The Pinkest Republican

Yes, that actually was the front-runner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination shouting about how “Bush lied, people died” and praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and sneering at unnamed big fat cat donors during last Saturday’s debate. The same day’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia and all the resulting politics got most of the conservative media attention, which is appropriate, but it surely is also worth noting that the once-Grand Old Party is threatening to go Code Pink.
Not even self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the abortion-loving foe of big fat cat donors and all-around far-left-wing kook who is currently the front-runner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, bothers with that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense anymore. Perhaps that’s because he’d rather not let his opponent, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary and long-presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, off the hook for voting in favor of the war as Senator, even if he’s willing to let her off the hook for facilitating a premature withdrawal from a pacified Iraq as Secretary of State, which is the smart way to play a Democratic primary, but we’ll give him some begrudging credit for avoiding that losing argument. To hear it shouted so loudly at a Republican debate, though, and by the front-runner, at that, is something hard to explain.
Even if you’re not satisfied by the sarin-tipped rockets and other chemical weapons that were found in Iraq, or discount the many plausible accounts of more weapons being shipped to Syria, and conveniently forget the many other persuasive casus belli offered for the Iraq war, and assume that an absence of more widely publicized evidence is evidence of absence, an allegation that any president knowingly lied to the American people about non-existent weapons of mass destruction to launch a war for still unstated reasons carries a burden a proof. One would have to explain why such a diabolical president would launch a war on a pretext he knew would be exposed, or why such a diabolical president wouldn’t plant some evidence to cover his crime, which shouldn’t have been too hard after recruiting the intelligence agencies of every American ally in Europe and the Middle East to bolster his made-up claims, not to mention getting all those inspectors from the United Nations to say they had their own suspicions about what was going on in Iraq, and we’d like to think it’s still hard to make that case to a majority of Republican primary voters.
Especially in South Carolina, a state where the Republican primary includes many proud veterans of the Iraq War and a lot of people who still prefer the president that is being accused of treason to the one that is being left off the hook for squandering the victory those proud veterans won. Especially when you’re Donald J. Trump, a foul-mouthed real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-television mogul and proud adulterer and good friend of the Clintons and you’re shouting about all the good works that Planned Parenthood does, and a lot of stout South Carolina Christians are voting in the state’s primary and they’re not likely to be reassured his boast that “I drink my little win, have my little cracker” and is therefore good with God. They might like the part about fat cat donors, which as always plays well everywhere, the implied free speech concerns notwithstanding, but the fact that Trump also routinely boasts about being a fat cat donor himself might undercut that message once he goes up against Sanders.
Which makes us doubt the explanation that Trump is once again making a brilliant maneuver. Even one of the putatively conservative right-wing talk radio hosts was speculating that Trump figures he’s already got the Republican nomination wrapped up and is already positioning himself to appeal to the general electorate, which is apparently so boiling angry that it’s hell-bent on one conspiracy-theorizing kook or another, and our once-reliable host didn’t seem to mind the possibility that our kook might even be kooky enough to put California and New York into play. Even if Bush is still more unpopular than even Obama we’re not sure that the Republicans could ever win a most kookiest candidate contest against the Democrats, and try as we might we can’t see Trump winning over any of those basement-dwelling Sanders kids or Hillary’s abortion-loving old ladies or those Code Pink commies, but in any case we’d rather play another game with a conservative candidate against whatever left-wing or far-left-wing candidates the Democrats wind up with. Trump might find a few disaffected Democrats in the open-primary state of South Carolina who are only Democrats because their Confederate great-great-grandpappies were, and with the anti-Trump field still split too many ways they might be enough to give him another victory to boast about, but starting the play-offs before the regular season is over is always a risky strategy.
Our best guess is that Trump really believes that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense, and he really believes that if he’d been president the terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon never would have happened and that nothing bad will ever happen if he is the president, and he even believes all that “birther” stuff about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and President Barack Obama and all the other weird conspiracies he talks about with the lunatic Alex Jones’ on the “Infowars” show that he visits, and that he’s the kind of guy who responds to the kind of criticism that he got in that debate by spouting off baseless allegations of treason at a more honorable man than himself and yelling “liar” at people more honest than himself. At least he fights, his enchanted supporters will always insist.
It seems to be working, we glumly admit, but we even more glumly wonder what he’s fighting for. If beating a self-described socialist and full blown kook or a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent felon requires shouting “Bush lied, people died” and ignoring the lessons of Obama’s withdrawal and indirectly funding all the not-so-wonderful stuff Planned Parenthood does and jettisoning the First Amendment to deal with all those fat cat donors not named Donald J. Trump, then we’re not all sure it’s worth doing.

