The Social Justice Victim Machine

A really extraordinary (or, at least it would have been prior to Tuesday night…) video caught my attention today,  Journalist Jonathan Capehart breaks down over Trump’s America;

At about the 5 minute mark, there is an exchange that I found deeply disconcerting but also very illuminating.

Q:You are a gay, black Washington Post Columnist and much celebrated. Are you, is this, your America? Are you worried it will become another America?
A: That is a very powerful question John, and it moves me almost into silence, because, um, the election of President Obama was a great moment for this country… and now we stand two months away from…from all of that disappearing [here he begins to weep]… And as an African American, as an openly gay man, and as an American, that frightens me.

Watching Jonathan Capehart break down out of fear because his candidate lost an election… at first I thought it was almost juvenile, hysterical even (in the old sense of caused by uncontrolled extreme emotion, not the humorous sense). Capehart is more then just a well established, well respected and frequently awarded journalist, at least one site lists his net worth “considered to be $3 million“.

But it occurs to me that in this man, a well respected multimillionaire journalist, we see the same pathology that is running rampant in the the Social Justice Warriors and Inter-sectional Feminists (etc, etc) on college campuses all across the Anglosphere. He has allowed himself to be terrified, to become a victim in his own mind. A victim of his own accusations against someone else.

He’a convinced himself that Trump, a man who was a rich New York liberal until only a few years ago, a man who has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son in-law, and two Jewish daughters in-law, is but a toothbrush-mustache away from being Neo-Hitler.

The same Donald Trump that, at the end of the interview, Capehart describes as being warm and charming when Capehart interviewed him personally!

I can’t help but think about the protesters that accosted Professor Peterson only a few weeks ago. Protesters that accused him of not only attracting Nazis to his rally with his rhetoric, but that his words were the proximate cause of teen suicides.

It really is both amazing and dismaying. Whether on campus or in the campaigns, it seems that the only thing the pursuit of Social Justice has produced is an ever greater number of victims.

Hillary’s Health goes from “Conspiracy Theory” to “A Real Issue” in just 5 days

Folks may be aware that Hillary Clinton had to leave a 9/11 memorial earlier today;

UPDATE: Another angle of Hillary entering the van has been posted,

What you may not be aware of is the concerted effort by many in the ‘mainstream press’ to minimize and cast aspersions on questions about her health prior to this.

At the Washington Post Chis Cilliza’s behavior provides a great example of this;.

In the article posted last Tuesday simply titled Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?, WaPo’s Cilizza dismissed rumors about Hillary’s health thus;

Here’s the thing: This is a totally ridiculous issue — for lots of reasons — and one that if Trump or his Republican surrogates continue to focus on is a surefire loser in the fall. …

The simple fact is that there is zero evidence that anything is seriously wrong with Clinton.

Putting politics aside (if possible in such a situation), this is a great illustration of how press bias can manifest without being as blatant as ‘X people are bad, bad people!” While Cillizza peppers his column with plenty of disparagement towards Trump, his real effort is to firmly signal that discussion of Hillary’s health is firmly outside of ‘polite discussion’.

On Friday, September 2, the FBI released (dumped) a large number of documents related to the Clinton Email controversy, among them several noting that she had referenced a head injury in explaining lapses in protocol;

In at least one case, according to documents released Friday by the FBI, Clinton said she could not recall every briefing she had received after a 2012 concussion, which later led to a blood clot in her head.

“Clinton stated she received no instructions or direction regarding the preservation or production of records from [the] State [Department] during the transition out of her role as secretary of state in 2013,” the report says. “However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot. Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.”

Since then there has been an uptick in discussion about Hillary’s health, predominantly confined to ‘alternative’ media outlets. Which is where bias comes in;

  • Hillary is a 68 year old woman.
  • In December, 2012 Hillary suffered a concussion.
  • As this concussion was the stated reason she did not appear before a Congressional hearing, can presume it was a serious matter.
  • In a Q&A session in 2014 Bill Clinton stated his wife’s concussion “required six months of very serious work to get over,” contradicting the previous statements from a State Department spokeswomen.
  • Hillary is an enthusiastic drinker. As Amy Chozick, national political reporter for the The New York Times, remarked in an interview with ABC News, “She likes to drink. We were on the campaign trail in 2008 and the press thought she was just taking shots to pander to voters in Pennsylvania. Um, no.”

