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The Persons of the Year

Time’s “Person of the Year” isn’t President Donald Trump, which surely annoyed him, and he was surely further annoyed by the choice the magazine made. This year’s pick is the “Silence Breakers,” as Time calls all the women who have come forward with tales of inappropriate sexual behavior by prominent men.
That includes the dozen or so women who are still accusing Trump of the same behavior he boasted of in that “Access Hollywood” tape, as well as the eight women who are accusing Trump’s favored Alabama senate candidate of pursuing them when they were teenaged girls, but it also includes a countless number of women alleging bad behavior on the left. This year’s long, long list of men whose reputations and careers have been damaged by allegations of sexual misbehavior also includes several Hollywood heavyweights, some well-known figures in the liberal media, and a couple of once-revered Democratic politicians.
After 52 years Michigan Rep. John Conyers was congress’ most long-serving member, and the beatings he endured during the civil rights crusade and his founding role in the Black Congressional Caucus and a long record of legislative activism had made him a saint-like figure in the Democratic party, but even he stepped down this week after a spate of accusations of sexual harassment by former staffers. He was allowed to do so for plausible reasons of deteriorating health, and it looks as if either his son or nephew will inherit his seat, but his future biographers will have to acknowledge that his career came to a disappointing end. Former comedian and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was similarly lionized by the left because of his impeccably liberal voting record and harshly anti-Republican rhetoric, and was even considered a contender for the party’s presidential nomination, but a series of women claiming that he had forced kisses and gropes on them have left his career in doubt. By Wednesday most of the Senate’s Democrats and all of the Democratic women in the chamber were calling for his resignation, with Minnesota Public Radio reporting that he would resign today during a scheduled announcement, and although Franken’s staff has “tweeted” that he’s still undecided it’s clear that he won’t be the party’s presidential nominee.
Some prominent Democrats are even apologizing for their support of once-beloved President Bill Clinton despite all his indisputable hound dog ways, and with the support of such media as Time magazine and all those networks and publications that have recently defenestrated prominent men they seem set on a zero-tolerance policy for misbehaving men. It’s such a shrewd political move, especially given that anyone Clinton has outlived his or her usefulness to the party, and that Conyers had clearly grown too old and Franken was always one of those celebrity politicians whose shtick soon grows tiring, that we assume some cynical motive. We nonetheless give some begrudging credit to the party for taking this sensible stand, and wish the Republicans would do the same.
For now our once-beloved Republican party is stuck with Trump and his boastfully hound dog ways, though, as well as that Alabama Senate candidate who sure sounds a a lot like a child molester to us and a lot of other people around the country. Trump and the talk radio talkers and the rest of the modern day Republican apparatus will continue to feign great indignation at the allegations against any Democrat, believing every word the women coming forward might say, but they’ll continue to insist you just can’t believe any woman who might say the same thing about a Republican. That worked well enough back when the Democrats were defending their guys and believing any woman who made allegations against Republicans, but the Democrats’ shrewd move makes that harder to pull off.
There’s no telling for sure, of course, but our guess is that most of these “Silence Breakers” are telling the truth, whether they’re breaking the silence about either a Democrat or a Republican. Some of them are bound to be lying, sooner or later, but the truth has a way of eventually asserting itself. Our experience of working and living in America tells us that men do often misbehave badly, and it takes a cynical political calculation to make that less common we’ll take it.

— Bud Norman

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The She that Was a He and How He Got Lost to Time

