Overtimes and Sex Scandals in Prime Time

The “60 Minutes” program’s much-hyped and long-delayed interview with a pornographic video performer named Stormy Daniels was delayed another half-hour or so on Palm Sunday by the University of Kansas Jayhawks’ overtime victory in a barnburner of a game with Duke University’s Blue Demons in the college basketball tournament, but the compelling lead-in probably boosted the ratings.
Although the interview proved somewhat less salacious than some reality show fans might have hoped for, and got bogged down in a bunch of blah-blah-blah about apparent campaign finance violations and other legal matters and less prurient issues, it still made for must-see-TV. The pornographic video performer was dishing the dirt about her alleged decade-old sexual relationship with then fading reality-show star and now President Donald Trump, which allegedly happened not long after Trump’s third wife gave birth to his fifth child, and it takes a pretty stiff Republican neck to turn away from that.
Daniels said that she spanked the future president with a rolled up a copy of a Forbes magazine that had his picture on the cover, as she had done in a long-suppressed but recently published interview with the “In Touch” tabloid, but insisted that it was more jokey than kinky. She explained that on their intimate evening together in a bungalow at the Hollywood Hills Hotel he had tried to impress her with the magazine cover, she responded that she wasn’t impressed and was tempted to spank him with it, that he obliged by pulling down his pants but not his briefs, and after a couple of smacks they both had a good laugh about it. She says he treated her differently afterwards, though, and then goes on to tell a prime-time-in-these-tawdry–times tale of a pornographic video performer’s unprotected sexual encounter with a future president.
All that blah-blah-blah about campaign finance laws and other less prurient matters seems to back it up. Trump’s longtime “fixer” of a lawyer has publicly admitted that just after the “Access Hollywood” tape and just before the election he paid Daniels $130,000 not to talk about such things, and insists he did so out of the kindness of the heart and without the knowledge of his client. So far as we can tell that’s either a laughable lie and dis-barrable offense or an apparent violation of campaign law and probably something to do with the tax code, or Trump was paying a porn performer not to talk about something he insists never happened, which is perfectly legal so far as we can tell but doesn’t look at all good.
Daniels recalls times she took Trump’s phone calls on her speaker phone in front of her incredulous porn industry friends, who could presumably recall that to some to noisome deposition-taking attorneys, intimates that she has corroborating e-mails and text messages, and her own rather ferocious and seemingly far more competent attorney has recently “tweeted” a picture of a digital video disc in a safe deposit box as a warning not to doubt her account. There’s also the interview that “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper had conducted for his more full-time gig with the Cable News Network with a former Playboy “playmate of the year” who alleged a similarly convincing but more saccharine account of her affair with the future president around the same time, and both the porn star and the playmate come across not only better-spoken than the president but also more believable.
In both cases we thought Cooper did a well enough job at the old journalistic fair-and-balanced shtick. He confronted both women with their past statements and all the legal blah-blah-blah, rightly noting that the porn performer had made previous denials of any affair, but he also let the fully clothed and seemingly wised-up women provide their plausible answers, and we don’t blame Cooper if they came off more convincing than the president. By now such tawdry details as that jokey and only-slightly-kinky spanking with a rolled up copy of Forbes with Trump on the cover rings all too true, as much as we hate to admit it or even contemplate it, we can’t imagine how it might help Trump.
On the other hand, it might not hurt Trump much. Back in the days of President Bill Clinton the left used to make excuses for such tawdry behavior, by the time Trump was running against his harridan of of wife the right was just as lenient about its guy, and by now almost anyone who is appalled by the present prime-time network fare stands credibly accused of hypocrisy.

