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When the News Requires Asterisks

In yet another of those almost daily signs of our very weird times, one of the people who figured prominently in Wednesday’s news chooses to call himself HanA**holeSolo. The asterisks were inserted by the more polite people at the Cable News Network, who gave him his 15 minutes of fame when they discovered he was one of the people who created that viral video of President Donald Trump body-slamming a former professional wrestling foe with the CNN logo superimposed on the villain’s head.
Trump proudly “tweeted” the video, which was the previous day’s reminder of how very weird are our times, and it got plenty of attention even on a Fourth of July when the nutcase regime running North Korea launched a successful test of a missile that could have reached Alaska. The old-fashioned sorts of Republican commentators in the establishment conservative press tsk-tsked that it was not befitting the dignity of the presidency, while the more newfangled sorts on the right lustily cheered it as a masterpiece of modern political rhetoric. On the left the reaction ranged from the more sober sorts who found it undignified and downright embarrassing to the shriller sorts who insisted it was another Trumpian provocation to violence against journalists. The story also raised question about journalistic practices and privacy protections in the internet age, too, along with usual bi-partisant tsk-tsking about how very weird the times are lately, as well as further reason for partisan bickering, so of course it got a lot of play.
We chose to write about that North Korean missile test instead, which CNN also devoted much time to, but the network has a larger staff and a more personal stake and thus sent out a couple of enterprising reporters to find out who had created the video. All of the stories had already noted that Trump or one of his associates had found it on some sort of social medium called “Reddit,” in a particular “thread” where Trump’s most fervent supporters meet on-line to cheer their hero and boo his media opponents, which sated our curiosity about the question, but CNN dug deeper to discover the identity of the specific poster who had helped create the video. They also found out, unsurprisingly enough, that the aforementioned and self-described HanA**holeSolo had a long history of posting outrageously racist and religiously intolerant and openly violence-provoking comments on the site.
That did provide CNN and the rest of the left with a fairly effective rhetorical counter-punch to all the metaphorical body-slamming they’ve lately been taking from Trump’s “tweets.” During the campaign Trump had been caught “re-tweeting” some wildly and obviously overstated statistics about black murder rates from a fake source cited at an unabashedly racist web site, and it doesn’t look good that the president or any of his associates are still reading and “re-tweeting” from such sites. We’ll assume that Trump was only advocating a figurative body-slam of the media, but those shriller voices on the left could rightly note that a recent Republican congressional candidate was cheered on the by more new-flanged right when he did it literally. Not to mention that the president “tweeting” old video of himself participating in professional wrestling is pretty darned undignified, with or without a CNN logo superimposed.
Still, CNN also left itself open to some valid criticisms from all corners. The network learned HanA**holeSolo’s true identity and called him up for an interview, but when he apologized profusely for his past rants and promised to be more politically correct in the future they agreed not to reveal his real name but reserved the right to do so in the future. On both the left and the right there are people who stand for the right to be an anonymous a**hole on the internet, and they make a good case, so that took up a lot of the talk. Others on both the left and the right have no problem with people being held accountable in the court of public opinion for the opinions they state there, and they also make some good points, but pretty much everyone on both the left and the right agreed that CNN was coming close to blackmailing HanA**holeSolo from expressing his a**hole opinions.
That’s something to worry about, given all the efforts on both sides to suppress more reasonable views, but for now we’re more worried about that North Korean missile test and Trump’s upcoming European trip and face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s “tweeting” about that stuff, too, with the same undignified bluster of a professional wrestler, and the brief fame of HanA**holeSolo informs those stories in a worrisome way, so for all the network’s many faults we appreciate CNN’s daily reminder of how very weird are our times.

— Bud Norman

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A Night When the Stars Didn’t Come Out

