Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
They Said It:
If we attend carefully to the psychology of the persons who manifest such an eagerness to serve us, we shall find that they are even more eager to control us. What once discovers, for example, under the altruistic professions of the leaders of a typical organization for humanitarian crusading . . . a growing will to power and even in incipient terrorism.
Irving Babbitt, Democracy and Leadership, 1924.
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES LOSERS.
We’re not sure if you’re aware of this, but Barack Obama is still, technically, the President of the United States, and will be for the next nine months (or 41+ weeks, 289 days, 6900+ hours, 415,000+ minutes, 25,000,000+ seconds – not that we’re counting). And last week, this President of the United States hosted a nuclear summit in Washington, which was attended by many of the world’s most important heads of state, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
As is customary at such events, all of the world leaders present posed for a handful of group photos. Unlike most such photos, though, these were . . . umm . . . “highlighted” by the aforementioned Obama, who smiled, giggled, and flashed a peace sign for the camera. As he did so, the other folks in the photo – you, know the presidents and prime ministers of the rest of the world – looked on, either in horror or in bemusement. Who, they all seem to be wondering, let this clown in here?
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Hillary Clinton – the presumed Democratic nominee and thus the frontrunner to replace the Clown Prince – told NBC regarding abortion that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights . . . Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.”
Needless to say, the rest of the pro-Choice crowd went nuts – or at least as nuts as they could manage to go, given that Hillary is officially “their” candidate. Various Planned Parenthood officials took to social media to decry Hillary’s use of the term “person.” Planned Parenthood, the de facto spokes-group for the pro-Choice faction, has long insisted that the term “person” is morally and medically inaccurate when used to describe the victim of an abortion. “Fetus” or “embryo” are considered by abortion advocates to be far better word choices, since “person” tends to carry both moral and legal implications that are at odds with the practice of abortion.
At the same time, Steven Hayward, the conservative blogger and scholar, dug up an old New York Times story in which Bernie Sanders, then Mayor of Burlington, VT, explained that he hates the idea of private persons or entities taking care of the underprivileged in this country and prefers, rather, that the state control all such efforts: “‘I don’t believe in charities,’” said Mayor Sanders, bringing a shocked silence to a packed hotel banquet room. The Mayor, who is a Socialist, went on to question the ‘fundamental concepts on which charities are based’ and contended that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs.” We can’t say for sure, of course, but we suppose that that’s an idea he picked up either on his honeymoon trip to the Soviet Union or on one of his countless visits to Nicaragua to support his friend and ideological soulmate Daniel Ortega, the head of the Marxist Sandanistas.
And yet…to hear the story told by the mainstream press, the leaders of both major parties, and half of the voters, Donald Trump is an embarrassment and a threat of massive and unprecedented proportion. He is, quite possibly, the worst, most misogynistic, least intelligent, and yet most menacing person ever to be this close to becoming president. If the American people somehow elect the man, their country will instantaneously transform into a fascist state that treats women and minorities unjustly; a war-hungry rogue nation with nuclear weapons; and a global laughingstock. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas thinks that Trump is taking the country to the “sewer” of politics. Longtime journalist Jack Schaefer thanks Obama for uniting Americans in opposition to the “most vulgar, embarrassing campaign of the century.” Or, as the far-left writer and “comedienne” Natalie Shure put it back in September:
Americans are no strangers to embarrassing exports (sorry for “Grey’s Anatomy” and Papa John’s pizza, Planet Earth!). And our political nutbaggery is no exception. But when it comes to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, we may have outdone ourselves. The GOP frontrunner is a woman-hating reality TV star whose campaign has mostly focused on his lust for ethnic cleansing. The global reaction to Trump mania has been a sense of disgust; Trump is the native son of a country that worships selfishness above empathy, corporate interests over justice and notoriety over prestige. As French author Marie-Cecile Naves put it to Politico, “Trump represents the America we love to hate . . . He is our negative mirror image, a man we see as brutal, who worships money and lacks culture — someone who lets us feel a bit superior about being European.”
In short, the rest of the world seems as flabbergasted about Trump’s rise as we should be.
Donald Trump, you see, is a fool, a showman who cares nothing about international decorum and is only involved in politics to stroke his own ego. And Barack Obama thinks that the Queen of England wants an ipod preloaded with his own speeches. He thinks it’s no big deal to draw a “red line” and then back down from it. He thinks it’s fun to snap selfies with other world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. He thinks ISIS is the jayvee team and explains to the foreign press that he can’t quite express what he wants to say because that he doesn’t speak “Austrian.”
