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A Slight Republican Revolt in Congress

On Wednesday seven Republican senators helped pass a resolution opposed to President Donald Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and it’s expected that today enough Republicans will join the Democrats in voting for a resolution opposed to Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to divert funds for a wall along the southern border. There aren’t enough of these restive Republicans to help the Democrats override the expected presidential vetoes, and most of the party remains willing to go along with anything Trump wants, but Trump should probably be worried about what happens after that.
The only apparent reason for the defections of the seven Republican senators who voted against Trump’s middle east foreign policy and the four announced senators and perhaps as many as six more who will be voting against Trump’s national emergency is that they’re standing on traditional Republican principles. Defying the wishes does not serve the political interests of any Republican politician at the moment, even the ones in the most purplish states and districts, as Trump is more popular with the party at the moment than any longstanding Republican principles. An occasional show of independence from the more broadly unpopular president might prove useful in a general election in a lot of states and districts, but a politician needs his party’s nomination to get there, and an annoyed “tweet” and a disparaging nickname from Trump has already knocked a lot of incumbents from their seats.
The purging of Republicans suspected of less-than-complete loyalty to Trump is one of the reasons the party has such a slim majority in the Senate and the Democrats have such a sizable majority in the House of Representatives, but for now the party is sticking with complete loyalty to Trump. Even so, Trump’s weird indulgence of Saudi Arabia’s worst behavior, and his outrageous power grab of the Congress’ power to appropriate public in pursuit of a damned dumb border wall, are both so antithetical to traditional Republican values that are still a few Republicans left in Congress who have to draw a line somewhere.
America has maintained a close relationship with Saudi Arabia since President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, and put up with a lot of bad behavior through the past many decades of Democratic and Republican administrations alike, but Trump’s effusive affection for the Saudi dictatorship exceeds the post-war bipartisan foreign consensus that was probably too indulgent all along. America also has some carefully-negotiated and strategically important military and economic arrangements with the government of Yemen that Saudi Arabia has been ruthlessly trying to topple, even such stalwart cold warriors as President Ronald Reagan would cut loose allies in the Philippines and South Africa and elsewhere when their human rights abuses became intolerable to a western conscience, and there is something suspiciously weird about Trump’s policy in the region.
Suspicious types such as ourselves will note that Trump has publicly boasted about the millions of dollars of business he does with the Saudis, and seemed to love the lavish red carpet they rolled out for him on his first state trip, and that the son-in-law Trump has charged with bringing about Middle East pace also has an ongoing business relationship with the Saudis, which does seem one apparent explanation. On the other hand, perhaps Trump just likes the Saudis’ style. He happily accepted dictator Mohammed bin Salman’s assurance that he had nothing to do with the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Turkish embassy, but he also accepted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assurance that he would never have meddled in America’s election, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s assurances that he felt terrible to hear about the death-by-torture of American Otto Warmbier in one of his torture chambers.
Perhaps there’s some hyper-sophisticated genius to to all of this that such lesser minds as ourselves and all of Trump’s top advisors and appointees and the consensus opinion of the intelligence and foreign policy experts can’t quite discern, but we can’t blame any traditional Republican for voting against it.
There’s all the more traditional Republican reasons, as far as we’re concerned, to vote against that national emergency declaration that Trump openly admitted in front of all the “fake news” cameras he didn’t really need to declare. As always there are serious problems at the border, but somehow the nation has survived and even thrived without a big beautiful border wall or orphaning blameless children and similarly harsh measures, and until recently Republicans were satisfied with that. Back when Democratic presidents were brazenly exceeding their constitutional executive powers Republicans used to rightly object to that, but for now most of them will loyal stand by as Trump usurps the Congress’ constitutional power to appropriate funds and the property rights of the landowners along the southern border who see no need for a big and beautiful and downright dumb wall.
What’s more, Trump is planning to use the national emergency declaration to build the wall with funds that had been appropriated for military spending in various states and districts around the country. Some Republicans will therefore wind up voting against military spending in the states and districts, and at that point the Grand Old Party will have abandoned one of its most cherished principles.
So we’re glad to see there at least a few Republicans left in Congress who aren’t completely loyal to Trump, and we’re especially happy to see that one of them is Kansas’ own Sen. Jerry Moran, who always struck us as a traditionally Republican sort of guy, He’s not up for reelection in this reliably Republican state until after the 2020 presidential election, and the state’s two big export industries aren’t sold on Trump’s protectionism and the churches have some mild discomfort about Trump’s character, and most of Moran’s fellow defectors are similarly well positioned, so perhaps they are making some political calculations.
We surely hope so, as we’d very much like to see some semblance of the traditional Republican party survive Trump.