To that we add Friday’s FBI revelations, yet some the press were arguing that concern over Hillary’s health was confined to the “ranks of conservative conspiracy theory”. Why?

Why would concerns about an objectively elderly woman with a serious head injury in her recent medical history be confined to this disreputable, shadowy alt-media? Does anyone honestly imagine that anything *vaguely* similar in Trump’s past would be so treated?

I have long observed that the only really amusing thing in the growing mistrust American’s have for the press is that the press seems utterly unable to understand that the Press’ own constant dishonesty and bias are responsible.

#NeverTrump Files: Bret Stephens and the Underpants Gnomes

Today, the first in what is likely to be a series on the quixotic oddities of the #NeverTrump movement.

Ace at the Ace of Spades blog has an excellent (and appropriately acerbic) post on the distressing turn some prominent members of #NeverTrump have taken and their increasingly bizarre reasoning. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Page’s Bret Stephens assailed Sean Hannity (among others) and includes the following;

This is the reason I’ve consistently argued that the only hope for a conservative restoration is a blowout Hillary Clinton victory, held in check by a Republican majority in Congress. If Mr. Trump loses the election narrowly, the stab-in-the-back thesis will have a patina of credibility that he might have won had it not been for the opposition of people like me. But a McGovern-style defeat makes that argument impossible to sustain except among the most cretinous. We can count on Mr. Hannity for that.

So, let’s get this straight: the path to restoring ‘conservative’ principles lies first in… a crushing Democratic victory? One that leaves the White House (and thus certainly the Supreme Court) in the hands of progressive Democrats for four to eight more years (vastly longer for the Court)? So elegant a plan, yet also so familiar…

For those insufficiently well versed in South Park episodes (or internet memes) the ‘business plan’ of the Underpants gnomes (world domination through underoos monopoly!) which has become shorthand for any plan where the initial steps seem completely disconnected from the final goal. A shorthand Stephens is well familiar with. Unfortunately, familiarity with the concept does not seem to have aided Stephens, for he seems to embrace a plan that not only seems unlikely to succeed, but a scenario where the first step makes the final step all but impossible.

Stephens’ thoughts on the subject are a deep well to plumb, but let’s focus on just a few problems that stand between Steps 1 (Hillary in the White House) and 3 (Conservative Triumph).

One is immediately struck by how #NeverTrump is presented in two, mutually incompatible, forms. On the one hand it is a movement so small and so lacking in influence that their opposition cannot reasonably be blamed for a loss by Trump. On the other hand the NeverTrumpers seem to harbor no doubt that their influence and leadership is sufficiently potent that they will be able to seize hold of the levers of power in the GOP in a post Trump environment.

To be fair one may object to my characterization: perhaps it is not that the NeverTrumpers believe they have such power now, no no. Rather they imagine that, after their prophesied ruin of Trump, they will be hoisted on the shoulders of the GOP, a GOP repentant and chastened by shattering losses. In other words, they may be powerless now, but just you wait, when this worm turns they will be on top of the world!

Putting aside that little wrinkle, there is a vastly greater problem. Buried in the vituperation against Mr. Hannity is a small and very revealing remark, almost offhand, but which gives perfect voice to the insuperable problems in the 3-step #NeverTrump plan (emphasis mine);

Mr. Hannity’s other goal is to preserve the fiction—first cultivated by Ted Cruz and later adopted by the Trumpians—that a wan GOP “establishment” and its “Acela corridor” voters sat on their hands while Mr. Obama traduced the Constitution and sold us out to the enemy.

For a moment, let’s take Mr. Stephens at his word: he truly believes that a Hillary presidency is the key to a “conservative restoration”. If that’s the case, what exactly is the conservative movement that Stephens and his colleagues at the WSJ editorial page interested in restoring?

It’s not exactly ancient history when the WSJ had precious little regard for conservatives such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. In an article at Truth Revolt from December of last year, pithily titled The Wall Street Journal Hates Ted Cruz. Here’s Why., Aaron Bandler runs through the many, many objections the WSJ has raised to Senator Cruz’ attempts to enforce conservative principles;

Time and again, the Journal‘s editorial board attacks conservatives for trying to fight against the leftist agenda. When Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Ut.) attempted to defund Obamacare, the Journal accused them of simply wanting “fund-raising lists or getting face time on cable TV.” The Journal also came out against conservative efforts to defund the baby-dismembering Planned Parenthood and Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. What good are the Republicans if they can’t even fight against those two issues?

