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King for a Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America, and we’re tempted to take it easy for the full 24 hours like all the federal workers. It’s a good day for pundits to take stock of racial relations in the country, though, and we can’t quite resist it.
On the whole we assess the state of the union’s racial relations as strong, at least based on our daily experience of the country. Here in Wichita, Kansas, in the very heart of the contiguous United States, our more or less white middle-aged Republican selves are constantly encountering all sorts of people, and for the most part it goes well. Some very dear black people worship with us every Sunday morning, some Laotian and East Indian immigrants supply us with all our legal vices through the week, we weekly enjoy the carne asada chips from the Taco Lopez drive-through window manned by some lovely senoritas whose immigration status we’ve never bothered to question, and the very, very spicy chicken fried rice rice from a family of Thai immigrants that is also favored by the movie star Harrison Ford when he’s in town to get maintenance on his Wichita-built jet. Whenever we arrive at the door of a convenience store or mall or a public office there is almost always somehow who comes from God knows what sort of background, and we happily note almost of these encounters go swimmingly well.
As we look at the news, though, things seem somehow more complicated. When President Donald Trump ritually proclaimed the extended Martin Luther King Jr. weekend Day on Friday, clearly uncomfortable around all the black people surrounding him, he had to duck out of the room to dodge the questions about his reported comments than Latin American and African countries are by comparison to Nowrway “shit-holes” — by now presidential language, despite our old-fashioned objections to such profanity — and refuse to answer a shouted question if the president of the United States is a racist.
The question has frequently been raised in the past, and Trump’s indignant answer was always the characteristically superlative claim that “I’m the least racist person you’ve ever met.” He didn’t bother to reclaim the boast while proclaiming the extended Martin Luther King Day Jr. weekend, though, and instead ducked out on some questions our old-fashoned party-of-Lincoln Republican would have liked to have answered. Given trump’s proudly stated stands against Mexican-deervived judges and unjustly accused-of-capital-crimes African-Americans and critical Gold Star families of the Islamic faith, and we can’t blame any of our diverse friends for being displeased.
If Trump and all those anti-Trump social justice warriors would just butt out of it, we think the rest of us could work it out well enough.

— Bud Norman

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Bluntness is Not the Best Policy

President Donald Trump has a penchant for frankly blurting out whatever is on his mind at the moment, and he became president largely by persuading a plurality of the electorate  that’s somehow a good thing. What served him well enough as a presidential candidate has often proved a problem during his presidency,however,  as happened several times on Thursday.
The biggest headlines were about Trump telling a bipartisan gathering of congress members that he objected to allowing immigration from such “shit-holes” as Haiti and El Salvador various African countries, and then opining we should be bringing in more immigrants from countries such as Norway. Relatively little attention was paid to the barnyard epithet, and at this point Trump has so degraded the level of political discourse with his cussing that we no longer bother to bowdlerize it with those pointless asterisks that much of the mainstream media still quaintly use, and by now we even relish rubbing the wayward Trump apologists among our evangelical brothers’ and sisters’ noses in it, but the apparent prejudice of the remark was more widely noticed.
There are perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments to be made for favoring immigration from some countries rather than others, and for perfectly valid and not at all racist reasons Haiti and El Salvador and several African countries are among the less desirable and Norway is among the more desirable, and we would have preferred that Trump make that case. He’s not much good at that kind of rhetoric, though, and what we he wound up blurting out instead was not only vulgar but clearly suggested a prejudiced state of mind. All the Democrats from districts with large hispanic and Caribbean and African-American populations were entitled to their outraged comments, the Republicans from Florida and the impeccably conservative yet ethnically Haitian Utah Rep. Mia Love joined in the denunciations, and no one in the remaining respectable precincts of Republican opinion defended the remark.
The talk radio talkers and the rest of the Trump apologists in the less respectable precincts Republican opinion will try to wed the remark to those perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments for immigration reform, and they’ll rightly note that none of those offended Democrats plan to spend any vacation time in Haiti or El Salvador or several African countries, and the true die-hards will continue to love Trump for saying out loud what they’re thinking. Their chances of persuading the rest of the country have been severely diminished, though, and the arguments that Trump isn’t a racist are even harder to make. We’d also note that there are bound to be a few impeccably conservative Republicans such as Love coming from even the most shit-hole countries, that few Norwegians and people from other first world countries are yearning immigrate anywhere, for obvious reasons, and that Trump isn’t lately doing much to make America a more attractive alternative.
Trump also “tweeted” his objections to the routine re-authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, apparently in response to an earlier “Fox & Friends” report about how the act had authorized part of the ongoing probe into the “Russia thing,” which was followed by a phone call from House Speaker Paul Ryan explaining the respectable Republican opinion on the matter, and 101 minutes after the initial “tweet” Trump followed by another blurting of whatever was then on his mind by saying that “Today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get Smart!” By all accounts, things grew testy when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to explain that to the smarty-ass press corps.
There was also the expected late-night comedy show guffawing about Trump’s boasts that his earlier profanity-free and not at all racist 53 minutes of televised meeting about immigration had gone so well that the network anchors had sent him letters calling it the best meeting ever, which was obviously and laughably untrue, especially after he wound up promising to sign whatever those congressional swamp creatures passed, and some other ridiculous blurting out of whatever of was on his mind at the time which we can’t quite recall now.
There’s a reasonable and not at all racist argument to be made that Trump is doing some things right, and that insisting on a more restrictive immigration policy is among them, and at the very least he hasn’t kept the stock market from soaring the unemployment rate from dropping at the same steady rate of the past few years. The election year argument that Trump should keep blurting out whatever’s on his mind without a moment’s consideration of  the consequence of a president’s word, though, is looking more stupid than ever.