And yet…Trump is the policy buffoon. Last week, he told Chris Matthews that “there has to be some sort of punishment” for the women who have abortions. This, of course, is a colossal blunder that disregards four-plus decades of Pro-Life rhetoric, which insists that women who have abortions are “victims” of the procedure and should therefore be treated with care and compassion. Trump’s abortion comments were, Peggy Noonan noted, part of the “large blob of sheer dumb grossness” that the man has been spewing of late. How could anyone be so dumb?
But, of course, as noted above, Hillary told the same network that abortions take the lives “unborn humans,” which violates a different four decades of precedent. So the writer and editor John Podhoretz called it “Trump-level gaffery.”
Trump is also a radical statist and a potential fascist. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank declared that “Trump uses many of the fascist’s tools: a contempt for facts, spreading a pervasive sense of fear and overwhelming crisis, portraying his backers as victims, assigning blame to foreign or alien actors and suggesting only his powerful personality can transcend the crisis.” His deportation plans are alarming enough in theory, but in practice would require a massive police state. He shows no appreciation for the role immigrants have traditionally played in this country.
But then there is Bernie Sanders, who has, more or less, agreed with Trump that low-wage, low-skill workers from Latin America are killing the working class in this country and should therefore be “encouraged” not to immigrate. He wants to increase top tax rates massively; he wants to increase payroll taxes; he wants to increase capital gains taxes; he wants, in sum, to raise the government’s tax haul by 34%. He wants the government to run healthcare and to provide universal access to higher education. He favors “economic patriotism,” which is thinly-veiled protectionism. He wants to increase the size of government by 40% and government spending by 55%. He favors the mandatory doubling of the national minimum wage.
In her column last week about Trump’s “large blob of sheer dumb grossness,” Peggy Noonan knocked The Donald for a number of “blunders,” all of which, she alleges, make him a uniquely vile character in American presidential politics. For example, Noonan calls Trump’s answer about abortion and punishing the women who procure them “absurd,” arguing that the flub suggests that the candidate is distinctively unprepared and is “missing something.” We won’t argue with about this, but we will note that almost thirty years ago, a different Republican presidential candidate made almost exactly the same “flub” Trump did and had to issue almost exactly the same retraction. That candidate was none other than Ms. Noonan’s guy – and by “Ms. Noonan’s guy,” we mean the guy she worked for and for whom she wrote speeches. As James Taranto put it in his “Best of the Web” column last Thursday:
It was Sept. 25, 1988, and the occasion was the first presidential debate between Republican George Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis. The question was put to the GOP nominee by Anne Groer of the Orlando Sentinel:
Groer: If abortions were to become illegal again, do you think that the women who defy the law and have them anyway, as they did before it was OK’d by the Supreme Court, and the doctors who perform them should go to jail?
Bush: I haven’t sorted out the penalties. But I do know, I do know that I oppose abortion. And I favor adoption. And if we can get this law changed, everybody should make the extraordinary effort to take these kids that are unwanted and sometimes aborted, take the — let them come to birth, and then put them in a family where they will be loved. And you see, yes, my position has evolved. And it’s continuing to evolve, and it’s evolving in favor of life. And I have had a couple of exceptions that I support — rape, incest and the life of the mother. Sometimes people feel a little uncomfortable talking about this, but it’s much clearer for me now. As I’ve seen abortions sometimes used as a birth control device, for heavens sakes. See the millions of these killings accumulate, and this is one where you can have an honest difference of opinion. We certainly do. But no, I’m for the sanctity of life, and once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side, and of course there’s got to be some penalties to enforce the law, whatever they may be.
Like Trump, Bush attempted a filibuster rather than answer the question immediately. Unlike Matthews, Groer didn’t press Bush on the question of whether or what penalties should apply to women contracting for abortions.
Instead, moderator Jim Lehrer went to Dukakis for a response, and the governor gave his opponent’s answer the most extreme construction possible: “Well, I think what the vice president is saying is that he’s prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making this decision. It’s as simple as that.”
Noonan also hit Trump for his recent debate response to an attack on his . . . well . . . “manhood” made by Senator Marco Rubio. “Mr. Trump referred in debate to his genitals,” Noonan writes, “a true national first.” Technically, we suppose that’s true. Of course, we did once have a presidential candidate tell a room full of college-aged girls what kind of underwear he preferred. That same candidate, you may recall, went on to have an affair in the Oval Office with a young woman about the same age as those he told about his skivvies. That affair was documented in federal criminal investigation, the written report of which would make D.H. Lawrence blush but which is available at bookstores, libraries, and all over the internet. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor: don’t. More to the point, we suppose, while Trump may have been the first presidential wannabe to prattle on about his naughty bits in a debate, he wasn’t exactly the first to make a big deal about them. The historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson recently elaborated on this point at follows:
Unfortunately, Trump was not the first politician to brag about the size of his genitalia. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly offered such jock talk often — as well as reportedly exposing himself to aides. Did LBJ’s sick obsessions turn liberals off the Great Society? In her civil suit, Paula Jones settled with Bill Clinton after alleging that he had likewise pulled out his penis. Is such exhibitionism cruder than vaguely alluding to penis size? A crude Trump certainly has not entered cruder Anthony Weiner territory.
