Thursday, February 25, 2016

Response to After Nevada

(See Just Above Sunset: After Nevada)

Once again, to all those Republicans who accuse Donald Trump of being a closet liberal, I have to answer, Hey, I'm a liberal! If Trump is such a liberal, how come I'm not thinking of voting for him?

The number-one main reason I'm not voting for him is because I don't like bullies. And, in fact, that Trump is a bully proves he's not a liberal. Liberals not only aren't bullies, they don't even like bullies; conservatives do, because conservatives worship "strength" (or the appearance of it) and despise "weakness" (or the appearance of it), which is why Donald Trump, bottom line, is a conservative who is selling himself to conservative voters.

And what is it about these Trump conservatives?
These aren’t gullible people. They are mutants – test an atomic bomb and you get those – the premise of all those Japanese Godzilla movies. You get monsters, and Donald Trump was the bomb, dropped in Nevada, just like old times.
Okay, there is something to them being mutant monsters, but monsters made in the image of their bomb, Donald Trump. The point being, just as in those Japanese movies about nuclear-created monsters, Trump and his monstrous followers not only can't be killed off by dropping another atomic bomb on them, as in Charles Cooke's "Anti-Trump Manhattan Project", they are all actually made stronger by doing that. 

One major reason Trump supporters like him is that so many other people don't. In fact, Trump supporters have very little use for the people that other people do like -- namby-pamby panty-waists who all talk the language of political correctness, afraid to offend, afraid to stand for anything, afraid to fight, afraid to show strength. Listen again to Sean Illing in Salon:
A majority of Americans appear wholly uninterested in the actual business of government; they don’t understand it and don’t want to. They have vague feelings about undefined issues and they surrender their votes on emotional grounds to whoever approximates their rage. ...
Trump’s wager was simple: Pretend to be stupid and angry because that’s what stupid and angry people like. He’s held up a mirror to the country, shown us how blind and apish we are. He knew how undiscerning the populace would be, how little they cared about details and facts.
Whether or not Illing is right about Trump "pretending" to be stupid, or that a "majority of Americans ... don’t understand ... and don’t want to", that seems to have nailed the Trump gang, except maybe that "stupid" part. I know some Trump supporters and none of them are stupid, but they sense something wrong with the country and they don't know why, but seem to think it can be put right by just electing some tough guy who cuts through the smokescreen put up by government and all these jaded elected officials who run it.

People who like Trump think this country is in a mess. I could tell them in explicit detail, with facts and figures and charts and graphs and lots of testimonials from experts, that this country is not in a mess, but all they'd get from all of that is that I'm one of those people who doesn't understand what a mess this country is in.

Their logic is bullet-proof and bomb-proof because Donald Trump is the standard by which the legitimacy of all anti-Donald-Trump criticism will be judged. If God himself were to expose Donald Trump as a phony, these people would then look down their noses at God and declare Him a loser, since he's obviously one of the losers who got the country into this mess.

What should be done about Trump?

Probably everything, including that Manhattan Project, since the goal is not really to chip away at his supporters (which I would bet is largely hopeless at this point) but to try to talk folks who have not yet given up on America out of defecting to his side.

But to take the longer view, those Republicans and Democrats (and okay, Independents) who take the political health of the republic seriously have to be concerned about what this Trumpzilla phenomenon means to our future.

Maybe the fact that there are so many Americans who "don’t understand it and don’t want to" can no longer be ignored, and maybe these previously-disinterested non-participants now taking an active part in the electoral process could have the disastrous effect of torpedoing the ship of state. If these people now insist on joining us in governance, maybe we need to somehow do a better job of weeding out the willful ignoramuses. After all, do you really believe the Founders would intentionally create a self-governing "dunceocracy", populated by dunces who "don’t understand ... and don’t want to"?

Although, yes, I still hope Trump becomes the GOP nominee.

And yes, I hear all those "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" arguments about how he could somehow become our next president, but because I still believe in the basic intelligence and righteous integrity of the majority of Americans, I am willing to take the chance that either of the two Democrats could beat him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Response to Dead Stop

(See: Just Above Sunset: Dead Stop)

Once again, Republicans are trying to shut down the government. They're always looking for ways of doing that, with it usually backfiring on them, although owing to possible "Republican Bullshit Fatigue" (RBF) among the public, maybe this time they'll get away with it.

