Quoth McRaven, Nevermore

President Donald Trump’s latest war of words is with retired four-star Navy Admiral William McCraven, and so far as we can tell Trump is predictably getting the worst of it.
After earning a degree with honors from the University of Texas McCraven was commissioned the Navy and volunteered for it’s elite frogman and Seal units, then rose through the ranks during both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, eventually being entrusted with command of the Navy’s special forces and European fleet, but he’s best known as the guy who led the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. One can hardly describe him as a “very low-IQ individual,” or impugn his manliness, and a name like Bill McRaven doesn’t easily lend itself to a taunting nickname, but McCraven’s been publicly critical of certain aspects of Trump’s presidency, so Trump is required by his immutable character to punch back somehow or another.
When McRaven’s name up during a Sunday interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the most damning thing Trump could think to say is that “He’s a Hillary Clinton backer.” Wallace was trying to explain to his viewers that McRaven is a former Navy seal and all that when Trump interjected, and when Wallace tried to resume MccRaven’s impressive resume Trump once again interrupted to say, “Excuse me, but he’s a Hillary Clinton backer.” Eventually Wallace got to the part about the Bin Laden raid, and Trump sneered that “He’s a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. Frankly, wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that?” Thus Trump stepped boldly onto the minefield.
Pretty much the whole interview was s public relations disaster for trump. He probably figured he was on friendly terrain at Fox, but he apparently hasn’t noticed that Wallace and Shep Smith and Brett Baier and a few other Fox journalists still tend to ask some embarrassing questions from time to time. and Trump was ill-prepared for that sort of thing. He claimed complete credit for some Republican victories in the midterm elections, and denied any blame for the more numerous losses. He also spouted some self-apparent nonsense about how Finland doesn’t have fires like California is suffering because they rake their forests, citing the Finnish president as his source, which resulted in the Finnish president denying to the world he’d ever said any such thing and lots of Finns making jokes about it on the internet, including one waggish Finnish woman who posted a photo of herself in the forest with a vacuum cleaner under the heading of “Just another day in Finland.” Trump also wound up making a rare admission of error by saying he probably should have observed Veterans day despite the rain and his busy schedule.
Even so, the worst fallout was from the feud with McCraven. By Monday McRaven was telling the Cable News Network that “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their party, who uphold the dignity of the office and use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times.” We also didn’t back anyone in the last election, although we cast a protest vote for some suitable right-of-center protest candidate, and for all his faults we still miss George W. Bush and lately have a very begrudging newfound respect for the way that Obama at least didn’t go out of his way to start futile feuds with his fellow citizens all the time, so we think McRaven got the better of the exchange.
McCraven has left it to his many apologists to rightly note that he couldn’t have legally killed Bin Laden any sooner without presidential approval, and both Bush’s and Obama’s apologists can credibly argue that these things take time, no matter how impatient the immediate gratification sorts out there might be. Besides, even if McRaven is a damned Democrat it doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything. McCraven once pursued a journalism degree his stellar studies at the University of Texas, and his public complaints about Trump’s ongoing war with the free press, which originally provoked Trump’s ire, sound fair enough to our ink-stained journalistic souls. We rather like how this McCraven fellow fights his war of words in pristine parseable English with facts at hand, and in general we like the cut of his four-starred naval admiral jib, and at the risk of sounding like Republicans In Name Only we can’t say the same for his latest foe.

— Bud Norman

Trump’s Bad Week, and We Dare You to Say Otherwise

Several of our beloved Republican friends and family members are imploring us to take it easy on President Donald Trump and his heroic efforts to make America great again, but this is a hard time to oblige them. Try as we might, we just can’t muster any kind words for the past week of Trump’s presidency.
It all started last Tuesday, a midterm election day when the Democrats won a slight majority in the House of Representatives and the Republicans only slightly padded their majority in Senate despite an unusually favorable electoral map and generally healthy economy. On Wednesday Trump declared a near total victory during a even more contentious than usual news conference, complaining that a black woman reporter from the Public Broadcasting System’s questions about Trump’s embrace of the “nationalist” label was racist, and calling a white male Cable News Network reporter whose press pass was shortly thereafter revoked by the White House a “rude and terrible person,” and he also taunted all the losing Republican candidates in districts and states that Trump lost by a landslide for for failing to fully embrace him, and vowing a “war-like stance” against in incoming Democratic majority in the House.. Later that day he forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an otherwise loyal foot soldier who had committed the unforgivable sin of ethically recusing himself from from a special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” and temporarily replaced him with a little-known Justice Department official who was on the televised record saying he would put an end to that pesky “Russia thing” problem.
By the end of Wednesday the counting of all the early votes around the country had bolstered the Democratic landslide ┬áin the House to post-Watergate record levels and diminished that slight Republican majority in the Senate, and several prominent congressional Republicans were openly objecting to to Trump’s temporary appointment of an obvious political hack who was clearly chosen to protect Trump from that pesky “Russia thing” investigation. When a Harvard-educated black woman reporter from CNN asked the obvious question of the day during an impromptu news conference if the appointment had been made to thwart the special counsel investigation, he snarled that “That’s a stupid question, but I’ve been watching you, and you ask a lot of stupid questions.” He then completed the trifecta by calling the other third prominent black woman in the White House press corps a “total loser,” even though she was mostly out of the news of the day.
By Thursday Trump was distancing himself from that political hack he’d appointed as acting Attorney General, saying he didn’t know the guy and only appointed him because he’d been chief of staff to the Attorney General he had just forced to resign, which gave all the other networks a chance to gleefully replay Trump’s assurances to Fox News viewers that he knew the interim appointment well. Meanwhile the Democrats’ victorious midterm election day totals swelled, and Trump was “tweeting” plausible yet unconfirmed allegations that the Democrats were cheating and that any results that don’t favor the Republicans are illegitimate.
On Friday Trump was flying to Europe for a solemn centennial commemoration of when the United States and its longtime French and English and other democratic allies won a temporary victory in World War I, but Trump managed to mangle even that golden opportunity. Before he touched ground on French soil Trump “tweeted” his disapproval of the French President Emmanuel Macron, based on some bad reporting about French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a formidable pan-European military force, which Trump incorrectly considered a threat to the United States even though it was the sort of European militarism he’s long urged.
Saturday was cold and rainy in France, and thus Trump cancelled a trip to a cemetery where more than a hundred thousand American veterans of World War I were buried, even though all those effete Euro-weenie heads of state were somehow able to make their way to pay their respects to their country’s fallen heroes.
Sunday marked the centennial of that 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when America and France and England and the rest of our allies won a hard-fought victory in World War I, and although it was only a brief respite from World War II that effete Euro-weenie Macron gave a compelling speech that it was won because of the democratic western world’s cooperation and despite the the unabashedly self-intered nationalist impulses that caused it. We note that Trump paid his presidential respects to America’s fallen heroes but didn’t give give a similarly compelling defense of his unabashedly self-interested nationalism, and don’t expect that he’ll do so until the next never-ending campaign rally of die-hard fans, who know as little about history as Trump does.
Today is another Monday in America, where the economy seems to be humming along well enough despite the recent downturns in the stock markets and all the nationalist trade wars Trump is currently waging, and there’s no denying that some of Trump’s critics are rude and terrible people, and there’s always a chance that “Russia thing” might prove overblown. Even so, we can’t currently muster any defense of Trump’s presidency.

