Self-Interested Heroes and Bureaucratic Screw-Ups

There was yet another American mass shooting on Sunday, this time at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville where a green-jacketed but otherwise naked man randomly fired shots from a semiautomatic rifle at the staff and customers. Four people were killed and two others were critically injured, but it could have been worse. This mass shooting featured a bona fide hero who limited the carnage, and the flaw in the system that allowed it to happen in the first place was quickly identified and might yet be corrected.
One of the customers was 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., who had passed up a more a crowded Waffle House to get a late-night meal with an old friend after a night of revelry. He instinctively dove for cover at the sound of the first shot fired. but when the shots briefly ceased for what he figured was either a gun jam or reloading some higher instinct caused the unarmed Shaw to leap at the gunman and wrestled the weapon from his hands. The gunman fled as soon as Shaw tossed the weapon behind the restaurant’s counter, with Shaw choosing not to give chase, and although a suspect has been identified he’s still on loose, but there’s no telling how many lives Shaw saved.
As is usually the case with bona fide heroes, Shaw insisted he wasn’t one. Although he was clearly relieved that lives had been spared by his action, he told bluntly told reporters that “I want everybody to know that I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself. I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular person, and I think anybody could have done what I did if they are pushed into that kind of cage. You have to either react of you’re going to fold, and I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way of living, and that’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted to live.”
Shaw further explained that “I kind of made up my mind, because there was no way to lock that door, that if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to kill me.” Although he disavowed any heroic intent, he did describe himself as a college-educated AT&T employee and proud father of a four-year-old daughter, and said he considered himself “a pretty cool guy to be around.” He said he had no military or police training, other than his fights to get his daughter to bed on time, and attributed his actions to human nature.
Shaw’s disarming modesty — no pun intended — only enhances his heroism, as far as we’re concerned. The surviving Waffle House patrons have all expressed their heartfelt gratitude, including that longtime friend that Shaw freely admits he checked on only after the naked and unarmed gunman had run into into nearby woods, and the poor fellow will surely be overwhelmed today by the media’s interview requests and the nation’s admiration.
At least he won’t be made a political cause celebre, though, as he doesn’t fit the profile. The right’s argument about a good guy with a gun being the solution to a bad guy with a gun doesn’t apply here, as Shaw didn’t have a gun, yet Shaw’s admittedly self-interested heroism doesn’t fit well with the left’s arguments about anything. President Donald Trump recently boasted that even if unarmed he would have rushed into that mass shooting at a Florida high school that has reignited the gun debate, but it would be awkward for him to share a photo-op with a black man who’s obviously a pretty cool guy to be around and has more modestly demonstrated actual unarmed heroics, and if the left the tries to exploit that we expect this Shaw fellow will continue to insist he was just trying to his save his own black skin and try to get on with the rest of the life he so he richly deserves.
The suspected gunman has been identified as the same nutcase who had been arrested for an attempt last year to climb the White House gates in an attempt to meet with Trump to discuss something or other. The early news reports don’t make clear how those charges turned out, except that they did result in the confiscation of all the suspect’s guns and the revocation of his Illinois firearms license. Somehow or other the guns were eventually returned to the suspect’s father, who apparently returned them to his unlicensed son, and if not for a self-interested hero’s unlikely appearance it would have gone far worse. Another recent mass shooter had convictions for domestic abuse in military that would have prohibited him from owning a weapon if they had been reported to the civilian courts’ registers, and the kid who shot up that high school in Florida had promised to do so on Facebook and pretty much everyone who knew him didn’t doubt he’d actually do it, and that’s an all-too-common occurrence in these mass shootings.
We’re still steadfast defenders of the natural and constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but by now it’s clear that a few of our fellow citizens should be denied that right, just as a few of our fellow citizens are routinely and rightly denied other rights, and by now we’re getting better at identifying them, and we might yet start act accordingly and according to sensible laws.
In the meantime, we doff our caps to the self-interested but undeniably heroic Shaw, and wish the best for him and his four-year-old daughter.

