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Special Report

Oh, Sarah

By 1.20.16

It’s hard to believe that the 2008 campaign was so long ago. But it’s easy to remember the unbridled excitement we all felt when that plane from Anchorage landed that night, and an unknown governor from Alaska descended into the chaos of an open Presidential campaign. Senator John McCain had been blindsided by a celebrity candidate from Illinois who had charisma and a cult following, and he needed a way to energize the base — a folksy, relatable Vice President whose TV ready family and penchant for colloquialism was just the thing to connect him with “Real America.”

If you could have told me, in 2008, that this is where that road would eventually lead, you’d have had to wipe my chin off the floor. With her endorsement of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin has done a complete 180 from her down-home conservative roots, embracing Trump’s populist, hardly conservative campaign with fervor, proving that she — despite what she’s said over and over for the last decade — is more about defeating an “Establishment” boogeyman than she is following through on the limited government, pro-life, free market world she envisioned in her first speech to a raucous Republican National Convention.

Another Perspective

The Alexander Pope in Donald Trump

By 1.20.16

My wise and well-read sister, Joan Turrentine’s recent comment to me produced an “aha” moment regarding Donald Trump’s extraordinary popularity. Joan was observing the way the media — particularly as they critique the presidential debates — influence what the public thinks about the candidates, deciding which ones to focus on, which issues are top priority, and which candidate is a “winner.” She summarized her thoughts by quoting Alexander Pope: “Expert criticism, once destined to teach that which is to be admired — the poet’s art — now presumes to be master.”

Indeed, there are many parallels between the literary critics and their skirmishes in Pope’s day with what passes for political commentary and analysis today. Whether it is poets or politicians, wit and creativity are always at war with conventional wisdom, with the latter’s champions demanding surrender to and conformity with its logic and assessments.

A Further Perspective

Invitation to Islam

By 1.20.16

On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was shot while riding his bicycle to work. He’d produced a 10-minute film criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. The script was written by Ayaan Hirsi, a Somalian refugee and Dutch parliamentarian. It was called Submission and was based on her experiences as a woman growing up in a Muslim country. Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, didn’t much like film, and he expressed his feelings by assassinating its producer. Hollywood, take note: there are bad reviews and then there are really bad reviews.

Having been shot off his bicycle, Van Gogh begged for his life, but Allah’s follower wasn’t inclined to be merciful and he methodically proceeded to bring his mission to a completion that, in its attention to detail, is almost artistic. First, he shot Van Gogh a few more times, at close range. Next, he slit Van Gogh’s throat. He thrust the knife into his chest with such force that it severed his spinal cord. In a final flourish, Bouyeri used a dagger to affix at note to the corpse. It was addressed to Hirsi Ali, and threatened to kill her.

Political Hay

So You Want a Revolution

By 1.20.16

Sanders Says He Wants a Revolution

Jeb Bush must be watching the Democratic primary with unadulterated envy. The Democratic debates have been comparatively civil — and conveniently scheduled to reduce viewership and impact. Bush has to contend with Donald Trump — and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. The establishment Democrat, Hillary Clinton, has only one serious challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She doesn’t have to calculate which rival — or rivals — to attack. In a small field, the more seasoned candidate has the advantage.

And even though Clinton showed a more realistic understanding of what is doable in Washington during Sunday’s NBC Democratic debate, the former first lady and former secretary of state is fighting to prevail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders is not Trump, but he is as angry as The Donald. The Vermonter’s first scalp would be a “corrupt campaign finance system” — Supreme Court rulings, you see, are sacrosanct only when they uphold Obamacare.

A Further Perspective

The Obama Presidency: Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin

By 1.20.16

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted out a request for “your toughest #foreignpolicy questions” as a part of “Big Block of Cheese Day.”

If you weren’t a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, the NBC drama that ran from 1999-2005 and focused on the administration of fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet and his White House staff, you maybe were confused by the Secretary’s tweet. “Big Block of Cheese Day” occurs in season 1, episode 5 of West Wing and again in season 2, episode 16. On this auspicious day, White House staffers grant meetings to groups that normally wouldn’t merit the time of our busy rulers.

