No Returns from the Tax Returns

As a general rule tax returns are pretty dull reading, but President Donald Trump is an exception to an awful lot of rules, so of course there was was some interest in the two pages of his 2005 filing that was somehow intriguingly leaked. There wasn’t enough in those two pages to justify some of the resulting coverage, as it turns out, but the resulting hubbub is also newsworthy.
The two purloined pages were reportedly mailed to a journalist and published Trump biographer of little renown, then passed on to Rachel Maddow of the MSNBC cable news network, whose program relentlessly hyped the finding for hours and then spent a full 20 minutes of the long-awaited showtime in further build up before disclosing that there’s really nothing very embarrassing to Trump in the two pages. It was revealed that Trump paid $38 million in income taxes that year, which was more than most Americans did, and it represented a percentage of his income greater than what President Barack Obama or self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders forked over, and there was nothing about deductions claimed for contributions to the Russian mob or anything like that.
We’d call it the biggest journalistic anticlimax since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault, but by now every other media in the critic in the country has already beat us to the analogy. All the ancien regime media cringed in embarrassment, and even such a fellow Trump-bashing liberal as the late night comedian Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist some piercing ridicule. Maddow is the most impeccably liberal voice on television’s most impeccably liberal channel, which has lately been racking up record ratings as liberals seek a “safe place,” but her fellows liberals are understandably miffed about how she muffed the far bigger story they still have hopes for.
Those tax returns reveal Trump would have paid even more if not for something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, which his tax reform proposals would repeal, but that’s a rather arcane policy point, and even such Trump-bashing conservatives as ourselves don’t believe that just because something’s bad for Trump it’s good the country, and it’s certainly not the sort of complicated economic argument you hype all day long and then have two pages of anti-climax to show for it. The bigger story that liberals would prefer to hype is that all we of know of the vast financial empire that Trump has not divested himself from is two pages of a 12-year-old tax return somehow includes only exculpatory evidence. A Trump campaign manager and National Security have already been forced to resign because of contacts with the Russian government Trump has thus far flattered, and his Attorney General had recused himself from an ongoing investigation in broader contracts between the campaign and Russia, and all that’s been released of the tax returns that would surely prove Trump himself has no financial ties with the Russian government were those two not-entirely-exculpatory pages. There are already rumors afloat that Trump himself leaked his $38 million tax bill, then preemptively tweeted his indignant denial of whatever MSNBC might report to cover his tracks, and although even the ancien regime media won’t touch that conspiracy theory we will note it’s at least as plausible as Sen. Ted Cruz’s dad being in on the Kennedy hit, and people are saying, and we’ll leave it up to Congress to investigate if it’s true or not, and let similar Trumpian standards of truth prevail.
There’s something fishy about Trump’s Russophilia even from our rightward Trump-bashing perspective, perhaps all the more so after so many years of Cold War vigilance, so we’re also annoyed that handsome Rachel Maddow fellow has momentarily muddied the media waters. With enemies of the people like these, Trump might be wondering, who needs friends?

— Bud Norman

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Enter Salacious Headline Here

Just when we were starting to hold out hope that this unprecedentedly crazy presidential election race couldn’t possibly get any crazier, we came across the only slightly surprising news that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “is a secret sex freak who paid fixers to set up illicit romps with both men AND women.” That juicy tidbit and its atrocious capitalization comes from the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer, which last figured in the presidential race with the revelation that former Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was in on the assassination of President John Kennedy, and is thus far the only national publication to endorse the publisher’s good friend and Republican nominee Donald Trump, so you can take it for whatever you figure it be worth, but there’s no denying it adds yet another level of craziness to the election.
Trump’s more die-hard supporters will rightly note that The National Enquirer’s past scoops about former Democratic contender and liberal darling Sen. Gary Hart’s fling on a yacht inconveniently christened “Monkey Business” and vice-presidential nominee and liberal darling Sen. John Edward’s love child that he tried to pin on a paid fall guy both proved entirely correct, and apparently it also saw Brad Pitt’s divorce from Angelina Jolie coming months before the fact, and at this point we wouldn’t put anything past anyone named Clinton, so in such a crazy election years as this maybe there’s something to it. The National Enquirer has also been known to get things wrong, though, including that costly libel about America’s beloved Carol Burnett being an obnoxious drunk and that more recent ridiculousness about Cruz’s dad and the Kennedy assassination, so the paper provides more through documentation our high standards of non-partisan journalism force us admit that at least one member of the Clinton family might not be a secret sex freak.
Normally we wouldn’t know what’s on the front page of The National Enquirer until we found ourselves in the check-out line at the local supermarket, but in this case we got the scoop on The National Enquirer’s scoop by checking in on the formerly reliable Drudge Report. The Drudge Report is a widely-read internet site that mostly features the latest headlines from other media, and its most die-hard supporters still fondly recall that it broke the story of former President Bill Clinton’s tawdry affair with a much-younger intern, and how it astutely linked to mainstream news stories with the leads that were buried deep within those mainstream news stories, and once upon a time it was the home page that popped up when we logged on to the internet. At some point in this crazy election it kept linking us to the loudly pro-Trump “Infowars” web site and its crazy conspiracy theories about the terror attacks of 2001 being an inside job and the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, being a staged event, and what with our computer rushing to “Infowars” rather than the increasingly unreliable “Instapundit” site every time we typed “in” into our search engine we decided to make the endearingly old-fashioned conservative NeverTrump National Review site our home page.
In such a crazy election year as this one has to make such reassessments of previously reliable sources. If the stodgily principled National Review or the equally stalwart old-fashioned and conservative Weekly Standards asserts that Hillary Clinton is indeed a secret sex fiend who paid fixers to set up illicit sex romps we’ll gleefully believe it, and if the most mainstream liberal press is reluctantly forced to admit it as it did in the case of Hart and Edwards we’ll more or less gratefully take it as an undeniable fact, we promise that this publication will be heartened to pile on as well, because we truly do loathe those darned Clintons, and we did so even way back when the Drudge Report was debunking its more current claims that the male Clinton fathered a mulatto love-child and Trump was singing their praises and contributing to the campaigns and inviting them to his third wedding.
By this point in this crazy election year we don’t have any faith in anyone who has any good thing to say about either of these awful presidential nominees, even though all of them will eventually be proved right to whatever extent they spoke the worse of the other.

