Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— 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

On the Day After Acquittal, the Argument Continues

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump officially ended on Wednesday with his acquittal by all but one of the Republican majority members in the Senate, yet these sorts of matters never really end. Historians still argue about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson and the Sacco and Vanzetti case and the Scopes Monkey Trial and the O.J. Simpson verdict, with their political implications still clearly delineated and intensely felt, so the arguments about Trump’s impeachment trial will surely continue at least until Election Day.
All of the evidence and testimony that led to Trump’s impeachment by Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is still damning, and all of the evidence the Republican majority Senate refused to hear will eventually be heard. Former national security advisor John Bolton’s tell-all book will sooner or later be published in some form despite Trump’s best efforts at censorship, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer named Lev Parnas will eventually give his side of a very interesting story in what’s likely to be a well-publicized trial, and the silence of such presumably exculpatory witnesses as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rick Perry and White House chief of staff and part-time director of Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney will be deafening.
The testimony and evidence the House of Representatives cited to impeach Trump on counts of abusing his office to withhold congressionally aid from America’s Ukrainian allies in exchange for help in reelection and then obstructed congressional efforts to find out about it went largely unchallenged during the Senate’s abbreviated trial, and was sufficient that a vast majority of Americans told all the pollsters they wanted to hear more. Even such stalwart Republicans as Tennessee’s Sen. Lamar Alexander and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the damned-if-she-does-and-damned-if-she-doesn’t Sen. Susan Collins of Maine acknowledged that Trump did indeed do what he was accused of, and that he shouldn’t have done it, even though they all voted to acquit because it’s not that big a deal, at least when a Republican does it.
Collins told a national television interview that she’s confident Trump won’t try it again after being chastened by impeachment. Murkowski admitted that Trump’s conduct was “shameful and wrong” but explained her partisan vote by saying that impeachment should be a bipartisan consensensus. Alexander said the American people should decide if Trump should run again in 2020. and Rubio explained his vote to acquit despite understanding of Trump’s guilt by saying “Can anyone doubt that at least half the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’tat?”
We don’t share Collins’ confidence that Trump has learned his lesson, but instead worry he’ll be emboldened by the once-again-confirmed lifelong lesson that he can get away with anything, and  he’ll try something even more brazen and crazier. Alexander surely realizes that only Republicans rather than the broader “American people” will decide if Trump runs again in 2020, and that they are not one and the same. Rubio has a good point about a large chunk of America viewing Trump’s removal as illegitimate, but we’re not sure it’s more than half, and can only guess how it’s spread around the electoral map, and as of now a whole lot of people regard Trump’s presidency as illegitimate, and he must have known his vote wouldn’t settle the matter.
Only Utah Sen. Mitt Romney broke from the Republican ranks to convict Trump on the first article of impeachment, which will surely be a matter of much discussion for some time to come. He made a far better explanation of his decision that we ever could, and we urge to you to listen to it here, and dare you  try to come up with a plausible rebuttal, but he’ll no doubt be pilloried in Trump’s “tweets” and the Trump-friendly media. They won’t be able to convincingly say he was selling out his principles for political advantage, though.
How it plays out in the coming months until Election Day is anybody’s guess, given how awful the damned Democratsundeniably  are, but over the long run we think that Romney will be on the few involved who comes out looking any good. We voted for him when he ran against President Barack Obama, who we must admit never questioned Romney’s character, and we’re proud of vote that today.

