On Monday’s Presidential Performance

President Donald Trump is clearly in a foul mood. He spent Sunday sending out angry “tweets” at a rate one of every 17 minutes, and on Monday he snarled his way through a press briefing before abruptly ending it and walking away in an unmistakable huff.
Trump’s perpetually enraged die-hard supporters surely loved it, but to the rest of the country it looked as if the man who has promised to get coronavirus under can’t control his temper. Most viewers probably also noticed that Trump continues to say a lot of things are provably untrue, and that he doesn’t have any answer to a lot of fair questions about it.
One of Trump’s more than 100 “tweets” on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Except for “re-tweeting” a conservative writer’s unsubstantiated claim that Obama “attempted to “target incoming officials and sabotage the new administration,” Trump did not elaborate. So we can hardly blame The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker for asking exactly what crime Trump was alleging, and whether he wants to the Justice Department to lock Obama up.
“You know what the crime is,” Trump explained. “The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.” Rucker didn’t seem to know any better than we do, although we assume he reads as many newspapers as we do. “Obamagate,” Trump further explained, “It’s been going for a long time, it’s been going before I got elected. It’s a disgrace that it happened, and if you look at what’s gone on and you you look at now all of the information that is being released, and from what I understand, that’s only the beginning. Some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again. You’ll be seeing what’s going on in the coming weeks.”
In other words, which we hope are more parseable, Trump can’t quite say what Obama did or provide any evidence to back up the allegations, at least for now, some reason, but you can believe it’s coming, that he can say, OK? Rucker didn’t get a chance to ask why Trump is withholding evidence of the “biggest political crime in American history, by, far,” but the die-hard supporters have faith that everything will eventually be explained.
Ever since the coronavirus started crowding everything else out of the news, Trump has been trying to convince the public that’s really not such a big deal, and has lately suggested that it’s no reason not to go to work or on a shopping spree. So naturally he was asked about the news that testing has found a military valet who served Trump’s meals and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary — who is also the wife of senior advisor Stephen Miller in the nepotistic administration — had been infected with the coronavirus.
Trump assured the nation that he’s safe because everyone he comes into contact with has been tested, quite falsely claimed that every American and all of their co-workers can now be tested before returning to work, and then explained that testing is overrated because people can get negative results until they acquire the virus. He also endorsed the White House’s new rules about everyone, except for himself and Pence, wearing a face mask while in public. Questions about an appearance of inconsistency and double standards were simply sneered at rather then answered.
A face masked Weijia Jiang of CBS news asked why Trump boasted of how much testing the United States was doing relative to other countries, “as if it were some kind of international competition,” and by that point Trump had clearly had enough pesky questions for the day. He could have been grateful she hadn’t asked why the United States was lagging behind so many other countries on a per capita basis, or simply explained that international comparison were a useful benchmark, but instead he replied “Well, they are losing their lives everywhere in the world. Maybe that is a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me. Ask China that question. When you ask China that question you may get a very unusual answer.”
We’re sure that if Jiang did ask China why Trump says the things he does that she’d get a very unusual answer, but we would have liked to have heard Trump take a stab at the question. Jiang asked why he would direct his question to her, apparently thinking that her Chinese ancestry might have had something to do with, but he ignored and pointed to another reporter. When she didn’t immediately step, waiting for the president to answer her colleague’s follow question, Trump scolded her and refused to hear her question and ended the briefing with a terse “Thank you, thank you very much.
Somehow, we are not reassured Trump has everything under control.