— Bud Norman

Watching Liberty Booed Off the Stage at Two Conventions

Despite our particular aversion to the whole “reality show” genre of television, and our general disdain of the entire medium altogether, we did make a point to log onto the internet Wednesday evening to watch and listen to C-Span’s coverage of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ address to the Republican National Convention. Our oddball tastes in entertainment include an affinity for political rhetoric, and Cruz is as good at it as anybody these days, and his address did prove a most fascinating episode. The Senator seemed to deliver a robustly persuasive argument against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but he he only once mentioned the official Republican nominee by name, and at no point was there an unambiguous endorsement, so those who have been closely following the plot of this dreary tale are sure to have noticed some fascinating further ambiguities.
If you’ve been happily distracted from this dreary tale you need to understand that Sen. Cruz is better known to fans of the habitually lying official Republican nominee as “Lyin'” Ted Cruz, for reasons that have never been adequately explained, and that back when they were the last two contenders still vying for the nomination the now-official Republican nominee threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’ wife and “tweeted” out his gloat that she was uglier than the now-official Republican nominee’s plagiarizing-from-Michelle-Obama third super-model trophy wife, and claimed that Cruz was actually an oh-my-God punting-on-third-down Canadian and that his Cuban-born father had been in on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, based solely on the reporting of the official Republican nominee’s good friends at The National Enquirer, so the address was full of intriguing plot lines. There was a gracious and specific congratulation to the now-official Republican nominee who had shamelessly and ridiculously slandered Cruz’ wife and father and personal history, and a rousing denunciation of the undeniably awful presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but in terms that don’t reflect well on the now-official Republican nominee.
His strikingly brief address quite persuasively made the case that the traditional Republican value of freedom of speech is at odds with a presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee who would overturn the Citizens United ruling that people are free to criticize her, and generously neglected to mention that the official Republican nominee has promised that anyone who criticizes him will have “problems, such problems” should he win. He affirmed the right of homosexuals to pursue their preferences but stood up for the right of others not to be involved, without mentioning that both of America’s major parties now seem on board with more authoritarian post-sexual-revolution measures, and he spoke against open borders while also speaking well of the father who legally came to this country from communist Cuba and all the other legal immigrants who had nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy. He spoke about giving parents a choice in educating their children, which neither party’s official or all-but-certain nominees ever mention, and the state’s rights on everything from marijuana to California-style taxation that also largely go unmentioned. All in all it was a stem-winding speech against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee, but hardly a ringing endorsement of the now-official Republican nominee.

Which of course wound up with him being booed off the stage by the Republican National Convention. He ended by saying that “We will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty,” and in this sorry virtual reality show that seems to define our actual reality that will get you booed off any of the available stages. We’d have preferred that he defended the honor of the one wife of his youth and the pro-American immigrant father who surely had nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy, no matter what craziness the official Republican nominee’s friends at The National Enquirer concocted, and been more frank about the lies being told by both of the major party candidates, but at this point we’ll argue that “Lyin’ Ted” was at least more truthful than either of the official and all-but-certain major party nominees and made a stronger case against the presumptive and all-but-certain Democratic nominee than the now-official Republican nominee ever could, and we’ll hold out faint hope that next time around will be better.

