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State Watch

Missouri’s Hateful 8

By 9.21.15

Political pundits and prognosticators are apoplectic over the rise of Trump.

How could such a buffoon be taken so seriously by so many, they ask each other nightly on cable news and daily on op-ed pages. Don’t they know he’s not qualified for public office?

That may be true. It also misses the point entirely.

Here are some professional politicians: Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, James Buchanan, Barack Obama.

Here are some of the great gifts bestowed upon us by professional public servants: The Civil War, the Bay of Pigs, Stagflation, Obamacare, the U.S. Post Office.

Yes, Americans are quite used to suffering the wages of professional public servants. And Republican voters have perhaps suffered most of all. When liberals elect liberal presidents, they get liberal policies (Medicare). When conservatives elect Republican presidents, they get … liberal policies (Medicare Part D).

Liberal presidents appoint liberal Supreme Court Justices who produce liberal opinions (Ginsburg). Republican presidents appoint Republican justices who produce… liberal opinions (Roberts).

Campaign Crawlers

Carly Fiorina’s Prepared to Fight

By 9.20.15

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Who is this Carly Fiorina? In the press filing center at the CNN Republican debate, journalists from around the country were asking reporter Carla Marinucci and me because we covered the former Hewlett-Packard CEO for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010 when she ran for the U.S. Senate against California Democrat Barbara Boxer — and failed spectacularly by 1 million votes. Yet here she is, winning the first two GOP primary debates and burning past veteran politicians who have won brutal elections in big states. Can she actually win? And what’s her special sauce?

Fiorina rose “from secretary to CEO,” as she likes to put it, because she never stopped pushing herself. When she became the first woman to head a Fortune 20 company in 1999, she wrote in her memoirs, Tough Choices, she wanted to push what she saw as a moribund corporate entity into a company with a “hardnosed focus on merit, excellence and performance.” She was controversial. She pushed for a merger with Compaq, which led to the elimination of many jobs. She laid off 30,000 workers and outsourced jobs.


Trump and Liberal Hypocrisy

By 9.18.15

So some guy gets up at a New Hampshire Q&A and asks this of Donald Trump: “We have a problem in this country called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”

To which Trump replies, laughing: “We need this question?”

The man plows ahead, saying: “But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

Trump again: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening and we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

Then… the deluge. OMG! Trump doesn’t stand up to some nitwit who says the President is a Muslim!

Stop. Stop stop Stop!!!!!!

Let me be blunt here.

Political Hay

Blah, Blah, Blah

By 9.18.15

CNN’s Republican debate left viewers with the same disquieting feeling as a forced screening of Heaven’s Gate. That three hours felt like three years.

America is on the verge of its greatest century, blah, blah, blah, how we can fix a broken Washington, blah, blah, blah, every one of us has potential, blah, blah, blah, I’m ready to lead, blah, blah, blah, the United States is not to be trifled with, blah, blah, blah, the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch, blah, blah, blah, we'll reignite the promise of America, blah, blah, blah, the world desperately needs our leadership, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Special Report

A Child’s Body on a Turkish Beach

By 9.18.15

A photo of a toddler lying on his stomach on a Turkish beach. A boy wearing a red T-shirt, blue shorts, and sneakers. The boy’s head is turned to the side and his arms are alongside his body. Walking along the beach, one might, from a distance, think that the boy was napping. Or that he’d fallen down and hurt himself.

Nilufer Demir, a photographer from Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, has been “photographing immigration since 2003,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. She happened to be walking along the beach with her camera when she came upon the child, and stopped to take his photograph. Before doing anything else. Before verifying that the child was dead, that there was no saving him.

A Bigger Perspective

Mitch’s Profiles in Discourage

By 9.18.15

There is an old Jewish joke about the boy going to visit his grandmother to check out her new apartment. He calls her on the phone for directions to the unfamiliar address. She tells him where to turn, where to park, where to enter. “When you get to my door, there is a buzzer on your right which you can press with your elbow.”

“But, Grandma, why do I need my elbow? Can’t I just press it with my finger the regular way?”

“What, you’re coming empty-handed?”

This story comes to mind whenever I see Mitch McConnell’s face on the screen, interviewed about this or that legislation. Here is the “Leader” of the majority party in the United States Senate. After all the expense and effort we invested in turning his caucus from a minority into a majority in the 2014 elections, surely he must be bringing us a goodie of some kind, a sweet, a treat, a trinket, a card… something… anything. But no, his hands are always empty. He offers nothing and he accomplishes even less.

Another Perspective

Bush Flunks ‘Great Woman’ Question

By 9.18.15

Republican presidential contenders need to brush up on their American history and the many heroic women who have helped make this country great. At Wednesday’s debate, CNN’s Jake Tapper went down the line, asking the candidates what woman should be depicted on the $10 bill. At that point, most of the candidates looked like deer caught in the headlights. American women of achievement? They couldn’t think of any.

Rand Paul said, “Ooh, that’s a tough one,” but managed to come up with Susan B. Anthony. A good choice. She was a tireless campaigner for women’s equal rights, especially the right to vote. Next Marco Rubio said Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon, and Ted Cruz quickly latched on to that answer.

It was all down hill after that. Ben Carson nominated his mother, a sweet gesture and a chance for him to reiterate his humble upbringing, but it also showed a lack of appreciation or knowledge of what women have done as leaders in this country. Same goes for Mike Huckabee, who proposed his wife.

Political Hay

About Last Night

By 9.17.15

From left to right (from the TV viewer's perspective), two sentences on each candidate's performance in last night's CNN debate:

Rand Paul tried hard — perhaps too hard — to go after Donald Trump, with modest success offset by his coming across as slightly whiny. His answers continue to offer an interesting and unusual perspective, more focused on liberty and the Constitution than many of the others, but his campaign nevertheless feels like its tires are spinning badly.

Mike Huckabee made a particular effort to be upbeat, to avoid criticizing other Republicans, and to make a strong moral case in the few questions that came his way. However if you imagine each of the candidates being asked “Why do you want to be president?” he's the one I have the hardest time imagining answering the question adequately.

A Further Perspective

Life Is Short; CNN Debate Is Long

By 9.17.15

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — “Anything could happen over the next few hours,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper announced at the prime-time Republican presidential debate.

Anything did happen. Billionaire Donald Trump made faces and rolled his eyes. He mugged as a petulant little boy would mug. He insulted his opponents for no apparent reason. When Tapper asked the reality TV star to react to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remark that Trump is “such a hothead” he shouldn’t have his finger on the nuclear codes, Trump responded by proving Jindal correct. Trump answered: “Well, first of all, (Sen.) Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s No. 11. He’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here — there’s far too many people.” Then he said he is successful and entertaining. And he has a great temperament: “Believe me, my temperament is very good, very calm.”

Among the Intellectualoids

White ‘Poet’ Plays the Game

By 9.17.15

It would be an understatement to say that poetry is considerably less than central to the contemporary literary experience of the English-speaking world. This has been true since before Auden breathed his last. It has been a long time since Wordsworth was “trailing clouds of glory” to the delight of Brits across the island. By the 1970s, it seems the only person interested in reading and reciting poetry was Horace Rumpole. (And didn’t Horace/Leo McKern do a fine job of reciting?) 

But just because hardly anyone outside the boundaries of the hundred thousand or so campuses that infest the USA reads poetry anymore, this appears to be no reason for university poetry workshops and MFA (master of fine arts) programs, poetry division, to stop churning out poet-wannabes by the thousands. This upside down state of affairs had led editors of the few remaining poetry journals to complain — not in jest — that they have more contributors than subscribers.