When Paranoia Becomes Plausible

For as long as we can remember, some people associated with both parties have fretted that if the other party wins communist or fascist style totalitarianism will result. They feared a secret police detaining dissidents in undisclosed locations, and a suspension of democracy to retain power. We always laughed it off as paranoia, and felt vindicated when it didn’t come to pass, but we’re not laughing now.
Over the past several days federal agents bearing no insignia on their camouflage uniform have been roaming Portland, Oregon, in unarmed vehicles and snatching people off the streets without warrants or any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and holding them in places undisclosed to the “suspects.” That’s not paranoia, but something that has actually been happening in the United States of America.
This is in response to weeks of mass protests that have occasionally devolved into vandalism and arson and violence, and Portland is a stereotypically touchy-feely city and its local police response has arguably been to permissive, but still. America has long dealt with similar problems without resort to such Orwellian measures, and leaving law enforcement to states and localities is one of longstanding American principles that conservatives once wanted to conserve.
President Donald Trump has threatened the same tactics in other American cities, lest the “angry liberal mob” bring anarchy and destroy America’s history. By now its one of Trump’ biggest reelection issues, and he hopes it will deflect attention from the rapidly spreading coronavirus and its resultant economic catastrophe, but he’s going to need a lot more rioting to convince anyone who’s not already a die-supporter he’s dealing with an existential threat that justifies any means.
There’s already speculation that what’s happening in Portland is a practice run for what Trump intends to do to “dominate the streets” in the mass protests that would surely happen if he refuses to accept a losing outcome in the next election. We’d like to laugh that off as paranoia, but in a very embarrassing interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday Trump did not promise to accept the election results, and at this point we don’t underestimate his ruthlessness. We’re already seeing internet comments and hearing callers to “conservative” talk radio cheering on armed resistance to a possible Democratic administration, and although it probably won’t materialize and likely would quickly be put down it’s still chilling.
To be clear, we do not approve of rioting and looting and arson and vandalism and violence, and expect local law enforcement to effectively deal with it, but we’re quite tolerant of peaceful protests no matter what the cause. Trump has shown a willingness to disperse peaceful protests with flash grenades and pepper spray and billy clubs, however, and that is more worrisome than those scruffy “antifa” thugs and the sorts of riots that have been constitutionally quelled throughout our lifetimes. As much as the next red-blooded American we believe in law and order, but given his law-breaking proclivities and the pardons and commutations he’s given his law-breaking allies, we don’t care to be lectured about it by Trump.
What’s most worrisome is that we can no longer laugh off the paranoia.

— Bud Norman

A Presidential Conspiracy Theory

President Donald Trump frequently “tweets” up a distracting news cycle’s worth of controversy, most of which are best ignored, but the latest brouhaha seems more consequential and worth considering.
By now you’ve probably seen the videotape of two policemen at the front of a phalanx of riot-gear-clad officers descending on a protest demonstration in Buffalo, New York, pushing a 75-year-old protester onto the sidewalk, then all of the officers walking past the man’s prone body as he bled from the ear. Most viewers see a shocking example of the sort of police brutality that was being protested, but Trump saw it differently. He tweeted that “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
Which we find troubling for several reasons.
To begin with, it’s worrisome that a president of the United States could could even entertain such fanciful conjecture. The idea that a septuagenarian with a decades-long history of peaceful protesting intentionally injured himself to an extent that he required days hospitalization in hopes that someone was videotaping it to make the cops look bad is far-fetched enough. That he was using what looks to be his self phone to knock out police communications to knock out police communications is all the more implausible.
Trump apparently got such outlandish ideas by watching a report on the America One News Network, an obscure television outlet that has won Trump’s affection with its sycophantic coverage of his administration, which in turn got the scoop from Conservative Treehouse, an even more obscure internet site that traffics in wild conspiracy theories, which in turn got the idea from some anonymous poster on some even more obscure conspiracy theory message board. That a president of the United States is getting his information from such dubious sources is another matter of concern.
The evidence-free allusion to antifa is also worrying. Trump had previously tried to blame the rioting and looting and other mayhem that has occurred during the recent protests on antifa, and even tweeted that he would have it designated a “terrorist organization.” So far as we can tell from reading a wide variety of usually reliable sources, antifa isn’t an organization at all, just a catchall phrase for the pathetic left-wing punks who like to show up at demonstrations and brawl on the streets with any pathetic “alt-right” punks who might also be itching for a fight. We dislike the people calling themselves antifa, and consider them a public nuisance, but we don’t worry they’re much of a threat to the republic, and find no evidence that they’re responsible for any of the rioting and looting and arson that’s lately occurred.
We’re more convinced by the evidence that “alt-right” internet trolls have been instigating trouble to make the protesters look bad, but we don’t care to traffic in conspiracy theories. The mass demonstrations that have sprung up around the country and across the world aren’t because of any conspiracy, as even the most cunning conspiracists couldn’t pull that off, but rather are the result of many, many years of legitimate grievances culminating in an understandable rage. If the president of the United States can’t see that, and prefers to speculate without evidence that an American citizen is part of a criminal conspiracy, that’s more alarming than anything he might “tweet.”

