An Old Age Question

Whenever we ask out Trump-loving friends why they continue to support him despite everything, the most frequent answer we get is that Joe Biden is senile. It’s now a common trope on the rightwing talk radio shows and some of the Fox News opinion programs, where they love to endlessly replay a montage of the Democratic presidential nominee mispronouncing words, momentarily losing his train of thought, and stumbling through sentences.
style-“text-indent:20px;”>It is indeed pretty embarrassing, and enough to raise questions about electing a 77-year-old. Some of it is the sort of thing that even a hearty 50 year old might say at the end of a long day of non-stop talking on the campaign trail. Also, every cable network and late night comedy show has a montage of Trump that is longer and even more damning.
By now the 73-year-old Trump is well known for malapropisms. He wanted to look into the “oranges” of the Mueller investigation. He responded to a question by saying “When you say per capita, there are many per capitas so you have to ask yourself “per capita relative to what?” He boasted of the great work being done by his “adminstrazizess.” His always misspelled and randomly capitalized “tweets” have featured similar offenses against the English language.
just this week Trump has spoken of the “Yo-Semite” National Park, although he quickly changed that to “Yo-Seminite.” He also pronounced Thailand as “Highland.” ,Similar examples are far too numerous to list, and at least twice a day the president says something that subjects him too late night ridicule.
Which is not to mention Trump’s penchant for making such obviously insane suggestions as injecting bleach into Covid-19 patients and stopping hurricanes with nuclear bombs.
Both make a case for nominating younger leaders, as most people’s mental sharpness starts to decline after ge 60 even if they accumulate more knowledge and wisdom. Alas, none of the younger generations have stood out for their leadership, and America is left to decide which of two septuagenarians is less senile.

— Bud Norman

Over-Promise, Under-Deliver, Repeat

Several weeks ago Trump announced that in two weeks he would be signing a bill to massively overhaul America’s health system, which was obviously balderdash. Even with a Democratic president and both chambers of Congress controlled by Democrats, it took months of acrimonious debate for Obamacare to be passed, and given a Democratic House majority Trump clearly couldn’t get anything done in two weeks. Trump doesn’t mind telling such obvious and inevitably disproved lies, however.
A few weeks before the last mid-term elections Trump promised to sign a 10 percent middle class bill, which came as a surprise to both the then-Republican Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, who admitted they were unaware of any such legislation. The promise was quickly forgotten after the Democrats won a large House majority, but he still looked pretty damn stupid.
From the he announced his candidacy Trump has promised a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that would cover every American a far lower cost. He never revealed that plan, however, and even with Republicans in control of Congress he couldn’t win a repeal because there was still no better replacement on the table.
This time around Trump has at least issued an executive order to expand the popular “telehealth” program that was created in response to the coronavirus epidemic, which is a good idea but hardly the major overhaul of the health system he as long promised. Over-promising and under-living has been Trump’s style since his business, and no amount of bankruptcies has caused him to question it.
Eventually it leads to further erosion of the public’s confidence that the President is telling us the truth, though, and makes his next grandiose all the more dubious.

— Bud Norman

The Coronavirus Briefs Reboot

President Donald Trump resumed his coronavirus press briefings on Tuesday after a two month hiatus, and it was strikingly different from his previous shows. It probably won’t get the boffo ratings that Trump boasted about before, but at least it will get better reviews.
The first round of coronavirus press briefings were the most compellingly bizarre spectacles this side of Netflix’ “The Tiger King.” They featured up to two hours of Trump angrily berating reporters for their questions, pushing his top health experts away from the podium to contradict what they were saying, and making extravagant promises that everything was under control and America would soon be roaring back to business. He stopped doing it after extemporaneously saying to a live nationwide audience that perhaps covid patients should be injected with bleach or other household disinfectants, and well-deserved and widespread ridicule ensued. Trump said the briefings were a waste of time because of how the fake news media twisted his words to make him look bad, but reports indicated that Trump’s most trusted advisors persuaded him was the live-on-air that was dragging his poll numbers down.
This time Trump mostly stuck to the script during a taut thirty minutes at the podium, and he struck a very different tone. He freely admitted that “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” which is very uncharacteristic of man who prefers to talk about how everything’s great and it’s going to get so much better your head will spin, and he added “That’s something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.”
He also urged Americans to wear face masks while in public, despite his long resistance to doing so himself. He once again boasted of the extensive testing that’s being done in America, although he recently told a rally crowd he’d asked health officials “to slow the testing down, please” and has proposed cutting funding for the tests. All in a surprisingly somber voice and civil demeanor, with no castigation of the reporters and none of his insult comic shtick about Democrats, but it remains to be seen how long her can keep that up.
Trump had some trouble answering questions about his infrequent mask-wearing while in public, but the only big gaffe came in response to an off-topic question about Ghislaine Maxwell, who currently in jail facing charges that she groomed underage to have sex with notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who officials say committed suicide in federal prison after being convicted of rape and other sex crimes. “I wish her well,” Trump said, admitting that he Maxwell and Epstein from frequent encounters on the Palm Beach, Florida, social circuit. Trump ordinarily dismisses anyone he knows who is in trouble as people he hardly knows, but in the case of Maxwell there’s too much photographic proof of the friendship, and we guess he didn’t want to seem a fair weather friend.
Trump’s longtime association with Epstein and Maxwell wasn’t much of a problem when he was running against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose hound dog of an ex-president also had close ties to the couple, but this time around the Democratic nominee isn’t named Clinton. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden might choose to take the high road and not exploit the Trump-Epstein-Maxwell relationship, but not everyone opposed to Trump will be quite so polite. Expect “I wish her well” to become a widely seen internet “meme.”
What matters more is what Trump does to slow the spread of the virus, and on Tuesday he didn’t lay out any specific plan. At least he didn’t exude improbable optimism and make extravagant promises, and we suppose that’s a start.