— 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

On Private Parts, Public Discourse, and Cultural Decline

Go right ahead and call us old-fashioned, and we’ll freely admit we have no idea what sort of focus groups and poll-testing might have signed off on it, yet we can’t help thinking that “grab ’em by the p***y” is probably the worst presidential campaign slogan ever.
Please accept our apologies for using even such politely expurgated language in these previously pristine pages, but that’s where we find ourselves at this late moment in America’s long cultural decline. This year’s presidential election has dragged the entire country right down in the mud, where Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters had always promised it would be won, and at this point we can’t see how anyone emerges un-muddied. Trump has ambiguously apologized for that “grab ’em by …” slogan that was revealed on an 11-year-old videotape of him bragging about how his celebrity allows him to take such liberties with women, and he has defiantly and plausibly asserted that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s husband’s behavior over the years has been even worse, but the mud still sticks almost all around.
We were called old-fashioned at the time, but when Bill Clinton was first running for the presidency way back in our relative youth we objected that his well-documented tawdry private life had disqualified him from public office. The tawdriness of his private life was publicly documented during his second term by revelations of an affair that involved cigars and Altoids and a much-younger White House intern, and it dominated all the early morning headlines and late night comedy monologues, but even the current Republican nominee was then a Democrat contributing his family causes and scoffing at such prudes as ourselves, so his reputation somehow survived to such a point that his oft-wronged but still defiantly defensive wife is now the betting favorite to be the next president.
Way back when we were proud of the Republican Party’s willingness to go ahead and impeach Bill Clinton for the lies he told under oath about that tawdry affair with a much younger and quite obviously stupider young woman, even if they didn’t succeed in removing him from office because of a strict a party-line vote, despite the reputation as an old-fashioned bunch of blues-noses they acquired as a result. When Clinton’s complicit wife emerged as the Democratic front-runner this year we were hopeful for a Republican who would be willing to confront her about it, but as it turned out the only one who threatened to do so was Trump. From the outset we worried that the twice-divorced and married-for-a-third-time-to-an-illegal-immigrant-nudie model and six-times-bankrupt casino-and-strip-joint mogul was hardly the one to make the case, and that was just based on his own autobiographies and countless appearances on Howard Stern’s shock-jock radio show, and even before that footage of him bragging about grabbing women’s private parts because he was a reality show star we could see the race winding up in the worst sort of mud.
At this point all those Democrats who called us old-fashioned back in the day are suddenly appalled that the Republican nominee is such an undeniably sexist pig, all those Republicans who objected to Bill Clinton’s sexual piggery and his wife’s complicity are suddenly defending Trump’s behavior as mere “locker room talk” are similarly hypocritical, and even such prudes as ourselves are reduced to using asterisks to expurgate the current political discourse. We can congratulate ourselves on being so consistent as to being appalled by the last few decades of cultural decline and right up to the current moment, we suppose, but we still feel slightly muddy. Much of the rest of the Republican Party is also distancing itself from the party’s candidate, and a disappointingly smaller share of the Democratic party is distancing itself from their party’s candidate, but the muddiness seems likely to prevail.