Try as we might to avoid the latest entertainment news, we couldn’t help reading about the trouble president-elect Donald Trump has been having booking slots for his inaugural festivities. So far the biggest names that have agreed to perform are the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and even those old-fashioned and all-American acts have had some dissension within their ranks.
The Marie Claire magazine reported that several of the Rockettes objected to the gig, and of course the rest of the media gleefully passed it along. The Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Radio City Music Hall along with its high-kicking Rockettes, accused the magazine overstating the dissension and violating a confidentiality agreement in the process, and assured the rest of the press that no one would be forced to dance against her will. The company’s chief executive also defended the booking, telling The New York Times “I don’t believe it’s going to hurt the brand, and nobody is more concerned about that than the guy sitting in this chair. I’m about to spend $50 million remounting this summer show, and I’m going to spend a similar amount remounting next year’s Christmas show. I gotta sell tickets.”
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir doesn’t have the same overhead or commercial incentives as the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, but a few of its members have declined to perform at the inaugural because of religious or political objections to Trump. Mormons have been notably more resistant to Trump’s charms than other conservative religious groups, and many have objected to their tabernacle’s choir singing for a thrice-divorced and six-times-bankrupt casino and strip club mogul, and one woman resigned her spot in the choir for well-publicized reasons that seem to derive more from her liberal political views. Many of the media have been enjoying that flap, too, of course.
The other big name, which we had not previously heard of, is Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old who seems to have recently become famous on the “America’s Got Talent” television show. She tells the press that she’ll be singing the National Anthem in honor of the presidency rather than the president, and always adds that she also performed for President Barack Obama.
Some bigger names were rumored in the press, but all eventually denied they would be performing. Aging rock star Elton John was willing to perform at right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh’s third or fourth wedding but drew the line at Trump’s first inauguration, issuing a profanity-laden statement that suggested Trump try booking “[expletive-deleted] Ted Nugent” or “one of those [expletive-deleted] country singers.” Country star Garth Brook also declined a rumored invitation, but more respectfully, while heavy metal guitarist and “Motor City Madman” Nugent was not even rumored to have been invited despite his outspoken support for Trump. Opera singer Andrea Bocelli offered his services, but was told it wouldn’t be necessary, which probably came as a relief to him after thousands of his Facebook followers threatened a boycott.
So it seems that this will be a celebrity-free inauguration, and given how awful all the celebrities are these days we would usually see that as another reason to be glad that a Republican is being inaugurated. Trump is not a usual Republican, though, and we can’t see him relegating the celebrity culture to its rightful place on the margins. He’s a reality television star himself, first gaining fame beyond the New York tabloids for firing other B-listers on his “Celebrity Apprentice” program, and since winning a presidential election he has taken time out for photo opportunities with the rapper and noted nutcase Kanye West as well as fight-promoter and convicted murderer Don King, and he’s nominated his former World Wrestling Entertainment co-star Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration, and we can’t shake a certain suspicion that he’d very much like to be as adored by the big-timers as Obama has been for the past eight years, and very much resents that he isn’t.
We expect a lot of “Tweet”-for-tat public feuding with the celebrity set for the next four years, and although it will no doubt be great for the ratings on “Access Hollywood,” where Trump once bragged to his locker room pal Billy Bush about how he could be grab women by their deleted expletives because he’s a star, we aren’t looking forward to it.

— Bud Norman

Rasslin’ With Power

Perhaps the two most tawdry spectacles in America are politics and professional wrestling, and president-elect Donald Trump has managed to merge them into something tawdrier yet. Trump has been a past performer in the professional rasslin’ ring, having famously shaved the head of World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon following their “Battle of the Billionaires” at “Wrestlemania XXIII,” and now he’s recruited his past faux foe’s wife and business partner to run the Small Business Administration.
Linda McMahon is not without qualifications for the job, we must admit. Say what you will about the WWE, the McMahons have brought it from a small time local circuit to a big money-making global monopoly, and she’s also the founder and chief executive of Women’s Leadership Live, which advises independent businesswomen. In addition, she has some political experience from running a failed race for a Senate seat in Connecticut, where the “tea party” wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach, and she once staged a slapping match with her daughter for the entertainment of a crowd and has survived being kicked and body-slammed by Steve “Stone Cold” Austin‘and “tombstoned” by a behemoth named Kane, so at least she acts like she fights.
More pertinent selling points, we’re guessing, include her longstanding business relationship with Trump, the $6.5 million she contributed to his campaign, and the $5 million she’s contributed to the Trump Foundation, which supports such worthy causes as the reelection campaign of that Florida Attorney General who decided shortly after the check cleared to not pursue a case against Trump University. Trump frequently boasted during the campaign of all the favors he’d bought from politicians during his dazzling career, on the other hand, so perhaps he just considered the contributions another example of the business savvy McMahon will bring to the job, which is the very logic that got him elected.
In any case, we hold to a firm belief in the separation of politics and political wrestling, and contend that if only the founding fathers had been more farsighted they would have surely put something about in the Constitution. The last time the two came together was back in ’98 when Jesse “The Body” Ventura beat out Hubert Humphrey’s son and a perfectly reasonable Republican to become governor of Minnesota, and that did not end well. His crazy proposals for a unicameral legislature and instant run-off voting were rejected by both parties, 45 of the bills that did get passed were vetoed, he was bogged down a recall effort that focused on his use of state funds for a promotional book tour, and he left after one contentious term blaming everything on the media. Since then he’s been best known for peddling crackpot conspiracies and getting in bar fights with war heroes, and Minnesotans are still trying to remember what they were so fired-up angry about when electing him.
At the risk of sounding unfashionably elitist, we’d prefer that people in positions of political power have an innate sense of dignity that precludes them prancing around a ring in a feather boa, as “The Body” used to do, or shaving an opponent’s head, as “The Donald” once did, or getting “tombstoned” by some one-named giant in leotards or slap-fighting a daughter, as “The New Head of the Small Business Administration” has done. Presidents and their highest appointees were once recruited from the best of industry, academia, the military, sometimes the arts, oftentimes those who had proved themselves over long careers in politics, and although they frequently failed at least they did so with a certain dignified bearing. This is an age when reality shows and fake fights are all the rage, though, and with everyone so fired-up angry about something we suppose that the WWE’s newfound political was bound to happen.