— Bud Norman

Happy Hanukkah, and Hold the Politics

Although we are not at all Jewish, about three-fourths of our Bible is Old Testament and we have an abiding respect for both Judaism and Jews. If we were to host a Hanukkah party, therefore, we would take care not to turn it into an anti-Israel rally. Apparently the Obama administration has different notions of how to celebrate the holiday.
Last Wednesday’s began well enough with President Barack Obama cheerily offering some weak jokes and mostly anodyne comments, although we’re not sure if the part about the “unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States” was meant as a joke and the part about freedom of religion probably was meant to imply something about the ongoing controversy regarding Muslim immigration. He then turned the microphone over to Israel President Reuven Rivlin, who is not to be confused with the more outspoken and consequential Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he also told a couple of jokes and spoke about freedom of religion and did some serious sucking up to Obama. It was all quite convivial and mostly uncontroversial, but then Rabbi Susan Talve of St. Louis seized the floor and took things in a very different direction.
Talve is a prominent member of the group T’ruah, which urges boycotts and divestment and sanctions against Israel, has been involved in the “Black Lives Matter” protests that have largely destroyed a St. Louis suburb because of false claims about a police shooting there, and there’s no doubt that’s why she chosen for the honor of lighting the White House menorah. Instead of speaking about the religious meaning of the ritual, or the miracle it represents, or even the current relevance of the Maccabees’ brave struggle against Syrian invaders, chose to spew a litany of leftist tropes about everything from gun control to toxic waste to transgender rights, and of course spent most of time on “justice for Palestine,” complete with shouts of “Ins’Allah,” which is Arabic for “Allah willing,” and of course a plea to take in as many refugees from the Syria that attacked the Maccabees. There was no mention of God or scripture, nothing about the faith that was being celebrated, and certainly no acknowledgment that the Jewish homeland is still constantly threatened with annihilation.
Talve’s tirade was widely criticized by many Jews, even some who agree with her views when they are expressed at a more secular forum, but we would hope that all people of faith will share their indignation. The insult to Jewish people was deliberate and gratuitous, just as Obama’s choice of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell Christians “not to get on their high horse” about the latest Islamic outrages because of what happened in the long ago Crusades to repel Islamic imperialism was a also a deliberate and gratuitous insult. One cannot imagine Obama doing any such thing at the annual Ramadan and Eid al-Hada dinners he hosts, but otherwise he seems to believe there should be no sacred space where politics cannot intrude. Politics is all that modern liberalism holds sacred, and that threatens all people of faith.

Most of our Jewish friends are quite political, usually in ways that provoke friendly arguments, but we’ll leave those for later and wish you a most happy Hanukkah, and pray for the continued existence of Jewish homeland.

— Bud Norman

A Transgendered Heckle

The same Greece that was once the Cradle of Democracy is about to go bust, American troops are moving into eastern Europe as if the ’80s were calling and they wanted their foreign policy back, and the Republicans seem intent on entrusting President Barack Obama with the power to negotiate a top-secret trade deal with Asia that will allow all sorts of environmental and immigration shenanigans, but the story that caught our eye was the one about a transgendered illegal immigrant heckling a presidential speech. So far as we can determine this is the first time in the history of the republic that any president has ever been heckled by a transgendered illegal immigrant, so it seemed worth noting.
We’re not at all sure how Washington or Lincoln or Coolidge or either of the Roosevelts or any of the rest of those other archaic old white guys would have handled the situation, as it apparently never came up during their terms, but Obama responded with what strikes us as a very generous indulgence. He was addressing an “LGBT Pride” conference, the acronym referring to lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgendered persons, when a person identified as Jennicet Guttierrez started loudly shouting a demand to “release ‘LGBTQ’ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” The added “Q” stands for “questioning,” as we understand it, although we can’t pretend to understand what “questioning” means, except for a vague sense that it’s suppose to include those who can’t quite say what they’d wind up doing if they were stranded on a desert island or given a lengthy prison sentence or found themselves in some other unusual sexual circumstance. At any rate, Obama politely implored the heckler to restrain himself or herself, whichever the case may be, and quite reasonably asserted that such behavior was impolite for an invited guest to the East Room of the White House, which he presumptively referred to as “my house.” When the heckler persisted in his or her heckling, Obama at last had his sizable security contingent remove him or her from the premises, although so far as we can glean from the press reports Obama did not have him or her removed from the country, as the law would require.
Apparently there are some 75 transgendered illegal immigrants currently being detained in America, a surprisingly large number given the famously macho cultures from which most illegal immigrants come, but even so Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Guttierrez seems to have little cause for heckling. The president has been far more indulgent toward illegal immigrants than we would prefer, or what we believe the plainly written laws would permit, and the fact that he had invited a collection of Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts to the White House, even if he did neglect to invite all those more countless Qs, suggests that he’s more or less au courant on the latest sexual fashions. Why transgendered illegal immigrants should enjoy preferential treatment over the more traditional sorts was not explained in the heckling, and neither did the heckling make a reasoned argument that America should stop enforcing its borders. Even the rest of the assembled Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts, and presumably those Qs who also somehow snuck in, helped to shout down the more au courant heckler.
The crowd’s response was probably heartening to the president, who for some reason endures more heckling from the left than the right. Except for that State of the Union address when some little-known Republican shouted “You lie” during a line about how Obamacare won’t cover illegal immigrants, which has since turned out to be an entirely accurate heckle, or Chief Justice Roberts’ silently mouthed protestation of “not true” after Obama’s verifiably not true description of the Citizen’s United decision, all of the heckling during his speeches has come from the pacifist Code Pink group or the anti-free trade labor groups or some other faction that finds him insufficiently liberal. He used to be heckled by pro-illegal immigration groups that demanded he allow open borders by executive action, and he used to try to politely quell the dissent by explaining that he had no constitutional authority to do so, but apparently there has since been some change in the Constitution that no longer makes this necessary.
Greece’s descent into bankruptcy and the revival of the Cold War and that awful free trade bill that the Republicans are signing on to are probably more important matters, but at a time when transgendered illegal immigrants are heckling the president they seem all the more unlikely to come to any happy conclusion.