— Bud Norman

Partisanship and Presidential Pettiness

Several of our friends thought George W. Bush was a horrible president, but now tell us he’s been an exemplary ex-president. They admire that he’s hewed to the longstanding tradition of refraining from any criticism of a sitting president and avoiding partisan politics while devoting himself to non-controversial causes. We expect they appreciated a three-minute video released on Sunday urging Americans to put aside their political differences and help one another during the coronavirus crisis.
“Let us remember how small our differences are,” Bush said in the video. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
Who could argue with that? Even President Donald Trump didn’t try, but he did use the video as an opportunity to take yet another swipe at Bush via “tweet.”
“Oh bye the way,” Trump “tweeted,” with his characteristic poor spelling. “I appreciate the message from former president Bush, but where was he during impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside. He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest hoax in American history!”
As always, Trump believes that anyone who doesn’t rise to his defense on every occasion is guilty of partisanship, and that those who do defend him no matter what aren’t partisans but rather true patriots. Trump’s impeachment trial was one of those controversies that ex-presidents are supposed to stay out of, as all four living ex-presidents did, and Trump should be grateful that they kept their opinions to themselves. All four almost certainly believed that Trump was guilty as charged, and should have been removed from office, so their silence probably required severe self-discipline.
A few hours after his sneering “tweet” about Bush, Trump “tweeted” an unexplained and unsubstantiated accusation that President Barack Obama “was the one running the Russia hoax.” He then insulted Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, and once again threatened to withhold federal aid to states with Democratic governors who won’t cede to Trump’s demands on sanctuary cities, which is at slightly more specific than his threat to withhold states from Democratic-run states on general principle. Oh, and he also “tweeted” a boast about the golf courses he owns in Scotland.
It’s hard to see how any of this helps the country reach a bipartisan solution for the coronavirus problem, or somehow helps make America great again, but he clearly believes it serves his own political purposes. Trump has heaped scorn not only on Bush but also on the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and current Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who were the three previous Republican nominees for president, and except for an occasional nod to the “late and great” Abraham Lincoln — he apparently ads the “late” part just in case you haven’t heard the bad news — he doesn’t seem to have much respect for any pre-Trump Republican. At least he’s nonpartisan to that extent.
Trump’s die-hard fans have probably voted for Republican presidential nominees as long as they’ve been old enough to vote, but they probably don’t mind him trashing the more dignified party they once supported. “At least he fights,” they’ll tell you. That such vindictive grudge-holding only serves to make the President of the United States look small and petty to the rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter.