— Bud Norman

Debating to a Desultory Draw

Two of America’s most widely reviled people had a 90-minute nationally televised argument Monday night about which one of them is the worst, and expectations are that the audience was bigger than anything since the series finale of Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing. Even our happily apolitical brother in Colorado called shortly beforehand to say he was skipping the evening’s National Football League contest to watch the first presidential debate, which is saying something, but we expect that the massive audience was as disappointed as we were.
The so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters of Republican nominee Donald Trump were no doubt disappointed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton didn’t keel over or drop dead or at least require an extended bathroom break during the ordeal, as all their latest health rumors had predicted, and at the end of the 90 minutes she was even able to riposte Trump’s question’s about her stamina with a plausible boast about all the miles she’d logged and the hours of congressional inquiries about her various scandals she’d survived. Clinton was feisty enough for the hour-and-a-half to get in a few digs that had Trump on the defensive, make a disarmingly apologetic answer about that ongoing e-mail scandal, spin some heartwarming yarns about her small businessman pop and her toddler granddaughter, and generally strike that middle note between presidential and shrill.
Although we doubt that any of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters were swayed by Clinton’s performance, we expect that anyone still undecided about about which of these two widely reviled people is worst considered it the abject humiliation that Trump promised as he taunted his way through debates with a wide field of vastly more qualified Republican opponents. Clinton’s more reluctant supporters will probably concede, meanwhile, will have to concede that she also didn’t score any knock-outs.
Trump didn’t go on any racist tirades or mock anyone’s handicaps or boast about his penis size, as he did during his successful run through those vastly more qualified candidates on his way to the Republican nomination, and he even made a show of addressing his opponent as “Secretary.” He got in a few digs of his own, and even if none of them will be widely-looped soundbites today neither will be any of his already-familiar gaffes. After a half-hour or so When he finished with a boast about his superior presidential temperament it got a laugh from the studio audience, which had mostly been as quiet as instructed, but we doubt many were tuned in by that point.
Anyone paying any attention to the more substantive parts of the so-called debate were likely the most disappointed. The boring part started off with Trump asserting that since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed American manufacturing employment had declined, Clinton failing to note that American manufacturing output has also increased since then due to the technological innovations that have actually had more to do with that employment decline, and neither candidate sounding at all like the understood the economic realities of the moment. Clinton blasted the “Trumped-up trickle down economics” of her opponents tax plan, he failed to defend the Reagan economic record or make the arguments about her soak-the-rich nonsense, and it all devolved into a shouting match about how much money his rich dad had loaned him to start his much bragged-about business. Trump denied having “tweeted” that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, which he actually did, and although we think it is a hoax we doubt it invented by the Chinese and have to score that a desultory draw. He criticized her awful decision to topple the Libyan dictatorship of the undeniably awful yet largely defanged Moammar Gaddafi, which led to all the lies she told about the lives lost in the aftermath in Benghazi, but she rightly pointed out that he had advocated the same policy, and we have no doubt he would have told the same sort of lies about the aftermath, so we now have to score even that deplorable and disqualifying episode in her career as a draw.
Clinton actually struck our old-fashioned Republican sensibilities as far more sane than Trump when she talked about the importance of honoring America’s treaty commitments and credit obligations, and we doubt that Trump’s “America First” isolation will have any appeal to her reluctant leftist supporters. Trump seemed more reasonable on the slightly-less-old-fashioned “law and order” theme, but we doubt that his appeals to America’s minorities will prove persuasive. Both caught the other on a couple of outright falsehoods, such as Trump’s oft-repeated lie that he was against taking out Gaddafi and Clinton’s newly-minted claim that crime rates haven’t been rising in New York City, but we expect that few people will bother to look any of it up. Clinton seemed to score a point when the conversation got around to Trump’s year’s long efforts to prove that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and his recent admission that “Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” and after Trump spent several moments trying to claim that Clinton was responsible and that he deserved credit for proving Obama’s native birth Clinton got another laugh from the generally well-behaved crowd by simply responding “Just listen to what you heard.”
The next round of polling will deliver the final score, and in this crazy year we hesitate to offer any predictions, but we’ll be so bold as to call it a draw. Our brother called us before the big event because we used to be involved in high school and collegiate debate and we wanted our insights how it might work out, but we told this wasn’t any sort of debate we were used to but rather a reality television show that both of the participants knew better than we ever wanted to know. Our scant familiarity with the format suggests that the women Trump is doing poorly with didn’t like how he kept interrupting her, based on our experiences with women, and that the men Trump is leading with didn’t like the way she kept talking, based on our experiences with men, and that this is how presidential elections are elections now decided, based on our observations of how very awful things are these days.

