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About That Ballyhooed Speech

President Donald Trump’s much-ballyhooed address to a joint session of Congress wasn’t awful, at least by his usual standards. There was none of the “that I can tell you” and “believe me” and “OK?” or other tics that usually pepper his speeches, the characteristic boastful hyperbole was toned down a more typical political level, his sentences were parseable and occasionally almost oratorical, and he didn’t give the late night comics anything obvious to ridicule.
That was sufficient that even the media Trump has identified as enemies of the American people were offering begrudging praise, and although his most ardent supporters might have found it a bit boring and been disappointed that there it offered nothing to chant they probably liked it as well. Still, by the standard of what was needed it wasn’t a very good speech. Once people start to recover from the shock of a presidential-sounding Trump, pretty much everyone will find something in it to grouse about.
Trump shrewdly disarmed his most hysterical critics by opening with a condemnatory few words about a recent shooting in Olathe, Kansas, of two immigrants from India by a man who shouted “Get out of my country” as he opened fire, as well a recent uptick in anti-semitic incidents and other crimes apparently motivated by racial or ethnic animus, but it won’t stop complaints that his previous nativist rhetoric has contributed to the problems. His critics will also note that later spoke at greater length about the crimes committed by immigrants, and had a couple of widows on hand to illustrate the point, and emphasized how big the problem was by creating a new agency in the government to deal with its victims. Although we were advocating stricter enforcement of immigration laws way back when Trump was calling Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney “cruel” for his relatively modest proposals, we’re also leery of new agencies and can’t help wondering why the country can’t better serve victims of crime no matter who perpetrated it.
Trump also made clear he was steadfast against all crime no matter who perpetrates it, and he wasn’t quite so extravagant about overstating the extent of it as he has been in the recent past, but he didn’t offer any specific solutions, He spoke of supporting “the men and women of law enforcement,” which we take to mean to that his Justice Department won’t be harassing local police departments into retreat from their more aggressive tactics, as the administration President Barack Obama did, which almost certainly has to do with that undeniable if overstated recent uptick in crime driven largely a few cities where the Obama administration was particularly tough on the cops and crimes rates have indeed been soaring, but we would have liked to have seen that argument more fully developed.

The same lack of specificity permeated the rest of the speech. Trump swore his fidelity to “free trade,” but he sounded so perfunctory about it and so impassioned when he went on at much greater length about “fair trade” we would have appreciated a clearer description of what he wants the international commerce to look like. There is still an influential number of Republicans who still hew to the party’s erstwhile free market principles in Congress, and all the Democrats there who still aren’t so far left as self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were all for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals that Obama negotiated, and we expect they’re also wanting some further clarity about the matter. Anyone employed by or invested in one of America’s many export-dependent industries, such as the agricultural and aviation sectors that make up the biggest chunk of the economy around here, are also bound to be anxious for further details. He spoke of how America’s iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles have a 100 percent tariff slapped on them by some unnamed countries, which so far as we tell are India and the Maldives, which is indeed unfortunate for any aspiring Indian and Maldivian biker gangs, but we like to hear more about a trade war might affect the wheat and airplane markets. He’s for getting rid of Obamacare’s individual mandate that requires people without health insurance to pay for the privilege, which is fine by us and a great relief after his campaign statements to the contrary, and he’s for interstate insurance markets, as is every sentient being on the planet, but he’s for that preexisting conditions part of Obamacare and was conspicuously vague about how he’s going to make all that work.

Speaking of the Republican party’s erstwhile free market principles, Trump also took some largely unearned credit for strong-arming and bribing some recognizable brand names into keeping some of their American workers on the job, and he promised more of the same. There were no flow charts or graphs to exactly how Trump intends to personally manage a $17.4 billion economy with all of these great deals, and we couldn’t help recalling how he’d run his casinos and airline and real estate university and various other namesake ventures, but we were reassured that at least he didn’t say “believe me, OK?” He promised to do a lot of de-regulating, which warmed our principled free market Republican hearts, and even announced a policy of only allowing one new regulation for every two repealed, which struck us as rather arbitrary but nonetheless reasonable, but all that talk about intervening in every corporate re-location suggests that the one new regulation will be more far-reaching that those few forgettable lines from section two A part IV of the This Thing or the Other Thing Act of 1936 and that bit about proper wattage of lighting in federal buildings from the Affordable This or That Act of the dying days of the Obama Administration that are tossed out.
Trump read the usual Republican boilerplate about the national debt, and rightly noted how it had nearly doubled during the Obama administration, but he also proposed enough infrastructure spending to re-build the entire country, and suggested we could do it maybe twice or even three times if we don’t get it just right, and surely we’re not the only ones left hoping for a more explicit explanation of how he plans to pull that off without the debt. He’s talking big tax cuts and promising that along with all de-regulating they’ll speed up the sluggish pace of economic growth, which we our free market sensibilities regard as good bet, but we’re not such risk-takers that we wager it will be enough to rebuild an entire country of this size a couple of times over. Trump said we’d already spent that much in fighting the war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only true if you very much want to believe Trump because that he can tell you, OK?, and he seemed to promise there’d no more such foolish spendthriftiness for at least the next four years, but he also promised to eradicate the Islamic State terror gang and radical Islamic extremism in general, so we’re still unclear how those numbers will work out.
The only other mention of foreign policy was some talk about new alliances with old enemies, which Trump likened to our post-World War II arrangements with Germany and Japan, which we took to mean that he’s going full steam ahead on selling both of them and number of other countries out to the Russian dictator that he has frequently praises. It got short mention in the speech and the immediate stories about it, but given all the allegations of Russian meddling in the election and the recent leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts and the past officials with undeniable ties to the Russkies who have been kicked off team Trump and whatever might or might not be in those still-undisclosed tax returns, as well as all that gushing praise Trump keeps heaping on Putin, the story is likely to linger.
All those Democrats who laughed at Romney’s Cold War-era foreign policy are suddenly sounding like John Birchers, and there is still a significant number of Republicans left who hold to the party’s erstwhile stern position about the Russkies, and we expect they’re eagerly awaiting more details about the matter. The same coalition is likely to take a look at the fine print in all that infrastructure spending, too, as every last pre-Trump Republican stood firm-fast against such spendthrifty tomfoolery back when Obama was proposing it, and all those Democrats who used to think it was a great idea will hate it because it’s now Trump’s idea, and we have to admit that they’ll have an argument that the private investment part of the spending is an invitation to outright corruption, and even the Sanders wing of the Democratic party will probably oppose Trump-branded protectionism. The Democrats were mostly well-behaved during the address, but they couldn’t suppress a laugh when President Trump repeated candidate Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, and given that Trump retains full ownership of business interests that don’t necessarily align with the national interest we expect the late night comics will provide plenty more laughs about it in the coming months and years.
For now, though, Trump will probably enjoy a few days of relatively good press. That shtick of reading parseable sentences without provoking any “Twitter” feuds worked well enough for Trump that even the enemies of the American people are glumly admitting a certain presidential tone, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with it.

