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The Character Question, Asked Again

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be sworn in as Utah’s junior Senator today, but he made a conspicuous early start to his tenure yesterday with an op-ed piece in The Washington Post criticizing the honesty and moral character of President Donald Trump. Needless to say, much was said about it.
We couldn’t find a single word to disagree with, and we note that nobody was vouching for Trump’s honesty and moral character, but a lot of Republicans were nonetheless offended by Romney’s op-ed. By now there’s no point denying that Trump has boastfully cheated on has firsts two wives and paid off a porn star and a Playboy playmate to cover up his infidelities against the third, cheated on his taxes and bragged to a national television audience “that makes me smart,” and cheated his investors and contractors and employees and boasted it was “the art of deal,” and it is well documented that he says several things every single day that are obviously untrue, so Trump’s defenders instead offered the familiar arguments why it doesn’t matter.
All politicians lie, so why should Trump be held to the stringent standards of veracity that Republicans insist on during Democratic administrations? Several past Democratic presidents have had their sexual peccadillos, played fast and loose with the tax code and campaign finance laws, been involved in various shady dealings, and got away with it, so it’s only fair Trump be similarly indulged. Trump might be a pussy-grabbing vulgarian with a bully boy style of taunting “tweets” and schoolyard nicknames rather than making reasoned arguments with his political opponents, but that’s how he kept “Crooked” Hillary Clinton from becoming president, and that’s what matters. Romney is remarkably honest by politician standards, by all accounts a perfect gentleman in any estimation, and even his opponents on both the left and right acknowledge that whatever their disagreements he has well-researched and well-reasoned and well-spoken opinions on the issues of the day, and what good did that do the Republican Party when he ran against Obama?
Romney acknowledged that several policies Trump has pursued are soundly conservative and so far successful, as we have begrudgingly done, and there’s no denying that awful Clinton woman would have picked worse Supreme Court nominees, so for most Republicans these days that’s ample reason we should just shut up and let Trump be Trump. We have no intention of doing so, however, and are heartened to see that Romney is similarly stubborn.
Even in the age of Trump facts are still facts, character still counts, and both still determine the outcome of events in a constitutional republic. Trump’s preference for “alternative facts” and bully boy style and simultaneous insecurity and megalomania and myriad other character flaws are also driving some very un-conservative and unsound policies in foreign relations, make it difficult for him to negotiate any artful deals on the domestic front, or even to fill a cabinet with well-credentialed appointees, and we won’t be surprised if they also result in some criminal indictments in the coming months.
Trump naturally derided Romney as a goody two shoes sort of loser, and suggested he become more a “team player,” and his talk radio defenders were accusing any remaining Republicans who still think character counts of “virtue-signaling.” We don’t see the virtue in tolerating vice, however, and we’ve long noticed that sometimes a team needs to question its leadership if it wants to have a winning season. There’s a Democratic majority to be sworn into House of Representatives today, the razor-slim Republican majority sworn into the Senate will includes one more Senator willing to defy the president on matters of policy and principle, and the stock markets and geopolitical situation and the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” will go on. Trump’s character will eventually matter, even to him.

— Bud Norman

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On the Latest Questions About Trump

