold out faint hope that will do some good.

— Bud Norman

The Enduring Truth of the Latest Outrageous Fiction

Those with a good memory for all the accumulated outrages of the past seven and a half years or so might vaguely recall the name of Jonathan Gruber, “the architect of Obamacare” who couldn’t keep himself from gloating at an academic conference about all the clever lies that were used to foist that awful law on an unwitting land. Some enterprising internet muckraker got his hands on the video of his remarks well after the fact, it gradually “went viral” on all the conservative sites at a time when the more conservative party was still firmly opposed to federal control of the health care system, and the uproar was sufficient that even the more polite media were forced to acknowledge for a brief news cycle that it really was rather outrageous. We’d almost forgotten the name ourselves, despite our good memories and constant score-keeping, but were reminded by the recent gloating of Ben Rhodes and the outrage it has produced for this brief news cycle.
Rhodes is described by even such a polite medium as The New York Times as “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru,” and he was so comfortable with the paper’s politeness that he felt free to boast that President Barack Obama’s even more catastrophic-than-Obamacare deal with Iran regarding its obvious and undeniable and still-ongoing nuclear ambitions was also sold on a pack of lies. He frankly acknowledged that the Republican argument of the moment that the election of a supposed “moderate” president didn’t mean that the hard-liners in the Iranian theocracy weren’t still in charge was entirely, and that Obama’s claim the Republicans opposed to the deal were effectively in cahoots with those hard-liners fighting their own country’s more radical elements was the sort of ingenious fiction that he once aspired to as a creative writing major.
Even such a polite medium as The New York Times couldn’t help noting that the 38-year-old “Boy Wonder of the White House” didn’t have any more applicable academic credentials to become the president’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and speechwriter other than their shared disdain of the policies of the George W. Bush administration and preference for spinning tales, and even the headlines of such usually diplomatic sources as Foreign Policy Magazine have resorted to language that we do not condone but concede is pretty much apt, and we must admit that even our more liberal counterparts once again have acknowledged that this is pretty darned outrageous.
We’d like to think that after another half year or so things will start to get better, but at this point it is a dim hope. The presumptive nominee of the putatively more conservative party lists health care as one of the core responsibilities of the federal government, and has expressed his admiration for Scotland’s totalitarian systems, but assures us it will be a great deal, believe him, and the more liberal party’s presumptive nominee is offering the suddenly seemingly plausible offer of dancing with the devil we know, and the Democrat is standing by the deal and the Republican won’t disavow the deal because promising he can out-deal the Iranian rug-merchants just as he out-dealed all his casino-and-strip-joint creditors, and both seem quite certain that their fanciful fictions can be sold to a gullible public just like the rest of the outrageous reality shows they’ve been starring in for many years.

— Bud Norman

Why We’re Voting None of the Above

No, we most assuredly will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in the upcoming election.
We are irrevocably and unapologetically on the increasingly risky public record ridiculing and resisting Clinton and trying to stir up all the proper public outrage that awful woman deserves, and have been since way back when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was bragging about his friendship with her and generously contributing to her campaigns and phony-baloney “family foundation” and inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his constant interviewers that she was a “terrific woman” who was doing a “great job” as Secretary of State. We have steadfastly stood in opposition to the bossy collectivist clap-trap of her increasingly crazy party since even further back when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was testifying before Congress about the “awful” economic policies of President Ronald Reagan, and assuring his constant interviewers that he sided with the Democrats on most issues, and come November we still won’t be voting even for that Democratic and liberal but otherwise good guy we’ve known since childhood who is now somehow our state House Representative.
For the first time ever we won’t be voting for the presumptive Republican nominee at the top of the ticket, though, and thus we stand accused of somehow siding with that awful Clinton woman and the rest of her nearly-as-awful party. The charge sometimes come from people we much respect, although most frequently from people we have no use for at all, but in either case we will freely acknowledge that any vote not cast for Clinton’s most likely challenger does indeed afford her some infinitesimal advantage. Any vote for her most likely challenger is a vote for presumptive Republican nominee and erstwhile Clinton pal Donald J. Trump, however, and we hope that our most respectable critics at least will respect our reasons for never casting such a vote.
There are the policy matters, of course, even if they have largely been ignored in the ten-month-long tumult regarding Trump’s latest “Tweet,” but at this point none really make the odious Clinton any more palatable than Trump. On healthcare the presumptive Republican nominee has spoken kindly of the Canadian and British single-payer and completely socialized systems, and promises that Trumpcare will be so much better than Obamacare because he’s a frequently bankrupt but otherwise successful businessman who always makes great deals, and the presumptive Democratic nominee at least gave us a decade or so of reprieve from government-run health care because of of her neophyte political ineptitude.
Alas, for the first time in our adult lives at this point we can’t believe the presumptive Republican nominee on anything at all, which is why we won’t be voting for him even if it gives some infinitesimal contribution to the election of such an admittedly equally awful person as his former wedding guest Hillary Clinton and benefactor, even at the risk of being accused of being “establishment.” Call us old-fashioned, which we relish at this point in the godawful modern age, but in something in our Republican-in-name-only-at-this-godforsaken-point souls finds that a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul who trades in his wives every ten years for a newer model and mocks the handicapped and dodges the draft and denigrates the bravery of men who voluntarily served in the military and endure wartime captivity and regards women as “fat slobs” or “pieces of ass” and judges their human worth accordingly and accuses an already vanquished opponent’s father of being in on the Kennedy assassination on the basis of his buddy at the National Enquirer’s baseless accounts, or countless other outrages that we’ve taken time out from criticizing Clinton’s countless outrages to note, we simply cannot justify ever voting for such a man.

