Another Day on a Long Trip

The third day of President Donald Trump’s nine-day foreign voyage went well enough that the more hostile media did their best to change the subject back to all the scandals that he hoped he’d left behind, but there was no keeping anybody’s eyes off it. There were a couple of things the critics could reasonably carp on, and all the more momentous things that can’t help being debated during any presidential visit to Israel, where Trump found himself the day after his royal welcome to Saudi Arabia, which further complicates that already complex debate, but at the end Trump seemed to have muddled through a relatively good news cycle.
Trump donned a yarmulke and went down to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to pay his respects to several millennia of Jewish tradition, becoming the first American president to do so at the much-disputed site while holding the office, and even such staunchly old-fashioned yet neo-conservative and philo-semitic and NeverTrumper Republican goyim as ourselves had to admire the chutzpah of that. Although he’s still backing away from that oft-stated campaign promise to relocate the embassy from Tel Avid to Jerusalem, which was a step too far even for the likes of us, we’re surely not the only ones who are pleased to see the stark difference with President Barack Obama’s anti-Israeli policies. Some of Trump’s supporters on the alt-right are no doubt disappointed, and the more blatantly anti-semitic portions of the left are also offended, but we hope that most of us are rooting for the Israelis rather than the people who have vowed to exterminate them.
Some of those Jew-haters are in Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni nations that Trump had been partying with the two days before, and some are in Iran and the rest of the Shiite sphere that Trump had thundered against, and nobody here or in the Middle East seems to know how that’s all going to work out in the end. We’d like to think that Trump has ingeniously calculated some great deal that will bring about peace in that eternally warring region just as surely as President Andrew Jackson would have averted America’s Civil War, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it, so for now we’ll take solace in the face that at least he’s not disrespecting the Israelis the way Obama used to do.
Still, there’s no denying the Trump-bashers some fun from such a marathon journey. All our liberal Facebook friends were sharing the footage of Trump noticing that Natanyahu and his wife were holding hands as the walked from the runway and then trying to do the same with his First Lady and having her slap his hand away, and we’ll have to leave it to the more ardent Trump apologists to explain how it doesn’t look bad. Some of Trump’s slighter lapses have been attributed by his communication team to “exhaustion,” which is credible enough excuse on behalf of an obese 70-year-old who eschews any exercise other than a weekly round on a Trump-banded golf course, but the late night wags are entitled to their montages of Trump bragging about his stamina, and it is only three days into a night-day tour.
There are the usual reasonable arguments from both the left and the right about how Trump’s pro-Saudi and pro-Israel and vaguely pro-Russian-yet stridently against aligned-with-Russia Iran stance will eventually work out, but for now we’ll be glad that unlike Obama he’s not apologizing for American influence in the region, even that Iraq war he claimed President George W. Bush lied us into, which even Obama didn’t claim. Things don’t seem any more muddied in the Middle East than before showed up, and even after that admittedly awkward hand-holding incident we’ll hold out out hope it will also continue to forestall the inevitable conflagration. All in all, that’s a pretty darned good news cycle from Trump these days.
Meanwhile, back in the states, the anti-Trump press has been able to take advantage of the dullness of it all by posting some stories hard to deal with for an administration on an ambitious foreign tour. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is defying a congressional subpoena and invoking the Fifth Amendment in the various ongoing investigations into that Russia thing with Trump and Russia, as Trump calls it, and that’s enough to intrude on the front pages. Flynn’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment doesn’t imply any guilt, as his Trump-friendly advocates can rightly say, but Trump’s critics are entitled to gleefully run the the late night comedy montage of Trump saying that his opponents’ use of the Fifth Amendment was the refuge of the guilty.
Sooner or later Trump will return to that temporarily paused news cycle, and although he hasn’t made any glaring missteps on his trip he’s yet to bring any undeniable foreign achievements, so we’d call it a draw so far. The next six days will involve a Pope and G-7 worth or world leaders that Trump has publicly feuded with, and it’s bound to be exhausting, but we’ll hope for the best. Not for Trump’s sake, but the sake of peace, and some respite this awful ongoing news cycle.