Unlike television, this latest “Big Block of Cheese Day” didn’t involve actual meetings, but rather questions submitted on social media. Still, it’s a nice idea. And it has the added bonus of fitting in with the style-over-substance mise-en-scène of this White House.

Live From New York

Curious George’s Red Trump Hat

By 1.20.16

I have been spending some time in New York City. Last week, as the temperature plunged into the teens, I broke down and bought some headgear in a bid to retain whatever heat my head is generating these days. I went over to Trump Tower and spent $25 or so on a red “Make America Great Again” cap. The pleasant black lady at the counter informed me that the purchase would make me a “Trump donor.” She supplied me with a campaign finance form, which I filled out in a minute or so. Her manner was simple and transparent.

In the subsequent days, I walked through a host of diverse neighborhoods in New York City, from Wall Street to Spanish Harlem to Times Square to the Upper East Side. I didn’t set out to perform a political experiment but one happened. Just from largely benign or even positive reactions to my hat, I learned that the dominant media’s claim of supposed widespread hostility to Donald Trump is hollow.

The Current Crisis

Hillary’s Past Meets the Present

By 1.20.16

Did any of the political cognoscenti consult Real Clear Politics last Thursday? Those who did found evidence that Donald Trump’s recent charges that Hillary Clinton was for years her husband’s “enabler,” while he was committing “very seedy” behavior, are irrefutable. Moreover, the evidence is contained in a book that has been right under our noses for years. The book was written by David Brock—now a Hillary champion—and Brock is still quite proud of the book. He actually has boasted that “reviewers had found [the book] to be fair, well-balanced, and accurate” — such reviewers as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Why no one has consulted it is mysterious. Is the press really that lazy?

Main Street U.S.A.

Reworking the Constitution to Save the Constitution

By 1.19.16

My governor, the Honorable Greg Abbott of Texas, sallied forth the other day with a plan to revise the Constitution in the interest of returning power to the people. Because of this antique notion, whole cans of rhetorical trash have been emptied on my governor’s head.

I don’t wonder at all. When you propose reversing the present national direction, rolling back half a century and more of concentrated power in Washington, D.C., you don’t expect valentines. The “progressive” establishment loves what it has gained through riding down constitutional limits. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pledged to the objective of more and more rules in Washington, D.C., never mind what limits the Constitution would appear to impose on that goal.

I do wonder about something else. Gov. Abbott has as much chance of enacting his full nine-point “Texas Plan” as Barack Obama has of falling out with the New York Times. I think we need, all the same, to praise the governor for embarrassing the political establishment with a catalogue of its sins against constitutional government.

The Energy Spectator

Coal-Killing Job Killers

By 1.19.16

By now, most people are aware of President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to bankrupt the coal industry — which he acknowledged would “necessarily” cause the price of electricity to skyrocket. Seven years later, that is a campaign promise he is keeping.

Since moving into the White House, Obama has used bureaucratic weapons and administrative agencies to assault America’s coal industry. Between 2008 and 2012, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)reports, 50,000 coal jobs were lost — that number would certainly be much greater today. West Virginia has been hit particularly hard with unemployment rates in double digits. Addressing the job losses, the Charleston Gazette-Mail blames the “liberal environmental policies that have accelerated coal’s decline” — which it says have left “hard working men and women” jobless.

Political Hay

When Ronald Reagan Had Liberal Values

By 1.19.16

Much is being made of an old — seventeen years old to be precise — appearance by Donald Trump on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. In which the Trump of 1999 is seen saying among other things that “I grew up in New York, and worked and everything else, in New York City.” He goes on to say that he is “pro-choice.” The clip has been seized on by Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign to illustrate what Cruz is calling Trump’s “New York values.” As if someone can’t have a different world view seventeen years later in life, which Trump decidedly does.