— Bud Norman

The Ongoing Trials of Sessions

President Donald Trump is still tormenting his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which is entirely unsurprising but the biggest non-coronavirus story we could find in the news this week.
Then-Alabama Sen. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump’s seemingly quixotic campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, and a time when the rest of the party’s elected and officials and other establishments were desperately hoping to nominate almost anyone else. His campaigning on Trump’s behalf helped win over a lot of the fiscal and religious conservatives who had been suspicious of the former Democrat and outspoken abortion rights advocate from New York City, and when Trump somehow won the general election Sessions was rewarded with the Attorney General gig, despite a lack of any apparent qualifications other than his loyalty.
Not long after Trump took office, though, the Justice Department announced an investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s apparent attempts to hack e-mails and sponsor internet information in order to help Trump. Because Sessions ha been a prominent member of the campaign, and he and other campaign staff had some arguably innocent interactions with Russians that he denied during congressional testimony, he recused himself from any role in the investigation. it was the ethical thing to do, and probably smart politics given the doubts that any decisions he might have would prompted, but Trump was furious.
Trump wanted the investigations quashed at the beginning, and believed that an Attorney General’s job is to protect him rather than pursue justice without favoritism, and made Session’s life as miserable as possible. Trump “tweeted” schoolyard taunts against Sessions, pilloried him during televised news conferences, and in private conversations with other administrations likened sessions to the diminutive and nearly-blind and constantly blundering cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Although he had neither the guts nor a plausible reason for outright firing Sessions, who was pursuing White policies diligently, Trump was clearly intent on forcing a resignation.
That’s what eventually happened, and Sessions was replaced by Attorney General William Barr, who has proved more willing to protect the president at all costs.
Sessions was still popular in Alabama, where he probably could have held his Senate seat until his dying day if he hadn’t loyally accepted Trump’s offer of the Attorney General job, so he went back to the welcoming arms of his home state and bided his until the next senatorial election. All of Trump’s “tweeting” and pillorying had somewhat weakened Sessions standing, though, and after a crowded primary election Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville slated for July 14. Sessions campaigned on the argument that he’d been an early supporter of Trump — who is also quite popular in the state — and remained a loyal advocate for the “Make America Great Again agenda, but Trump values loyalty to himself more than loyalty to his ever-shifting policies, and he endorsed Tuberville, who was also fully on board and already had a sizable following in the football-crazy state.
Sessions has continued to campaign as “Trump’s #1 supporter,” but the the Trump reelection has campaign has sent him a cease-and-desist letter about it, saying the claim is “delusional.” This looks bad to us, as it seems quite petty on Trump’s part and clearly implies that any true Trump supporter would have gladly obstructed justice on the president’s behalf, but a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters might well see it differently. When Alabama had a special election to fill the state’s Senate after Sessions left for the Justice Department, a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters nominated Roy Moore, an unabashed theocrat who had been kicked off the Supreme Court of Alabama for defying federal and had a number of women coming forward to describe his very creepy behavior when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. He was such an awful candidate despite Trump’s endorsement and ardent campaigning and ample campaign contributions the Red Sea parted and a moderate Democrat named Doug Jones won a statewide election for the for the first time in decades.
Alabama is still as red as the Crimson Tide, though, and Jones is considered the Democrat’s most vulnerable incumbent in November. Tuberville might or might not have much going for him except a winning record at Auburn and Trump’s endorsement, as we don’t follow Alabama politics closely enough to say, but from this distance he doesn’t seem nearly so awful as Moore, so he’d likely be the frontrunner in a general election. Sessions would be, too, though, as Alabamans has long considered a good public servant who put principle above politicians, and although it goes against off his prideful instincts Trump would be wise to support a Sessions nomination if it happens.
These days every story has a coronavirus angle, however, and at this point it’s not clear if Alabama will be able to have a run-off election on July 14. The Alabama Republican Party could decide to postpone it until hopefully happier days, or have everyone vote by mail or on-line or some other socially-distanced, or just have the party establishment pick a nominee, and there’s no telling which candidate that would benefit.
The other coronavirus angle is that such a petty and impetuous and unprincipled president as Trump is in charge of that horror show. Even in Alabama, Jones might be able to make some hay of that by Election Day, if that happens.

— Bud Norman

Back to the World

The holidays are officially over, with nothing but St. Valentine’s Day and bitterly cold weather awaiting until Easter and the blessed rebirth of spring, and unless your employer is generous with holiday schedules it’s time to get back to dreary business of daily life. Worse yet, there’s more news to contend with.
Congress won’t be back in session for a few more days, and President Donald Trump will remain bunkered in Mar-a-Lago at least as long, but the stock markets are open and the domestic politics continue and the rest of the world is already making its usual trouble.
The New Years news was interrupted by frightening footage of an assault on the American embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian mobs, and although the American security forces were able to repel the attack with substantial damage to the compound but no loss American lives it’s a another problem start to a new year. Trump is “tweeting” threats to make Iran pay a substantial price, the Iranian dictator is “tweeting” back something that roughly translates to “Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it, punk?,” and there’s no precedent we know of to predict how such high-level diplomacy might work out.
North Korea’s nutcase dictator Kim Jong Un didn’t deliver a threatened “Christmas surprise,” but according to the latest anonymous leaks and official statements from the intelligence agencies he’s quite unsurprisingly continuing his very expensive military build-up, and he’s had some pretty barbed “twitter” taunts of his own. Trump is back to calling Kim “rocket man,” and that’s another example of this newfangled style of high-level diplomacy we don’t know what to make of.
Trump is surely on the job in his Mar-a-Lago war room, despite the allure of the nearby sunny golf course, and on camera he remains cocksure of stable genius. He seems to find himself in some difficult situations, though, and his cocksureness and stable genius seem to have limited his options.
Trump ran as a tough-on-Iran candidate who had presciently warned against the Iraq War in particular and Middle Eastern entanglements in in general, and the Republican primary electorate and then the Electoral College didn’t seem to notice that the two positions were irreconcilable. The contradictions are more stark now, and if Iran decides to escalate the tensions to a point of limited war with the now-bolstered American troop presence in the Middle East, which they’re crazy enough to do, Trump can either seem weak on Iran or bring America into yet another Middle Eastern entanglement. In either case, we’ll expect Trump to explain he handled it perfectly.
Trump broke with five decades of presidential foreign policy by agreeing to meet directly with the North Korean dictatorship, and came back “tweeting” that the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula was at long last over. He claimed that he and Kim had forged not only a friendship but a love affair, and exchanged the most beautiful letters, and he even talked about doing a real estate deal to build hotels and golf courses on North Korea’s beautiful beaches. Now that they’re clearly having a lover’s spat Trump can either play the abused spouse or admit that his personal diplomacy had failed and deal with a level of brinksmanship that none of his more cautious predecessors ever faced.
All this comes shortly before Congress reconvenes and all the branches and various “deep state” agencies of government are back at work, which means all the impeachment stuff will be back in the news and Trump will be largely preoccupied with that. We hope Trump and the rest of you enjoyed a brief holiday respite from the news, because it starts again today.