— Bud Norman<

Yet Another Clinton Comeback

Unless you’re the politically obsessed sort who reads such publications as The Hill, you might not have noticed that Hillary Clinton has lately been making a comeback. Although we’re usually not inclined to offer any advice to the Democratic Party, we will suggest for the sake of the rest of the country that they nip this in the bud.
Over her long career as First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President of the United States, Clinton has never done much good for her party. Her dutiful performance as the wronged but loyal life wife during President Bill Clinton’s various scandals helped him end the hated Reagan-Bush era of Republican administrations, and somehow didn’t affect her reputation as a feminist heroine, but he was still hobbled enough that eight years of yet another Bush ensued. A brief tenure in the Senate seat she carpet-bagged her way into was utterly forgettable, as was the first presidential campaign she lost to a previously obscure Illinois Senator of even shorter tenure, which is more than she could say for her disastrous four years as Secretary of State, and that so weighed her down with accumulated scandals that her long presumed ascension to First Woman President was thwarted. Worse yet, as far any Democrat is concerned, it resulted in President Donald Trump.
The humiliation was such that for the past several months it has forced Clinton into political exile, reportedly wandering the woods around her upstate New York mansion, and all the political attention has been focused on Trump. So far this is working out quite well for the Democrats, with Trump’s approval ratings well underwater in every poll and all the pundits and late night comics and other Democratic partisans reveling in it, and now seems an especially impropitious time for a comeback. The only Democrats that The Hill can find to endorse the idea are the former Democratic officials who once owed their careers to the Clintons and went down with them, such as former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, while pretty much most of otherwise-divided Republican Party is still ready to join in the chants of “lock her up.”
There’s already plenty of Trump fiascos and brewing scandals to keep the partisan press and late comics busy, but that was also true throughout the campaign, and back then all the Clinton fiascos and well-established scandals were enough to at least even things out. The questions about the Clintons in general and the obnoxiousness of Hillary in particular kept the Democrats on the defensive, riled up the vast majority of Republicans enough to swallow their considerable doubts about their own candidate, and with the resulting political equation spread just right across the electoral map it got Trump elected. Since then Trump’s fiascos and brewing scandals have been judged on their own damning merits, rather in the comparison to Clinton’s, and the Democrats would be advised to keep staying the hell out of the way.
Besides, none of the Democrats we know personally or hear in the media have any lingering affection for Clinton, or even for her husband’s once beloved but now derided administration, and they all seem ready to move on to some even further-left agenda they haven’t yet settled on. Given the continuing deep and visceral hatred of pretty much all Republicans, who still have a lingering desire and plausible legal case to “lock her up,” her continued presence in the news only provides a reason to overlook the latest thing Trump has “tweeted” or failed to deliver. By the next election Clinton will be the oldest newly-inaugurated president ever, surpassing the record currently held by Trump, so she hardly seems a viable candidate even by current Democratic standards, and it’s hard to see what good she’ll do as a senior stateswoman of the party.
It’s tough to bow off the public stage, or so we’re told, but it seems the most selfless move for Clinton to make. She could devote the rest of her days to quiet and public service in atonement for her past loud years of self-enrichment, which we’re told can be quite gratifying, and it would do not only the Democrats but also the rest of us a lot of good.

— Bud Norman

Gorsuch and Nonesuch

So far President Donald Trump’s travel ban is still being held up in court, his repeal-and-replace plan for health care seems lacking some crucial Republican votes, the budget proposals are widely opposed and the “tweeted” accusations of treason are getting much ridicule and little support, but at least the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is going well.
The Democrats and the rest of the left are doing their best to stop it, as tradition requires the opposition party to do, but they don’t seem to be having much luck. They’ve objected to the fact that Gorsuch is an admitted “originalist” in his judicial philosophy, but that basically means he believes the Constitution says whatever a plain reading of it written words say, and ever since Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court the Democrats have had a hard time time selling the idea it should say whatever they want it to say at any given moment. There have been no revelations of financial entanglements or college dope-smoking incidents or any of the other assorted scandals that have sunk past nominees, his long history of voting with majority and unanimous decisions during a long tenure as a circuit court judge makes it hard to cast him as any sort of scary extremist, and his performance in the confirmation hearings has been as flawlessly careful and noncommittal and yet exceedingly charming as any we can remember. The Democrats have been frustrated that Gorsuch wouldn’t pre-judge any hypothetical cases for them, just as the Republicans were when they grilled past Democratic nominees, but we don’t expect that the general public will mind that Gorsuch has been answering all the questions exactly as Supreme Court nominees are supposed to do.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank was reduced to complaining that Gorsuch seemed all too reasonable and downright personable during the hearings, and was sure that such “archaic phrases” as “goodness” and “since I was a tot” and “give a whit” would only be used an Eddie Haskell sort, who was a smarmy character on “Leave It to Beaver” that only the most archaic pop culture commentators remember. The late-night comedy program “The Daily Show” and its African host sneered that such expressions showed how very white Gorsuch is, but we doubt that most Americans would find that a disqualifying quality in a Supreme Court nominee and we’re quite sure that Trump’s most loyal supporters would find it endearing. Of the thousands of cases Gorsuch have heard the Democrats seized on one where he voted against a truck driver who had violated company policy and wound up frozen as a result and then sued over being fired, but of course the case was complicated and not the sort of thing that be easily conflated into a coming reign of judicial terror.
All the late night comics and the rest of the Democrats have had a far easier time scaring people about the rest of what Trump is to, but they inadvertently allowed Gorsuch to reassure the public about that. He’d already been quoted by anonymous sources as telling Senators that he was “disheartened” by Trump’s attacks on a “so-called judge” and the authority of the judiciary, but reiterated the sentiment under oath, carefully declined to answer any questions about how he might rule in a hypothetical case involving Trump and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution or any of the other many things that might very well come up in the next four years, and somehow left a clear impression that Trump won’t be able to count on him if the facts and the law of a case favor the other side.
That willingness to defy Trump, along with all the aw-shucks demeanor and apparent reasonableness, have convinced some of Trump’s supporters that he’s picked another one of those squishy Supreme Court Justices that more establishment sort of Republicans have been picking for decades, and they’re still holding out for someone more snarling, but we doubt they’ll derail the nomination. Meanwhile all the Democrats are still made that President Barack Obama’s pick for the post, whose name was Merrick Garland or Garland Merrick or something, didn’t get a confirmation hearing at all, because it was blocked the Republican congressional leadership that all of Trump’s most avid fans hated for caving into everything Obama wanted, so it would be fun for almost everyone if a Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch did wind up ruling against some Trump overreach.
All the big press outlets seem resigned to Gorsuch’s nomination, and mostly unwilling to expend any of their diminishing capital of credibility on trying to portray him as a scary sort of extremist who’s going to bring back Jim Crow and back-alley abortions and all the stuff they once threw at Judge Robert Bork, whose last name is now a verb for such character assassination, so we expect this will be a win for Trump. That’s fine by us, and if it leads a few losses for Trump down the road that will also be fine.