— Bud Norman

Hillary Clinton’s Lost Weekend

The past weekend was kind to us here in Wichita, what with the Wingnuts knocking a grand slam homer in a seven-run fifth inning en route to a 13-0 blowout in an American Association playoff game against the Sioux City Explorers on a cloudless and slightly crisp evening Saturday evening over at the ballpark, and a fine sermon by the lay preacher who was filling in at the low church where we worship on Sunday morning, along with more of the recently perfect weather allowing for a long nap afterwards. We read that the weather was also quite pleasant in New York City over the weekend, yet somehow Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s already sputtering campaign seems to have seriously overheated there.
Clinton’s weekendus horribilis, to coin a Latinate phrase, began on Friday with another round of disappointing poll numbers. She’s still ahead in the supposedly definitive Real Clear Politics average, but her once-formidable lead has lately been narrowed to worrisome within-the-margin of error levels, and given that she’s mainly running against the widely reviled Republican nominee Donald J. Trump that was enough to have even The Washington Post admitting that “Democrats Worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?” The obvious answer to that headlined question is that Clinton is by now as widely reviled as Trump, with at least equally good reason, and by now the even most stubbornly sanguine Democrats are starting to notice.
With her Republican opponent uncharacteristically not offering any headline material of his own for the past few days, except for all that plunder and pillage talk and the vaguely homoerotic Russophilia he was gushing in that “Commander in Chief Forum,” where she was also awful, Clinton desperately needed a weekend free of gaffes or troubling incidents. Despite the nice weather, though, it didn’t work out that way.
Clinton’s problems started Saturday evening when she engaged in some grossly general language about half of Trump’s supporters. Lest you think we’re being unkind in describing it as grossly general, what she actually said was, “You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right?” The crowd at a homosexual rights group’s fundraiser reportedly responded with laughter and applause, apparently not noticing the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality of that “generalistic” coinage nor that “deplorable” is an adjective that does not lend itself to pluralization, so Clinton elaborated about “The racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,000 people — now have 11 million.”
The remark naturally outraged the pro-Trump media, such as they are, and even the more polite press was reminded of Mitt Romney’s disastrous “47 percent” remarks last time that they made so much of last time around. In case you’ve happily forgotten the details of the ’12 race, Republican nominee Romney was clinging to a worrisome within-the-margin-of-error lead when some electronic eavesdropper recorded his off-the-cuff and intended-to-be-off-the-record remarks to a couple of donors that the Republicans’ anti-government agenda would always have a hard time appealing to the estimated 47 percent of Americans whose receipt of government spending exceeds their tax contributions. Romney’s lead evaporated after that, never to reappear, and we can see why the analogy is troubling.
At the time our only complaint with Romney’s remark was that it was grossly general, as we could see how the military veterans and necessary civl servants and the severely handicapped and the hard-working poor among that number might resent the implication, but also thought there was an argument to be made that some smaller portion of the country does indeed have an entirely self-interested motivation for vote for an ever-expansive government. This time around intellectual honesty compels us to admit that there are indeed some very nasty characters among the Republican nominee’s supporters, and that the Republican nominee has widely “re-tweeted” some of the worst of them, and that his campaign’s “chief executive officer” previously ran a web site that he openly touted as a “platform for the alt-right,” but we retrain a right to complain about the gross generalizations. Trump has consistently polled around 40 percent, we will not concede that 20 percent of the country is sexist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or you name it, and even if they’re not as feminist and white-guilt-ridden and pro-homosexuality and sanguine about Islam as the average attendee at a Clinton fundraiser we can see how they resent the implication. It’s never a good idea to be so grossly general.