— Bud Norman

Of Hurled Stones and Glass Houses

All through the Republican primaries one of the arguments most often made for the candidacy of Donald J. Trump was that he was the only one in the field who would be willing to wage a ruthlessly negative campaign against pre-ordained Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The others might politely criticize her policies or make some mention of her many scandals, we were told, but Trump alone would be willing to raise the issue of her character. We never doubted that he would, given the way he bullied his way past “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Carly “Look at That Face” Fiorina and the rest of the competition, but that only further confirmed our suspicion that his own character was the most susceptible to counter-attack.
Trump has lately been in the down-and-dirty mode that his admirers promised, regaling his rallies with verbal attacks on the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton family itself, but his adversaries in the press are having great fun noting the many ironies involved.
After congratulating himself on all the networks for being too gentlemanly to say anything about Clinton’s ex-president husband’s famously tawdry sex life, Trump is now more forthrightly saying things about it. He reminded a New Hampshire audience that President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, his surrogates are speaking about his numerous other alleged affairs and sexual misbehaviors, which includes allegations ranging from general creepiness to outright rape, and it’s always implied that the current Democratic nominee was complicit in it all.
Which seems fair enough to us. All through Bill Clinton’s presidency we were appalled by the tawdriness of Clinton’s all-too-public private life, being the blue-nosed sort of red-staters who bitterly cling to an old-fashioned notion that a president ought to set some sort of moral example, and after so many years we’re still no more pleased by the idea of him being First Gentleman or whatever he’d be called if his wife gets elected. Even such polite media as The Washington Post have lately been obliged to acknowledge that the Democratic nominee did play a leading role in disparaging the women her husband was involved with and accused by, and given that she’s running as a feminist standard bearer who has insisted that any woman alleging sexual assault must believed it seems a legitimate issue. Alas, it’s Trump who is raising it.
A thrice-married casino-and-strip-club mogul who has publicly boasted about his penis size and all the married babes he’s bagged over the years sounds rather ridiculous when tsk-tsking about anyone else’s behavior, and that illegal immigrant nudie model he’s currently married to doesn’t seem much a role model, so his fans are left to dispute the levels of tawdriness. Some note that Trump hasn’t been accused of rape, but one of his ex-wifes did once make the accusation and another woman has a lawsuit pending alleging that Trump raped her when was 13 years old, which thus far haven’t gotten the press attention that Trump is now inviting. Bill Clinton is a friend of the billionaire and convicted ephebephile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and has travelled with him on the “Lolita Express” to his Caribbean orgy sites, but Trump has also boasted of his friendship with Epstein and joked about his affinity for younger woman and that woman with the pending lawsuit alleges that she was assaulted at one of Epstein’s parties. The press is also happily pulling up old stories about how Trump had once said that Clinton’s impeachment was “nonsense” about “something totally unimportant,” which his surrogates are having a hard time explaining, and noting that he also disparaged the women involved with his “good friend” and future wedding guest. He called Paula Jones, the Arkansas state employee who alleged that Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room she had been summoned to by the Arkansas Highway Patrol while he was governor, a “loser.” He also noted that Lewinsky was less hot than Marilyn Monroe, the screen siren and illicit lover of President John Kennedy, and at the time that was his only criticism of the affair.
Even some of Trump’s most loyal admirers think it better that Trump should stick to his attacks on Clinton’s family foundation, which raised a lot of money from countries and companies and various shady characters who had business before the Secretary of State which often turned out in their favor, but even that very legitimate issue leaves him vulnerable to counter-attacks. Trump has his own charitable foundation, which he doesn’t seem to have contributed much to over the past many years, and lately the press has happily reported that it was forced to pay a fine for a contribution to that Florida Attorney General who decided shortly afterwards not to join three other states in a suit against the seemingly fraudulent “Trump University,” along with other highly questionable activities. Trump’s admirers will point out that he was merely buying rather selling political favors, but the criticism of Clinton are still somewhat blunted in a way that those of other possible Republican candidates wouldn’t have been.
At least Trump fights, we’re told.

