It’s Not Hard

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"It’s not hard to get some of these assholes to pop off,” said Scott Foval, national field director for the Democrat organization Americans United for Change. Foval was referring to Trump supporters who, he believes, will "pop off" in front of TV cameras if sufficiently provoked. The provokers are members of labor unions and homeless communities, including mentally ill individuals, whom Foval has recruited, trained, and paid to make trouble at Donald Trump campaign rallies — every instance of which has been incessantly covered and condemned by the mainstream media as trouble made by Trump himself.

Unfortunately for Foval, these and other remarks were caught on videotape by "guerrilla" filmmaker James O’Keefe. Posing as donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign, members of O’Keefe's group, Project Veritas Action, recorded a two-part, undercover video, entitledRigging the Election. Part I deals with violence at Trump rallies; Part II deals with mass voter fraud.

Also caught on the video was Bob Creamer, of Democrat consulting firm Democracy Partners. Said Creamer, “Wherever Trump and Pence are going to be, we have events and we have a whole team across the country that does that, both consultants and people from the Democratic Party.” He referred to "the Democratic Party apparatus and the people from the campaign, the Clinton campaign. . . . My role with the campaign is to manage all that.” Part of “all that” has been a process called "bird dogging," by which agitators are strategically placed at Trump events to create the greatest possible havoc.

In reality, Clinton found Trump guilty of her own crimes.

Much of the credit for the famous Chicago protest last March, which caused the Trump rally to be shut down before Trump arrived, has been given to Creamer, his subordinate Zulema Rodriguez, and an operative known as Aaron Black. Said Rodriguez, “So, [Aaron Black] and I did the Chicago Trump event where we shut down like all the yeah.” According to Federal Election Commission records, Rodriguez, who also took credit for the protest that shut down a highway outside a Trump rally in Arizona, was paid by the Clinton campaign shortly before she disrupted the Chicago rally.

Clinton's campaign seems to have approved of the Foval and Creamer tactics. According to Foval, “The [Clinton] campaign pays DNC, DNC pays Democracy Partners, Democracy Partners pays the Foval Group, The Foval Group goes and executes the shit on the ground.”

Foval was fired on Monday, October 17, the day the first video was released. Creamer stepped down from his post the next day. These nearly instantaneous dismissals, performed without any attempt at information gathering, indicate that the Clinton campaign was well aware of the scurrilous activities of their supporters.

On Wednesday, October 19, the day of the third and final presidential debate, Clinton, who deplores half of all Trump supporters (whom she has called a "basket of deplorables," including racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, and Islamophobes), stated that she also deplores the violence at Trump rallies. Trump, she said, "incites violence" and "applauds people who are pushing and pulling and punching at his rallies." She added: "That is not who America is." In reality, Clinton found Trump guilty of her own crimes. The original people doing the pushing, pulling, and punching were Clinton's bird-doggers. That is who Clinton's America is.

During the debate, Trump indicated that if he lost the November election, he might not accept the result. He has questioned the legitimacy of a process that he believes to be rigged. Trump is convinced that the media are against him and that the White House influenced the DOJ and the FBI to give Mrs. Clinton a pass on numerous allegations of criminal activity at the State Department and at the Clinton Foundation. The Republican establishment, along with many Republican primary candidates who pledged to support him, is campaigning against him. In addition, Trump is no doubt troubled by anti-Trump immigration groups, whose goal is to register one million eligible immigrants to vote against him.

These nearly instantaneous dismissals indicate that the Clinton campaign was well aware of the scurrilous activities of their supporters.

The entire mainstream media (including Fox News) was aghast at Trump's equivocation, furiously expending days of debate coverage fretting over little else. Its unfavorable treatment of Trump was roughly in inverse proportion to the percent of total mainstream media donations showered over Mrs. Clinton, which, according to the Center for Public Integrity, was more than 96%. Less than 4% of their contributions was drizzled over Mr. Trump, and his low opinion of mainstream objectivity.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama reveled in Trump's paranoia. Trump's suggestion of "rigging or fraud without a shred of evidence," exclaimed Obama, was "not a joking matter.” Yet Obama had nothing to say about the serious matter of Bob Creamer, who had visited the White House 342 times since 2009, meeting with him (the president) 47 of those times, most recently in June of this year.

Nor did Obama have anything to say about his administration's use of tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money distributed by the Homeland Security agency, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to help the anti-Trump immigration groups. An email obtained by Senate Republicans revealed that USCIS "demanded volunteers to work weekends, hoping to get as many people onto the citizenship rolls as possible before the end of September — which would give them enough time to register to vote in November" — certainly not a joking matter to Mr. Trump.

