Is this really where the light of liberal democracy grows dim?

In a comment earlier I wrote about how concerned I am about the course of my country — and of the world. More so than I’ve ever been in my more than six decades on this planet.

It’s not just Trump — he’s just a glaring, ugly sign of it. Take a step back, and reflect: Who came in second in the GOP primaries? The only guy who gave Trump any kind of a run for his money as the worst candidate ever — Ted Cruz. All the better-suited candidates were stuck in single digits. And the Democrats have nothing to brag about — they put forward the second-most (second to Trump) despised candidate in the history of such things being measured. And she had trouble putting away a cranky old socialist to get that far.

How can I blame Trump when the real problem is that millions of people voted for him? I actually almost feel sorry for this bizarre figure, because he truly had zero reason to expect that he’d actually end up in this position.

I mean seriously: If you don’t even go deeper than his hair, you can tell at a glance that the country’s really, really in trouble. This is what will lead us?krauthammer

And the rest of the world, too. As Charles Krauthammer wrote today, “After a mere 25 years, the triumph of the West is over.” The promise of 1991, with the Soviet Union finally collapsing and the U.S. leading a broad coalition against Saddam in Kuwait — the New World Order in which Civilization, led by the City on a Hill, would enforce its values against aggressors — is behind us.

The United States is pulling back, and the bad guys just can’t wait to flow into the vacuum. In fact, they haven’t been waiting — in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or the South China Sea. Or even in our own backyard.

He sums it up this way, blaming BOTH Obama and Trump:

Donald Trump wants to continue the pullback, though for entirely different reasons. Obama ordered retreat because he’s always felt the U.S. was not good enough for the world, too flawed to have earned the moral right to be the world hegemon. Trump would follow suit, disdaining allies and avoiding conflict, because the world is not good enough for us — undeserving, ungrateful, parasitic foreigners living safely under our protection and off our sacrifices. Time to look after our own American interests.

I think he’s trying a little too hard at false equivalence there, but at the same time, while Obama’s a smart guy who knows how to say the right things (unlike, you know, the other guy), there has been a noticeable tinge of “Oh, this country isn’t all that special” in his stance toward the world. A tinge that some of you agree with, and with which I couldn’t disagree more. But if you’re right, if the United States isn’t all that special — if it can’t be relied upon as the chief champion of liberal democracy — then the world doesn’t stand much of a chance. Because there’s always somebody wanting to be the hegemon, and the leading candidates running to take our place are pretty much a nightmare.

ISIS is a wannabe and never-was on that score. Russia wants to be a contender again, instead of bum, Charlie. But my money has long been on the oppressive authoritarians of the world’s largest country, China.

One of the first editorials I wrote for The State — maybe the first — when I joined the editorial board in 1994 was about the disturbing signs I saw of the Chinese buying friends and influencing people right here in our hemisphere, the long-forgotten Monroe Doctrine notwithstanding. I was worried that nobody else in this country seemed to see it, thanks to the fact that few of my fellow Americans ever took a moment to think about what happens to the south of us. (Side note: We wrote a lot about international affairs when I joined the editorial board; when I became editor, we would focus far more closely on South Carolina, which needed the scrutiny.)

Well, more people have noticed it since then. But not enough people. And not enough of the ones who have noticed care. President Obama, to his credit, started his “pivot” to focus on the Pacific Rim. That was the smart thing to do for this country’s long-term interests, and those of liberal democracy in general. China needs to be countered, with both soft power and, when necessary, hard.

Probably the most chilling paragraph in Krauthammer’s column is this one:

As for China, the other great challenger to the post-Cold War order, the administration’s “pivot” has turned into an abject failure. The Philippines openly defected to the Chinese side. Malaysia then followed. And the rest of our Asian allies are beginning to hedge their bets. When the president of China addressed the Pacific Rim countries in Peru last month, he suggested that China was prepared to pick up the pieces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now abandoned by both political parties in the United States….

TPP was smart policy, encouraging our allies in the region to join with us in confidence, tying themselves more closely with U.S. interests in the face of the Chinese challenge. And this year, neither party was willing to stand up for it — even though one of the nominees (the one who lost, of course) knew better. If she’d been elected, at least we’d have had the chance of her breaking that bad campaign promise.