— Bud Norman

How Bad Could It Get?

All of the published opinion polls show President Donald Trump trailing in his race for reelection, and although he claims that his own polling show him with a comfortable lead we believe that’s another o the boastful lies he routinely tells. Down-ballot polling and anecdotal evidence and the way things are going lately suggest that every major news organization including Fox News and every pollster including Rasmussen are not conspiring to mislead the public.
Trump and his die-hard supporters will note that last time around the polls failed to predict his Electoral College victory, but they tend to forget that the polls almost precisely predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2 percent win of popular vote and the polls in the four states states where Trump eked out victories were all within their margins of error. This time around the national polls have Trump losing by 9 to 14 points, and faring as badly in those battleground states he won in 2016. Worse yet, the state polls also show that some states Republicans have long taken for granted are now battleground states.
According to a poll by commissioned by the Dallas Morning News, Biden even has a five point lead in Texas, which is very bad news for Trump. Texas is by the most populous state the Republican party counts on, and losing it would make Trump’s reelection impossible. The good news is that Biden has only 46 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 41 percent, with 14 percent of the electorate in the undecided column, bu that’s not great news. Trump needs to win well over have half of the undecideds just to catch up, and that will require time and money that can’t be spent in other states will need to prevent an electoral landslide.
If current trends continue Trump might be forced to write off the four Rust Belt states that got him elected in 2016, and try to hold on to such once reliably Republican states as Arizona and North Carolina and even Georgia and Kansas, as well as populous and always-competitive Florida and Ohio, where the polls show him in a fight for his life.
Current trends might not continue, of course, but at this point it’s hard to imagine what might reverse them. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and deaths are climbing steadily nationwide and spiking to new records in Texas and Arizona and Florida, while d public health experts are saying the worst of it might come fwhen lu season arrives in the fall. Economic experts are predicting that unemployment will remain in double digits through the end of the year. Perhaps Trump’s steadfast stand for the Confederacy and crackdowns on peaceful protests against racism might turn things around, and his pardons of convicted felons won’t undermine his “law and order” positions, but so far they’ve only been driving his approval ratings down.
Trump is a master at marketing, if nothing else, and maybe he’l pull something out of his Make America Great Again ball cap. It will need to be something pretty damned good, though.

— Bud Norman

Trump’s Mixed Results in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s argument, made by his lawyers with a straight face, that he has “absolute immunity” not only from prosecution but even investigation. Although the rulings will have the effect of keeping his tax returns secret until at least after election Trump was furious about the assertion he’s not above the law. He “tweeted” that the Supreme Court was “Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” and that he was a victim of “political prosecution.”
A few hours later Trump “tweeted” that he was gratified by a ruling the did not hand his tax returns over to a House investigative but allowed them to seek the documents in a lower court with the Supreme Court’s guidance that Trump has no special status. Trump also “tweeted” that he felt “protected” by another ruling that a New York state prosecutor is entitled to the tax returns, but only to present them to a grand jury, where proceedings are conducted outside public view and rarely leaked. Even so, Trump seems to feel he’s being picked on by being treated like everyone else.
Trump hasn’t said so publicly, but he’s probably furious that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberal justices in the seven-to-two decisions. Both are Trump appointees, and the president surely expected they would repay the favor with undying loyalty to him rather than the law. That’s what he gets for letting the Federalist Society vet his nominees, though.
Although his tax returns will probably remain under wraps until Election Day, it’s another reminder that there’s something in there that he doesn’t want anyone to see.