— Bud Norman

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Pooping the Grand Old Party

President Donald Trump had a working lunch with al; the Republican members of the Senate on Tuesday, and oh how we would have loved to have been there. Trump always goes over well with adoring audiences of the true-blue fans clad in red “Make America Great Again” ball caps, but tends to lash out at critics, so all the Republican members of the Senate made for an intriguingly mixed crowd.
Most of the Senators were willing to laugh at Trump’s jokes and indulge his boasts, even if they wouldn’t go so far as to join in the usual rally cries of “build that wall” and “lock her up,” and all were probably eager to hear his support for their mostly agreed-upon tax-cutting plans, which was the stated reason for the lunch. The president had just renewed his recent war of words with Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker, though, and Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake was about to take the Senate floor with a blistering denunciation of Trump’s rhetoric, which shortly followed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s scathing remarks to a documentarian about the bone spurs that had spared Trump service in the Vietnam War, along with other intra-party acrimony. Trump’s audience also included Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Sasse, and majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, all of whom the president has also been publicly insulting lately, which is a big chunk of the Republican party’s oh-so-slight 52 members in the 100-seat Senate.
The lunch was off limits to the press, but the reporters gathered outside did get a few quotes from departing members about what Trump said. Second-ranking Republican Sen. John Cornyn said “It wasn’t a whole lot about taxes. It was about the late nine months and the success in terms of the regulatory environment, consumer confidence, the stock market, and also the need to get work done.” Given Trump’s aversion penchant for taking credit for anything people might like and his aversion to specific policy details, along with Cronyn’s generally reliable reputation for honesty, we don’t doubt a single word of it. Nobody mentioned any insults, though, and we assume the food was delicious, so the lunch seems to have gone well enough for the Trump.
It was nonetheless a tough day for Trump, though, as his Republican critics got in some pretty good shots, and the Democratic media passed them all along to their audiences with a strange new respect. Corker had once been a reluctant Trump supporter but criticized the president for praising the “good people on both sides” of a white supremacist rally in Virginia that killed a counter-protestor, questioning Trump’s temperament and stability, Trump responded with “tweets” calling him “Liddle” Bob Corker and quite falsely accusing the Senator of being for the Iranian nuclear deal he had in fact aggressively opposed, a claim the president was still “tweeting” on Tuesday, when Corker was telling the press that “I’ve seen no evolution in an upward way. In fact, it seems to be devolving.”
Flake never endorsed Trump’s candidacy nor his presidency, and wrote a book titled “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle” that was clearly a anti-Trump statement, so of course he was dubbed “Flake Jeff Flake” by Trump in the ensuing “tweeted” counter-punches. When he took to the Senate floor on Tuesday Flake never mentioned Trump by name, but his warning that “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons,” was understood even by Trump to be talking about Trump. The president can “tweet” any insults back at “Flake” that he wants, but they only bolster Flake’s case.
Flake might have been emboldened by his state’s senior Republican senator and failed Republican presidential nominee’s longstanding feud with the Trump, who infamously scoffed at McCain’s heroic decision to endure extra years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison rather than desert the prisoners he commanded by saying “he’s only a hero because he got caught. I like a guy who didn’t get, Okay?” McCain’s comment about how Trump had avoided the war altogether because of business school deferments and a bone spur injury that somehow has never hindered his golf career also scored points, also scored some points. Arizona was once the home of failed Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater, who wrote the original “Conscience of a Conservative” and was among the Republicans who counseled President Richard Nixon to resign, and we guess that bolstered Flake as well.
Previous Republican President George W. Bush has also recently weighed in with a denunciation of Trump that never mentioned him by name, and along with senators Murkowski and Collins and Sasse and the majority leader we’re sure there are other Republicans in the Senate and House and down here at our grassroots level who share the same exasperation. Many of those Senators who actually would be willing to don the “MAGA” ball caps and chant the “lock her up” and “build that wall” slogans would probably be willing to shift to whatever side where the favorable winds are blowing, too, and for now the Republican party is a tough crowd.
Bush is term-limited out of public office, Corker had already announced he wouldn’t seek re-election and Flake made the same announcement to his state’s biggest newspaper just 15 minutes before that blistering speech, McCain is too old to seek re-election even if he wasn’t battling brain cancer, and the rest of those Republicans have their own reasons of principle of local politics for taking their stands against Trump’s bullying behavior. Trump has plenty of anti-establishment supporters and some well-heeled donors to drive their likes from the party, meanwhile, and although some of the candidates they’re coming up with are kooky enough lose elections even in reliably Republican states there’s a chance he’ll at least wind up with control of the once Grand Old Party.
Which will at least satisfy Trump and his supporters to the extent that it annoys both the Democrats and the equally-hated Republicans establishment, but it doesn’t seem likely to result in any legislative victories. Flake and Corker have both been reliable votes for the most cherished objectives of the Republican party, even if they’re seemingly wimpish in insulting the opposition, and for most part so have the rest of the dissidents, and the anti-establishment alternatives seem more interested in feuding with whatever establishment survives rather than finding long sought solutions, even if they do somehow get elected. The Republican party might just be passing its most cherished bills with the majorities they have in the Senate and House, and in most cases we think the president would be signing it, if not for the take-no-prisoners brand of politics that fuddy-duddy establishments have bravely decried.