— Bud Norman

A Crazy End to a Crazy Election

This crazy election year seems to have culminated with Republican nominee Donald Trump becoming president, and how crazy is that?
The good news, for those who insist on finding some, is that the awful Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won’t become president, the past eight awful years of President Barack Obama have been rightly repudiated, those shockingly tawdry and vastly overrated eight years of President Bill Clinton are at long put to rest, and that entire awful Democratic Party finds itself out of power in the executive branch and in a minority of both chambers of the legislative and perhaps in the judiciary, along with historic lows at the state and local levels throughout most of the country. Ordinarily this would warm our old-fashioned Republican hearts, but there’s nothing at all ordinary about this crazy election year.
The bad news of this crazy election year, for those of us willing to face it, is that Trump represents an entirely newfangled Republicanism which is unlikely to bring any improvement. Our erstwhile party of free market capitalism is now led by an unabashed protectionist who has vowed to bully businesses into unprofitable arrangements that fit his nativist notions, and the alliances and treaties it championed that won the Cold War and generally maintained a peaceable and increasingly prosperous world are now up for negotiations based on a short-sighted financial bottom line. What was once the Party of Lincoln is now home to a neo-confederate “alt-right,” while the former defenders of “family values” and the canon of western civilization are now represented by a proudly-adulterous-and-thrice-married-to-an-illegal-immigrant-nudie-model casino-and-strip-club-and-scam-university mogul who boasts that he can grab women by their wherever because of his reality show stardom.
As awful as another Clinton presidency would have surely been — and we were publicly warning against that dire possibility way back in the days when the Republican nominee and President-elect was contributing to her campaign and inviting her to his third wedding and and praising her as the best Secretary of State ever — we’re now expecting a markedly different but just as disastrous awfulness. This time around a Republican president will be to blame, and we’ll be no more inclined to make excuses for it than were in these last awful Democratic years, but all along we’ve been resigned to spending another four years in futile dissent. As we search desperately for some good news we note that some recognizably old-fashioned Republicans are among those congressional majorities, several of whom polled far better in their states than the party’s newfangled leader, despite their open dissents from his leadership, and that much of conservatism’s intellectual leadership never wavered from their more old-fashioned Republicanism.
That old fashioned-Republicanism of ours also took a beating on Election Day and seems unlikely to make quick comeback, as the next four years probably won’t make voters more nostalgic for it than those awful but soon-to-be-overrated Obama years, but we’d like to think that crazier things have happened.

— Bud Norman

Waiting for Another Commensurate Scandal

Last Friday’s news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was once again looking into Democratic nominee’s e-mails was still the big story on Monday, and with the polls tightening and only eight days left in this crazy election year she could use something that will sustain a similarly bad news cycle for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Maybe the Clinton campaign has got something they’re waiting to reveal to an eager press at just the right too-late-to-respond moment, and perhaps Trump will once again them with something on his own, but for the moment the best The New York Times can come up with is a dubious tax dodge that Trump has used and The Washington Post’s front offering is about the Trump campaigning stiffing a fancy pollster it once employed.
Once upon a better time in America both stories would have outraged public sensibilities, and might even been one of those “October surprises” that swing a race, but in this crazy election they’re unlikely to have much effect. During the presidential debates Trump pretty much boasted that he’s gone years without paying any federal income taxes as he’s racked up his much boasted-about fortune, and his supporters seemed to agree that it was just further proof of his brilliance. Trump’s penchant for paying people less than promised for their labors is also well known at this point, and that pollster will have to take his place in line behind at least a couple thousand other suckers who have already brought lawsuits against him, but Trump supporters remain convinced that he’ll surely keep all his promises to them. Although both stories are yet another reminder of all the other awful and true stories, Trump’s supporters are also fine with all of those as well. Besides, the vast majority of that tiny minority of the people who still pay any heed to The New York Times or Washington Post these days are already riled up to cast a vote for Clinton.
Among those who are still trying to figure out which of these two awful people is the more awful, that e-mail thing is more likely to get attention. They’re unlikely to share the outraged sensibility of the editorialists at The New York Times and The Washington Post about the FBI divulging information about an ongoing investigation to the public, which is yet another indication of what a crazy election this year has been, and the stories that the even the most polite press are still obliged to report necessarily recall the unsecured private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State and the suspect family charity that it seemed designed to protect and that shady aide with the exotic good looks and Muslim name who’s married that that sexting pervert with the even funnier-sounding name, which is hard to ignore. Worse yet, it’s just a late-in-the-season reminder of the all those other scandals that Clinton and her own perverted former president husband have racked up over their lucrative 40 years or so in the public eye.
The Clintons’ supporters have stuck with them through it all, though, so the latest reminder of their long history might not knick much off from her stubborn plurality in the averages of the polls. All the right wing radio talkers will be able to rile up their listeners, but they’re all riled up enough after the last 40 years. As for those who are still undecided about which candidate is the more awful, we suspect they’re not paying much attention to anybody at this point.
This crazy election year feels like one of those inept and lately low-rated National Football League games between two mediocrities that comes down to which team makes the last misplay, but in this case it’s whichever candidate has the last news cycle that reminds everyone of their arguably worse awfulness. We’re still hoping that somehow neither team wins, but making no predictions.