— Bud Norman

On the Power to Wage War

The House of Representatives voted Thursday along mostly party lines to restrict President Donald Trump’s authority to wage war with Congress’ consultation and approval, and there’s a chance a few Republicans will join all the Democrats in the Senate to pass it in that chamber. One can only wonder what the vote would have been if a similar resolution had been offered four or five years ago when President Barack Obama was in office.
Our guess is that script would have been flipped. Back then the Republicans mostly hewed to high-minded constitutional principles about Congress’ sole authority to declare war, while even the most principled peaceniks of the Democratic party were willing indulge Obama’s frequent drone strikes at terrorist targets. Both parties’ opinions about an imperial presidency are contingent on which currently occupies the White House.
We would have voted to restrict presidential war-making powers back then, we’d do so again today if only we were in the Senate, and we much admire the few congressional Republicans willing to incur Trump’s “twitter” wrath with their intellectual consistency. Perhaps some of the Democrats who crossed party lines on Thursday to vote against the resolution also deserve our begrudging respect, but we notice most of them will soon be running for reelection in districts where Trump has a net approval rating.
There are reasonable arguments for granting a president broad authority as Commander-in-Chief, and the Republicans are using them all, just as the Democrats would have done four or five years ago. All of the reasonable arguments for not giving any one person the power to start a war are still sound, though, even if the modern Democratic party has no standing to make them.
When the founders gave Congress sole authority to declare war there were no intercontinental nuclear missiles that could hit an American target faster than Congress can convene, but it’s long been congressionally-sanctioned American policy to immediately nuke to extinction any country rash enough to lob a nuke at us. Congress hasn’t declared war on anybody since World War II, but it had the chance to give its constitutional advice and consent to military actions in Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Nicaragua and various other hot spots around the world, with mixed results. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 ushered in a new era of national security challenges, but Congress deliberated and passed sweeping expansions of domestic intelligence and police powers, and before he went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq President George W. Bush went to Congress with the votes of numerous Democrats, including two future Democratic presidential nominees and the man who’s now considered the front-runner for the next Democratic nomination.
All of those Democrats now rue their vote for the Iraq War, and the current Republican president falsely claims that he was against it all along and that his Republican predecessor lied us into the whole mess based on flawed intelligence reports. When he was a reality show star Trump also confidently predicted on “twitter” and “YouTube” that Obama would lie America into a war with Iran as the only to win reelection, with both claims proving false. Now he’s asking the country to trust him and his intelligence reports that his decision to kill Iran’s second-highest-ranking without bothering to notify even the most senior members of Congress’ intelligence and military committees, and most of the Republicans are predictably going along while most of the Democrats are balking.
As we judge it the Republicans would have had the better case for restricting presidential war powers four or five years ago, so for principled reasons we’ll swallow our Republican pride and admit the Democrats have an even stronger case this time around. The administration and its more legal apologists in the conservative media are arguing that Trump acted under the Bush-era authorization, but at this point that’s quite a stretch, especially with a Republican president who still claims it was based on lies. The numerous drone strikes Obama ordered had more to do with the fall out from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and for the most part they killed dangerous terrorists without starting any new conflicts. We didn’t much trust that Obama fellow, but neither do we have any faith whatsoever in Trump’s honesty and selflessness, and we believe that no one man should be empowered to wage war.
We first became aware of the wider world after President Lyndon Johnson cajoled Congress to pass the dubiously based Gulf of Tonkin resolution and commenced the Vietnam War in bloody earnest, and although it was arguably a noble effort and the American resolve it showed eventually won the wider Cold War, nobody thinks it ended well. Our unpopular theory is that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will eventually be seen by as having demonstrated the American resolve that has largely contained the Islamist terror threat and seems headed toward ultimate victory in a century or so, but for now both parties repudiate the efforts and accuse one another of treason.
So far as we can tell from decades of reading the newspapers and history books, no leader has ever successfully prosecuted a war without the widespread and bipartisan support of his country. President Richard Nixon was ultimately forced by public opinion to accept a “peace with honor” in Vietnam that came awry after he resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal and the Democrats used their congressional majorities to withhold military aid from our erstwhile South Vietnamese allies. Bush’s congressionally-authorized but still controversial decision to invade Iraq might well have yielded positive results after he defied public opinion and ordered an effective “surge” of troops, but Obama’s premature withdrawal doomed that. Obama’s drone-happy anti-terrorism efforts were mostly fine by us but did not endear him to his party and did little to diminish its soft-on-terrorism reputation among Republicans.
So far Trump’s simultaneous promises of withdrawing America from the world stage while building up the military and its troop levels in the Middle East and other hot spots around the world are playing well with his base of voters, but he’s enraged all the damned Democrats, bewildered the longtime allies he’s disparaged and is now urging to take America’s place, and even lost some Republican support, even in Congress.
Trump might yet retain his imperial powers on the basis of some flimsy arguments and a slim but veto-proof Republican majority in the Senate, but we’d advise him not to use them. If worse comes to worst he’ll need to persuade a nation that action is urgently required based on the best possible information, and at this point he can’t persuasively argue “trust me.”