— Bud Norman

The Even Worse Day After a Very Bad Day

The official scores won’t be in until the next round of public opinion polls come out, but by now all the establishment press and most of the respectable pundits agree that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton got the best of Republican nominee Donald Trump in their first presidential debate on Monday night. Trump reportedly skipped a planned victory party afterwards and instead went home to his nearby bed, then spent much of Tuesday grousing about the refereeing and suggesting that his microphone had been sabotaged and complaining that all the establishment press and most of the respectable pundits are out to get him, which is not how winners usually act after a big game, while his even surlier than usual expression through it all seemed to further confirm the conventional wisdom’s unofficial scoring.
Worse yet, the mere perception of a loss looks to have rattled Trump to a point that he probably wound up losing the day after’s news cycle debate about the debate. There was much merit to the complaints about the refereeing, but the suggestions about the rigged microphone sounded a lot like another one of those crazy conspiracy theories that Trump too often spouts, so of course the establishment press and respectable pundits had no problem deciding which story to highlight. To compound his problems, Trump spent much of Tuesday reviving an old argument with a beauty queen who had gained a few pounds, once again congratulating himself for not bringing up his opponent’s family’s sex scandals and suggesting that next time around he wouldn’t be such a nice guy, and doubling down on some of the easily disprovable claims he’d made in the debate. None of which, we expect, will help much with the next round of public opinion polls.
The beauty queen in question is one-time Miss Venezuela Alicia Machado, who became Miss Universe back when Trump owned the company that ran the pageant that conferred the title, and apparently the two squabbled over some weight she gained after her ascension to the throne. We’ve always suspected that the Miss Universe competition was rigged, as it always seems to be an earthling who wins, but we digress. In any case, Clinton noted during the debate Trump had once called Machado “Miss Piggy” because of the temporary extra poundage and “Miss Housekeeper” because of of her Latin American heritage, citing this as further evidence of Trump’s anti-woman and anti-Latin American bias. Instead of denying that he ever said any such thing, which should have been easy for a nominee who routinely denies having said things that are on audio and video and “tweets” for everyone to see and hear and read, Trump chose instead to talk about how fat that Venezuelan woman had gotten. Machado is now a naturalized American citizen, very much a supporter of Clinton, and looking pretty darned good in the recent photos that the establishment press are gleefully running, so he seems have to picked a losing fight.
Even the recently encouraging public opinion polls show that Trump is still especially unpopular with women, and we can’t imagine that his comments on Tuesday that Machado “gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem” will help with that. We don’t know what it’s like being a philandering self-described billionaire ladies’ man, but our more middle-class experience of women tells us they don’t much care for comments about recent weight gains or any comparisons to beauty pageant standards, nor do the appreciate the frequent interruptions that Trump made during the same debate. So far as we can tell Trump didn’t deny the “Miss Housekeeper” comment, either, and our experience with Latin Americans tells us that also won’t much help with his dismal poll numbers in that demographic.
By congratulating himself on being so very sensitive as to not bring up his opponent’s family’s sex scandals he was, of course, bringing up those sex scandals, and although we feel those sex scandals are indeed a legitimate issue it seems a rather cowardly way of bringing them up. Should he be more forthright in the next debate, as threatened, the thrice-married-to-an-illegal-immigrant-porn-model strip club mogul who has publicly boasted about all the married babes he’s bagged will be hurling his stones from a rather glass house, and we don’t expect that his dismal numbers with the sizable cheated-on female demographic would see any improvement as a result.
Monday’s debate also yielded sound bites full of false claims, a seeming boast about not paying any federal income taxes and another one about profiting from the economic misery of others, and reiterated some foreign policy crazy talk about running the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a protection racket and encouraging a nuclear arms race in east Asia and the Middle East, and Tuesday’s post-debate debate showed no attempt to downplay any of it. The establishment press and the respectable pundits happily played it all up, meanwhile, and we can’t imagine Trump’s numbers among old-school conservatives or any other tiny demographic getting a boost out of it.
Clinton also offered plenty of false claims and crazy talk, of course, but on both Monday and Tuesday Trump passed up countless opportunities to point that out. Trump once again preferred that the attention be focused on him, for better or worse, which does not seem at all wise. After spending August in squabbles with a Muslim family who had a lost a son who went off to fight for America and a natural born American yet somehow “Mexican” judge presiding over a fraud case involving one of Trump’s businesses that he’d have best left unmentioned he fell far behind Clinton in the polls, then moved back into a virtual tie as he stuck to tele-promptered scripts and a more or less polite and presidential persona while Clinton’s own ongoing scandals and thorough awfulness dominated the news in September. He now seems intent on starting October off with all the attention once again on him, and we can’t see how that’s a good idea.

