CORRECTION: MUNICH REVISITED Thursday, Aug 4 2016 

My most recent post spoke of the similarity between Donald Trump and a 20th-century Munich beer hall Fuehrer. It now appears that a more appropriate Munich parallel would be a 19th-century model, Mad Ludwig of Bavaria.

Sound bite to remember

“I always voted at my party’s call
And never thought of thinking for myself at all.”

— Gilbert and Sullivan

TRUMP OF THE WILL: Is the Republican Nominee the Man in the Munich Beer Hall?  Friday, Jul 29 2016 

 

            “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

                        –George Santayana

I quote this hackneyed aphorism only to tear it down. The problem, I would tell Santayana if we were to hash things out over a Starbucks coffee, is that the past never repeats itself in recognizable form.

True, if a little man in a brown shirt were today denouncing Jews in a Munich beer hall and we didn’t do something about it, we’d get what we deserved. But history, though its underlying DNA may be the same, arrives in different forms. Not only that, it loves to confound the pundits.

Consider how literary pundits over the years, from Sinclair Lewis to Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey, foresaw the decline and fall of American democracy.

Lewis, in his novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” projected the rise of an American dictator, Berzelius Windrip, a rural populist patterned after Louisiana’s Huey Long. Knebel and Bailey, in “Seven Days in May,” foresaw the coming American dictator as a military hero, a strongman in uniform like General Douglas MacArthur.

But who, other than a Mel Brooks-style satirist, until six months ago would ever have sketched a scenario featuring as a would-be American dictator a Manhattan real estate-casino hustler — anything but a rural populist — whose military record consists of draft deferments equal to those of Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney?

Only in America. But not the 20th century America of Huey Long and Douglas MacArthur. No, the Twitter-brained, selfie-loving America of Donald Trump.

Yet, wait. Before we determine whether Vladimir Putin’s preferred presidential candidate is a bizarre reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, let’s check whether he passes the first test of Munich beer hall animadversion: Is Trump anti-Jewish? (I use the term anti-Jewish to be specific, since his anti-Semitism — Arabs being Semites — is well established.)

At first take the answer would seem to be, “Of course not. His son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter’s a convert.” But then we come to the puzzling business of his refusal to fully repudiate the backing of neo-Nazi supporters like David Duke and his furious defense of an anti-Clinton tweet featuring a Star of David backed by dollar bills.

So what’s the answer? For my part I call on a story once told by Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs who, while running for governor, was “defended” by Governor Earl Long, after being accused of having been a Communist during his college days.

“Hale can’t be a Communist,” Long told a crowd in north Louisiana. “He’s not only a Catholic but a close friend of the archbishop.” Long said this, as Boggs pointed out, knowing that his audience of hard-shell Baptists would sooner vote for a Communist than “a close friend” of a Catholic archbishop.

“So I called Long the next morning,” as Boggs told the story, “and said I didn’t appreciate his injecting religion into the campaign. He said, ‘Hale, you know I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body.’ And I said, ‘I know you don’t, Governor, but you know that other people do, and you know how to use it.’”

Jewish son-in-law? Convert daughter? Donald Trump obviously doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body. But he knows that other people do, and ….

Sound bite to remember

“God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America.”

–Otto von Bismarck, proclaiming what was true in 1870 and, we may hope, in November 2016

 

Sweet Smell of Defeat Sunday, Jun 19 2016 

When last heard from Republican House Leader Eric Cantor was being ignominiously routed by a virtual unknown in his 2014 primary race for reelection. Unsurprisingly, given his record as a Wall Street yo-yo, he has moved on to bigger and better things with Moelis & Company, an investment firm at which his annual salary is $400,000, with stock options adding up to a $3.4 million payout.

All of which was revealed in a June 16 feature on Cantor in the Washington Post Style section, one paragraph of which, standing alone, reveals the Washington mindset that led to his defeat.

The telltale paragraph:

“Cantor earned $193,400 as majority leader; his wife, a lawyer and investment banker, was the real moneymaker. One of the reasons he took the Moelis job, he says, was because it was his turn to support the family. ‘Life is about balance. For 14 years, she had been basically the breadwinner,’ he says. ‘I felt that I needed to do this for her.’”

Let’s see now: He made $193,400 a year as a congressman but his wife was “the breadwinner.” Where do the Cantors buy their bread — at Tiffany’s? It was his turn “to support the family.” Right. How, after all, can an American family in this day and age hope to subsist on an income just short of $200,000 a year?

Any wonder why a Marxist demagogue like Bernie Sanders and a Foxist demagogue like Donald Trump have gone far this year with the message that our national leaders have fallen out of touch with workaday Americans?