— Bud Norman

Choosing One’s Outrage

There’s no telling what will offend some people’s moral sensibilities, or what will not.
A rare look at our Facebook page found several friends grousing about Israel’s meticulously limited response to the thousands of rockets that have lately been lobbed at its people by the Islamist terror gang Hamas, with one friend rather angrily demanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before a international war crimes tribunal, but none seemed at all troubled that an Islamist terror gang was raining rockets down on the random civilians of a civilized and democratic nation, or demanded that the perpetrators be treated as war criminal. A far greater number of Muslims have recently perished in the fighting in Syria and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other places where internecine Islamist warfare rages, and for far less justifiable reasons, but judging by the relative lack of mainstream media coverage and Facebook chatter that doesn’t seem to trouble many consciences.
The guest list at that fancy White House gathering of African leaders is a similarly curious example of selective outrage. Among those getting the red carpet treatment and presidential promises of massive wealth redistribution are Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Oblang Nguema Mbasago, fresh from a killing spree that left all of his prominent political opponents dead, and Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who advocates a policy of beheading homosexuals, along with the usual assortment of seedy Afro-Marxist thugs who have made such a mess of post-colonial Africa. These elegantly embossed invitations to the White House were handed out by the same administration that routinely derides its domestic political opponents as extremists bent on dirty air and dirty water, and who are implored in faux-hip-hop fashion to “Just stop hatin’,” and it strikes us as odd. Even the most stubborn American adherents of the millennia-old notions about same sex-same marriage draw the line well short of beheading homosexuals, and thus far even the kookiest musket-weilding and tricorner-hat-wearing “tea party” types haven’t offed anybody.
The beheading-of-homosexuals part might yet yet provoke some justifiable moral outrage among the left, where anything having to do with homosexuality gets some traction, and certainly arouses more outrage than the all-too-tempting idea of simply killing all of one’s prominent political opponents, but that also seems oddly selective. We are as appalled as anyone on the left by the treatment of homosexuals in the Islamic world and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and would welcome  a more consistent American policy of protesting it, but we’d love to see the left make the same exceptions to its multi-cultural and morally relativist rules to protest the appalling treatment of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious minorities in much of the world. The womenfolk are getting a raw deal in most of these fondly regarded underdog countries, too, and it seems especially odd that a modern feminism obsessed with the mating rituals of horny frat boys is indifferent to the forced genital mutilations and other brutal abuses that are common throughout a romanticized Third World.
Sometimes moral outrage is selected according to partisan obligations, like the Facebook friend who was fuming about our Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s reckless tax cuts and the resulting slight downgrade from one of the bond-rating agencies, but didn’t seem to mind when the nation’s creit ratings were downgraded after years of trillion dollar deficits under President Barack Obama. That same partisan prejudice prevented the press from highlighting Vice President Joe Biden’s hilarious repeated references to “the nation of Africa,” which is precisely the sort of thing that would have been endlessly re-played on the late night comedy shows if only Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin had said it. Oftentimes it’s that multi-cultural moral relativism that tolerates beheadings of homosexuals and genital mutilations in the more primitive and thus more spiritually pure countries, all in the name of progressivism, but insists that anyone from their supposedly more intellectually enlightened culture should be willing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage or sign a consent form before a drunken college hook-up. In either case, one’s instincts should be set aside for a moment of more thoughtful consideration.