— Bud Norman

Two Scenes From the Campaign Trail

We spent much of Thursday celebrating the folks’ 60th wedding anniversary, which is such a rare accomplishment these days that we thought it worth mentioning, but we spent enough time perusing our usual news sources to come across two intriguing and starkly disparate accounts from the day in the still-slightly-in-doubt Republican presidential race.
The first was a report by Roger L. Simon of the much-ridiculed but usually reliable PJ Media, about a large and enthusiastic crowd at a rally for Donald J. Trump in California. If you’re not familiar with his work, Simon is a former hippy-dippy leftist who had some success in Hollywood as a screenwriter and some best-selling mysteries about a hippy-dippy detective, but at some point he went over to the right and became mostly a entertaining internet writer, until his more recent move to the Trump side. We still don’t doubt his veracity, and will glumly concede that the crowd was indeed as large and enthusiastic and even as diverse as he describes, and we’re old enough we can dig where the formerly hippy-dippy leftist is coming from when he likened it to a “happening,” nor do we disagree at all when he says “It’s all a little ‘Cult of Personality,'” but we’re starting to question his judgment when he adds after a dash that “but what the hell?”
We’re wondering what the hell ourselves when someone who had previously seemed so sensible concludes that a “little ‘Cult of Personality'” is gaining such momentum that it’s about to seize control of the executive branch of the federal government, and then sanguinely dismisses the thought with a hackneyed profanity. Considering that we’re talking about the bombastic, bumptious, braggadocious, buffoonish, bull-in-a-China-shop personality of self-described billionaire Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul whose newfound conservatism is clearly as negotiable as anything else in his entire life, we’d think that someone who’s already been so thoroughly duped as Simon once was would be careful, as The Who might sing, that he “Won’t Be Fooled Again.” Simon likens the Trump crowd to the ones he once saw rallying to the cause of Bobby Kennedy, and the analogy is both apt and seasoned enough that it makes his writing still worth reading, but we suspect that something in the young and hippy-dippy writer that once yearned for the faux-revolutionary appeal of Kennedy’s cult of personality still lurks in the soul of an otherwise wised-up aging right-wing internet writer.
Meanwhile, long-shot lone challenger Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was wandering around the crowd at a more traditional campaign event in Elkhart, Indiana, where a young man strutted up and asked the candidate to sign his well-worn copy of “The Writings of Karl Marx.” Cruz smiled and agreed to sign, and the young punk was forced to admit that “You have a good sense of humor.” Cruz then told the cameras that he’d written “Millions of people have suffered because of this,” and added that as a son of of a Cuban immigrant he knew well of what he spoke, and the impudent young man had nothing to say but “Thank you, Sen. Cruz.” We found it a touching moment, and would like to think this sort of of human-to-human politics can still prevail in our fractious country. We can’t imagine Trump coming into such close contact with any of his adoring and likely to rip-his-clothes-off-like-teeny-boppers crowds, although we have managed to shake Cruz’s hand during this campaign, and if any of them were wielding any book other than “The Art of the Deal” or his other ghost-written tomes we can only imagine what would have happened, given his frequent invocations for his crowds to get rough with any protestors.
Once upon a time in America people of decent moral character and unobjectionable personalities would get elected to high public office by walking around the public square and meeting with both friends and the foes who can be engaged on a reasonable level and making persuasive arguments about what the country could and should do, but at the moment it seems that was way back when people could get married and if they were lucky enough to live long enough they’d be married for sixty mostly good years.