— Bud Norman

As Time Slowly Stretches Into Election Day

The craziest election year of our long recollection got even crazier over the weekend, as Friday’s announcement by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that their interest in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s scandal-plagued e-mail is once again piqued by some newly-discovered evidence spilled over into the ensuing two days of otherwise slow news cycle.
All the polls were already showing that Clinton’s once formidable lead had tightened enough to clearly worry the more partisan Democratic press, so the FBI’s announcement set off something of a panic among the more polite publications. The news was impossible to ignore, or even keep off the very front page, and quite difficult to spin. There was no avoiding the words “e-mail” or “FBI investigation” in the early paragraphs, and of course the words “Anthony Weiner” were also bound to come up at some point in the story, and by now anyone who’s been following the improbable plot twists of this crazy election years knows that all of that amounts to bad news for the Democrats that can only remind voters of all the rest of the past 30 years of bad news. The Democratic nominee and her more stalwart defenders in the press could raise legitimate questions about the vagueness of that FBI director’s announcement, and why it comes at such a crucial point in such a crazy election year, but none of those questions would have ever come up if Clinton had only followed the sensible laws regarding a Secretary of State’s e-mail communications, and there’s no getting around the questions of judgment that raises, nor avoiding the questions of character that might explain her motives, so even those stalwart defenders of the Democratic nominee among the more polite press sounded slightly panicked.
As recently as the day before last Friday in this crazy election year they all seemed pretty cocky, with the previous news cycles being mostly about Republican nominee Donald Trump and all his accumulated scandals and hard-to-spin awfulness, and all the polls showing that aforementioned comfortable lead for Clinton. The words “grab ’em by the p***y” are also hard to keep out out of the news when uttered by a major party nominee, and the more impolite pro-Trump sort of press had their work cut out for them in trying to defend his attacks on the inevitable numerous women who came forward to say that he’d done pretty much what he bragged about, and when you throw in the rest of his attacks on prisoners of war and Gold Star families and his evictions of widows and three marriages and the four casino-and-strip-club bankruptcies and frequent heresies from both Christianity and Republicanism and geo-political and economic common sense along with the hard-to-miss buffoonery and boorishness and ignorance and almost daily weirdness that had made him the most unfavorably-regarded major nominee ever, so it was hard to dispute the left’s cockiness of just the day before last Friday.
But that was a long time ago, as we measure time in such a crazy election year as this, before the latest reminder that Democrat is arguably criminal and undeniably corrupt, and with eight seemingly eternal days left before the last votes are counted we remain as uncertain as ever as to how this will all turn out. Clinton still looks fairly safe on that stubbornly resistant-to-the-latest-nws electoral map, Trump clearly has the come-from-behind national momentum to provoke all that panic in the press, both candidates still have the most unfavorable ratings in the history of American political polling, and with eight excruciatingly long days left in this crazy election year there’s something bound to come out that would make such average voters as ourselves loathe them both even more. Clinton and her defenders might yet spin this into a favorable story, the same FBI director who until last Friday had been regaled by Trump’s defenders as a conspirator in a rigged system might prove it with yet another improbable plot twist, and the possibility of Trump providing yet another unfavorable news cycle does not seem at all remote.
At this point we’ll just wait and see which of these two awful people the rest of the country considers the less awful, and in any case we’ll wonder what the hell about this crazy election year in rueful retrospect.