We painstakingly fashioned that strategic instrument, then dropped it like a hot potato when the populists began howling. And China is preparing to pick it up. And maybe you don’t, but I feel the Earth’s center of gravity shifting in the wrong direction.

Oh, but hey, Carrier’s not moving a plant to Mexico — at least, not completely. So everything’s OK, right? We’ve entered the era of short-term, inwardly focused international goals. Or something…

An invitation to sign a petition for safer roads

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There’s this petition website I receive frequent invitations from called change.org. You may have encountered it. I think I may have signed one of their petitions for something one of my daughters was pressing for, so I keep getting the pleas to throw in with this or that cause, most of which I delete.

I thought I’d share this one since it has such a strong South Carolina angle.

The petition, by Emily Rabon, is addressed to Robby Robbins, Mike Wooten, Mark Sanford, Jenny Horne, Christopher Murphy, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott.

But in any case, here’s her plea:

South Carolina roads are literally killing people. No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies—it’s time to take action. No matter where you live, will you please join us in our fight for justice and safety for all?

A quick visit to the official South Carolina Tourism website paints a picture perfect image of South Carolina. The simple slogan, “South Carolina—Just Right” is displayed prominently in the upper left hand corner of the website for all visitors to clearly see. What isn’t “Just Right” about South Carolina, however, is the condition of many  roads across the state.

On December 23, 2015, Glenn Forrest Rabon, Jr., better known as Tripp, was killed suddenly in a car accident ultimately caused by a flooded roadway on Highway 64 (SR 64) in Colleton County. The condition of the road was known and reported on multiple occasions, yet neglected countless times by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). Tripp was a senior in high school. He was an honor student and athlete with plans to attend Clemson University in the fall of 2016; but above all, he was a beloved son, brother, and a friend to all he encountered. His time on Earth was cut short due to no fault of his own—only the hazardous conditions of the South Carolina roads were to blame.

Sadly, South Carolina is among the top 5 states in the nation for car crash fatalities due to unsafe conditions on the road. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a report (July 2016) illustrating that traffic deaths in 2015 were at an all-time high—a shocking 7.7 percent nationwide. Furthermore, there were 154 more fatal car crashes in 2015 than there were in 2014; that’s 977 fatalities total. Let that sink in for a moment—977 car crash fatalities in 2015. That’s an increase of 16 percent, or in other words, a fact that shows driving has proved to be almost twice as deadly for South Carolina drivers as opposed to drivers throughout the rest of the country.

Interestingly, SCDOT is currently advertising and advocating for “a vision to zero traffic fatalities”, echoing the idea that “the road to zero starts with you [the driver]”. While safe driving is a responsibility that should be respected and practiced by all participants, the “Target Zero” safety initiative fails to address what the driver cannot control—the physical condition of the road itself. But together, as one voice, we can change this unsettling fact.

Fatal traffic accidents, like the one that took Tripp’s precious life, can realistically be avoided. The goal of this movement is to enact legislation to implement a way to prioritize projects that promote transportation safety across the state. It is notable that only months ago (September 2016), the SCDOT Commissioners approved $23,000,000 to be used for beautification projects across the state instead of allotting the money to roadways in dire need of repair. It is the hope of Tripp’s family and friends that passing TRIPP’s Law will ultimately make South Carolina safer, and thus, save the lives of others before it is too late. TRIPP’s Law will require SCDOT to make use of advanced technology to create an online, up-to-the-minute-report, which will utilize both public and government input of reported, unsafe road conditions. The law will require a prioritized repair report called, TRIPP’s Report, which similarly will use past and present road conditions. It will likewise include recent repairs (completed or pending) and show statistics (such as accidents, fatalities, 911 calls, public repair requests, etc.) in real time.

Anyone that knew Tripp would say, without a shadow of a doubt, Tripp was put on this Earth to make the lives of others better. Please help us continue to promote Tripp’s legacy of kindness and his willingness to help others by both signing and sharing this petition to protect and inform drivers who travel in South Carolina about crash and repair reports for SC roadways. Together, we can come together to advocate for safer South Carolina roadways so we can save lives!