— Bud Norman

A Dark and Stormy Night

As we glumly contemplate the increasing likelihood that the next President of the United States will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, arguably the two most awful people in the country, some of our more upbeat friends try to console us that at least it couldn’t be possibly be worse than the past seven-and-a-half years or so have been. President Barack Obama’s recent tour of Europe lends some credence to the theory, but it doesn’t hold out any hope that things will get better.
In case you were too riveted by the two party’s competing reality shows, Obama did pretty much everything wrong on his trip. In England he offered an obviously inadequate excuse for sending a bust of Winston Churchill back home and threatened that if the country chose to opt out of the European Union in a referendum scheduled for June that he would put the country at “the end of queue” in trade negotiations, and in Germany he endorsed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s catastrophic immigration policies and touted their work together on the trade deal that Germany is first in queue for and most of the German public also understandably opposes.
Back in the “Hope and Change” days of Obama’s ’08 campaign a majority of the American electorate had some crazy hope hope that he would change the rest of the world’s mind about America after eight years of George W. Bush’s cowboy foreign policy, and the rest of the world fell for it, too. Most of England had high hopes for change that were dashed when Obama not only snubbed Winston Churchill but the current prime minister and the two countries longstanding special relationship at large. By the time he showed up seven-and-a-half-years later to try and bully the English into the sticking with the EU even the polite chap from the British Broadcasting System was emboldened to ask him what business of it was his.
There was a huge crowd of Germans at the Brandenburg Gate when Obama gave that wildly-reviewed speech about how communism and the Berlin Wall had fallen because the whole world stood together, even though he and all the people he’s appointed stood against the controversial Reagan policies that brought it about, but by now even the Germans are wised up. They hate the Islamization of their country that Merkel’s insane policies are bound to cause, they’re in a protectionist mood that is understandable if not quite logical, and they’re very much over that “hope and change” thing from ’08 and nearly nostalgic for that crazy cowboy George W. Bush.
As bad as it was, we can’t see it getting any better any time soon. Clinton’s victories on Tuesday made her nomination once again inevitable, and she was the Secretary of State during the first disastrous first years of Obama’s presidency. She was the one who sold out the Czechs and Poles and Hondurans and Israelis and countless other allies and offered that laughably mistranslated “re-set” button to the Russians, who are now as problematic for Englishmen and Germans and other European folk as the Islamists that Clinton insists have nothing to do with terrorism, and she doesn’t seem much of an improvement. There’s still faint hope she’ll be indicted or otherwise somehow be overcome by popular Democratic Party opinion and the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but we can’t see that working out any better.
Trump’s victories on Tuesday made him slightly less but still worrisomely inevitable as the Republican nominee, but we have no hope that change would be for the better. He wouldn’t be endorsing Merkel’s culturally suicidal immigration policies, at least, although there’s no telling how what he’ll say about Britain and the European Union, but he’d probably be ridiculing the looks of both country’s leaders and making unmeetable demands, and his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top-notch foreign policy expert’s long record of business dealings with and profuse apologies for Putin suggest he’d re-set relations with that country to something along the lines of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. We’re not entirely sure that long-shot Republican challenger Sen. Ted Cruz would be much better, given that even he uses “neocon” as a pejorative, but at this point he’s our best hope for a positive change.
Sorry to be so glum, but it was a dark and stormy day here on the prairie, and the evening’s news was even worse.

— Bud Norman

The Real Rules of Debate

A pleasant chore had us driving across town and listening to talk radio on the AM radio Monday afternoon, so by chance we heard one of those occasional few-second sound bites that somehow explain everything. Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul who is somehow the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was entertaining another huge crowd of his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters with his usual Don Rickles riffs on his opponents. This time he was laughing off Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to a one-on-one debate over the important issues of the day, and gloating that although Cruz was a former national collegiate debate champion “in college debate I don’t get to interrupt him every 15 seconds.”
Which pretty much explains why the likes of Trump is front-running against a former national collegiate debate champion who is described by his most liberal professors as brilliant and described by everyone as a rock-ribbed conservative and was fighting the “establishment” that Trump so effectively rails against way back when Trump was still writing five- and six-figure contribution checks to it. Cruz and his long record as Texas’ Solicitor General and maverick Senator has a persuasive case to make for his candidacy in a supposedly rock-ribbed conservative party, and he makes it quite well if you’re one of those political junkies who will listen to it in more than a few-second soundbites, but it’s not at all an overstatement to say that in the ears of the rest of the public it has indeed been interrupted at least every fifteen seconds by Trump.
That liberal media all of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters abhor has given him more air time and column inches and whatever the on-line equivalent of column inches is than the rest of the Republican field combined, and until he clinches the nomination will continue to withhold all the really damning stuff they undeniably have on him, and at this point even that unfortunate reality talk show guest who really does sort of bear a certain resemblance to a female Ted Cruz and took up an offer to perform in a porn video because of it had to admit that she hadn’t previously heard of the guy.
Trump has already proclaimed his love for the “poorly educated,” and we’re sure that his many so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will share his scorn for collegiate debaters and other fancy-pants egghead types, but at the risk of sounding metrosexual or something we’d still rather see the important issues of the day settled according to the rules we followed during our own high school and collegiate debate careers. There were no interruptions every 15 seconds, which Trump actually brags about, although he once criticized the formidable Carly Fiorina for doing because she is after all a mere woman, and both sides got to state their case, answer interrogations about their arguments, offer rebuttals, and make closing statements that addressed each relevant point. Factual evidence was required, some logical conclusion from that evidence was expected, and an ability to express oneself at a grade level required for the complexity of the question at hand also counted. If it were conducted on these strict terms, we would very much love to see a one-on-one debate between Trump and Cruz.
Trump is shrewd enough to understand all the professional wrestling and reality show and scam university rules that he’s now playing by, though, and even the guy whose Atlantic City house-rules casino and strip joint went bankrupt is smart enough to avoid that sucker’s game. Still, these days he might even carry the day the in a Marquis de Queensbury sort of verbal brawl.
One of the most memorable epiphanies of our epiphany-fllled debate career came when we were high schoolers arguing against some rural team’s case to ban super-sonic jet transports based on claims they would cause disastrous air pollution, an arguments we had good evidence to refute even then, and has long since turned out to be another one of those ’70s worries that never came to pass. Our colleague, an hilarious and charismatic and quirky and even further right-wing fellow than us whose late Dad was not only a John Bircher but a Minuteman, and who wasn’t so inclined to research things or seek a rational argument as we were, simply laughed off the very idea because of course, as everyone knows, a super-sonic aircraft would be moving too fast to leave any air pollution. We grimaced at the absurdity of the argument, because even though our marks in English were higher than in Science we could immediately see the utter stupidity of it, but even through our determinedly shut eyes we could see the judge nodding in agreement and the opposing team panicking at such an irrefutable refutation of their seemingly well-sourced argument. It was sophistry carried to a point best described by a familiar barnyard epithet, but it did carry us into the elimination rounds where the judges were more carefully chosen and the opposition was not quite so stupid, where as it turns out even our best evidenced and rational arguments efforts did not carry the day.
Such sophistry might yet carry Trump to the Republican party’s nomination, which might arguably be a a fitting retribution for its sins, and his last remaining opposition will surely have to deal with the every-15-seconds-interruptions, but we wonder how well it will play in the elimination rounds where the judges are more serious. The opposition will either be a self-described socialist and thus easily-refuted Senator or a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State whose character flaws rival those of her pal the Republican front-runner, and if the Republicans don’t choose the thrice-married bragging-about-his-affairs with married women failed gamblig-and-strip-joint mogul the alternative will inevitably be smeared as a Bible-thumping theocrat who according to Trump’s friends at The National Enquirer is also a womanizing hypocrite with a wife who’s not as hot as Trump’s latest trophy wife and a dad who was in on the JFK assassination, so who knows how it will all turn out. Not by collegiate debate rules, certainly, and that’s a shame. This is the real world where a plane emitting so many air pollutants in a flight does so regardless of how fast it’s flying, the better argument is being made no matter how often its interrupts, and an the incredulous reactions of the poorly educated voters don’t really care in the end.