The most on-point point made in the column today was in the last paragraph:
This had to get much worse ... because of the inherently unstable nature of our system, where vague “norms” held things together, not the structure of government itself. Norms change. It all falls apart. The Constitution is of no help at all.
Nobody talks much anymore about those extra-constitutional, bi-partisan "norms" that those with seniority -- the old guard that's been around long enough to know -- would pass on to the congressional newcomers, the norms that used to keep the government chugging along, such as, "We need to let the president nominate someone of his own school of thought, because later, when it's our turn, they'll afford our president the same courtesy." What went without saying was that, if we don't, then this rickety government that our school kids are taught is venerable and unassailable, loses all the glue that holds it together.

When all those norms are no longer passed on, the whole machine grinds to a halt. But isn't that what the Republicans have been threatening to do all along?
Scalia died. The whole thing comes to a dead stop. Now what?
"Now what?" Ask that late Spanish political scientist Juan Linz, who in his essay, The Perils of Presidentialism back in 1990, made the point that a nation's survival is not all about a constitution:
In the final analysis, all regimes, however wisely designed, must depend for their preservation upon the support of society at large -- its major forces, groups, and institutions. They rely, therefore, on a public consensus which recognizes as legitimate authority only that power which is acquired through lawful and democratic means. They depend also on the ability of their leaders to govern, to inspire trust, to respect the limits of their power, and to reach an adequate degree of consensus. 
Although these qualities are most needed in a presidential system, it is precisely there that they are most difficult to achieve. Heavy reliance on the personal qualities of a political leader -- on the virtue of a statesman, if you will -- is a risky course, for one never knows if such a man can be found to fill the presidential office.
With Mitch McConnell having persuaded every member of his Judiciary Committee to pledge in writing that the Constitution will be ignored if the president attempts to do what it instructs him to do, McConnell may be herding the nation's angry malcontents -- particularly those who have more faith in the dubiously vague promises of Donald Trump than in a two-hundred-twenty-seven year old working political system that they feel has given them nothing worth preserving -- into a governance crisis in which, as Alan notes, the Constitution will be of no help at all.

First, the Republicans refuse to confirm a Democratic presidential nominee, then the Democrats refuse to confirm a Republican's, and soon, we have no working Supreme Court, and because the Constitution says nothing about how to fix that, we are left with just two branches, neither of which will work with the other. 

So then what? Without a working government to prevent it, maybe we just fight each other?

Maybe it's time our side started seriously reconsidering learning how to shoot guns.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Response to While We Were Sleeping

(See: Just Above Sunset: While We Were Sleeping)

I really liked reading Seth Stevenson in Slate, about hanging around the Jeb Bush campaign last Monday, the day Jeb invited his brother, "W", to introduce him at his rally in Charleston:
I saw people leaving once Dubya was done, and after it became clear that Laura Bush, also sitting on stage, wouldn’t be speaking. They stepped on discarded “Jeb!” placards as they headed for the exits.
And so two days later, after "addressing a modest gathering inside a gazebo" at a country club -- inside a gazebo! -- someone approached him:
“I loved your brother. Can you be in that category?” inquired an older man, rather doubtfully. “Can you be a sumbitch?” 
“I will be tough. I will be resolute. I will be firm. I will be clear. I will be determined,” Jeb answered. ... It was the least sumbitchy thing you ever saw in your life.
Oh, that's great.

So it turns out, after all, that the real problem with Jeb Bush isn't that he would end up being his brother, it's that he wouldn't!

To further understand what I'm about to say, you may want to read David Axelrod's "The Obama Theory of Trump" in the New York Times in late January, about what he told Barack Obama back in 2006 about why Obama just might win if he ran for president:
Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive. 
A young, energetic John F. Kennedy succeeded the grandfatherly, somnolent Dwight D. Eisenhower, promising “a new generation of leadership.” In a slight variation, a puritanical Jimmy Carter, offering “a government as good as its people,” defeated the unelected incumbent Gerald R. Ford, who bore the burden of the morally bankrupt Nixon era. 
Even George H.W. Bush, running to succeed the popular and larger-than-life Ronald Reagan, subtly made a virtue of his own lack of charisma and edge. 
The pattern followed in 2008, as Mr. Bush’s son completed his final term in office. 
“The most influential politician in 2008 won’t be on the ballot,” I wrote to Senator Obama in 2006. “His name is George W. Bush.”
So, in fact, Stevenson may have struck on that secret formula we've all been looking for, which is an understanding of what the Republican base voter is looking for.