Weiner, you’ll note, was caught TWICE sending pictures of his personal business to young women. He is also the husband of Hillary Clinton’s closest and most trusted adviser, Huma Abedin. And Abedin is reportedly at the forefront of the FBI investigation into the candidate’s homebrew email server, an investigation which, for the record, reportedly occupies nearly 150 agents. Is this Weiner-Abedin-Clinton-email mess better or worse, more or less embarrassing than Trump’s fraudulent Trump University? We don’t know. But we do know that the fact that the comparison can be made is enough to render the whole “Trump is the WORST ever!” argument rather immaterial.
And that’s not the least of it. Hanson continued:
In reprehensible fashion, a Trump aide recently manhandled a female reporter. Does that act reflect a Trump culture of sexism? Perhaps. But the locus classicus of such thuggery still remains Bill Clinton (currently on the campaign trail talking of various injustices), who on at least two occasions likely assaulted women through physical violence. Will someone uncover an early Trump essay with lines like the following: “A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.” “A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously” — replete with exegeses like the following: “Many women seem to be walking a tightrope,” as their “qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism.” If such a Trump text is uncovered, will he then be in league with the author of those lines, the young Bernie Sanders?
Trump crudely suggested that a Hispanic judge might be prejudiced against him in an upcoming civil trial. Did he take his cue from current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor? She is on the record as saying that race makes some judges “better” than others (“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male”) . . .
We could play this tu quoque all day long, but the fact that we can play it at all suggests that Trump is hardly, by current standards, beyond the pale, much less that he is aberrant in U.S. presidential-campaign history. He is or is not as uncouth as Barack Obama, who has mocked the disabled, the wealthy, typical white people, the religious, and the purported clingers, and has compared opponents to Iranian theocrats and said that George W. Bush was “unpatriotic” — all as relish to wrecking America’s health-care system, doubling the national debt, setting race relations back six decades, politicizing federal bureaucracies, ignoring federal law, and leaving the Middle East in shambles and our enemies on the ascendant.
Last week, we noted that Trump had, once again riled up the Washington cognoscenti by choosing foreign policy advisers who don’t fit the traditional mold, which is to say that they haven’t put in enough time at the “respectable” think tanks to be considered respectable themselves. Trump’s people may be morons. They may be geniuses. They may be a mix of the two. Again, we don’t really know. What we do know, however, is that the slime they wipe off their shoes when they get home every night is almost certainly smarter and less ridiculous than Hillary Clinton’s advisers. Recall that one of the great-but-now-forgotten scandals that emerged when we learned last year about the former Secretary of State’s unsecured home email server was the fact that she had been in almost constant communication with and had received and had implemented foreign policy advice that she received from Sid Blumenthal. For those of you who may not know, Sid Blumenthal is, as Jonah Goldberg put it, “malevolent, lugubrious political mercenary who would be more appropriately placed as an adviser to a Medici prince in the 14th century.” Goldberg described his career as follows:
The journalist turned Clinton White House courtier is in the news because he shows up in Clinton’s e-mails — a lot. (Roughly a third of the last e-mail dump contains e-mail between them.) When first asked about her correspondence with Blumenthal, Clinton insisted he was merely “an old friend” who occasionally sent “unsolicited” e-mail.
That was a lie. It turns out that then – Secretary of State Clinton was in near-constant contact with Blumenthal, urging the head of her “secret spy network” (ProPublica’s term) to supply her with information and political advice, mostly about Libya. “Thanks for keeping this stuff coming!” was how she put it in one typical reply. . .
Clinton had no choice but to run Blumenthal off the books because the Obama administration banned him. . . [Which is – we ourselves would note – like being called ugly by a frog.]
He serves as Clinton’s enabler: a rumor-mongering Wormtongue whispering confirmation of the vast right-wing conspiracy that the Nixonian Clinton sees everywhere. Even as a journalist, Blumenthal played this role. He urged the Clinton administration to craft a dossier on the conspiracy driving negative coverage of the Clintons, including in such right-wing rags as the Washington Post.