— Bud Norman

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Do Not Remain Calm, Democrats, All is Not Well

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took a slight lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Real Clear Politics’ widely watched average of polls on Monday, and at least three pundits were urging that the Democrats not panic about it. Given what was going on both outside and inside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, those pundits’ pleas for calm recall that scene in “Animal House” where Kevin Bacon is urging the townsfolk fleeing a fraternity-induced riot to “remain calm, all is well,” just before he is squashed into the sidewalk, Wile E. Coyote style, by the terrified trampling horde.
Outside the Wells Fargo Convention Hall there were large groups of angry supporters of self-described socialist and Democratic runner-up Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and shouting the same “Lock her up” chants that were de rigueur at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and even on the credentials-only inside the presumptive nominee hardly fared better. Surly Sanders delegates were booing any mention of Clinton’s name even during the opening prayer that the rigorously secular Democrats still offer for some reason or another, and kept it up even when Sanders himself was speaking on behalf of the presumptive nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Denbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was denied a speaking slot and will resign her post at the end of convention because of the leak of thousands of e-mails showing she had long plotted against Sanders on behalf of Clinton, endured a similar chorus of boos while addressing her home state of Florida’s delegates. Speeches by such liberal icons as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michele Obama and and illegal immigrant girl were better received, but hardly any reason to delay the panic.
Those Kevin Bacon-ish pundits pleading for Democratic calm could rightly point out that Trump’s lead is indeed slight, well within the margin of error, and that other usually reliable forecasting models continue to show Clinton with a lead, although also slight and well within their margins of error, and that of course the election remains a few months away, but a few months ago everybody had Clinton up nearly double digits so the clear trend is not encouraging for Clinton supporters. They rightly note that Clinton has far more money and a larger campaign apparatus, but the dissolution of her once formidable lead has come as she’s vastly out-spent her opponent on attack ads. They also note the Trump’s long forestalled lead came with the usual “convention bump,” but that was no usual convention the Republicans held and it didn’t get the “yuuge” ratings the candidate expects probably would have cost the usual candidate a point or two, and what’s going on in Philadelphia doesn’t seem likely to undo the damage.
Hope springs eternal in the Democratic soul, so there are also reassurances to the faithful that Trump will surely do something to disqualify himself from the race, but all hope has already been extinguished in our formerly Republican souls and we can’t think of any reason our leftists friends should have any. If they’re hoping that Trump will mock somebody’s handicap or disparage American prisoners of war or publicly boast about his penis size or peddle some bizarre and slanderous conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination he’s already done that, and much more, and got a bump in the polls every time. If they’ve got their fingers crossed that he’ll make some more dangerous statements about paying America’s creditors less than promised or not fulfilling our treaty obligations or taking The National Enquirer seriously, that all happened while he was taking his slight lead in the race.
Trump prevailed with such unprecedented tactics against a crowded field of better-funded and better-organized Republican challengers, who varied in quality but in every case were more appealing public figures than Clinton. What those pleading-for-calm pundits won’t tell their readers is that Clinton is such a thoroughly awful candidate in every way that her unfavorable ratings are now even higher than Trump’s, which is saying something that should provoke a widespread and bipartisan panic throughout the land. Her tenure as First Lady was mostly spent enabling her perv husband’s sexual assaults, which Democrats at the time applauded because at least he was pro-abortion, but these days the feminist wing that was supposed to go all sisterly solidarity for the First Woman President are carrying mattresses around campus to protest a mythical “culture of rape” with the Republican nominee praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and quite obviously insincere about his recently acquired anti-abortion principles nobody’s all that anxious about the looming theocracy these days. Her brief and inconsequential time in the Senate was mostly spent plotting her presidential run, which she lost to an even more junior and inconsequential Senator, and her run as Secretary of State was one disaster after another. She’s humorless, apparently in ill health, and every bit as mean and morally compromised as her more entertaining and robust opponent.
The longtime political operative doesn’t seem to understand this strange American moment nearly as well as the longtime reality television show star she’s running against, too, and thus has wound up on the wrong side of big issues. That 11-year-old illegal immigrant girl given a spot on the Democratic convention stage sure was cute, but no so cute as to dissuade the majority of Americans who are so eager for some semblance of immigration law enforcement that they’re even willing to indulge wild fantasies about giant walls that the Mexicans will pay for.
Her frequently stated belief that all Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people who have nothing to do with terrorism is more consequentially wrong than Trump’s wild overstatements about how they’re all out to get us and we have to start getting tough even on the Gallic French and Teutonic Germans who have been willingly living among them. Trump’s protectionist trade policies are so similar to the self-described socialists Sanders’ that he’s making an unlikely plea to Sanders’ supporters, and although Clinton has been dragged into pretty much the same disastrous and suddenly bipartisan position her past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade-friendly policies make her seem the less sincere of the two remaining contenders.
She’s also stuck with the race-baiting “Black Lives Matter” movement that isn’t playing well outside the black community that was going to vote for any old Democrat anyway, while Trump is so law-and-order that he once called for the execution of the young black and hispanic men convicted of raping the “Central Park Jogger” and then continued to do even after they were exonerated by incontestable physical evidence, which won’t endear him to those black voters who were going to vote Democrat anyway and probably won’t much bother many of his own supporters. Trump is against Obamacare, which is good enough for his supporters, and although his vague descriptions of a replacement that would “take care of everybody” and the “government’s going to pay for it” probably won’t win him many new supporters at least it will make it hard for Clinton to pull out the usual heartless capitalist cliches. Trump’s newfound enthusiasm for government-paid child care and “LGBTQ” issues right up to and including that creepy guy hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers obviates much of the old Democratic playbook, too, and somehow in this strange American moment it didn’t keep him from romping to a Republican nomination.
At this point Democrats might as well start facing the dreary fact we were forced to confront last week that either one of these dreadful candidates might win, and that in either case the country is going to lose. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, we advise trample them as you flee in horror and leave them squashed on the sidewalk in Wile E. Coyote fashion.