He's not looking for an outsider or some way to shake up Washington, he's looking for the exact opposite of Barack Obama -- someone who's not too bright; someone without actual ideas, nor a wonky bone in his body; someone not at all gracious or nice or adept at diplomacy; and someone who doesn't give a shit what any person or group or organization or country thinks or says about him being totally incompetent at doing absolutely anything useful for the planet.

To sum it up -- for lack of a better term -- they're simply looking for a sumbitch! And the bigger the sumbitch, the better!

This antichrist will probably get the Republican nomination, and whoever the Democrats choose to run against him in the general election will look, in contrast, like the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Response to Replacement Theory

(See: Just Above Sunset: Replacement Theory)

One thing I haven't heard discussed anywhere in the recent shitstorm concerning the proposition that a "lame duck" president -- allegedly, one who comes within a year of leaving office -- should stop being president, is the evolving meaning of the term "lame duck". Here's how my computer's onboard dictionary defines it:
lame duck |ˈˌleɪm ˈdək|
an official (esp. the president), in the final period of office, after the election of a successor
That, at least, is what it used to mean back when Marco Rubio was in elementary school.

In fact, I myself am old enough to remember when pundits, back when they were called "commentators", started commenting ironically on the fact that, although the election was months and even years away, some president started acting as if he were a lame-duck earlier and earlier, partly because a lot of people stopped listening to him. And the next thing I knew, they were doing away with the "as-if".

But here's Wikipedia on the concept of lame-duckism in American politics:
In U.S. politics, the period between (presidential and congressional) elections in November and the inauguration of officials early in the following year is commonly called the lame duck period. In regard to the presidency, a president is a lame-duck after a successor has been elected, and during this time the outgoing president and president-elect usually embark on a transition of power. ... 
A president elected to a second term is sometimes seen as being a lame duck from early in the second term, because presidents are barred from contesting a term four years later, and is thus freer to take politically unpopular action. Nonetheless, as the de facto leader of his or her political party, the president's actions affect how the party performs in the midterm elections two years into the second term, and, to some extent, the success of that party's nominee in the next presidential election four years in the future. 
For this reason, it can be argued that a president in his second term is not a lame duck at all, because this increased freedom makes him more powerful than he was in his first term. 
The term "lame duck President" traditionally is reserved for a President who is serving out the remainder of his term after having been defeated for re-election. In this sense, the following Presidents in the twentieth century were lame ducks: William Howard Taft, who was defeated for re-election in 1912; Herbert Hoover, who was defeated for re-election in 1932; Gerald R. Ford, who was defeated in 1976; Jimmy Carter, who was defeated for re-election in 1980; and George H. W. Bush, who was defeated for re-election in 1992.
So technically speaking, since Obama won't be defeated, given that he's not even running, not only is he not really a lame duck right now, he won't really even become a lame duck president on the day after election day, about nine months from now.

And while I'm here, I should say something about the contributions of Miguel Estrada and Benjamin Wittes to the discussion:
Here’s a simple piece of advice for anyone confused by the partisan politics of replacing Justice Antonin Scalia: Assume that anyone who claims to be acting out of a pristine sense of civic principle is being dishonest. 
We have both argued for a world in which judicial nominees receive prompt hearings and up-and-down votes based solely on their objective qualifications — education, experience and temperament. But that has not been our world for at least two decades. The savvy citizen should recognize as much and heavily discount anyone who speaks in the language of principle about the rules or norms that do or should govern the treatment of either a judicial nominee or the president who sends that nominee to the Senate. 
As recent history demonstrates, the only rule that governs the confirmation process is the law of the jungle: There are no rules. There is no point in pretending otherwise, as much as many of us wish it were not so. ... 
Republicans and Democrats put the blame on the other for the complete abandonment of rules and norms in the judicial confirmation process. Both are being insincere — whitewashing their conduct over a long period of time while complaining bitterly about the very same conduct on the part of the other side. Both have chosen, in increments of one-upmanship, to replace a common law of judicial nominations that was based on certain norms with one based on power politics alone. 
Today, there is no principle and no norm in the judicial nominations process that either side would not violate itself and simultaneously demand the other side observe as a matter of decency and inter-branch comity.
Yeah. But also, no.