And not as big of a joke as a recent government audit "that found more than 800 illegal immigrants from terrorism-connected regions of the globe who’d been ordered kicked out of the country, but who were instead approved for citizenship because USCIS didn’t properly check their fingerprints." Instead, and with a straight face, Obama taunted Trump to stop “whining before the game is even over.”

Obama had nothing to say about the serious matter of Bob Creamer, who had visited the White House 342 times since 2009, meeting with the president 47 of those times.

Following Obama's lead, Creamer has tried to turn the tables on Trump, issuing an unabashed statement that his firm “has recently been the victim of a well-funded, systematic spy operation that is the modern day equivalent of the Watergate burglars.”

For Hillary Clinton's part, she too was horrified. And brashly ridiculed Trump's unwillingness to accept election results as a conspiracy theory that he has concocted — this while claiming that WikiLeaks and Vladimir Putin, under Trump's direction, conspire to defeat her.

So, who are the assholes that are popping off?




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The Hallowe’en Horror

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I remember driving through a little town, someplace in mid-America, that had a sign at its border: “Smithtown [or whatever it was]: Population, 1104 Friendly People, and 1 Ol’ Grouch.”

Lately I’ve been feeling like that ol’ grouch. The cause is Hallowe’en.

Is it just my misanthropy, or has this thing gone too far? I know there’s nothing wrong about turning what used to be a one-night opportunity for kids to pretend to be scared, or to be scary, into a months-long costume party for adults. I know that people like to have an excuse for parties, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I have no wish, I really don’t, to lecture other people about how to have fun. And, to tell you the truth, I can’t quite identify the reason for my increasing grouchiness over Hallowe’en.

Irrationally or not, I put Hallowe’en in the same box with Hump Day, a day in honor of hating one’s job.

But: isn’t there something weird about walking into a store a week before Labor Day, and seeing it decked out with Hallowe’en goods? Isn’t there something weird about walking into a bank and handing your money to a teller dressed like a pirate? Isn’t there something weird about adults celebrating scariness by dressing as French maids or cowboys or Harry Potter? If they dressed as Hillary Clinton, I might understand. Nevertheless . . .

I admit it: my last visit to a Hallowe’en party may have soured me a bit. Since the host and guests were all antiwar liberals, I showed up in some old Army fatigues. Maybe that would scare them, I thought. Granted, it was also my way of not spending time or money, but I thought I deserved a more sympathetic response than, “So what? That’s the kind of stuff you normally wear.” The prize went to a nice lady who dressed as Dennis Rodman. Isn’t there something wrong about a holiday that celebrates Dennis Rodman?

All right, many of my objections would apply to Thanksgiving and Christmas too — at least to what has happened to them. They go on forever, and celebration of them is thought to be obligatory — a sure sign that there’s something wrong. Come to think of it, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day went in that direction long ago. At least Hallowe’en is not an occasion for family guilt. People don’t say, “I wish I’d been kinder to my mom on Hallowe’en,” or “I wish I’d thanked my brother for dressing me up like a corpse.” Not yet they don’t.

Isn’t there something weird about adults celebrating scariness by dressing as French maids or cowboys or Harry Potter?

Maybe one’s feeling about Hallowe’en depends on the category one puts it in. If the category is “let’s have a party,” the feeling is benign. But, irrationally or not, I put Hallowe’en in a different class. I put it in the same box with Hump Day, a day in honor of hating one’s job. That’s the box that also houses hundred-thousand-dollar weddings in Thailand, Christmases honoring children who furnish lists of the presents they want to get, and the relentless multiplication of national observances (9/11, Martin Luther King, Stonewall Riot, the moronic “thank you for your service” workups to Veterans Day). And it seems that no one in America can mark any occasion without overemphasis.

My grandmother told me that when she was a girl, rowdy boys observed Hallowe’en by putting a cow on somebody’s roof. The neighbors enjoyed the spectacle, and the boys were soon identified and “persuaded” to take the cow down. There must have been pretty good roofs in those days, and pretty understanding cows. But Christmas took only a day or two, weddings were accomplished without years of planning, the optimal Hallowe’en decoration was a hand-carved pumpkin — and I doubt that any joy was lost.




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What if I “Identify” as Me?