— Bud Norman

Who Shot American Politics?

Barring some other unforeseeable catastrophe, the big story of today will be tonight’s presidential debate. The long-awaited face-to-face confrontation between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, probably their first she since she attended his third wedding to an illegal immigrant nudie model in exchange for a sizable contribution to her phony-baloney pay-for-play “family foundation,” is expected to be the most watched television event since “Dallas” revealed who shot J.R. way back in the three network days.
We’d like to think this ratings bonanza will be due to the civic-mindedness of the American public, which wants to directly hear the words of these two thoroughly horrible people and carefully consider which is worse, but we expect it will be more for the pure low-brow entertainment value. Super Bowls and stock car races and soap operas and the more cutting-edge comedy programs draw big ratings because the viewer never knows what’s going to happen, but holds out hope that it will involve something violent or vulgar or otherwise shocking, and in this crazy election year the presidential debates offer plenty of that. There’s widespread speculation that Clinton will succumb to seizures or perhaps even drop dead to her undisclosed yet very dire medical condition, and that Trump might try to turn it into a rhetorical equivalent of that pro rasslin’ gig where he shaved the head of Vince McMahon, and of course there are already arguments about the poor fellow who has been hired to referee the match.
If Clinton doesn’t drop dead during the debate that will no doubt disappoint a significant portion of the viewing audience, but it will still make for an interesting plot twist. She’ll have already exceeded expectations, which is for some reason or another the way these contests are scored nowadays, and short of any seizures she or her ear-plugged body double should be able to come across as if she’s at least given some thought to the issues she’s been asked about. Most of the media will be wowed, and that portion of the country that relies on them to get the score will hear that Clinton won handily.
If Trump doesn’t turn it into a metaphorical pro rasslin’ head-shaving he probably will lose on old-fashioned debate scoring, because let’s face it, he really hasn’t given much thought to the issues he’ll be asked about, and by all accounts he’s eschewed any old-fashioned debate preparations that might have helped him out. This would no doubt disappoint a significant portion of the viewing audience, too, but at least would allow them to claim that anything less than boasts about his penis size or allegations of his opponent’s involvement in the John Kennedy assassination proved he had exceeded presidential expectations.
Our only advice to the poor fellow who’s been hired to referee the match is to ask the same basic policy questions of both the candidates, then get the hell out of the way. We can’t imagine any winners coming out of this worst-ever reality show, but we’ll tune in nonetheless.

— Bud Norman

The Last Dying Gasp of “The Media”