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, There’s Still a Coronavirus

The good news is that the rate of coronavirus infections has lately slowed across America, but the bad news is that’s not true everywhere. The populous states of Texas and Florida have seen alarming increases in the infection rate since loosening restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, and it’s happening here in Sedgwick County, Kansas, too.
Which is not surprising. All those restrictions were the apparent reason the rate of infections had slowed, and numerous experts had warned against loosening them too soon. The restrictions were bad for business and onerous for everyone, though, and after weeks of being cooped up the temptation to get back to normal proved too tempting to resist.
Our fervent hope is that the recent spikes prove temporary, and that hot weather and the remaining restrictions and everybody’s newfound habit of staying several feet away from one another keeps the numbers down, but we’re not betting on it. The coronavirus has largely disappeared from the news because of the attention being paid to all the peaceful protesting and violent rioting about racism and police brutality, and the many instances of videotaped police brutality that have ensued, but that doesn’t mean it has disappeared. It’s still out there, spreading more rapidly in many places, and isn’t likely to go away in time for Election Day.
Even if there’s a second wave worse than the first, those restrictions are so bad for business and so onerous for everyone that the temptation to get back to normal will still be irresistible. Fear of the coronavirus doesn’t seem to have stopped all those peaceful protesters and violent rioters from the taking to the streets in large public gatherings, and President Donald Trump has decided that if they can do it he should be able to resume holding his crowded and raucous campaign rallies this month. He might be risking his supporters’ health, but he’s been in the casino business and presumably knows how to play the odds.
Public health officials around the country are urging anyone who’s been involved a demonstration or riot to be tested, on the other hand, and they’ve been mingling with others outdoors and by what we can tell from the news coverage seem far more likely to be wearing a face mask than the typical Trump supporter. The typical Trump supporter feels as passionate about their president as those demonstrators feel about racism and police brutality, however, so we expect large public gatherings to continue through the summer and into the autumn even if the major sports leagues don’t start up again.
More than 109,000 Americans have already died of COVID-19, which more than have died in every American war since Vietnam, and the final death toll will depend on what Americans do over the coming months. As Trump likes to say, we’ll see.

— Bud Norman

When the Winds Shift

There was a time, not so long ago, when one of the biggest stories in the news was about some professional football players who didn’t stand with a hand over their hearts during the national anthem as a political statement. President Donald Trump made a big deal about it, and with public opinion mostly on his side he persuaded the National Football League to issue a policy against the practice and effectively blackball the player who had started the protests.
Public opinion is prone to change, though, and with hundreds of thousands of Americans taking to the streets all across the country to peacefully protest the same racism and police brutality that those football players were protesting, and numerous televised instances of the police brutalizing them, the NFL has changed course. League commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Friday saying that “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” Star quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was one of the few players willing to publicly criticize players “taking a knee” during the national anthem, but the next day he was offering an apology for his comments.
Trump responded with predictable anger, “tweeting” that Goodell was endorsing “disrespecting our Country & our flag,” and that Brees should not have apologized, but he seems to understand that public opinion has shifted. On Sunday he ordered the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the District of Columbia, and although he claimed it was because “everything is under perfect control” and “far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated,” we think it might have more to do with the criticism that came from all corners after he dispersed a peaceful protest with pepper spray and rubber bullets to have a photo opportunity at a nearby church that had been damaged by vandals during one of the many riots that have also occurred around the country.
The vast majority of Americans still approve of Trump’s get-tough policy about rioting and looting and arson, but they have a different attitude about the peaceful protests that have popped up everywhere, and there’s a growing consensus that the protesters have a point. Utah’s Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was among the marchers over the weekend, a number of retired high-ranking admirals and generals have publicly expressed their disapproval of Trump’s response to the protests, and most of the Trump loyalists in the Republican party are doing their best to stay quiet about it.
When you’ve lost the National Football League, you’ve lost the country.

