Meanwhile, There’s Still a Coronavirus

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

— Bud Norman

A Long, Hot Summer Lasting Past Autumn

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

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Military

Mark Esper is the United States’ Secretary of Defense, at least for now. He’s openly stated his opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that would allow President Donald Trump to use the military to quell the recent unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd while being arrested, and although he quickly backed away from the statement he might not be defense secretary for long.
Trump has deployed National Guard units to patrol the streets of Washington, D.C, and urged governors to also use the National Guard, and he’d clearly love to unleash the active duty military on the streets. Ever eager to project an image of toughness, Trump hopes to “dominate the battle space,” even if it’s a peaceful protest in a public park that’s blocking his walk to a photo opportunity, and seems to care little that the military isn’t eager to take up arms against its fellow citizens.
Esper is a decorated combat veteran of the Army, and is steeped in the military’s proudly apolitical tradition. Trump’s first defense secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis, came from the same tradition and broke with his habit of not commenting on political matters to sharply criticize Trump with an essay that ran in The Atlantic magazine.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing by,” Mattis wrote. “We must reject any notion of our cities as a ‘battle space’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’ Militarizing our response, as we witness in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society.” He went on to criticize Trump for dividing rather than uniting the country.
Trump predictably responded by “tweet,” calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated general,” and despite his having appointed Mattis to be defense secretary adding “I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree.”
Although he talks tougher than any decorated combat veteran, Trump never served in the military, dodging the draft during the Vietnam War with educational deferments and a note for a podiatrist who rented his office from Trump’s father. He boasts about how he’s strengthened the military with increased defense spending, which is true even if he exaggerates how badly it fared until he came along, but he’s often clashed with the military leaders who don’t like being used as political props and disagree with his pardons of convicted war criminals. Trump doesn’t understand military culture, with its notions of honor and adherence to strict codes of conduct, and he doesn’t care about any Constitutional restrictions on its use.
That 1807 law does give Trump authority to quell an insurrection, but no previous president has invoked it, even in the turbulent 1960s, and Mattis and Esper are probably right that now is not the time to do so. Trump would be wise to listen, rather “tweet” more tough talk.

— Bud Norman

Trump, the Bible, and Photo-ops Gone Awry

President Donald Trump has visited two different churches this weekend, which is about as much as he visits a church in any given year, and he clearly did it for the benefit of the media’s still and video cameras. Needless to say, it set off yet another controversy.
Trump appeared in front of a shrine honoring Pope John Paul on Monday, and Washington’s Catholic Archbishop said “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we disagree.” On Tuesday, On Tuesday Trump posed in front of the St. John’s Episcopalian Church near the White, holding up a Bible for the benefit of the cameras, waving a Bible at the cameras, prompting the Episcopal Bishop of Washington to say “I am outraged,” adding the church hadn’t received advance that Trump notice would be tear-gassing peaceful protestors to make the visit, and that “everything he’s he’s said and done is to inflame violence.” Even the low-church and conservative televangelist Pat Robertson said Trump’s response to all the rioting and protests that have lately occurred across the country “isn’t cool.”
The more sycophantic sorts of Christians have rushed to Trump’s defense, and all his bluster about unleashing vicious dogs and awesome weapons and America’s military might to restore law and order, but he still looks ridiculous waving a Bible around as he does so. Trump’s unfamiliarity with the text is now well documented, from his telling an evangelical audience that he’d never asked God’s forgiveness is pray, to his citing of “Two Corinthians” at a Christian college, to his admission that his favorite verse from Scripture is “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” which was amended by Jesus in the New Testament and doesn’t mean what Trump thinks it means even in its Old Testament context.
We’re doing our best to be good Christians, which means not judging any other man’s soul, but as American citizens in a democratic republic we’re obliged to assess the character of the men and women on our ballots, and more than ever we find Trump wanting in that regard. He’s a bully and a braggart who lies daily, has cheated on all three of his wives, and boasted that cheating on his taxes makes him smart, and he’s cheated his employees and investors and the draft and even his partners in a friendly game of golf. At a national prayer breakfast, of all places, he disagreed with Jesus’ admonition to love one’s enemies, and we’re sure he’d also dispute all that stuff about “Blessed are the peacemakers” an “Blessed are the meek” and turning the other cheek and welcoming the stranger, and we’d love to ask him which of Christ’s teachings he does agree with. Our Catholic friends have named pride, greed, lust, gluttony, envy, wrath and sloth as the Seven Deadly Sins, and he seems to check off every box. They also tell us the seven cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and charity, and none of those describe Trump.
We’re as much for law and order as the next guy, and share everyone’s dismay about the wanton destruction that’s lately occurred, but Trump waving a Bible he’s never read in front of the cameras at a church he doesn’t worship at won’t help. His more secular threats to deploy the military to “dominate” the streets, and start shooting rioters and protestors if the governors who have constitutional authority to deal with this mess don’t comply with his wishes, also seems unhelpful in calming down an agitated nation.