Pretty much all of the news and entertainment media are just horrible these days, even to the point that most of them have made Donald J. Trump the presumptive Republican nominee and are now unable to keep their favored presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the lead in the general election race, and we cannot deny they deserve their fate. Not all of the media and certainly not all of the rest of the country deserves this sorry slate of choices, though, and we hope this will eventually prompt a reconsideration and perhaps even a thorough reconsideration of the sorry media landscape.
Trump got twice the airtime minutes and column inches of the rest of his largely distinguished 16-person-field of Republican competitors combined, and there are two obvious reasons why this is so. One is that his already scandal-ridden tabloid career as a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul with a penchant for saying news-worthily crazy things that made for circulation- and ratings-generating great copy, and the other is that he seemed to exemplify all its well-worn racist and sexist and crony-capitalist and generally heartless stereotypes of a presumptive Republican nominee. It might have seemed a win-win proposition from the outset to stick the Republicans with such a noxious candidate and bolster the circulation and ratings in the process, but now they’re starting to regret that they’ve not only created a monster their plummeting circulations and ratings cannot slay but are actually abetting his rise to power.
Trump’s unfavorable ratings in the public opinion polls are still sky-high, yet his undeniably horrible presumptive Democratic opponent’s are unfavorables are now even slightly sky-higher, while the reputation of “the media” are somehow worse yet. Even the prestigious names at Salon.com, which is a mere internet publication but is staffed by refugees names from the from the formerly most prestigious yet-soon-to-be-bankrupt empires of the ancien regime print media and by now have a larger readership than their former employers, quite rightly acknowledges that the public’s hatred of “the media” actually benefits the hated Trump. The press hates Trump, the public hates the press worse yet, so his much-publicized press opprobrium works to his benefit.
As recently as the last election cycle “the media” still had the ability to portray the quite gentlemanly and quite legitimately rich and evil Republican nominee as an incorrigible sexist just because he’d made a a brief remark about the “binders full of women” he’d hired as a Governor of Massachusetts, and as vile racist because of the the remark about “self-deportation” that that even the current presumptive Republican nominee decried as “mean,” and the hundreds of millions he’d earned by rescuing failing companies from bankruptcy seemed so awful that the country re-elected Barack Obama. This time around the the Republican’s presumptive nominee truly is a sexist pig, and he really has settled a lawsuit over the racist housing policies of his real estate empire, and he grossly exaggerates his ill-gotten wealth, but this time around they’re out of ammunition. The gross sexism of the Republican’s presidential nominee is arguably less than the presumptive Democratic nominee’s enabled perv husband that has been covered up for so many years by the more polite “media,” his undeniable racism is no more infuriating than the undeniable racism of the First Black President “the media” carried through two disastrous elections, and his self-described billions are clearly more unsavory than the self-described billionaire’s, but any medium that tries to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee’s exorbitant wealth as any more honorable will be rightly discounted.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s sexisms was openly expressed by countless on-the-record hours on fellow shock jock Howard Stern’s naked-lesbian-stripper show, but even such once-formidable media as The New York times wound up embarrassing itself in an effort to make the point by going after some women that had been disrespected by Trump but ultimately wound up preferring the self-described billionaire to their interviewers from a dying industry. The article was written by the same guy who wrote that pathetic piece about Trump rival and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio taking out a loan to to buy a rather modest, and published by the same newspaper that made excuses for the presumptive Democratic nonimee’s perv husband for so many years, so at this point Trump is probably relishing its opprobrium. So far no one’s made much of his premature call for the execution of some black teens wrongly accused of raping a Central Park jogger, or that aforementioned settlement regarding his racist housing policies at one of his properties, but at this point people will recall how so much of the press overlooked the Democrats’ equally vile racist rhetoric on behalf of minorities and much of the white portion of that public will side with a presumptive Republican nominee who “re=Tweets” the worst of his unabashedly racist supporters.

Most of the entertainment media will do their part to bring down Trump, but they’re also no longer so formidable. The late night comedians are trying to destroy the presumptive Republican nominee, and we have to admit that the otherwise execrable Stephen Colbert has been doing a pretty witty job of it, but they’re currently preoccupied with trying to bring an even farther-left Democrat into the race, and we suspect their audience skews to a younger demographic that will wind up voting for the Democrat in any case. The movies will do their bit, but they’ve been on an absurd “Bush lied, people died” tangent that the presumptive Republican nominee has already co-opted, and even they seem suddenly inconsequential. All those years of professional wrestling and reality show seem to have better prepared the presumptive Republican nominee for the the current sorry media landscape.

There are all sorts of media, which is a plural form, after all, but few are free of blame. In recent years there’s been a rise of self-described “conservative media” on talk radio and the internet, and a hide-bound conservatism has been in print for decades, but most of them have been happy to sign on with a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul in from time to time in favor of a soak-the-rich tax policy and letting all the “good” immigrants he kicked out promptly back in and thinks North Carolina was crazy for keeping men out of its women’s restrooms and is generally no more reliably conservative than his presumptive Democratic opponent, and at this point we find little to like in the entire media. There’s still such old fogies as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The Central Standard Times who are willing to admit that both sides are awful and it’s an awful situation the country faces, but at this point it doesn’t matter much.