— Bud Norman

A Long, Hot Summer Lasting Past Autumn

Sooner or later American life will have to get back to something like normal, but it looks like it will be much later. The coronavirus seems likely to be around past the summer, and the economy won’t start to recover until it’s gone, and the unrest on the streets don’t seem likely to abate until after the election.
For the first time since 1972 the charming little town of Winfield, Kansas, won’t be hosting the annual Walnut Valley Festival, a weeklong acoustic music event that all of our folkie friends look forward to with a passion. The massive hootenanny is another victim of the coronavirus, although the event is annually held in mid-September, so the state and local health officials have decided the risk of further infections will persist until at least then. If so, the schools won’t be able to reopen at the traditional start of the school year, and all the school districts are currently trying to figure out what to do about that.
Which means that all the recently semi-reopened businesses won’t be back to their pre-coronavirus levels of activity, leaving a lot of people still out work, with various ripple effects across the wider economy.
Which in turn will exacerbate the anger that’s being expressed both peacefully and violently in pretty much every American city. President Donald Trump is hoping to quell the discontent with an overwhelming show of force, but so far that hasn’t seemed to pacify those protesting and rioting against police brutality, and the president is clearly more interested in exploiting the country’s political divisions than in healing him.
According to all the recent polling, the strategy isn’t working for them. If you’re inclined to dismiss the polls as “fake news,” there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support their conclusions. Another big story here in Wichita on Thursday was presidential advisor and First Daughter Ivanka Trump being invited to give a commencement speech to Wichita State University technical school, then quickly being disinvited after a deluge of angry phone calls in this traditionally conservative and Republican city.
Everything that’s going on will make it difficult for both major parties to hold their conventions in the traditional fashion, although Trump is determined to find a state where can do so, whatever the health risks to conventioneers and the likelihood of a bloody clash between protestors and police like happened in Chicago in 1968. The election might also need to be done with voting by mail, and Trump is also arguing that results would be rigged, which the 35-to-40 percent of the country that still adores him will believe.
Even after the coronavirus runs its course and everything’s reopened and the streets are relatively quiet, we expect that even then American life won’t be back to something like normal.

— Bud Norman

On Trump’s “Very Good” and Very Angry People

President Donald Trump has peculiar tastes in people. He ounce “very fine people” on among the white supremacists and neo-nazis who led a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The protestors who brandished long guns and confederate battle flags and nooses and signs urging the lynching of various public officials while protesting at the Michigan state capital were praised by Trump as “great people” that the governor should “make a deal” with it. After a local television reporter in Long Island, New York, was harassed and menaced by protestors angry about the states restrictions in response to the coronavirus, Trump “re-tweeted” the reporters video and added that “People can’t get enough of this! Great people!”
Maybe we’re taking this personally, as over more than three decades we’ve found ourself surrounded by some abusive and menacing crowds, but we don’t share Trump’s opinion of that angry mob. They struck as rude, hateful, and hostile to the American values of civility and a free press. Damned stupid, too, as it’s pointless to hold a protest rally if you plan on scaring away in media coverage.
The protestors were convinced that the reporter routinely peddles lies, but none seem inclined to offer examples or have a peaceable discussion about his perceived biases. The reporter filed what the video evidence suggests was an accurate of the rally, and if that made the protestors look bad he can hardly be blamed for that.
Some people apparently can’t get enough of that kind of self-defeating behavior, though, and now they’ve a President of the United States egging them on, praising their patriotism for confronting the “animals” and “scum” and “enemies of the people,” and has mused that “You know what we used to do in the old days when were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Sooner or late some deranged rally-goer will decide to deal with the traitors in his midst the old-fashioned way, and perhaps by then Trump’s “good people” and perhaps even Trump himself will have finally gotten enough of it. Of course Trump will be able to say he was being sarcastic, and can’t help it if some deranged killer took him literally.

