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A Not-So-Super Tuesday

Although it’s still too soon to abandon all hope, and never so late that one should abandon the fight, on the day after “Super Tuesday” it seems all too likely that the American people will have to choose between two of the most widely distrusted and disliked people in the country for their next president.
The big day brought split decisions, but the clear winners on points were Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul on the Republican side, and on the Democratic side it was one of the guests at his most recent wedding, the former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and rape-enabling charity-hustler and law-flouting incompetent Hillary Clinton. Both have unfavorable ratings well above the 50 percent mark, with sizable majorities of the country having reasonably concluded that they are not the sort of people they would want as a president, yet now are both the prohibitive favorites to win their parties’ nominations.
Trump’s Tuesday wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont give him a nine-out-of-14 record so far, and some recent polls have his national average far enough into the 40s to prevail in even a narrowed field, and the place and show results aren’t likely to do any narrowing. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won on his home field and also took neighboring Oklahoma — God bless our beautiful ancestral state — which makes him three-out-of-14 but still in the race, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally got a story in the caucus state of Minnesota, where the Republicans well remember their last flirtation with professional wrestling characters, and he would have scored a big win in Virginia if not for Ohio Gov. John Kasich sticking around until the primaries move into his region of the country, so for the next round there will be at least three candidates splitting up a seemingly shrinking portion of the anti-Trump vote.
In his victory speech Trump generously praised himself for his courage in running and with characteristic graciousness described his rivals as “losers,” or “loosers,” as his internet commenting fans are wont to write, but he seemed to realize that he hasn’t yet sealed his latest great deal. The peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics split up the night’s delegate count in a way that gives him a significant but not at all decisive lead, and still far short of what’s needed to clinch the nomination. Tuesday’s results will at least winnow out the retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, either by his graceful withdrawal or unfortunate irrelevance, and one can hope that he’ll join a growing number of Christian leaders and use his remaining influence to denounce the man who slanderously ridiculed his story of faith. Those peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics remain a problem for any candidate who isn’t pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote, which Trump still hasn’t done, and in getting there Trump will finally face a well-funded barrage of facts about his failed businesses and his penchant for hiring the illegal aliens that he’s vowed to save the country from and why he’s not making the financial disclosures that will prove how very, very rich he is, and he’s even getting some campaign jibes about those short fingers of his, and the late night comics are already having a ball with him, and there’s a deposition coming up in a couple of months regarding that scam university of his, and surely Trump knows as well as anyone that in this crazy election year anything could happen.
Still, for now Trump steamrolls ahead, and at this rate he’s likely to crash into his former wedding guest Clinton in a train-wreck of a general election. Clinton won victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, while her rival, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma of all places, and his home state. That makes Clinton nine-out-of-14, if you don’t count that highly suspicious series of coin flips in Iowa as a tie, but by the peculiarly proportional rules of the Democrat party every delegate won by either candidate seems to yield two super-delegates for Clinton, so at this rate we have to admit that maybe she was inevitable after all. All the yard signs and bumper stickers and buttons we see in our neighbor say “Bernie,” but there are a lot of chocolate-milk-sipping pajama boys in our fashionable neighborhood near the art museum, which might or might not be representative of the paler portions of the Democratic party, but in Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia and Tennessee and Texas and Virginia the Democrats tend to be black, which seems to be the storyline in the Democratic primary. So far the Black Lives Matter activists and other black trend-setters are starting to side with Sanders, but the overall trend is that the same southern blacks who went for President Barack Obama over Clinton are now going for Clinton and her First Black President husband over that Jewish guy from lily-white Vermont, even if her philandering husband did sign all those mass incarceration and welfare reform bills she now rails against.
Such allegedly racist Republicans as ourselves can at least enjoy the spectacle of the political race war waging within the Democratic party, and the sweet irony that all those white hipsters’ socialism might fail because they are found guilty of white privilege, but it’s a slight satisfaction given the inevitable consequences of such tribalism. Our own party’s clear front-runner recently told a national broadcast audience that he wasn’t sufficiently familiar with David Duke or the Ku Klux or some notion of “white supremacism” to comment on it, and the internet swelled with supporters saying it was a crafty set-up question by the “cuckservative” Jew-controlled media, the front-runner has an annoying habit of re-“tweeting” their “tweets,” and his own tweets have included some outrageously bogus numbers about white people killed by black people, so we’d have to say that the post-racial era of politics that our current widely disliked and distrusted president once promised hasn’t happened.
Perhaps it will all work out in the end, somehow. This Sanders fellow seems honest enough, even if he’s an honestly crazed honeymooning-in-the-Soviet-Union socialist who would bring upon America all the misery that inevitably follows socialism, and that Spanish-speaking and Canadian-born right-winger Cruz talks cold-blooded capitalism and kind-hearted Christianity with the sort of sincere zeal that seems more threatening to the establishment than all of Trump’s”anti-establishment” bluster and vague promises about great deals with the establishment and all his other wedding guests, and no mater the outcome at least it would be a clarifying election. If it turns out to be Rubio or Kasich in the mano-a-mano cage match duel to the death in the finale episode of the Republican party’s reality show that would be good enough for us.
By the peculiarly proportional rules of the American political system, though, it’s looking as if we’ll have a choice between two people that most people don’t think are at all suited to the job of being president.

