Aging Politics in a Young Republic

Even by President Donald Trump’s debased standards, the speech he delivered on the Third of July at the base of Mount Rushmore was what President George W. Bush might call “some weird shit.”
Weird that he would use the occasion of a holiday intended to promote national unity by assailing not only the rioters and looters but also the vastly more numerous protestors objecting to the racism and police brutality that undeniably exists in our country. Weird that in a time when millions of Americans are sickened and tens of thousands of of them have died from a rampaging epidemic, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, and foreign adversaries from Russia to China to North Korea are exploiting America’s moment of distraction and weakness, he would identify the mostly peaceful domestic protestors against statues glorifying the Confederacy’s attempts to secede from the union as the the great threat to America’s existence as a Republic. Weird that Trump said those who disagreed with him want to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” and accuse of them of wanting to crush dissent and impose what he called “toe-tally-terry-tism.”
That mangled pronunciation of totalitarianism, along with the rest of the generally sloppy and slurry and low-energy reading of the speech, should be of greater to concern to Trump and his hard-pressed apologists. At one point in the speech, where he recounted America’s great military feats, he was caught on video saying that “in the jungles of Vietnam they delivered a swift and swiffying, you know that’s sweeping, it was swift and sweeping like nobody’s ever seen anything happen, a victory in Operation Desert Storm. A lot of you were involved in that, a lot of you were involved. That was a quick one.”
>We’re hopeful that Trump knows Operation Desert Storm wasn’t a swift and swiffying and sweeping victory in the Vietnam, War, and even some in “lame stream” “fake news” media who are always out to get Trump noted that if you read the speech there was a period and a pause between the part about Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but if you were listening to the speech as it was delivered rather than reading it as written it sure sounded like Trump thought that Operation Desert Storm was how America won a quick and sweeping victory in the jungles of Vietnam.
For all the late-night comics who revel in ridiculing the Trump it’s his greatest gift since said he talked about how the Continental Army, which was named after General George Washington, stormed the ramparts and seized the airports during the Revolutionary War, and other the rockets’ red glare over Fort McHenry, which happened in the war of 1812, “had nothing but victory.” We’re sure that Trump knows the Continental Army didn’t seize any airports during the Revolutionary War, although we’re not so sure he knows the difference between that war and the unpleasantness of 1812, and can believe that it was just another of those embarrassing misreadings of a teleprompter that might happen to anyone.
Still, that’s a problem for Trump. By nature he cannot admit making the sort of mistakes that might happen to anyone, and he clearly hopes to run for reelection on the argument that the gaffe-prone presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe is far less physically fit far and more senile than himself. Biden has lately been rising in the polls by mostly biding his time in his basement, occasionally reading carefully-written and mostly well-delivered speeches about national unity and such boilerplate blather, and following the public health guidelines and not making any conspicuous mistakes. Trump spent 15 minutes at his sparsely-attended and widely-panned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, explaining why he walked so gingerly down a ramp because of his leather-soled shows and used to two hands to take a sip of water to avoid staining his silk tie at his West Point commencement speech, and letting Trump hog all the media seems a winning strategy for Biden.
Both septuagenarian options are older than any previous presidential nominees, both show it, and that is a matter of concern. So is the fact that the Congressional leadership of both parties is, to put it charitably, seasoned. As much as we value the wisdom of old age, and decry ageism, the years eventually take the same toll on the brain as the rest of the body. We’re a mere 60 years old, but have already noticed we don’t play speed chess at the far-above average level we used to, and when the country oldies station played “Oh, Lonesome Me” as we were driving around today it took as a frustrating minute or so to remember that it was the great Don Gibson singing it. Our parents are octogenarians who continue to acquire to wisdom every day, and we don’t hope to ever catch up with them, but both will wisely say they’re not up the rigors of the presidency.
Not a one of those many millions of young American whippersnappers out there have won their party’s heart, however, and on both sides they’re an uninspiring lot. We can’t identify any potentially earthshaking 40-somethings such as Republican Teddy Roosevelt or Democratic John Kennedy among them, and this time around no one dared challenge Trump for the Republican nomination the last Democrat standing and the darling of the youthful left was self-proclaimed socialist and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is even older and crankier. Our generation has made quite a mess of things, but for now we’re the only options, and soon we’ll leave it to all those many millions of young whippersnappers out there to set things right. We wish them the best, and will be glad if we don’t live long enough to see how things turn out.