Lest you think we’re unkind in saying so, we’ll note that the next day Clinton told the press, “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying half — that was wrong.” Continuing in damage control mode, she added that “many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel the economy or our political system has been working for them.” She didn’t cite what percentage of Trump’s supporters she still believed fit her generalization, although we would have been interesting to see how it compared to our estimate, and she also promised to continue “calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign.” Which is pretty much analogous to the response Romney had after that “47 percent” remark, but in Clinton’s case we expect the more polite organs of the press will be quicker to let the matter drop.
Unfortunately for Clinton, even the most polite press are now obliged to report on her apparent collapse and subsequent medical condition after a memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. A couple of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras captured Clinton falling into the arms of her entourage as she started to board her black van after an early departure from the ceremony, and after a few hours of recovery at her daughter’s nearby apartment she came out to wave at the cameras looking somewhat hale and tell reporters “It’s a beautiful day in New York.” At the first the campaign blamed it on Clinton “overheating” in the reported 75 degree and 40 percent humidity weather, but later she admitted was also being treated for pneumonia. Given that Clinton’s health has already been a bubbling-below-the-surface issue for months, with even the most respectable press forced to concede her frequent coughing fits and less-than-rigorous campaign schedule, and the pro-Trump press, such as it is, speculating on everything from incontinence to Parkinson’s Disease to demonic possession, this cannot be helpful to Clinton’s candidacy.
The Trump campaign is already calling for further release of Clinton’s medical records, and the public is bound to have the same curiosity. She’s already released far more information than that hilarious doctor’s letter that Trump offered, but he seems all too hale for our tastes, given his Vladimir Putin-esque tendencies, and we doubt that many will have the same concerns about his health. Already even the most polite press are starting to look into what happens if a major party nominee is unable to campaign or hold office, and there’s a relatively reasonable friend of ours on Facebook who is already calling for a substitute, and in this crazy election such an awful weekend as Clinton has had could plausibly bring that about.
If Clinton were to decide that being a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and First Woman Major Presidential Nominee were enough, along with the millions she’s raked in with those speaking engagements and family foundation contributions that would be shut off for at least four years, we expect that just about anyone the Democrats might come up with would immediately be so far ahead of Trump that it would allay all those Democratic worries. Anyone they might come up with would also be awful, of course, but the mere lack of name recognition would immediately ensure that he or she didn’t have anywhere near the dismal approval ratings of either Clinton or Trump. The more polite press could immediately come up with some hagiographic story, the pro-Trump press, such as it is, would be playing only to already pro-Trump voters, and the Republicans would be left regretting that Trump didn’t evince some disqualifying medical conditions like he did back in the Vietnam draft days.
Even in this crazy election year we’re hard-pressed to imagine Clinton taking one for the team, though, and we expect she’ll slog right on through this joyless campaign year no matter what sorts of tubes and transfusions are required, and we would be surprised if she pulls it off. We wish her a speedy recovery, because that’s what we’re taught to do at that low church of ours, and we’re not wishing another attack of bone spurs on Trump’s feet, because that’s also against the creed, but we will offer a prayer for some wise outcome to this election, as unlikely as that seems.