— Bud Norman

All This, and Summer’s Just Getting Started

More than 103,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, some 40 million more are unemployed, and riots are raging on the streets of cities across the country. If President Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection, it probably won’t be because Americans got tired of so much winning.
With so many calamities converging on the country, Trump is angrily lashing out at his critics and seeking to cast blame rather than offering solutions. He’s hoping the country can get back to normal without an increase in coronavirus infections, and that the economy will immediately rebound, but has indicated what he’ll do if that doesn’t happen. After surprising many by saying respectful and responsible that about the death of a Minneapolis black man while in police custody, he’s reverted to his habit of making threats in response to the ensuing riots. He still finds time for “tweeting” taunts at his critics, including baseless accusations of murder against a cable news host, and for threatening legal action against Twitter itself.
None of which seems likely to work. The coronavirus is immune to threats, and hope is not a cure. Threats won’t help the economy, either, and will surely require a government response that will needed to be negated with politicians Trump routinely insults in personal terms. Rioters need to know that the law will be enforced, but Trump’s belligerent threats of shooting looters on sight and unleashing “vicious dogs and awesome” are more likely to the exacerbate the outrage that is fueling the unrest. Given all that’s going on, Trump is even unlikely to distract anyone’s attention with a Twitter feud.
Angrily lashing out at critics and casting blame elsewhere is what Trump does, though, and at this point it would be hard for him to be a calm and unifying kind of president. We’ll see how how that plays out in November.

— Bud Norman

On the Half-a-Centenary of the Breakdown of America’s Two-Party System

By now we’re well aware that Tempus does indeed fugit, as those wise old Romans used to say, but it was still jarring to be reminded on Tuesday that the memorable events of the 1968 Democratic National Committee happened in Chicago just a short half-century ago. The after effects of that event still showed-up in Tuesday’s round of mid-term primaries, as in earlier primaries even here in good old Kansas, and for now we worry that time doesn’t really change things much.
Then as now most big American cities were dominated by efficient if corrupt Democratic political machines, but back then Chicago was run by the non-nonsense boss Mayor Richard Daley, whose rough and ready and every-loyal police department laid a serious nationally-televised beating on those hippies and yippies and civil rights types. The civil rights hero and unrepentant Cold Warrior Humphrey wound up winning the nomination, but in the aftermath of the televised rioting no Democrat stood a chance back in ’68. The Republican nominee was former Vice President and Sen. Richard Nixon, who was more hawkish on Vietnam and more ambivalent on civil yet rights, yet whose nomination didn’t create such a ruckus at his later nominating convention in Miami, Florida,and with help from a former Democrat’s blatantly racist racist and nuke em’ all’s third candidacy Nixon wound up losing by a landslide plurality.
By ’72 the Democrats were taken over by the hippies and yippies and they wound up nominating Sen. George McGovern, who was a bona fide World War II hero but also far-left-of-center at the time, and he wound u0 losing in an historic popular and electoral landslide despite the early and retrospectively obvious intimations that Nixon would resign in disgrace just a few years later.These days, after so many years, seem to offer no better alternatives.
In some states and congressional districts and county commission zones the Democrats are offering up reasonable enough candidates, but they’re going far left in the Bronx and Queens district of New York City and in Tuesday’s Florida gubernatorial primary and elsewhere, and even in Kansas’ third district. They’re running some people running crazy left people we could never vote for. Meanwhile our Republican Party seems enthralled of our current President Donald Trump, whose presidency we fully expect and ardently hope will soon come to the same inglorious end as Nixon’s, and for now it’s hard to decide who we’ll vote for. Even after 50 years, we’re still not sure which desultory choices we would choose.