— Bud Norman

An Impeachment Spoiler Alert

The main problem with this impeachment inquiry storyline in President Donald Trump’s hit reality show is its predictability. On Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that her overwhelming Democratic House majority will soon vote to impeach the president, just as everyone expected from the outset, and although there are bound to be further plot twists that make Trump look bad it seems inevitable the slight Republican majority in the Senate will prevent Trump being removed from office.
Even so, we find it all quite riveting. If not for a vested interest in the future of the American republic, we might find downright hilarious.
For those of you who haven’t been following the complicated plot from its improbable beginnings, the gist of it is that Trump stands accused of abusing the powers of his office to coerce domestic political help from beleaguered ally Ukraine and then to cover it up by by defying congressional subpoenas and other illegal means, and all the sworn testimony and documentary evidence and the White House’s open defiance of congressional subpoenas indicate that he’s guilty as charged. The Republicans are trying to counter-program with a story about how the Ukrainians are the bad the guys, not the Russians who have invaded their country, and how all the damned Democrats and their witnesses and documents are in on it, but the problem with that storyline is its improbability.
At the risk of spoiling the plot, we expect Trump and his apologists will eventually confess to everything and shrug their shoulders in a “So what?” motion and that the argument will win enough support in a Republican Senate to keep him in office. The testimony that Trump is blocking from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security advisor John Bolton and former White Counsel Don McGahn and especially current Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and one of his recently indicted associates might move public opinion, and their lack of testimony won’t look at all good who’s paying careful attention, but the Democrats are in such a holiday rush to get this over before the early presidential primaries that they won’t have time to sway a distracted public’s attention.
At the moment there’s a significant portion of the country, even a majority according to many polls, that favor Trump’s removal from office and have from pretty much since the day he was sworn in. There’s also a sizable percentage that consider Trump even greater than President Abraham Lincoln, and will say “So what?” about anything Trump does. Most of the country doesn’t seem to be paying much attention, as with the holidays coming up they’ve got other things to do than watch the news, and Trump is hoping that come next November his support is sufficiently spread out around the electoral map to keep him in office and immune from prosecution for another four years.
That’s the obvious post-Christmas next chapter of this desultory tale, and as improbable as it is at least it’s unpredictable. We don’t much like Trump or any of these damned Democratic candidates, and are trying to retain our faith in objective reality and Constitutional principles, so we don’t expect any Christmas miracles.