— Bud Norman

Insanity in the Heartland

Politics here in Kansas is now so screwy that the Democrats are in court pleading they shouldn’t be forced to field a candidate for Senate and the Republican nominee is lagging in the polls. The explanation for this otherwise inexplicable turn of events is a self-described “independent” candidate offering the usual pablum about bipartisanship and practical solutions, an entrenched Republican incumbent who barely survived a primary challenge by a scandal-tainted neophyte because he’s considered too bipartisan and practical by the party’s base, and the gullibility of the average voter.
The self-described independent was once registered as a Democrat, once ran for the Senate as a Democrat, is now very careful not to deny that he will caucus with the Democrats, and to the carefully attuned ear he still sounds a lot like a Democrat, but it remains to be seen if a majority of this reliably Republican state will reach the obvious conclusion that he is a Democrat. On Thursday he came out for the Democrats’ proposal to re-write the First Amendment to restrict criticism of the Democratic Party, which is about as Democratic a policy as one can endorse, but even that might not make the necessary impression on those Kansans distracted by the upcoming basketball season.
One can only hope that the average Kansan, who is as least as apt to exercise his First Amendment rights as the citizen of any other state, will notice that putative independent Greg Orman, usually described in the Kansas press as a wealthy businessman from Johnson County, is on the record with his support of the odious amendment the to the constitution recently proposed by the Democrats that would allow for further federal regulation of spending on political speech. The amendment is touted as an antidote merely to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which reasonably found that that prior restraint of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie was a gross violation of the the First Amendment, but its inevitable result is a regulatory regime that will restrict conservative opinions while allowing the liberal riposte. Orman’s endorsement of this outrage should convince any sensible Kansan of his Democratic tendencies, but we anxiously await the verdict on how many of our fellow Kansans are sensible.
That entrenched Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, has an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which has spiked during the age of the locally unpopular President Barack Obama, and although that heretical 14 percent has alienated the party’s conservative base we hope they’ll notice that he’s been a stalwart defender of free speech. That Citiziens United decision involved money from the demonized Koch Brothers, who are a mainstay of the Kansas economy and have been forthrightly defended by Roberts on the Senate floor, and Roberts has been quite admirable in his defense of the decision of the principle of letting even the most targeted people express their opinions in the the public square.
Thus far the national Republican party seems aware of the danger that such a usually reliable state is in play, and we’re hopeful that Roberts will have the resources to make his convincing case to the people of his state. The state’s media won’t be much help, inclined as it is to present that radical constitutional amendment as an old-fashioned sunshine law that will reveal the nefarious money-bags greasing the system, but given the mood of the state we are hopeful that Orman will eventually be regarded as another Democrat and meet the usual Democrats’ fate. It’s a tricky race to handicap, though, and could go either way.
Kansas’ prognosticators seem split on how it might turn out. One school of thought holds that forcing the Democrats onto the ballot will split the anti-incumbent vote, while another posits that without an official Democratic candidate Ogman will be regarded as the de facto Democrat and suffer accordingly. Roberts’ reputation as a get-along Republican will cost him a few votes from the party faithful, but might pick up a few among those who buy into Orman’s happy talk about bipartisanship. We’ll be keeping our fingers cross that the party faithful recognize a censorious Democrat when they see one, that those with fantastical hopes of bipartisanship won’t mind Roberts’ occasional offenses against Republican orthodoxy, and that Kansas of all places doesn’t screw up the Republicans’ hopes of taking the Senate.