— Bud Norman

Hope and Change and Motor Homes

Oh, how well we still remember that heady late spring of ’08, when all of our liberal friends were somehow entranced by the media-amplified celebrity of a youthful and fashionably swarthy young Senator who was standing in front of faux-Greek columns promising hope and change and a fundamental transformation and a lowering of the sea levels. A mere eight years or so later the grayer and more pallid President Barack Obama was in Elkhart, Indiana, “The Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World,” bragging to the locals about the modest comeback of the motor home industry during his administration, and clearly annoyed that he’s already been eclipsed from the spotlight and is now in danger of being replaced by the media-amplified celebrity of an aging and orange-skinned reality show star who’s promising to make America great again and somehow has most of our conservative friends warily going along with it.
The speech was little noted and will soon be long forgotten, to borrow a line from a better day of political oratory, but we think it worth some brief ridicule. Obama attempted to defend his economic record, refute the arguments of his would-be Republican successor, and imply some further annoyance that his would-be Democratic successors aren’t exactly running on his record, and we found it embarrassingly unconvincing in every attempt.
We concede the unemployment rate and the stock market indices and other usually reliable economic indicators are better than when Obama took office at the tail end of a steep recession, and that there’s always an argument to be made that we could have done worse, yet we remain quite unimpressed. We’re a bit older than the president, and started paying attention to these things long before he did, and by now we’ve been through enough recessions to have noticed that whatever’s left of the free market system always pulls out of those slumps no matter what cockamamie solutions the government of the moment might provide. We judge just how harmful those policies are by how quick and broad and persistent the ensuing recovery is, and how much debt was racked up to keep it going, and by those standards the Obama record has been abysmal. The decline in the unemployment rate is largely explained by the unusually high number of potential workers who have dropped out of the labor force, the stock markets are high mainly because capital has nowhere else to go in a time of zero and even negative interest rates, and whatever good news you find in the rest of those leading economic indicators is probably a result of all that fracking and the resulting lower energy costs that the heady campaign of ’08 promised to prevent, and of course we also have all those trillions of debt that will eventually have to be dealt with.
This is also the first time in American history that a two-term president didn’t preside over a full year of at least 3 percent of national economic growth, but he can claim that it has averaged around 2 percent, which inarguably could be worse, and is a full percentage point within 3 percent, and his still-loyal and his mostly economically illiterate and innumerate supporters won’t notice that it’s actually a full 50 percent off the previous historic low benchmark. All in in all Obama needs a better case than that rebound in the motor home market, which was probably already doomed to low-growth no matter how much fracking occurs with the demise of road-loving bohunk seniors who used to show up at the annual local Polkatennial across town at the Cotillion Ballroom on their tours of the polka festivals, and he didn’t seem to have it.
His refutation of the would-be Republican successor’s policies was even more unconvincing, as he seems to have been paying no attention to what his orange-skinned fellow reality star has been saying. Without mentioning the presumptive Republican nominee by name, which we appreciated, the President ascribed to him all sorts of stereotypical Republican positions. He noted that “economic anxiety” had caused an “unusual election year,” which is truthful enough, and argued that “provocative ‘Tweets'” are not enough to support a candidate, which would be truthful enough coming from anyone but Obama, but he went on to add that the Republican would “lower wages, eliminate worker protections, cut investments in things like education, weaken the safety net, kick people off health insurance, and let China write the rules for the global economy.” He further ridiculed the notion that the many billions of dollars of regulatory compliance costs have somehow hampered the economy, and fondly recalled all those Nixon-era regulations that have kept us from doom. The president must have had such old-fashioned and cruel-hearted Republicans as ourselves in mind, because the party’s current presumptive presidential nominee is open to giving a yuuge raise even to the most inept minimum wage workers, promises no changes whatsoever to those debt-driving entitlement programs, likes the single payer system of Canada and the outright nationalized British style of health care and promises “we’ll take care of everybody,” seems intent on a disastrous trade war with China, and promises that he’ll regulate the entire economy right for a change.
No wonder the president seemed to annoyed that neither of his would-be Democratic successors aren’t enthusiastically running on his record. One is a self-described socialist who talks down the Obama economy more derisively than the Republican, and we don’t doubt that Obama would be annoyed to be succeeded by the first president who was at least blunt enough to be a self-described socialist, and the other is a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State who was so awful in every capacity that she makes the presumptive Republican nominee look respectable. It’s not the hope and change and fundamental transformation that was promised back in those heady days of ’08, and the sea levels continue their centuries-old rise, but here we all are in the “Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World.”