— Bud Norman

What Enquiring Minds Want to Know

On a recent trip to our nearest supermarket we perused the covers of all the gossip rags on display during the long wait at the check-out stand, and were surprised to learn that the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After losing some hope in the long-shot prospects for the presidential campaign of Cruz, we were pleased to see that he’s at least still as newsworthy as some Kardashian or another.
Our budget is lately pared down to the bare essentials, so we didn’t purchase the latest edition of The National Enquirer, but as internet access remains a bare essential we did the usual search engine enquiry into the matter. Apparently the notoriously unreliable supermarket tabloid has come up with a picture that shows Lee Harvey Oswald handing out some Fair Play for Cuba Committee literature in New Orleans with a guy who might or might not be Cruz’s father standing nearby. They even have a couple of credentialed “experts” willing to say to The National Enquirer that the guy in the photograph might or might not be Cruz’s father, and so the reader is invited to extrapolate that Cruz’s father was obviously the second gunman in the Grassy Knoll, and that Cruz is obviously continuing this insidious plot to keep America from being great again.
Although we are harsh critics of the more respectable press, we reluctantly concede that this doesn’t even rise to their low level. The National Enquirer has previously insinuated that Cruz has cheated on his wife with at least five different mistresses, with only the admittedly sybaritic Nixon-era dirty-trickster going on the record about alleged rumors that it might or might nor have happened, and they’ve tried to tie him to a District of Columbia madam scandal by noting that one of her cell phone records came from Texas, which might or might not have come from Texan Cruz, and so far we their efforts have convinced that Cruz must be a remarkably upright fellow if this is the best The National Enquirer can up with.
The more conspiracy-minded sorts will note that the publisher of The National Enquirer is the aptly-named David Pecker, who happens to be an old friend of fellow bankruptcy-filer Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-reality-show mogul’s whose last remaining obstacle to the Republican nomination is somehow the allegedly adulterous and whore-mongering and Kennedy-killing Cruz. We also note that Trump’s not only admitted but much bragged-about sex scandals don’t rate a mention in The National Enquirer despite his reality-show-star status, and that Cruz seems to be the only Republican target of their thinly-sourced and clearly-linked-to-Trump insinuations.
Even the most respectable press have steered clear of such disreputable reportage, except for a few skeptical accounts of what’s going on the supermarket check-out lane tabloids, and we don’t worry that much of the still-undecided public will buy any of it. Much of the public that’s already decided on Trump will believe every word of it, though, just as they still contend that Cruz is actually a Canadian even after countess courts and election boards have ruled otherwise, and endlessly repeat that lie about the brain-addled neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson being lied about just before the Iowa caucus, and pretend that Cruz wasn’t for a border fence back when Trump was calling Mitt Romney’s relatively milquetoast self-deportation policies “mean.”
One hates to think that the likes of The National Enquirer’s Pecker can influence an election, but these days it remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