Nor does Trump much seem to want our vote. He spent Tuesday alleging the soon-to-be-vanquished-foe Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was in on the John F. Kennedy assassination, the sort of embarrassing crackpot theory you’d expect to find in The National Enquirer, which was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s source for the story,and expressing his utter contempt for all

>We’ll give due respect to any voter who votes for Trump on the excuse that he’s only voting against Clinton, who we heartedly agreed is at least every bit at sleazy and probably even more wrong on any issue what that the presumptive Republican nominee says he’s against at the moment, but we’d remind him that he’s also voting for Donald J. Trump. He’s voting for a man with no fixed political principles or apparent moral compass, who has never once in his much-ballyhooed life ever demonstrated an iota of concern for anyone but himself, and mocked those who have made far greater sacrifices for their or had sacrifices imposed upon them by the luck of life, and gloated about all the married babes he’s bagged and the business associates he’s screwed over and the politicians he’s bought off, and boasts about his penis size to compensate for the stubby fingers he’s obviously been feeling inadequate about for the past many years, and we don’t care to make constant excuses for it the next four years or so, and the fact that his most likely opponent is at least just as godawful doesn’t change the fact that you voted for this utterly vile human being.
Maybe this is the world we inhabit, and unhappy choices have to be made, but we choose not to have any part of it. There are still some promising Republicans down-ticket, at least here in Kansas, where Trump got his lying and phony orange ass kicked, and Clinton lost to that self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who at least believes his nose, and we’ll show up always to pick the best of the Republican crop, and we’ll hope for the best, and we damn sure won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton or any of those other Democrats, but we’ll take care not to vote for anybody just as awful.
There’s no telling how that might result in such an unpredictable year, and all sorts of well-respected Republicans are speculating on whether it’s best the inevitable disaster looming ahead be blamed on the Republicans who nominated Trump and somehow got him elected or on Clinton and such Republicans-in-name-only-all-of-a-sudden such who gave some infinitesimal advantage to that awful Clinton woman and allowed her surely disastrous range. In this crazy election year we dare not offer any prediction about how it might turn out, but in any case we want to at least content ourselves that we didn’t vote for any of it, no matter how that might have led to us voting for it.
In any case, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee doesn’t seem to care much what we think, which we’re sure is a large part of his appeal to all the Republican party’s Johhny-come-latelies who weren’t in. In his characteristically un-gracious victory speech upon coming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee he gloated about all the party regulars who had once dared to criticize him but now were eager to kiss his ring, and for once we have to agree with the contempt he expressed for such cowards. We’ll not be among them, and won’t give a damn if this earns his respect or a respite from lawsuits or Internal Revenue Service Audits or anything else might threaten for saying such mean and nasty things about him. He proudly boasts, as he always proudly boasts, that he can win without that significant portion of us who have always voted Republican but are no longer welcome in the party, so his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters shouldn’t have much to worry about our one meager one vote, and can be assured that while we might waste it on some third party candidate that is committed to conservative principles and basic human decencies at least we won’t waste it on Hillary.