As we await today’s Super Tuesday presidential nomination race results with a grim sense of foreboding, we’ll take a moment to grimly chuckle about Time Magazine’s recent revelation that Evelyn Waugh is one of the most-read female authors in America’s colleges today.
If you’re not familiar with Waugh’s work, you really should be. Waugh is arguably the English language’s greatest fiction writer of the past century, the author of such masterpieces as “Brideshead Revisited,” “Scoop,” “The Loved One,” “Vile Bodies,” “Black Mischief,” “Decline and Fall,” that terrific “Sword of Honour” trilogy, and other worthy fare, all works that have a special relevance for these grim times. Waugh’s is a certainly a name that the supposedly hip-and-well-read folks at such a once-august magazine as Time should know, and they should also know that, in addition to being unfashionably dead and white, Waugh was also very much male.
It’s a common mistake, and even such a supposedly important journalist as Matt Yglesias “tweeted” his confession that he had also assumed Waugh was a woman, “Evelyn” being a name he associates with women, and we recall asking the clerk at a local locally-owned bookstore that prides itself on a well-read staff about a Waugh title and hearing him cheerfully admit that he’d never heard of her, and we suppose he got a lot of “Boy Named Sue” style kidding about it while growing up. He was married to a woman named Evelyn, and although his name was pronounced Ee-vellin and hers was the more common feminine form, their friends liked to distinguish them as He-evyln and She-vylyn, so some confusion is understandable. Still, we note that in a more literate age not so long ago the staff at such a highfalutin rag as Time would have been embarrassed not to know who Evelyn Waugh was, because their middle-brow readers sure did, and that in that not so long ago age the world was bit more civilized.
If the youthful staffers that Time can still afford to employ were to dip into some Waugh, despite deadness and whiteness and maleness, they’d find themselves brilliantly satirized by “Scoop,” that smart set they hope to mingle with had already been ridiculed by “Vile Bodies,” that their hollow understanding of war and peace has been shamed by the “Sword of Honor” books, and that the age they live in was witheringly described decades ago in “Decline and Fall.” If their middle-brow readers were more familiar with Waugh they might have been better prepared to avert the glum outcomes of today’s Super Tuesday voting.
Perhaps the glummest part of our slightly amusing story is that Waugh came in number 97 on that list of most-read female authors. It’s not that we’re altogether sexist, but as much as we love some good old Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark, who remind us very much of Waugh, and Dorothy Parker, who was a more American sort of dame, and Zora Neal Thurston, who is dead but black and female, and although we can think of others and freely acknowledge there are a lot more than we have had the opportunity to read, we seriously doubt that there have ever been a full 96 women of any color or original genitalia who deserve to be more widely read than Waugh. Literary quality takes a back seat to identity politics among the Democratic party’s mart set these days, though, and we don’t expect that either former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie sanders with the intellectual hairdo and academic elbow patches pay much heed to Waugh’s warnings against modernity.
Nor are we particularly elitist in our literary tastes, and we’ll also go on about our enthusiasm for Jim Thompson, the alcoholic white trash Okie whose delirium tremens dime novels expressed our cultural failings with a self-loathing religiosity that is much needed these days, and we’re suckers for Dan Jenkins’ sports novels and certain Stephen King works and corny old O. Henry short stories and the occasional cloak-and-dagger tales that our Pop so loved, but we do think the Republicans could stand some more reading of those dignified dead white males who suddenly seem out fashion even in the Grand Old Party. As the party enters the modern reality show stage of its long history, forged in the Civil War, it would do well to recall an exchange between two characters in “Scott-King’s Modern Europe.” A stuffy old headmaster declares that “Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ anymore. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the public world. You can hardly blame them, can you?” The protagonist responds that “I can and do. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