— Bud Norman

On The Latest Round of Rioting at UC-Berkeley

There was yet another riot at the University of California-Berkeley over the Easter Day weekend, and judging by the all cell phone video footage that quickly wound up on the internet it was a pretty nasty affair. Such unpleasantness on the campus was a staple of the evening news way back in our boyhood, and lately it seems to be another one of those annoying ’60s fads that is back in fashion again.
This time around the violence is somehow different, though, even if it does seem destined to end in the same desultory way. Last time around Berkeley became famous as the birthplace of the “Free Speech Movement” that demanded free expression of an emerging New Left sensibility, but by now the New Left’s pony-tails have turned gray and its radical demands have become the status quo and the tie-dyed diaper baby grandchildren currently attending the university are famous for demanding speech codes and safe spaces from any sort of dissent. Those subsequent ’60s riots were a response to the Vietnam War, the wisdom of which remains debatable but undeniably involved more than 58,000 American fatalities and countless more casualties and was something you could at least understand somebody rioting about, but the previous riot at Berkeley was a response to a campus lecture by an inconsequential alt-right provocateur and self-described “faggot” named Milo Yiannapolous, which is something that most people would sensibly ignore.
Saturday’s riot happened during one of the many peaceable protests occurring around the country demanding that President Donald Trump publicly release his tax returns, which attracted one of the many counter-protests by supporters of the president, but even in Berkeley that wasn’t enough to cause a riot. So far as we can tell from all the cell phone video footage and some fine reporting by Esquire Magazine, of all places, it was the mix of black-masked self-described “anarchists” on the left and some self-described “white nationalist” types on the right that proved more combustible. The conditions for this happening are especially ripe at Berkeley, but hardly unique to that campus.
Most of the left eschews black masks and brown shirt tactics and anarchy, preferring their safe spaces and ’60s-era notions of non-violence, but they do have among them a troublesome number of people who are quite enthusiastic about all that. The vast majority of Trump’s most ardent supporters and pretty much all of the more reluctant ones have no use for white nationalism or its street-brawling ways, preferring law and order and old-fashioned notions about free speech, but by now there’s no denying they also some rather unsavory compatriots in their midst. You’ll find the extremists almost anywhere by now, and if you throw in the complex issues of race and class that you’ll find almost anywhere there’s reason to worry that Saturday’s riots could happen just a neighborhood away from anybody.
In both the distant and recent past we’ve faulted much of the left for making excuses for the more egregious behavior on its side, and been proud of the principled conservatives who took pains to distance themselves from those hippie-bashing hardhats and newfangled white nationalists who claimed the mantle of conservatism, but these days we have to admit that the Republican president did promise to pay the legal bills of anyone at his rallies who punched a protestor and openly longed for the good old days when they’d be carried out in a stretcher. Even the most peaceable sorts on both the left and right can get pretty confrontational in the comments section of any internet news site these days, all the panel discussions on all of the cable news networks seem more a verbal riot than a real debate, and even in the Senate it took the “nuclear option” to get a quite reasonable and even rather boring nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court.
We’re old enough to remember the ’60s, though, and can console ourselves that the country somehow stumbled its way through that tumultuous decade of far more violent and arguably more reasonable riots. The country had to stumble through the ’70s and all the rest of it to get to his damnable moment in time, where both the left and right seem to have jettisoned notions of free speech and full disclosure, and neither is willing budge an inch enough to disavow for their most unsavory compatriots, but for now it’s just a bunch of crazies pushing around trash dumpsters and duking it out on the always-crazy streets of Berkeley. The cell phone footage makes it look something from the last days of the Weimar Republic, but if they’d had cell phone cameras back then, and everyone could see hot very ridiculous it looked, perhaps it wouldn’t have ended so badly.

