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Viva Mexico, and Us, and Both of Us

Unsurprisingly enough, America’s diplomatic relationship with Mexico is currently rather contentious. A planned meeting between American President Donald Trump and Mexican President Pena Nieto has been called off, angry “tweets” have been exchanged, populist pressures are being brought to bear on both leaders, and it’s the sort of thing you hate to have going with a neighbor.
Relationships with neighbors can go sour from time to time no matter how hard one tries, and we have a few stories of our own you could empathize with, but for the most part we and the rest of America have been rather lucky. The United States of America only has two abutting neighbors, which is a good start, and compared to what Israel or Finland or Jerry Seinfeld had to put up with they’ve not been very troublesome. Except for the War of 1812 and all that fuss about “fifty-four forty or fight” back in 1818 Canada has been a good neighbor, even if they are rather snooty about their single payer health care system and have a strange tendency to punt on third downs, and even if we did delay that XL Pipeline all through the Obama years and our relatively low income tax system allows us to consistently beat up on their sports teams.
The relationship with Mexico has been more complicated, what with that Mexican-American War and the Marines marching into the Halls of Montezuma back in the 1840s, and the resulting re-drawing of the maps of both countries, and that other time in the early 20th century that the American military went into Mexican territory in hot pursuit of Pancho Villa’s marauding bands, not to mention their disputes with American oil companies and the many decades or argument about the large numbers of Mexicans seeking and finding employment in America and countless other quarrels. Despite it all there have been diplomatic protocols and trade agreements peso bailouts and other arrangements, and no outright wars between the two countries for the past 169 years, which is not bad by historical international standards.
In the current dispute we think that America can make a convincing case for itself. Whatever the still-disputed causes of that long-ago Mexican-American War we think the the re-drawing of the map it wrought turned out best for the people who found themselves on the north side of it, and we doubt that many of them of any ethnicity would want to revisit the matter, and in any case we think that America should resist such revanchism there just as it should in the Ukraine and the islands of the South China Seas. In the unlikely event that rebels intent on overthrowing the American are wreaking havoc in northern Mexico we wouldn’t mind the Mexicans the chasing them into American territory, and the nationalization of American-financed and American-made and duly negotiated oil industries still strikes us as outright theft, and the very significant influx of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants that has occurred since does include a certain number of rapists and other criminals and seems a decidedly mixed blessing for both countries, and the idea of enforcing borders seems altogether reasonable, and some of those trade deals probably could have turned out better for America.
We’re still hoping for an amicable resolution to the latest quarrels, but only with faint hope. Trump’s constantly repeated campaign promise to build a literal wall between the countries is now an executive action, threats of making Mexico pay for it through a 20 percent import tax and other measures have been expounded by his press secretary and “tweeted” on his almighty account and will soon be taken up by Congress, and after that imbroglio with the American judge of Mexican ancestry who was presiding over the Trump University lawsuit that Trump wound up settling for $25 million and the rest of the campaign rhetoric it’s hard to argue that Trump has a certain animosity toward Mexicans. Mexicans are no more amicable to Trump, judging by the red hot market for Trump pinatas and mass protests on both sides of the border, and although Nieto offered an ill-advised helping hand by inviting candidate to a presidential-looking Trump to a state visit back when things were still up for grabs he’s now forced by overwhelming public to take a more adversarial stance against his self-proclaimed adversary.
Our experience of dealing with neighbors has taught us to well consider their positions, and in the current matter we can well understand why they’re miffed about being asked to pay for a wall to separate them from us and all the implicit and explicit anti-Mexican rhetoric that has gone along with it. Perhaps it’s another of Trump’s brilliant negotiation ploys to start from such an antagonistic position, but all of Trump’s past negotiations were with other businessmen who weren’t accountable to millions of Mexicans who felt their pride had been impugned by such tactics, and even then he still occasionally wound up in bankruptcy. If the currently unpopular yet relatively sane Nieto does succumb to Trump’s art of the deal he’ll likely be replaced in an upcoming election by one of those Latin American socialist demagogues who wins election by fanning the flames of resentment against the damned Yanquis, just as Trump won in part by fanning the flames of resentment against Latin Americans, and the next round of negotiations will be even more contentious.
Even in the worst case scenario it probably won’t come to another outright war, given that Mexican national pride lags far further behind its military prowess than it did even back in the 1840s, and despite the havoc it would wreak on America the Mexicans would would be advised to avoid a trade war, given that the past century and a half of Mexican socialism hasn’t improved its economic standing relative to the Americans, even if Trump and his more nationalistic supporters think that a huge portion of the American middle class wealth has been redistributed down there, but by now it should obvious even in America what people will endure as a matter of national pride. A mutually beneficial situation with Mexico could be worked out, just as we’ve managed mostly successful relationships with the many Mexican and Mexican-Americans we daily encounter here in the heartland, such as that comely Mexican-American woman who sells the best-deal-in-town donuts at the nearby Juarez Bakery with a mellifluous “buenos dias” and the guys who make the Carne Asada at the Lopex drive-thru late at night and the Esteban Jordan y Rio Jordan conjunto that we sometimes play on the cassette player,  but we can’t see it ending well if either side insists on winning.