Also, Bret Stephens, who is on the Journal‘s editorial board, wrote a snarky column called “Let’s Elect Hillary Now” in which he accuses conservatives like Levin and radio host Laura Ingraham of having purity tests for Republican candidates that will guarantee a win for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The column was light on substance, but heavy on elitism.

That same day Ben Shapiro dissected Stephens’ ‘Elect Hillary Now’ article in depth on Truth Revolt;

In fact, Stephens calls Cruz as unpalatable as Trump with this nasty slur:

Mr. Cruz is happy to be on any side of an issue so long as he can paint himself as a “real Republican”—the implicit goal here being the automatic excommunication of anyone who disagrees with him. Naturally, he’s rising.

What absolute, self-serving hogwash. Cruz has been incredibly consistent, far more so than Rubio. In fact, Cruz and Trump were both leaders on one of Stephens’ chief priorities, stopping the Iran deal that Stephens’ beloved GOP establishment allowed to breeze through Congress.

But that doesn’t matter. In order to demonstrate that they aren’t the whiny pick-up-the-political-football-and-go-home types, however, the GOP establishment must insist that Mitt Romney didn’t lose because they picked him – no, it was somehow the base’s fault. And it will be the base’s fault again if Cruz or Trump gets the nomination.

Shapiro remarks that Stephens “mocks”, “snarls” and insists “the only reason to disagree with him is a collective political death wish”. Ben Shapiro has been one of the most prominent (and during the Michelle Fields affair, most strident) public conservatives associated with #NeverTrump, yet there seems little room for either Ted Cruz or Mr. Shapiro in this new, ‘restored’ conservative movement Stephens imagines.

So, if Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Ben Shapiro et al are insufficiently representative of the ‘conservative’ movement the WSJ wishes to restore, what does actually inform the WSJ’s conceptualization of ‘conservatism’? Again, from Bandler’s article at Truth Revolt;

To really get an idea of the mindset of the Journal, one simply needs to look back to their editorial on July 3, 1984 called “In Praise of Huddled Masses” in which they called for open borders.

“If Washington still wants to ‘do something’ about immigration, we propose a five-word constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders,” the editorial read.

This stance by the WSJ editorial page has remained constant.

In his articles Mr. Stephens explicitly denies the very idea of an ‘Establishment’ GOP. He has openly denigrated conservatives in the mold of Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.  Two years ago it was the libertarian conservative Senator Rand Paul that Stephens was denigrating. In that article Stephens seems to reserve his warmest regards for such conservative stalwarts as… Governors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Winners, respectively, of 0.92% and 0.18% of the GOP primary vote. They really are representing the 1% (well, 1.1%)!

Stephens inadvertently illustrates that whether Trump or Hillary occupies the Oval Office next year, the conservative movement and the GOP face dark times ahead. As Myron Magnate observes, the voters are angry, animated by “the sense that the U.S. government no longer belongs to the people and no longer represents them“, a sense that “reflects the real state of affairs”. By this December we will be well into the question of what the conservative movement actually is and what it seeks to conserve.

Unfortunately for us all, it seems there is no shortage of people that someone wants out of the movement. What remains to be seen is if anyone at all will be left.

Dr. StrangeRod, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the H-Bomb

The Democratic nominating process has finally begun, which being the Democrats means that the first allegations of impropriety have been lodged.

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

But what’s a potentially stolen primary when measured against the vast tally of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s malfeasance? It’s a credit to her immense and transparent corruption that she’s managed to make a septuagenarian socialist Jew from Brooklyn (by way of Vermont’s Senate delegation) seem like a reasonable alternative for the nomination of the Democratic party (another glass ceiling shattered by Hillary!).

For all that, I find myself almost fond of the diabolical crone, not so much for herself, but for the case she makes against the Democratic party and (especially) the mainstream media. This is, after all, the same media that considered sexual harassment in the workplace a pressing concern… right up until it was time to slip on their presidential kneepads.

With that in mind, let’s look at some issues where Hillary forces her supporters and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) to swallow positions that they have previously condemned (and in some cases, continue to condemn).