— Bud Norman

And So It Begins

The presidency of Donald Trump got off to a predictably contentious start on Friday, and we expect that will continue for a while.
Trump commenced his administration with a characteristically pugnacious inauguration speech, and pretty much everything in it promised a lot of fussing and fighting and back-and-forth-“tweeting” over the next few years. He did give the obligatory shout out to the past presidents in attendance, and thanked President Barack Obama and his wife for their “gracious” and “magnificent” help during the transition, but he seemed to have all of them in mind when he immediately launched into the part about “For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the costs,” and “The establishment protected itself, but not the people.” He assured the country “That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” and although he explained that is because “this moment is your moment, it belongs to you” he seemed as always to regard the moment as being all about him. He described his election as “part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before,” and painted a very dark picture of what America was like before it came to the rescue.
America’s infrastructure “has fallen into disrepair and decay,” “the wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the world,” “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” and an education system “which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” He summed it all with the phrase “American Carnage,” which sounds like the title of a graphic novel soon to be made into a major motion picture, but again promised that it “stops right here and right now.”
We’ve been peddling our gloomy accounts of American decline since Trump was busy firing people on “The Apprentice,” and we’re not about to stop now, but even we thought Trump’s diagnosis a bit overwrought, and to the extent we glean them his prescriptions seemed likely to do more harm than good.
America’s infrastructure is always in need of repair, but that usually happens at the state and local level, and judging by all the orange cones and ditches being dug around here the country seems as busy with the task as always, and our old-fashioned Republican principles as just opposed to a pork-laden trillion dollar spending program as we were Obama was proposing one. The part about the prosperity of the American middle class being redistributed to the rest of the world suggests that Trump regards the global economy as a zero-sum game, with any gain in another country’s standard of living somehow being directly billed to the home of some Rust Belt opioid addict in a “Make America Great Again” ball cap, and Trump’s promise to “protect” us from such looting smacks of the protectionism that has always left all the world poorer. Some of those tombstone factories used to manufacture Kodak film and Betamax videocassette recorders and celluloid collars and other products that are no longer in demand, others were simply no longer any more viable than Trump Steaks or Trump University or Trump Mortgage or the Trump Taj Mahal casino and strip club or any of the other countless businesses that come and go in a competitive and creatively destructive economy, and we fear that any attempts to revive them will not prove fruitful. We’re more convinced than ever than America’s educational system is awful, but have an American president who writes a sentence about “our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge” does not make us any less pessimistic about it.
The foreign policy portion was all about “America First,” another pithy and movie-title phrase that sounds good, unless you were educated early enough to know about the last “America First” movement, which argued in the years leading up to World War II that an isolationist America would do just fine in world otherwise dominated by the worst sorts of totalitarianism. Ever since that proved tragically untenable there’s a bi-partisan consensus that international military alliances and economic cooperation between the more democratic and humane countries is needed to sustain peace and prosperity and ward off the ever present bad guys, but apparently that also ends right here and right now.
To our old-fashioned Republican and conservative ears it was probably the worst inaugural address ever, and we can only imagine how harsh it must have sounded to a Democrat and any other sort liberal. Some of them were literally rioting in the streets even as Trump delivered it, with the Starbucks shops seeming to get the usual worst of it, and many thousands more were already in the streets protesting more peacefully. By the next day the Washington Mall and its surrounding streets were filled with anti-Trump protestors, hundreds of thousands more took to the streets of many other American cities, and when you throw in a fair guesstimate of the turn-out in cities from Europe to South America to Australia there were more than a million of them. That’s a lot of angry opposition, far more than the usual newly-inaugurated president provokes, and it’s hard to imagine Trump either overwhelming them with his popularity or charming them into submission, so we expect that should last a while.
Trump had a pretty good turnout of his own, by the standards of the usual newly-inaugurated president, but of course he felt obliged to overstate that. His press secretary had a press conference that allowed no questions but instead merely castigated the assembled media for broadcasting their footing and publishing their photographs that sure did seem to suggest a smaller crowd than the one that assembled for Obama’s ’09 inauguration, and he huffily noted that there were no official numbers, as the Interior Department wisely bowed out out of the crowd-estimating business decades ago, and he went on to boast that Trump of course had the biggest numbers ever, and he flat-out lied about the ridership numbers on the District of Columbia’s subway and the security precautions that might have kept out some the people he insisted were there. When Trump spoke before a group of Central Intelligence Agency employees on Saturday he also groused about the media, and insisted that he could clearly see up to a million and a half people hanging on his every word, and we doubt that a group of CIA analysts bought a single word of it. Inauguration audiences are mostly drawn from D.C. and its surrounding counties, where Trump got tiny percentages of the vote and Obama was a landslide winner, and Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters surely had more pressing chores than traveling a long distance and coughing up the $800 a night for a stay at Trump’s hotel, and despite Trump’s apparent insecurities about such things size doesn’t really mean all that much in any case, so with all the fights yet to come it seemed hardly worth fighting.
Trump also took the occasion of his visit to the CIA to reiterate his belief in wars of pillage, wistfully remark that we might yet get another chance to appropriate Iraq’s oil reserves, and promised the spooks that “you’re gonna get so much backing, maybe you’re gonna say, ‘Please, don’t give us so much backing, Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing.” After “tweeting” that the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s meddling in the past election made him feel that he was living in Nazi Germany, Trump assured the audience that any impression he was not a big fan of the intelligence community was entirely due to that lying media, which allowed him to segue into the longer rant about the huge turnout for his inauguration.
All in all, we did not find it an encouraging start.