— Bud Norman

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A Buenos Dias for Trump

Much of our Wednesday was spent waiting in line to get another one of those expensive little stickers that affix annually to the license plate of our rapidly aging vehicle from the Department of Motor Vehicle’s tag office, which turns out to have been relocated in the past year or so  far west of the location we’d been long accustomed to, and which was our own damn fault for waiting until the last minute of the final day of the month rather than handling it by mail a month ago, but things seem to have gone better on Wednesday for Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.
The day began with some fresh polling showing that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is now about as widely reviled as Trump, following another round of stories about the e-mail scandal that was supposed to have been done with when she wasn’t indicted, and yet more polling showing Trump was chipping away at Clinton’s persistent lead and into margin-of-error territory, after a week that didn’t quite include enough of his characteristic craziness. Then he had a meeting in Mexico City with Mexican President Pena Nieto that included all the pomp and circumstance and press conferences and photo ops that usually attend the visit of somebody to be taken seriously, and Trump didn’t mention Mexican rapists or enthuse about “Operation WetbacK” or tout the Trump Tower’s best-in-he-world taco bowls or break into Bill Dana’s old “Jose Jimenez” comedy routine or otherwise embarrass himself. Even the most polite press seemed to glumly acknowledge that he’d done pretty well with the old diplomatic shtick, and then he gave a big speech in Phoenix that plausibly positioned him as the voice of reason on the illegal immigration issue.
Clinton’s suddenly sliding campaign couldn’t come up with any pithy riposte worth linking to, even her friends in the more polite press seemed equally unready for these developments, and more objective sorts such as our pox-on-both-their-houses selves have to score it as a good day for Trump. There are a lot of days left in this crazy election year, though, that there have already been a lot of them that can’t be undone, so it remains to be seen how even this day plays out.BuB
For more than a year now, and for what surely seems an eternity to most of the country by now, Trump has been running as the proudly politically incorrect scourge of illegal Mexican immigrants and lopsided trade deals with the wilier-than-us Mexican government and all other manner of Mexican perfidy, who was going to round up all the illegals already here and send them back home and build a huge Gulf-of-Mexico-to-the-Pacific-Ocean wall to keep the rest out and then make them pay for it. Even a relatively gaffe-free day in Mexico City is unlikely to undo that public perception, and there was plenty for the Democrat and her friends in the more polite media to work with after they regain composure. Trump insisted that there was no discussion of who would pay for his still-planned wall, while Nieto “tweeted” that he’d made clear Mexico wouldn’t be paying for it. The anti-Trump demonstrations were more restrained than at recent rallies in the southwestern United States, but the reaction in both the Mexican and American press suggests that Nieto did not help his own perilous political fortunes by acting so politely to an American presidential candidate that is by all accounts widely despited in Mexico. The impolitely pro-Trump press is making much of Nieto’s apparent concession that America can build a wall, but that was never in dispute, and if Canada were to now decide that it wanted one of its own along the norther border we could hardly blame it, and their glee that Nieto had said that the North American Free Trade Agreement is up for negotiation ignores the Trumpian axiom that everything is always up for negotiation.
That unfortunate fact of life has been demonstrated by Trump’s straight-talking but ever-shifting stands on almost all of the issues. Even on his signature issue of illegal immigrants he’s gone from “they’ve all gotta go” and horror stories about the open borders of the Bush and Obama years to “we’ll work with them” and talk of doing the criminal deportations that Bush and Obama had apparently been doing but “perhaps with more energy,” so Wednesday night’s big speech in Phoenix was the long-awaited and oft-delayed clarification of whatever it was he’d been talking about all along. So far as can tell there was nothing in it about deportation forces rounding up however many millions of illegal immigrants reside in the country, nor immediately letting the “good ones” right back in, which had so long been the stated policy, and there was the usual talk about the wall but none of the usual talk about making Mexico pay for it, and the rest of it seemed sensible enough. He would end the “catch and release policy” for illegal immigrants, have zero tolerance for illegal immigrants with a criminal record, repeal several of President Barack Obama’s more inane executive actions on the matter, restrict visas from the more terrorism-prone parts of the world, for deported illegal immigrants even to the countries most reluctant to take them back, and a plain opposition to a “path to citizenship” via illegal entry to the country.
Except for that stupid but ever-popular wall it all seems sensible enough to us, but we can’t help recalling several more qualified Republican candidates who had reached the same general conclusions without wandering through all that crazy talk about rounding rounding ’em up and letting the good ones back in and all that blather about rapists and taco bowls, and we can’t help thinking that almost any of them would be polling better against such an understandably unpopular candidate as Hillary Clinton. The latest iteration of the Trump illegal immigration stand is so mainstream that except for that “path to citizenship” and some number of refugees from those terrorism-prone parts of the world that  Clinton could easily co-opt it, or perhaps “Triangulate” it, as they used to say back in the first Clinton era, and she’ll have Trump’s videotaped admission that even Obama has indeed been deporting illegal aliens with criminal records at her disposal. We expect she’ll wind up with the lion’s share of the Latino vote in any case, and Trump won’t lose any of his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters by abandoning that “round ’em pledge,” and by election day the economy might be so crummy that there aren’t illegal immigrants trying to get in anyway.
We’ll see how this day works out in the long run, and in the meantime at least our license plates are up to date.