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There’s been plenty of talk, lately, about how people “identify.” You identify as male; I identify as female. You’re straight; I’m gay. You like Pepsi; I like Coke. You say “tomato,” and I say “to-mah-to.”

This can very quickly get silly. You might identify as a tomato. I think it might be loads of fun to identify as Wonder Woman. But if I start skipping around my neighborhood in a tiara, star-spangly bra, and go-go boots and proclaiming that I’m a superheroine, they’ll come and take me away. No “ha-ha” about it.

The problem with all this identifying is that none of the people so adamant about doing it seem to identify as individual selves. They’re all picking a team. I could wear a lot of different labels if I chose, but I identify simply as me. These days, that makes me a weirdo.

If we can be whipped into a frenzy by the exhortations of any politician, we’ve got identity-mania. And bad.

Of course there are a few genuine weirdos busy at that game. A young woman in Norway has publicly declared that she identifies as a cat. Occasionally we run across a story about some adult who’s chosen to identify as an infant and crawl around the house in a diaper, gnawing on a pacifier. We shake our heads, and maybe we very sadly laugh. Cases like these are so extreme that we might be tempted to forget just how common identify-mania really is.

Many people fail to realize that they’ve caught the disease. But here’s a handy diagnostic tool. If we can be whipped into a frenzy by the exhortations of any politician, we’ve got it. And bad.

Conservative pundits have coined their own term for it. They call it “identity politics.” Of course those they accuse of this failing all land neatly on the other side of the political divide. But as the runaway-train presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump clearly illustrates, the contagion has spread to the right.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with advocating our own best interests. Nor do I mean to imply that everyone who votes for Trump is an angry white male of middle age or older, or will necessarily be driven by pure emotion. But as a libertarian, I can find nothing to like about his authoritarian, big-government-is-magic positions. It would be irresponsible for me to cast my ballot for him just because I think he’s been ill-treated by the media, or because I detest the people who detest him.

My attitude toward my fellow Americans is that they’re OK with me as long as they don’t push me around or steal from me.

It certainly is tempting, however, to root for a candidate as obsessively vilified as Donald Trump. I’m tired of being told how outraged I’m supposed to be every time he opens his mouth. His critics in the media are a ghastly gallery of horror-movie clowns. Their instructions to us about our civic duties are a sick joke. And their fawning over Hillary Clinton makes me want to vomit.

My attitude toward my fellow Americans — regardless of the demographic group to which they belong — is that they’re OK with me as long as they don’t push me around or steal from me. I don’t believe that my best interests are at odds with other people’s nearly as often as the demagogues claim. I think that claim is a divide-and-conquer tactic, designed to keep us at odds with one another. I also believe that the political hustlers who commonly make it are the scum of the earth. No matter what party they happen to represent, they’re unworthy of my vote.

The only time when they want to make us feel (as opposed to think) is when they are trying to put something over on us — which, in my opinion, is nearly all the time. Whenever politicians attempt to manipulate my emotions, I assume they’re trying to bamboozle me. Experience has shown me that I am seldom wrong.

The notion that because I can be lumped into a particular demographic group, I owe my vote to a candidate who transparently tries to play me like a fiddle, is just plain weird. It’s as strange as a young woman who’s decided she’s a cat, or a middle-aged man who spends all day in a giant crib. It’s pathetic weird. It’s deranged weird. It is, very frankly, unworthy-of-being-an-American weird.

If we are peace-loving people, and habitually mind our own business, we need be at odds with no one except those who would push us around or steal from us. They are the enemies of anyone who wants to live a happy life. If we think Donald Trump is the best candidate, then by all means we should vote for him. My thinking has led me to support Gary Johnson. Though if she were running, I’d certainly go for Wonder Woman.




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Is It the Cover-Up, or the Crime?

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On October 8 appeared a tape of Donald Trump’s indecent remarks about how to deal with attractive women — a tape justifying Democratic attacks on the crudeness of his character. At virtually the same hour emerged partial transcripts of Hillary Clinton’s secret remarks to Wall Street about her dream of “open borders” and her possession of two “positions,” one public and one private — transcripts justifying Republican assertions about her habit of lying to the public.

These revelations will be a test of the purported wisdom, repeated ad nauseam by political professionals, that what counts is “not the crime but the cover-up.” Trump would certainly have wanted to cover up the tape, but he may not have known it existed. Clinton labored mightily to cover up her private speeches, thereby creating a long-running campaign issue against herself, but the cover-up was palpably less important than what she actually said.