Sound Bite to Remember

“There once was a very poor family. The mother was poor, the father was poor,  the children were poor, the maid was poor, and the butler was poor.”

Frank Mankiewicz, circa 1950, presciently anticipating the plight of families like the struggling Cantors. 

UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: The Wayward Lemming Is Closed for Repairs Thursday, May 5 2016 

Alexander Hamilton, the genius of the Federalist Papers, will remain on the face of the ten dollar bill only because of a Broadway musical in which he is portrayed as a hip-hop-singing Latino.

George Mason School of Law, named after the father of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, is being renamed the Antonin Scalia Law School as a matter of principal ($30 million, to be exact).

A transplanted 74-year-old Brooklyn Marxist who went to Moscow for his honeymoon has built a cult following of college-educated Democrats in search of an alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, who thinks Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii and Ted Cruz’s father had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, will be the presidential nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln (who he thinks was a loser for not hiring a better bodyguard), Theodore Roosevelt (who he thinks should have made the Panamanians pay for the building of the Canal), Dwight Eisenhower (who he thinks should have finished off the Germans quicker), and Ronald Reagan (who he thinks was a fair president but a low-energy actor).

The Chicago Cubs now have the best record in baseball. Repeat: The Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series in 108 years.

Who am I to pretend to know what’s going on? I haven’t the slightest idea. Neither do George Will, David Brooks or any of the other cultural / political sages of the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Like the polar bears in the upper Arctic swimming for their lives because the ice floes have melted, they don’t know what the hell is going on. But given the income they earn by pretending to, they can’t afford to admit it.

I can. Time to settle in for a while and try to separate the wheat of reality from the media-internet chaff. Maybe, as with those ice floes, the whole cycle can be chalked up to climate change. That at least makes sense. The Cubs being in first place doesn’t.

Sound bite to remember

“Whenever you see the crowd run one way, go the other.”

–My father’s sage advice (circa 1935)

Republican’s Call Draws Fire Thursday, Mar 31 2016 

REPUBLICAN’S CALL FOR GARLAND
HEARINGS DRAWS CONSERVATIVE FIRE

–Headline, Washington Post – 3/26/16

Not to beat a dead horse, but when the horse turns out to be a jackass and it’s still braying . . .

When last heard from, I was leaving the Republican Party or what passes in transmogrified form these days for what was once the party of Lincoln. No news cycle passes that gives me reason to regret it. The story beneath the Post headline tells it all.

It appears that Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican running for re-election, had uttered the following at a meeting of the west Kansas Rotary Club: “I think we have the responsibility to have a hearing, to have a conversation and to make a determination on the merit” of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

On being informed of Moran’s open-minded thought, one Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the local Tea Party chapter, responded: “It’s this kind of outrageous behavior that leads Tea Party activists to think seriously of encouraging someone to run against Moran in the August GOP primary”; to which Moran, regaining his ideological lockstep, immediately backtracked, declaring he was unconditionally “opposed to President Obama’s . . . attempt to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court.”

Liberal judge? Since being nominated Garland has drawn the support not only of conservative columnist George Will, but of his former colleague on the D.C. Court of Appeals (and Clinton impeachment prosecutor) Kenneth Starr.

Keep in mind, Senator Moran’s departure from the Tea Party line wasn’t that he took Will’s and Starr’s favorable view of Obama’s nominee; only that he thought the Senate had the responsibility to hold hearings on the nomination.

Charge the whole thing off as an isolated incident that doesn’t reflect, as Paul Ryan would say, “the values” of the Republican Party? Only if you ignore the fact that Tea Party “activists” are simply following the our-way-or-no-way line laid down by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after Antonin Scalia’s death left a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

A few weeks ago I had occasion to visit Alabama on the day Senator Richard Shelby was being challenged at the polls by a Tea Party opponent. The opponent claimed that Shelby wasn’t a true conservative – a sign of these Republican times in that the only way one could get more conservative than Richard Shelby is by coming out against the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments; which, given the current direction the GOP is headed, I expect will soon come about in a Tea Party-approved speech before the west Kansas Rotary Club.

Sound bite to remember

“A legal system which can’t convict Al Capone of anything but income tax fraud is apt to make the police rather cynical.”

–Raymond Chandler

An Open Letter To Barry Goldwater on Why I Am Leaving the Republican Party Tuesday, Mar 8 2016 

 

Dear Barry,

Since your running for president over half a century ago brought me into the Republican Party, I figure you’re the one to tell why I’m leaving it.

To get straight to the point, do you remember the bullshitting New York real estate hustler who made a reputation opening (and bankrupting) Atlantic City casinos when you were still around? The spoiled rich kid who inherited $200 million from his father, was born on third base and brags he hit a triple? Dumped his first wife to marry a young model, then dumped her to marry a younger model?