Pompeo and Circumstance

The “anti-establishment” sentiment in the Republican Party has been simmering to a point lately that almost anyone who ever held any office is now presumed guilty of something or another, which is a healthy inclination up to a point, but at some other point it becomes necessary to be more discerning. That “anti-establishment” sentiment has been simmering for a while now, after all, at least here in the heartland, long enough for the more vigilant sorts of Republicans to have installed some pretty darned good public servants in office, and we’d hate to see any of these promising political babies thrown out with the proverbial bath water.
Here in the south-central Fourth District portion of reliably Republican Kansas our rising-through-the-ranks Rep. Mike Pompeo has twice lately attracted the attention of the national press, and on both occasions we think he acquitted himself well. First he asked the Islamic Society of Wichita to withdraw a speaking invitation to a controversial cleric with ties to the Hamas terrorist organization, then he took a leading role in a Congressional investigation into the latest problems demonstrating how awful the Obama administration’s awful nuclear deal with the terror gang running the Islamic Republic of Iran has become. On both occasions he was widely criticized by many of the national and local media, of course, but we expect he further endeared himself to the vast majority of voters he’s won the past few elections.
Pompeo’s widely publicized request to withdraw that invitation was merely a request, thoughtfully explained in terms of cultural sensitivity, and implied no threats, but even here in Wichita many of the local media were worried about the inevitable violent backlash against the city’s relatively tiny number of Muslims. Even the Islamic Society of Wichita agreed that the proposed speaker’s suspect background did make him a culturally insensitive choice right around Easter and in a city where the mosque just across the corner from one of our favorite dives was once frequented by one of the guys who made the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center, and they threw in some unsubstantiated concerns about how the allegedly threatened armed militias showing might affect the neighboring Lutheran church, and they got some good press out of it, but the Hamas-loving cleric didn’t deliver his rant and we figure it worked out about as well as any of those drivers with the “Coexist” bumper stickers could hope for.
Those nationally-circulated criticisms of that awful Iran nuclear deal struck our south-central Kansas Republican sensibilities as ridiculous, too, given how awful that deal is becoming every day. Now it’s to the point that even the Obama administration is acting indignant about the intercontinental ballistic missile tests that Iran has been pumping up, along with all the chest-thumping they’ve been doing ever since the deal was not signed by anybody but somehow sealed, and we’re sufficiently well-attuned to and typical of the local mood to be confident that Pompeo won’t suffer any political damage from his common-sense stand. We’ve even had some Islamic controversies around here at the county level, with our favorite penny-pinching County Commissioner giving an impromptu rant against Islamism we didn’t find at all offensive but which set the local media all aflutter, and another making the obligatory visit to the mosque, which had already received much favorable media coverage for its culturally sensitive stand against Hamas-affiliated clerics, and here in the very middle of America the local consensus favors a plain understanding of the millennia-old conflict.
Pompeo’s been pretty stalwart on everything else we consider important, and our occasional disagreements have been principled enough for our tastes. He’s a steady Second Amendment man, a budget hawk enough to oppose the ethanol-like win-penergy subsidies that are very lucrative and popular in these windswept parts, and usually a reliable opponent of President Barack Obama. He and another worthy-of-doubt conservative supported Obama’s plea for Congressional authority to act in Syria, which we thought futile given that the Secretary of State John Kerry was assuring all those Democrats in the benighted regions outside Kansas that it would be mere “pinpricks,” and we’re still not sure it would have been a good idea, but given how badly it’s worked out and how vaguely plausibly future historians might be able to blame it on Republican obstruction we’ll have to again allow a measure of doubt. He also supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we publicly opposed because we plausibly presumed that any deal the Obama administration could be improved upon by a subsequent Republican administration, but we don’t doubt his crack staff has actually read the thousand-plus-page monstrosity and come to more knowledgable conclusions, so we’ll again give him the benefit of the doubt, even though the current Republican front-runner’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters would string him up for it. In any case we agree with Pompeo’s generally free-trade philosophy, which is largely shared here even among the angry white men in the Fourth District of Kansas, where the two biggest components of the local economy are agriculture and aviation, which also happen to be the first and second biggest export industries of the country. Those portions of the country where industries more vulnerable to foreign competition are the drivers of the local economy might consider Pompeo a globalist establishment tool, but they can’t deny he’s looking out for his constituents.
Pompeo first joined Congress back in ’10, when the longstanding Republican incumbent decided to make an ill-fated run at the Senate and he wound up winning a crowded and distinguished primary field. After the ’08 elections the local Democrats were beguiled by the notion that their well-funded and Harvard-educated and Indian-American think thank veteran would have the same effect on the Fourth District here in reliably Republican Kansas that a Ivy League exotic did on the nation at large, but the backlash against Obama had already begun here and the locals weren’t buying any of it, and Pompeo was not only the top in his class at West Point and an iron-curtain commander of an actual tank and editor of the Harvard Law Review just like that Obama guy but also a hugely successful and never-once bankrupt businessman in the high-tech aviation industry, and we think he’s one of the high-quality guys we can point to that the past years of anti-establishment activism have brought to public service. We  think that that everyone-describes-as-conservative and former collegiate national champion Texas Sen. Cruz, who was also swept into office on an already-simmering “anti-establishment” mood,  is also one of those guys, and the same the south-central Kansans in this reliably Republican-all-along state have agreed with their votes on a recent windswept day, and if that makes us establishment then so be it.