— Bud Norman


At this point we might as well divulge our suspicion that the Internal Revenue Service’s illegal harassment of the president’s political foes was ordered by the president himself. Proving such a portentous claim is difficult when a key figure in the scandal is pleading the Fifth Amendment and essential documents are missing, but that only makes it all the more suspicious, and after so many presidential lies and scandals we no longer feel obliged to make a presumption of innocence.
The explanations offered for the missing e-mails that might have proved our suspicions is dubious at best. We are to believe that two years of essential correspondence were lost to a computer crash, and that the hard drive was then destroyed for recycling purposes, which is an alibi that would not past master with the IRS if any audited company of individual taxpayer were desperate enough to offer it. It seems strange, too, that the computer crash not only deprived congressional investigators of the e-mails sent by Lois Lerner, the aforementioned Fifth-Amendment-pleading key figure in the case, but six other important players, one of whom was a frequent visitor to the White House during the time the harassment was taking place. That the crash occurred just 10 days after the IRS had received a letter from a congressman who was inquiring about reports of harassed “tea party” organizations and other conservative groups seems stranger yet.
It seems very much like criminal obstruction of justice at worst and a damning confession of bureaucratic incompetence at best, and in either case it is the sort of thing no agency would do unless there was something even worse that they didn’t want known. There is now no doubt that the president’s political foes who applied for tax-exempt status were subjected to a punitive degree of scrutiny at far higher rates than their more administration-friendly counterparts, which has been acknowledged and apologized for by the agency, so all the is left to be hidden is the identity of those responsible. After initially expressing his outrage at the scandal, and claiming that he’d only become aware of it by reading media reports, the president has since referred to the matter as a “phony scandal” and insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” involved, but if he’s reading the same media reports we are it might have also occurred to him that the only person worth protecting by such risky and impeachable means is the president. His apparent disinterest in the matter of the missing e-mails that might have put such suspicions to rest, and the disinterest of his thoroughly politicized Justice Department, also seems strange.
A patriotic respect for the office of the president leaves on uneasy harboring such grave suspicions, but the same respect requires that we hold the occupants of the office to the highest standards and give due consideration to such well-grounded suspicions. The current occupant’s long history of disregard for the law, even the ones he lobbied for and signed, along with his outspoken disdain for those who dare disagree with him, as well as a long-established style of political combat learned from Saul Alinsky’s no-holds-barred “Rules for Radicals,” make those nagging suspicions all the more plausible. Forgive our skepticism, which the president would surely deride as the “cynicism” that prevents the public from embracing his leadership, but we just wouldn’t put it past the guy to sic the IRS on those “tea party” groups and pro-Israel organizations that he so clearly reviled.
At this point in the Watergate scandal, which ended with President Richard Nixon resigning rather than face the charge that he had unsuccessfully “endeavored” to use the IRS against his political foes, much of the media were already screaming “Guilty.” We’ll hold off on that, and eagerly await the slow trickle of damning revelations that are sure to come over the summer, but we will admit to being darned suspicious. Maybe we’re wrong, but we’d interested to hear the president make the case why we are. Perhaps the exculpatory evidence was in those e-mails that went mysteriously missing, but if so a sweet irony will prevent him from the proof.