— Bud Norman

Fighting to a Tie a the Bottom of the Pit

As Sunday night’s presidential debate began we had a red-hot loathing for both candidates, and by end the end of it we were loathing both of them even a bit more, so we’ll call it a tie. In baseball a tie goes to the runner, and in politics it goes to the candidate whose campaign has been faring worse lately, so by the rules of American sports we’d have to say that Republican nominee Donald Trump got slightly the better of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the unlikely event you’ve been lucky enough to avoid any political news for the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty much all been bad for Trump. There was a general consensus that he was rude and obnoxious and obviously unprepared and strangely sniffling and thoroughly trounced in the first debate, then he followed it up with an early morning “Twitter” war against some beauty pageant winner that gained a few pounds some time ago, along with his admonition for everyone in America to watch a sex tape “check out” what proved to be either fuzzy footage of some blanketed figures in a South American reality show or some hard-core pornography featuring another Latina actress who bore a slight resemblance to the beauty queen, and the resulting three- or four-point surge in Clinton’s average of poll numbers seemed to confirm that general consensus. His boringly traditional Republican vice-presidential running mate got good reviews for his performance in a little-watched debate a week or so later, largely by indignantly denying that that he or Trump had ever said the ridiculous things that were being alleged, but the next couple of days of news were full of undeniable videotaped evidence that Trump had indeed said all of those ridiculous things. Since our last post on Friday there has surfaced an 11-year-old videotape of Trump bragging on a hot mic to his “Access Hollywood” interviewer about how his celebrity allows him to do deplorable things to both single and married women that our old-fashoined Republican editorial standards forbid us from explaining in such obscene terms as he used, which led to a rash of high-ranking Republican’s denouncing his candidacy, and all he could offer was a rather ambiguous apology and a plausible if contestable claim that Clinton’s ex-president husband was even worse.
Given all that, Clinton’s failure to make an incontestable metaphorical out against Trump on Sunday night means that he’s at least metaphorically safe on first base and still with a chance of metaphorically making it all the way home.
The first 15 minutes or so of the debate were devoted to that appalling “Access Hollywood” videotape, but that had been preceded earlier in the day by Trump’s news conference with a woman who alleges that Clinton’s husband had raped her, another woman who won a sizable settlement after alleging that Clinton’s husband had exposed himself to her, another who claims that Clinton’s husband groped her, and yet another who was a 12-year-old rape victim whose attacker had the charges reduced because of Clinton herself’s aggressive legal defense on his behalf. Trump alluded to all of it after after apologizing for his own boasts of similar behavior, which he also described as mere “locker room banter,” and Clinton conspicuously declined defend her husband’s past but instead said she would take the advice of inexplicably popular President Barack Obama’s inexplicably popular wife that “When they take the low road, we take the high road.” This will probably hearten her die-hard supporters, and even be sufficient for those more reluctant supporters who hate Trump more, but we doubt it was persuasive to even the most reluctant supporter.
Over the next few days we expect to hear a lot about that married woman who is alleging in court that Trump attacked her in pretty much the same way he was bragging about attacking women in that videotaped “locker room banter,” and one of Trump’s two ex-wife’s allegations sworn testimony that he raped her, which was sworn into court testimony but then recanted after she signed on to a generous alimony settlement that included a “no public disparagement” clause, along with numerous beauty queens and reality show starlets alleging the same sort of boorish behavior associated with Clinton’s husband. There likely won’t be as much attention paid to the recently cleared-for-trial claims of a woman that she was raped by Trump when she was 13 years old, given that his alleged co-defendant was the convicted billionaire sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, who is also a friend and flying partner of Clinton’s husband, but in any case we’ll wind up loathing both Trump and Clinton, and expect that so will much of America. Clinton’s media allies can also call up Trump’s past claims that the impeachment of Clinton’s was a Republican mania and his disparagement of that woman who claims Clinton’s husband exposed himself to her and his past defense of both Clinton and creepy husband, and it will wind up as another disgusting tie.
The rest of it was devoted to what passes for “issues” these days, and anyone who slogged through all that boring stuff would probably call it a tie going to the runner. Secretary of State Clinton offered that ridiculously aplogetic “re-set” button with Russia that blamed any misunderstandings with the peace-loving dictator Vladimir Putin that encouraged his revanchist ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine and perhaps the rest of the former Soviet Empire, but she came off tougher on Russia than Trump, who still claims that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that dismantled the Soviet Empire is “obsolete” and clings to some hope that he and the “strong” Putin can join forces to defeat Islamic terrorism even as Russia is clearly aligned with the Iranian government that Trump rightly criticizes Clinton for helping, and he was forced to renounce his vice-presidential candidate’s more forceful stand in that supposedly winning vice-presidential debate, so we wound up loathing both all the more, and suspect that the rest of the country didn’t notice how awful both are. There was some talk about tax policy, with Clinton indignantly noting and Trump proudly admitting that he hasn’t paid much in the way of income tax since declaring a $916 million loss 20 years ago, but it was unclear if either was committed to changing that the laws that made possible.
Although the moderators did seem favor Clinton they allowed some questions about her recently-leaked big money speeches to Wall Street donors, which Clinton more or less admitted were true, and she embarrassed herself further trying to invoke “Honest” Abe Lincoln and George “I’ll Never Lie” Washington to justify it, but the coming news cycle will no doubt feature Trump’s boasts about the bribes he’s made and similar scandals he’s racked up in the private sector. In Clinton’s favor she didn’t need any laser pointers to guide her onto the stage or suffer a coughing fit or otherwise exhibit any symptoms of the imminently many fatal illnesses that have been ascribed to her, while that sniffling problem of Trump’s that was widely remarked on after the first debate seems to have gotten worse, and that “taking the high road” strategy might work out for her after the media takes the low road for her in the upcoming week.
Trump’s most ardent supporters and the more reluctant and his more reluctant Clinton-hating supporters will be delighted that he outright called her “the devil” and promised to have her imprisoned if he became president, his more die-hard supporter and the more reluctant ones who fear Trump will probably find it redolent of the South American banana republics that Trump warns we’re becoming. Clinton’s most ardent and most reluctant supporters will praise her for taking the high road, and cheer on the media as it takes the low road this week, and by the end of it we’ll be deep in the gutter. Which leaves us loathing both of these horrible people, and what we can guess are their horrible policies, which in both cases don’t even specifically address what to about the national debt and health care and a degenerate culture that has wound up offering two such spectacularly awful choices.
The good news, if you need some, is that there’s only one debate and less than four weeks left before this is all over, one way or the other.