— Bud Norman

As the Sands of the Hourglass, So are the Days of the Democrats

The Republican Party’s reality show is getting the bigger ratings and all the critical attention, but the Democrats’ presidential nomination race is also well worth binge-watching. In case you’ve missed the more recent gripping episodes, there’s now a tantalizing possibility that the heroine of the tale will face federal indictment on criminal charges, her husband’s past and recent sex scandals are starting to affect the plot, the lovably eccentric kook who was once a minor comic-relief character is now within striking distance of her in all the polls, and there’s enough behind-the-scenes court intrigue to fuel another few seasons of “The Tudors” and “House of Cards.”
Although the lovably eccentric kook who was originally included for only comic relief has generously declared that he’s “damned sick and tired” of hearing about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which viewers might recall from previous episodes were transmitted by an unsecured and seemingly illegal private server, the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps anonymously leaking to the press and openly testifying to Congress that they remain very interested in the matter. The latest news has the FBI leaking that they’re also looking into the big-bucks donations from foreign countries that were flowing into the Bill and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation while the eponymous Hillary was dealing with those same foreign countries as Secretary of State, and a best-selling book and a large number of reports indicate there is also something of interest to be found there. No matter what is uncovered by the investigation an indictment will have to be brought by an Attorney General appointed by President Barack Obama, who still looms as large as the Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi characters from the all-important prequels, depending on your tastes, which makes for some darned intriguing court intrigue.
Almost all of our Republican friends glumly assume that no Obama appointee would ever allow even the most undeniably evidence-backed federal indictment on criminal charges against a prominent Democrat, especially the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and even more especially one named Clinton, and the long-awaited First Woman President, at that, and most of our Democrat friends gleefully make the assumption. Their glum and gleeful cynicism might well prove justified, given the conspicuous lack of indictments in countless scandals that the press would have happily made a federal case of during Republican administrations, from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to that Obamacare web site to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives and right up to Clinton’s e-mailing and fund-raising methods, but by now we’re cynical enough to hold out hope for one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction plot twists.
Having followed the soon-to-close but still-awaiting-that-final-cliffhanger Obama reality show over the past eight years or so, we’ve long noticed that he doesn’t much like any of the Clintons and is quite petty enough to let such personal dislikes affect his judgments. Nor does he seem to have any loyalty to his political party, which has been reduced to 1920s-levels in Congress and state legislatures and governorships even as he has seized unprecedented presidential powers, and his press spokespeople and his equally dutiful press people have strangely silent about Clinton’s legal matters. An indictment could either usher in a Republican presidency, which could be easily blamed for everything that happens in the four-year aftermath of the Obama administration, or hands the Democratic nomination to that lovable kook or any of the other Obama-approved eccentrics who have been waiting in the wings, and they somehow prevail over some equally unpopular Republican villain to institute yet another four years of left-wing craziness, and in either case Obama’s purposes are served. We’re not making any predictions, but it’s tantalizingly possible enough to keep us tuned in.
In any case, it signals more perils for the Pauline heroine of the Democrats’ reality show. We no longer cling to any boyish fantasy that the FBI is staffed by the likes of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. or Jimmy Stewart, but given the agency’s recent leakiness there is reason to hope that they’ll at least let some enterprising reporter or another know about they case they’ve built, which is sure to be unhelpful to Clinton’s candidacy. The cynics in both parties will glumly and gleefully note that Clinton’s have always gotten away with everything, and all the shrewd gamblers have always advised to never bet against a streak, but our cynicism is such that we glumly note that time changes everything. The Bill Clinton sex scandals that were easily overlooked during the cultural right scare of the ’90s aren’t so easily forgiven in the ‘teens, when Democrats believe a “culture of rape” is permeating the undeniably leftist-dominated campuses but not the town squares of European cities suddenly overrun by immigration from less feminist cultures that best go unnamed, and the Republican front-runner is a thrice-married casino mogul who can’t quote a single Bible verse, and suddenly that whole “war on women” that the distaff Clinton was supposed to win seems laughable. Besides, the masculine Clinton is best remembered for the Welfare Reform Act he was forced to sign and President Obama unraveled with executive orders, and the decrease in crime that resulted “mass incarceration” laws that are now the bane of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and for Republican-imposed balanced budgets that Democrats no longer care about.
Throw in the fact that in the Democratic voters are now mostly concerned about income inequality and those evil bastards on Wall Street, and it’s no surprise that the lovable kook and self-described socialist and relatively penurious Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now catching up in the national polls and within striking distance in the first two crucial rounds of the race of the suspiciously wealthy and Wall Street-supported “front-runner.” Once the supposed front-runner is either indicted on federal criminal charges or not indicted for the most obviously suspicious reasons, you’ve got a real race going on rather than the promised coronation. Even the most polite press can’t help noticing such things, and hopefully speculating about some eccentric waiting on the wings to inherit Obama’s still on-going campaign operation, and of course that will further twist the plot.
There’s plenty of drama left on the Republican side, where another character unpopular with the broader audience seems to be winning, but these Democrats are well worth watching.