— Bud Norman

The Sisters are Having Nun of It

The Little Sisters of the Poor had their day at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, and we wish them well for a variety of reasons.
The nuns of the venerable order are by all accounts a fine group of women who have devoted their lives to providing care for the elderly poor, and not at all the sorts who would ordinarily find themselves in any court of law, but in ordinary times the government wouldn’t be bullying them into buying contraceptive coverage in their health care plans.
As the Little Sisters have taken a vow of chastity they have no need for such coverage, and therefor object to paying for it, which strikes us as such a reasonable objection it would have ordinarily settled the matter. The notion that the government can force anyone to purchase whatever health care coverage the government deems necessary has already been settled at the Supreme Court, however, so the current case is more specific. There’s also the matter of whether people should be forced to subsidize behaviors they find morally objectionable, but that was largely unsettled by the Hobby Lobby decision, which involved some fine Protestant folks with similar objections, and the current case is unlikely to make that any clearer. Some legal legerdemain in some statement of policy authorized by some agency created and authorized to make policy under some sub-sub-section of the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law has supposedly freed the sisters from directly paying for their own contraception, but in a way that still contributes to the law’s stated objective of making contraception universally available to less chaste women. The Little Sisters of the Poor would rather not participate in that, for beliefs you might not agree with but which we think they’re perfectly entitled to hold, yet at this point it seems more likely to come down to a matter of whether the technicalities found in that 2,000-plus page and already affirmed Obamacare law allow such governmental bullying of such fine women who do all the humble work that the government somehow never gets around to.
Which is why even the most zealously secular sorts should be wishing the Little Sisters of the Poor well. What’s being challenged in the Supreme Court isn’t an act of Congress, but rather an act of an agency that was created by a Congress that hadn’t bothered to read it’s own unreadable act and probably had no idea that it would wind up with the Little Sisters of the Poor being bullied into chipping in so some less chaste women could party it up without consequence, and sooner or later that kind of government’s going to cut even the worst of us down.

— Bud Norman

What’s Not in the News

There’s not much in the news this time of year, what with all the newsmakers being off on their expensive vacations, so now is as good a time as any to take notice of what’s not there. In the eerie silence of the current news cycle we can’t help noticing that several important stories seem to have prematurely vanished.
That awful deal with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear weapons program has largely gone unmentioned since President Barack Obama announced it was done, even though that’s not the end of the story. So far as we can tell nothing has yet been signed by either side, there’s no still public agreement about what’s been agreed to, even the United Nations admits that Iran’s recent inter-continental ballistic missile test violated any understanding of agreement, despite the administration’s infuriating pleas for leniency on behalf of the totalitarian theocracy, and Congress is wisely proceeding with fresh new sanctions that disagree with the whole awful deal. Given that the deal makes an Iranian bomb inevitable, which in turn would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and thus make Armageddon imminent, one would think this would be getting more attention.
Obamacare is just as bad as ever, too, although that’s no longer news. By now the public knows that it won’t be getting an average $2,500 a year savings and won’t be able to keep its plans or doctors and that all the other promises that were made won’t be kept, but that was already obvious when the public went ahead and re-elected Obama back in ’12 and the media are no longer obligated to mention of that. They are forced to mention that premiums are going up, more plans are set to be cancelled, the poor who were supposed to benefit are paying ever more for less coverage, major insurers are pulling out of the exchanges and leaving the rest of the suckers in the long-predicted “death spiral,” and few seem to expect the law will survive into the next decade. Even the Republican presidential candidates rarely mention Obamacare, however, and even the most conservative news media don’t seem to ask about it.
Most of those Republican candidates also go unmentioned, of course, and judging by all the “Bernie” bumper stickers we’re seeing we think there’s more going in in the Democratic race than you’d know from reading the news. Perhaps when the all the newsmakers and news reporters get back from their vacations we’ll start to find out more about Donald Trump’s latest insulting “tweet” and all the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal isn’t really that a big deal, but we can always hope they’ll starting paying attention to other things. In some cases the silence is becoming deafening.