— Bud Norman

Of Espionage and Press Releases

We’ve watched a lot of cloak-and-dagger movies in our day, and like to think ourselves savvy to all the conventions of the espionage genre, but we’ve never encountered a plot twist where a Central Intelligence Agency operative’s top secret cover was compromised by his name and position being included on a White House press release. Such broad farce is too far-fetched for even most the irreverent spy-movie spoof, and can only occur in real life.
Yes, a White House press release handed out during President Barack Obama’s recent photo-op with the troops in Afghanistan did indeed identify the CIA chief of station who has been running the intelligence-gathering and drone-warfare the enemy has found so vexing. The top-secret spook was apparently among the guests of honor at the photo-op, no doubt conspicuous by his black tie and tuxedo among all the camouflage and the president’s butch bomber jacket, and somebody in the White House thought he therefore deserved mention to the press. A Washington Post reporter thought this odd and potentially dangerous, but only after his story had been filed and quickly published on the internet, and by the time he drew the government’s attention to the matter the name was available to any of the vexed enemy with a working internet connection. Another White House spokesman assured that the White House chief of staff had asked the newly installed White House counsel to look into the matter and make recommendations on “how the administration can improve processes and make sure something like this does not happen again,” and anyone screenwriting yet another spy-movie spoof will be hard-pressed to improve on that.
That Post reporter deserves some credit for his belated realization of his security breach and bringing it to the government’s attention, and his paper redacted the operative’s name from subsequent editions and most American publications have also properly declined to repeat the name, but otherwise most of the media have done their usual dreadful job on the story. Almost none have given it the same outraged attention that was given to the naming of CIA worker Valerie Plame, who wasn’t a covert agent at the time and who was named by an associate of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the only Bush administration official that the media didn’t want to destroy, in an apparently innocent effort to explain why Plame’s husband had been sent off to the Middle East to file a much-publicized and highly-dubious report about his half-assed investigation into charges that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire yellowcake uranium. The press went wild for the story, hoping it would lead instead to the revelation that the administration had deliberately endangered a brave spy’s life in order to discredit a noble whistle-blower, and they kept telling it even after it fell apart. The Washington Post even revived it in the account of the Afghanistan press release, falsely recalling “when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq.” The Los Angeles Times got it even more wrong, stating that Plame was identified by Scooter Libby, a former assistant to the vice-president who was convicted of a lie about the non-crime during the multi-million dollar investigation of the matter.
A desire to revive even false memories of the bad old Bush days is understandable, though, given how very inept the current administration looks. The naming of the CIA operative ruined the fine optics of the president looking so very Commander in Chiefy in that butch bomber jacket, so the press was almost obliged to throw in some compensatory Bush-bashing, no matter how inaccurate, and we expect the story will fade away before that special counsel fellow makes any recommendations. The bigger story is the president’s latest schedule for bugging out of Afghanistan, which will have the boys back home just in time for the next presidential election, and no one seems especially concerned that it might be handled just as ineptly as the administration’s public relations. Even such friendly publications as the aforementioned Los Angeles Times are starting to a notice a pattern of incompetence by the administration, from shovel ready jobs that aren’t quite shovel ready to crashed web sites to bankrupt solar panel companies to a gun-running operation for Mexican drug gangs to misspelled “reset” buttons that were going to charm the Russians into good global citizenship, not to mention Benghazi and the Veterans Administration and countless other examples, so a suddenly-endangered CIA operative is another embarrassment the press would rather not dwell on.
We wish that compromised CIA spook well, and hope he fares at least as well as Valerie Plame. She got a glamorous Vanity Fair photo spread and a Hollywood movie out of it, but this fellow will be lucky to get a book deal. His story is too far-fetched for a movie, even if you could get Will Ferrell or some other over-the-top comic to star, and it makes the wrong president look bad.

— Bud Norman

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

If you know anyone in need of a pastry chef, we can heartily recommend the services of Bill Yosses. Although we’ve never met him nor had the opportunity to taste his work, Yosses has an excellent reputation and is obviously a most conscientious sort of pastry chef.
Yosses was previously the executive pastry chef at the White House, serving both the Bush and Obama families with his famous cookie plates and elaborate sugar sculptures, but has recently resigned in protest against administration policies. We’ve been expecting other high officials to take a similarly principled stand, given the administration’s disastrous policies on everything from the economy to education to foreign affairs, but thus far Yosses has been the only one with sufficient self-respect. He might not disagree with the rest of the nonsense emanating from the White House, but he draws the line at the First Lady’s insistence on using fruit puree and honey and agave and other fashionably healthful ingredients in his heartfelt creations, telling the press that “I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar, and eggs.”
News stories about Yosses usually mention that he is openly homosexual, which strikes us as a rather extraneous detail, unless it is meant to explain the kind words the First Lady sent out after his departure, but he has an admirably old-fashioned understanding that dessert is not supposed to be good for you. Whatever liberalism Yosses’ homosexuality might have instilled in him, his steadfast defense of such bedrock values of western civilization as cream, butter, sugar, and eggs is downright Burkean to our thinking and deserving of conservative praise. The administration’s annoying nutritional authoritarianism is typical of its approach to almost everything, and is as good a point as any to draw a sugary line in the sand.