— Bud Norman

So Crazy, It Might Just Work

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has a penchant for promulgating far-fetched conspiracy theories, from President Barack Obama’s foreign birth to a Republican rival’s father being in on the John F. Kennedy assassination to his likely Democratic rival ordering the assassination of Vince Foster, but he’s lately stumbled on to one that seems at least plausible. Speaking to one of his typical adoring crowds in Anaheim, California, while the typical rioting went on outside, Trump told his audience an intriguing tale about how he might not wind up running against his presumptive Democratic rival and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after all.
With his usual stream-of-consciousness eloquence, Trump told his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that “It could be we’re going run against ‘Crazy Bernie,'” a reference to the somehow-still-in-the-race self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who we must agree is actually crazy, and “That could be,” which we also glumly acknowledge. “He’s a crazy man, and that’s okay,” Trump went on to say, adding “we like crazy people,” an admission that is also actually true. He went further on to say that “I hear they want to put (Vice President Joe) Biden in. I hear they’re going to slip Joe Biden in, and he’s going in Bernie’s place,” adding that “the system is rigged against Bernie — 100 percent.” We have also heard “they” want to put Biden in, and from more reliable sources than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and at this point even the late night comedians can’t deny that the Democratic party’s system has indeed been rigged 100 percent against Sanders, even if something in our old-fashioned Republicans has to give some begrudging respect to a Democratic Party establishment that at least still resists Sanders’ outright socialism, so it all seems quite plausible even if still seems somewhat improbable.
Trump had already pounced on all the news that even the most polite news media could not ignore regarding the latest developments in Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal, which the presumptive Republican nominee quite succinctly described as “very bad.” An Inspector General’s report on her obviously insecure and seemingly insecure e-mail practices as Secretary of State was scathing, a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into that matter and the likely related questions about her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations that look to have resulted in favors to foreign governments during her government service is still ongoing, a thoroughly and disgustingly politicized Justice Department seems likely determine if an indictment will be made solely on political grounds, and even the most polite media were acknowledging that it was indeed very bad, and suddenly it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to speculate that some other fix might yet be in.
We’re not so bold as to venture a guess whether the hypothetical late entry will be Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or some other won’t-come-right-out-and-admit-they’re-a-socialist savior the party comes up with, or even if any of these alternatives will come to pass, and in this crazy election year we won’t venture any guesses how any of these possibilities might pan out. Any non-Clinton candidate the Democrats might come up with would be unburned by the longstanding and still recent scandals so sordid they make even the presumptive Republican nominee’s checkered career as a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul seem pristine, and he or she would start out the race with such scant name recognition that it would take any of them, even the Vice President of the past seven-and-a-half years, months to reach the negative approval ratings of the presumptive Republican nominee, and it would be a plot twist that even the acknowledged master of the post-reality show such as Trump would be hard-pressed to deal with.
We’ll stay tuned, but with no hopes this will turn out well. As much as we’d like to believe that Obama isn’t at legally an American that birth announcement in the Honolulu Observer has always settled the matter, and the Americanism of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is even less in doubt, and as much as an honest critic might say about how Clinton and her husband handled the provable suicide of their former law partner and administration official only the most crazy sort of conspiracy theorist still believes they ordered his assassination, but at this point there are few other certitudes in this crazy election year.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, on the Democratic Side

