A Bad News Cycle for the Front-Runner

Perhaps it’s only because he got bored with winning, but the recent brief pause in the Republican presidential nomination race has not been kind to front-running real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump. His campaign manager was indicted for battery against a woman reporter, his threats and slurs against a rival’s wife caused even some of his most fervent supporters to question his judgment, the beloved-by-Republicans governor of Wisconsin endorsed Trump’s most pesky rival in the state’s important upcoming primary, and his efforts to explain it all have compounded the problems while somehow offending both sides of the abortion debate and alarming allies from Europe to Asia.
Reasonable people will disagree as to whether Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s undeniably hands-on encounter with reporter Michelle Fields of the previously friendly Brietbart.com site rises to even the level of a misdemeanor, which is what he’s been charged with following an investigation by the police officers Trump is always praising, despite Trump’s earlier denial that Lewandowski ever laid a hand on Fields, but it’s hard to see how the indictment is helpful. Trump’s so-faithful-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will note that the district attorney who brought the charges is a supporter of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, although we suppose at least half the charges being brought against accused criminals in the country are similarly suspect, and we heard a caller on one of the talk radio shows note that Fields is a libertarian, which he seemed to believe justified any rough treatment, but the vast majority of the country holding less indulgent views of Trump are likely to see it differently. Trump is already on record promising that any press outlets he dislikes “will have problems, such problems,” and saying that “Women, you’ve got to treat ’em like s**t,” and his campaign manager had already had a collar-grabbing incident with one of those idiot protestors that Trump has said he’d like to “punch in the face,” which one of his supporters did, and we’re still awaiting whether Trump will keep his promise to pay the legal fees, and it all fits a plausible narrative that’s building on both the right and left sides of the media.
Trump’s already dreadful poll numbers among women, most worrisomely even among Republican women, had already taken a further hit by his decision to threaten that he would “spill the beans” on the wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and then “re-Tweet” a message that basically meant “ha ha my wife’s hotter than yours,” which offended even the wave-riding pundit Ann Coulter, who had previously said she wouldn’t mind if Trump performed abortions in the White House, and his attempts to wave it all off also weren’t helpful. Seemingly surprised by a popular Wisconsin talk radio host’s questions about his sexist mud-slinging, Trump explained that he was just yukking it up with the notoriously sexist shock jock Howard Stern with some of those by now widely-circulated sexist comments, in between the nude lesbian segments, and that “everybody was laughing,” but we wonder how many of those thus-far unsupportive women will be persuaded. The Wisconsin talk radio host was having none of it, and Trump admitted he was surprised to find out that the host was one of us “Never Trump” conservative, which any half-way competent campaign manager would have known and warned of if he hadn’t been too busy mixing it up with reporters and protestors, but we are reassured by Trump and his supporters that he’ll always have the best people around him.
The endorsement of Cruz by Gov. Walker could have been easily and effectively ignored, but Trump of course took it personally and responded with a ridiculous rant against the beloved-by-Republicans hero of the great union fight. The man who claims the “anti-establishment” and “at least he fights” mantel cited some phony-baloney statistics from the mainstream press he routinely ridicules to disparage both Walker’s and the entirety of Wisconsin’s remarkable success in fighting the lousy deal that the public sector unions had forced on the state, blamed the “hatred” of the union thugs that predictably ensued on the reformers, and on the days leading to a Republican primary he blasted the governor for not raising taxes. Of course, there was the usual blather about making better deals.
Although the “at least he fights” candidate is dodging any one-on-one debates with his last remaining rival, a former national collegiate debate champion and esteemed member of the Supreme Court bar, he did wind up in a series of disastrous confrontations with other interlocutors besides that Wisconsin radio host. Facing the likes of the equally unintelligible Chris Matthews of the MSNBC network he wound up saying that women who get abortions should face criminal charges, a position that the pro-abortion movement has long been ascribing to the anti-abortion movement and that the anti-abortion movement has been strenuously denying for just as long, thereby infuriating both sides of the most divisive issue of recent times, which was quickly walked back, because Trump is a “uniter,” but it’s hard to score that round for Trump. He also cited health care and education as two of the three most important duties of the federal government, even though he had to later explain that of course as a Republican he thought health care was best left to the private sector and education to the states and localities.
Trump’s same “town hall” chit-chat with the unintelligible Matthews also had him disparaging the South Koreans and Japanese for free-loading on America’s defense budget, even though the South Koreans are occasionally cantankerous but ultimately realistic about their tenuous situation and the Japanese have lately been quite stalwart, and he said something about them needing to go nuclear that was also quickly walked back, and that followed a lot of Timothy Leary-esque stream-of-consciousness stuff before the Washington Post and New York Times about the free-loaders in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that alarmed not only our allies but even the more thoughtful observers who have been arguing for reforms in that still-essential organization.
Those so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans will surely remain loyal, but the latest poll in Wisconsin shows Cruz with a comfortable margin and let’s-all-get-along Gov. John Kasich of Ohio within striking distance of Trump, the down-in-the-mud-with-the-National-Enquirer style of campaigning that we’re told is needed to defeat the Democrats doesn’t seem to be working in a state where the slogan is “Wisconsin Nice,” and we’d like to think the rest of the country is also too nice for this nonsense.

