The Democrats Put on a Show

Five Democratic candidates for the presidency had a debate Tuesday night, and it made for a most discombobulating spectacle. We sometimes try to imagine how our Democrat friends see the Republican debates, and to understand their cognitive dissonance, but we simply can’t conceive it strikes them as quite so far removed from objective reality as what we observed on Tuesday night.
According to all the candidates everything bad that has happened since President George W. Bush left office in ’09 is still his fault, the problem with the economy is not that you’re poorer but that somebody else out there is richer, the public is clamoring for an influx of millions of low-skilled non-English-speaking workers and a simultaneous raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, if Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts business doesn’t get a big subsidy the health of every woman in America will be endangered, draconian gun regulations are needed to make America an unprecedentedly safe space on Earth but don’t worry that anybody’s coming after your guns, the Middle East will sort itself out, and Black Lives Matter, but not the ones who are killed by the black criminals that all the Democrats want to go easy on and certainly not anybody else’s, and despite all the problems they’re bickering about none of it has anything to do President Barack Obama, who is the best president ever. None of this comports with our experience of reality, or the public opinion polls we routinely consult to make sure we’ve not gone completely crazy, but it seemed to play well with an audience full of Democrats.
There was something about the whole production that was somehow jarringly dissimilar from the Republicans’ shows, as well. The Cable News Networks’ Anderson Cooper struck a deceptively dogged pose as moderator, confronting each of the candidates with the harshest criticisms that have been made of their records, but it always seemed intended to provide them with a chance to offer their well-scripted and focus group-tested responses without any threat of pesky follow-up questions. There were no questions about evolution or Armageddon or anything else that might elicit an embarrassing confession of religious belief, even though it would have been darned interesting to hear their thoughts on the Republicans’ efforts to make contraception pills available over-the-counter, and nothing that wasn’t clearly intended to identify the most impeccably liberal candidate.

This is how a significant chunk of the Democratic primary electorate will be judging the field, of course, so it’s on that basis we’ll try to adjudge the winners and losers. Self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran the ball further down the left side of the field than the rest, but we think he might have come short of the metaphorical goal line. He was unpolished and sometimes surly and embarrassingly earnest, which of course conveys the sort of authentically populist appeal that the Democrats seem to be yearning for, and his insane rants about Wall Street and the dreaded One Percent and the Iraq War had a subtext about Clinton’s record that we’re sure our most ardently Democrat friends will easily read, and he was shrewdly gallant enough to let her off the hook about that whole endangering-national-security-and-breaking-the-law e-mail thing. This, along with the chorus of sycophancy that followed from the others candidates ensures that it won’t be problem in the Democratic race, and maybe even old new by the time of the general election, but we notice that Sanders got the biggest applause.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and erstwhile presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton did fine. She didn’t have the melt-down that her bullied aids have anonymously worried about in the press, and she had smiling answers to all those seemingly hard questions about the utter failure of everything she’s ever done in her life, and she cracked a joke and got angry and demonstrated other human behaviors, and it was enough that all the pundits were spouting rave reviews in the post-game show. We can’t imagine that anyone who is still loyal to Clinton’s candidacy was put off, but we can’t imagine that she wowed any of those Sanders supporters, so we’ll call it a tie.
Former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley probably picked up a few points in the polls just by virtue of the fact that a few Democrats realized there was someone in the race other than Clinton and Sanders. He had to apologetically explain that the tough-on-crime measures he enacted had saved thousands of black lives, which of course puts him at odds with the Black Lives Matter obsession of the current Democratic Party, but at least he got some air time.
Former Marine combat veteran, Secretary of the Navy, and Virginia Sen. Jim Webb also probably made some gain by the fact that the audience is now aware of his existence. He gave us a nicely nostalgic memory of the long ago Cold War era of Sen. Scoop Jackson and Sen. Daniel Moynihan and similarly hawkish Democrats, but we expect he gave most our Democratic friends of today the chills. Still, one can hope that are still enough relatively sensible Democrats left to nudge his poll numbers into the single digits.
That Chaffee guy, who used to be a Republican and was something or another a couple of times in Rhode Island, was clearly hurt by the fact that the audience is now aware of his existence. The most embarrassing point of the night was when he tried to explain his vote against some crazy financial regulation scheme he said that he’d just come into office and that his father had just died and everyone else was voting against it, and it was the only moment of actual booing in the debate. Surely the producers of this reality show will soon replace his character with Vice President Joe Biden, who will assume the mantle of the gloriously successful and overwhelming popular Barack Obama, and the plot can start to take more interesting twists.
How the general election season play out remains to be seen, but the Democratic plot line is looking altogether implausible. If Donald Trump weren’t the current star of the Republican show, we’d think they have a problem.