— Bud Norman

Much Ado About Nothing

The stock markets went wild Thursday on the news that the White House and the Senate’s Democratic leadership have deigned to talk with their Republican antagonists about the ending partial government shutdown. Should the talks lead to an agreement of any sort that actually ends the shutdown there will likely be a boom on Wall Street that leads to champagne bottles being popped and big fat cigars being lighted with fifty dollar bills. In the even more unlikely event that the agreement not only halts the government shutdown but also some eliminates the more job-killing aspects of Obamacare and averts the inevitable collapse under the weight of federal debt, we expect that a $100 bet on a diversified portfolio can be parlayed into a sizeable fortune for those smart enough to cash out quickly.
As much as we hate to dampen Wall Street’s enthusiasm, the long-awaited negotiations seem unlikely to yield anything of lasting importance. The White House would sooner allow a default and all other potentially catastrophic consequences of an un-funded government than allow any changes to its beloved Obamacare, even though the health care reform law is much hated by almost everyone else, and seems confident that its press allies will ensure it suffers no political consequences. The Republicans appear similarly intent on extracting some sort of significant concession from the administration lest they offend their conservative base, even if the press has convinced much of the rest of the country that they’re bunch a anarcho-terrorist hostage takers, and it is hard to imagine them winning enough spending cuts or entitlement reforms to save face.
Both sides seem to be taking a beating in the public opinion polls, though, so some desultory deal or another will eventually be struck. A stop-gap measure that keeps the shutdown out of the news until the upcoming budget ceiling brouhaha is the most likely outcome, we’d wager, and if the Republicans think they have a stronger hand then the country will be right back to where are now. The White House has thus been so determined to keep the Republicans’ hands off Obamacare that they’ve even rejected a proposal to delay the much-reviled individual mandate, which would give them another year to fix their famously fouled-up computer system and put off the wrath of young voters forced to pay for being insured past the next congressional elections, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the administration were just as adamant about the need to increase the federal debt by a few trillion more over the coming years. The Republicans will still be forced by their most crucial voters to fight with any tactic at hand, including a government shutdown and all the resulting bad press, and yet another downturn in the stock markets becomes inevitable.
There’s little chance the government will remain eternally shut down, alas, so the stock markets should eventually recover to whatever extent the new Federal Reserve honcho chooses to keep the printing presses running. Ending Obamacare and restoring sanity to the nation’s finances will await a Republican administration, or such calamities that even a Democratic administration is forced to address them, and whatever bargains are hammered out in the meantime will be of little help in reviving the country’s moribund economy. Everyone involved in the negotiations will be mostly concerned with the political results, and none will realize that a forgetful public will be voting on the basis of their health insurance bills and employment prospects when the far-off mid-term elections at long last come around.
Any Republicans getting skittish about the latest polls should keep in mind that Obamacare and America’s looming insolvency are still going to be around when the votes are cast, and that it will be helpful to remind the public that the party remained steadfast against both even when the public was irked about it. Those frenetic fellows on the trading floors and the talking-heads on the 24-hour news cycle are quite intrigued by what’s going on in Washington in the next few days, but we’ll be paying more attention to football and the baseball playoffs.

— Bud Norman

New Details on an Old Scandal

Now is the perfect time for it, if you’re hoping to spare the Obama administration any further embarrassment, but there have been even more revelations about the Internal Revenue service’s targeting of conservative groups.
Although it was not widely noticed in the midst of all the post-Zimmerman racial hysteria, a report in the impeccably mainstream Washington Post puts the scandal as high up as the agency’s presidentially-appointed chief counsel and close enough to the administration that the paper is obliged to note that “No evidence so far has definitively linked the White House to the agency’s actions.” Even without all the Zimmerman hubbub you might have missed a story in Accounting Today, a web site for certified public accounts and anyone with an interest in certified public accountancy, which reports that the tax records of donors to conservative candidates and organizations were illegally made public.
Both stories are worth noting, even with a riveting racial morality play on the other pages, but much of the press would probably find some reason to underplay them in any circumstances. Using the IRS to harass political enemies was one of the articles of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon, even though no evidence so far has definitely linked the White House to the agency’s actions, and prospect of the agency’s unbridled powers being used to squash dissent is no less serious today.
There’s a lot going in the world, including the Justice Department’s efforts to limit the citizenry’s right to self-defense in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, and much of it deserves the public’s close scrutiny. The IRS scandal certainly merits more attention, and more outrage, that it has lately been getting.