— Bud Norman

What Seven Years of Hope and Change Have Wrought

After seven years and a month or so of Hope and Change the country is in such a foul mood that it’s threatening to elect either a bumbling socialist revolutionary or a bullying crony-capitalist reality TV star, but President Barack Obama is still keeping his chin up. Returning Wednesday to the city where he launched his first presidential campaign, back in those halcyon days when a hopeful nation first cast its eyes on his heroically-upturned chin and all the young hipsters were chanting his name, Obama spoke with his usual telepromptered eloquence about the current state of politics as if he were once again levitating above that messy fray.
Although he claimed with a straight face that “I still believe in a politics of hope,” Obama nonetheless rued the nastiness of the contests between his would-be successors. With a bipartisan ambiguity, and no names mentioned, he intoned that “We’ve got to build a better politics. One that’s less of a spectacle and more of a business.” Then he launched into some talk about campaign financing and voting restrictions and gerrymandering, meaning that he wants government-regulated speech and rampant voter fraud and differently gerrymandered districts, and of course some laments about petty bickering. He added that “In America, politicians should not pick their voters, voters should pick their politicians,” which might have been an allusion to those fishy Iowa Democratic caucus results and all those “super delegates” that have padded Hillary Clinton’s advantage despite her lack of popularity so far with Democratic voters, but probably not. His talk of “spectacle” might have been an oblique reference to Donald J. Trump, the aforementioned bullying crony-capitalist reality TV star and current Republican-frontrunner, and probably was.
Still, Obama was ambiguous enough to levitate above that messy fray, and the fawning account of the speech in Time Magazine was happy to sustain the illusion. The reporters wrote of the fresh-faced young candidate of that long-ago campaign and contrasted it with his “graying hair and a face wrinkled by the stress of the job,” as if they can be sure it isn’t a result of too many after-dark parties and sun-drenched golf rounds, and how he is “again hoping to rally Americans around in believing that the country’s politics can must be better.” The New York Times’ putative token conservative columnist had already beaten them to that telegraphed punch with a fawning love song about Obama’s scandal-free dignity, and we expect to hear a lot more of that from all sorts of media and historians and documentarians over the coming months and years, but of course it’s all bosh.
All that talk of Hope-and-Change was always interspersed with talk of if-they-bring-a-knife-we-bring-a-gun and get-in-their-faces and punish-your-enemies and and speaks rudely of corporate jet-flying billions and typical white people their gun-and-Bible-clinging ways and everything else in Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” playbook, not to mention passing the likes of Obamacare without a single Republican vote, and all that punishment the Internal Revenue Service inflicted on the president’s enemies, and the subsidies lavished on his campaign bundlers’ phony-baloney and soon-to-be-bankrupt “green energy” scams, and all those executive actions he took to get around the Congress that the voters voted for, so the inevitable results are the garish spectacles now on display in both parties.
We can well understand why the president might resent hearing all the hipsters chant the name of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a bumbling old socialist who’s somehow so hip and up to date he doesn’t feel the need to pretend he’s not a socialist, as the suddenly stodgy and wrinkled Obama still does, especially when it’s a cranky old geezer with no hip-hop cred who freely admits the economy that Obama brags about is actually awful, but we wonder what he might have expected. His own election was celebrated by the doomed Newsweek with a headline bragging “We’re all socialists now,” his best explanation for why he wasn’t a socialist was that even such a right-wing conservative as that all-purpose scapegoat President George W. Bush had brought about that Medicare prescription drug plan and all sorts of other socialistic sorts of things, no one in his party can any longer explain the difference between a Democrat and a socialist, he’s a proud product of an academic establishment that’s been carefully laying the ground work for a socialist revolution the past 50 years or so, and the economy is indeed lousy enough for a more frank socialist to call it the long-awaited Crisis of Capitalism.
The only candidate that’s proudly promising another four years of Obama is his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is also a former First Lady and Senator and a longtime fixture of the Democratic party’s lucrative crony capitalist yet vaguely socialistic establishment, and the fact that she’s been bloodied by a bumbling and even older old socialist such as Sanders doesn’t say much for him. There’s that ongoing scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over a unsecured e-mail system that he sent correspondence through, all the Wall Street money that both of them took, and the Dodd-Frank regulations that enriched their contributors even as they’re both trying to claim it as a great victory for the anti-Wall Street crowd, and the lies they both told about the deadly attacks on an American consulate in Libya, which Democrats don’t care much about but still feed into a general cynicism about the establishment, so another four years of Obama is now a hard sell even to Democrats. Obama could still let that FBI investigation run its rightful course and then install some candidate more to his liking with the help of all those “super-delegates” that are currently padding Clinton’s numbers, but he’s now assured he thinks the voters should choose their politicians.
There’s plenty of “spectacle” on the Republican side, too, and we also blame Obama for that. After seven years and a month or so of Hope of Change and a socialism that dare not speak its name, an effective plurality of Republican voters have settled on a bullying crony-capitalist reality TV star who always brings a gun to a knife fight, gets in people’s faces, punishes his enemies, tells his vanquished opponents to sit in the back, is a billionaire with the biggest corporate jet this side of Air Force One with his name emblazoned in capital letters, and is a gambling mogul and proud adulterer who boasts of the politicians he’s bought off and claims to speak for typical gun-and-Bible-clinging white folk. He’s switched parties more often than he’s traded in his wives, and would apparently prefer something more socialistic than the Obamacare law that was passed without any Republican votes, but by gum, at least he fights, and after seven years of Hope and Change that’s good enough for a plurality of Republican voters. Trump is a reality TV star, too, and after seven years of Hope and Change and presidential appearances on the late night comedy shows there’s something comfortingly familiar about that.
Still, Obama and his scribes at Time and The New York Times and all those historians and documentarians will probably be able to cast a flattering light on his wizened visage and fondly recall all the telepromptered eloquence about bipartisan compromise and political civility and moderation, and with any luck the next big terrorist attack and the inevitable economic catastrophe won’t happen until the bumbling old socialist or her corrupt and incompetent rival or that bullying crony-capitalist reality TV star or some more right-wing cowboy are installed in office. From this point on, he levitates above the messy fray he’s created.