— Bud Norman

Another Post-Reality Show

The Obama administration has escalated its war on America’s longstanding and satisfactory-to-more-than-99-percent of-the-population social arrangement regarding public restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and certain sporting competitions being chromosome-segregated, and we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Not content with challenging North Carolina’s recent law codifying that generally agreeable former social arrangement, the administration’s Department of Education has now threatened that any school district or federally-supported college or university which does not allow any boy or young man claiming to be a girl or young woman to enter into whatever restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event he desires will be in violation of federal law and ineligible for federal funding, and any attempt by a school district or federally-supported college or university to find out if that boy or young man really does think he’s a girl or young woman or is just trying to get into a girl’s restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event for more prurient reasons is similarly illegal. This obviously insane policy is based on the law known as “Title IX,” which conspicuously makes no mention of this nonsense, and which was passed and signed into law way back in 1972, when its backers would surely have scoffed at any paranoid right-wing worries that they ever meant any such thing, and repeated efforts to insert such language to the bill have repeatedly failed in Congress, but in an age when people can be whatever sex or race or height they want to be a law can surely mean whatever our betters at Obama’s Department of Education think it should mean.
Although less than 1 percent of the population stands to benefit from this social rearrangement, and most if not all of that mere fraction should not be encouraged in its probably passing fantastical notion they are actually of a different sex than what their genitalia and chromosomes indicate, and even though we hope that only a surely larger but still small number of boys will avail themselves of the legal opportunity to crash the women’s restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and sporting events of women, the social rearrangement seems likely to prevail. Neither the self-described socialist or the disingenuously crony-capitalist still duking it out for the Democratic presidential have expressed any reservations, and the unabashedly crony-capitalist presumptive Republican presidential nominee is hardly any better.
After the administration announced its opening salvo on North Carolina for daring to try to preserve the old social arrangement, the presumptive Republican nominee’s first response was a criticism of the state for bringing down the wrath of some aging rock stars and youthful corporations by bucking the latest trend, and he even invited his fellow reality-show star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use the ladies room at his fabulous Trump Tower, but he quickly retreated to a “state’s rights” position that generously allowed the Tar-Heels to take what he had already admitted was a losing stand. In the aftermath of the escalation he’s still sticking to that “state’s rights” position, which we concede is at least better than what the Democrats are offering, but he’s been careful not to suggests that states would be right to insist on the old and largely satisfactory social arrangement, and “state’s rights” has the same unmistakable unsavory historical connotations as the otherwise equally benign “America First” slogan when he says it.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s reluctance to directly challenge the absolute absurdity of the post-reality nature of the administration’s policy or its post-reality interpretation of the law is by now not surprising, though, nor is his reluctance to talk back his criticism of a state that dared defy the policy. He’s a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt-gambling-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and a veteran of the professional-wrestling and reality-show business, and he seems quite eager to assume any post-reality legal powers that the presidency has gained over the past seven-and-a-half-years, and at this point in his career as the presumptive nominee of the Republican party we must glumly admit that his oh-so-politically-incorrect and at-least-he-fights sense of the pop cultural zeitgeist of the moment is certainly better than what our more hopeful souls could ever hope for.
At least the Republican National Committee and numerous Republican governors and attorneys general and countless other elected Republicans officials have taken a more forthright stand to fight against against this politically correct and post-reality craziness, and in favor of those longstanding social arrangements that have so long been agreeable to more than 99 percent of the population, but at this point they’re the dreaded “establishment” that the presumptive Republican nominee’s most fervent supporters want to burn down. This is how longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangements that have worked for millennia end, and a post-reality show begins.