— Bud Norman

Looking Back at W

President George W. Bush was briefly back in the news on Thursday, and there was a conspicuously restrained tone to the stories. In some cases, the coverage was almost sympathetic.

The occasion was Bush’s return visit to the White House, where in keeping with longstanding tradition he was invited by the current president to attend the unveiling of his official portrait and hear some flattering remarks, so perhaps the reporters were just caught up in the bipartisan and largely apolitical nature of the event. Still, the lack of vitriol was striking.

So much has happened since Bush left office and stepped almost completely out of public view that one might have forgotten about the red-hot hatred that he used to stoke in his political opponents. Comparisons to Hitler and chimpanzees were standard fare, as were jokes about assassination and allegations of mass murder, and even in mainstream publications writers felt free to frankly confess that they hated Bush. We recall one watching one fellow scurry around a barroom in search of a picture of Bush to spit on, and we know another who wrote in a local “alt” publication that Bush that should be boiled in oil, and neither were the least be embarrassed by it.

It’s also hard to remember, so very far into to the Obama era, what that was all about. The most common grievance heard these days is that Bush single-handedly destroyed the American economy, but that happened late in his second term, and we can’t recall any of his critics shrieking about the sub-prime bubble until after it hard burst. Ask any of the die-hard Bush-bashers exactly what he did to bring about the financial crisis, and you’ll usually get no specific answer. Sometimes they’ll tell us that it was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, but that happened during the Clinton administration, and upon further questioning they’ll usually admit that they don’t know what that FDR-era bill did in the first place. Others will say it was the Bush tax cuts, but they’re always unaware that revenues increased throughout the Bush years, or that the tax code he wrought was deemed the world’s most progressive, and they’re hard-pressed to explain how the economy collapsed as a result of insufficient taxation. A few still rail against the irresponsible deficit-spending of the Bush years, then try to defend the more recent debt, but they’ll no longer so adamant about it.

They used to speak indignantly about indefinite detentions at Guantamo Bay, lobbing missiles and drones at helpless Middle Eastern countries, secret assassination squads, the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, and a host of other things that somehow are no longer so shocking to the proper sensibility. Bush’s swaggering cowboy machismo used to drive them crazy, too, but now they’re more likely be boasting about how their guy personally rappelled from a helicopter and killed Osama bin Laden with his bare hands. Even the famous Bush malapropisms that once provoked gales of laughter now go unmentioned, lest someone respond with some of the frequent misstatements made by his supposedly silver-tongued successor.

There will always be the Iraq War, of course, although not the Afghanistan War, but even that seems less infuriating since the troops pulled out on the Bush schedule left behind a more or less sane and democratic country by Middle Eastern standards. Many of the arguments made during the war, have already been disproved by subsequent events, such as the theory that it was merely an attempt to control the country’s oil wealth or build a pipeline for some evil corporation, and others will await history’s verdict. Even Obama has stopped making an issue of the “stupid war” that propelled him to national prominence, and instead prefers to focus on a mythical Republican war on women.

So it was that Obama wound up making some kind remarks, modestly sharing credit for the bin Laden kill, and gently joshing Bush in an almost inappropriately familiar way during the ceremony. He couldn’t help making mention of the financial crisis that occurred before his own election, and characteristically made the occasion very much about himself, but he also showed a rare flash of humility by conceding that the job of being president is sometimes very hard.

We have our own gripes with Bush, including an ideologically consistent objection to those relatively small deficits, and we’re sure history will have a few more, but the harsh rhetoric and raw hatred he provoked always struck us as wildly disproportionate. Even as we indulge in our daily Obama-bashing we studiously avoid any comparisons to Hitler or chimpanzees, or jokes about assassination or allegations of mass murder, and we hope that the refreshing civil tone at the portrait unveiling will prevail in the coming vigorous debates.

— Bud Norman