— Bud Norman

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Democracy in the Desert

The state of Nevada has many fine people and is a lovely place to visit, especially those vast portions of it where you won’t find any people at all, but we don’t see why it should play such an outsized role in picking the country’s president. Only two other states had already knocked all the relatively sane Democrats out of that party’s race, a mere three had eliminated some worthy contenders from the Republican race, and now Nevada has apparently decided that it will all come down to the two candidates most disliked and distrusted by the American public.
That’s how the sporting press will perceive it, at least, and their perceptions might once again become reality. Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regained her front-runner status over self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week with a race-baiting win in Nevada after a shellacking in New Hampshire followed a highly suspicious win Iowa, and after another race-baiting win expected in South Carolina she’ll be back to being inevitable. The boastful real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television mogul Donald J. Trump just picked up another double-digit when in Nevada, too, following similarly strong showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina after a narrow loss in Iowa, which he attributed on rather flimsy grounds to fraud, so the storyline is that the next 56 states will be a cinch.
This analysis will suffice for a lead paragraph, but down toward the bottom of the inverted pyramid are a few facts worth noting. There have only been four states and a relative handful of delegates allocated, although Clinton seems to be picking up these “super-delegates” at a rapid pace, the dynamics of both races could still change in the upcoming states, especially as the Republican field narrows, and Nevada is a weird place. The vast empty stretches of the state are populated by the few people needed to staff the convenience stores required to get one from Reno to Las Vegas to the state capital of Carson City, and in each of those population centers the politics are conducted in a way that would have made state founder Bugsy Siegel proud. It’s a state where the Democrats are mostly black and hispanic and equally put-upon white casino and hotel workers, who are ripe for a race-baiting campaign, and where the Republicans are the ones who hire the Democrats and are not off-put by Trump’s past as a semi-successful gambling mogul, and both party’s caucuses were beset by the quadrennial complaints about incompetence and corruption.
This time around the Republican complaints were mostly against the Trump campaign, which of course will deny it and won’t worry at all that it’s supporters would be the least bit upset if even he had cheated, because at least he fights and the Democrats do it all the time, so that should at least deny the chance to call anyone else a cheater. There will be some sober reflection on whether runner-up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or third-place finisher Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be the best one to run in a two-way race against Trump, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson will likely be sticking around to siphon a few essential-digits from the anti-Trump vote, and although the Trump victory can’t be written yet all the scribes will be working on it for the tickler file.
Nevada’s a fine place to visit, but it shouldn’t have that power.