— Bud Norman

The Climate and the Political Climate

Perhaps it would all make perfect sense if only we held the fashionable faith in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, or the divine omniscience of President Barack Obama, but a reported plan for the administration to go around the usual constitutional requirements and oblige the United States to a treaty that would restrict its carbon emissions and thus save the world from climatic catastrophe seems wrong in every way.
As heretical as it might sound in this devoutly post-religious age, we remain skeptical that there is any anthropogenic global warming going on. Such skepticism is now considered somehow anti-science, an odd state of affairs, but we’ve read the hacked e-mails where the global warming alarmists were alarmed by the 18-year-pause their almighty models didn’t anticipate, and noticed the lack of predicted hurricanes and tornados and other calamities that were confidently predicted but have not materialized on schedule, and find ample reason to suspect the science isn’t so darn settled that we should hobble the American economy because of its tentative conclusions.
Even if there is a problem, there’s no reason to believe that the proposed treaty would solve it. Most countries will ignore it, including such heavy carbon-emitters as China and India as well as such erstwhile economic allies as Australia and Canada, and happily take up whatever profitable and job-creating enterprises the United States high-mindedly relinquishes for the sake of a futile gesture. The New York Times’ hopeful description of the plan says it would “name and shame” countries to force them into compliance, but it’s hard to imagine any country sacrificing economic growth for fear of being named and shamed by Obama. We’re nearly six years into the Age of Obama, and thus far the rest of the world still seems to be acting in its own perceived self-interest without much regard for Obama what thinks about it.
That part about going around the usual constitutional requirements is troubling, too. On issues ranging from those pesky immigrations laws that the president never liked to the eponymous Obamacare legislation that the president himself signed into law, Obama has already drawn criticism not just from his usual Republican critics but also the more principle liberals about his disregard for the constitutional restraints on his power, and this treaty ploy or a rumored amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and especially a combination of the two would have to be considered a constitutional crisis. We rather like the constitution, and would prefer to see it survive the present administration, and we’re sure most liberals would as well if the next administration turns out to be Republican, and a non-solution to a non-problem seems an especially poor reason to jettison such a successful system of governance.
There might be some political advantage that the president stands to gain from the gambit, but we can’t spot it. Heretical skepticism about global warming is widespread, and even most of the people who read about it in the paper and figure it must be true are not going to pleased that Obama has kept his campaign promise to make electricity rates “skyrocket.” Administration officials freely concede that they’ll try to bypass the 67 votes in the Senate that the constitution requires for ratification of a treaty because there’s not a snowball’s chance is global warming that they’ll ever find enough suckers in the chamber to vote for this awful policy, and that implicitly acknowledges that public sentiment is such that even in the most red states even the most entrenched senators would fear the wrath of their constituents. Like the threatened executive action granting amnesty this might be meant to provoke an impeachment, which would rally all those dispirited Democrats who see no reason that Obama shouldn’t be granted dictatorial powers, but he’s picking the fight over stands that the public overwhelmingly oppose and are likely to bring those opponents to the polls in record numbers.
The only explanation is that the president has not only a fashionable but a very sincere belief in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, and an even more fervent faith in his own divine omniscience. That is not reassuring.