The "yeah" part is that, yes, shit does happen. Senator Obama once backed a filibuster, although he later said he regretted doing so. Even I have found myself arguing that, if Republicans pull this stuff on us, we should threaten to later do the same to them -- that is, vow to filibuster every nomination of a Republican president until a Democratic one comes along. After all, where in the Constitution does it say we can't create chaos?

But the "no" part is that the founders couldn't write such a comprehensive document that covered every single detail, from how long a senate dominated by one party can stall confirming a nominee of the other, to exactly how many times a day the senators should take bathroom breaks. In truth, the founders didn't even anticipate there being any political parties in America, much less two of them constantly co-conspiring on ways to torpedo getting anything done.

The founders left it up to us to work out the details on how to make happen the things that need to happen. Yes, there's nothing in our Constitution that dictates that certain procedures happen a certain way, or even that they happen at all, but throughout our history, when we, the people, noticed a flaw in the Constitution, we sent out a patch. When the presidential election of 1800 demonstrated that future elections could all too easily end up in unresolvable ties, we immediately fixed it by amending the constitution. When we finally realized that our definition of "people" shouldn't exclude non-whites and non-males, we fixed it.

And so, yes, both sides get away with using power politics when they can, but there's a difference between the way things do work and the way they should work; otherwise, we'd never even know that we need to fix the system when it's broke.

But whenever we find ourselves falling into the trap of claiming that, if one party does something wrong, the other side obviously must do it, too, we need to stop ourselves. After all, as has recently been pointed out, while most Republicans seemed to get on Chief Justice Roberts' case for twice refusing to kill Obamacare, you didn't see Democrats likewise go nuts and blame Justices Brewer and Ginsburg for voting with the majority on not forcing the states to expand Medicaid.

My point is, when someone argues on principle, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that they are "being dishonest"; otherwise, you would not see the occasional conservative (such as David Brooks, on NPR on Friday) agreeing with the rest of us who believe that when a vacancy comes up on the Supreme Court, the president -- no matter how far we are away from his being out of office -- should nominate a replacement, and the senate should advise and consent.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Response to Hillary's Hero

(See: Just Above Sunset: Hillary's Hero)

I haven't always had a problem with Henry Kissinger.

I remember the first time I became aware of him as a foreign policy expert, some time in mid-1968, reading an article by him in one of those thick foreign affairs journals that had no pictures. I knew he was some Harvard professor that I had never heard of, but he seemed to make such good sense. He seemed like the kind of intelligent guy who could get us out of Vietnam.

And then I learned he had somehow attached himself to presidential hopeful Nelson Rockefeller, which disappointed me as a Democrat -- not wanting all them smarts to go to waste, I wondered if it was too late for him to hook up instead with some Democrat, like Gene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy -- but the next thing I knew, Rockefeller was out of the race and Kissinger had glommed onto Nixon.

Flash forward to many years later, I remember being annoyed that Nixon was promising voters he had a "secret plan" to end that stupid war that I had begun to think would be endless, and sure enough, even after he was elected, his secret remained a secret. And finally, after having successfully delayed the war's end with quarrels over the shape of the peace-talks table in Paris, war wagers Henry Kissinger of the United States and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam were prematurely awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I say "prematurely" because they won for negotiating a settlement that never took effect.

So what I primarily remember Kissinger for was being this brilliant man who was widely-respected for getting good things done, but who in fact, had allowed maybe a million or so Vietnamese and 50-thousand or so Americans to end up dead, by helping drag out the Vietnam War unnecessarily, seemingly to make it look like we didn't fight it in vain. The truth is, we did, and if he was so smart, he should have made sure that we hadn't.

But here's an even more damning picture of Kissinger's vaunted career, from an article by NYU history professor Greg Granin in The Nation, on February 5th:
Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy–maker. 
He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years; (2) illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos; (3) goaded Nixon to wiretap staffers and journalists; (4) bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh; (5) urged Nixon to go after Daniel Ellsberg for having released the Pentagon Papers, which set off a chain of events that brought down the Nixon White House; (6) pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan; (7) began the US’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran; (8) accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead; (9) supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America; and (10) ingratiated himself with the first-generation neocons, such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who would take American militarism to its next calamitous level. ... 
A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute 3, maybe 4 million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. 
Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran?  “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf?  Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.
So wait! Shouldn't we all be noting the irony of a self-described "progressive Democrat who can get things done" who happens to be running for the Democratic nomination for president, so closely associating herself with the most prominent Republican diplomat in American history -- while, incidentally, Kissinger's name has probably not been mentioned once by all those innumerable Republican candidates in just so many of their debates?