Secret Emails are Shredding the Cons… err, never-mind…

The year is 2007; the battle rages between Hillary Clinton, heir apparent to the Democratic nomination and the upstart Barack Obama. One issue they agree on is the perfidy and secrecy of the bush administration. Obama promises “We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” While today Obama’s promises of transparency have increasingly gone from a punch-line on the right to a shared consensus, some forget the clarion call of alarm issued by Hillary.

Clinton said, “We know our Constitution is being shredded. We know about the secret wiretaps, the secret military tribunals, the secret White House email accounts.”

Apparently the Constitution is safe so long as the emails are under the steely eye of Eric Hoteham…

Those who have observed the evolving Clinton strategy of defense on the email matter will note that Hillary has moved subtly from “There is no Classified Material” to “nothing marked classified”. This is, however, a distinction without much legal difference; among the statutes she is suspected of potentially violating is 18 USC 793. Without going too much into things, gross negligence, as well as  willful and malicious action, is enough to secure a conviction for “Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information”.

Put another, simpler way: if the material on Hillary’s server falls under the aforementioned code, then the excuse “it wasn’t marked classified” is about as legally useful as “I swear officer, I didn’t know she was 13…”

Lawyer for Evil, Incorporated;

Critical writers, such as those of Mother Jones magazine, have made a bit of a cottage industry of criticizing GOP candidates for actions they took during their private legal representation of clients. The criticism is especially sharp when directed at Ted Cruz, ranging from who he represented,

…But much of the time, Cruz represented corporate clients.

To the degree he has highlighted his clients;

Cruz’s years as a highly paid private lawyer who often defended powerful corporations. And there are several significant cases he handled—politically inconvenient cases—that he has photoshopped out of his personal narrative.

And the implication that acting zealously for his clients makes him traitor to his Conservative principles;

As a politician, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, has championed tort reform—the nationwide effort pushed by conservatives and business interests to restrict malpractice and other wrongful injury and death lawsuits, limiting how much a jury can award a harmed individual for pain and suffering and in punitive damages. …

Yet, as a lawyer in private practice, Cruz—at least twice, in 2010 and 2011—worked on cases in New Mexico to secure $50 million-plus jury awards in tort cases prompted by corporate malfeasance. These are precisely the kind of jury awards that the tort reform Cruz has promoted would abolish.

That an attorney has an ethical and legal responsibility to zealously represent the interest of their client seems to be no exculpation… well, at least it doesn’t until they have to explain away Hillary’s representation of Thomas Alfred Taylor. Who’s Thomas Alfred Taylor and why would he appear in Hillary’s biography, you may ask?

In 1975, the same year she married Bill, Hillary Clinton agreed to serve as the court-appointed attorney for Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old accused of raping the [12 year old] child after luring her into a car.

The specifics of Hillary’s defense of Mr. Taylor are not the subject of this post (they deserve a specific and in-depth treatment). What is relevant is the simple question: if a corporate attorney’s actions should reflect poorly on his character, how about the defense of the accused rapist of a 12 year old girl? How about securing for that accused rapist a sentence of one year?

Taylor, who pleaded to unlawful fondling of a chid, was sentenced to one year in prison, with two months reduced for time served.

How about securing a one year sentence for an accused rapist of a 12 year old girl when their attorney thinks they are guilty?

“I had him take a polygraph, which he passed – which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” {Clinton] added with a laugh.

No doubt we can look forward to the media expressing as intense an interest in the case of Thomas Alfred Taylor as, say, Mitt Romney’s high school experience. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.

 

The Darker the Money, the Sweeter the Juice…

This is not to say that all of Hillary Clinton’s trespass are all of old vintage, far from it. In the ongoing Democratic party attack of paranoid lunacy regarding the Koch brothers, the new book that is making the rounds is Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. In it, Mayer… well, let’s let the NY Times describe it;

“Dark Money” relates the personal story of the Koch family in considerable detail — an engineer father who made a fortune building oil refineries, then spent the last years of his life as an angry member of the John Birch Society; an early conversion by Charles and David Koch to the radical libertarian economics of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises; a web of sibling rivalry among all four of the family’s brothers, ending in painful legal confrontations that dragged on for years.

