The Politics of War

The rising tensions and threats of war between America and Iran might or might not prove a brilliant geopolitical masterstroke by President Donald Trump, and only time will tell, but for now they don’t seem likely to help him with his various domestic political problems.
During another of the decades-long and all-too-frequent tense situations in Iranian-American politics, way back in the administration of President Barack Obama, citizen Trump confidently predicted Obama would start a war with Iran as the only way to reelection, and although Obama didn’t start a war and was reelected anyway Trump apparently maintains a belief that wars make a president more popular. There’s been nothing in recent history to back up this theory, and much to refute it, but Trump clearly isn’t a student of history, and we believe that despite his keen political instincts he misreads this moment in time.
Based entirely on anecdotal evidence, as there’s no reliable polling yet available, we don’t sense any public clamoring for a war with Iran, or anything that might provoke it. All of the Democratic party and their mainstream media allies are against it, as are such usually reliable Republican allies as Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and even the die-hard fans who believed Trump’s pie-in-the-sky campaign promises to extricate America from Middle Eastern entanglements are probably wondering what the hell as he orders troop build-ups in the region.
Iran is still the bad guy in this scenario, as far as we’re concerned, but so far Trump is not playing the good guy role well. Trump based his decision to start the current contretemps by killing Iranian hero Gen. Qasem Soleimani on intelligence agency reports that he was planning “imminent” threats against Americans, but he’d previously disparaged America’s intelligence agencies as hopelessly inept and corrupt, and his spokespeople have since equivocated about how “imminent” the threats were. Trump’s spokespeople have denied that Trump threatened to bomb non-military Iranian cultural sites, an indisputable war crime that he undeniably did threaten, and he’s since backed way from that.
There’s also some confusion about a letter from the Pentagon saying America will honor Iraq’s non-binding resolution asking us to exit the country, with Trump insisting he won’t pull out our troops unless Iraq pays us the for military bases we built there during what Trump has said was an unjustified invasion and occupation by a previous Republican president. At this point Iraq isn’t the only erstwhile American ally to question Trump’s policies, and only the true believers are backing him on the home front.
Whether there’s a war with Iran or not, there will be an impeachment trial for Trump in the coming weeks, and although he’s likely to be acquitted most of the country won’t believe he’s innocent of the charges brought against him. Neither war nor peace with Iran will change that.

— Bud Norman

The Hillary Show

Popularity has always been a most perplexing phenomenon. As far back as our school days we noticed that the most popular boys were often arrogant jerks, the most popular girls often vain flibbertigibbets. Since then we have frequently been confounded by the box office success of silly sci-fi shoot-‘em-ups, the vast viewerships of inane sit-coms, the rock star status of talentless caterwaulers, and of course the presidential preferences of the past two electoral majorities.
Even after so many years of proud membership in the minority of opinion, however, we were downright flummoxed upon reading a Quinnipiac poll showing that Hillary Clinton is “easily the most popular actor on the American political stage.” We could understand on an intellectual level that our well-liked classmates were at least good-looking and possessed of a certain manipulative charm, those insipid sci-fi flicks and television shows had an understandable appeal to people who prefer to stop thinking during their leisure, the hot bands provided a seductively simple beat, and the president had the good fortune to be running against Republicans, but there seems to be no accounting at all for the popularity of Hillary Clinton.
Certainly nothing in Clinton’s recently-completed term as Secretary of State justifies her good standing with the public. A partial list of her acts includes backing a Marxist coup in Honduras, the betrayal of our Czech and Polish allies on a missile defense agreement, an obsequious and inept courtship of our Russian adversary, a similarly supine relationship with our Chinese creditors, praising Syria’s brutal dictator as a “reformer,” hastening the ouster of a generally reliable friend and the installation of a radical Islamist government in Egypt, ineffectual entreaties to Iran about its on-going nuclear weapons program, as well as an ill-conceived war against Libya. There was also the incompetence that led to the deaths of four brave Americans in Libya in the aftermath of that unauthorized Libyan war, as well as the dishonest scapegoating of an obscure American filmmaker that followed. If there is any portion of the world where America’s prestige and strategic position has improved over the past four years, except perhaps the salons of the European intelligentsia, we can not readily identify it.
Nor can we find anything in Clinton’s long career as a public figure that explains her apparent appeal to the public. Her brief time as a Senator was marked by her outspoken support for the subprime lending policies that led to the crash of ’08, some partisan bomb-throwing, and no legislative accomplishments of note. Her earlier role as First Lady is remembered for her mysteriously lost records in the Whitewater scandal, a failed attempt to socialize the American health care system, and her ridiculous claims of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to explain her husband’s philandering.
As a feminist icon she has been an embarrassment to the sisterhood. Going all the way back to hear earliest days as a lawyer Clinton’s career has been due to her willingness to silently endure the humiliation of her husband’s serial infidelities, and her complete lack of accomplishments in her many posts is the proof of nepotism. The only sexual double-standard that has come into play has been in her favor, as any man whose spouse had so publicly betrayed him would mocked as a cuckold and laughed off the public stage.
One might chalk up Clinton’s enviable poll numbers to an ineffable likeability, but she seems to have none. A dour, self-righteous woman whose only sense of humor is expressed by an occasional sneering cackle, Clinton is clearly a ruthless sort lacking in any warmth. Such a bare knuckle persona might endear her to the hard left, but one shudders to think there might be enough of them to explain her high favorability ratings.
Our best guess is that the Hillary Clinton reality show has had such a long run on television that the public has grown accustomed to her increasingly haggard face, and embraces her for the same strange reason they seem to enjoy the antics of all the other unremarkable people who have attained unearned celebrity. This is only a guess, though, and if we had any real ability to explain such odd popularity we would likely be given a more remunerative job as a network programmer.

— Bud Norman