— Bud Norman

If You Win a Fight in the Gutter, You’re Still in the Gutter

One of the arguments most frequently made for the presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner, is that he’s the party’s only candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton, who is somehow once again the presumptive Democratic nominee. All those same polls that Trump and his supporters love to talk about show that he’s the only Republican and one of the few human beings on the planet with even higher un-favorability ratings than Clinton, and that he consistently loses to her in head-to-head match-ups and fares far worse against her than his remaining rivals, but we’re assured that at least he fights.
The same can well be said of Trump’s only significant remaining rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but the worry is that even such a notoriously pugnacious fellow as he won’t make it as personal and nasty and down-in-the-gutter as will be required. There are no such worries about Trump, of course, who has the undeniable advantage over Cruz of being unbound by any notions of political correctness or social propriety or the basic human decency that refrains lesser mortals from mocking the handicapped and disparaging servicemen who suffer wartime captivity or commenting on another candidate’s face or a pesky journalist’s menstrual cycles. The thinking that Trump’s shock jock insult comic shtick will work at least as well against such a vulnerable target as the dishonest and corrupt and incompetent and scandal-ridden and under-investigation Clinton as it has against the distinguished and admirable governors and senators and physicians and business executives that he’s already vanquished has some plausibility, but we’re not at all convinced that even such a knock-down-drag-out type as Trump will be able to prevail in a personal and nasty and down-in-the-gutter brawl with the likes of anybody named Clinton.
Trump is already running an on-air attack ad against Clinton that features her much-laughed-at barking-like-a-dog routine from a few weeks back, with shots of a laughing Vladimir Putin and a scowling Islamic terrorist interspersed, and the ominous warning that “We don’t need to be a punchline.” It’s a point well taken, we’ll admit, but anyone who has lately tuned into the late night comedy shows and shock jock radio programs and other leading indicators of the American mood has surely noticed that Trump also figures in a lot of punchlines, and in this fight the  thin-and-orange-skinned Trump will be leading with a glass jaw. Should Clinton decide to retaliate with footage of Trump acting in at least equally un-presidential ways she can choose from hours of footage of Trump shaving Vince McMahon’s head in World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Battle of the Billionaires,” or of him comparing himself to Napoleon and Alexander the Great while pitching “Trump: The Board Game,” or talking about how he picked all the top people to teach “Trump University” students how to be great just like he’s going to make America great again, or wearing overalls and holding a pitchfork to sing the “Green Acres” theme with that woman from that oh-so-gay “Will and Grace” sit-com from a few years back, not to mention the rest of his 40 years of tabloid and reality television celebrity, or even his recent admission he was flattered by Putin’s praise and figured that the Russian dictator’s occasional assassinations were morally equivalent to America’s politics. As ridiculous as it was, that barking-like-a-dog bit was a mere sound-bite-sized part of a folksy anecdote about an old Arkansas political ad that Clinton’s fans found quite endearing, and even to such Clinton-loathing Republicans such as ourselves all that Trump footage is harder to rationalize.
Better to go after Clinton on all the dishonesty and corruption and incompetence she’s exhibited over her own long and tawdry tabloid and reality television career, which the public currently acknowledges, or on the disastrous policies she proposes, which the public might yet come to understand, and which such a notoriously pugnacious but bound-by-civility sort as Cruz might do, rather than a sound-bite sized moment when she barked like a dog. Alas, even the promethean Trump does find  himself bound in these lines of attack. The phony-baloney foundation that Clinton and her satyric husband and spoiled rich kid founded and which was largely funded by nations and people seeking the family’s influence is an under-investigation scandal that could be exploited, but Trump wrote it a one-hundred-grand check and during the first general election debate the supposedly shrewd businessman will be hard pressed to explain how he thought it was helping some poor Haitian earthquake victim. Her remarkable string of luck from her gazillion-to-one cattle futures-trading to the thousands-per-minute rates she charged for speeches at universities where she lamented the student’s tuition rates are unconscionably high, but not by someone who will have to acknowledge she made the smart deal. She’s down for Obamacare, which all the anti-Republican Republicans are still fuming that the awful Mitt Romeny couldn’t exploit because of his own heresies on socialized medicine, but Trump is fine with that individual mandate that he blames Supreme Court Justice John Roberts for and has promised that no one will die in the streets under his watch and is proposing a Medicaid expansion beyond what either Clinton or Obama ever suggested, so it will take an actual Republican to address that issue. Trump has already rightly noted that Clinton’s family history makes her an unfit spokesperson for the feminist cause, but even his Republican opponents are already running attack ads with all his outrageously misogynistic statements over the years and up to very recently, and we don’t expect he can win that personal and nasty and down-in-the-gutter fight.
Clinton has promised not to do anything about the entitlement programs that are hurtling America toward bankruptcy, but Trump, who came out of four corporate bankruptcies boasting about his billions, is similarly sanguine about this un-barking problem. Clinton has lately embarrassed herself claiming that no American lives were lost as a result of her disastrous push to bomb Libya, and will forever be tarnished by the fact that four Americans died as a result of her deaf ear to their pleas for added security, and that she lied to the public and blamed it on a citizen who exercised his First Amendment rights to make a little-watched video, and had him imprisoned, but Trump’s claims that he opposed her Libyan intervention have already been revealed as a lie, and he’s got his own problems with that damned First Amendment, which has so often proved embarrassing to him over his long tabloid and reality television career.
At least Trump fights and he’ll point out that Clinton is aged and unattractive and is married to a well-known adulterer, but he’s older than Clinton and not exactly Paul-Newman-in-“Hud” good-looking himself and can’t help bragging about all the hot and married babes he’s bagged, to the point that avoiding sexually-transmitted was his own “personal Vietnam,” and how at least he didn’t get captured, like those POW losers, but we can’t see it ending well for him or the country at large. No matter who the Republicans nominate the candidate will be typecast as a racist and sexist and homophobic and downright kicking-widows-out-of-their-homes villain, but at this point they still have a chance to pick someone who won’t provide the video proof.
If they do, they’ll still have an outside chance to pick someone who can win a fight somewhere above the gutter, where Clinton doesn’t fare so well.