— Bud Norman

Hong Kong and the Rest of Us

The images from Hong Kong over the weekend were heart-warming and awe-inspiring, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to streets and demanding freedom and democracy in defiance of the Chinese government’s brutal authoritarian crackdown. There’s hope that it’s reaching a critical mass that even the worst of the Chinese dictatorship can dish can’t resist, and that the people of the remarkable island city of Hong Kong will get the freedom they and democracy that all people of the earth deserve.
There’s also some faint hope that the movement will spread through the rest of authoritarian China, and perhaps even around the globe, but for the moment free and democratic America doesn’t seem to be playing its usual role in nudging it along.
President Donald Trump is waging a mutually destructive trade war with China over its undeniably unfair trading practices, but he still boasts of his close friendship with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and doesn’t seem to care much about how his good buddy handles his pesky domestic protesters. In a series of “tweets” the president “tweeted” about how he was wreaking great damage on the Chinese economy, but late “tweeted’ that “I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a ‘tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”
Trump later clarified by “tweet” that he didn’t mean a personal meeting between himself and Xi, but rather a personal meeting between Xi and the hundreds of thousands of protestors flooding the streets of Hong Kong. We can’t imagine how those negotiations would turn out, nor can we imagine what Trump would consider a humane solution. In 1989 there was a mass demonstration on Tiananmen Square that threatened to bring freedom and democracy to China and the Chinese dictatorship squashed it with brutal force, and in a 1990 interview with Playboy Magazine Trump said “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, then they were horrible, but then they put it down with the power of strength. That shows you the power of strength.” When asked about it in a 2016 Republican primary debate, Trump insisted he wasn’t endorsing China’s response but clumsily explained, “I said that it was a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot.
Trump used to wax nostalgic at his campaign rallies about how protestors would have been taken out stretchers, and he’s winked at or urged on on similarly rough responses to protests in Turkey, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and of course Russia. Those brave souls taking to the streets of Hong Kong clearly cannot count on Trump’s support, and at this point we’d advise anyone thinking of taking to the streets against to be brave but cautious.
Meanwhile, we also notice that none of those damned Democrats running for president seem to care much about those brave souls on the streets of Hong Kong, or any of the rest of the yearning-to-be-free world. Thus far the Democratic primary debates have been mostly about free this and free that for everyone in America, along with the usual promises made to various classes and races and sexual orientations within our borders, and somehow foreign policy never seems to come up. It might seem a missed opportunity for the Democrats, given what a mess Trump has made of foreign policy, but all of them seem to have the same Democratic instincts for protectionist trade policies and the same aversion to meddling in the world’s affairs on behalf of freedom and democracy.
Which seems to be where the rest of America’s at these days, in its time of relative economic prosperity and severe self-doubt. The once-iconic Democratic President John Kennedy vowed at his inauguration that America “shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any fried, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty,” but the Democrats jumped ship on that when the Vietnam War went sour and haven’t gotten back on since. The once-iconic President Ronald Reagan ultimately won the Cold War with similarly tough anti-Soviet rhetoric and no bullets fired, despite cutting off authoritarian allies in the Philippines and elsewhere, but these days most of the Republicans remember him as the guy who have gave amnesty to a bunch of Mexicans, and Republicans seem to have little regard for the people bravely pouring into the dangerous streets of Hong Kong.
By the vagaries of history China gave Great Britain a 99-year lease on Hong Kong after Britain got the best of a war over tea and opium, and despite Britain’s reputation for harsh colonial rule it granted the island city an unprecedented freedom and democracy, and the enterprising people of Hong Kong made it a very profitable enterprise even at Britain’s reasonable tax rates. When the lease ran out in 1997 Britain honored its deal, and the Chinese were at first willing to take its fair share of the profits from the roaring Hong Kong enterprise, but since then they’ve been cracking down on all that freedom and democracy the Hong Kong protestors had become accosted to over 99 years.
For obvious reasons we’re not running for president on either party’s ticket, but if we were there seems to be an opening here. America’s engagement in the rest of the world has always a messy business, to be sure, but under Republican and Democratic administrations America’s disengagement has always proved worse. In the short term standing up for Hong Kong’s freedom-loving and democratic protestors might not help Trump negotiate a trade war peace with his buddy Xi, but in the long run a free and democratic Chinese government is more likely to arrive at a mutually beneficial trade deal. Some Democrat might yet make a bold stand on behalf of the Hong Kong protestors, but he or she won’t want to negotiate with a more capitalist and formidable China anymore than Trump does.
Still, we hold out hope for the best. Freedom and democracy are resilient ideas, both here and abroad.