— Bud Norman

England Swings Like a Pendulum Do

President Donald Trump arrives in England today for a three-day visit, and we expect it will be awkward.
By all accounts the American president is not popular with the general public in the United Kingdom, where large protests are expected to gather in the streets during the trip, and his relationships with the various levels of government there are similarly strained. There’s an ongoing “twitter” feud with London’s mayor, some continuing disputes with Scotland over Trump’s management of his disastrous-to-the local economy golf courses there, Parliament has hotly debated whether Trump should even be allowed in the nation at all, and the Royal Family seems to be handling the matter with even more than its usual exquisite carefulness.
Trump will get an official welcoming from the Queen at Buckingham Palace, as well as a fancy banquet and a gun salute from the Tower of London, which we’re sure he’ll enjoy, but that’s about it. The usual invitation for a visiting American president to spend the night in the palace has not been extended, there won’t be the usual House Guards parade with a trip through London’s streets in the gold carriage in the Queens gold-plated carriage that Trump has openly fantasized about, and it’s hard to see how any of Trump’s diplomatic objectives will be achieved.
Pretty much ever since the aftermath of the unpleasantness of 1812 America and Great Britain have enjoyed what Mark Twain hopefully dubbed a “special relationship,” which has persisted through two World Wars and a Cold War and all the post-Cold War unpleasantness in the Middle East, but that’s just another of those successful longstanding arrangements that Trump has gleefully sabotaged. He provoked a feud with London’s Muslim mayor and criticized its Muslim-friendly immigration policies, as if that’s any of America’s business, critiqued the Prime Minister’s handling of its “Brexit” from the European Union, which Trump has also criticized for its unfair trade policies and miserly defense spending, and lumped the UK with all the other Euro-trash he accused of taking unfair advantage of America’s economic and military might. He recently called one of the Royal family’s recent American-born and biracial members “nasty,” which he now denies doing even though the Fleet Street tabloid that interviewed him has released audiotape of him saying it, and the rest of it is even more complicated than that.
If Trump hopes to negotiate the best trade and military deal ever with Great Britain over the next three days, which is farfetched in the best of the circumstances, there’s no one in the UK at the moment who could sign off on it. Trump can exult in outlasting his longtime nemesis British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has recently resigned on a date later this month because of her failure to negotiate a successful “Brexit” from the EU, but she’s now a lame duck whose successor won’t be chosen in the next three days, and there’s no guarantee that the next Prime Minister will want to be seen giving Trump a sweetheart deal. There’s also no guarantee that the remaining members of our erstwhile allies in the EU, whose publics also much dislike Trump, will be any more accommodating.
Trump will get a sumptuous Buckingham Palace state dinner on the Royal family’s best China out of the visit, which we’re sure he’ll appreciate, but there won’t be any overnight stays or  rides in gold-plated carriages or any other concessions worth bragging about, and at this point we’re just hoping the trip won’t be yet another of his foreign affairs disasters.