Ah yes, Hayek and von Mises, those dastardly fellows! You can practically smell the mustache wax… Thank goodness Hillary Clinton is, of course, above such shabby and obvious graft, such tawdry peddling of influence for cash.

That’s what the Clinton Foundation is for;

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department;

A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East. …

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Increased Chemical Arms Sales To Middle East Countries That Gave To Clinton Foundation

As Egyptian democracy protesters massed in the streets of Cairo in 2011, provoking a bloody crackdown from the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented herself as a champion of human rights. …

But behind the scenes, Clinton pursued contrasting aims. … Her State Department cleared Egypt to continue purchasing arms the U.S. government classified as “toxicological agents,” a broad designation that included chemical and biological weapons, …

The Clinton-run State Department’s approval of chemical and biological exports to the Egyptian government increased in volume just as dollars flowed from Mubarak-linked entities into the coffers of Clinton family concerns.

Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept.

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

This list is, of course, far from comprehensive. Nor is it my point to claim that there is no possibility that any given one of these episodes or elements is evidence of irredeemable corruption. My point is that the Left and the Media (once again, I repeat myself) have established a code of conduct, a framework of right and wrong and applied it strenuously to Republicans whenever they get the chance. It is the unfortunate reality of the moment that these traits, found individually in various people on the right, seem to be present all at once in the person of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is the singularity that is Hillary, and the best explanation for the Berne being felt: Hillary embodies all of the traits that the Democratic base has grown to despise, yet the Clinton’s possess such a death-grip on the Democratic Party machine they seem determined to either drag the party to a Hillary coronation, or strangle it in the process.

Carly Fiorino and the Factless Fact-Checkers

Carly Fiorina had a good night on Wednesday. One way we can tell this is that the honest evaluations in the media of her good performance are being accompanied by (rather snide) ‘take down’ pieces in mainstream and liberal (but I repeat myself) ‘news’ outlets. Like mushrooms after the rain, these pieces seem to spring up in the wake of any significant movement in the GOP field. The tact they seem to have agreed on is that, yes, Fiorina did a fine job, but her rhetoric is a trick, designed to persuade the rubes of the GOP.

The reality is that many of the pieces follow the tact of this article on the Rachel Maddow blog (written by Steve Bennen), which is not so much a refutation as a disagreement. That is, as seems to be the habit on the left these days, Mr. Bennen labels opinions and interpretations of the facts that she does not share as ‘wrong’ and ‘false’, rather then simply differences of opinion. Consider the paragraph that is the meat of the article’s condemnation;

Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality. She said it takes “two-thirds of the states” to ratify a constitutional amendment, but it actually takes three-fourths. Her comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue. She insisted that Democrats, who’ve been pleading with Republicans for years to pass immigration reform, “don’t want” to pass immigration reform. Her defense of her failed tenure at HP was hard to take seriously. Her rhetoric about foreign policy was “bizarre.”

The only one of these things that Mr. Bennen cites that seems genuinely wrong is also the one thing that is almost certainly a slip of the tongue; that Constitutional ratification is 3/4 instead of 2/3.

Other then that, everything Mr. Bennen cites as “false” is either actually a difference of opinion, or actually true but something the left cannot acknowledge. Consider the statement that “Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality”. To support this Mr. Bennen references… an opinion piece by Amanda Marcott in Slate. Ms. Marcott in turn relies and links to other leftist opinion sources. The problem, of course, is that other sources of differing politics claim exactly the opposite: “Watch the full video for yourself. It does, in fact, show a fully formed fetus, heart beating and legs kicking.” writes Mollie Hemmingway at the Federalists. Given that Hemingway provides what she claims to be the video where the scene in question occurs, I am inclined to credit her accounting.

The other points are all variations of debatable, and often bad faith debates: for example, Mr. Benen baldly states “[Fiorina’s] comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue”, but then links to a Slate piece by Leon Neyfalk that points out (emphasis mine);

She is far from alone in perpetuating this idea—President Obama has done it too, along with just about every other mainstream politician who has expressed support for criminal justice reform in recent years.