Three Cheers for the GOP’s “Human Scum”

Lately we’ve been binge-watching videos from both the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, as they make us feel lonely and give us hope that the Republican Party might eventually recover from President Donald Trump.
If you’re not familiar with either organization, you probably will be by Election Day. The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by some prominent Never Trump Republicans, including conservative lawyer George Conway, now best known as the husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former managers of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Jennifer Horn, and former California Republican Party political director Mike Madrid. Republicans Voting Against Trump is a more grass roots organization posting videos of dozens of disillusioned rank-and-file Republicans explaining the conservative and Republican reasons they’ll be voting against Trump.
Both groups make a more persuasive case against Trump than anything the damn Democrats have come up with so far, and both are a problem for the president.
The well-funded Lincoln Project’s videos are very professionally produced by political professionals who know a thing or two about how to make an effective attack ad and can speak to Republicans in Republican language. Last time around Trump had the advantage of running against spineless Republicans who didn’t want to alienate his supporters during the primary, and then against an inept Democratic nominee whose long history prevented her from exploiting Trump’s moral weakness. This time around he’ll presumably be running against presumptive Democrat nominee “Sleepy” Joe Biden, whose blandness will contrast favorably with Trump’s overly energetic persona, and he’s also got to contend with some bare-knuckle political pugilists who won’t be intimidated by a “tweet.”
All the YouTube views being racked up the Republican Voters Against Trump should be more worrisome. They’re not at all slick, just ordinary-looking Republicans looking into a video camera and stating their reasons for voting against Trump. Most of them have stories about how they’ve been Republicans since Trump was a Democrat, several talk about their military service and careers in law enforcement and their time in public office as Republicans, others talk about their Christian faith and belief that character counts, and none of them come across as “human scum,” as Trump has called any Republicans who don’t support everything says and does. They talk about how Trump has abandoned traditional Republican positions on free trade and maintaining the alliances that have largely kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II and lowering federal deficits and telling the truth, and as they rack up thousands of “views” on the internet they’re bound to win over more Republicans.
With coronavirus cases spiking and unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression and peaceful protests and the occasional riot popping up around the country because of racial injustice, Trump is betting that his defense of the the lost cause of the Confederacy is the best thing he’s got going for him. That will appeal to a certain segment of supporters, but we can’t see how it will win him any new voters nor appease any of the disillusioned Republican voters who continue to believe in the Grand Old Party’s traditional-since-its-founding pro-Union stance.
Most Republicans still like Trump, which we attribute to the fact he’s the Republican nominee, like it or not, but all the polls show that party support slowly eroding. The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump likely accelerate that trend, and Trump will be hard-pressed to recruit replacements.

— Bud Norman

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

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

On How Things are Going

Despite everything we still run into friends occasionally, and from a social distance we’ll ask how things are going for them. In most cases they shrug and tell us that they’re hanging in there, but we haven’t had anyone recently tell us that things are going great.
This admittedly anecdotal evidence is corroborated by a fresh poll from the Columbia Broadcasting System showing that only 5 percent of Americans say that things are going vey well for them. At this rate it will take us a while to ask 100 people how things are going, and if we find five among them who saying things are going very well we’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Pretty much everything is undeniably awful at the moment, after all, and only the luckiest 5 precent or so are having a good time. Coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths continue to mount at the fastest rate in the world, tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, people are once again bickering both peacefully and violently about race, there are no sports or campaign rallies to divert our attention, and around here it’s hotter than hell and theres’s even Saharan dust in the air.
Not all of this is President Donald Trump’s fault, of course, but everything seems to have gone to hell on his watch, which is how Trump judged all the previous presidents of his lifetime, and nobody seems to be “sick and tired of winning,” as Trump promised they would beat this point in his presidency. His boasts about “Only I can solve” and making America great again and building a big and beautiful wall across the southern border that Mexico would pay pay for haven’t been backed up. The budget deficit is up by trillions and trade deficits are up by billions, and Trump is boasting about how great things were last January and how great they will be when the coronavirus magically disappears before inauguration day next January,
We’ll see how it turns out, but Trump seems to be one of the 95 percent who don’t think things are going very well.

— Bud Norman<.

Full Facial Nudity is Banned in Kansas

Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.

— Bud Norman