— Bud Norman

Settling for Less Than a Third Term

There is speculation in the press that First Lady Michelle Obama will make a run for the Senate in ’16, and we are heartened to hear it. As much as we dread the prospect of her ever holding any public office, it is an encouraging sign of the left’s lowered expectations that she’s settling for something so inconsequential as the Senate.
Way back in ’08, when hope and change and every liberal chin were in the air, the ambitions were greater. Candidate Barack Obama was sending tingling feelings down the legs of television commentators, being hailed by his awestruck admirers as a “messiah” and “an attuned being with powerful luminosity and high-vibration intensity who will actually usher in a new way of being,” his wife was promising that “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual,” the man himself proclaimed that his nomination to the presidency marked “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” and all of the smart people and most of the electorate bought into it. Our most earnestly pro-Obama friends confidently predicted that by the middle of Obama’s second term the country would be clamoring for the repeal of the 22nd Amendment to allow for his third term, or that Michelle Obama would win by a landslide to provide another eight years by proxy.
As unlikely as it sounded, even at the time, the trick had been successfully tried before. When Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace ran into term limits back in the late ’60s his wife, the delightfully named Lurleen Wallace, became the state’s first and thus-far only female governor on a promise to continue all of his policies. Both Wallaces were strict segregationists, so the Obamas might prefer another precedent, but at least they were Democrats and showed that it can be done. There’s also former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s successful run for  Senate in New York after she took her carpet bag to that reliably blue state, but the Obamas will probably also prefer not to cite that. In any case neither analogy quite fits, as Alabama was clamoring for more of George Wallace and New York couldn’t get enough Clinton, proving that craziness has taken hold in all sorts of places at all sorts of times, but even our most earnestly pro-Obama friends aren’t saying anything about either the 22nd Amendment or a Michelle for President campaign.
This suggests that some sanity is creeping back into the body politic, and we welcome that, but it is distressing to think that there still enough of the craziness left that Michelle Obama might wind up in the Senate. She’d be running in Illinois, where her husband was an ever “present” legislator for several years before winning his own Senate seat and then carrying the state twice by large margins in presidential races, and although Republican Sen. Mike Kirk is generally well-regarded and is so clean by Illinois standard that he hasn’t so much as been sent to prison he would be hard-pressed to match the fund-raising and media cover and star power of another Obama campaign. Recent polling suggests that former Obama chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unpopular, the state’s dire fiscal situation and lowered bond ratings and high unemployment and general dishevelment is widely noticed, and those down-state Republicans are highly energized, but it’s still Illinois and anything is still possible there.
First Ladies have always enjoyed a certain status as women who married well, too, for at least as long as we can remember. Jackie Kennedy was probably the most revered of our days, what with the good looks and the high fashion and all, and Hillary Clinton benefited even further from the public sympathy for her husband’s serial infidelities, but even someone so un-telegenic as Pat Nixon always topped the most-admired polls even, and the gracefully non-controversial Laura Bush held the spot even as her husband was being pilloried in the press and popular culture. Michelle Obama will reap the same benefits, and a press ridden with white guilt will strive to give her just a bit more, so as long as she isn’t running for president she should be formidable.
Any possible Michelle Obama campaign is still two years away, however, and if current trends continue her name will be less valuable even in Illinois, but we suppose she could run on her own qualifications as a candidate. She went to Princeton and graduated with honors on the strength of the papers she wrote about racist and awful it was, parlayed that and her husband’s political connections into a three-hundred-grand-a-year diversity gig at a hospital, spent her years as First Lady staying at ritzy vacation spots and living high on the taxpayer hog while giving speeches about how tough she used to have it, promoted a school lunch menu that children everywhere hated, and fueled endless tabloid rumors about her marriage with photographs of herself sizing up the French Prime Minister’s far hotter wife or glaring with clearly hostile intent at her husband as he poses for “selfies” with comely European heads of state and otherwise looks foolish on the world stage. She famously declared that her husband’s likely victory in a presidential race was “the first time in my adult life I’ve been proud of my country,” a quote that Sen. Kirk might want to revive in his campaign advertisements, and she’ll have to make a case why she’s still proud that Barack Obama hasn’t allowed us to live our lives as usual. The people of Illinois might buy it, but at least she won’t be selling it to the entire country.

