The Special Olympics of Politics

President Donald Trump is famously loathe to concede defeat, no matter how apparent, but on Thursday he had to wave the white flag to the developmentally-challenged athletes of the Special Olympics. In the constitutionally-mandated presidential budget proposal that no one ever pays any attention to Trump proposed cutting federal funding for the games, and his Secretary of Education actually went and did it and made announcement, but after an afternoon of the resulting bipartisan outrage and scathing press coverage he was insisting he never suggested any such thing.
“The Special Olympics will be fully funded,” Trump told a cluster of reporters on Thursday. “I just told my people, I want to fund the Special Olympics … I’ve been to to the Special Olympics — I think it’s incredible, and I just authorized a funding.” If you ignore that Trump had submitted three budget proposals to Congress that would have defunded the Special Olympics if anyone was paying any attention, and that his appointed Secretary of Education had announced, he looks very big-hearted.
Trump is letting his appointed Secretary of Education take all the blame, and as we see it that’s also a shame. Betsy DeVos is the wife of wealthy executive in the controversial Amway company, who was a contributor to Trump’s campaign, and she came in to her post without any real prior experience for the job, and looked quite ridiculous in early interviews and confirmation hearings, and she’s always been one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet nominees, which is saying something. She’s a staunch advocate for school choice and voucher programs, and a staunch opponent of speech codes and expulsions on sexual conduct, which further enrages the left, but for pre-Trump conservative Republican reasons we rather like that about her. The arguments for these policies are more complicated than either DeVos or Trump can explain, and at first they do seem hard-hearted, but we’ll put that task off until another day. That Trump is throwing DeVos under the proverbial bus on this matter makes us like him even less, which is saying something.
The federal government’s current funding for the Special Olympics is reportedly $17.6 million so so, and we have to admit that we don’t really know much money that is, and wether it’s merely a sufficient or an extravagant amount to pay for a competition of developmentally-challenged athletes, given all the private donations this worthy charity surely brings in, but we do know it’s a mere rounding error in both the federal deficit that Trump has been ringing up and especially in the national debt we’ve been accruing for decades. There’s something undeniably heartwarming about those Special Olympians getting their moments of triumph, too, and we can see why even such an unapologetic fellow as Trump doesn’t want to be the heartless fellow who ended it.

— Bud Norman

Romney Goes to School

The most compelling argument for Mitt Romney’s candidacy is still Barack Obama, but we’re also liking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s recent comments on education.

Speaking Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to an Hispanic small-business group called the Latino Coalition, Romney said that as president he would expand the capital’s voucher program and use federal funding to bring more school choice everywhere, but otherwise “reduce federal micromanagement” of local schools. He also named the teachers’ unions as the main impediment to education reform, and argued that Obama “has been unable to stand up to union bosses and unwilling to stand up for our kids.”

One paper speculated that the speech was intended to bolster Romney’s standing with Hispanics, while another characterized it as an appeal to women, but we expect the proposals will have a more universal appeal. We’re neither Hispanic nor female, but we’re nonetheless eager to see radical changes occur in the schools.

There are plenty of test scores and statistics proving the sorry state of American education, but just a brief chat with a randomly selected young person will likely provide more vivid proof. We’re frequently astonished to discover what our young acquaintances don’t know, and often even more alarmed to hear what they seem to truly believe they do know. Old folks have always grumbled similar complaints about the youngsters, of course, but they’ve been quite right about it for at least the past several decades, and we currently have no reason to believe that the dumbing-down of America won’t continue.

Fixing the problem will require cultural changes that are largely beyond the power of any president to affect, but allowing good teachers and good schools to succeed while forcing bad teachers and bad schools to go away would bring about a significant improvement. Romney is correct in saying that the teachers’ unions will mightily resist any reforms along those lines, because they’re reliably supportive of even their most incompetent members, and he’s also right about Obama and pretty much any other Democratic candidate assisting them in the effort.

We’d love to credit Romney with political courage for daring to take on the mighty teachers’ unions, but honesty compels us to concede that they were going to fight him furiously in any case. He’s probably also noticed that several governors, including such stalwarts as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, have lately taken on the once-invincible lobby and fared rather well. Teachers still enjoy a rather saintly reputation, which we attribute to many years of propaganda by Hollywood and popular fiction, but their unions don’t enjoy the same public affection.

Still, it’s nice to hear Romney picking the fight

— Bud Norman