Anyone who is willing and feels he or she would be of substantial help to the cause, TRIPP’s Law, is encouraged to contact Tripp’s sister, Emily, at TrippRabonsLaw@gmail.com

I certainly feel for Ms. Rabon’s loss, and Lord knows our roads are underfunded, but I would need to know more before signing the petition. I’m not entirely clear on how the law would help, since it seems focused on new reporting requirements, rather than changing priorities or finding new funding sources. She says “No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies,” but this does seem to be about reports.

It might help if I could see the bill.

Changing the subject slightly, my greatest hope for safer roads is that Gov. Henry McMaster will show some actual leadership on the issue, abandoning Nikki Haley’s opposition to raising the gas tax without cutting another tax by a larger amount, which frankly is one of the craziest ideas to emerge on the state scene in the last several years.

The State wrote on that subject today, by the way. There’s still no indication which way Henry will go. But putting forward a rational road-funding plan would be a great start toward being a better governor than his predecessor…

A post in which you can talk about Gen. Mattis

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Bryan Caskey complains via email, “We gonna talk foreign policy and military stuff on your blog about Mattis, or what?”

Alright, alright, already! Here’s a post about that. And here’s a story about Mattis.

Frankly, I don’t have a strong opinion on this nomination, but here are some thoughts:

  • With a complete ignoramus as commander in chief, it’s more important than ever that there be competent Cabinet members, who can keep the ship of state on some kind of rational course, at least when the White House leaves them alone to do so. This is particularly true on the national security team. And Trump’s decision to make Gen. Michael “Lock Her Up!” Flynn his national security adviser already has us in the hole on that score.
  • Mattis would seem to fit that bill. He’s a guy whose resume demonstrates that he would fully understand the missions of the Defense Department and act accordingly.
  • Then there’s the problem that Congress would have to grant an exemption that it has not granted until it did so for George C. Marshall. The law they’d have to waive arises from concerns about maintaining civilian control of the military. As y’all know, I’m not one of these post-Vietnam liberals who hyperventilate at the sight of a military uniform, fearing a real-life “Seven Days in May.” The Constitution sets the president as commander in chief, and that would seem sufficient. Well, it would under normal circumstances. Having a SecDef who is a recent general and is able to think rings around the president on military matters and foreign affairs could be a cause of concern on the fussy point of civilian control — but I personally would sleep better if I knew Mattis was calling the shots rather than the president-elect.
  • Mattis is far less trusting of Iran than President Obama. I think that is probably a healthy thing, but as Bryan would say, and this post is after all for Bryan, your mileage may vary.
  • I think it’s a very good thing that he has differed in the past from Trump on the idea of our allies getting a “free ride” on the back of U.S. power. He argued with a similar comment from President Obama once.
  • My guys John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board, which makes me like him better. Graham finds him “an outstanding choice,” and McCain says “He is without a doubt of one of finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops.”

Your thoughts?

‘Ridiculously loyal’ Clyburn re-elected, in case you were in suspense

I’m looking at this release from Jim Cyburn yesterday:

CLYBURN RE-ELECTED ASSISTANT DEMOCRATIC LEADER

Congressman James E. Clyburn released the following statement after the House Democratic Caucus elected him by acclamation to another term as Assistant Democratic Leader:

“I thank all my House Democratic colleagues for the faith and confidence they have expressed in me to serve as Assistant Democratic Leader in the 115th Congress. I am deeply honored to have the unanimous support of our Caucus and humbly accept this Leadership position with clear eyes and understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.clyburn

“As I said to my colleagues today, our experiences are what make us who and what we are. Our diversity – of experiences, backgrounds, ethnicities and constituencies – remains our greatest strength. As the only Member of elected Leadership from a deep red state and largely rural district, I will work tirelessly to stay connected to all of our Caucuses and regions and to give voice to the concerns of our diverse communities.

“Looking forward, I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where they do not have to fear the next decision of the Supreme Court of the United States for the impact it could have on their lives and communities. I want them to grow up where people in elected office are people they can look up to and emulate. Together, we can do something about that.”

Clyburn was nominated to be the Assistant Democratic Leader by Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) and seconded by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31) and Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large).