— Bud Norman

A Lack of 2020 Vision

New Year’s Eve essays traditionally look back at the past year or ahead to the new one, but we don’t feel up to either task. Once again we’re afraid to look back for fear of being turned into a pillar of salt, and we can’t imagine what’s coming next.
Much of what’s happened over the past three years or so would have been unimaginable just four years ago, so we won’t make any predictions and will try not to be surprised. It seems a safe bet that the the Senate won’t vote to remove President Donald Trump from office, but there’s likely to be more information coming out about his impeachable offenses, and a slight chance it might be too much even for the Republican party. The Democrats are bound to nominate someone left of the American center, but lately they’ve been backing off some of their crazy talk about Medicare for all and it remains to be seen just how far left they go.
As for how all that shakes out in the Electoral College next November, don’t trust anyone who tells you they know.
The sun will continue to rise in the east and the national debt will continue to accumulate and Trump will continue to “tweet” outrageous things, but don’t count on anything else. We suggest you indulge in some revelry tonight, some rest and heart eating tomorrow, and be ready for a wild ride through 2020.

— Bud Norman

The Dreaded “They”

Merriam-Webster has announced its annual word of the year, and this time around it’s “they.” The much-referred-to dictionary’s staff has given permission to all the English-speaking writers and editors of the world to use it as a substitute for the genderless pronoun “he,” even when a singular rather than plural pronoun is called for, and even though it has the same effect on our ears as fingernails scraping along a chalk board.
The change has been coming for years, as writers and editors have increasingly tried to avoid giving offense to women by using the old-fashioned and sexist “he.” Some have tried to reconfigure sentences rather than using the pronoun, often quite awkwardly, while others have gone the quickly tiresome “he or she” route, and more and more have chosen to offend the rules of the English language rather than women by using “they.” By now this use of “they” is so common that Merriam-Webster has come to accept it.
The English language continues to evolve, of course, and the Anglosphere has wisely shed some archaic constructions and streamlined its usage while coming up with words for all sorts of newfangled gizmos and modern concepts. The language has also devolved a lot lately, with all sorts of cacophonous neologisms gaining entry into polite company, and such words as “impact” and “anxious” and “cheap” are so often misused that nobody notices.
Lexicographers and English professors and high-brow copy desks and other guardians of the language have traditionally resisted such changes, but for a while now they’ve been giving their blessings to a lowering of standards, perhaps out of fear of being considered fuddy-duddies, and it makes us nauseated. Notice we say “nauseated” rather than “nauseous,” even though official English has given up on that crucial distinction. Fuddy-duddies though we admittedly are, we don’t want to be thought “nauseous” in its original sense of “nausea-inducing,” and we wonder what word to use when that’s the meaning we want to convey.
This might strike you as the supercilious rant of a hide-bound language snob uncomfortable with a changing world, which is fair enough, but there are real world results. A dumbed-down language results in a dumbed-down civilization and a dumbed-down discourse about everything that matters in life. A brilliantly satirical movie called “Idiocracy” envisioned an America five hundred years hence where the language had so degenerated that a visitor of average intelligence from today is thought to sound “faggy,” and the President of the United States is a former pro wrestler and porn star who tells the “House of Representin'” in his State of the Union that “I know everybody’s shit is all emotional right now.”
We’re not there yet, but we do have a President of the United States who has performed in pro wrestling events and soft-core porn videos, routinely uses profanity in front of roaring rally crowds of self-proclaimed Christians, and his “tweets” wouldn’t have earned a passing grade in our fourth grade English class. He calls it “modern presidential,” and the fans find it “authentic” and “politically incorrect,” but we can recall a time when both Republican and Democratic presidents alike were more punctilious about proper English, and for the most part they also did everything else more properly.
The whole “they” thing reminds us of our late and great dear friend Jake Euker, a very talented writer who discussed the issue with us when it first came up many years ago, and agreed that using a plural pronoun where a singular one was clearly called for sounded horrible. He was a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union — he literally had it in his wallet at all times — and he was a Democrat and a homosexual and had some opinions about the filmography of Robert Altman and the meaning of Graham Greene’s novels that we heatedly debated, but when it came to the English language ┬áhe was downright Burkean in his conservatism. He was fully on board with changes to our civilization’s economic systems and sexual mores and golden era standards of cinema, but he drew the line at using “they” when “he” would be correct, which he thought would lead to inevitable chaos. We can only guess what he’d make of the current president’s “tweets.”
The venerable word “they” is abused enough already. Every conspiracy theory tells of how “they’re” out to get you, the president insists “they’re” saying he’s doing a great job, and in too many cases when a person says “they” we don’t know who the hell he’s talking about. We don’t mean to give any offense to any woman with that last sentence, but our mother tongue also deserves respect.