— Bud Norman

An Awful Deal and Its Political Implications

Anyone who’s been paying the slightest attention to the Republican presidential nomination race has by now noticed that the party’s rank-and-file are in full tar-and-feathers revolt against its elite leadership. The big budget deal that newly-fledged House Speaker Paul Ryan has negotiated is not like to sooth things.
Although Donald Trump’s latest “tweet” is probably getting more attention, the deal is just awful by any rock-ribbed standard of Republicanism. There’s $1.1 trillion dollars of spending, which is bad enough, and it includes full funding for Planned Parenthood despite revelations of its baby-parts business, continued contributions to the Green Climate Fund that pays American penance for the country’s alleged global warming sins, no reins on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power-grabbing “clean waters” regulations over the puddle in your backyard, and money for all those “Syrian” “refugees” that the Obama administration wants to import from the most crazed areas of the Middle East. Even the big business wing of the party is betrayed by the deal, with provisions to spare some financial institutions from the burdens of the Dodd-Frank monstrosity dropped and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bossy Consumer Financial Protection Bureau still exempted from any congressional control, so it’s hard to imagine any portion of the party outside of Washington that will find it acceptable.
Part of the deal is another deal that extends about $600 billion of business tax breaks, which is fine by traditional Republican thinking but only of immediate importance to the affected businesses and their employees without any commensurate spending cuts is not likely to satisfy the rest of the part. There’s something about allowing the export of American oil and a couple of other reasonable provisions that have enraged some of the more far-left Democrats, enough for Ryan to make the strange boast that nobody is happy with the deal, but we can’t help but noticing that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid seem very eager to get it passed. Our fellow Republicans will like notice as they warm their tar and pluck their feathers, too.
This might bolster the front-running Trump, who will surely have something scathing to “tweet” about it, and it could play to his strength as a legendarily tough negotiator, which even such strident critics as ourselves cannot dispute, but it’s more complicated than that. His surging rival is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has earned a reputation as one of the few congressional Republicans willing to engage in the government shutdown brinksmanship that this deal was clearly intended to avert, and Trump has lately criticized Cruz for being a “a bit of maniac” in his opposition to similarly awful deals in the past, although he backed off that after his talk radio pals who had cheered Cruz on each time stopped gushing, so if Cruz is deft he could also easily benefit from the party’s outrage. There’s a case to be made that the current deal isn’t so awful for the party as the fall-out from another round of government shut-down brinksmanship, which would bring down such opprobrium from the press that even Trump’s “tweets” could not drown it out, and if the more-or-less “establishment” candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can successfully make that case he might wind up the beneficiary. That’s a tough case to make to the typical Republican primary voter these days, however, and Rubio already has a tough case case to make regarding his past heresies on the all-important illegal immigration issue.
The deal isn’t entirely done yet, with crucial votes awaiting in Cruz’ and Rubio’s Senate, so we’re eager to see how it plays out. The deal itself should be the big story, and there should be some way of working out something better within the current political arrangement, but that doesn’t seem very likely. At this point we’re only hoping that it will help an enraged Republican party make better choices in the future, and if Ryan’s lousy deal at least makes that possible we’ll at least give him and that creepy new beard of his some scant amount of credit.