We’ll see whether real people, as opposed to pundits and spin artists (is there a difference?), see it this way. Simultaneously we can test the truth of an even more drearily repeated slogan, “All politics is local” — because in no way are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “local.” They live on Mars, not in Springfield, USA.

There’s a third cliché that’s interesting. Will the American people continue to “suffer fools gladly”?




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Weld’s High-Minded Politics

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A couple of weeks ago I saw Bob Woodward on TV, all a-twitter about how the Libertarian ticket should drop out of the race immediately and back Clinton for the presidency. I thought this was one of the most ridiculous displays of establishmentarianism I’d ever seen. It was as if one of the elite parties were a magnet to which all worthless metal filings must be drawn.

But now, if reports are true, LP vice-presidential candidate William Weld is following Woodward’s advice. Although the former Republican governor of Massachusetts swore to be a Libertarian for life, he’s now saying that, uh, er, he guesses he won’t “drop them” (emphasis added) until the campaign is over, while suggesting that as far as he’s concerned it’s over now.

Weld indicated that it would be “fun” to be one of the wizards who worked, post-election, to put the Republican Party back together again.

Weld indicated that he planned to spend all his time from now on attacking Donald Trump, because of his foreign policy ideas. But despite the fact that this year the LP has waged a vigorous and effective advertising war against both Republicans and Democrats, and polling shows that the LP is taking more votes from Clinton than from Trump, Weld seems to have no plans to continue the critique of Clinton. Quite the contrary. Of the Platonic form of establishment politics, Weld now says he’s “not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States.”

I can think of a few that are more qualified. Start with all the Disney characters.

And remember that Weld got the platform from which he says such things out of libertarian money and libertarian zeal.

But speaking of establishmentarians, Weld indicated that it would be “fun” to be one of the wizards who worked, post-election, to put the Republican Party back together again, ruling the Grand Old Party in concert with (guess who?) Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour.

William Weld, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour . . . “O brave new world, that has such people in it.”




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The Great Debate

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Only my devotion to journalism made me watch the Clinton-Trump debate. It’s not my idea of fun to observe the collision of two giant gasbags somewhere above Long Island. And, as many people have pointed out, the meaning of such events, if any, ordinarily emerges not from what actually happened but from what was spun out of it, later.

So color me bored and irritated, before the thing even started.

The following is what your bored and irritated correspondent thought he observed. I’ll make it snappy, since you probably observed the damn debate yourself and have just as much right to an opinion as I have.

  1. In response to the introductory question about creation of jobs, Clinton revealed her conviction that you can do it by funding daycare, paying students’ way through college, and “making the rich pay their fair share.” Trump asserted that foreign countries are “stealing our jobs,” but Clinton returned to the idea of taxing the rich. She accused Trump of having “started [in business] with $14 million he received from his father.” She claimed that the economic collapse of 2008 had been created by a low-tax policy. She then began a long rant about government-sponsored “clean energy” creating millions of jobs.
     
  2. Responding to Trump’s verbal jabs about her failure to do anything good about the economy during her long career, Clinton smirked in a way I have often seen from schoolteachers who aren’t very bright. She then uncorked one of the most superior laughs I have ever seen, thus confirming one’s worst impressions of her character. She kept this up throughout the debate. She also continued her chronic habit of nodding her head while hearing things she disagrees with but cannot figure out how to respond to — for instance, Trump’s accusation that she had invented, or popularized, the term “’super-predator,” as applied to “black youths.”
     
  3. Trump frequently interrupted Clinton with little sarcastic remarks, to which the sworn-to-silence audience frequently made a favorable response. But I was wondering how, when Clinton brought up Trump’s failure to reveal his tax returns, he didn’t ask her why she hasn’t revealed the texts of the speeches she gave to Wall Street crony capitalists in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Didn’t he listen to Bernie Sanders’ successful attacks on her about that? Accused of initially supporting the Iraq war, Trump failed to mention the fact that Hillary voted for the war. He failed to mention, a propos the job-creation issue, that she bragged about her intention of putting coal miners out of their jobs. At other times, however, he provided facts (mainly about his own economic proposals) that were much more specific than hers.
     
  4. Clinton tried to popularize a catchphrase for Trump’s economic plan. The phrase seems to have been her idea of the one thing the audience should take home with them. The phrase was “Trumped-up trickle-down.” I rate that a failure.
     