— Bud Norman

Back to the Post-Labor Day Reality

Labor Day weekends are usually light on news, and this past one was thankfully no exception, but there’s no way to avoid news altogether. The great state of Texas suffered a second mass shooting in a month, a major hurricane battered the Bahamas and threatened to do the same to the southeast coast of America, and President Donald Trump got in another round of golf.
To be fair to Trump, which we try our best to do, there’s not much he could have done about either the mass shooting or the hurricane. Better he should be golfing than “tweeting” a brand new feud that offends allies or spooks the stock markets.
There’s no getting rid of America’s millions of privately owned guns, and no way of predicting who’s going to lose a job and start shooting up the highway between Midland and Odessa, and so far none of the media reports have shown that enhanced background checks or any of the other popular solutions would have prevented the tragedy. We’ll frankly admit that we have no good ideas about how to stop or at least slow these all-too-common massacres, so we can hardly blame Trump and all those very best people he’s surrounded himself for failing to find the magic elixir. The president is expected to offer some hope and comfort to the loved ones of the victims, and we hope he’ll prove better at the task than he has on all the previous occasions.
There’s not much anybody can do about a hurricane, either, although the internet news site Axios reported Trump had floated the idea of bombing them with a nuclear missile. Trump insists this is “fake news,” and we sincerely hope that on this occasion he’s right, but we can’t quite dismiss it as completely implausible. Trump wore a “FEMA” ball cap as he videotaped a message about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was a well-oiled machine ready to manage any emergency that a fully-fledged and mostly English-speaking state of the union might encounter, and he once again admitted that he’d never heard of a Category Five hurricane. The current Hurricane Dorian is the fifth Category Five hurricane to threaten the United States and its territories during Trump’s time in office, so that’s not at all reassuring, but we’ll hold out hope that hurricane stays at sea and in the worst case the bureaucrats at FEMA are more knowledgeable about these things.
Today school is back in session, the stock markets reopen, the trade wars with China and the rest of the world resume, politics goes in to full swing, that hurricane might or not wreak havoc on the southeast coast of America, and it’s a sure bet that Trump will “tweet” something outrageous. The local forecasts give ample hope for several more warm and sunny days here on the central plains, and the coming winter might prove just as mild as the passing summer has been, but we’re forecasting stormy weather in domestic politics and international relations and the global economy and the actual weather.
Even so, we hope you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend.