– 30 –

… and I find myself wondering to whom it matters, other than Clyburn himself.

To the extent that I give any thought whatsoever to the House Democrats’ re-election of the usual suspects — which is practically not at all — it seems to me that the minority are saying they don’t care much one way or the other.

They have no intention of changing anything, and they intend to go on their merry way, congratulating themselves on how “diverse” they are, patting each other on the backs for being right-thinking, and just continuing blithely down the road to irrelevance.

Or am I missing something here?

If I were a Democrat, I’d be really ticked off at the spectacle of complacency that the House caucus seems to represent. I’d demand to know what these people planned to do about translating our shared ideology into action. But since I’m not, I’m even less interested than these members themselves seem to be.

Oh, but wait! The State reports that there were “whispers” about replacing Clyburn and the rest. But before you get all excited, let me tell you that they came to nothing. Why? Because Clyburn is “ridiculously loyal,” as one member put it.

Now there’s an accolade for you…

Nothing against Clyburn personally, mind you. No one else seems to have any great ideas for changing their party’s fortunes, either. Or for doing much of anything. I just find that whole crowd rather underwhelming, don’t you?

On Al Capone and you-know-who: What’s the appeal?

Capone following his arrest on a vagrancy charge in 1930.

Capone following his arrest on a vagrancy charge in 1930.

Yesterday, Bryan Burrough reviewed a new book about Al Capone in The Wall Street Journal.

The writer, himself an author of a popular book on criminals of that era, confessed he was somewhat at a loss to explain why Capone remains such a favorite subject of readers: “I’ve read my share of books devoted to his life and legend, and I must admit, his appeal eludes me.”

The best bit of the review was this paragraph:

The portrait that invariably emerges is of a rank outsider, a Brooklynite making his way as a “businessman” in Chicago, a grandiose bloviator handed much of his empire in his 20s by his mentor, the retiring Johnny Torrio. When Capone encounters difficulties, he whines about his persecution by the press and a legal system “rigged” against him. Half the country thinks him a monster; others view him as the common man’s champion. Wait: This is beginning to sound familiar. I guess this isn’t the first time I’ve underestimated the appeal of such a man….

Yeah, I know the feeling.

No doubt there are a lot of voters out there — a lot more than most people had supposed — who would be interested in reading about such a man…

Capone's FBI rap sheet -- which seems oddly blank.

Capone’s FBI rap sheet — which seems oddly blank.

Guess who wants to eliminate the Electoral College?

Yep, it’s my old Tennessee buddy*, Al Gore.

But in fairness, he says this is a new position for him. He notes that after he won the popular vote but lost the election in 2000 (and yes, my Democratic friends, he did lose; it was not “handed to Bush” illegitimately by the Court), he still supported keeping the Electoral College.

Now, he makes these points along the way to explaining his change of mind (not all of these points are relevant; I just found them interesting):

  • He recognizes that such a move is “not without peril,” and there are good arguments both ways. He says it’s “a balancing act,” but the balance has changed in favor of popular election.
  • He says “I think it would stimulate public participation in the democratic process like nothing else we could possibly do.”
  • He uses the cliche, “the wisdom of crowds” — which seems ironic, given what just happened. Even if the election had been by popular vote, the number of people who voted for Trump would have been scary.
  • Acknowledges that “the Internet age is filled with all this junk,” which is fun to hear given the popular meme that follows him.
  • He sees popular election as one of “three or four things” — another is getting money out of the process — that could revitalize our democracy.

* No, he’s not really my buddy, but we did know each other when he was a senator and I was an editor at the paper in Jackson, TN. Given the season, here’s a favorite story related to that. Al’s uncle or cousin (I was never clear on the relationship) lived down the street from us in Jackson. He was older, shorter and rounder than Al. One Christmas Eve (having checked with us first), he came to our house in his Santa costume to chat briefly with our kids. They were about 7, 5 and 3 at the time, and it totally blew their minds. He was, needless to say, a more gregarious guy than his famous kinsman. He also used to host an annual game supper/political gathering that I attended once, and it was the only time I ever tasted venison.

gore

A cautionary tale as we head into the holidays…

w0mh9am

I have no idea what I was searching for the other day when I ran across this page, but I found it interesting.