— Bud Norman

A President Popular by Default

President Barack Obama is unaccountably popular at the moment, with a bare majority of Americans expressing approval of him. That’s hardly Mount Rushmore stuff, and far short of the falling oceans and fundamental transformations he promised during the peak of his popularity during that first crazy presidential campaign of his, but for now it’s enough to make him the most popular politician in America. The only way we can account for it is the year’s even crazier election.
It’s not just that both of his major party would-be successors are wildly unpopular, with landslide majorities of Americans quite reasonably finding both dishonest and altogether unfit for the office, but also the way that their daily groan-inducing scandals keep the president contentedly out of the news altogether. Those obsessive sorts of news readers who dive beyond the front page headlines and delve deep into the rest of it are vaguely aware that the president recently paid a huge ransom to the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy for some hostages and then offered a preposterous explanation about why he didn’t, that Milwaukee has lately been burning from flames fanned by the “Black Lives Moment” the president has encouraged, that much of south Louisiana is underwater and the main form of federal assistance has been a memo sternly warning that rescue efforts not be racially discriminatory, and that the president has been playing golf and living it up with a bunch of rich white people on a lavishly-funded vacation to Martha’s Vineyard the whole time, but the rest of the country has been pleasantly preoccupied with America’s rout at the the Olympics and the latest gaffes from the president’s would-be successors.
We can recall past times when shady hostage deals went down with the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy and American inner cities burned and south Louisiana was underwater, and how it used to be a much bigger deal, but then again all that happened during slower news cycles and Republican administrations. During a slow news cycle in a Republican administration a president golfing and living it up with a bunch of rich white people while the rest of the nation churns along uneasily would be a major scandal, but with a Democratic administration and the happy distraction of a can’t-look-away-train-wreck of a presidential election such scandals suddenly become quibbles. The desultory state of the economy and that awful labor force participation rate that obscures the more happy-face unemployment numbers, the mounting debt that sustains the slow pace, the politicization of the Justice Department that allows the Democratic nominee to be running in the first place, the generally unsettled state of world, as well as the general cultural decline made apparent by the current sorry choices of presidential nominees, are all as easily relegated to the inner pages of your increasingly scant newspaper.
Any old well-funded Republican should be able to make something of it, but this year the nominee isn’t any old well-funded Republican but rather the not-quite-self-funding-self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, and he hasn’t seized the opportunities. The self-described deal-making-artisan made a strong case against the ransom for hostages arrangement, but the press was able to focus on what he had later had to admit was a bogus claim that he’d seen secret video footage of the payment. He made a persuasive argument that the past many decades of Democratic machine politics have caused the plight of the recently burning inner cities, but his attempts to bolster his current 1 or 2 percent favorables among black Americans were rather clumsily phrased in the pitch that they’re all poor and uneducated and therefore have nothing to lose by voting for him, along with the rather fanciful even-by-Trump-standards boast that after four years in office he’d win 95 percent black vote. Trump showed up in Louisiana for a meaningless photo-op several days before the vacationing Obama plans to do the same, but unless starts spending some serious ad buy money we doubt it will do him the same good that it once did Obama when a Republican administration was in charge while south Louisiana was underwater.
Thus far the supposedly boundlessly wealthy Trump has been quite parsimonious about ad buys, and instead continues to rely on all the “free media” that has suddenly turned so hostile ever since he wrapped up the Republican nomination, not to mention all those gaffes, and yet he’s still within shouting distance in the national polls if not so much the states that add up to an electoral majority. That’s because a clear majority of Americans understand that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is dishonest and unfit for office, and we also take heart that a near-majority of them also think little of the current president. That so few of us have any regard for our next president, no matter how it turns out, is also heartening in an unaccountable way.