Have Mr. Benen or his headliner Ms. Maddow similarly dismissed President Obama’s stance on Criminal Justice Reform as “simply untrue”? Moreover, given that her position is apparently shared by “just about every other mainstream politician”, is it not more likely, perhaps, that what Mr. Benen claims as “simply untrue” are

Mr. Benen seems to regard his denunciation on immigration as so self-evident as to require no source at all. I treat his dismissal in the same fashion, save to point out that if we take as gospel fact “pleading” from Washington, then Obama is Israel’s best friend, Iran is ready to join the community of nations and Global Warming is responsible for the refugee crisis in Europe.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s business leadership links to an analysis by Neil Irwin at the New York Times (hosted at the Boston Globe), which is scarcely the complete dismissal Benen presents it as. Rather it is a piece that points out that “Fiorina emphasized metrics of success that captured less of her success at leading Hewlett-Packard and more of the fact that she acquired a much larger competitor”, and that “many analysts view the merger, her defining action as chief executive, as ill-advised”. That many analysts disagree with her actions and the Fiorina chooses to emphasize what she sees as her strengths (and presumably gives greater credence to those analysis that do not disagree with her actions) is scarcely an open and shut case of dissimulation.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s “bizarre” foreign policy prescriptions links to (again) an opinion piece at Vox, where Ezra Klein pronounces himself puzzled that Fiorina thinks conventional strength would persuade Putin when “America has enough nuclear weapons pointed at Russia to level the country thousands of times over”.

Not to needlessly belittle Mr. Klein but his befuddlement seems rather more an indictment of his own tactical depth (or lack thereof) then an rebuttal of Fiorina’s ideas. After all, if we are to credit his statement as his actual beliefs, he would seem to be almost hopelessly naive in matters of the military. By contrast, serious military thinkers, such as Professor Victor Davis Hanson, have a rather less sanguine view of America’s tactical doctrines under Obama.

As I mentioned, this is all of a style: the left disagrees with a policy proposal and labels it ‘wrong’ for being a position other then their own. What makes this particular article such a case of bad faith is that in the instance of criminal justice reform, the position isn’t even one that the left disagrees with. Mr. Benen simply found a piece that labeled Fiorina wrong on the issue and linked to it, without pointing out that Fiorina’s position is shared by Barack Obama and a broad coalition of criminal justice reformers on both the left and right.

Trump takes the GOP Back to School

It seems that the Donald Trump phenomenon is something that pundits and commentators can’t seem to stop talking about, but also something they can’t seem to actually understand. One particular remark on Special Report Online struck me: Dr. Charles Krauthammer wondered how it was that a man born in wealth and with a tremendous fortune, how can he connect with middle and lower economic class voters?

The problem, it seems to me, may be that Dr. Krauthammer is a great intellect (and avid fan of baseball), but it seems he doesn’t watch enough movies. Because, as Ace of Spades explains, politics has become a a movie, analyzed in terms of a heroes journey and the sensibilities of plot, pacing and motivation. But how does that help us figure out the Trump phenomenon?

There are a lot of theories among pundits: some think he panders, some thing he simply shoots from the hip, some point out his crudity, borderline vulgarity and so on. All of that has some merit, but none of them capture the whole picture: Donald Trump is Thornton Melon.

Back to School is a great comedy, and a big part of the success is the ensemble cast. That’s because, just like Donald Trump, Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon is a man we root for in part in spite of himself. The thing is that if take away the loathsome, hidebound, patrician economics professor, the cartoon jock villains and the unctuous dean, and we’re left with Melon… who’s kinda an insufferable schmuck.

Insufferable perhaps, but a snappy dresser.

At the risk of fantastically over-analyzing a light 80’s comedy, Thornton Melon would be nearly intolerable in real life: he is constantly breaking the rules and suffering no consequences because he throws large amounts of cash at problems, he’s unashamed about being crooked and simply bribing public servants, he’s a womanizer, a coward and, most significant to the plot, he’s a cheater.

In Back to School we don’t root for Melon because he’s a hero, we root for him because he’s not actively a villain. Once we realize that, and that Paxton Whitehead‘s acerbic and patronizing performance is as important to the movie as Dangerfield’s own,  we understand Trump and his role in this film.

Because if Trump is Melon, who has been cast in the role of the uptight, head-up-his-ass professors that everyone wants to see get their comeuppance?

Heirs to the legacy of Lincoln, or two putzes in need of a pie to the face?