— Bud Norman

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

President Donald Trump and his son-law and other key members of his administration have lately been hiring personal legal counsel, which is well-advised and by no means implies anything nefarious, but we find their choices of attorneys rather eyebrow-raising. The lawyers often turn out to be some of the most intriguing characters in these long-running television dramas, and in this case no mere screenwriter could have come up with anything quite so colorful.
What Trump calls “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” thus far one of the main plot lines of the show, has reached the point that a House committee and Senate committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Special Counsel are looking into it, and although Trump plausibly dismisses it all as “fake news” he’s nonetheless wisely lawyered up. Throughout his long and now-legendary career in the private sector Trump has frequently been required to hire legal representation, and in his current predicament he’s once again turned to the same lawyers and the same bare-knuckle legal tactics he’s relied on in the past.
In his early days as a proudly bare-knuckle real estate developer Trump relied on the legal talents of Roy Cohn, one of the more colorful characters in countless American lawyer shows. Cohn first gained fame way back in the ’50s as the take-no-prisoners adviser to Sen. Joe McCarthy, urging on an often reckless anti-Communist crusade that ended with that widely-watched “Have you no shame?” moment on national television after a baseless claim of treason against some sympathetic low-level government employee, and he stayed in the papers by representing New York mafioso and the owners of the cocaine-and-sex-orgy Studio 54 nightclub and any other high-profile clients who needed his famously aggressive legal tactics. He also represented Trump and his real-estate mogul father in their fight against a Justice Department allegation that they’d discriminated against their black and Latino tenants, along with some other more middling matters about their businesses, and Trump has often spoken kindly of his tough guy style. That same approach eventually got Cohn disbarred when he started harassing some obnoxiously rich but otherwise innocent pillar of New York City society with his usual blizzard of threatening letters, and  not long after the outspokenly anti-homosexual lawyer who’d had numerous suspected homosexuals kicked out of the military back in the McCarthy days died  in 1988 at the age of 59 from complications of AIDS, most likely a result of one of his frequent sexual encounters with men, but in his most recent comments about the man Trump still praised his style.
Since Cohn’s disbarment and ultimate demise Trump has mostly relied on the advice of Michael Cohen and Marc Kasowitz, both of whom are known in New York legal circles for their similarly tough guy approach to the law.
Kasowitz was graduated from Yale but had to settle for a law degree from Cornell University, then made his fame and started his fortune by defending the major tobacco companies from all the lawsuits that business entailed, and he wound up with Trump as a very lucrative client. He represented Trump in one of his two divorces and all the complicated bankruptcy proceedings regarding his failed casinos and a fraud suit against Trump University, along with hundreds of claims of unpaid bills, and he sent some harassing letters to the women who publicly claimed  during the past presidential campaign that Trump had sexually harassed them, and we’d guess he’s billed his usual $1,500-an-hour-advice on countless other matters. Trump came out of the divorce with a still-sizable fortune and a glamorous nudie model third wife, and while his investors lost collective billions in those casinos he came out millions ahead, and they settled that Trump University lawsuit for a mere $25 million to plaintiffs and surprisingly few headlines, and despite all those other matters he’s the president, so despite Kasowitz’ lack of Washington experience we can see why Trump trusts his attorney’s advice.
Still, he seems an odd choice to deal with this Russia thing with Trump and Russia. It’s not just that Kasowitz provides an excuse for every snarky journalist to once again mention Trump’s two divorces and more numerous bankruptcies and scam university schemes and all those unpaid bills and countless other matters in his now-legendary private sector career, but that he’s also got his own Russian ties. His law firm of Kasowitz, Benson and Torres — which was Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman until until the bankruptcy-specialist Friedman left to become Trump’s ambassador to Israel  — also represents a Russian bank, OJSC Sberbank, and a Russian billionaire with the same predictable ties to the Kremlin.
Cohen, a former executive vice president of the Trump Organization and famously combative spokesman for the Trump campaign and administration, is also on the job of defending Trump in this Russia thing with Trump and Russia, but he’s also got his own legal problems about that. The House and Senate committees have both asked him about his contacts with the Kremlin , and so far he’s  refusing to provide the requested information. None of this proves anything, we’ll readily agree, but Trump and his most hopeful supporters should admit that it doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile, the president’s son-in-law has lawyered up with Jamie Gorelick, which is possibly the weirdest plot twist yet. Jared Kushner, the bare-knuckle real estate mogul husband of Trump’s most beloved daughter and his pick to negotiate Middle East peace and reinvent the federal government and deal with China and end the opioid crisis in America is also reported to have been in meetings with Russian banks and is reportedly a “person of interest” in that Russia thing with Trump and Russia, so one can hardly blame him for picking a well-connected Washington insider such as Gorelick to guide him through it. The eminently well-connected-to-the-Democrats Gorelick, though, seems an odd choice.
She really should be at least as infamous as Roy Cohn, as far we’re concerned. Her first mention in the papers came as a deputy attorney general appointed by President Bill Clinton when she was “field commander” in the botched raid on some religious nuts in Waco, Texas, which left 20 children and 60 adults dead, and which earned her a promotion to a higher post where she implemented the “wall” between domestic and foreign intelligence agencies. We’ll assume she had the best intention of protecting citizens from intrusive surveillance, but as predicted the policy also kept the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency from sharing the information that could have prevented the terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001. For that she was rewarded with control of the Federal National Mortgage Association, where she stubbornly and successfully resisted President George W. Bush’s proposed reforms to a crazy Clinton-era sub-prime mortgage scheme that led to the financial meltdown of 2008.
After playing a starring role in the most deadly attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression she was briefly floated as President Barack Obama’s pick for Attorney General, and although that somehow didn’t happen Gorelick continued to serve the Democratic Party by helping a George Soros-funded non-profit get a say who in gets a non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service ,and helping Duke University deal with the lacrosse team they’d falsely accused of gang rape in a racially-charged case , and vouching for Obama’s ultimately unconfirmed last Supreme Court nominee, among other high-dollar matters for the left.
There’s no denying she’s a well-connected D.C. lawyer and a ruthlessly tough survivor of some vicious fights, and she came out a reported $25 million ahead after that still-ongoing 2008 recession, so we can well understand why Trump’s son-in-law, whose own bare-knuckle real estate mogul father did some federal time on illegal campaign contribution and witness-tampering charges, might turn to her. She’ll no doubt be a fierce defender in whatever court of law Kushner might find himself in, where those Democratic connections might well prove useful, but we don’t expect she’ll be a very popular character in either the cheering or jeering sections of the court of public opinion.
Once again we’ll stipulate that none of this proves anything, and that we have no idea what the next plot twist will bring, but we can’t shake an unpleasant feeling about where this heading.