— Bud Norman

Speculating on the Latest Speculations

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reportedly has the walking pneumonia, and has exhibited symptoms of the boogie-woogie flu, which is leading to all sorts of speculation that she might be replaced at that top of her party’s ticket. The speculating isn’t just occurring in the comments sections of the more conspiracy-minded corners of the new media that have been gleefully predicting Clinton’s imminent demise for months now, but also at the old school over-the-air television networks and in the most respectable of the ancien regime ink-on-paper outlets.
We’ll not indulge any guesses about Clinton’s physical condition, as our medical expertise is pretty much limited to our Pop’s all-purpose prescription to put some merthiolate on it, but we’ve been studying both politics and the press long enough to surmise that her campaign might well be in critical condition. Her walking pneumonia was reportedly diagnosed last Friday, the same day the latest round of polls that showed her tenuous lead over the widely reviled Republican nominee slipping further into the margin of error, on Saturday she regaled a homosexual rights group’s fundraiser with her now-infamous remarks about the racist and sexist and homophobic and Islamophobic and “you name it” being a “basket of deplorables” who comprised a full half of Trump’s support, while on Sunday the polite press was still reluctantly reporting the fallout from that gaffe when she had another videotaped moment of weakness that was blamed on her walking pneumonia, which even the most polite press had to admit her walking pneumonia  should have been to revealed the public last Friday. By Monday there was chatter about who might replace her, from one end of the media to the other, and it didn’t seem at all far-fetched.
We’ve also been studying politics and the press long enough to allow for the possibility that Clinton will survive these headlines, just as she and her philandering “Comeback Kid” of a husband have survived so many others, and even in this crazy election year we’d guess it’s still a probability that candidate nominated at the convention will be the nominee on election. The “deplorables” comments will likely be treated more like Democratic nominee’s “bitter clingers” remarks in ’08, which somehow didn’t derail his candidacy, than Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s asides about the government-dependent “47 percent,” which seems to have played a role in his demise. The public might yet decide they prefer a comatose Clinton to either a cognizant Trump or or a cognizant Clinton, too, in which case we could hardly blame it.
Still, one can’t resist the fun of speculating about who might be the nominee should the Democratic coaches decide to send a replacement in from the sidelines. The sports talk show-like chatter on all the political talk shows includes such predictable choices as the ticket’s vice-presidential nominee, former Virginia Senator and Gov. Tim Kaine, the longtime Delaware Senator and sitting Vice President Joe Biden, the self-described socialist and primary runner-up Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the far-left darling of the party back when the Democratic race began with such high hopes and someone who could still realize the Democrats’ long-awaited dream of a First Woman President.
Each of whom, of course, would have his or her own problems. Kaine has an impeccably leftist voting record and a glaring lack of charisma. Biden has been an inconsequential vice president with a noticeably creepy way around young girls for the past eight years or so, and still carries all the plagiarism and hair plug scandals that sank his previous attempts at the top job. Sanders is still a self-described socialist, and even in such crazy election year as this we’d prefer to think that won’t play well with a general electorate. Warren is also further left of center than Clinton, not to mention the obviously white woman’s easily ridiculed claims to an Indian. Pull any other name out of a Democratic hat, and they’ll almost certainly raise similar concerns.
Any name you might pull out of a Democratic hat, on the other hand, wouldn’t be weighed down by so much baggage as Clinton has brought along in her sputtering campaign. Clinton and her philandering “Comeback Kid” of a husband have been generating juicy scandals since their Arkansas days back in the ’80s, and with less than a couple of months left until election day it’s hard to imagine that the pro-Trump media, such as they are, could whip up the same level of indignation and distrust against anyone who has been at least conscientious enough to remain so little-known. More importantly, almost any of them could credibly claim that their political scandals and moral shortcomings can’t compare with those of a thrice-married-to-a-naked-model and four-times- bankrupt casino-and-strip joint-and-reality-show mogul who mocks the handicapped and disparages American prisoners of war and endlessly praises Vladimir Putin and contributes to Clinton’s campaigns and promises the potential students at his “university” that he “personally handpicks” all the professors, to name just a few of the political scandals and moral shortcomings that have caused the Republican nominee to be regarded with such indignation and distrust that he’s still slightly behind even Clinton in the average of the polls.
There’s still the matter of political philosophies  and voting records, but the Republican nominee doesn’t seem to have any of either, and by now the general public seems to have also lost interest all that bosh in any case. If we ever somehow found ourselves running the Democratic party with the sole concern of winning an election we would be yank Clinton on whatever handy pretext presented itself and insert some dully scandal-free yet seemingly physically fit sort of more-or-less centrist, if the party still has any on hand, but we’ve followed politics long enough to bet that won’t happen. Given the chance to run the Republican Party we’d quickly yank Trump for almost any old name you might pull out of a hat, too, but at this glum point that’s also not worth speculating about.