— Bud Norman

On Presidential Profanity

President Barack Obama reportedly spewed a “profanity-laced tirade” against the press recently, and we would have loved to have heard it. Partly because we always enjoy hearing the news media getting a good cussing, and partly because it would have been interesting to hear what complaints he might have against such a compliant lot of scribes, but mostly because we’d like know how adept he is with salty language.
One might easily surmise that the president is nostalgic for the more hagiographic sort of coverage he got back in the halcyon days of ’08, when his every utterance was treated as prophetic and the photographers always took care to add that eerie halo effect, so it’s not surprising that he would resent the relatively frank accounts of how things are going that he now occasionally endures. One still wonders what specific gripes he might have offered among the obscenities, however, and whether any recent Republican presidents would sympathize.
Of far greater interest would be the president’s proficiency with profanity. Although liberals are fond of foul language, an affinity they have indulged gratuitously at least since the days of Lenny Bruce’s martyrdom, we have noticed they are rarely any good at it. Most liberals simply pepper their speech with the gerund form of a familiar term for sexual intercourse, a habit which by now is far more monotonous than transgressive, with an occasional accusation of Oedipal tendencies leveled against conservatives. They infrequently employ the harsher terms deriving from female genitalia, perhaps for fear of offending the feminists they hope to bed, and they rarely invoke a common expression for those engage in fellatio, lest they be considered homophobic, which would also diminish their chances with the feminists they hope to bed, and their vocabulary of vulgarisms is conspicuously limited. Almost never do they achieve the staccato rhythms and poetic alliteration that make swearing truly swing. This is most likely because so few of them have served in the military or worked at blue collar trades, the professions that have elevated obscenity to an art form, but it might also be the same lack of imagination that characterizes the rest of liberal rhetoric.
Having watched the embarrassing spectacle of Obama attempting to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game, and having seen the sissy helmet he wears when pedaling his sissy bike around Martha’s Vineyard, we suspect he is especially ill-suited to such a masculine pursuit as profanity. The hesitant and halting speeches he sputters when speaking impromptu further indicate he has no talent for the free-flowing torrents of verbal vile necessary to make cussing successful. Even if the writers of that famously foul-mouthed “Deadwood” series that ran on HBO were to provide the script for his teleprompter, we doubt that his usual haughty chin-up delivery would be equal to the task.
Which is not to say that a president can’t cuss, of course. Lyndon Johnson was famously vulgar when coercing congressmen into supporting his disastrous agenda, which we are thankful is another talent that Obama has not yet demonstrated, and the transcripts of Richard Nixon’s tape-recorded White House conversations once made “expletive deleted” a household phrase. Johnson was from Texas, though, and Nixon was a Navy man, so both had some education in the art. That fancy Hawaiian prep school and Columbia University and Harvard’s law school probably did not provide Obama a similar tutelage. Should the president’s poll numbers continue their recent slide, however, he might get the knack of it yet.

— Bud Norman

Doing the Continental

Everyone who has ventured on a European trip has some embarrassing story to tell about it, but President Barack Obama’s recent continental tour could top them all. The president’s recent trip to Ireland and Germany featured enough gaffes, big and small, to fill two or three sequels to “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”
One of Obama’s smaller gaffes was repeatedly mistaking United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for rhythm and blues singer Jeffrey Osborne. The confusion prompted much hilarity among the British press, which seems to believe that the old school rhythm and bluesman would do a better job of managing England’s red-ink-soaked finances than the Oxford-educated bureaucrat, but George Osborne politely laughed it off. Obama’s mistake was also laughed off by the American press, which would likely have been more appalled had a Republican president made the same error, and eventually it will be offered as proof of the president’s up-to-date tastes in music. Had he been more of a heavy metal enthusiast Obama might have called the Chancellor “Ozzy,” arguably a more insulting error, but at least he would have been getting the nationality right.
A more significant and deliberate error occurred when Obama lectured an Irish audience that Catholic schools are “divisive.” The remark offended many Catholics throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as in the United States, and was widely viewed as further proof of Obama’s animus toward religion. Although we are quite Protestant by temperament as well as theological conviction, we also found the claim offensive as well as bizarre. The Catholic church has been in the education business for many centuries and has become quite good at it, judging by the Catholic-educated people we know, and we’ve not noticed any divisive effects. Unless Obama was speaking for the benefit of pubic school teachers’ union members back home, or is still miffed by the church’s obstinate rejection of his views on contraception, or somehow prefers the Islamic madrassas of his own youth, we can not imagine why he should insult Catholic schools while in a majority-Catholic country.
A couple thousand die-hard fans still showed up to cheer Obama while he was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but like a fading rock star whose biggest hits are in the past he found that at every stop the crowds were conspicuously smaller than on past tours. When he returned to Berlin, where a Woodstock-sized throng of adorers were enrapt by his oratory back in the heady days of ’08, Obama found himself speaking behind a bullet-proof glass wall to a modest 4,500 or so polite listeners. He pulled out all the tried-and-true crowd-pleasers from his repertoire, reaching all the way back to the ‘80s for some nuclear disarmament rhetoric, but the speech was universally panned by a suddenly disgruntled European press and back home the media cheerleader Chris Matthews was reduced to blaming the poor reaction on the sun glaring too harshly on the presidential teleprompter.
All of which is embarrassing, but largely inconsequential. The more significant problem was that the European political leadership seemed just as unimpressed, and as a result Obama failed to achieve much of anything but another round of golf. Germany’s Angela Merkel publicly scolded the president about his National Security Agency’s intelligence-gathering techniques, an issue of personal interest to a woman who grew up in East Germany under Stasi’s constant surveillance, and we expect that in private she also had a few things to say about his economic policies. Russia Vladimir Putin offered no concessions regarding the Syrian civil war, icily explaining to the press that “Our views do not coincide,” and his public encounters with the president demonstrated that Russo-American relations have not been reset to any positive effect.
The trip was bad enough that Obama should be glad to get back to the United States, where the stock market is crashing, scandals are mounting, the Obamacare train is wrecking, but a restful week of vacation in Martha’s Vineyard awaits. All the fading rock stars vacation there, and they could have a good time swapping stories about their European tours.

— Bud Norman