— Bud Norman

A Bad News Cycle for the Front-Runner

Perhaps it’s only because he got bored with winning, but the recent brief pause in the Republican presidential nomination race has not been kind to front-running real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump. His campaign manager was indicted for battery against a woman reporter, his threats and slurs against a rival’s wife caused even some of his most fervent supporters to question his judgment, the beloved-by-Republicans governor of Wisconsin endorsed Trump’s most pesky rival in the state’s important upcoming primary, and his efforts to explain it all have compounded the problems while somehow offending both sides of the abortion debate and alarming allies from Europe to Asia.
Reasonable people will disagree as to whether Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s undeniably hands-on encounter with reporter Michelle Fields of the previously friendly Brietbart.com site rises to even the level of a misdemeanor, which is what he’s been charged with following an investigation by the police officers Trump is always praising, despite Trump’s earlier denial that Lewandowski ever laid a hand on Fields, but it’s hard to see how the indictment is helpful. Trump’s so-faithful-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will note that the district attorney who brought the charges is a supporter of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, although we suppose at least half the charges being brought against accused criminals in the country are similarly suspect, and we heard a caller on one of the talk radio shows note that Fields is a libertarian, which he seemed to believe justified any rough treatment, but the vast majority of the country holding less indulgent views of Trump are likely to see it differently. Trump is already on record promising that any press outlets he dislikes “will have problems, such problems,” and saying that “Women, you’ve got to treat ’em like s**t,” and his campaign manager had already had a collar-grabbing incident with one of those idiot protestors that Trump has said he’d like to “punch in the face,” which one of his supporters did, and we’re still awaiting whether Trump will keep his promise to pay the legal fees, and it all fits a plausible narrative that’s building on both the right and left sides of the media.
Trump’s already dreadful poll numbers among women, most worrisomely even among Republican women, had already taken a further hit by his decision to threaten that he would “spill the beans” on the wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and then “re-Tweet” a message that basically meant “ha ha my wife’s hotter than yours,” which offended even the wave-riding pundit Ann Coulter, who had previously said she wouldn’t mind if Trump performed abortions in the White House, and his attempts to wave it all off also weren’t helpful. Seemingly surprised by a popular Wisconsin talk radio host’s questions about his sexist mud-slinging, Trump explained that he was just yukking it up with the notoriously sexist shock jock Howard Stern with some of those by now widely-circulated sexist comments, in between the nude lesbian segments, and that “everybody was laughing,” but we wonder how many of those thus-far unsupportive women will be persuaded. The Wisconsin talk radio host was having none of it, and Trump admitted he was surprised to find out that the host was one of us “Never Trump” conservative, which any half-way competent campaign manager would have known and warned of if he hadn’t been too busy mixing it up with reporters and protestors, but we are reassured by Trump and his supporters that he’ll always have the best people around him.
The endorsement of Cruz by Gov. Walker could have been easily and effectively ignored, but Trump of course took it personally and responded with a ridiculous rant against the beloved-by-Republicans hero of the great union fight. The man who claims the “anti-establishment” and “at least he fights” mantel cited some phony-baloney statistics from the mainstream press he routinely ridicules to disparage both Walker’s and the entirety of Wisconsin’s remarkable success in fighting the lousy deal that the public sector unions had forced on the state, blamed the “hatred” of the union thugs that predictably ensued on the reformers, and on the days leading to a Republican primary he blasted the governor for not raising taxes. Of course, there was the usual blather about making better deals.
Although the “at least he fights” candidate is dodging any one-on-one debates with his last remaining rival, a former national collegiate debate champion and esteemed member of the Supreme Court bar, he did wind up in a series of disastrous confrontations with other interlocutors besides that Wisconsin radio host. Facing the likes of the equally unintelligible Chris Matthews of the MSNBC network he wound up saying that women who get abortions should face criminal charges, a position that the pro-abortion movement has long been ascribing to the anti-abortion movement and that the anti-abortion movement has been strenuously denying for just as long, thereby infuriating both sides of the most divisive issue of recent times, which was quickly walked back, because Trump is a “uniter,” but it’s hard to score that round for Trump. He also cited health care and education as two of the three most important duties of the federal government, even though he had to later explain that of course as a Republican he thought health care was best left to the private sector and education to the states and localities.
Trump’s same “town hall” chit-chat with the unintelligible Matthews also had him disparaging the South Koreans and Japanese for free-loading on America’s defense budget, even though the South Koreans are occasionally cantankerous but ultimately realistic about their tenuous situation and the Japanese have lately been quite stalwart, and he said something about them needing to go nuclear that was also quickly walked back, and that followed a lot of Timothy Leary-esque stream-of-consciousness stuff before the Washington Post and New York Times about the free-loaders in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that alarmed not only our allies but even the more thoughtful observers who have been arguing for reforms in that still-essential organization.
Those so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans will surely remain loyal, but the latest poll in Wisconsin shows Cruz with a comfortable margin and let’s-all-get-along Gov. John Kasich of Ohio within striking distance of Trump, the down-in-the-mud-with-the-National-Enquirer style of campaigning that we’re told is needed to defeat the Democrats doesn’t seem to be working in a state where the slogan is “Wisconsin Nice,” and we’d like to think the rest of the country is also too nice for this nonsense.