— Bud Norman

Bon Voyage, Boehner

We won’t have Speaker of the House John Boehner to kick around anymore, at least not after the end-of-October resignation he announced last week, and we’re glad of it. His cautious style of leadership was ill-suited to these times of constitutional crisis, as far as we are concerned, and we never did enjoy kicking him around.
Although we consider ourselves as rock-ribbed and radical as the next Republican, and are in a very confrontational mood lately, we couldn’t quite work up the same red-hot hatred for Boehner that all the right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists seem to have cultivated. Maybe we were just suckers for the lachrymose Speaker’s compelling sob story about his rise from a humble home atop his father’s bar in a working class neighborhood to the heights of politics, or it’s that our disagreements always seemed to have less to do with his policy preferences than about the tactics best suited to achieve them, or that we well remember what it was like when San Francisco’s well-heeled Nancy Pelosi so expensively wielded the gavel. To say that Boehner represented a great improvement over his predecessor is to damn with faint praise, of course, but at least the deficits are down since to slightly less scary levels since he took over the House and there haven’t been any bills passed nearly so bad as Obamacare and the rest of what has happening when the Democrats everything, and something in our perpetually pessimistic conservative temperament makes us glad for such small favors.
Those right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists will rightly note that cap-and-trade and open borders and Iranian nuclear bombs with a $150 billion signing bonus and all sorts of other Democratic craziness that would have passed the Reid-Pelosi Congress have nonetheless been achieved by executive action, and with only feeble resistance from the Republican majorities that were installed in congress to prevent it. This is why we’ve concluded that Boehner had to go, and that so should his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but we will concede that their leadership has at least reduced the president to executive actions that can be more easily undone by the executive actions of a new and more sensible president.
We’ll even hold out hope that Boehner’s and McConnell’s cowardly cautiousness have made it slightly more more probable that we’ll soon have a new and more sensible president. Already such still-influential press outlets as The Washington Post are gleefully fretting that the conservative elements of the Republican party that forced Boehner out and now have their sights set on McConnell “can’t govern” and will instead rashly shut down the non-essential government, which is most of it, and that all hell will surely break loose. We’re inclined to believe that there’s already far too much governance going on, that progress would be better measured by the number of laws repealed and regulations rolled back and entire agencies abolished, and that a shut-down of all of those non-essential services would be salutary, especially during the winter when few people are planning vacations in those photogenic national parks, and we’re certain that even our left-wing radical president would blink before allowing a default on the national debt, but we acknowledge that not everyone shares our rather right-wing perspective on such things.
There are only so many of us right-wing crazies out there, and a smaller number of the left-wing crazies on the other side, and therefore policy is so often decided by those uninformed voters in the middle. What little information these voters possess usually comes from the 30-second news updates that are wedged in between the latest pop tunes on the radio each hour, and that brief attention span does not take in anything more than a vague awareness that the latest spat is all about those anarchist conservatives wanting to shut the government down. The other day we heard a short National Public Radio report about the latest possibility of a government shutdown explained as the Republicans refusing to fund the women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, with no mention that Planned Parenthood is mostly a network of abortionists and that a series of hidden camera videos have revealed that they routinely sell the remains of late-term fetuses and even live but promptly terminated births for profit, and one needn’t be such a jaded old pol as Boehner or McConnell to worry how a fight on such terms might end up.
Still, we hope that whoever winds up with Boehner’s job, and with good luck McConnell’s as well, is at least somewhat more daring. The last government shutdown was widely blamed on the Republicans, but ended soon enough for the party to win gains in the election, and the next one might be as well-timed. If the Republicans are willing to fund pretty much everything except Planned Parenthood all of those right-wing talkers and a few of the honest press writers might be able to persuade the public that Democrats were the ones who shut down the government for radical reasons, and people might finally notice that a government shut-down isn’t that big a deal after all, and a reasonable Republican candidate might even enjoy support from that uninformed middle as well as all the suddenly enthused right-wing crazies such as ourselves. Something in our instinctively pessimistic conservative temperament, though, urges at least a wee bit of that old establishment caution.