— Bud Norman

The Presidential and the Personal

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s newly fledged campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on the American Broadcasting Company’s “This Week” program Sunday morning, boasting that her candidate had just had “the best week” of his campaign. She had a strong case, as Trump had given well-reviewed speeches on crime and immigration that staked out sensible positions, generally avoided any of the widely-publicized craziness that has marked his campaign, and seemed to signal a more presidential tone with an uncharacteristic admission of “regret” for any unspecified comments he’s made “in the heat of debate” and “particularly where it may have caused personal pain.” Throw in the latest “uh oh” developments on the widely distrusted and disliked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s various ongoing scandals, and it was enough to shave a full point off her lead in Real Clear Politic’s average of the polls.
Conway also boasted that her candidate “doesn’t hurl personal insults,” but we expect that “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and “Little” Marco Rubio and Carly “Look at the Face” Fiorina and Megyn “Bleeding From Wherever” Kelly and that New York Times reporter with the unfortunate bone ailment would agree the case for that claim is quite weak. By the next morning a “tweeting” Trump was adding someone named Joe Scarborough and someone else named Mika Brzezinski to the list of people has hurled personal insults at, and that long awaited presidential tone seemed to have vanished into the pixels of the internet.
Reportedly these Scarborough and Brzezinski people host some television program called “Morning Joe” on the MSNBC cable network, but we cannot attest to this. We rarely watch television, steadfastly refuse to pay a cable company for the dubious privilege, wouldn’t be watching MSNBC in any case, and that “Morning Joe” title suggests it runs a time when we’re contentedly sleeping or grouchily brewing a couple of mugs of more literal java. So far as we can tell from the press Scarborough is the crazy-left MSNBC’s token Republican, much as the Obama-loving David Brooks is the token Republican at The New York Times and the NeverTrumping Jennifer Rubin has the title at The Washington Post, and Brzezinski is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who we sadly remember as a counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, but apparently they had once enjoyed a happy relationship with Trump. Ever since he wrapped up the Republican nomination all that “free media” Trump once trumpeted has been coming with a price, though, and he seems to have taken the more critical tone on “Morning Joe” rather personally.
“Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of @JoeNBC and his very insecure longtime girlfriend, @morningmika,” Trump “tweeted” at an absurdly early hour Monday morning, adding a defiant and exclamation-marked “Two clowns!” Although we’re not at all hepped up to the latest internet lingo we presume that “@JoeNBC is” a “Twitter handle” for Scarborough and “@morningmika” is some enigma machine-generated codeword for Brzezinski, and so far as we can tell from the scandal rags that part about a “very insecure longtime girlfriend” is a reference to some recent gossip that Scarborough and Brzezinski are partners both on and off the air. That rumor had already been reported on in the notorious “Page 6” in the tabloid New York Post, which has both endorsed Trump and run naked pictures of his third wife in sapphic poses on its front page, but when things calm down we’ll eagerly await whatever juicy details Trump has to add about the “real story,” along with his explanation of how he came to know such irrelevant information.
Whatever off-screen canoodling this Scarborough person and that Brzezinski person might or might not be doing does nothing to add or detract from their opinions, which we don’t care about in the least anyway, and surely a guy who has publicly boasted about all the married babes he’s bagged and whose third wife is showing up naked in sapphic poses on the front page of the Trump-endorsing New York Post is not the guy to call them out on whatever they might have been up to. At this late point in the sexual revolution we’re more more interested in the 15,000 e-mails to and from the Democratic nominee that have lately turned up, the very existence of which are a scandal and include countless more that only add to her already burdensome 25 plus years of scandals, and we’d think a Republican nominee would also be more concerned with that.
This Republican nominee takes things personally, though, and apparently there was nothing in those 15,000 previously stonewalled e-mails about him.