— Bud Norman

In Defense of Rep. Amash and a Very Few Other Republican Apostates

Way back in our high school and college days we passionately participated in scholastic debate tournaments, and although it was considered a nerdish pursuit by most of our classmates it had a lasting salutary influence on the way we look at politics. The sport taught to us to consider political questions with a dispassionate objectivity, carefully weighing the logic of the arguments made by both sides and the validity of the evidence presented, then considering the counter-arguments for any fallacies or false facts that had been presented.
Debates aren’t always won according to these gentlemanly and scholarly rules, of course, even in a scholastic debate tournament and especially in the rowdier and more low-brow public arena. We remember winning a match where our partner argued that there was no need to ban supersonic airliners because they’re flying too fast to cause air pollution, and also recall losing several rounds to even more preposterous arguments. During the last Republican presidential debates the failed casino mogul Donald Trump was declared the victor over Princeton University’s former national collegiate debate champion and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with nothing but ad hominem attacks and outright falsehoods, and boasted to the press that Cruz wasn’t so tough when the rules allowed for rude and insulting interruptions of his carefully crafted arguments.
Even so, we’d like to think that questions of the utmost public interest can still be settled by facts and logic and respectfully deliberative debate. Which at long last brings us to the current acrimonious “twitter” debate between President Donald Trump and Republican Michigan Rep. Justin Amash.
Trump is by far the more famous of the two, we must admit, but this Amash fellow strikes us as pretty formidable. He’s in his third term representing Grand Rapids and the rest of western Michigan’s third district, and has earned a reputation as a penny-pinching libertarian who will occasionally defy Republican party leadership on matters of Republican principles, even going so far as to vote against spending bills that continue to ratchet up the national debt and to object to trade policies that burden his district with retaliatory tariffs. That was bad enough for some Republican tastes, but a couple of days ago he so far as to agree some with some of the damned Democrats that Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
The talking heads on the Trump-friendly networks and radio talk shows and internet “podcasts” all exploded, naturally, but our ears were open to Amash’s arguments, and we found them persuasive. He started off with a succinctly “tweet”-sized statement of “principal conclusions,” which included that: Attorney General William Barr mislead the public about the report by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian government interference in the last presidential election; the report indicates Trump committed impeachable offenses by attempting to interfere with the investigation; that “Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances”; and that “Few members of Congress have read the report.”
Having followed all this stuff with a nerdish obsession we find it hard to argue with a single word Amash wrote, and at this point in the “twitter” wars are glad to see anyone laying out plausible arguments rather than misspelled screeds, and even more heartened to see that Amash correctly wrote “principal” rather “principle,” which even we had to confirm was correct.
Trump had no problem formulating a response, however, quickly “tweeting” that Amash was “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy. If he actually read the biased Mueller Report, ‘composed’ by 18 angry Democrats who hated Trump … he would say that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION … Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side? Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”
Trump’s die fans will surely find it convincing, and gloat that “at least he fights,” but by ingrained habit we glumly note that Trump never seems to fight back except with ad hominem fallacies and unsubstantiated claims. Amash might seem a “lightweight” and “loser” compared to the far more famous and wealthy Trump, but that does’t mean he’s wrong, and he seems to have the better argument. In subsequent “tweets,” all written in “tweet-sized” but according to the Queen’s pristine English and old-fashioned rules of rhetoric, he correctly noted that the Mueller reported cited several lied-about-under oath contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives, at least 10 instances where Trump unsuccessfully tried to quash any further investigation into those contacts. The report then made clear it was constrained by Justice Department guidelines from seeking indictments, and plainly left it up to the damned Democrats and the rare maverick Republican in Congress to decide if any of that constitutes the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the Constitution considers impeachable offenses. So far, so far as we can tell, Trump and his die-hard fans have no answer but schoolyard taunts and substantiated claims that his critics should be hanged for treason.
We don’t find it convincing, and although Amash is taking the sucker’s route along the high road in the debate we’ll say on his behalf that neither is any of the rest of Trump’s typically illiterate “tweet.”
For one thing, Amash seems admirably on board with what we’ve long considered the great Republican ideas and policies. He’s voted more often than not with what Trump wants, and more impressively has a 99 percent rating with the Club for Growth, a 94 percent rating from Americans for Prosperity, 87 percent with the American Conservative Union, and 85 percent with Heritage Action for America, and there’s no denying he’s better on budget deficits than Trump ever pretended to be. If Trump wants to call him a publicity seeker, which is pretty much the perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black, Amash can convincingly claim he’s chosen a principled way of getting attention.
Amash’s “tweets” have already provoked a primary challenge from a Michigan legislator who describes himself as a “pro-Trump, pro-life, pro-jobs, pro-Second Amendment, pro-family values Republican.” Trump very narrowly won Michigan’s electoral votes in the last election, and is behind in the state polls against all the leading Democratic candidates at the moment, but his inevitable endorsement of Amash’s challenger will surely have some weight in a 2020 Republican primary. Amash is by no means anti-life or anti-jobs or anti-Second Amendment or anti-family values, and especially in that last category we have doubts about how committed Trump is to any of these causes, but these days being anti-Trump is a problem for almost any Republican anywhere, and after winning three elections we’re sure Amash knows that.
The 2020 primary is still more than a year away, though, and there’s always a chance that by that point Amash will be able to proudly campaign as one of the few Republicans who was willing to stand up to Trump. Maybe not, and probably not, but at some point in the further future we expect that principled Republicanism will make a comeback, either before or after the country goes as bankrupt as a Trump casino, and that Amash will have standing to make the arguments. None of Amash’s Republican colleagues have endorsed his views, but for the most part they’ve declined to condemn them, and on both sides of the aisle most of these weather-watching politicians seem to be hedging their bets.