— Bud Norman

The Schlong Ride to the Presidency

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are having a nasty spat, and there’s a sex angle to the story, so that’s currently the big news of the presidential race. So far Trump seems to be getting the better of it, but no one is likely to emerge unscathed from such a tawdry affair.
The brouhaha began with Trump telling one of his constant interviewers that Clinton got “schlonged” in her last presidential campaign. If you’re from outside New York City or are otherwise so goyish you don’t speak even a bissel of Yiddish, “schlong” is a low sort of synonym for penis, and the past tense verb form is pretty much self-explanatory. Clinton could have taken the high road and ignored the remark, but that would have been entirely out of character, and she could have rightly objected on the grounds that Trump was using language ill-suited to presidential politics and being downright vulgar, but that would not seem so damning after the past seven years of presidential rhetoric and late night comedy show appearances, so instead she indignantly accused Trump of sexism. The alleged schlonging was by The First Black President, too, so some quarters of the press helpfully chipped in with accusations of racism, and we expect that somebody thought to accuse the self-described Presbyterian of cultural appropriation for using a Yiddishism, and in verb form at that, and the first wave of stories had all the usual outrage.
Clinton’s inevitable accusation of sexism offered Trump an opening, however, and he shrewdly seized the opportunity to remind the public of Clinton’s role in smearing the many women who have made allegations of everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault to outright rape against her husband. The press was obliged to report it, and although most media did so with the usual outrage the charge still stung. Former President Bill Clinton’s countless extra-marital schlongings aren’t merely metaphorical, and have done more damage to public standards than anything Trump might blurt out during an interview, and Hillary Clinton’s enabling role in all the tawdry scandals belie her claim to feminist glory. Throw in all the financial scandals that belie her populist warrior image, and all the lies told to obscure her incompetence and corruption, and the character question is very much a legitimate issue in the race.
Trump is quite right to raise the issue, but he’s the wrong person to do so. The billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star is thrice-married, boasts of his womanizing past with the same shamelessness as when he boasts of his wealth, has a long history of making disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of women he dislikes, and the fact that Bill Clinton is arguably even worse is damning with faint praise. Throw in his shameless boasts of buying off politicians to aid his gambling business and using the bankruptcy laws four times to pay less of his boundless fortune to his creditors than he promised, as well as his penchant for vulgarity, and his own character issues become a legitimate issue in the race.
Still, we’ll concede that Trump has once again proved to you can say the things that were previously thought unsayable. One can only hope that someone more eloquent and admirable can take advantage of that.

— Bud Norman

Staying Out of the Race

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced Tuesday that he will not be running for president, and it took us quite by surprise. It had never occurred to us that Portman might run, after all, and none of the many pundits handicapping the upcoming field seem to have considered the possibility. The announcement served its purpose of reminding America that there is a Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, however, and might even have led some to conclude that Portman is an important person.
Being in desperate need of some some self-aggrandizing publicity ourselves, and lacking anything else to write about on a slow news day, we have decided to follow Portman’s lead and announce that we are also not going to run for president. This will come as a bitter disappointment to the multitudes of Americans who have looked to us for hope in these dark times, and we cannot deny the alarming possibility that it might result in someone even worse winning the office, but we think it is for the best.
Longstanding political tradition requires a non-candidate to say that he has discussed the decision with his wife and children, but we are single and childless so we talked it over with the regulars at Kirby’s Beer Store. They were fine with it. Another longstanding tradition requires a non-candidate to explain his reasons for not running, and lest the public think that we are selfishly shirking our patriotic duty by declining our shot at the office will we oblige.
We would like to say that we are prevented from running by our ongoing sex scandals, but we have embarrassingly little to confess about that lately. Certainly nothing that would raise an eyebrow at a Georgetown cocktail party. Some might question our other numerous vices, our lack of any notable achievements in life, and our general low moral character, but recent history indicates that the general public isn’t so nit-picky about such things. The fault lies not in ourselves, contrary to Shakespeare, but rather in the stars.
There would be difficulty in raising the necessary funds, for one thing. Most of our friends are as destitute as us, and our campaign pledge to let businesses fight it out in the free markets of red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism is unlikely to appeal to any of the big-money donors. The Koch brothers might go for it, and one of them lives right here in town, but we don’t want to get cast in any of the crazy conspiracy theories they inspire. Prime-time network ad buys and styrofoam Greek columns don’t come cheap, so the cost of a modern presidential campaign is simply beyond our means for the foreseeable future.
Modern presidential campaigns seem to involve a lot of social media, as well, and we have little aptitude and less enthusiasm for that nonsense. Even such a taciturn statesman as President Calvin Coolidge could not compress his policies into a “tweet,” and we are no Silent Cal. Nor do we care to schmooze with smarmy comedians on the late night comedy shows that are now an obligatory stop on the modern presidential campaign trail, especially in this day and age when we’re unlikely to be sharing the couch with Charo. Hair stylists and fashion consultants and focus groups and the rest of the indignities of the modern presidential campaign are also irksome to us. We rather like the idea of eating hot dogs at state fairs and speaking from the back of railroad cars and engaging in heated but civil debates with our opponents, and we wouldn’t even mind a reasonable amount of baby-kissing so long as the little bastards have been properly cleaned, but we fear our candidacy must await a return to those halcyon days of old-fashioned politics.
Not that the job of president doesn’t tempt us, especially now that its powers have been so vastly expanded. The idea of being able to get on airplane without taking our shoes off is appealing, presidents seem to eat well, it would be nice to have someone take an interest in our college basketball tournament predictions, and although we don’t play golf the rest of the perquisites of the job seem ample compensation for its responsibilities. There’s always a chance one can do some good for the country, as well, but we expect the public might less appreciative of our efforts to stop doing things to them rather than attempting to do things for them.
If a draft movement continues to gain momentum we might be forced to reconsider, but for now we will keep our hat outside the ring. It’s a fine old hat, and we don’t want it soiled.