— Bud Norman

Trump vs. the Media vs. the Truth and the Rest of Us

The battle between President Donald Trump and the ancien regime media continues to escalate, and just like his election campaign against Hillary Clinton we’re watching without a rooting interest. Once again both sides are embarrassing themselves with false claims and phony outrage and actual incompetence, and we’re just hoping that it somehow works out for the rest of us.
Most of the media have continued to do the same dreadful job they’ve been doing over the industry’s past several decades of declining circulation and ratings and ad revenues and public approval. Since Trump’s election the most established newspapers and news broadcasts and all sorts of more fashionable internet outlets have issued reports that required extensive corrections or outright retractions, there’s been an unabashed antagonism even in the supposedly straight news sections that can’t help but raise questions about objectivity, and by now even the most casual news readers have noticed that they’re getting all worked up over the same sorts of things they spent the Obama years writing about approvingly or ignoring altogether. They’re the same smug and self-serious bores they’ve always been, too, and still don’t seem to realize how badly it’s playing.
Yet Trump provides them plenty of fodder for a whole lot of gleefully negative but indisputably reporting, “tweeting” and extemporizing on-video claims that are easily disproved and endlessly corrected by the careful explanations of his underlings yet never fully retracted. They range from the petty, such as his continued insistence that the size of his inauguration crowd was bigger than all the evidence or any logic would support, to the potentially more consequential, such as his claims that a rigged election system cost him the popular vote and that Russia had certainly had nothing to do with him winning the electoral vote. Although the ancien regime media missed yet another bet by objecting to Trump’s Muslim-banning executive order by insinuating that it was motivated by “Islamophobia,” still not realizing how badly that old shtick is playing, they were able to generate plenty of pristine copy about how ineptly it was written by political hacks without the input of any of those top people that Trump promised to surround himself with, and how it wound up confusing all the bureaucrats downstream and causing all sorts of fuss for perfectly nice people and ending up with a lot of legal wrangling, and Trump referring to the “so-called judge” who issued an injunction and lots of people on the left and right noting that the judge is so called because he actually is a duly-appointed-by-a_Republican-and-confirmed-by-a-bipartisan-congressional-majority judge, and so far we’d score it all about even for both teams, with the rest of in the hole.
Trump’s next offensive was against the media’s alleged lack of “Islamophobia,” which he’s shrewd enough to know that most Americans and all of his supporters understand as a reasonable concern about Islamist terrorism, and he botched that persuasive argument by claiming that there’s a widespread media collusion that ignores acts of terror. Had he argued that many of the media are slow to acknowledge an Islamist motivation to an act or terror and when forced to try to underplay that fact of the story he would have had some basis for the claim, but instead he had his staff issue a hastily-assembled list of terror strikes that the media had “underreported.” The established papers and networks were happy to show the  list included several major terrorist attacks in Europe and Australia and the Middle East that you surely heard about if you’d turned on a television or radio or opened a newspaper or called up any sort of news web site in the days afterward, many more that were Muslim-on-Muslim killing in some geopolitically unimportant country by inconsequential gangs involving a small and numbingly routine number of victims. None of them were that white guy who shot all those black people in a South Carolina church or the white who shot up that mosque in Quebec, one of them was apparently some crazed homeless guy killing some tourists in an Australia hostel and the parents of the victims are “tweeting” their apparently real outrage that Trump has politicized the murders to gin up policies they don’t support, and it also didn’t include the “Bowling Green Massacre” that a spokeswoman claimed most Americans didn’t know because it was underreported, but which was in fact entirely unreported by it had not happened.
All in all we’d call that round another draw, and once again we can’t see that turning out well for the rest of us. By now most of the country seems to have chosen which side they’ll believe without bothering to carefully consider any of the facts or other alternatives on offer. By now we know way too many people who think that reptilian alien shape-shifters aligned with the Illuminati have something to do with it, way too many more who think the truth is whatever they find on their side of great cultural and economic and political divide and that everyone over on that side is lying, and that crazy liberal academic notion about objective reality being a mere social construct to maintain the establishment that can be deconstructed by the right mumbo-jumbo seems to have been adopted by our putatively conservative and proudly anti-intellectual president.
With no rooting interest to preoccupy we continue to grasp for objective reality, another one of those old-fashioned beliefs we bitterly cling to in these uncertain times. Our old college pal Pee Wee lives in the Washington, D.C. area and remains a Facebook friend, and he went down to look at the big protest on the Mall the day after inauguration and posted about a cop he talked with who said he’d also been on the job the day before and that the protest was far better attended, and even though Pee Wee’s a lifelong liberal we’ve never known him to lie about anything, and we’re pretty darned sure he’s not part of any Illuminati conspiracy, so we figure that Trump is overstating his crowd size and can’t help worrying about his apparent insecurity about matters of size. We also have to admit that even the most multiculturally sensitive media have all wound up acknowledging that sure enough yet another major terror occurred somewhere in the world, but we’re still hoping for a more reasoned and maybe even more intelligible argument from Trump that Islamist terrorism remains a reasonable concern.
In the meantime, we’ll be sticking to the facts as best we can find them and continue to criticize our media brethren and gleefully ignore that pudgy-faced provocateur and Chief White House Strategist Steven Bannon’s demand that we shut up. Go ahead and hate the press all you want, and much of the time you’ll be well justified in doing so, but at this point we’re mainly hoping that the freedom of the press survives this mess.