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee lost yet another primary by a blow-out margin in Oregon on Tuesday, and was declared the “unofficial” winner of Kentucky’s contest by a mere hanging chad or two, and by now it’s none too soon for the Democrats to start to panic.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton’s inability to finish off the geriatric Old Left fossil and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should be troubling enough for her party, but there are also those polls showing her suddenly in a very tight general election race with the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump, whose insult comic shtick has already vanquished a deep field of far more qualified candidates, not to mention all those young and enthusiastic fans of the Old Left fossil booing her high-powered surrogates off a Democratic state convention stage. It’s not at all what the Democratic powers-that-be intended way back when in ’08 when they decided Clinton would be the nominee after putting of the First Woman President for the First Black President and all his “Hope and Change” nonsense, and they’ve no one to blame but themselves.
Clinton’s blow-out loss in Oregon to a self-described socialist and Old Left fossil is easily explained to anyone who has watched the hilarious hipster satire “Portlandia” on Netflix or whatever cutting-edge cable channel it originally appears on, and the Kentucky close-call is easily explained to country music fans familiar with the great Kentucky-born-and-raised Loretta Lynn’s classic about a “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Clinton’s walked-back but still irrevocable promise to continue the First Black President’s war on the coal industry, so we’re slightly surprised that she didn’t get blown out like she did in neighboring West Virginia, where Democrats were making downright Trumpian rude gestures towards her over the policy and vowing to vote for the self-described billionaire on the Republican side, but the rest of the party’s troubles can’t be so easily dismissed. Those tight-race polls should be more troubling, given that Trump has some sky-high negative numbers in all the polls himself, and deserves them at least as much as Clinton does her own severe negative polling numberw, but that the youngest and most enthusiastic segment of her party is booing her high-powered surrogates off the stage of a Democratic state convention should scare the hell out of the party “establishment” that so long ago cooked up her cockamamie candidacy.
Those disgruntled hipsters in Oregon will mostly wind up voting for Clinton in the general election if only for a well-founded fear of Trump, and those hillbilly coal miners and their daughters in West Virginia and Kentucky will largely wind up voting for Trump in a well-founded fear of their jobs, but such a well-established Democrat as California Sen. Barbara Boxer being booed off a stage for mentioning Clinton’s name is most troubling yet. There’s an unmistakable and easily understandable-to-anyone “anti-establishment” mood in this year’s presidential race in both parties, and at the moment the Democratic Party’s bet on a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State seems as foolish as bet against the house odds at one of Trump’s bankrupt casinos. The hated Republican “establishment” couldn’t stave off the abhorrent likes of Trump, the hated Democratic “establishment” seems likely to drag Clinton’s at-least equally abhorrent and equally-negatively-polling carcass across the finish line, and after seven-and-a-half-years of “Hope and Change” this is where even those cocksure Democrats find themselves.
Our “anti-establishment” sentiment will be voting third party this year, and ¬†for whichever hopeless candidate claims to take the strongest stand against the looming national bankruptcy and for common sense that the presumptive Democratic nominee and her still-pesky rival and the presumptive Republican nominee all agree can be forever forestalled by whatever establishment they hope to install, so at this point we’re quite neutral observers of this whole mess. From this perspective the Democrats seem more hopelessly split, as most of the Republicans seem willing to side with the self-described billionaire who seems to now on the angles on this awful reality showl, and we can hardly blame them given their desultory options, and we at least hope that those Democratic Party’s powers-that-be are as panicked as we are at the moment.

— Bud Norman

Another Post-Reality Show

The Obama administration has escalated its war on America’s longstanding and satisfactory-to-more-than-99-percent of-the-population social arrangement regarding public restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and certain sporting competitions being chromosome-segregated, and we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Not content with challenging North Carolina’s recent law codifying that generally agreeable former social arrangement, the administration’s Department of Education has now threatened that any school district or federally-supported college or university which does not allow any boy or young man claiming to be a girl or young woman to enter into whatever restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event he desires will be in violation of federal law and ineligible for federal funding, and any attempt by a school district or federally-supported college or university to find out if that boy or young man really does think he’s a girl or young woman or is just trying to get into a girl’s restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event for more prurient reasons is similarly illegal. This obviously insane policy is based on the law known as “Title IX,” which conspicuously makes no mention of this nonsense, and which was passed and signed into law way back in 1972, when its backers would surely have scoffed at any paranoid right-wing worries that they ever meant any such thing, and repeated efforts to insert such language to the bill have repeatedly failed in Congress, but in an age when people can be whatever sex or race or height they want to be a law can surely mean whatever our betters at Obama’s Department of Education think it should mean.
Although less than 1 percent of the population stands to benefit from this social rearrangement, and most if not all of that mere fraction should not be encouraged in its probably passing fantastical notion they are actually of a different sex than what their genitalia and chromosomes indicate, and even though we hope that only a surely larger but still small number of boys will avail themselves of the legal opportunity to crash the women’s restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and sporting events of women, the social rearrangement seems likely to prevail. Neither the self-described socialist or the disingenuously crony-capitalist still duking it out for the Democratic presidential have expressed any reservations, and the unabashedly crony-capitalist presumptive Republican presidential nominee is hardly any better.
After the administration announced its opening salvo on North Carolina for daring to try to preserve the old social arrangement, the presumptive Republican nominee’s first response was a criticism of the state for bringing down the wrath of some aging rock stars and youthful corporations by bucking the latest trend, and he even invited his fellow reality-show star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use the ladies room at his fabulous Trump Tower, but he quickly retreated to a “state’s rights” position that generously allowed the Tar-Heels to take what he had already admitted was a losing stand. In the aftermath of the escalation he’s still sticking to that “state’s rights” position, which we concede is at least better than what the Democrats are offering, but he’s been careful not to suggests that states would be right to insist on the old and largely satisfactory social arrangement, and “state’s rights” has the same unmistakable unsavory historical connotations as the otherwise equally benign “America First” slogan when he says it.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s reluctance to directly challenge the absolute absurdity of the post-reality nature of the administration’s policy or its post-reality interpretation of the law is by now not surprising, though, nor is his reluctance to talk back his criticism of a state that dared defy the policy. He’s a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt-gambling-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and a veteran of the professional-wrestling and reality-show business, and he seems quite eager to assume any post-reality legal powers that the presidency has gained over the past seven-and-a-half-years, and at this point in his career as the presumptive nominee of the Republican party we must glumly admit that his oh-so-politically-incorrect and at-least-he-fights sense of the pop cultural zeitgeist of the moment is certainly better than what our more hopeful souls could ever hope for.
At least the Republican National Committee and numerous Republican governors and attorneys general and countless other elected Republicans officials have taken a more forthright stand to fight against against this politically correct and post-reality craziness, and in favor of those longstanding social arrangements that have so long been agreeable to more than 99 percent of the population, but at this point they’re the dreaded “establishment” that the presumptive Republican nominee’s most fervent supporters want to burn down. This is how longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangements that have worked for millennia end, and a post-reality show begins.