— Bud Norman

A Good Week for the President

This has been a good week for President Barack Obama, but not so much for the rest of the country.
The president somehow survived two scares, with the Republicans coming to the rescue to spare him the ignominy of the being the first president who failed to win congressional “fast-track” authorization to negotiate trade deals, and a couple of Republican appointees to the Supreme Court joining their Democrat-appointed colleagues to save his eponymous Obamacare law from a well-deserved blow, so of course the Democrats are already gloating about it. There are Republican arguments to be made for both developments, apparently, but we find them entirely unconvincing.
The Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell concerned a single sentence in the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law that quite explicitly specifies only people who had enrolled in an Obamacare health plan through a state-established exchange would be eligible for subsidies. Attorneys for the plaintiffs were able to argue that the legislative record and ample videotape of the law’s “architect” gloating how about they had snookered a gullible public all proved the sentence was intended to put political pressure on the states to start their own exchanges, and that the sentence does in fact explicitly specify only people who had enrolled through a state-established exchange were eligible for subsidies, while the defendant’s attorneys were reduced to arguing that c’mon, if you read a poorly-written law that was hastily forced down the throats of an unwitting public as it is written you will make a complete mess of it. Somehow Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy were swayed the latter argument, and of course all of the Democratic appointees were eager to embrace such logic, so you wind up with a 6-3 majority holding that a law doesn’t necessarily mean what it clearly says. The same argument probably won’t do you much good the next time you fail to signal a lane change, or murder someone, but that’s your fault for not being the first African-American president.
Some are arguing that decision spares the Republicans the political consequences of the complete mess that would have indeed resulted from applying the law as it was written, but given that not a single one of them voted for the damned thing, but we hold out faint hope that the Democrats who did force the damned thing down the throats of the American public would have also faced some political consequences. The Democrats are still stuck with responsibility for Obamacare, which continues to fail to live up to any of its grandiose promises and is instead causing health insurance premiums to skyrocket and the health insurance market to be increasingly dominated by a handful of corporations and doctors to be taking early retirement, and there’s still a chance that it might help the country might undo all the damage that has been done, but nonetheless we would have preferred that the Supreme Court had made the mess of its explicitly stated language more clear.
There’s also a Republican argument to be made for free trade, a principle we heartily endorse, but given the peculiar circumstances of this particular “fast-track” authorization it is not convincing. The past several Democratic and Republican administrations have already pretty much eliminated all the tariffs that once impeded international commerce, so the current debate mostly involves such “non-tariff barriers” as the disparate environmental and immigration and regulatory laws that put countries on an unequal economic footing. Given that the administration has insisted on strict secrecy regarding its negotiations, and given that the administration’s very open stands on the environment and immigration and regulations have been starkly insane, and that its negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons ambitions have been disastrously accommodating, we find no reason to hope that it can be trusted with reaching a trade deal favorable to the American average worker.
At least the Republicans can’t be accused of reflexively opposing anything the president soda because he’s the first African-American president, but of course those accusations will persist anyway. The Democrats who opposed “fast-track authorization” on purely protectionist grounds will reap the political benefits of their courageous stand against free trade, the Republicans will be tarred with some outlier presidential candidate’s ambiguous statements about the Confederate battle flag or whatever other issue the press can come up with, and next week will begin on the same unequal footing.

— Bud Norman

A Transgendered Heckle

The same Greece that was once the Cradle of Democracy is about to go bust, American troops are moving into eastern Europe as if the ’80s were calling and they wanted their foreign policy back, and the Republicans seem intent on entrusting President Barack Obama with the power to negotiate a top-secret trade deal with Asia that will allow all sorts of environmental and immigration shenanigans, but the story that caught our eye was the one about a transgendered illegal immigrant heckling a presidential speech. So far as we can determine this is the first time in the history of the republic that any president has ever been heckled by a transgendered illegal immigrant, so it seemed worth noting.
We’re not at all sure how Washington or Lincoln or Coolidge or either of the Roosevelts or any of the rest of those other archaic old white guys would have handled the situation, as it apparently never came up during their terms, but Obama responded with what strikes us as a very generous indulgence. He was addressing an “LGBT Pride” conference, the acronym referring to lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgendered persons, when a person identified as Jennicet Guttierrez started loudly shouting a demand to “release ‘LGBTQ’ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” The added “Q” stands for “questioning,” as we understand it, although we can’t pretend to understand what “questioning” means, except for a vague sense that it’s suppose to include those who can’t quite say what they’d wind up doing if they were stranded on a desert island or given a lengthy prison sentence or found themselves in some other unusual sexual circumstance. At any rate, Obama politely implored the heckler to restrain himself or herself, whichever the case may be, and quite reasonably asserted that such behavior was impolite for an invited guest to the East Room of the White House, which he presumptively referred to as “my house.” When the heckler persisted in his or her heckling, Obama at last had his sizable security contingent remove him or her from the premises, although so far as we can glean from the press reports Obama did not have him or her removed from the country, as the law would require.
Apparently there are some 75 transgendered illegal immigrants currently being detained in America, a surprisingly large number given the famously macho cultures from which most illegal immigrants come, but even so Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Guttierrez seems to have little cause for heckling. The president has been far more indulgent toward illegal immigrants than we would prefer, or what we believe the plainly written laws would permit, and the fact that he had invited a collection of Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts to the White House, even if he did neglect to invite all those more countless Qs, suggests that he’s more or less au courant on the latest sexual fashions. Why transgendered illegal immigrants should enjoy preferential treatment over the more traditional sorts was not explained in the heckling, and neither did the heckling make a reasoned argument that America should stop enforcing its borders. Even the rest of the assembled Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts, and presumably those Qs who also somehow snuck in, helped to shout down the more au courant heckler.
The crowd’s response was probably heartening to the president, who for some reason endures more heckling from the left than the right. Except for that State of the Union address when some little-known Republican shouted “You lie” during a line about how Obamacare won’t cover illegal immigrants, which has since turned out to be an entirely accurate heckle, or Chief Justice Roberts’ silently mouthed protestation of “not true” after Obama’s verifiably not true description of the Citizen’s United decision, all of the heckling during his speeches has come from the pacifist Code Pink group or the anti-free trade labor groups or some other faction that finds him insufficiently liberal. He used to be heckled by pro-illegal immigration groups that demanded he allow open borders by executive action, and he used to try to politely quell the dissent by explaining that he had no constitutional authority to do so, but apparently there has since been some change in the Constitution that no longer makes this necessary.
Greece’s descent into bankruptcy and the revival of the Cold War and that awful free trade bill that the Republicans are signing on to are probably more important matters, but at a time when transgendered illegal immigrants are heckling the president they seem all the more unlikely to come to any happy conclusion.