When Blumenthal finally landed a job in the Clinton White House, the most frequently told joke in Washington was about how he could finally collect his back pay. One of his chief tasks in the White House was to lie to reporters about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the independent counsel’s investigation. He infamously claimed that a grand jury had interrogated him about private conversations with journalists. He made it up.
Now, Hillary Clinton’s primary contribution to global policy during her tenure at Foggy Bottom was to encourage the never-authorized war against Ghaddafi in Libya. That war, of course, led to the notorious Benghazi attack and to Libya’s current status as a rogue nation and magnet for Islamic radicals, including, but not limited to, ISIS and al Qaeda. Hillary Clinton advised Barack Obama to undertake that war. And Sid Blumenthal advised Clinton to do so.
And we’re really supposed to be worried about Trump and his advisers? Really?
It is true that Trump is a buffoon at times. But then, so is our current president, whom we once reasonably called the “most powerful weirdo in the world.” Moreover, none of Trump’s buffoonishness sets him apart from the rest of our political class. In fact, it helps him blend in. Regular readers will recognize that we have often relayed that one of our favorite quotes about the Clintons was Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s observation that following Bill and Hill was like watching “with fascinating disgust as an unstoppable toilet backs up into [your] living room.”
Trump may be uncouth, but to the best of our knowledge he’s never taken a tax deduction for his “charitable” donation of used underpants. He’s never been accused of telling a state employee to “kiss” his aforementioned genitals. He’s never told the victim of his physical assault to “put some ice” on her bruised face. He’s never taken trips to a private island aboard the private plane of a convicted pedophile. He’s never hung out on vacation with totalitarians who were in the process of attempting to exterminate their indigenous – and politically troublesome – peoples. And he’s never buddied up to – and launched his political career in the home of – one of the country’s most notorious domestic terrorists.
Victor Davis Hanson thinks it wise if we all relax a little bit about Donald Trump’s allegedly “unprecedented” villainy. “Let us all take a deep breath, calm down,” he wrote. He’s right about Trump, of course, but we think he takes away the wrong lesson. Indeed, the lesson we take away from Trump’s “ordinariness” among the political class is precisely the opposite. It’s not time to relax and take a deep breath. It’s time to panic – not because Trump is that much worse than his competitors, mind you, but precisely because he isn’t.
Think about this for a minute. Ted Cruz is by far the sanest and most normal of the remaining presidential candidates. True, he was a national debate champ at Princeton, which makes him rather unlike most of the rest of us. And by their own respective proclamations, he was among the smartest students Robbie George (Princeton) and Alan Dershowitz (Harvard Law) ever taught, again a claim most of us can’t make. He is kind of socially awkward, which is generally thought to be a negative attribute in presidential politics, and he can be overly dramatic about his public proclamations of religious faith, another outlier. Still, by comparison to the other three (not counting vanity candidate John Kasich) he appears thoroughly sane. He has no glaringly negative, eye-brow-raising characteristics. Indeed, the most damaging charge that Trump can muster against him is that he is a liar, which, even if true, is not much of a defect among presidential hopefuls. As we said, the guy is, for the most part, perfectly normal. Yet, his only real hope of winning is that the other three will somehow manage to kill each other.
You see, the vast majority of the American voters are, at the very least, captivated by one of the three leading contenders for the presidency – Trump, Sanders, and Clinton. And even those who are not enthralled with one the three seem to be attached to the notion that presidents must be surrounded by drama; that they must somehow be different from the rest of us, special, not normal. And let’s face it, Sanders, Clinton, and Trump all fall far from the center of the bell curve of normality, which, not surprisingly, makes them a great deal like our current president, who was elected by the American people not once, but twice. It also makes them very much like the last president to leave office with positive poll numbers, the guy who today is out campaigning for his very not-normal wife, hoping that he can somehow get back to the White House and get access again to pool of young “talent” that works or interns there. And he too was twice elected.
The good news in all of this is that somehow the United States has managed to survive eight years of Obama, despite the fact that he seems to have put his own preferences and pleasure ahead of the nation’s best interests for most of those eight years. The bad news is that these remarkable survival skills are almost certainly going to continue to be tested in the coming four years no matter who wins in November. Like it or not, the American people almost always get what they want in a president. And right now, they seem to believe that the most important characteristic for the next one to possess is an overwhelming sense of the dramatic. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, there is not one, but are three drama queens left in this race. And it’s a good bet one of them will win. “Democracy,” Mencken wrote, “is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” The fact that Trump, Sanders, and Clinton are the three frontrunners to replace the current most powerful weirdo in the world is a reminder that Mencken long ago figured out the game.
Copyright 2016. The Political Forum. 8563 Senedo Road, Mt. Jackson, Virginia 22842, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.