— Bud Norman

A Bad Deal

The front page of Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer was mostly devoted to the big deal that the Obama administration has struck with the mad mullahs of Iran regarding that country’s nuclear weapons program. We get back east often enough to be aware of the paper’s leftward inclinations, and expected that the coverage would laud the deal as peace in our time and a welcome break from the tiresome chore of writing help but concede that the deal sounds awfully fishy.
The agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry will ease the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy and weakened its government’s hold on a restive population in exchange for a six month suspensions of some but not all of its uranium enrichment programs. Just the mention of Kerry’s name would suffice to arouse the suspicions of an inland observer, but even in the big cities on the east coast it did not go unnoticed that the sanctions are a major concession and that a temporary halt to small parts of the nuclear program are not. While it was duly noted that the Kerry had somehow managed to get his negotiating partners on the United Nations Security to go along with it, including the French surrender monkeys who had originally balked at the idea, it was also mentioned that Israel and all of the Sunni Arab nations within missile range of the Shiite Persians in Iran are far less enthusiastic about the arrangement.
The deal is so bad that it has brought Israel and Saudi Arabia into an alliance, which takes some doing, and The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it might even be bad enough to bring Republicans and Democrats together to nix the deal in the Senate. If that were to happen it would be an embarrassment to the Obama administration and further weaken its already diminished political clout, which the eastern press seems to regard as a concern rather than a silver lining around the dark cloud of the deal, but if Iran’s government were to exploit the chance to rebuild its economy and strengthen its firm grip on the country while delaying its nuclear ambitions for a mere six months that would also prove harmful to Obama’s reputation. A nuclear strike on Tel Aviv or Riyadh would be an even bigger catastrophe than Obamacare, which also takes some doing, so perhaps the eastern press is just trying to sound the warnings that they regret having left un-sounded when health care reform was being discussed and could have been averted.

— Bud Norman

A Long, Long Cruze

Sen. Ted Cruz is still talking as we write this, and might yet be talking as you read this. We’re still not clear on what he hopes to accomplish, other than expressing his full contempt for Obamacare, but we admire the effort nonetheless.
The rules of the Senate are so confoundingly arcane that nobody has offered an understandable explanation of what advantage, if any, Cruz will achieve by his night-long harangue against the hated health care law. He apparently will not delay a vote on a House bill to fund everything in the government except Obamacare, meaning that in the strictest sense it is not even a filibuster, and nothing he can say even in hours of oratory is liking to change enough minds to prevent the Democrat-controlled Senate from rejecting this sensible proposal. His lengthy speech has even annoyed some of his fellow Republicans, still skittish about the inevitable stalemate that could temporarily shut down much of the government and bring the public’s wrath onto the party, and much of the news coverage has been sneering.
Still, anyone who goes to such extraordinary lengths to express his full contempt for Obamacare deserves congratulations and support. No matter how long his voice and legs hold out Cruz will not speak long enough to mention everything that is wrong Obamacare, and even if it’s nothing more than a publicity gimmick it is bringing valuable attention to a worthy cause. Those Republicans who are trying to dent the Senator’s rising popularity with the party’s conservative base are unlikely to succeed, and will only undermine the unity required to ultimately repeal a law that they also claim to oppose.