— Bud Norman

On the Day After Opening Day

For such avid fans of the blood sport of American politics as ourselves, the quadrennial Iowa presidential caucuses are like the opening day of a once-every-four-years baseball season. Some youthful enthusiasm left within us wants to extrapolate the rest of the reason from the season from the first day’s statistically insignificant scores, some more sober sensibility acquired over the years reminds us that are plenty of games left to be played in what is always an up-and-down season, and we always wind up indulging in the obligatory speculation.
Over on the Democrats’ senior-in-more-ways-than-one circuit we note that former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed Next President of the United States Hillary Clinton is still going into extra innings as we write this against self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which bolsters our pre-season suspicion that it’s going to be a long and hard-fought contest. In a far more crowded field the upstart Republicans’ winner was controversial right-fielder Texas Sen. Cruz, who had a plurality of 28 percent, with real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul Donald J. Trump coming in from way out in the metaphorical left field to take an unaccustomed second place with 24 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now cast as the party’s steady center-fielder, just behind with an intriguing 23 percent, which at least provides hope for another long and hard-fought race.
Of course, one needs to keep in mind the peculiar ground rules that govern Iowa’s opening games. The Democrats require caucus-goers to spend all night standing with their fellow rooters in the corners of various frigid high school gymnasiums and senior centers spread across the state, staring one another down to attract the rooters from the candidates disqualified in the first rounds, which should have given her opponent’s more youthful and fired-up supporters an edge, so even a slight win will still count as a win even by pliable rules of politics. The next game will be played according to more traditional primary rules in New Hampshire, but that’s right next door to Vermont and Sanders has held a comfortable lead in the polls there for some time, so a win in Iowa means at least Clinton won’t get off to that 0-for-2 start so many formerly front-running candidates have never recovered from. Still, those bettors who put their chips on Clinton a full four years ago are likely in for a nervous season. Veteran political sports fans will recall that a similarly spirited far-left candidacy by Sen. Eugene McCarthy knocked sitting President Lyndon Johnson out of the race with a win in New Hampshire way back in the memorable ’68 season, and although those with more reliable memories will more accurately recall that Johnson eked out a victory it was close enough it was still enough to convince Johnson that he wouldn’t make it to the general election finish line, which makes it a potentially worthwhile analogy.
Cruz only won eight delegates to Trump’s and Rubio’s seven, and long-shot retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got three, with even longer shots libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and erstwhile starting center fielder Jeb! Bush of the erstwhile Bush dynasty getting one apiece for finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, so with 1,114 delegates needed to clinch the pennant there’s still plenty of race of left. It’s still a crucial tally in the win column for Cruz, however, and although he’s starting from behind in New Hampshire the Iowa winner has traditionally picked up a few points in other contests. Veteran political sports fans will also recall how little-known Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter got a sudden amount of name-recognition-generating publicity from an upset win in Iowa and rode it to the Democratic nomination back in that sub-.300 year of ’76, and although those with more reliable memories will recall that Carter actually finished second to “undecided,” which ultimately proved poetically appropriate enough, the point still obtains. For someone running against a reality-star with almost unlimited free publicity and near-universal name recognition, it’s an especially important point.
In an ordinary season an ordinary candidate could claim more than seven delegates from a second-place finish in Iowa, but Trump is no ordinary candidate. The most likely explanation for the front-running Trump’s second-place finish is that Iowa’s Republican caucus is largely dominated by evangelical Christians who prefer a Baptist minister’s son such as Cruz to a thrice-married gambling mogul who publicly boasts of the billions he made by buying off politicians and all the married babes he’s bagged along the way, but we don’t think even Trump will attempt that spin and we don’t think New Hampshire voters would buy it even if they are next door to Vermont. Much of Trump’s appeal is based on his argument that he always wins, and that Americans might even get bored with all the winning he’s going to do for America, making it hard for him to spin an actual vote where he not only came in second but a full 76 percent of the voters went for someone else. He wisely declared himself “honored” by a second-place finish, noting only obliquely how many observers had thought Iowa an unfriendly field, and he’s still got the lead in New Hampshire before getting back on evangelical turf in South Carolina, but to mix the sports analogies somewhat at least he won’t be getting that early-round knock-out.
Rubio’s close third-place finish, on the other hand, should be worth more than just seven delegates over the coming weeks. It represents a significant bump in his previous poll standings, will merit enough mention to up his name recognition a few notches, and will likely even knock out some of the other players vying for the centerfield position. When the fourth-place Carson sooner or later bows out we suspect most of his support will flow to Cruz, so Rubio will need all the meager votes scattered about the rest of the soon-to-drop-out candidates, and when Bush makes his inevitable exit Rubio will at least be spared the millions of dollars of negative advertising that have been aimed him, so in this game opening day does matter more than in baseball.
Both leagues might wind up battering themselves into a sorry state for the eventual general election World Series, but that’s way too far away to speculate about now.