— Bud Norman

From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

There’s nothing we can find in the Democratic National Committee’s recently “hacked” and by now widely-disseminated-across-the-internet computer files that indicates how much they’re paying their information technology and opposition research employees, but whatever it is they’re grossly overpaid. It’s embarrassing enough that an outfit in the business of the running the entire country can’t fend off such predictable cyber espionage, especially when there’s an ongoing criminal investigation into party’s presumptive presidential nominee’s similarly sloppy systems while serving as Secretary of State, but that newly-revealed case they came up with against the Republican party’s presumptive nominee was more cringe-inducing yet.
Hilariously stamped “confidential” on each of its 237 printed-out pages, the report does indeed make a convincing case that the presumptive Republican nominee is a rather nasty piece of work. “One thing is clear about about Donald Trump. There is only one person he has ever looked out for, and that is himself,” the report begins. “Whether it’s the American workers, the Republican Party, or his wives, Trump’s only fidelity has been to himself. Trump will say or do anything to get what he wants without regard for those he harms.” The following 236 pages have ample and needlessly repetitive citations to back it all up, along with all the mocking the handicapped and disparaging American prisoners of wars and downright creepily sexist statements and the four corporate bankruptcies and all the out-sourcing and hiring of foreign workers that the anti-outsourcing and anti-immigrant nominee did and the generally annoying schoolyard bully-boy persona he’s nursed in his long career as a reality star, along with most but not nearly all of the rest of the by-now familiar litany, and it’s all in Trump’s own spoken or written or “tweeted” words, along with the undeniably racist and sexist stuff he’s “re-tweeted,” and by now we don’t feel at all obligated to deny any of it, but by now the Democratic National Committee will have to come up with something better than that.
Such once respected and formerly Republican publications as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The New Criterion and The Central Standard Times have been making the same points since the onset of the Republican primary campaign, when there were two or three men and one woman in the 17-person field that we thought would have made formidable nominees and fine presidents, and 12 others we would have found at least tolerable and likely electable, and it’s all too plain to see how that has worked out. We’d like to think we’ve been even more thorough in our criticisms of the presumptive Republican nominee than that 237-page report, and made the case with more literary flair, but What those sloppy and incomplete and surely overpaid cut-and-pasters don’t understand, and which has at long last dawned on us, is that none of it matters. Much of it is by now “old news,” as the presumptive Democratic and her former president husband have long used to describe their lifelong histories of scandals, and a lot of people seem to like the idea of a Nietzschean will-to-power type who will crush his enemies and revel in the lamentations of their women just like fellow celebrity former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in that “Conan the Barbarian” hit, and even such reluctant sorts of Republicans as ourselves we can see the appeal given that the presumptive Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She’s a nasty piece of work, too, and we and all the rest of the once respected and formerly Republican publications have been making that case since way back when the presumptive Republican nominee was inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his interviewers how great she was and contributing a six-figure check to her family’s phony-baloney influence-peddling “family foundation.” If the undoubtedly overpaid “oppo researchers” at the Republican National want a hacked report with at least more completeness and literary than their Democratic counterparts, they can feel free to have “fair use” to our many years of ridicule and denunciation and carefully cited criticisms of this awful woman. All that already well known and soon to be revived talk about Trump’s well-publicized and oft-bragged-about and thoroughly tawdry sex life is pretty much negated by any mention of the word “Clinton,” which is by now a double entendre, and at least he was the only one of the two in the current race who was getting all the action, so far as we know, and America always love a winner, except for that significant percentage of the electorate that seems to identify with victims. If Clinton never shafted any private sector workers, as Trump surely did, it’s only because she rarely hired any in her long and inglorious tax-supported history, and if Trump never peddled any public sector favors, as Clinton surely has, it was only because he’d never before offered his talents to public service and instead been in the public sector buying favors and then bragging about it on a Republican debate stage. As to which of these two awful people has ever demonstrated any fidelity to anyone but themselves, we’ll leave it to the rest of this suddenly strange country to decide.
We’re not inclined to offer advice to Democrats, but we feel such pity for those sorry but overpaid souls in the national committee’s “oppo research” department that we’ll suggest they not bother at all with Trump’s outrageously over-the-top remarks regarding immigration from Islamic countries, because as crazy as it admittedly is it isn’t quite so crazy as the presumptive Democratic nominee’s insistence that Islam has noting to do with terrorism, and it reminds everyone that her entire tenure as Secretary of State was just awful, and that people tend to believe the presumptive Republican nominee’s false claims that he’s called every major foreign policy decision of his lifetime perfectly, believe him. The report suggests attacking Trump on his calls for lower income tax rates at the top brackets and his opposition to a rise in the minimum wage, which once warmed our formerly Republican hearts, but by now Trump has of course abandoned these positions for the moment and is out-bidding the Democrat for the disgruntled support of her self-described socialist challenger. Back in the old days the presumptive Democratic nominee’s then-president husband gave rise to the term “triangulation” describe how they roped in all their party’s base without overly offending the Republicans, but we will warn his wife’s “oppo research” team that their opponent is also pretty good at it.
What that hapless Democratic “oppo research” team needs, if we were inclined to give them some advice, is something that even haven’t yet come up with on Trump. The estimable Jonah Goldberg over at the once respected and formerly Republican National Review noted that Trump has plausibly bragged about how he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, but amusingly wondered what might happen if Trump were to shoot a gorilla, and whether it would make any difference if the gorilla had come from Mexico or some Middle Eastern country. Something along those lines will probably be necessary, as the public now seems inured to the idea of some scandal-ridden miscreant running the country, and the polls show that the vast majority of the public can’t stand either of them, and our best guess is it will come down to some weird season finale twist in this gruesome surreality show.

— Bud Norman