— Bud Norman

The Lost Cause and the Ensuing Brawl

For those unflinching sorts who are willing to watch, the ongoing metaphorical train wreck that is American politics has been captured by both news cameras and the more ubiquitous cell phone cameras, and of course it’s all “gone viral.” One popular series shows one of the increasingly violent demonstrations that have lately beset the campaign rallies of Republican front-runner Donald J. Trump, another shows a somewhat more peaceable disruption by Trump’s supporters of more traditional campaign appearance by last ditch-rival Republican rival Texas Sen. Cruz, and neither are at all suitable for the flinching sorts.
The anti-Trump demonstrations are the usual anti-free-speech left-wing thuggery, familiar from countless campus protests and labor strikes and anti-free-trade anarchist sprees, but predictably exacerbated by Trump’s heightened rhetoric. At first the more disruptive agitators at his events were from the anti-free-speech and anti-law-enforcement “Black Lives Matter” movement that had also disrupted the Democratic campaigns of former Secretary of State and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with the occasional disrupters coming from the self-described socialist Sanders’ supporters, while Clinton’s sizable number of supporters were just as disdainful but apparently too old for such shenanigans, but with Trump offering from the podium to pay any legal costs to supporters who expressed his desire to “punch them in the face” or “rough them up” it was mostly a give-and-take affair.
Now the race has moved on to California, which for the first time in anybody’s living memory has some say in who the major party’s presidential nominees will be, and the riotous protestors are overwhelmingly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who seem to be both more riotous and overwhelmingly numerous than even Trump’s supporters. They forced Trump to sneak into one event through a back door, which his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters regarded as a brilliantly Dunkirk-like maneuver, while his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters dared a far more difficult gauntlet to get in and cheer. Those same self-defeating protestors also invited The Drudge Report and other widely-read media to show the picture of the little nino holding a sign that said “Make America Mexico Again,” and play up how La Raza and other openly revanchist and racialist movements are opposed to Trump’s shifting anti-immigration stands and consistently harsh rhetoric about it, which makes it almost certain at this point that what’s left of California’s Republicans will hand Trump the Republican nomination. Given that the Democrats seem likely to nominate Clinton, a guest at Trump’s third wedding and the only person in American as widely loathed as him, they might even have handed him the presidency.
Meanwhile, back in Marion, Indiana, Cruz was out there on a more old-fashioned campaign trail meeting with the mostly old-fashionably peaceable folks. There were a couple of Trump supporters heckling Cruz, and he went over to have a by-now widely disseminated conversation with them. The ensuing debate is a more convincing rout than anything those self-defeating Mexicans and Mexican-Americans could hope for. Asked what he liked about Trump the supporter said “everything,” and when pressed for details he predictably cited Trump’s promise to “build a wall” to keep out all those undeniably revanchist Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in California and elsewhere, and when Cruz cited all the reasons to doubt that Trump actually meant any of it the fellow quickly changed subjects. The sunglass-wearing and obviously angry young man and his angry young cohorts charged Cruz with being Canadian, which every election board questioned on the matter has scoffed at and Cruz didn’t bother refuting, and charged him with being “Lyin’ Ted” without coming with any example of how he’d lied, and were so flummoxed by Cruz’ example of how Trump was as usual lying when he accused Cruz of lying about Mike Tyson was in indisputable fact a convicted-in-Indiana-by-a-jury-of-his-peers rapist, they wound up challenging him on the Second Amendment. If these as idiotic-as-any-Mexican-or-Mexican-Americans-or-“Black-Lives-Matter” type white working class idiots had bothered to pay the least bit attention to politics before they showed up protesting at a political event they would have learned that Cruz had defended successfully defended their Second American rights before the Supreme Court when Trump was praising Bill Clinton’s efforts to have their “assault rifles” banned, and wouldn’t have been surprised to learn from Cruz about Trump’s long and legally proved history of hiring illegal aliens and shipping jobs overseas and funding all the politicians that these idiotic Trump supporters claimed to have heard of and loathe, or otherwise have been so embarrassed they refused to give their names to gawking press corps.
Which at this point seems to make no difference, although even such Free State Kansas Republicans as ourselves have to admire the chivalrous “Lost Cause” courage of Cruz’s last stand there in Marion.. Such matters of fact and logic as civility as Cruz was so anachronistically insisting on, after eight years of the “Hope and Change” that Obama urged his supporters to get in people’s faces about and bring a gun to the inevitable fight that would result, are no longer of any consequence. By now it’s all about the anger on both sides, which both seem quite cocksure about their positions, and it seems we’ll be looking for the most factual and logical and civil protest vote. In any case, we want no part of the ensuing brawl.