— Bud Norman

The Worst Deal Ever Gets Even Worse

Several weeks ago we reached the conclusion that the nuclear accord the Obama administration has reached with Iran is the worst deal ever struck in the history of diplomacy, and since then it looks even worse. There have been revelations of contingent side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran that the administration has signed on to without reading, constant taunts by the Iranians about how they have defeated the western powers and are now free to continue their sponsorship of international terror and pursue nuclear weaponry, and proof that the administration is going headlong into this disastrous deal despite the opposition of a majority of the American public and its elected officials.
The existence of the two side deals was discovered by our very own Kansas’ fourth congressional Rep. Mike Pompeo during a fact-finding mission in Vienna, although he he wasn’t able to learn what the side deals say, just that the administration has apparently agreed to them even though it was also unable to learn what was involved, and given how very awful the known facts of the deal are we’re going to assume the worst about the unknown. In the highly unlikely event that the deals ultimately prove more or less benign there’s still the worrisome fact that the administration is signing off on them without notifying Congress, which strikes us as pretty darned unconstitutional even by the degraded standards of the moment, and the relative lack of attention being paid to this alarming development is an an alarming development in itself.
Then there’s all that gloating by apocalyptic suicide cult running Iran about how it’s nuclear programs and international sponsorship of more low-tech terrorism and general global trouble-making will continue unabated with the blessings of the Americans and their equally gullible western partners. One of the “tweets” by Iran’s “supreme leader” featured a illustration of President Barack Obama committing suicide along with text about predicting the futility of western resistance to Iran’s ambitions of global dominance, which is certainly more extreme than anything the “Tea Party” or any domestic opponents of the administration have ever dared. Even Secretary of State of John Kerry, whose enthusiasm for anti-American barbarism dates all the way back to this days as a hippie protestor of the Vietnam War, admits that he’s “disturbed” by such imagery and language. He’s not so disturbed that he’ll reconsider the disastrous deal he’s made, of course, but it’s a telling admission nonetheless.
Given that this is supposed to be a representative democracy there’s also something troubling about the fact that all the disastrous known deal and the possibly even worse unknown deals are all proceeding despite the fact that a clear majority of the country seems to know better. There are polls that ask the country if they support a deal that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting the economic sanctions against that country, with the predictably supportive response, but even those reveal that most Americans somehow understand that this particular deal won’t achieve that that response. There’s perhaps still a slight chance that Israel and the Sunni Arab countries and the western powers within reach of the inter-contentinental ballistic systems that Iran is free to develop under the proposed agreement will somehow survive this awful agreement, but it’s far less likely that our constitutional system of representative democracy will be unscathed.