— Bud Norman

This Time in Milwaukee

The latest round of rioting and looting and mayhem happened Saturday in Milwaukee, where constant gunfire kept firefighters away from several blazes and any person of the wrong hue who had the misfortune to be walking down a certain stretch of Sherman Boulevard was subject to brutal mob violence. Yet another instance of a black man being shot by police officer had preceded it all, of course, and so the usual excuses of the “Black Lives Matter” movement will be made.
Those excuses are never sufficient for the victims of this ongoing violence, however, and in this case they’re all the more insufficient. In this case the man shot by a police officer was armed with a stolen semi-automatic pistol, one of those uniform “body-cams” that the activists have insisted on show he brandished the weapon as he fled from police during a routine traffic stop, he had a long record of arrests and a conviction for possession of a concealed weapon, and although there are still questions about the incident that will surely be thoroughly investigated under intense public scrutiny all of that should at least give some pausing to the rioting. In any case the businesses that were destroyed and those unfortunate folks of the wrong hue who happened to be in the vicinity had nothing to do with the shooting, and the violence and destruction that were inflicted will have no positive effects on anyone.
In this case the officer whose life was on the line was also black, and therefore presumably not motivated by any racial animus, but that won’t matter to a “Black Lives Matter” movement so strangely selective about which black lives matter. They seem to care little for the lives of the brave black men and women who don a police uniform and a gun to try to impose some semblance of law and order on the most lawless and disorderly streets of America, nor for the untold number of murdered black lives that will surely be added to an already inordinate black death toll once those efforts at law enforcement are in retreat from the mob.
As the crime rates rise in those cities afflicted by the anti-police protest movement the chances of a police officer still more or less on the job having to make a split-second decision about how to respond to known felon brandishing a loaded gun will increase, the ensuing riots will fuel a further retreat by law enforcement and another uptick in the crime, and at some point frank talk and real leadership will be required to halt the cycle. All of this comes near the end of what was promised would eight years of a post-racial America, and although it wouldn’t be fair to blame all of this on President Barack Obama it does seem fair to say that he hasn’t made good on those grandiose promises. He’s consistently taken sides against the police in every controversial case, often before the facts emerged to prove his prejudgments incorrect, and his Justice Department has taken similarly premature stands, with the same embarrassing results. His Education Department has also insisted that schools mete out suspensions and expulsions according to a strict racial quota system, which ignores and exacerbates the reality that in many schools some racial groups are committing infractions that call for suspensions and expulsions at a greater rate than others, and his Department of Housing and Urban Development has been imposing similarly cockamamie notions of racial justice on otherwise contented communities around the country.
Despite such efforts, black unemployment remains far higher the national average, with the youth unemployment rising still further over Depression-era rates with every hike in the minimum wage, overall black wages and household wealth are on the decline, and in the cities where the police departments have fallen under federal scrutiny the black murder rates are on the rise. The president’s approval ratings among black Americans remain high, though, and his endorsed would-be Democratic successor is eager to reap their votes and unwilling to challenge his policies. The would-be Republican successor is echoing Nixon’s “law and order” theme from the riot-torn days of ’68, but at the moment the country doesn’t seem to regard him as as the sort racial healer who might stave off a race war. So far the only leadership that has dealt with the complex situation frankly has been at the local level, such as that black police chief in Dallas who largely restored order at the murder of five of his officers, but we’ll need more.

— Bud Norman