— Bud Norman

Choosing Sides in a Civil War

We like to think ourselves the ruggedly individualistic and rebellious and anti-establishment type, not just despite of but also because of our unabashedly old-fashioned conservatism, and we proudly bear a few scars to back it up.
In our elementary school days we watched on television as American cities burned to the ground in protest against “the establishment,” and it struck us a damned fool thing to do even if the impeccably establishment and academically-credentialed Kerner Commission and all the cool kids thought the arsonists had a point. By junior high the left’s “long march” through the educational establishment had already begun, and even as we watched with dismay as President Richard Nixon’s “law and order” administration collapsed under the weight of its own lawlessness and disorder we continued to resist any sort of riotous indoctrination, to the detriment of our grades. By high school we were were listening to country music of the genuinely good ol’ boy KF’n’DI AM radio on the cold winter drive to show up early to devour the library’s otherwise unread copy of the notoriously-right wing National Review, and looking up the high-brow philosophers and economists and historians it cited to develop an intellectual framework for our temperamental distaste for the Carter era, and of course that didn’t do our grades any good. After two more years of a higher education establishment where the left’s long march had reached as far as a heartland cow college we defiantly dropped out, which entailed years of endured servitude handing out copy and working as a “dethwriter” on the obituary desk before we got a by-line, and even that hard-earned honor entailed another twenty years of daily in-fighting with the powers that be on a metropolitan daily newspaper, even here in the heartland.
Now we we prefer to write whatever the hell we have to say without the infuriating constraints of those respectably humorless and highly credentialed yet utterly uneducated metropolitan daily newspaper editors, even if it isn’t nearly so remunerative, and we like to think we’re still as surly and anti-establishment and ruggedly-indvidualistic and old-fashioned conservative as that long-haired snot-nosed punk of our junior high days, but suddenly the definitions of “conservative” and “establishment” and “Republican” and “Democrat” and everything else in our political lexicon seems up for debate. While the Democrats are choosing between an outright socialist who give the governmental establishment unparalleled authority and the most thoroughly corrupt crony-capitalist of the republic’s history, who struggles to explain why she’s not a socialist, the Republicans — our people, in whom we have long sought solace — are now engaged in a great civil war testing whether conservatism or any movement so conceived and so dedicated is defined by all those high-brow thinkers and principled arguments made by the likes of those fancy-pants know-it-alls at the now notoriously lily-livered and supposedly establishmentarian National Review or a blind fealty to the “Make America Great Again” juggernaut of real estate and gambling mogul and reality show star and former professional wrestling performer Donald J. Trump.
With the war already underway and the Iowa Republican caucus just a mere week away from tomorrow, now seems a time for choosing. We’re tentatively going in with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and are proud to join with those still-ruggedly individualistic writers at National Review in going all out against this Trump fellow. The venerable magazine — and it’s not a “paper,” as Trump incorrectly insists — has assembled a wide range of conservative thinkers for formidable argument that Trump’s proposed trade wars with China and more socialistic-than-the-socialist’s health care schemes and promises of all sorts of favorable insider deals do not portend well for the economy, that his meanderings between a let-Russia-lead to “bomb-the-s**t out of them” foreign policy also do not bode well, and that a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt and very recent Democrat who has never felt the need to seek God’s forgiveness is an unreliable ally of the more religious and culturally traditional wing of conservatism. We also note that except for the predictable schoolyard taunts that Trump prefers, and the frequent outright racist screeds from supporters won’t hold Trump responsible for, and there’s the strangely anachronistic argument that anyone who isn’t marching in lockstep with Trump must be supporting some evil creature called “Jeb!,” but the most common retort from Trump and his acolytes is that “at least he fights.”
By “fighting” they seem to mean that Trump and his people are “tweeting” the most ill-natured tantrums against the allegedly irrelevant National Review or whatever less-than-beauty-queen woman has dared disagreed with the man who would make America great again, and his willingness to mock the handicapped and disparage America’s prisoners of war and crack cringe-worthy menstruation jokes and otherwise strike blows against “political correctness” while going along with the politically correct line on racial quotas and other matters of real concern. By “establishment,” we no longer have no idea what Trump’s supporters mean to describe.