  5. “Moderator” Lester Holt’s questions were filled with attempted zingers against Trump — such as a reiterated question about his birtherism — but none that I perceived against Clinton. In the second half of the event, Holt began to do “no, you’re wrong” “fact checking” against Trump, as advocated by the Clinton forces. I did not perceive him doing that against Clinton. To use a Trumpian word, Holt was a disaster. At many junctures, he seemed to be channeling Clinton.
     
  6. Trump made a clever transition from a question about internet security to a reminder that the hacking of the DNC revealed Clinton’s mistreatment of Sanders. Why, I wondered, didn’t he ask her why she, of all people, had been commenting with assurance about the security of electronic communications?
     
  7. Trump cleverly obscured his lack of thoughtfulness about nuclear war by discussing it in terms that no one could interpret.
     
  8. Hillary not so cleverly asserted — almost at the end, as if she thought that nothing else had worked — that Trump regards women as “pigs and dogs.”

The Summing Up:

Trump used the words disaster and unbelievable a lot, but most of his favorite verbal tics were absent, showing a degree of self-control that must have been heroic. He didn’t make a fool of himself, although he came close when he went off on a tangent about his “winning temperament,” as opposed to Clinton’s bad temperament, as witnessed in her remarkable “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?” speech. He didn’t clearly identify the speech, so the uninformed were left to wonder, “What the hell is he talking about?” Hillary didn’t shriek like a maniac, which makes me wonder who on her staff had the unenviable job of telling her that she usually shrieks like a maniac.

I’ll agree with Charles Krauthammer’s instant analysis and call the thing a draw, although I’m not quite sure what I mean by that. Neither of them did demonstrably better than the other, although the media immediately started chattering about Clinton being on the offensive and Trump on the defensive. Each showed the ability to confirm the preexisting opinions of supporters. Since Trump was the underdog, he probably got a marginal advantage from his almost patient endurance of Clinton’s enormous sense of superiority. For me, the most memorable part of the debate was his comment, “She’s got experience, but it’s bad experience.” That doesn’t go far to compensate me for an hour and a half lost from what otherwise would have been a richer and fuller life.




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Investigation of a Citizen Above Justice

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I’m not sure why Hillary Clinton does anything she does, but I know she has a way of reminding me of old movies. Gangster movies, of course — though not the Godfather kind, in which you’re supposed to sympathize with the profound psychological and metaphysical conflicts of the leading characters. No one actually sympathizes with Hillary Clinton. I’m reminded more of the primitive gangster films, which teach you that some guys just want to be king of the world and will do anything to reach the peak, or preserve the illusion.

Those aren’t the only movies I associate with her. She often makes me think of His Girl Friday, where Earl Williams, the goofy gunman, is involved in so many ridiculous and, as Donald Trump would say, unbelievable incidents that a newspaper reporter says, “I’m pretending there ain’t any Earl Williams.”It’s a relief to pretend that there ain’t any Hillary Clinton.

Clinton violated the law, grossly, repeatedly, and ridiculously. She then told a long string of gross and ridiculous lies.

But the strongest cinematic parallel I can find to the Clinton story is a once-famous Italian movie that is called in English Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970). In it, a ranking police officer commits a crime and then gets the idea of establishing his superiority to normal people by submitting to an investigation that shows he is guilty — obviously guilty — yet does not lead to his arrest.

The parallel with Clinton is evident. In the emails episode alone, Clinton violated the law, grossly, repeatedly, and ridiculously. She then told a long string of gross and ridiculous lies, all of them conflicting preposterously with common sense, and with one another. The FBI, led by the vaunted Mr. Comey, spent thousands of hoursinvestigating her, located (without any difficulty) the incriminating facts, listened to many additional ridiculous lies, and discovered that Citizen Clinton could not be prosecuted because there was no evidence she intended to violate any of the laws she schemed to violate.

That’s basically how the Italian movie turns out. The power structure can never conceive of indicting one of its own. The bad guy wins — in two ways, one of them more important to him (and to me) than the other. He doesn’t get indicted; that’s the relatively unimportant win. The more important one is his demonstration that people like him are above the law. Members of the elite are never punished; they are immune. Their immunity is the proof of their status, the validation of their identity, and the source of their joy. That’s the vital thing. If you wonder what Mrs. Clinton does with the time she doesn’t spend on fundraising (and, of course, lying), I think I have an answer. She spends most of her time laughing at honest people who have a job.




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Education or Fantasy?

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When asked, “Why a third party, when it has no chance of winning?”, supporters of the Libertarian Party and other Thirds usually say, “We’re running an educational campaign.” That makes sense. It would be several steps beyond sense to spend your time figuring out ways in which you might actually win. But that’s what Gary Johnson, presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, seems to be doing, with some help from the media.