Youthful Idealism and Its Inevitable Woes

At the risk of sounding even older and more cynical than we are, which is admittedly rather old and cynical, we must say we don’t care much for youthful idealism. In fact, we’ve long regarded youthful idealism as one of history’s most destructive forces.
This has been our firmly held opinion since back in our high school days, when we couldn’t help but notice what a poorly educated lot our classmates were, and we continued to think so as we watched high school students here in Wichita and around the country staging walk-out protests on Wednesday against the country’s ongoing epidemic of mass shootings.
Not that we’re at all in favor of mass shootings, of course, and we can well understand why high school students would be especially anxious and opinionated about this peculiarly American problem. Nor do we disagree with more thorough background checks for gun purchases and a ban on “bump stocks” and certain other proposals the protest movement seems to be advocating. In any case, we steadfastly uphold the right of even the most ill-educated youngsters to express their opinions in a public forum.
America’s mass shooting problem is damned complicated, however, and won’t likely be solved by a high school level of analysis. Many of the students involved in the protests seem to favor a complete ban on private gun ownership, which is at least as futile as a ban on abortion or marijuana or illegal immigration or any other number pf bans they would instinctively reject. Others are merely advocating a ban on the semi-automatic rifles they imprecisely call “assault weapons,” which is somewhat less futile but still a pretty damned complicated matter with some valid if subtle arguments on the other side. Even the most reasonable demands about background checks and bump stocks and such are couched in youthfully idealist language that tends to demonize law-abiding gun owners and their constitutional rights.
Constitutional rights have survived countless challenges from youthful idealism, though, and we expect that trend to continue. The current children’s crusade is getting a lot of supportive press, and some of the high schoolers from the latest shot-up high school are so very well-spoken and telegenically sympathetic that the right-wing conspiracy theorists are plausibly theorizing they’re from central casting, and some big corporations have already stopping selling so-called “assault weapons” and offering discounts to members of the demonized National Rifle Association, but it will be hard to sustain.
The kids are competing for column inches and air time with the even more telegenic movie star babes protesting sexual harassment, that “Black Lives Matter” thing still lingers, all of the letters in the “LGBTQ” coalition continue to press their respective grievances, not to mention all the rest of the left’s constant carping about President Donald Trump. They all have their very valid arguments, of course, but they tend to get lost in the noise, and as always they also generate an equal and opposite amount of noise from the right, some of which also has some valid arguments.
Youth movements are hard to sustain, too, and often go awry. Our high school days came a few years after those halcyon days when high schoolers were walking out of class to protest the Vietnam War, which had come to a desultory end partly as a result, and many of our classmates were envious of the frisson of moral superiority they’d experienced, but they were relegated to staging walk-outs over such mundane matters as school dress codes. The opportunity to skip an algebra class always fueled the walkouts, but at our high school the dress codes were so permissive and the truancy rules so laxly enforced that it never came up.
Our guess is that a lot of high schoolers in America have parents who own firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, and well understand the valid reasons, and we note that the vast majority of high schoolers here in Wichita and around the country didn’t walk out. We’ll also guess that some of those walked out did so because it sounded like more fun than chemistry class.
Still, we wish the young punks luck in solving that damned complicated and peculiarly American problem of mass shootings. and hope they’ll nudge their presumably more wised-up elders to some sort of reasonable solution.

