Category 5. Politics

Two Presidents?

Over the last few days, I have been responding to questions about my support for Trump in the comments section of the most recent post. Both of the exasperated questioners are friends of mine who can’t quite believe that I would support a president whom they (with varying degrees of passion, I think) consider loathsome. It seems that though we share the same citizenship and love of country – to say nothing of our friendships with each other – we have completely different presidents.

Their president is a compulsive liar, an unstable man whose childish antics might be amusing if he didn’t have executive power. He was plainly guilty of abusing his office for political gain and almost certainly has been playing footsie with Putin for years...

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Deradicalizing The Democrats?

In spite of the fact that polls have never consistently shown Trump having as much as a 50% approval rating, most Republicans are highly confident that he will be re-elected, and the presumably policy-neutral international betting market agrees. If you think Trump’s going to win you have to lay down $150 to possibly win $100. In the case of the Democrat currently perceived as having the best shot – Bernie – a $100 bet on his chances today could win you between $400 and $450; the other Democrats face much longer odds.

Given the polls – and the overwhelming lineup of media voices that are openly working against Trump – one might think that the betting market would anticipate another very close race. Why doesn’t it?

The three most common answers to that question are, first, t...

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The Dogs That All Barked

You’re probably just about as sick of focusing on the now-concluded presidential impeachment as I am. Irrespective of which side of the Great Divide you’re on, you surely had known more or less how it was going to turn out for quite some time, and while the show was underway you probably engaged with as much commentary from pundits (most or all of them on “your” side, natch) as you wanted, so now, presumably, you would rather turn your attention to fresh topics.

I have no desire to relitigate the partisan points that have already been rehashed innumerable times; but I do feel compelled to make a final observation about today’s votes that you may not have considered.

I see the two articles of impeachment put forward by the House as having been very different from each oth...

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A Third Rate Drama

The banner headline in this morning’s New York Times was Trump’s Trial Opens as New Evidence Emerges. That paper’s editors desperately want us to take this show seriously. Apparently, nobody told them that it’s a third rate drama and that everybody already knows how it ends.

In contrast, a Supreme Court seat was at stake in the Kavanaugh hearings. Were Blasey-Ford’s accusations credible? Were the Democrats and the media giving too much airtime to unsubstantiated allegations from the media-celebrated porn-star lawyer Michael Avenatti? Would Kavanaugh be confirmed? If confirmed, would he be terribly wounded by the accusations? Everything depended on a few conspicuously undecided Senators. Both sides were genuinely angry. The outcome hung in the balance. America was riveted...

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Truth-Teller Trump

I recently had a somewhat testy email exchange with a friend. I was asserting that a well-known progressive columnist for The New York Times had demonstrated an unmistakable affinity for authoritarian governance – when my friend, unhappy with my quotations of the columnist’s own words, switched topics suddenly to the hated (by him) Trump, writing:

“Once the Prevaricator-in-Chief leaves office, either by hook or by crook (pun intended), I will be much more open to differing political viewpoints.”

In order to preserve our friendship without conceding the point, I de-escalated as best I could by noting simply in response that on that, too, we differ.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, about the substance of my friend’s Trump outburst...

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Freedom, Constrained

Laws and culture constrain our freedoms; at the heart of most political issues is the question of just how constraining they should be. Those on the left generally argue for more constraints – higher taxes, tighter laws and punitive social disapproval for violations of “PC” norms and expectations – all in the name of the common good. Those on the right favor fewer such constraints, seeing a freer society as both more creative and more individually just than ones that are less so.

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George W. Bush famously said that “The desire for freedom resides in every human heart.” Well, … sorta.

Bush’s statement was undoubtedly true in the narrow sense that everybody wants freedom of action for him or her –self; but not everybody is happy for others to be similarly free...

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UK/US Political Parallels?

Last night while the Beloved Spouse was off at a holiday-themed meeting of her book club, I was glued to the Sky News coverage of the British election. As you are no doubt aware, the Conservative party won big – bigger than it had since Thatcher’s day. That result was clear from the moment that polls closed – 5:00 PM our time – though, so it wasn’t curiosity about who won that held my attention. Rather, I was fascinated by the emergence in the constituency-by-constituency results of two facts that seem highly relevant to our own politics.

The first of these relates to a profound change in traditional party loyalties. Regions that had been the heart of Labour’s support – old mining and industrial towns – went for the Tories, many for the first time since the 1930s or before...

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Just Do It, Nancy

Nancy:

Impeach him.

You’ve been telling us for three years that Trump is a criminal, a traitor, the worst president ever, … in short, the devil’s own spawn. Yeah, that Russian collusion thing that you touted so long and so loudly didn’t play out as you hoped, but now, you caught him red handed! If you look at the transcript of his call to Zelensky from just the right angle – and don’t read it too closely – you can claim (er, have claimed) that he was using the delayed aid to Ukraine to ‘bribe’ that country into investigating Biden. Of course, it would have been better if Zelensky had known that the aid was being delayed, or had felt coerced, or had even done what Trump asked before he got the aid, but whatevs. Intentions matter, right? And you just know Trump inte...

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Trump-Hatred

I have spent a fair bit of time wondering what motivates the extreme Trump-hatred that I see daily in the press and among some of my nearest and dearest. Sure, many of the same people strongly disliked George W. Bush, or thought him an idiot, so in that sense the personalization of opposition to Trump seems almost normal; but there’s more to Trump-hatred than the now-customary anti-Republican disdain among the elites. Trump’s detractors hate him. Many have even convinced themselves, and seek to convince us, that he’s some sort of Nazi – a warmonger, a bigot and an authoritarian. Let’s look at Trump’s record as regards each of these alleged character flaws.

Ironically, the same people who, at first, were certain that Trump would prove to be a warmonger have nothing but contempt fo...

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An American Dragon

Kanye West got it right: President Trump has dragon energy. He also has dragon breath, which he uses constantly, sometimes to the chagrin of natural allies like yours truly. And a dragon’s wiliness. 

My first instinct, on reading Trump’s “command” that American businesses that do business in China look for other places to produce their products, was to think “this time he’s finally lost it – no president has the authority to boss around private businesses like that.” I thought his words were a mere tantrum that made him look foolish and, ultimately, weak – that last ways that a president should allow himself to look. 

I was wrong. Apparently, under the International Emergency Powers Act (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/chapter-35) if a president declares...

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