— Bud Norman

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

One of the most compelling subplots of President Donald Trump’s top-rated reality show is the melodramatic marriage of Kellyanne and George Conway. The distaff Conway is a senior White House advisor and ferociously loyal apologist for Trump, her husband is a respected lawyer with impeccable conservative credentials who is also an outspoken critic of Trump, and lately their wacky relationship has become a much-watched spin-off.
Trump “tweeted” on Tuesday that the husband of his most senior White House advisor is a “total loser,” George Conway “tweeted” back that Trump was stupid to draw such attention to their “Twitter” spat, and Kellyanne Conway told reporters she was too busy to taking care of four children to be able to comment. On the whole, we’d say that George Conway got the best of it.
George Conway and his wife’s boss have often clashed in the past, but this time around it started with Conway’s “tweets” citing the definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, suggesting that Trump seems to have all the symptoms. The “diagnostic criteria” for “NPD” include; “a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)”; “Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love”; “Requires excessive admiration”; “Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations)”; and “Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends),” among other things.
Now that Trump has drawn our attention to the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, we have to agree with Mr. Conway that the President of the United States does indeed to seem check every box, and expect that many new readers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders will agree. Even Trump’s most loyal apologists concede his arrogance and braggadocio and authoritarian tendencies, and instead argue that’s what a leader needs to make America great again, and that at least he’s not Hillary Clinton. This time around they’ll echo Trump’s argument that the husband of his most senior White House advisor is a “total loser,” and probably won’t notice that it does little to bolster confidence in the President of the United States.
As Trump’s most loyal apologist, Kellyanne Conway won’t get away with no comment forever, and at some point she’ll have to somehow explain why her boss doesn’t suffer from a debilitating mental disorder and her husband isn’t a total loser. It’s a hard job, but we guess that’s why she makes the big bucks. In any case, we wish her well in the effort, if only for the sake of the four kids and her troublesome husband, whom we quite like and truly hope will leave the reputation of the Conway name intact at the end of this interminable reality show. We have our own family disputes about Trump and his personality disorders and whether they’re good or bad for the country, and we’re glad they’re not playing out televisions and all the papers, so wish the Conways the best.
As for Trump, he’s so awesome we assume he can take care of himself.