— Bud Norman

By the Time We Get to Phoenix

President Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign rallies are always the sort of thing that people who like things of that sort will enjoy, and we’re sure that his most ardent fans were wowed by the performance he delivered Tuesday night in Phoenix, but we doubt that anybodyabout else was much impressed. To our ears it seemed the most blatantly dishonest, deliberately divisive, and downright demagogic oration we can recall from an American president.
Trump started off with characteristic boasting about how both his campaign and presidency have stressed the values of truth, unity, and universal love, but after that most of it was devoted to explaining how the only reason anyone might have gotten the wrong impression about it was because all of his critics are evil people who hate America and are determined to thwart his singular attempts to make it great again, and just in case anyone harbored any doubts about his sincerity he added that he really believes that. By now that evil and America-hating cohort includes not only the “sick people” in all but a favored few of the media outlets, the entirety of the Democratic party, certain members of the Republican party that Trump coyly declined to name but you know who he was talking about, such rank-and-file Republicans as ourselves, establishment institutions ranging from the Boy Scouts of America to the people who make Campbell’s Soup, and according to the same opinion polls Trump used to cite back when they showing him winning the Republican primary it now comprises some 60 percent or more of the country.
None of whom, we strongly suspect, were buying any of it. He did did say all that about truth and unity and love in the deadly aftermath of a white supremacist rally in Virginia, and we know this because those “sick people” in the media ran all the lengthy footage of remarks, along with the the parts where he always claims the media isn’t recording his media-bashing, but he also spoke about spreading the blame over “many sides,” repeating “many sides” to make clear he really believed that, and he mentioned that the white supremacists had a permit and those protesting their presence in the community didn’t, and he spoke about how there were “many very fine people” marching in the torch-bearing and Nazi-flag waving rally, and there’s no denying the white supremacists who organized the rally “tweeted” their thanks for the response. It seems unlikely that any of the “sick people” in the media could have computer-generated these images on such short notice, however, and even the media outlets that Trump favorably mentioned wound up running the same footage, so Trump would have better quelled the now-ongoing controversy by frankly acknowledging that some very fine people might have gotten the wrong impression from the totality of his remarks.
Frank acknowledgements are not Trump’s style, however, so he doubled down on his message of truth and unity and universal love by doubling down on his hateful attacks on his critics in the Republican party with some pretty weaselly language.
Two of Trump’s most troublesome critics in his party are the Senators from Arizona, and he quite specifically excoriated both for their apostasy while congratulating himself for being so politically correct as to not mention their names. One of the Senators that Trump maligned is John McCain, whom the draft-dodging Trump had infamously criticized for being “captured” during the Vietnam war and had more recently cast a deciding vote against a Republican health care bill with a 17 percent approval rating in all the polls, and the other was junior Sen. Jeff Flake, who is on board with the repeal-and-replacement of Obamacare and most of the rest of Trump’s seeming agenda but has outspokenly expressed doubts about Trump’s temperament and rhetoric. Trump won Arizona’s electoral votes handily, and seemed quite popular with the five thousand or so Arizonans who attended the rally, but McCain and Flake were doing even better in the state back when Trump was a reality show star and Democratic donor, so there’s no telling how this will play in Arizona, but in the other 49 states we think Trump probably picked another losing fight.
Before the speech Trump’s White House had leaked that he wouldn’t pardon the Phoenix area’s former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and sure enough he didn’t mention Arpaio by his full name or officially offer a pardon, and thus any media outlet that says he did can be considered “fake news,” but one could easily come to the conclusion that a pardon for Arpaio is forthcoming. “So Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job? You know what, I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said. “I think he’s going to be just fine, okay? But I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to make any controversy.”
One needn’t be from Arizona to know that Arpaio was nationally celebrated for the tough treatment of his department’s jailed suspects and his even tougher enforcement of immigration laws, as well as being widely reviled for the violations of the civil rights of people who were just jailed suspects and a lot of other folks who were naturalized and hereditary-after-many-generations Americans who wound up in jail for no reason other than they looked suspiciously brown, and that he’s one of those divisive figures in American politics. A federal court found Arpaio’s clearly stated policy of jailing anyone a sheriff’s officer might suspect of looking like an illegal Mexican, in a city with such a large population of Mexican-looking but hereditarily-for-more-generations-than-Arpaio’s-family Americans, was a violation of the constitution, and even such rank-and-file law-and-order and tough-on-border-enforcement Republicans such as ourselves have to admit that he was rightly convicted of defying the court’s constitutionally authorized order to case and desist.
Announcing leniency for Arpaio, no matter how coyly, is an unlikely claim in Trump’s case for truth and unity and universal love. In the same speech Trump criticized the “sanctuary cities” that were offering protection to illegal immigrants suspected of crimes, a practice that has long offended our rank-and-file law-and-order Republican sensibilities, but that doesn’t mean we’ll go along with the pardon of a Trump-backing Republican sheriff in Arizona who just as brazenly defied a higher federal authority’s order to case and desist from locking up any Arizonans who looked at all Mexican.
In the further interest of truth and unity and universal love Trump quadrupled or quintupled on his original campaign promise of building a wall across the entire border of Mexico, which he now promises will be translucent so that we can see what those wily Mexicans are up to on the other side, and the enthusiastic audience responded with the rote chants of “build that wall!” By now Trump isn’t making the old claims about how Mexico’s going to pay for it and be glad for the privilege, but he did suggest he’d rather endure a government shutdown than let those wily Republicans pass a continuing spending resolution or debt-ceiling increase that didn’t require America to pay for his stupid idea about a suddenly translucent wall stretching across the entire Mexican border.
There were also cheers for the president’s better speech of the night before about continuing America’s long war in Afghanistan, and from pretty much the same Phoenix crowd that had lustily cheered his previous local promises of a quick withdrawal from the conflict just as lustily cheered, and except for fans of Steve Bannon and Alex Jones and the furthest fringes of the far right media he probably ┬ádidn’t lose much support even if he surely didn’t gain a single point. In any case, he didn’t bolster his case for truth and unity and universal love. Like all Trump campaign rallies it ended with The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and we’re still unclear what that’s all about.
So far as we can tell from the “sick people” in the national media and seemingly less sick people in the local Phoenix media, the numerous Trump supporters in the arena and the approximately equal number of Trump protesters outside it all managed to home without incident. That’s a fairly encouraging sign of truth and unity and universal, by current standards, but then again it might yet prove just a devious momentary tactic evil people who hate America.