— Bud Norman

The Cultural Contradictions of Liberalism

There was another mass shooting in another “gun free zone” last week, so of course there is the usual clamoring for more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. This time around the President of the United States has gone so far as to praise the gun laws of Australia and Great Britain, where the right to keep and bear arms has essentially been revoked altogether, and we were once again reminded of the strangely contradictory logic of modern liberalism.
The smart fellows over at Powerlineblog.com smartly observed that the same president who sneers it would be absurd to even contemplate rounding up and deporting an estimated 11 million or so illegal immigrants is now suggesting the country emulate laws that would involve rounding up and confiscating an estimated 350 million presently legal firearms. We are told by open borders advocates that rounding up and deporting so many illegal aliens would require not only a police state but a society of snitches and would foment open rebellion, and we take their argument seriously even as we insist on some level of enforcement of the immigration laws, yet they offer only a condescending chuckle in rebuttal to the argument that rounding up a far greater number of weapons from law-abiding citizens long accustomed to exercising their constitutional and God-given rights to self-defense might raise similar concerns. We’ve known enough gun-owners during our long life on the plains to understand that all that talk about prying guns out of cold, dead hands isn’t just bumper sticker braggadocio, and in the circles we run in we’ve also met enough anti-gun zealots to know they’d happily cooperate with whatever police state was required to satisfy their bien pensant souls, and on the whole we think it would be a far messier project than enforcing a border, but somehow the more liberal eye sees it otherwise.
Similar contradictions occur elsewhere in the immigration debate. We’re always struck that the same people who decry the incurable racism and xenophobia of American society are the ones assuring us that the introduction of tens of millions of foreigners into a rotten-to-the-core country, at an unprecedented rate that currently exceeds the number of jobs being created by a debt-laden economy, will prove no problem at all. Although we don’t share the same low regard for our fellow countrymen, most of whom seem to be enjoying all the excellent authentic Mexican and Asian restaurants that are suddenly flourishing in our town, and otherwise getting along with everyone reasonably well, we do understand human nature well enough to worry about how two separate cultures might co-exist within the same space. In our extensive reading of history we haven’t encountered any previous occasions when this occurred, but we’re aware that modern liberals tend to get their history from other books.
The immigration debate has lately been enlivened about what to do with the mass of reggaes fleeing the outbreaks of war in the Middle East, where the president is boasting about the peace he has wrought, and the same people who decry the incurable sexism and homophobia of American society are insisting that our allegedly Judeo-Christian culture can bring in tens of thousands of people from cultures that don’t allow women to feel sunlight on their faces and toss and homosexuals off tall buildings without any ensuing cultural conflicts. This is also with precedent, of course, and will strike anyone other than a doctrinaire liberal as unlikely.
All the rest of that blather about about the racist and sexist and homophobic nature and the moral equivalence of societies that condone slavery and forced genital mutilation of women and toss homosexuals off tall buildings seems rather contradictory, too. We can think of other examples of the mutually exclusive arguments offered by modern liberalism, but the hour is growing is late and at this point we’ll be satisfied if the latest gun-grabbing proposals are easily repelled as the more modest proposals that were put forth after the last mass shooting. The latest mass-shooting was by a mixed-race nutcase with an apparent animus toward Christians, so there’s little chance we’ll be having one of those “national conversations” about anything else.

— Bud Norman