Yes, but, you might ask, how did she get to this place?

One possible answer, although not the definitive one, is that Hillary Clinton started out in life as a Republican. Her parents were Conservative Republicans, and she herself, at one point, did volunteer for Barry Goldwater. This is not to say she still is a Conservative, but I'm willing to bet much of her that's-just-the-way-it-is pragmatism -- much more pragmatic than your average progressive Democrat, I would think -- can be traced back to her political beginnings.

Just as one could imagine Kissinger's "realpolitik" -- a political worldview he shared with Otto von Bismarck, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong -- was to the "idealist" views of those of us who opposed the Vietnam War, so was Hillary Clinton's own views to those of Barack Obama in 2008:
“Now, I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified,'” Clinton said to laughter of the crowd. 
“The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,” she said dryly as the crowd erupted. 
“Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be,” Clinton continued. “You are not going to wave a magic wand to make special interests disappear.”
You've "just lived a little long", you say? You mean like Bernie Sanders?

Not that Hillary wasn't prescient about the Republican brick wall President Obama was headed for, but, first of all, she lost that election, and second of all, in winning it, Barack Obama revived hope among the hopeless in America, at least for just a little while.

And just for a few years under Obama, some good "idealistic" things happened -- near universal healthcare; a growing American economy that recovered without resorting to the crippling (Republican) austerity policies seen in the slump experienced in Europe; falling unemployment and a shrinking deficit; improved relations with Cuba; gays allowed to marry and serve in the military without being hounded out; talking with Iran, which led to a deal to shut down their nukes program; persuading Assad to surrender his chemical weapons, and getting Putin to help; and judicious participation in Syria, breaking us of the nasty habit of stumbling into every war that crops up -- all good things that wouldn't have taken place had a Republican without vision been in the White House during those years, and, one might presume, had Hillary beaten Obama to the Democratic nomination in 2008.

While I was pleased to see Obama include Hillary in his administration, I had hoped her time there might inform her of the power and significance of idealism and dreams, but I'm not seeing much, if any, of that today in her attacks on Bernie Sanders. Although maybe she learned nothing from Obama, it's also possible that her own predisposition toward realpolitik told her to just hang tough until come the day she gets a chance to do things her way, and at the same time, ironically, doing it under the pretense of adopting the Obama mantle.

So yeah, while there are days when I urge myself to forget about casting that protest vote for Bernie in a few weeks from now, I'm not quite ready to abandon my "idealism" yet and vote for Kissinger's pal, Hillary. While "reality" is cool, too much "realism" can put you on a slippery slope to outright evil, assuming you believe in that sort of thing. It's better to temper it with a healthy dash of unrealism:
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for? ~ Robert Browning.
That's a lesson I'm still hoping Hillary can learn.

Not likely? Okay, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Response to Breaking the Spell

As they once said of that cherubic whippersnapper Al Gore, Rubio is an older person’s idea of a young person.
Yes, but that can work both ways.

Being someone who has gone through his whole life looking younger than he is (I'm 71, but a few weeks ago, someone guessed I was in my 50s), I tell people it's a good-news/bad-news story; the good news is that I don't look my age, but the bad news is that I am.

With Marco, this works against him. He's 44, but I know plenty of people, especially those "of a certain age", who think he looks too young to be president. And lack of longevity may help explain his debate screwup: The older you get, the better chance that you will have learned tricks to strategize around your mental shortcomings.

Of course, having learned the lesson from Trump -- never apologize, and for godsakes never backtrack -- Rubio's response to his robotic repetition the next day was predictable:
“It’s what I believe and it’s what I’m going to continue to say, because it happens to be one of the main reasons why I am running.”
That's sort of the same lesson I learned being an amateur jazz-guitar jammer; if you hit a wrong note, the trick is to repeat the mistake one or two more times, in hopes the audience will think you did it on purpose. After all, this is jazz! People come to expect weird sounds now and then! It might even earn you praise as an innovative improviser.