— Bud Norman

What’s Bugging the Republicans

The young folks might not believe it, but way back in the ‘70s illegal electronic eavesdropping on a political office was considered a very big deal. When some men were caught doing it on behalf of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign it was all anybody could talk about. The television networks ran the congressional hearings on the matter instead of soap operas and game shows, and in the dark days before cable that meant everyone had to watch, minor players became major celebrities, books were published, a Hollywood movie with big-name stars was made, and Nixon wound up resigning in disgrace with his party was so tarnished that Jimmy Carter wound up as president.
This largely forgotten episode was brought to mind Tuesday by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell’s allegation that his political office has been “bugged,” as the ‘70s-era lingo would have it. A Federal Bureau of Investigation probe has reportedly just been launched and as of yet there is no officially sanctioned truth to the allegation, but neither is there any other apparent explanation for how an audio tape of a campaign strategy session conducted in McConnell’s office wound up in the hands of the far-left Mother Jones magazine. Even if the worst-case scenario is proved true it is unlikely to become such an all-consuming story as the Watergate scandal once was, but given the past standards that inspired so many of today’s press one would expect some attention to be paid to even the most innocuous possibilities.
Mother Jones and much of the rest of the press seem more scandalized by what’s on the tape, however, instead of how it was acquired. The tape captures McConnell and his staff discussing how they might respond to a potential challenge by the motion picture actress Ashley Judd, which is apparently shocking conduct at a campaign strategy session, and they even compound the horror by considering pointing out flaws in her character and political positions. One aide goes so far as to suggest they make an issue of her past mental breakdowns and other psychiatric problems, information he acquired by reading her autobiography. Judd eventually decided to not run for Senate in her long-abandoned home state, presumably on the advice of more seasoned Democrats who advised her that a far-left Hollywood with outspoken views against guns and coal and other beloved Kentucky values who brings a “psychological support dog” to interviews was unlikely to win in a staunchly conservative state that had recently elected the likes of McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, no matter how memorable her many nude scenes, but it was still outrageous to the refined sensibilities of Mother Jones that McConnell would ever even contemplate saying anything unfavorable about her.
Certainly the people at that “bugged” Democratic National Committee headquarters back in the ‘70s would have never been caught uttering an unkind word about Nixon, or at least that was the impression one got from all that wall-to-wall Watergate coverage back in the day. The only story then was that political operatives had illegally eavesdropped on an opponent’s conversations, and it was considered so abhorrent that even such stalwart Republicans as McConnell now use the term “Nixonian” to disparage the practice. This time around the outrage will probably be relatively muted, and McConnell’s stalwart Republicanism is likely the reason why.

— Bud Norman

Hooray for Partisanship

Dick Lugar isn’t the worst Senator in Washington, D.C., not by any means, but an institution that fancies itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” should be able to do better. The Republican voters in Indiana apparently came to the same conclusion, as they ousted the longtime incumbent in Tuesday’s primary in favor of a fellow named Richard Mourdock.

The result has already provoked much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the leftward end of the pundit class, who fret that the result heralds the end of bi-partisanship, moderation, and reasonableness. Lugar’s 77 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union was high enough for the Republicans to elect him six times, but low enough to win plaudits from the press and the purveyors of respectable opinion, and his opponent was endorsed by those crazed Tea Party types and the National Rifle Association, so the rather lopsided result is widely considered as an affront to polite society. The president even issued a statement lamenting Lugar’s “retirement,” a fitting tribute given that Mourdock often taunted Lugar as “Obama’s favorite Republican.”

Those same people who are lamenting Lugar’s loss to a Republican would have cheered his loss to a Democrat, of course, and we suspect their concern for bi-partisanship is similarly partisan. They define bi-partisanship as Republican willingness to go along with liberal ideas, so it’s quite natural that the more rock-ribbed Republicans of Indiana would eventually grow weary of Lugar for the very reasons he was respected by the left.

What are the great accomplishments of bi-partisanship, anyway? Most of the major legislation passed in recent years with a significant number of votes from both parties has been horrible. During the George W. Bush years it brought us the No Child Left Behind Act, an unholy alliance between Bush and Ted Kennedy that is now reviled by both right and left, as well as the prescription drug benefits, which annoyed the budget hawks while failing to sate the left’s appetite for more control of the health system, and the Troubled Assets Relief Program, which didn’t stave off a recession or cause anyone to reconsider Bush’s reputation as a right-wing extremist. During the first two years of his administration Obama and his huge Democratic majorities in Congress pushed through a stimulus package with little Republican support and an Obamacare overhaul with no Republican votes at all, which means that if only a few Democrats had decided to be bi-partisan those travesties could have prevented, but that’s not the kind of bi-partisanship that Lugar’s eulogists are talking about.

Mourdock could wind up losing the seat to Democratic nominee Joe Donnely, of course, which would leave the Indiana Republicans looking back fondly on the 77-percent-conservative Lugar. There’s reason to believe that he will win, though, given the victory by staunchly conservative Indiana Sen. Dan Coats in the 2010 election that threw out the Democratic majority in the House and the Democratic super-majority in the Senate, and that would be an improvement.

— Bud Norman