— Bud Norman

If Only Obama Knew

Will Rogers used to preface his humorous observations on the political scene by stating that “All I know is what I read in the papers,” which always got a big laugh back in the Great Depression days, and it’s still a good line for a folksy humorist. President Barack Obama is fond of the same disclaimer, however, but it doesn’t suit his job as well.
The latest development that the president only became aware of by reading the morning papers was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account. The practice posed a security risk, kept records from public scrutiny, and seems in violation of federal regulations, so we can only imagine the the president’s alarm upon learning about such a serious matter. One might wonder how the president failed to notice it during the four Clinton served as his Secretary of State, during which time one can only assume there was some e-mail communication between the two, but so far no one in the press has been so rude as to ask about it. If they ever do, the president will probably have to await the morning papers to learn of his response.
If not for the press, a number of serious situations might have entirely escaped the president’s attention. The invaluable Sheryl Atkisson, demonstrating again the lese majeste that led to her departure from CBS News, has helpfully compiled a list of seven other times that the president professed to be shocked by press accounts of major stories. It starts way back in the early days of the Obama administration with Air Force One buzzing the State of Liberty and frightening the understandably skittish New Yorkers, continues with the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme at the Department of Justice, then the sex scandal involving Central Intelligence Agency director Gen. David Petraeus, and of course the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups, then the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, then the National Security Agency’s spying on foreign leaders, and then the phony record keeping to cover up the substandard care being provided by the Veterans Administration. One of the commenters at Atkisson’s site mentions several more, including the problems leading up to the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare web site, but they’re too numerous mention.
That portion of the public still devoted to the president seems willing to give him a pass on these problems, since he presumably didn’t know they were going on would surely have done something about it if he did, but the rest of us are entitled to some concern about his inability to keep abreast of what’s going on in his government. We suppose the president can’t keep up on everything, what with all the golfing and fund-raising and appeasing his job entails, but Air Force One and the DOJ and the CIA and the IRS and the NSA and the VA and the State Department are all under the purview of the executive brand and ultimately the responsibility of the chief executive. We can’t recall the heads of any high officials rolling for their failure to notify the president of the major developments unfolding on his watch, except for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who also seemed surprised to find out about that Obamacare web site, and the president never seems at all embarrassed to say that some ink-stained wretches who have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and wait to get their phone calls returned and accept “no comments” on the first many tries somehow knew better than the president what was going on in the executive branch.
Perhaps the president was aware of these many problems as they occurred but was unable or unwilling to deal with them, but if so that is a problem. Perhaps the government is simply too vast for any one person to know what it is up to, but if so that’s also a problem, and one that the president seems determined to compound by vastly expanding both the government and the executive branch’s control over it. The biggest problem is that if you only know what you read in the papers, you don’t know much.

— Bud Norman