— Bud Norman

When Book Tours Go Wrong

How nice to see Hillary Clinton on the defensive about her family’s considerable fortune. We’re not the types to begrudge anyone their honestly-earned wealth, no matter how considerable, but Clinton always has been and it’s only fair that she subjected to the politics of envy.
Clinton’s class conscious controversy began during an interview with the American Broadcasting Company’s Diane Sawyer, of all people, who unaccountably asked about the five-times-the-median-American-income fees that she commands for an hour or so of speaking to her fellow rich people. One can easily understand how the poor woman might not have expected such an impertinent question coming from a television network other than Fox News, but Clinton’s response was surprisingly clumsy given reputation as a seasoned political player. The former big time law firm partner, First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State pleaded poverty, explaining that she and her even better-paid husband left the White “dead broke” because of legal debts and “we struggled to, you know, piece together the mortgages for houses…” She also mentioned that “we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes,” and defended her high-priced oratory as “a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.”
That conspicuous plural in the houses that the Clintons struggled to buy drew most of the derisive comments, especially when photographs of the rather opulent domiciles started to circulate, but every aspect of her hard-scrabble story merits ridicule. The legal bills that the couple faced were a result of her husband’s serial sexual infidelities and other improprieties that left him without a law license, and were largely paid off by the grateful beneficiaries of his economic policies. Taxes were no doubt severe on a couple that relied on income from speeches to groups hoping to gain their political favors, but her longstanding soak-the-rich stances make it hard to render the requisite sympathy. “Getting connected with any one group or company” sounds very much like getting a real job, and we can well understand why Clinton wouldn’t want to stoop to that, but it does lack the populist touch she probably would have preferred. As far as pulling-one’s-self-up-from-the-bootstraps stories go, Clinton’s account of her grueling work on the lecture circuit isn’t quite up to Horatio Alger standards.
Any stereotypically hard-hearted Republican could have responded to the question by daring Diane Sawyer or any other red-blooded American to lie that they would down 200 grand for an hour’s worth of high-minded hogwash, a riposte most people would find both refreshingly honest and quite understandable, and perhaps even commendable, but Clinton cannot avail herself of such common sense. She came into public view with an angry denunciation of Reagan’s “Decade of Greed,” notwithstanding the fact she’d spent the ’80s making a suspicious fortune in the commodities market and otherwise enriching herself through her husband’s political connections, and she is now seeking the nomination of a party that is lately obsessed with the issue of income inequality and a Jacobin hatred for the dread one percent. Her party spent the last presidential election successfully demonizing a Republican for having acquired a fortune estimated at $250 million by saving companies and their many thousands of employees from bankruptcy, so it is a tricky matter heading into the next presidential election that the Democrats’ presumptive standard bearer and her family has a fortunate estimated at $200 million by giving speeches to rich folks and writing unreadable books and taking purely perfunctory seats on the board of directors of gigantic corporations that are up to God knows what sort of corporate evil.