— Bud Norman

Motive, Results, and All the Hubbub

There’s still a lot of talk about President Barack Obama’s patriotism and religiosity, or lack thereof, so we figure we might as well weigh in.
The questions have persisted for the past seven years or so, ever since Obama was first campaigning for the presidency, but the latest round in the ongoing debate was prompted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s remark during a recent speech that “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.” This commonplace opinion of course provoked outrage from the press, which immediately demanded that every prominent Republican repudiate the idea or be tarred as the sort of America-hating traitors who would question a political opponent’s patriotism. The first to be grilled was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was present at the speech and is a frontrunner for the next Republican presidential nomination, but just about anyone else whose name might come up in a conversation about the race was eventually obliged to opine on the matter. Most took the position that they’d rather criticize the results Obama’s policies are having on America than speculate about his motives, which strikes us as a reasonable and respectful stance for an opposition party to take, but apparently even Republicans are expected to profess their faith in Barack Obama’s undying love for his country. Anything less, according to The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, is symptomatic of some dread psychological impairment called “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”
Any skepticism regarding the president’s Christianity is “insidious agnosticism,” according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, which is what happens when the press inevitably starts pressing Republicans about the president’s true religious beliefs. Walker was naturally the first to be asked about what lurks deep in the president’s heart and mind, and scandalized the press by saying that he did not presume to know, and soon the rest of the rest of the potential Republican field had spoken more or less the same outrageous slander at the president, with even Giuliani falling back on the same sensible position. Polls were trotted out showing that a sizable minority of the American public suspects the president is secretly Muslim, much tsk-taking was done about how right-wing media had so slyly perpetuated such a slanderous slur, although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the president being Muslim, which is after all a Religion of Peace and part of the fabric of American history, as the president has often pointed out, and the clear implication was made that those Republicans have gone mad with their disrespect of both the presidency and the United States of America for which it stands.
We can’t recall the press insisting on such institutional respect back when President Chimpy McBushitler occupied the Oval Office and the “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was coined, and former Vice President Al Gore was shrieking that “He betrayed our country” and Keith Olbermann was doing his “you, sir, are a Nazi” diatribes to applause from all the right people, and when candidate Barack Obama was blasting the “unpatriotic” half-trillion dollar deficits that he would soon double, and on the innumerable other occasions when prominent Democrats impugned the opposition’s motives, but the rule against questioning an opponent’s patriotism is flexible that way. The press no doubt hopes they can portray the Republicans as crazed conspiracy theorists with an irrational hated of the First Black President, but they should be worried that the questions persist after so many years.
One didn’t have to be tuned into Fox News to hear the president say he believed in American exceptionalism only to the extent that British or Greek believed in British or Greek exceptionalism, or when his wife said that first time she’d felt proud to be an American was when the country seem poised to her elect her husband president, or when he apologized for America’s “arrogance” and “dismissiveness” toward Europe or its past aggressions against the underdeveloped nations, and it’s hard to see where the policies resulting from these inclinations has furthered America’s interests abroad. The “fundamental transformation” of America that candidate Obama promised has delivered similarly desultory results at home, and although recent economic growth can be damned with the faint praise of outperforming Europe the administration seems as intent as ever on emulating the European model. The president has written about his conversion to Christianity through a preacher who once thundered “God damn America” from the pulpit, he told The New York Times about how the Muslim call to prayer was one of the “most beautiful sounds” he has heard, he frequently extols the greatness of Islam and his most notable recent reference to Christianity was a warning that it should not “get on a high horse” because of long-ago episodes as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, and he told the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” none of which are the kinds of things that Christians usually say. The policies that have followed from such inclinations have resulted in the spread of radical Islam throughout much of the Middle East, leaving all sorts of nastiness in its wake and encouraging the continued terroristic attacks on the west, and the best efforts of the press can not erase all possible doubt about the reasons.
Which is not to say that we question the president’s love of country or abiding Christian faith. He might well love America so much that he wants to turn it into Europe, and have arrived at some revolutionary understanding of Christianity that acknowledges Mohammad as the true prophet who must not be slandered with any doubts about his prophecy, and in any case he seems alarmingly confident that he’s doing what’s best for the country and the entire world. Most liberals we know pride themselves on their less-than-fulsome assessment of America, an anecdotal observation borne out by polling data, but they consider this a patriotic chore they must perform lest America become too proud of itself. At this late date in a lame duck presidency we’re more concerned about the results, which we and a number of soon-to-be-beheaded Christians find displeasing, and we’re willing to forgive any Republican contenders who are insufficiently effusive¬†about the president’s pureness of heart.

— Bud Norman