— Bud Norman

The Race to the Bottom

Nothing seems inevitable in this crazy presidential election year, even the ultimate victory of Hillary Clinton. The former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of state and long-presumed First Woman President is on a one-for-six skid against the nebbishy self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with three blow-outs losses coming over the weekend, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has barely started leaking its case against her. She still leads in the delegate count, with plenty of those mysterious “super delegates” set to come to her rescue, but she doesn’t look any more inevitable than she was back in ’08.
The Democrats are in an anti-establishment mood somewhat similar to the one that’s been driving the Republican race,and much if not most of the party is by now eagerly embracing the self-confessed socialism of Sanders, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising. This time around the media isn’t treating the alternative as some sort of messiah, and her opponent is obligingly ignoring any of the non-Wall Street scandals that might hurt in a general election, and black and Latino portions of the party have been loyal enough provide victories in states where the white flight from the Democrats has reached a critical point, and of course there are all those “super delegates” and the organizational support of the party, but Clinton is such an awful person and awful candidate that such advantages are insufficient.
Ordinarily all that would bode well for the Republicans, but in this crazy presidential year they’re so angry at the Republican party that they’re threatening to nominate the one person in public life even more widely distrusted and disliked than Clinton, self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump. All the polls show Trump losing to Clinton and Sanders, but his supporters remain convinced that only he will be down-and-dirty enough to prevail over Clinton, and that it takes a thrice-married strip joint owner who boasts of his affairs with married women to make an issue of Clinton’s sleazy husband, and that only someone who donated $100,000 to Clinton’s phony baloney found to get her to come to his wedding can make an issue of her blatant influence peddling, which is an interesting theory. Trump’s supporters dismiss all the polls except the one’s showing Trump with a winning plurality in the primary and recall how Ronald Reagan made up an even larger deficit in the 1980 election, which is another interesting theory, but we don’t recall Reagan doing it the same way Trump will attempt.
A recent poll from the National Broadcasting Company and the Wall Street Journal finds 47 percent of Republican women saying they wouldn’t support Trump if he were the party’s nominee, which is a disastrous number that actually understates what we’re hearing from the Republican women of our acquaintance, and as much as the down and dirty stuff satisfies some rhetorical blood lust of Trump’s supporters it isn’t likely to win many of these women to his cause. Nor is it likely to be persuasive to the eye-popping 68 percent who told the Monmouth pollsters that Trump “does not have the right temperament to be president.” Trump’s latest down-and-dirty tactics have included threats to “spill the beans” on pesky rival Texas Sen. Cruz’s wife, and a “tweet” intended to disparage her looks, and the latest polls show it’s not helping his efforts in Wisconsin. His friends at the National Enquirer have unleashed some nasty innuendo about Cruz, and it remains to be seen if that wins any new admirers of his presidential temperament.
All Republicans and an easily winnable majority of independents and even a handful of old-timey Democrats are rightly alarmed at the prospect of Clinton winning the presidency, and now they can also start worrying about Sanders winning, but a majority of the entire country have similar qualms about a President Trump, so once again nothing is inevitable. This could be a crazy enough year to have a race between a self-described socialist such as Sanders and an authentic conservative as Cruz who will make their cases for their starkly different visions and obligingly avoid anything of less importance. Or you can have Clinton and Trump, in which case the mud will fly and get all over the country, and you might even see a serious third party challenge by someone not as awful, which won’t be hard to find.

— Bud Norman