But here's one big problem with Rubio trying that same trick:

The short version of what Rubio says -- that we need to stop thinking Obama doesn't know what he's doing because he does -- is something that most of us Democrats, including Obama, can sign on to, which makes it, in effect, Rubio's endorsement of Obama. That would be nice for Democrats if Obama were running for president, but he's not. You'd think Rubio would want to concentrate his admonitions on the people he's actually competing with for the office, especially if he's planning on making some repeated phrase the centerpiece of his campaign.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is old enough (69) to have learned a few workarounds to his not knowing the first thing about doing the job he's aspiring to, many of which are being wrong about so many of his claims ("His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, okay?""If you look at the statistics, of ... the illegal immigrants — if you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything, coming in illegally to the country, they're mind-boggling", et al) that nobody bothers fact-checking his statements anymore.

If anyone has been looking into Trump's latest whopper regarding the Iowa caucuses, I've missed it. Here he was in Arkansas on Wednesday of last week, two days after Iowa:
“Actually, I think I came in first,” he told a cheering crowd of more than 11,500 people who packed into Barton Coliseum to hear him. 
Mr. Trump, who placed second in Iowa, was continuing a theme he had been unspooling over the previous 24 hours — that in his view, Senator Ted Cruz, who won Monday’s caucuses, had in fact stolen the election. 
Mr. Cruz was declared the winner, with 27.6 percent of the vote; Mr. Trump came in second, with 24.3 percent.
I haven't heard estimates of exactly how many Carson voters were tricked into going over to Cruz, but I'm willing to bet Trump doesn't know either. But I do think it's significant that, in quitting Carson, very few if any of them thought to switch to Trump. He may not think that's worth noting, but I do.

"In fact, you would have thought he had won. I came in second, he came in third, and his is a tremendous victory and mine’s not. 
“It’s interesting that Marco came in third place and it’s one of the great victories in the history of politics. They said, ‘No, no, his is, but yours isn’t.' And I said, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful.' I didn’t understand that.”
Do you seriously not understand?

Okay, it's all about expectations, Don. You were expected to win it, but you got beat. Rubio, who many had hoped would be a possible alternative to you and Cruz, and had been hanging down among the also-rans, somewhat surprisingly ended up in a virtual tie with you for second place!

Get it yet? You need to figure out this politics stuff soon if you have any hopes of competing in the general election, much less being a successful president. (Shutter.)

But also:
Trump then argued that the gap between his results and Rubio is much wider than widely acknowledged. 
“People said Rubio was right next to me,” he said. "Well, he was more than 2,000 votes away. That’s a lot of votes. 
“Don’t forget, in the history of Iowa, I got the most votes, other than one person, Ted. ...  I got a tremendous amount of votes, nobody came close.”
Yeah, you got the most votes -- "other than one person", Ted Cruz -- who got more. "Nobody came close" to your votes? How about Marco Rubio?

For a better perspective on actually how far ahead of Marco and behind Ted you ended up, here are the actual numbers:

  • Cruz 
  • votes:  51,666    percent: 28%     delegates: 8   
  • Trump  
  • votes: 45,427     percent: 24%     delegates: 7   
  • Rubio 
  • votes: 43,165     percent: 23%     delegates: 7
So by my figuring, you were 2,262 votes ahead of Rubio -- big whoop! -- but you were 6,239 behind Cruz! Almost three times as many! If 2,000 is "a lot of votes", then 6,000 is "a lot of votes", times three! You and Rubio tied on delegates; Cruz got more.

But here's the thing: With fingers crossed, I still think I want Trump to beat Rubio to the GOP nomination.

Yes, I realize the risk of this venomous lounge-lizard becoming our president, it's just that Rubio gives the appearance of being more normal than Trump, and maybe even Ted Cruz, which means he probably has a better chance to beat either Hillary or Bernie, whereas I'm betting that most of America is more aware of the threat from Trump.

Man, choosing a president in this country is getting to be like tap dancing on the edge of a cliff.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Response to After Iowa

(See: Just Above Sunset: After Iowa)

If it's not one thing, it's another. First, you got your Republicans, and then your Democrats.

First, the Republicans:

As we started watching the goings-on in Iowa last night, my wife and I found ourselves rooting for Donald Trump to be the GOP nominee, figuring he's probably more beatable than the rest.