At the outset of Trump’s campaign we assumed he meant the likes of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who have so frequently angered such rebellious and old-fashioned conservatives as ourselves by signing off on big government crony-capitalist scams from ethanol subsidies to private property land-grabs to big-bank bail-outs and all those deficit-spending budgets, but now we’re told by Trump himself that Cruz was a loose cannon to have opposed all that as a Senator and that nobody in the establishment likes him as a result so the master deal-maker is best suited make the deals that will increase the ethanol subsidies that Iowa voters have a special interest in and uphold that “wonderful” Supreme Court decision that allowed him to tear down a widow’s home and build a parking lot for his casino and assure the next round of bail-outs that he didn’t think were big enough the last time around and pass a plan that cuts taxes and doesn’t decrease spending and will somehow end with a surplus. As Trump now touts his half-hearted endorsements from Dole and his lingering Congressional pals we guess the “establishment” is now those much-maligned ink-stained wretches still toiling for The National Review, still standing athwart history shouting “halt!,” still mustering their reasoned arguments and long-held principles and quoting those old high-brow economists and philosophers and historians, and sounding so very effete and faggy to the true Trump believer. One commenter huffed that she’d never heard of The National Review until this attack on Trump, and she seemed to think that made her more credible.
The true Trump believers will counter that we just don’t get it, and those illiterate internet commenters often think the argument more persuasive if they write it as the more un-parsable “You. Just. Don’t. Get. It.,” but in fact we readily understand the anger and frustration they have with the “establishment,” both on the left and to a somewhat lesser degree on the right as well. We’ve been railing against it for years, and likely will until our dying day, but we will confess that we truly do not get how an oft-bankrupt real estate and gambling mogul and reality show star and former professional wrestling performer who openly boasts about how he made his fortune to by doling out contributions to the likes of the Democrat’s thoroughly corrupt establishment and the Republicans’ hated Senate Majority Leader, and now proudly proclaims their support in his “anti-establishment” campaign against that loose cannon who challenged them, is supposed to hold his all-knowing thumb up against the poll winds and find the cure for what ails us.
Trump was the loudest to proclaim his opposition to the bi-partisan and ultimately disastrous establishment consensus on unfettered legal and illegal immigration, if not the first, but he was scolding Mitty Romney for a milder and more sensible “self-deportation” policy as recently as the last presidential race, and he now says his big beautiful wall on the border is going to have a big beautiful door, and he’s talking all sorts of deals with the bi-partisan establishment, and we’re pleased to note that we don’t have to settle for Jeb! on the issue. The next Republican candidate will have a tough stance on border enforcement, and would have without Trump, and that’s more to do with the party and the people at large than anyone who might hope to lead it.
All sorts of playground taunts might come our way, but we’re used to that, and we’ll be missing that tempting opportunity to burn the Republican Party down to the ground that so many Trump supporters urge, but even in our disgruntled middle age that seems a damned fool and not all conservative thing to do, so we side all with those effete eggheads at The National Review and all their reasoned arguments and the high-brow economists and philosophers and historians they cite, as well as that good ol’ boy sensibility that also informs our decisions, and all the timeless truths they have formulated. As a general rule we don’t trust white knights in shining armor promising Hope and Change or to Make America Great Again, and we once got the same whiff of a disastrous cult of personality from the man peddling the former as we do from the man now peddling the latter, and it’s all the more suspicious when it comes from the make-believe world or academia and community-organizing or reality television and insider deal-making.
At this late and perilous date we’ll go with Sen. Ted Cruz, the loose cannon with the fixed principles. That’s our anti-establishment and old-fashioned conservative instinct, and if you don’t like it, and you think it sounds effete and faggy and sure to lose against an outright socialist or a crony-capitalist who got large donations from a supposedly “anti-establishment” Republican on the other side of that corrupt establishment, well, at least we fight.

— Bud Norman