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


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

GOP R.I.P. – Just the Ticket Wednesday, Oct 9 2013 

Six years ago a veteran Washington sage presciently predicted that the Republican Party as he knew it was in its death throes. Well, not that presciently. What our sage observer didn’t foresee was that the party would die a slow death preceded by the onset of dementia.

Too bad. A quick departure, like the Whigs in the 1850s, might have changed the political order without corrupting the system that made our country, in the words of our first Republican president, “the last best hope of earth.”

As things stand in this autumn of our discontent, the lingering corpus of the party of Lincoln is doing his country more harm than good. So much so that it’s time, a veteran Washington sage might say, to either cure or kill the patient. No half-measures, no life support. For 2016, whatever the opposition, let the Republican national ticket be Rand Paul for President and Ted Cruz for Vice President – or vice versa, whatever the kookery of the Tea Party  decides.

PAUL-CRUZ. Just the ticket to clear the air and keep everybody happy: The Democrats because they’d get four more years in the White House; the Tea Party kooks because, after all those years of mealy-mouthed nominees like Mitt Romney, they’d finally won the day (though losing the election because of a backstabbing coalition of party traitors and the pro-Muslim media). But most important for the future, the liberated conservatives who could, like the one-time Whigs of Lincoln’s day, move on to form a New Republican Party of responsible opposition.

Sound bite to remember

“A poker-playing, whisky-drinking, evil old man.”

–Union leader John L. Lewis on Vice President John Nance Garner, back in the good old days when political discourse was civil

Goldwater in 2012? (Too Much Baggage) Monday, May 23 2011 

Mitch Daniels says he’s not running for president for family reasons. Maybe.  I don’t doubt that his wife’s wishes figured into Daniels’ decision, but it’s likely that, along with Haley Barbour, Mitch sees the road to the Republican nomination running through Cuckooland.

Rational men stay clear of irrational callings, and much as I hate to quote Charles Barkley on any subject other than dribbling basketballs, the Auburn blowhard had it right when he said, “The Republican party has lost its mind.”

How else to explain a bloviating horse’s ass like Donald Trump running up double-digit numbers in Republican polls – not to mention the presidential aspirations of the twitter-brained Sarah Palin and her airhead doppelganger Michele Bachmann?

Once the party of Lincoln produced women like Clare Booth Luce and Margaret Chase Smith, either of whom could have qualified as serious presidential candidates, but who today would be blown away by the same inhabitants of the cuckoo’s nest that last year defeated Utah’s conservative Senator Bob Bennett and helped re-elect Harry Reid by nominating Sharron Angle as his Republican opponent in neighboring Nevada.

So why did Daniels and Barbour drop out of the race? A guess: Early on, Daniels suggested we might give the social issues a rest, then had to spend the next three months backtracking; while Barbour took heat from the Cuckooland establishment because he had the subversive idea that we ought to rethink our commitment in Afghanistan.

Rational men, rational decisions. Other than political crackpots like Bachmann or pandering flippers like Mitt Romney, who needs to spend the next 18 months hyperventilating about secession, same-sex marriage, and the socialist secular plot to override the Constitution with Sharia law?

And what would my political mentor Barry Goldwater think about all this? Can’t say, but if he were alive I know he wouldn’t be running. Too much baggage for the cuckoos: His wife, Peggy, was a card-carrying member of Planned Parenthood.

Speaking of the Year of the Republican Woman… Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

It was 46 years ago this month that  the  then-reigning queen of  GOP conservatives delivered a seconding speech to Barry Goldwater’s nomination for president.  To measure the downward  trajectory of Republican conservatism  since that time, all we have to do is compare the woman who fills that role  today to Barry’s seconder,  Clare Boothe  Luce — congresswoman (Conn.), playwright (“The Women”), editor (Vanity Fair), ambassador to Italy.  A woman best described by her biographer as “brilliant, idealistic, tough as a Marine sergeant but almost quixotically kind to unfortunates;  the complexities of her character are as numerous as the facets of her career.”

Any difference between that and the reigning queen of Republican conservativism, 2010?   You  betcha!

Murphy’s million Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

The 7/12/2010 edition of the N.Y. Times featured a front-page story about Meg Whitman’s putting $1 million into a production company owned by Mike Murphy in order to get Murphy to handle her campaign for governor rather than that of a Republican  primary  rival.  In  the story Murphy is described as the GOP campaign genius who got Arnold  Schwarzenegger  elected governor.  (A confession:  I’d mistakenly thought Schwarzenegger had something to do with it.)    Left unnoted in the Times’ story (and obviously by Whitman’s crack human-resource team)  were such Murphy triumphs as Oliver North’s brilliant Virginia campaign  for the U.S. Senate, Lamar Alexander’s awe-inspiring campaign for president, and Nick Lazio’s dazzling  New York campaign for the U.S. Senate,  in which Lazio succeeded in making Hillary Clinton a sympathetic figure by following Murphy’s instructions to stalk across the debate stage and demand that Hillary sign a phony anti-tax  pledge.  (Lazio, incidentally, also lost.)   All of which leads me to ask, since Meg never tires of telling California voters what a shrewd businesswoman she is:  If the lady’s so rich, why ain’t she smart?