— Bud Norman

Abortion and the Second Videotape

The public relations department at Planned Parenthood is probably working overtime today, as there’s yet another undercover video of some of their top officials casually discussing over dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant the sale of organs from the fetuses are that aborted at their clinics.
The first one was bad enough that Planned Parenthood’s president felt it necessary to release a videotaped statement claiming that no one at at the organization would ever think of profiting from the sale of organs from fetuses aborted at their clinics, regardless of what that high official was chatting about in the videotape, but apologizing for the secretly recorded high official’s “tone and statements” which do no reflect the “compassion” of the abortion industry. The second one features an even higher official haggling for a price “big enough that it’s worthwhile for me,” adding that “I want a Lamborghini,” and offers to instruct her doctors to use abortion techniques that are “less crunchy” to insure the organs retain their market value, so the tone statements come across even less compassionate.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made that the fetal organs being bargained over could help further research that might save and improve lives, although they’re increasingly less persuasive as scientific methods improve, and there are reasonable ethical questions about the use of hidden cameras and sting investigations, although they never seem to be made when “60 Minutes” or some of the other old media are using such methods against industries less beloved by liberalism, and Planned Parenthood’s most steadfast supporters would no doubt be susceptible to the notion that its highest officials should be driving Lamborghinis as compensation for the good works they do, although the tone and statements involved would be seen in less entitled segments of the population as lacking in compassion, so instead there are the usual attacks on the opposition. Some of the old and new media who have bothered to pay any attention are questioning the tax-exempt status of the Center For Medical Progress, whose operatives portrayed themselves as a for-profit start-up company acquiring fetal tissue for medical researchers, and the denial and apology issued by Planned Parenthood note that their tormentors are opposed to abortion, and all of the apologists are noting how very carefully both high officials tip-toed around the federal regulations regarding the sale of fetal tissue, and of course there are allegations that the tapes have been selectively edit, but the public relations department at Planned Parenthood surely realizes that they’re on the defense, and that the tone is not helpful.
The same Internal Revenue Service officials who gave extra scrutiny to any organization with “tea party” or “liberty” or “Constitution” in its name will probably be inclined to be just as skeptical of the Center for Medical Progress, but the broader public will be more interested an organization already well-funded by taxpayer dollars trying to add a few more dollars toward that Lamborghini by selling organs from aborted fetuses. Whatever misrepresentations the Center for Medical Progress might have made about its affiliations with other anti-abortion groups never hid the fact they are also an anti-abortion group. The careful statements made by both high officials about the law sound more conspiratorial than comforting, too, and they’ve also published the entirety of the videotaped meetings as well as the edited versions to demonstrate they’ve not taken any statements out of context. The unexpurgated versions make the “tone” all the starker, with both high officials happily swilling wine and making small talk in swank restaurants as they haggle over the price of an aborted fetus. The tone is redolent of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “The Banality of Evil,” as Planned Parenthood’s own defense and apologies frankly acknowledge, and they raise issues that the most fervent abortion rights supporters would rather not confront.
Both high officials acknowledge that Planned Parenthood would be willing to use different abortion techniques to harvest salable fetal organization, or “less crunchy” ones in the gruesomely tone-deaf terminology of one, and at this point we can ascertain whether the women who signed those consent forms that Planned Parenthood boasts of were informed of what risks those procedures might entail. There’s also the matter of whether those high Planned Parenthood officials had tip-toed carefully enough around the laws regarding the sale of fetal organs, and the unmistakeable impression that they’re trying their best. Worse yet, there’s the acknowledgement that the meaningless mass of fetal tissue they’re blithely aborting has human organs and human cellular structures and a potential for human life that the crunchier methods of abortion routinely mutilate.
The abortion issue is more complicated than that, and will continue to be debated long past the soon-to-be-released sequels to this sting operation, but Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and the rest of the abortion rights side seem to know they’ve lost this round. Longtime media star Mark Halperin tried to trip up presidential nominee and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his longstanding opposition to Planned Parenthood, but found himself stuttering a sort agreement when Perry asked if his interlocutor had seen the video and whether he had any problems with it. Some of the media have already noticed that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been conspicuously silent about the story, and any long-shot challengers that try to fire up the base by rushing to Planned Parenthood’s defense know they won’t be helping their chances in a general election. The ambivalent middle ground of the abortion debate know that it is at best an evil to be tolerated rather than a right and rite to be celebrated, and even those who reluctantly conclude that it must allowed would hope that the grisly business is carried on with regret and the highest regard for the law, and that is not at all the tone of either of two high Planned Parenthood officials as they sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants and haggle over the price of the organs of the fetuses their organization has recently aborted.

— Bud Norman