— Bud Norman

The Point of No Tax Return

President Donald Trump spent an early part of Sunday “tweeting,” as he does most mornings. He wished everyone a Happy Easter, which suited the occasion, and he boasted of a military build-up that is apparently somehow already underway, but mostly he seemed annoyed the previous day’s protests around the country demanding the release of his tax returns.
The first “tweet” once again recounted his “almost impossible” electoral college victory, then asked “Now Tax Returns are brought up again?” His second outburst suggested “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday, adding that “Election is over!” Both were composed before Trump got around to wishing the country a Happy Easter, so together they suggest the protestors at least succeeded in rankling the president.
Many of the protests were indeed small, and the election is indeed over, but Trump should nonetheless get used to it being brought up again and again. Although he did win electoral college victory Trump lost the popular, many of those who voted against him don’t have to be paid to show up somewhere and wave a sign and chant slogans about it, and Trump’s capitalized Tax Return is too tempting an issue for them to drop it. The protestors allies in Congress and many of the media don’t intend to, and Trump will need better “tweets” to counter their arguments.
Campaign issues don’t end with the campaigns, as Trump should know after the decades he continued to make the same criticisms and conspiracy theories about every president since Ronald Reagan throughout their terms, and there’s no apparent reason this one should. Although Trump is not required by law to disclose his tax returns, with or with capitalization, there are valid reasons that for the past forty years every presidential nominee has done so and solid majorities of the public have come to expect it. Those reasons are all the more valid when a president retains a global empire business that is bound to be affected by what the federal government does over the next four years, as this one does, another break from a longstanding informal agreement that there are also valid reasons for, and which is also something that Trump’s critics can be expected to keep bringing up.
Worse yet, it’s hard to concoct a convincing argument for why Trump doesn’t release his tax returns. The sorts of Trump supporters who don’t need convincing will accept the stated reason that he’s under audit, even though that doesn’t prevent him from making his returns public, and shouldn’t put him in any sort of legal jeopardy, but eventually Trump will need to persuade some more skeptical sorts. His more stubborn apologists point out the educational records and other documents that Obama declined to release, and note that Democrats didn’t seem to mind that lack of transparency, but of course those supporters very much minded, and kept bringing it up throughout and now even after his term, and so did Trump himself, who “tweeted” repeatedly about it, so they also have to explain why things are now so different. For those of us who wanted to see Obama’s grades and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and anything else we could get our hands on about any any office-holding Democrats, but also want to see Trump’s tax filings and anything else we can learn his or any other Republican politician’s potential conflicts of power, that argument is utterly unconvincing.
Although it will drift on and off the front pages, we expect the stories and and the protests will continue. All the stories about investigations underway into Russia’s role in the past campaign will make mention of it, and so will all the stories about Trump-owned businesses benefiting from some deregulation or tax shift or federal contracts that are bound to come up. There will be plenty of speculation, too, and Trump’s “tweets” and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer don’t seem likely to allay the resulting suspicions. The only way to end it is to just go ahead and release the damned things, the way Obama did with the birth certificate he was pestered about by certain people even long after his victorious election was over.
That would not only put the issue to rest and allow Trump to “tweet” about more important issues, but also quell some of that speculation about what those unseen returns might reveal about Russia or any possible conflicts of interest from that global business empire. Surely there’s nothing the least bit compromising in those documents, after all.

— Bud Norman