Since putting in the Republican Congress Republican Voters have been subject to one episode after another of what Ace aptly terms failure theater. No principle seems too big to sacrifice on the alter of expediency, no favor to donors too imbecile to come through on. The Republican base is appalled and feels betrayed. They’ve delivered both houses of Congress to their party only to be told ‘oops, turns out nothing worthwhile can be done without the White House too‘. The Republican leadership is running a con job on its voters, and they have noticed.  In other words, the base has collectively decided that it’s time to do something futile and stupid.

Enter Trump, stage right.

America, Israel and Impossible Walls

So Donald Trump is promising to wall off the southern border. Whether you think this is a worthwhile endeavor or not depends on a great many things, but one strain of argument that has popped up is not so much that this is a bad idea, per se, but rather that it’s an idea beneath consideration, patently foolish and something no rational person would consider.

The response I have seen to this is very interesting and it often takes the form of “Israel has a border wall, why can’t the United States?”

What makes this question “Israel has X, why can’t we” so interesting is what it reveals, both about Israel and about the gulf between her and the other Western nations. It seems that Israel, alone among the Western nations, must engage in this kind of exercise in exclusion. Although England, at least, may soon be regretting the loss of their great moat against mainland Europe… The rest of Europe looks at such nationalism, such exclusion and shudders. Though, to be fair, European nations have more reason then most to rue forceful expressions of national pride.

This in turn fuels a feeling for some on the Right that Israel is the last truly Western nation, in the sense of being a nation that is distinctly modern and patriotic yet retaining its own cultural identity. In other words, that Israel is the last Western nation that is Western in the American sense. This would seem to be supported by the reviling of Israel in the most anti-American quarters of the Left, who despise Israel for precisely the characteristics that are admired by the right. The patriotism, seeing self-defense as a virtue and religiosity that the Right value are all characteristics far out of favor on the left.

Others will contend that a fence is useless, offering more picayune objections: citing tunnel infiltration and the abduction of Gilad Shalit. ‘Surely the wealthy Mexican cartels can surely replicate Hamas’ tunnel network?’, they declare. But this rebuttal would seem to miss the point; no one would seriously entertain the idea that condoms are useless because they have a (very small) failure rate. Yet to a certain kind of critic, the idea that the Israeli border walls are not 100% efficacious is the equivalent of them being useless.

In this way the Left is at least consistent: for years we were told that missile defense could never be practical. Which is true.. so long as you keep ratcheting up what constitutes “practical”. It’s also reminiscent of the attempt to ‘debunk the success’ of the Iron Dome system in the recent Gaza conflict.

This, I think, ties into the other reason the left find the question “Israel has a wall, why can’t we” so vexing: Israel has a wall because it retains a sense of self and a sense of sovereignty. European nations retain (with varying degree of success) distinct identities, but there is a terrible shame seen among the ‘elites’ in taking any pride in this. Israeli pride in Israeli identity is an uncomfortable reminder to many on the left, especially in Europe, of a time they want to forget.

There is also a rather amusing and circular argument and it goes like this;

“You can’t build a fence that won’t be scaled, or a wall that can’t be tunneled under.” Claims the opponent of a border barrier.

“Well,” goes the reply, “then we’ll put up X.” Where X is an ever increasing level of security, going from barbed wire topped fences to noveu-Berlin Wall affairs. As each new level is proposed, it is dismissed, until a point of security that everyone understands would be effective is proposed.

“Okay, may that would work,” admits the opponent, “but it would be sick. But I guess you want to see migrant children blown up by landmines/impaled on punji sticks/eaten by moat alligators?”

It’s a bit like the old example of a man that kills his parents then asks the court for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. The opponents of a border wall insist that innocuous measures will be ineffective, and effective measures would be too terrible for civilized people to actually deploy… oh, and you’re a dope if you propose innocuous measures, and a bloodthirsty savage for proposing the measures opponents understand would work.

Catch-22: it’s a way of saying ‘yes’ to the question “does a sovereign nation have the right to refuse access to non-citizens?” while at the same time ruling out any way to restrict access.

It seems in the end what is really being discussed is: if a nation will not put its own citizens before non-citizens, if it will not show loyalty first to its citizens, what loyalty then does that nation deserve from its citizens?

In the contrast of Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many Americans (especially on the right) see one leader that they feel, outside of any evaluation of competency, truly loves his country and is doing all he can for it. The other leader would be President Obama.