Interviewed on August 28 by Chris Wallace of Fox News, Johnson said that, given the “polarization” of the two major-party candidates, his party “might actually run the table” — this year’s cliché for “winning big.”

This logic defies analysis: how would Democrat vs. Republican polarization induce voters to go for a polarization of Libertarians vs. Democrats and Republicans?

I don’t know whether it’s more likely for Johnson to win outright than to win in a House election, since there is no chance of either.

Wallace, who should know better, tried to save the situation by projecting a future in which Johnson could get a majority in enough states to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where he could emerge victorious. Johnson has encouraged that idea in the past. But this time he said, “The object is to win outright.”

I don’t know whether it’s more likely for him to win outright than to win in a House election, since there is no chance of either. If you think it would be more of a feat to gain a majority in the Electoral College than to be elected after throwing the election into the House, consider the fact that voting in the House would take place by state, and the Republicans have a majority in most state delegations.

What these fantasies have to do with an educational campaign, besides discrediting it, I don’t know. Maybe, in some way, they Keep Hope Alive. But that wasn’t Johnson’s concern when he agreed that, if he doesn’t get into the presidential candidates’ debate, “It’s game over.”

I would like to see Johnson in the debate. His presence would make it possible for me to watch the affair without having a physician at my side, ready to administer emergency aid. But if he doesn’t get in, is he just going to sit out the rest of the campaign?




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The Unmentionables

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I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon. Virtually no one I know is willing to start a conversation about the current election campaign.

As an academic with many academic acquaintances, I grew used to hearing people inject George Bush into every possible conversation, always in a derisive manner. But this year, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of mentions my colleagues have made of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The same pattern holds with groups or individuals who I am certain will vote for Trump. No one wants to mention the campaign or the personalities.

This is a welcome relief, but why is it happening? I have several guesses.

  1. People are aware that this election is even more divisive than the past few elections, and they’re unwilling to start a fight.
  2. Many people who are expected by their friends to vote for Clinton will actually vote for Trump, and vice versa, and they don’t want to give themselves away.
  3. Everybody’s just sick of the damned thing.

These ideas may go far toward explaining the matter. But there’s at least one other possibility. Many people are discouraged about the presidency itself. They regard it cynically, as just one more object on a growing pile of political rubbish.

I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that people feel that way. The imperial presidency lost almost all of its glamor with the abject failure of Obama (whom, by the way, hardly anybody ever mentions either). That’s certainly good, and maybe it’s permanent. I’m not sure, however, that complete political cynicism is a good long-run strategy for the pursuit and capture of individual freedom.




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Let Us All Come to Worship at Olympia

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As the editor of a journal, I get lots of email advertising other journals. (Yeah — go figure.) I got some on August 19 from Commonweal, the liberal Catholic mag, puffing an article by E.J. Dionne, which starts with the following display of asininity:

Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles will not be eligible to run for president until 2032, although Michael Phelps hits 35 years old in 2020. After watching these Olympians display so many traits we admire — persistence, discipline, grace, goal orientation, resilience, and inner strength — perhaps we should consider drafting one of them some day.

It is both a blessing and a curse that the Summer Olympics happen during the election year. The blessings are obvious. Especially in this campaign, it is a relief to watch a display of American talent that truly brings the country together.

My first thought was, “It’s odd to be reading this a day after learning what Ryan Lochte and his Olympian buddies did in Brazil.” They might have shown a kind of persistence and goal orientation (whatever that means), but I have some doubts about the rest of Dionne’s list of admirable qualities. The idea that because somebody is a good athlete he or she must be a wonderful human being, and a political genius to boot, is even more ridiculous than the notion that because somebody is a good artist or musician, he or she must have all the answers about everything else.

But the thing that left a nasty taste in my mouth was the nonsense about bringing the country together. Let’s get this straight. It’s not necessarily a good thing that a country comes together. It’s most likely to come together under the influence of fear or in an episode of mob behavior or at the bottom of a descent to the lowest common denominator. Anyone with a brain must have observed that millions of fans all cheering for the Chicago sports teams have done precisely nothing to bring the city together in any other respect or to solve any problem except the teams’ desire for profits, and the same can be said about any other audience in any other city.

“For God’s sake and for God’s sake,” as the lady says in A Portrait of the Artist, do we have to keep hearing nonsense like this?




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