Every American president since George Washington has been accused by his critics of all sorts of unsavory things, but only rarely has it been widely suggested that the guy has gone completely bonkers. A striking number of people are now saying that about President Donald Trump, however, and reliable sources suggest those people include several high-ranking members of Trump’s administration.
On Tuesday The Washington Post released segments of “Fear,” a soon-to-be-released and already best-selling book by its veteran reporter Bob Woodard which quotes numerous anonymous but high-ranking administrations talking about how they strive everyday to protect the American public from the most dire consequences of their boss’s uninformed and impulsive and downright petty instincts. On Wednesday The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed piece by a high-ranking administration official headlined “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” which seeks to reassure the public that “many of the senior of the senior officials inside (Trump’s) administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
By both accounts many of the people closest to the President understand and act accordingly that in terms of intellectual and temperamental and moral and basic mental health fitness Trump is likely to do something consequentially crazy, and although Trump and his still-loyal spokespeople call it all “fake news” we’re reluctantly inclined to hopefully believe all of it.
Woodward and his fellow youthful late-night crime beat colleague Carl Bernstein broke the story of the Watergate break-in way back in the ’70s, and according to the old-fashioned newspaper rules of the time they got to follow the story it’s conclusion, which resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation and a Pulitzer Prize for the now-legendary journalism team of Woodward and Bernstein, and since then the now-wizened Woodward’s work has withstood the withering criticism of the next eight presidents he has investigated. Most of Woodward’s journalistic first drafts of history have been painstakingly even-handed, acknowledging each administrations’ failures while eviscerating its failures and admitting how very complicated these things are, and even if this book is more weighted to criticism we’ll count on Woodward’s 40-plus-years record of impeccable sourcing and meticulous tape-recording of double sources more than we do Trump’s dubious record of public statements.
Trump is already saying that the high-ranking anonymous administration official who penned that alarming op-ed in today’s edition is just a “fake news” figment of the “failing” New York Times’ imagination, but he’s also “tweeting” that whoever it is be immediately be turned over to be tried on a charge of treason, and we don’t doubt that the author of their anonymous op-ed piece is an actual high-ranking administration official. The New York Times is indeed as liberally slanted as those right-wing talk radio show hosts will warn you, and over the past century-and-half or so they’ve clearly gotten some things consequential things clearly wrong, but we’ll reluctantly admit that in all that time they’ve generated less outright “fake news” than Trump has “tweeted” in just the past three years or so.
Trump and his apologists can rightly boast that the unemployment rate is down and the stock markets are still up since his election, and that no new shooting wars have lately broken out, but it’s harder to argue that it couldn’t have been achieved by any other Republican president without all the Trump-ian craziness, and that it might not have happened at all without the restraining influences of the very best people he somehow wound up appointing to his administration. Pretty much every day Trump tells a press gaggle or “tweets” something that is jarringly discordant with longstanding norms or present reality, and pretty much everyday the “fake news” broadcasts it, and although every single day we try to keep our eye on the unemployment rates and the stock markets it’s hard to shake a bad feeling about all of this.

— Bud Norman

The Privilege of Paying

One has to admire the steadfastness, if nothing else, of the president’s most die-hard supporters. Lately they must feel like Millerites on the day after the world was supposed to end, still insisting despite The Great Disappointment that all the prophecies were true.
The unfolding Obamacare debacle is especially testing for the true believer’s faith, as it is has now become indisputable that millions who liked their insurance plan their doctors won’t be able to keep them, most will see increased costs rather than a $2,500 annual windfall, millions will remain uninsured, at least one dime will be added to the national debt, and none of the other grandiose promises will ever be kept. Some will go right ahead and dispute it, insisting that it’s all lies told by hateful racists intent on preventing the president from heroically saving the country, but these days even the non-Fox media are reporting the bad news and there are more people with very authentic-looking cancellation letters than could possibly be in on even the vastest right-wing conspiracy. A more inventive apologetics is now required to justify the prophesy of hope and change, and the more inventive apologists seem to have seized on the argument people just don’t realize how lucky they are.
Consider the case of poor Lori Gottlieb, who recently penned an op-ed piece for the notoriously right-wing New York Times to lament that Obamacare had caused her to lose the insurance plan she liked and was promised she could keep and has forced her to pay an extra $5,400 a year for a plan that includes maternity coverage and other features she does not need. Her bigger gripe, though, was that when she posted her complaints on Facebook she found little sympathy for her plight and instead was peppered with comments that she was a selfish shrew who should be grateful for the privilege of contributing to a system that will provide quality medical care to everyone. Gottlieb is apparently a committed liberal, judging by the Facebook friends she keeps and the fact that she doesn’t dispute the preposterous premise that everyone will now be getting quality medical care, but she’s not so commited that she’s willing to shell out an extra $5,400 a year for utopia and she seems rather disappointed that her fellow liberals aren’t a bit more sympathetic to her own workingman’s plight.
Some of the professional Democrats trotted out the same appeal to altruism a while back, but it seems to have polled poorly or the focus groups didn’t like it as they have since moved on to inflating their enrollment numbers and downplaying the technical problems and dismissing all those part time jobs as anecdotal evidence and otherwise insisting that things are not so bad as they might seem. Trying to tell the likes of Lori Gottlieb that she should be happy to cough up a sizeable chun of her family’s income for a system that is going to lower the quality of medical care for everyone and leave millions uninsured was always going to be difficult, and the true believers’ continued efforts to do so reek of desperation.

— Bud Norman