— Bud Norman

The Era of Post-Religious Manias

Although it’s been a long time coming, this seems to be the year that America officially enters its post-religious phase. Aside from those Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby folks having to go all the way to the Supreme Court to opt out of paying for abortifacient coverage, and some bakers reluctant about baking same-sex wedding cakes being fined and sent off to re-education camps, not to mention the current presidential campaigns, this was also the year that The Holy Bible first cracked the American Library Association’s top-ten-most-challenged book lists.
The rest of the list is admittedly the sort of thing that the more sternly religious have long objected to public funds being spent on, which is a difficult question for such strict free speech advocates and staunch stewards of publics funds and lifelong library lovers and committed cultural conservatives and occasional readers of subversive literature such as ourselves, but c’mon, The Holy Bible? Even those who would dismiss the book as a bunch of Abrahamic hooey should acknowledge that it has nonetheless exerted a significant influence on the history of the West in general and America in particular, at least until recently, and that there is some poetically good and still-relevant stuff in there, and that surely it should be available to inquisitive readers at the local library. Given the recent stridency of the anti-Judeo-Christian elements of America, though, we’re not at all surprised.
This is also a year when the front-runners in both of the two major political parties still claim some religious affiliation, even if no one takes either claim any more seriously than they did the claims of the current two-term president, but the Democratic challenger is doing quite well despite freely admitting he has no religious beliefs and the Republican challenger seems at a disadvantage because of his unabashed religiosity. The Little Sisters of the Poor might yet have to pay for abortifacient coverage, and those recalcitrant bakers are being mocked, and even that unabashedly religious Republican is reduced to defending the right of the last remaining dissenters to opt out of the cultural revolution that’s been unleashed, and by now the left’s long-feared “Handmaiden’s Tale” Christian theocracy seems rather far-fetched. The irreligious aren’t so fecund as the religious, which suggests ominous long-term trends, but for the moment, at least, they seem to have won out.
This will come as good news to the anti-religious sorts who can rightly note all the religious manias that have often beset mankind, even if they have to overstate the crimes of Judeo-Christian civilization and make elaborate excuses for other religions that are best left unmentioned, but we note that humans of all theological beliefs or un-beliefs have always been prone to manias. Russia and the subsequent Soviet Union were rigorously atheist and extraordinary murderous, as was Maoist China, and their imitators from Cambodia to Cuba to Uganda as well, even as a still more-or-less Judeo-Christian West still thrived, even here in the last-holdout land of America the post-religious manias are at least as crazy as anything religion ever produced. Rock stars are canceling shows in states that won’t allow creepy men claiming to be women to hang around women’s restrooms, as are self-proclaimed women’s rights advocates, and we’re not at all sure if the “Saturday Night Live” arbiters of public opinion are actually mocking a woman who doesn’t want to bake a same-sex wedding cake, and any objection to the conviction that mankind bit of the technological apple and was removed from a state of nature into Anthropological Global Warming should be punished by the law are now mainstream ideas.
We’re not electing a preacher-in-chief, as we’re constantly told by the supporters of the front-runners in both parties, but we’d like to think that we’re electing someone who holds to the traditions that have until recently made the West great. We’re willing to let all the pro-same-sex-marriage and kind bondage stuff have a place in the library, so long as The Holy Bible also has a place there, and you can get married to someone of the same sex so far as we’re concerned if you don’t force someone to bake a cake for it, but a society raised by “baby mommas” and “baby daddies” isn’t going to fare are well as one raised by husbands and wives, and that creepy guy claiming to be a woman in the local restroom is going to be a problem, and the post-religious manias won’t be any better than the religious ones.

— Bud Norman

New York Plays Its Role

New York gave its expected stamp of approval to two of the worst presidential candidates ever on Tuesday, with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scoring big and much-needed wins in the primaries of their home state. Both regained their front-runner status after some embarrassing losses to pesky rivals in the hinterlands, but we hold out hope the Empire State is no longer able to deliver either an inevitable nomination.
Trump at long last broke into majority territory with a convincing 61 percent of the statewide vote, and his pesky rival finished third with a paltry 15 percent, which will keep a pointless third candidate in the race to continue splitting the anti-Trump vote in some upcoming friendly northeastern states, and he won 88 of the available 95 delegates to further pad his lead, so there’s no denying he had another good night. He’s still off the pace to win the needed number of delegates for a first-ballot nomination, though, and thus far his pesky rival has been far better at the complicated and by-now-unfamiliar-to-anyone game of winning on a second or third ballot. New York’s Republican primary electorate is also atypical of the party’s at large, we are happy to say, and that pesky rival should fare better as the race moves out of the northeast.
Trump’s pesky rival is Sen. Ted Cruz, an unabashed Christian and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and described-by-everyone-as-conservative and unmistakeable Texan, so he never did stand a chance up there against a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul such as Trump, who is someone that the subway riders seem to want to be. New York’s invaluable contributions to conservatism runs from Alexander Hamilton through William F. Buckley to those fine folks at the Manhattan Institute, but even in New York City there are only so many eggheads, and we have to admit that the remaining 61 percent of the state’s Republicans are pretty much Archie Bunker, that left-wing caricature of a stereotypically bigoted and sexist and uninformed conservative from the ’70s left-wing sit-com “All in the Family.” As Trump is pretty much the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul version of Bunker, we can easily understand the results.
The Democratic outcome was even more easily understandable, and almost as unlikely to settle matters. The Democrats in New York, who will certainly deliver the state’s still sizable share of electoral votes to the Democrats no matter what combination of nominees this crazy race turns up, are well contented with the status quo that former First Lady and carpet-bagging-homestate Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Clinton represents. They own the state’s politics, its still outsized share of political power in the country at large, the lucrative arrangement with those evil Wall Street folks that her pesky rival is always railing against is largely satisfactory to the locals, the rich retain their power and the poor retain their benefits, and those Archie Bunkers in the middle are vastly out-numbered and voting in an increasingly insignificant Republican primary, so even a self-described socialist such as pesky rival self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander isn’t likely to fare well there. We sense a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo among Democrats elsewhere, though, and there are those pesky coughing fits that the seemingly tired front-runner has been enduring as well as a pesky ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that cannot end well, and nothing is certain in this crazy year.
We’ve always enjoyed our occasional visits to New York, with several trips to the City and a leisurely hitchhiking trek through its upstate cities and towns and hamlets, and we can’t deny its many contributions to the enrichment and degradation of American culture, but we’re glad the rest of the country also has a say.