Still, we were glad to see somebody stop the unstoppable Trump, yet sorry to see that the somebody was Ted Cruz.

Then again, we're confident that Cruz will eventually lose steam, too -- but sorry to see it will probably be to Marco Rubio.

Yipes! Damn, this gets confusing. I thought I'd be glad to see the voting finally start -- and believe me, I am! -- but It's starting to occur to me that it's not going to be fun anymore.

Then, the Democrats:

I think the best observation I heard from a pundit last night came from someone I can't even remember, although I'm pretty sure it came from Jake Tapper on CNN, who said he heard from someone earlier in the evening who expected to eventually be voting for Hillary, but in the meantime was voting for Bernie, "just to annoy her."

That little tidbit not only summed up the whole absurdity of the day, it totally jibed with my own feelings.

Even though I know intellectually that she, of all the candidates of both parties, is the best qualified to be president, she just doesn't impress me. Yes, she's the best of the bunch, but let's face it, look who she's up against!

It has nothing to do with whether I can "trust" her or whatever we're supposed to feel from her behavior in those GOP-driven "issues" concerning "Benghazi" and her emails, it's really more about her always seeming to be trying too hard not to be seen as trying too hard.

For one thing, she smiles too much! Nobody walks around every day smiling that much, always seeming to be pleasantly surprised about something. And when she's not smiling, she always seems to be shouting something! I hope, if she's elected president, she learns how to tone all that down, and just goes ahead and does the goddam job.

Not that Bernie is perfect, of course. I got this email from him, sent out moments after midnight last night:
Rick -- Tonight we accomplished what the corporate media and political establishment once believed was impossible...
Never mind what we all accomplished, since you know what that was, but at the end, he signed off...
On to New Hampshire. 
In solidarity, 
Bernie Sanders 
Paid for by Bernie 2016  (not the billionaires)

Not to get nit-picky, by the way, but I half expected there to be an exclamation mark after "On to New Hampshire!", but the fact that there actually wasn't one pleased me, since it actually captures his spirit of understatement, unique among politicians, which is a large part of his charm.

And yes, the reason he's sending me emails is because, a while back, I actually sent some money to him -- partly just to "annoy" Hillary, who I think has been insufficiently attentive to the main issues that concern Bernie, which include what we have been calling "inequality" (although it's what I prefer to call "economy out of balance" -- which is bad for everybody, rich and poor) and campaign financing reform, and maybe even having another try at "Medicare For All" -- on that last one, figuring, the worst that can happen if it fails is we just keep Obamacare the way it is.

I guess my problem with Bernie is that he keeps sounding like an old-time out-of-touch I.F. Stone-type lefty from the 1950s, with workers standing "in solidarity" in a "revolution" against "the billionaires". That "In solidarity" conjures up images of posters showing heroic workers, all with their fists in the air. Sorry, I just don't relate.

But also, while much of his schtick is his ability to talk frankly, off the cuff and with refreshing candor, we also very quickly notice him then lapsing into that one-note-johnny humdrum of political stump-speech talk, reminding us once again that... our country today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and when the 20 richest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans ... the system is rigged when the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, while 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.

And I'm thinking, "Wait. He says the top what percent own the bottom how much?" Not that I disagree or think it's unimportant, it's just that whenever my ears hear that, they tend to involuntarily glaze over. Still, at least he's not talking about carpet bombing illegal immigrants or whatever it is Carly Fiorina is always trying to say about the Sixth Fleet.

And for another thing, there's that swipe at "corporate media", which implies that mainstream-media journalists are phonies and hacks, toiling at serving their corporate masters, who are pushing the agenda of "the man".

Having spent much of my life working for "corporate media" -- at NBC and AP and CNN, among others -- I can tell you I saw it all up close, and I saw that the bosses would not get away with calling the shots on what news to cover or how to cover it in a way that would help the corporate owners, nor was there so-called "self-censorship" in the sense that editors and reporters "know what not to do" if they wanted to keep their jobs. In most cases, in fact, journalists being an overly-proud bunch, the bosses knew that if they had tried that, there would have been mass resignations.

But I guess I still plan on voting for Bernie in the March 1st Georgia primary -- although probably not if I suspect that a vote for Bernie will, in any way, damage the chances of Hillary, who really is, in the long run, I am loath to admit, the better man for the job.