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To the Moon Township and Back

By now we should be inured to President Donald Trump’s unique brand of political rhetoric, but we can’t quite a shake a certain disquieting feeling about it. Even in a weekend chock full of serious stories, Trump’s speech at Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday was worrisome.
During a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness improvisation, Trump urged that America adopt the Chinese dictatorship’s draconian drug policies, called the National Broadcasting Company’s Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch” and griped that he hadn’t rewarded for his past hit reality show on the network with more favorable coverage, then once again predicted that all the “fake news” media would eventually help him win reelection for fear that people will stop watching the news if Trump isn’t on it. He defended his crazy steel tariffs and predicted a quick and decisive victory in the coming trade wars, described a congressional Democratic critic as a “very low-IQ person,” told a boastful and obviously untrue lie about winning the majority of the women’s vote in the past election, and blamed every American president back to Ronald Reagan for all his problems.
He also spent five minutes or so extolling the virtues of Rick Saccone, the Republican nominee in a special House of Representatives election to be held on Tuesday, which was the ostensible reason for the speech. The district has long been reliably Republican, and Trump won it easily, but all the polls are showing a tight race. They’re having a special election because the Republican who won office on a family values platform was forced to resign after it came out that he’d urged his mistress to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare, Republicans have been underperforming all the special elections since Trump’s electoral victory, and even lost an Alabama seat, so it’s a race the GOP can ill-afford to lose.
Trump’s crazy steel tariffs play well in the vicinity of Moon Township, where the once dominant steel industry has been decimated by competition from lower-wage and higher-tech factories, but naturally the Democratic nominee is just as enthusiastic about it as the Republican, and has the endorsement of the last remaining steelmaking unions, and so for that’s proving a wash. The Republican candidate is also by all accounts something of a bore, which is an unpardonable political sin in the age of Trump, and his Democratic opponent, Conor Lamb, is a former Marine with centrists positions and no apparent character defects, and even Trump noted in his rambling endorsement for Saccone that Lamb’s considered a rather handsome fellow.
Trump boasted that he’s better looking, which got a big laugh, and he dubbed the Democrat “Lamb the Sham,” which also got a big laugh, and then he mentioned the name of Democratic minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, which set off an even louder round of boos. Lamb has stressed throughout the campaign that he would not vote for Pelosi as the House Democrats’ leader, so that might also prove a wash, but it went over big at the rally. Trump was less effusive in his praise of Saccone, and when he tried he trailed off into a mock-voice impression of some boring “presidential” type of president endorsing some boring House candidate. At least he didn’t openly say he might have endorsed the wrong guy in the Republican primary, as he did when he went to rally support for that credibly accused child molester of a Republican nominee who wound up losing that once-safe Alabama Senate seat, but Saccone could have done better.
The crowd loved it, of course, laughing at all the familiar laugh lines and booing any mention of the familiar villains, but even in the Rust Belt regions of Pennsylvania the act seems to be wearing thin. To us it looks and sounds like the ramblings of a mean-spirited and insecure and foul-mouthed fellow who’s in far above his ill-coiffed head, and we worry that in all sorts of districts and the foreign bureaus in such places as London and Berlin and Beijing and Pyongyang many people have reached the same conclusion.

— Bud Norman

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The Maternal Mystery in a Crazy Election Year

You might not have noticed, but Republican nominee Donald J. Trump delivered a major policy address on Tuesday outlining his proposal for a federal paid maternity leave policy. It was given perfunctory coverage by all the respectable press, just in case you still visit there, but was easily overlooked in a news cycle still dominated by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comments and health problems and slipping poll numbers. As loathe as we are to admit it, we can hardly blame neither the respectable press nor its readership for their priorities.
Trump’s speech was pre-written in more-or-less parseable English, and read from a teleprompter in a relatively relaxed tone, so it had none of the ad-libbed ad hominens that generated all those “oh no he didn’t” headlines which propelled his run to the Republican nomination. All that policy stuff is also rather boring, apparently even to Trump judging his by relatively relaxed tone, and by now a vast majority of the country has figured out that neither Trump nor Clinton really mean any of it anyway. Certainly no one believes that Trump had given much serious thought to a federal paid maternity leave policy until recently, and we note that he delivered his major policy address in a suburb of Philadelphia in the important swing state of Pennsylvania where all the polls still show him behind largely because college-educated white people in general and suburban white women in particular can’t stand him, so although we’re loathe to admit it we can’t blame The New York Times for headlining its perfunctory coverage with “Donald Trump Unveils Plan for Families in Bid for Women’s Votes.”
Our guess is that the ploy won’t do Trump much good, and that he should be grateful Clinton’s recent headline-grabbing travails have mitigated the harm it might have done.
The Trump plan calls for six weeks of paid mandatory leave and expanded tax credits for child care, which even The New York Times is obliged to concede “represents a different approach from the one taken by previous Republican nominees,” but of course that’s not nearly enough to satisfy the more unabashedly leftist outfits. The Huffington Post called the proposal Trump’s “Biggest Insult To Women Yet,” which is really saying something after all those hours he spent yukking it up on Howard Stern’s shock jock radio show, and gleefully reported that Trump’s private businesses haven’t always been so generous as he now insists the American public must be.
Even the more bottom-line minded business press acknowledged that Trump’s plan for the rest of us is parsimonious by international standards. Fortune Magazine’s headline admitted that “Donald Trump’s Maternity Leave Plan Keeps US in Last Place Among Peers,” while Business Insider could only muster the enthusiasm for “No cheers for Trump’s child care plan — one cheer for maternity leave,” and every objective source seemed to agree that there wasn’t enough of Trump’s targeted “waste and fraud” in the current programs to pay for even such a parsimonious entitlement expansion. Every objective source also acknowledged that Trump was once again lying when said that Clinton hadn’t offered maternity leave policy “and never will,” as Clinton had offered her policy more than year ago, but they further admitted that her proposals weren’t a whole lot closer to those international standards.
Over on the right, the reaction was mixed at best, with few Republican office-holders and no past Republican nominees hopping on board. Conservatism has long been against any big government entitlement policies but also very much pro-procreation, so even such a NeverTrump redoubt of the true faith as National Review was making a case that “Paid Maternity Leave Should Not be Ignored by the Right,” complete with data about female workforce participation and the fact that America is the only industrialized country in the world without a generous paid maternity leave policy, but such rock-ribbed sorts as ourselves found it unconvincing. We’re pro-procreation but in an old-fashioned family sense, and we’re not sure what incentives these maternity leave policies might provide given the current cultural trends, and we don’t buy into that all-the-other-industrialized-countries-are-doing-it nonsense. Such formerly rock-ribbed types as Rush Limbaugh are reluctantly concluding it’s good politics, but there’s still a few of us who aren’t willing to concede that big government entitlement ground.
Luckily for Trump, he and Clinton and her slightly-less-big-government proposals will likely be overshadowed by her “deplorables” comment and her health problems and her slipping poll numbers.

— Bud Norman