— Bud Norman

Those Darned Rules

Tiger Woods didn’t compete in this past weekend’s Masters Tournament, but we were reminded of a time when he was winning almost everything in sight. Being noticeably different from past golf champions he was bringing a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game to root him on, which was great for the Professional Golf Association’s ratings, but in most cases they were fans of Woods and not of the game. In many of our conversations with them they seemed not to appreciate or even understand the brutally humbling sport, and were invariably confused about what nefarious goings-on must have been going on when their hero inevitably didn’t win.
We were reminded of this because another intriguing round of the sport of politics also occurred over the weekend, and we notice the same thing going on in both of the major party leagues. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, arguably the Democratic front-runner, and self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, arguably the Republican front-runner, have been winning a lot lately, and both being noticeably different from past politicians they’ve both brought a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game of party politics, and it really is hard to explain to either of these very disparate groups of political neophytes why their heroes suffered some unusual losses. The major parties’ nominating processes are more complicated than even the infield fly rule, and they did yield some admittedly unusual results.
Sanders won a convincing 56 percent of the vote in Wyoming’s Democratic caucus, continuing a seven-of-eight streak that includes some embarrassing blow-outs over arguable front-runner and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton, but he wound up with a mere split of the state’s delegates. Trump got pretty much wiped out in the delegate race in Colorado by the described-by-everyone-as-a-conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but that happened without either a primary or caucus, which in these newfangled times is unusual. It’s all in the rule book, though, right next to the regulation about pine tar only being allowed so far up on a bat, and those who understand the game and appreciate it more than any of the players will know the rules must be enforced.
Those disgruntled Sandernistas seem to have the better gripe. Their guy keeps racking up so many convincing wins among Democratic voters that even the wags at Saturday Night Live are making fun of Clinton, but she keeps creeping ahead in the delegate count due to some goings-on that have clearly been going on for a while now, and we can easily understand why they’d think their guy is up against one of steroid-fed behemoths in one of those fixed professional wrestling shows the Republican front-runner used to produce, and well imagine their horror upon discovering that the supposed safe space of the Democratic party is so impure, but they should have the read the rules and been in the before something noticeably different attracted their attention.
These newfound fans of Sanders weren’t paying the least attention when Clinton’s fund-raising prowess and reputation for ruthlessness was scaring off all the few remaining viable opponents and getting all these rules written just in case of something decidedly different like Sanders, and they blithely figured they’d go along with any old candidate the Democrats might come up with, just as they’d always gone along with all the rest of the party’s dealmaking and ruthlessness, so there are limits to our sympathy. If their “revolution” has to occur four years from now with a 78-year-old Sanders leading the idealistic youth off the cliff we won’t shed a tear, as we’ll need them all for the alternative of a Clinton nomination.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will rightly note that Colorado’s convention is peculiar in this age of open primaries and other newfangled democratic fashions in the Republican Party’s nomination process, but we’re long-involved Kansas Republicans and keen fans of the game, damn it, and we’re not ones to tell those Colorado Republicans how to choose their delegates. The convention system they chose has a certain appeal to our old-fashioned tastes, even if there probably wasn’t any smoke in those “smoke-filled rooms,” at least not tobacco smoke, and we think there’s an argument to be made that it used to turn up candidates such as Abraham Lincoln and William Howard Taft and Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower who were on the whole better than what’s been offered up by the post-’68 moves to a more directly democratic choice. In any case the rules are chosen by the people who were chosen by the party members, and they were in place before Trump announced his candidacy, for reasons best understood by the more attentive sorts of Colorado Republicans, who surely weren’t anticipating that Trump would still be around, and Trump had every opportunity to play and win by those rules. By all accounts he barely bothered, while Cruz made every effort and every smart play, and we have no sympathy for the predictably pouting Trump.
Trump’s main argument for his candidacy is that he’s an extraordinarily competent deal-maker and manager and visionary who surrounds himself with the very best people and never gets out-played in any game, so the pouting only undermines the pitch. The professionally political Cruz was playing the Republican nominating process game back when Trump was firing Dennis Rodman on the celebrity edition of “The Apprentice,” which was played by Trump’s rules, and he’s clearly the better player. He’s also been peeling off extra delegates from states that Trump won but where the rules allow some goings-on, and with a big win in Wisconsin to add to his totals he’s pursuing a viable strategy to deny Trump the needed majority for a first ballot nomination, and carefully laying the groundwork to win on a second or even third and beyond ballot. Meanwhile Trump is shuffling his skeleton staff, speaking coyly about the the possibility of riots, allowing a surrogate to threaten to have angry supporters show up at wavering delegates’ hotel rooms, belatedly hiring someone who knows about all this stuff, and supposedly apprising himself of the rules of the game that he’s playing.
If he ever gets around to reading the rule book, Trump might be surprised to find that it was written with the intention of preventing any candidate entirely unacceptable to a broad segment of the party, such as himself, from winning the party’s nomination. A similar sense of self-preservation is the sound rationale for the even harder-to-explain Democratic rules, which are still trying to prevent a Henry Wallace or George McGovern or Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s nomination, which is admirable enough, but when the alternative is Hillary Clinton, what difference, at that point, does it make?
The current hybrid system of caucuses and primaries and conventions and unbound delegates and super delegates and whatnot seems likely to serve up the two most distrusted and disliked people in America for the office of President of the States, but it might not, in which case there will be huge numbers of Sanders or Trump fans and maybe both who will be doing some serious pouting, and no foreseeable happy outcomes for the country, but we’ll live with it for now. It’s better than what the Sandersnistas and the Trumpenproletariat would could come up on the spur of the moment with to serve their side, with no thought for the idea that just as a game is supposed to produce the best player the political process is supposed to produce the best candidate, the one most broadly acceptable to the party and most representative of its traditional ideals and most likely to win a general election, and that the people who have been involved in the party with years and sweat and tears should have some say in the matter no matter how many of those newly enthused fans who of some candidate flock to the party and openly boast of their intention to “burn it down” if their guy doesn’t win.

— Bud Norman