— Bud Norman

A Typical Day in the Popular Culture

Although we strive to keep a forward looking eye on the latest political and economic developments, when it comes to the broader culture we’re content to live in the past. Most of the authors we read are long gone, our movie watching is mostly limited to the black-and-white fare on Netflix, the television is rarely on and only tunes into the ancient reruns that air on ultra-high frequency, the stereo is constantly blasting vinyl recordings of lush pop standards and twangy honky-tonk tunes and rough garage band rants of more exuberant eras, and on a visit to an art museum we will always rush past the more recent offerings to get another look at the paintings of Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent and the rest of the dead white males before the critics have completely deconstructed them. It’s a bad habit, as the latest political and economic developments are so often the dreary result of the broader culture, but our occasional forays into the new stuff are just too disheartening to continue.
Even with the most strenuous effort one cannot avoid some contact with the broader culture, though, and we’re occasionally made aware of the last celebrity contretemps. Our daily examination of the essential Drudge Report is our primary source for the latest tales of Tinseltown and other entertainment capitals, along with the headlines on the tabloid covers that are all there is to look at in a grocery store checkout line other than the tattoos and obscenity-laden t-shirts of the person ahead, so we’re at least au courant enough to know that it’s all as tawdry as ever. Matt Drudge grew up in both Washington, D.C., and Hollywood, and his famously idiosyncratic news judgement recognizes the power that both towns wield, so we’ll often peruse what he finds of interest. On Wednesday he featured a story about the upcoming release of a documentary alleging widespread sexual exploitation of children in the movie industry, some rock stars serenading the crowd at a Veterans’ Day tribute concert with some anti-war agitprop and obscenities, an urban chanteuse we’ve heard of but never heard saying that what she likes best about the president is that he’s black, and some fellow with more money than taste buying one of those kitschy Andy Warhol silk screens of Elvis Presley for $151 million. This is a typically dispiriting day’s worth of entertainment dispatches at the Drudge Report, but with the president off in China for a costume party and the Republican congressional majorities not yet installed we took some interest in the stories.
That documentary about the sexual exploitation of children in Hollywood turns out to rely at least in part on the testimony of a fellow whose lawsuit has been thrown out of court, but we’re inclined to give some credence to the rest of it. The film industry has never been known for its sexual rectitude, after all, and having watched its best and brightest rally to the defense of Roman Polanski after he anally raped a 13-year-old girl leaves us predisposed to believe the worst. Pederasty is of the few sexual behaviors that are still condemned by society, at least for now, so the documentarians have one of the last opportunities to generate a Hollywood scandal. Anything else they allege about Hollywood’s sex life will only generate yawns or envy. No matter how convincing their case they won’t generate the public outrage that followed revelations of sexual exploitation of children in the Catholic church, or even the tale of some protestant evangelist’s extramarital affair, but it would be good if they could make people a little more skeptical of Hollywood’s depictions of villainous corporate executives and repressed homosexual military men and the banality of the suburbs and the rest of the contemporary cinematic cliches.
Those rock stars shocking the squares at a Veterans’ Day are by now a cliche, as well. We’ve never heard of the fellow who let loose with the obscenities, but Bruce Springsteen was the one who unleashed the Vietnam-era protest songs, and he’s been around so long that even we have a copy of his “Born to Run” album, and it’s all too familiar to be shocking. We note that Springsteen, a supposed workingman’s hero who also goes by the name of “The Boss,” chose to entertain the all-volunteer military personnel in attendance with “Fortunate Son,” which is about draftees who didn’t get the reserve gigs that the songwriters did during the Vietnam War and is the only bad song Creedence Clearwater Revival ever did. As for that urban chanteuse who thinks the best thing about the president is that he’s black, we can only say as old white conservative Republican men who prefer Peggy Lee that she’s probably right. The story about somebody shelling out $151 million for one of Warhol’s cliches, even if it did have Elvis, was a reminder that even high culture isn’t holding the bar very high these days.
This is what the masses are taught to aspire to, though, and we’ll keep that in mind as we follow the latest political and economic developments.

— Bud Norman