That’s right, Donald Trump. In your day we thought he was a Democrat because he gave so much money to Democratic candidates. But lo and behold he now claims he’s a conservative Republican and thinks he should be the party’s 2016 candidate for president.

No foreign policy experience. No domestic policy experience. But what the hell, since cursing Washington and looking down at the rest of the world is all the current party base now seems to want, he’s their man.

Oh, I forgot: No military experience either. Four Favorite Son deferments during the Vietnam War, enough draft-dodging to make Bill Clinton look like Sergeant York. Yet he had the rich kid’s temerity to call John McCain a “loser” for spending five years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

Not that he doesn’t have foreign and domestic policy ideas, e.g., he’d round up and deport 11 million Mexican immigrants because, as he tells his crowds, Mexicans are “rapists”; he’d build a wall across the Rio Grande and “make Mexico pay for it”; he’d bar all Muslims from entering the country, put full-scale surveillance on all mosques, authorize torture and waterboarding (“even if it doesn’t work”) and go after Middle Eastern terrorists by killing their families. (No, Barry, I am not making this up.)

Of course, carrying out policies like that is bound to attract criticism, but Trump has ideas on how to handle that, too. He’d tighten the libel laws to muzzle the press, and for those critics who heckle his speeches he’d encourage their being “roughed up” – the roughing possibly carried out by followers of the neo-Nazi Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whose support Trump can’t find the full-throated voice to repudiate.

I can imagine what you’re thinking about now: A megalomaniacal nut case like that is going nowhere in a party that claims to be conservative. Sorry to break the news and I hope whatever cloud bank you’re on you’re sitting down, but barring a political miracle before the convention, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

There’ll be some sideshow skirmishes, of course, since a sizeable number of party leaders will try to block his nomination. They see it as an aberration. Trump’s outrageous posturing, says one such leader, Paul Ryan, doesn’t reflect “who we are.” But the evidence, to my eyes, is otherwise; which is to say that Trumpism isn’t so much the problem as a symptom of the problem.

Remember how, back when you were Mr. Conservative, you’d get together with liberal Democrats in the Senate to work out compromise legislation? Your slogan was, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” Well for the past decade, Republicans in Congress have considered compromise a dirty word, and those who think otherwise get removed from office by political Luddites who call themselves the Tea Party. You wanted to limit the size of government. The Luddites want to do away with it altogether. They talk about fighting “the Establishment,” but as this year’s primaries show, they now are the Republican Establishment.

Proof of that? The runner-up to Trump in the race for the nomination is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose claim to fame is a penchant for shutting down the government not only by refusing to expand the debt limit but, if necessary, to defund Planned Parenthood. (That’s right, the same Planned Parenthood your wife, Peggy, belonged to.)

Again, sorry to ruin your day, but leaving the party you brought me into is no easy matter; though I have a feeling if you were still around it’d be easier because you’d be leading the exit.

–As ever, Vic

 

Sound bite to remember

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

–John F. Kennedy, on refusing to appoint someone to a judgeship he considered unqualified

Divided We Stand Saturday, Feb 13 2016 

Of all the charges leveled at Barack Obama by his Republican critics – that he was born in Kenya, that he foisted an unconstitutional health care program on an unsuspecting Congress – one stands up: He promised to unite the country and failed to do so.

It was a foolish promise, but Obama wasn’t the first presidential candidate to make it. That would be Richard Nixon, who in the tumultuous election year of 1968, promised – in addition to having a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War – that he would “bring us together.”

Needless to say, that didn’t happen. As a presidential pledge it was BS then, it’s BS now, and as long as this country remains a working democracy, it will always be BS. We have never, not even in the founding days of the republic, been a “united” country in the sense that political factionalism and societal disharmony didn’t exist.

George Washington was accused of having kingly ambitions, and though I wasn’t around at that time, I was when, during the heaviest fighting of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt’s Republican opponents denounced him as an incompetent commander-in-chief. (The slogan for the Republican ticket of Thomas Dewey and John Bricker in 1944 was WIN THE WAR QUICKER WITH DEWEY AND BRICKER.)

I also remember being at Vice President Agnew’s side during the presidential campaign of 1972 when a reporter asked him to respond to the charge that his speeches were “divisive.” Agnew’s answer: “Divisive means ‘to divide.’ I thought that’s what elections were all about.”

Unity? It’s a rhetorical fancy advanced by those who really mean, “Why don’t we settle our differences by your agreeing with my position?”

Which is to say I hope I don’t live to see the day when we have a “unified” country; the sort, that is, that Donald Trump and his cerebrally challenged followers would bring about.

 

Sound bite to remember

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

–Martin Luther King Jr.

 

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