— Bud Norman

Biden Time

Whenever we start to feel anxious about the sorry state of the Republican presidential nomination race, which is pretty much every time we read the latest reports about it, we can always find some comfort in the even sorrier state of the Democratic contest. The latest reports about that fiasco suggest Vice President Joe Biden could soon enter the race as a front-runner, which is saying something, and we suspect that would prove even more compelling to the press and the public than Donald Trump’s currently top-rated reality show.
The Democratic race would not only gain some much-needed comic relief by the entry of the foul-mouthed, gaffe-prone, creepily touchy Biden, but the sub-plots would involve enough palace intrigue to fill another three or four seasons of “Game of Thrones.” The foul-mouthed, gaffe-prone, creepy aspects of Biden’s personality shouldn’t prove much of a problem for him, not when it seems so darned authentic compared to the robotic former front-runner Hillary Clinton, and not when the current Republican front-runner is Donald Trump, but all that palace intrigue will certainly prove more complicated.
Although it goes politely unmentioned in the mainstream press, it should be obvious to the more objective observer that President Barack Obama doesn’t much like Clinton. He once sneered at her that “You’re likable enough” during one of those ’08 debates when they were both still mere rivals to the throne, but even at the time we doubted he really meant it, and by now we’re sure that he did not. Clinton’s once-inevitable coronation suddenly seems once-again in doubt for a number of reasons, including a noticeable lack of accomplishments and a quarter century’s worth of scandals and and a multi-million-dollar foundation of corruption and an unlikable robotic personality, but her biggest problem seems to be that pesky e-mail scandal that keeps dripping out with in drops of stories quoting Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation and bi-partisan Congressional committees and other high-ranking federal officials. At best this suggests the president in charge of the DOJ and FBI and the Democratic half of those bi-partisan committees and all those other high-ranking officials isn’t interested in helping out his former administration officials in the usual ways, and at worst is acting against her with the sort of ruthlessness that has made “Game of Thrones” such a hit.
As we see the plot line playing out, Obama looks about for a candidate willing to continue his policies for another four years, and to cement his historic achievements of Obamacare and endless quantitative easing and appeasement of radical Islam and open borders and environmental policies that export all the global warming to China and the rest of his hope and change agenda. Although he’d normally be sympathetic to the self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who looks and sounds just like all those radical professors who created Obama, Sanders has had the effrontery to note that the economy is horrible and open borders are likely to strain the Democrats’ beloved welfare system and that an even more insanely socialist agenda than Obama’s must therefore be pursued. There’s that O’Malley guy, but his only accomplishments as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland were effective tough-on-crime measures that saved hundreds of black lives but have somehow run afoul of the “Black Lives Matter” movement that currently holds sway in the Democratic Party, and he’s only polling a percentage point or so. Obama clearly doesn’t like Clinton, or any of the Clintons, so he has to find a more suitable proxy.
As foul-mouthed, gaffe-prone, and creepily touchy as he is, Biden can at least be counted on to run for Obama’s third term. Hence we expect Biden will soon enter the race with the tacit yet deafening endorsement of the president and all the support of his dwindling but still-significant number of supporters, as well as the gentle treatment of a mainstream press that would rather report on Biden’s latest “spontaneity” than the latest leaks from high-ranking officials about Clinton’s latest scandal, and that Clinton will soon find herself at the back of a small and undistinguished pack. Most of Sander’s following seems to be people who actually like his crazy ideas, and like what he says about the Obama economy, so we don’t seem him losing much support to Biden, even if some of them were simply on board because he’s not Clinton. Most of Clinton’s support seems to come from Democratic partisans who expected her to be the party’s nominee and the most likely winner in the general election, which no longer seem such compelling arguments even to a Democratic partisan, and whichever candidate gets Obama’s followers will have a significant plurality of the party, along with all those “Black Lives Matter” activists who hold such sway, so we can’t see a Biden candidacy helping Clinton at all.
These series take strange twists, though, and we’ve often been surprised by events. There’s still that anxiousness about the Republican race, too, and sooner or later the two shows will merge like one of those “Beverly Hillbillies” episodes where the Clampetts visited the Hooterville of “Green Acres.” At that point there’s no telling what the writers might come up with, but for now it’s hard to see it ending well.