— Bud Norman

That Uncertain Time of the Year

For some reason or another Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” issue always gets some amount of attention, even though it’s the only time other than a dental appointment when you’re likely to be aware of Time Magazine’s continuing existence, and this year they have designated Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for the honor. By now it’s no bigger a deal than an Academy Award or a Nobel Peace Prize or any of the other once-prestigious titles, at least as far as the average person is concerned, but it’s always a reliable indicator of what the more important sorts of people are thinking.
In this case it’s clear they’re thinking that a massive influx of immigrants from the most troubled parts of the world is just what western civilization needs to maintain its economy and sense of self-righteousness. Merkel didn’t get such profuse praise from the press when she took power as a center-right alternative to Germany’s previous more liberal leaders, and certainly not when she was wisely rejecting President Barack Obama’s pleas for a coordinated stimulus effort to revive the world economy after the 2008 recession, or when she was stubbornly insisting that Greece’s latest bail-out come with harsh conditions of fiscal rectitude, but now that she’s insisting Germany and the rest of Europe welcome millions of refugees from the Middle East’s wars and general inhabitability she enjoys a newfound respectability. Her stand on immigration is not popular in Germany, or anywhere else in the western world, but that impresses the editors of Time Magazine all the more. “She is not taking the easy road. Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow,” the article enthuses, “For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time’s ‘Person of the Year.'”
It seems to us that Merkel is asking her people to surrender their country to an incremental invasion by a markedly inferior culture, that her imposition of her own will over that of her people is itself tyrannical, that she’s doing it for the merely expedient reason of coping with her country’s below-replacement-rate fertility, which is likely a result of an enervating social welfare system and civilizational self-doubt that the centrist and childless Merkel has not addressed, and although we’ll readily agree that moral leadership is in short supply around the world she hardly seems an exception to that rule. Nor do we expect that that such leadership will inspire many followers, in Germany or elsewhere, so her influence on events will likely be short-lived. Those who prefer political correctness and economic expedience to the survival of western civilization will applaud Merkel’s defiance of popular opinion, but they won’t prevail without an ugly fight.
with such respectable leaders as Merkel currently in power in most western countries, the widespread public opposition to their insane policies has too often found voice in the most disreputable sort of parties. The National Front is the big beneficiary in France, similarly nationalist and authoritarian parties are rising throughout Europe, and of course in America all the news is about Donald Trump’s front-running status in the Republican primary race. This makes the likes of Merkel all the more attractive to the likes of Time Magazine, but it won’t make much difference.
Trump’s “tweets” on the issue suggest he is slightly miffed he didn’t get the honor, and we’ll concede that he’s far more likely to have the greater ultimate influence on events than Merkel and all the other open-borders leaders around the world, but at least the editorial didn’t include him with such past “Persons of the Year” as Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini. We note he was at least among the finalists for the title, along with the former Bruce Jenner, the Black Lives Matter movement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the guy who came up with the “Uber” application. Putative Leader of the Free World Barack Obama didn’t make the cut, despite his own moral leadership on behalf of western civilization’s collective suicide, and neither did any of the Republican candidates who are forcefully arguing for sensible immigration policies, so it’s going to a take a hell of a person next year to set things right.

— Bud Norman