— Bud Norman

The Calm Before the “Tweetstorm”

The news has been eerily slow that past few days, except for that horrific slaughter of 50 people in two New Zealand mosques over the weekend, and the continuing fallout from President Donald Trump’s response to the tragedy. Things have been so quiet that Trump found time to type out more than 50 “tweets” over the weekend, and of course that provided plenty for the pundits to pontificate about.
It was, we have to admit, a prolific and noteworthy outpouring. Trump “tweeted” a happy St. Patrick’s Day message to the country, but other than that it was mostly a barrage of potshots against enemies living and dead, some full-throated defenses of two besieged allies at Fox News, and several “re-Tweets” by some little-known supporters, including someone who identifies himself as “@LonewolfnDuke.”
The die-hard fans no no doubt loved every word, and could once again reassure themselves that “at least he fights,” but we’d like to think that a President of the United could find something better to do with his time on a slow news weekend.
Trump once again criticized the “Saturday Night Live” television program, even though it ran a re-run over the weekend, and once again threatened to have the Federal Communications Commission “look into” the televised satire of him. Once upon a time a sitting president threatening to use his office to punish his critics for the exercise of their First Amendment rights would have been a big deal, but these days it barely makes the middle paragraphs of a story about Trump’s latest “tweets.” There were also insulting “tweets” about special counsel investigator Robert Mueller, a union official working at General Motors, Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and even the late Republican Sen. John McCain.
The figurative dancing on the literal grave of McCain got a lot of attention, and rightly so as far we’re concerned. Trump ridiculed McCain for being last in his class at the Naval Academy, even though McCain was fifth-from-last and always man enough to joke about it, and Trump has threatened to sue any school he attended for revealing his class ranking. Trump also falsely accused McCain of leaking the damaging “Steele dossier” to the press, when McCain merely passed the information on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a responsible citizen should, and once again castigated McCain for voting against the repeal and replacement of “Obamacare,” even though Trump and the congressional Republicans hadn’t come up with any replacement. McCain died last August and thus can’t fight back, but McCain’s daughter is still around to fire back on network television that her father suffered five years of torture in a Vietnamese prison camp for his country while Trump was hitting all the New York City nightspots on his bone spurs, and speculate that Trump continues his bloodless war with the late McCain because he somehow knows he’ll never be such a great man, which sounds about right to us.
Trump also rallied to the defense of Fox News opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, who have lately been under fire elsewhere in the media for some of their more daring opinions. In Carlson’s case it’s some decade-old off-the-cuff remarks to a shock radio jock called “Bubba the Love Sponge,” where Carlson defended a cult leader who was arranging very underage marriages between his followers, described Iraqis as “primitive monkeys” and all womankind as “very primitive,” which Carlson has refused to apologize for and sloughs off as being “naughty” on the radio a decade ago. In the case of Pirro she went on the air and said that Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar wearing the Muslim hijab suggested she she more loyal to Islam than the American constitution, which followed a big controversy about Omar saying American jews who supported Israel were disloyal the United States, and although it’s all very complicated even Fox News issued a statement disavowing her statement and pulling her from the schedule for at least one week.
Both shows have lately lost some big-name advertisers, but they retain an outspoken supporter in the White House. Trump “tweeted” his advice to Fox News to immediately restore Pirro to her Saturday time slot, and urged Carlson to “keep fighting.” We’d hate to see either show banished from the cables and airwaves for exercising their First Amendment rights, but we’d also hate to see the same thing happen to “Saturday Night Live,” which by the way has a talented woman who does an absolutely dead-on and devastating impression of “Judge Jeanine.”
Our guess is the country will somehow survive the satiric sketches of “Saturday Night” and the legacy of the late Sen. McCain, as well as the ill-tempered and authoritarian-sounding presidential “tweets” about them, but we can’t help worrying about what comes next from Mueller and O’Rourke and the sorts who gun down houses of worship in New Zealand and elsewhere, and we worry that the President of the United States seems worried about it as well.

— Bud Norman