— Bud Norman

The Lost Cause and the Ensuing Brawl

For those unflinching sorts who are willing to watch, the ongoing metaphorical train wreck that is American politics has been captured by both news cameras and the more ubiquitous cell phone cameras, and of course it’s all “gone viral.” One popular series shows one of the increasingly violent demonstrations that have lately beset the campaign rallies of Republican front-runner Donald J. Trump, another shows a somewhat more peaceable disruption by Trump’s supporters of more traditional campaign appearance by last ditch-rival Republican rival Texas Sen. Cruz, and neither are at all suitable for the flinching sorts.
The anti-Trump demonstrations are the usual anti-free-speech left-wing thuggery, familiar from countless campus protests and labor strikes and anti-free-trade anarchist sprees, but predictably exacerbated by Trump’s heightened rhetoric. At first the more disruptive agitators at his events were from the anti-free-speech and anti-law-enforcement “Black Lives Matter” movement that had also disrupted the Democratic campaigns of former Secretary of State and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with the occasional disrupters coming from the self-described socialist Sanders’ supporters, while Clinton’s sizable number of supporters were just as disdainful but apparently too old for such shenanigans, but with Trump offering from the podium to pay any legal costs to supporters who expressed his desire to “punch them in the face” or “rough them up” it was mostly a give-and-take affair.
Now the race has moved on to California, which for the first time in anybody’s living memory has some say in who the major party’s presidential nominees will be, and the riotous protestors are overwhelmingly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who seem to be both more riotous and overwhelmingly numerous than even Trump’s supporters. They forced Trump to sneak into one event through a back door, which his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters regarded as a brilliantly Dunkirk-like maneuver, while his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters dared a far more difficult gauntlet to get in and cheer. Those same self-defeating protestors also invited The Drudge Report and other widely-read media to show the picture of the little nino holding a sign that said “Make America Mexico Again,” and play up how La Raza and other openly revanchist and racialist movements are opposed to Trump’s shifting anti-immigration stands and consistently harsh rhetoric about it, which makes it almost certain at this point that what’s left of California’s Republicans will hand Trump the Republican nomination. Given that the Democrats seem likely to nominate Clinton, a guest at Trump’s third wedding and the only person in American as widely loathed as him, they might even have handed him the presidency.
Meanwhile, back in Marion, Indiana, Cruz was out there on a more old-fashioned campaign trail meeting with the mostly old-fashionably peaceable folks. There were a couple of Trump supporters heckling Cruz, and he went over to have a by-now widely disseminated conversation with them. The ensuing debate is a more convincing rout than anything those self-defeating Mexicans and Mexican-Americans could hope for. Asked what he liked about Trump the supporter said “everything,” and when pressed for details he predictably cited Trump’s promise to “build a wall” to keep out all those undeniably revanchist Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in California and elsewhere, and when Cruz cited all the reasons to doubt that Trump actually meant any of it the fellow quickly changed subjects. The sunglass-wearing and obviously angry young man and his angry young cohorts charged Cruz with being Canadian, which every election board questioned on the matter has scoffed at and Cruz didn’t bother refuting, and charged him with being “Lyin’ Ted” without coming with any example of how he’d lied, and were so flummoxed by Cruz’ example of how Trump was as usual lying when he accused Cruz of lying about Mike Tyson was in indisputable fact a convicted-in-Indiana-by-a-jury-of-his-peers rapist, they wound up challenging him on the Second Amendment. If these as idiotic-as-any-Mexican-or-Mexican-Americans-or-“Black-Lives-Matter” type white working class idiots had bothered to pay the least bit attention to politics before they showed up protesting at a political event they would have learned that Cruz had defended successfully defended their Second American rights before the Supreme Court when Trump was praising Bill Clinton’s efforts to have their “assault rifles” banned, and wouldn’t have been surprised to learn from Cruz about Trump’s long and legally proved history of hiring illegal aliens and shipping jobs overseas and funding all the politicians that these idiotic Trump supporters claimed to have heard of and loathe, or otherwise have been so embarrassed they refused to give their names to gawking press corps.
Which at this point seems to make no difference, although even such Free State Kansas Republicans as ourselves have to admire the chivalrous “Lost Cause” courage of Cruz’s last stand there in Marion.. Such matters of fact and logic as civility as Cruz was so anachronistically insisting on, after eight years of the “Hope and Change” that Obama urged his supporters to get in people’s faces about and bring a gun to the inevitable fight that would result, are no longer of any consequence. By now it’s all about the anger on both sides, which both seem quite cocksure about their positions, and it seems we’ll be looking for the most factual and logical and civil protest vote. In any case, we want no part of the ensuing brawl.

— Bud Norman