Such galling hypocrisy is usually overlooked by the American public, as it doesn’t involve sex, so Clinton probably expected to get away with it. Pity the poor Republican who espouses family values before being caught with his finger’s in some young woman’s cookie jar, as he will be pilloried by his own party and the public at large, but Democrats can fly private in a carbon-emitting corporate jet on the way to a global warming conference or fly back on Air Force from a five-star vacation to decry the greedy rich, and she could reasonably expect the same deference That the press has lately been so bad must be jarring to Clinton.
The interview with Sawyer was tied to the recent publication of her latest book, hilariously titled “Hard Choices,” and it contained other pitfalls. The longtime Clinton water-bearers at The Washington Post declared that “Sawyer Destroys Hillary Clinton on Benghazi,” a scandal that should have destroyed her nearly two years ago, and others noted how she struggled to name any accomplishments from her four-year run as Secretary of State. The reviews of the already-discounted book have been brutal, too, and Clinton is no doubt reeling from the unaccustomed bad press. Once upon a time her husband could have State Troopers summon low-wage state employees to a hotel room where he would expose himself and hiss “kiss it” and even Gloria Steinem would rush to his defense, so unless it’s all a vast left-wing conspiracy on behalf of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential aspirations it must seem downright sexist.
Over at the tonier Salon.com they’ve already decided that any conservatives heaping ridicule on Clinton’s good financial luck are the hypocrites, but we feel blameless in our chuckles. We’re not the types to begrudge anyone their good fortune, but we happy those who are called on their own hypocrisy.

— Bud Norman

What’s New in New York City

New York City is a nice place to visit, in our experience, but in accordance with the old cliché we wouldn’t want to live there. Despite all the undeniable attractions that make the Big Apple such an appealing place for a short vacation, our feelings about the city were best expressed by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos when they sang “I Wouldn’t Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Dang Town).”
One could go on at length about the traffic and crime and overcrowding and high rents and excessive taxation and regulation, as New Yorkers so often do, but perhaps the most telling example of how very unlivable New York City has become is its upcoming municipal election. Currently leading in the mayoral race is a former Congressman who was forced to resign his office after photographs of his underwear-clad genitalia that he had “texted” to various to women surfaced. In the race for Comptroller, a position that is apparently of potential importance, a former governor who was forced to resign his office after revelations of his whoremongering is leading a field that includes his former madam. In a city with more than eight million people, there are apparently no equally qualified candidates for these posts who are not tainted by sex scandal.
At the risk of sounding like some bitterly Bible-clinging prairie denizen, which we admittedly are, this strikes us as an especially sorry state of affairs. An argument can be made that public exhibitionism and a predilection for prostitutes do not preclude talent for municipal politics or comptrolling, but surely such a large city should include few candidates of similar abilities who are not exhibitionists or whoremongers. Even in our own provincial outpost of Wichita, with a population of about one-sixteenth of New York City’s, we manage to comptrol ourselves without assistance from a known whorehound or his procurer. Our mayor is prone to those fishy “public-private partnerships” that are currently fashionable and is nothing to brag about, we must confess, but at least we’ve never been exposed to any self-portraits of his private parts.
Perhaps we are being oh-so-parochial in our harsh judgments of soliciting prostitutes and transmitting semi-pornographic image to casual social media acquaintances, but we’ll not allow any New Yorker to say that it’s because our hometown is so unreasonably prudish. Smoking has been banished from the bars but it is still tolerated on the sidewalks, salt shakers are still found on every restaurant table, fat people are not a matter of public concern, and all manner of political opinions that would be considered beyond the pale by polite New York City opinion are not only tolerated but regarded as common sense. We can also muster an appropriately feminist argument against whoremongering and exhibitionism, and not just some musty appeal to millennia-old wisdom, and do not feel that our hipness is diminished by an aversion to prostitution and smutty pictures imposed upon young social acquaintances.
Besides, we are old enough to recall a pre-Bill Clinton era when our hairy-legged feminist girlfriend was railing against Sen. Bob Packwood’s undeniably and creepy off-color comments made him unfit for public service. Old-timers will recall that Packwood was a Republican, and the whoremonger and the exhibitionist in the New York City elections are Democrats, so perhaps that explains the difference. In any case, it seems that both traditional and progressive standards of behavior are being compromised by the elections in New York City.
It’s none of our business, we suppose, except that even around here someone will occasionally say that “Well, that’s the way they do it in New York City.”

— Bud Norman