— Bud Norman

The Immigration Debate, Where Extremism Is Mainstream

Although it’s still far too early to make any decisions regarding the Republican party’s presidential nomination, we’re liking Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker better all the time. On Monday we learned how very Nazi-like some of his political opponents acted in an unsuccessful attempt to thwart his impressive reforms of Wisconsin’s collective bargaining agreement with its public sector unions, and on Tuesday we heard him take another daring stand on immigration.
Immigration hasn’t been much of an issue during Walker’s governorship, as Wisconsin has been little troubled by an influx of unaccompanied minor Canadians, and some of his past comments have hinted at a certain squishiness regarding the problems that some of more southwestern states have lately encountered with new arrivals from other countries, and there was some skepticism from conservatives who were otherwise attracted to his potential candidacy. Walker has now clearly expressed his support for strict border enforcement, including “e-verification” requirements for employment to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants, and has even gone so far as to say that the current unprecedented levels of legal immigrations should be adjusted according to a “system that’s based, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages …” The liberal press has reacted with predictable hysteria to such “extremism,” which The Huffington Post fears will strike at “a concept at the very core of what it means to be American,” which is the same sort of rhetoric that was used to justify those Nazi-like tactics of some of Walker’s in-state opponents, but it strikes us as both good policy and good politics.
There are the usual slew of economists who insist that unfettered immigration is the key to America’s prosperity, but we can’t help noticing that they’re usually well-compensated by business interests that benefit from lower wages and they’re not at all worried some Mexican immigrant will wind up spewing the same blather at a lower rate. The argument that a massive influx of labor won’t depress wages runs up against the law of supply and demand, and although over the past centuries slews of economists have fought the law, much like The Bobby Fuller Four, the law has always won. At a time when the labor participation rate is at a 40-year-low, and job creation has failed to keep up with the combined legal and immigration, the economic arguments for keeping the floodgates open are unpersuasive. Nor are we persuaded by the cultural arguments, usually couched in the sacrosanct terms of “diversity” and “tolerance” by the same people who insist on ideological conformity lest those average American rednecks out there in the red states unleash another genocide. Here in Wichita we’ve already got more great Mexican and Asian and Middle Eastern eateries than we can eat at, the cultural conflicts have been within the immigrants groups or with longstanding minorities more often than with the average American rednecks, there has been an associated cost that those slews of economists might not have accounted for on the local educational and social welfare systems so beloved by the “diversity” and “tolerance” crowd, and our guess is that many of those new arrivals aren’t yet on board with same-sex marriage and the rest of the cultural left’s brave new world.
Some surprisingly plucky Republican congressional staffers have compiled a round-up of the latest polling from the big name pollsters, and they all indicated solid support for limiting immigration. The numbers are even higher among Republicans, but they’re also dangerously high among blacks, low-wage workers, union members, and other usually reliable Democratic constituencies. Eventually even the Latinos already here will start balking before America reaches that seven billion figure, and by 2012 a full 59 percent of them were telling the Pew Survey they wanted to slow immigration. Walker seems shrewd enough to make his pitch two at least black and low-wage workers, and perhaps even tweak his Democratic opponent for toeing the corporatist rather than populist line on the issue. The Wall Street Journal has already been obliged to note that Walker’s stand is contrary to the preferences of the Koch brothers, despite David Koch’s apparent endorsement of his candidacy, and it will be fun to tie the Democrats to a corporate-sponsored position for a change.
The Washington Post calls Walker’s newly-staked position a “flip-flop,” and perhaps it is, but we’re never disappointed to see someone flip to the right position. Most of the other Republican contenders are making similar shifts, if not so daringly, and if the Democrats don’t do the same we expect they’ll simply flop.

— Bud Norman