— Bud Norman

On Labor Day

There’s something slightly melancholy about Labor Day. The holiday announces the end of the lazy days of summer, when the children return to school, the adults turn their attention to politics and other unpleasant chores, and the days grow short as we reach September.

There’s an ambivalence about the meaning of the holiday, too. Many people regard the day as an honor to all those who labor under the curse of Adam, as a good a cause for celebration as any, but in fact the holiday is intended to honor the capital-L Labor of the union movement, which hardly seems worth honoring at all.

Whatever beneficial role the union movement might have played in the past, it has now fallen into widespread and well-deserved disrepute. Membership in private sector unions is at a historic low and falling, the vast majority of the working class that the unions claim to represent want nothing to do with them, and the union bosses are regarded with a low level of trust. Some of the unions still have enough political clout to wind up in control of General Motors, but that could soon prove temporary.

The public sector unions remain a formidable force, but they might have also reached a peak of influence. After losing the recall election to the heroically union-busting governor earlier this year in Wisconsin, birthplace of the public sector union and home to a larger-than-usual number of leftist loons, they seem to be in an unlikely position to prevail in the inevitable upcoming battles with other governors and state legislatures. Without the government-granted power of coercion they seem to shed members at a rapid rate, and that is likely to become the norm. The teachers’ unions are also powerful, and a major impediment to the much needed reforms, but even they suddenly seem vulnerable to scrutiny by a public that can’t help noticing how very stupid the young people seem these days.

Which is no reason not to fire up the grill and charbroil a couple of burgers in honor of all the workingmen and workingwomen out there, and to hoist a beer or two in their honor. Those unsung slobs have done a remarkable job of keeping America fed, fueled, caffeinated, and contented despite the catastrophic leadership of their betters, and that more than justifies an extra day of summer at the lake. As the great Merle Haggard once put it, hey, hey the workingman.

— Bud Norman

On, Wisconsin

Unaccustomed as we are to presenting good news, it’s hard to find anything bad about the results of Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin.

A more determined pessimist could find cause for worry in the fact that more than 46 percent of Badger State voters went against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which is indeed a frighteningly large number, but even that cannot suppress our giddiness about the clear majority that voted to keep him around. The outcome is not only good for Wisconsin, which will retain the policies that have turned a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit into a multi-million dollar surplus and allowed school districts to hire rather than fire teachers, all without job-killing tax hikes, but it’s also good news for 49 other states where the political class now knows that such good deeds can go unpunished.

The only Wisconsinites who aren’t better off as a result of Walker’s actions are the teachers and other state employees, or at least the ones who wouldn’t been have been laid off if not for his reforms, and even they are still better compensated as a group than the public sector working stiffs who pay their salaries. Such reasonable, necessary, and widely beneficial demands were enough to enrage the public sector unions and their leftist allies, though, so they threw all their financial and physical resources into making an example of Walker with hopes of intimidating any other governor who might consider challenging their political power.

Governors in several states are being forced by economic realities to enact similar reforms, but the labor movement picked Walker for the fight because they thought Wisconsin — the proud home of “Fightin’ Bob” La Follette and the Progressive Movement, the first state to allow collective bargaining for public bargaining, and a state carried by the Democrats in every presidential election since 1984 — would provide the most favorable battleground. Having suffered a complete rout there, which included losses in previous recall elections for several state legislators and a proxy election for the state Supreme Court, the unions are now unlikely to intimidate reformers elsewhere.

Some are predicting the Wisconsin battle will prove devastating to the public unions, even likening it to the left’s Stalingrad, and there is ample reason to hope they might be right. Tuesday’s results mean that the state will continue to refuse to collection dues on behalf of the union, allowing members the option of not paying at all, and already the unions have suffered a huge drop in membership as a result. The often thuggish tactics that the anti-Walker forces resorted to almost certainly further damaged the unions’ reputations, which were already suffering according to numerous polls, and they ultimately proved ineffective.

Exit polling showed that Obama still enjoys a comfortable lead in the state, if you insist on finding some bad news, but it’s smaller than the margin he won with in 2008, and some robust campaigning by Mitt Romney might further close the gap. More than half the voters in Wisconsin are apparently open to the argument that governments shouldn’t tax and spend themselves into oblivion, no matter how much the beneficiaries of all that spending insist on it, and that’s an encouraging sign.

— Bud Norman