— Bud Norman

How to Pick a President

We’re not running for president this time around, for reasons we’ve previously explained, so naturally we’ve taken an avid interest in those who are vying for the job. Choosing a favorite among the candidates is starting to take up a lot of our time, as there are so darned many of them, especially on the Republican side, but as usual the internet has provided a short-cut. A friend advised us of the existence of a web site called, and simply by filling out a brief questionnaire we we able to learn how closely each candidate’s stands on the issues of the day aligns with our own.
Right-wing extremists that we are, we were pleased but not at all surprised to see that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scored an admirable 95 percent rate of agreement with us, and that current Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is not far behind at 94 percent. We were somewhat surprised to find an acceptable 89 percent rate of agreement with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, given our very strong disagreements on foreign policy, and very surprised to find only an 87 percent rate of agreement with our tentative choice, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a similar rate of 86 percent for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who we have no use for, a solid 80 percent for Dr. Ben Carson, who we like a lot but can’t help noticing has never held elected office, and numbers in the ’60s and ’70s for the rest of the crowded field, with of course the all the Democrats coming in last place.
We can’t help noting that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the Republican most likely to disagree with us, and thus be wrong on one of the major issues of the day, which is a shame given that his impressive electoral victories in the most important and predictive swing states suggests he might be among the most likely of the possible general election contenders. We also couldn’t help being slightly embarrassed to find that we’re in agreement with former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a full 30 percent of them, and even in agreement with self-proclaimed socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 18 times out of a hundred, but we were relieved to see we agree with former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley only 9 percent of them of the time, which we figure makes us right about 91 percent of time. All of these numbers deserve skeptical scrutiny, of course, and a few more clicks on the web-site offered some explanations.
The web site wisely allows a choice of how important a respondent considers each issues, and weighs accordingly, and it seems that Walker lost points because the web site has concluded it cannot definitively state the candidate’s position on the issue. We’re willing to take Walker at his lately tough-on-immigration word, though, and will give him the extra credit. The web site also concluded that it cannot definitively state the candidate’s position on raising taxes on the rich to reduce student debt, but given that Walker has been a steadfast tax-cutter and the bane of Wisconsin academia we’ll also give him even a few more extra points on that issue. He’s not in favor of decriminalizing drug use, but if Hillary or one of the other Democrats don’t win that won’t be such an important issue to us. The rest of the disagreements cited are of little to bother us.
That 30 percent rate of agreement with Clinton isn’t so bad on closer inspection, either. She gained points by claiming to be a staunch ally of Israel, although her support of the Iran deal and everything about her years as Secretary of State call that into doubt, and she also agrees with us about the use of drone strikes, although she’s sort of stuck with that and we’ve never agreed with her view they should be used to the exclusion of special forces raids that capture suspects for indefinite detainment and harsh interrogation. We agree with Clinton that Wall Street executives should not charged for their role in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but we doubt she agrees with us that her husband and his Housing and Urban Development Secretary and all those congressmen who conspired to force the Wall Street executives to make those subprime loans should face some sort of consequences. She’s against the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal with China, as are we, but in our case it’s because we don’t trust the president’s secret negotiations and in her case it’s because she’s against free trade.
Sanders also claims to be a friend of Israeli, which we doubt, and he shares our disdain for the Common Core curriculum, but we don’t like because of its America-bashing version of history and he doesn’t like the idea of educational standards, and we’re told he’s a staunch Second Amendment guy, but that it goes back to his student radical days when the Weather Underground and Black Panthers and other armed revolutionary groups made that a left-wing imperative, and otherwise our occasional agreements are forgivable.
There’s more to the matter than how often a voter agrees with a candidate, of course. One must also consider what the contenders have previously accomplished for the public good, and what hardened character and pleasing personality was required to get it done, and just how important those areas of disagreement might be, as well as which one is most likely to keep on of those Democrats from winning. Such calculations defy precise quantification, and require careful observation over a long and testing campaign, but already they’ve eliminated Donald Trump from consideration and severely handicapped Huckabee and call some of the mid-tier candidates into question, and we’re still tentatively favoring Walker. There’s lots yet to see, though, and even when it’s all been seem we’ll need some web site or another for the final calculations.

— Bud Norman