There’s no text with it to explain what’s going on, beyond this:

Portraits after 1, 2 & 3 glasses of wine

And I suppose that’s sufficient.

In any case, the results were fairly predictable. People seemed slightly more apt to smile after one glass, then got really friendly-looking after two. Especially the ladies, thanks to their lesser mass. And, since the photographer chose only attractive young women, some came across as very, um, sexy at that point. Rather come-hither, or at least indiscriminately friendly. One senses the approach of an indiscretion. But that might be a perception bias on my part.

Then they had the third glass, and it was just… too much. As seen in the above example. This one, too. Obviously a bad idea. Should have stopped at two, or maybe one, since two seems liable to get people in trouble.

Some of the males got almost as goofy as the women, while others, such as the extreme example below, held rigidly to the traditional maxim that a man must be seen to hold his liquor.

But you know what? He may look sober, but I worry about him getting behind the wheel of a car.

A cautionary tale, as we head into the holidays…

sp4eizc

‘Idiocracy’ arrived 500 years early

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, in a scene reminiscent of Ted Cruz's "Machine-Gun Bacon" video.

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, in a scene reminiscent of Ted Cruz’s “Machine-Gun Bacon” video.

In reaction to a previous post, Bryan Caskey wrote:

What a stupid time to be alive.

Yep. None stupider, in U.S. history.

I’m just so embarrassed for my country. And every day for the next few years, I’ll wake up and have to be embarrassed again. And who knows how long it will last? Our political system is now in such disarray — neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any idea how to get back to electing rational people, and there are no other entities on the horizon prepared to do so — that I can’t see the end of this epidemic of stupidity.

I’ve always despised H.L. Mencken for his contempt toward most of America, but now it seems we’re every bit as stupid as he thought we were.

The people who made “Idiocracy” lacked imagination. It’s arrived 500 years earlier than they supposed. In that fictional world, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is a former professional wrestler. (As you see above, he shared a certain penchant with Ted “Machine-Gun Bacon” Cruz.) In our real world — and every day, I struggle to persuade myself that this actually is the real world — our president-elect is an inductee of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.

This, of course, is not an original thought. Quite a few people have said it in recent weeks. (My only defense is that I did THINK it Election Night, but didn’t feel like getting into it.)  Joel Stein explored it in TIME magazine as early as May in this piece. Excerpts:

Eight years ago, with the publication of Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason, our country had a debate about whether its citizens were becoming less intelligent. This year, we had a debate about how big Donald Trump’s penis is. While we have not resolved the latter, we have answered the former. Former means first, and latter means second….

In the Idiocracy-est moment of the whole 2016 campaign, a Trump supporter who shoved a black protester in the face explained his candidate-selection process to a reporter on MSNBC, Ali Vitali, thusly: “He’s no-bullsh-t. All balls. F-ck you, all balls. That’s what I’m about.” Though George Washington never said those exact words, he would have certainly killed a man for saying them.

I called the people who made Idiocracy to see how they so accurately predicted the future. “I’m no prophet,” Judge told me. “I was off by 490 years.” He too is shocked at how eerily similar the world has become to the one his movie depicted. He and Idiocracy co-writer Etan Cohen have been working on fake campaign ads for Camacho to be used as anti-Trump web videos, but they’re having a hard time. “Our jokes would be like, ‘I’m going to build a wall around the earth.’ They were only incrementally stupider,” says Cohen. “Writing Idiocracy was just following your id. Now unfortunately our id has become our candidate for President.” The danger here is clear: we will no longer be able to have comedies with hilarious dumb characters….

And why is that? Because all of a sudden, it’s not funny.

Come to think of it, “Idiocracy” wasn’t all that funny to start with. The opening credits, explaining how intelligent people in the present day failed to reproduce, while idiots did so like rabbits — basically, the explanation of the premise — was the best part. The rest quickly grew old. Because it’s just not much fun to contemplate living in a world governed by stupidity.

And now, here we are…

Another of the many basic things Trump has never thought about

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Trump voters wanted an outsider, but I doubt that they, or I, or anyone yet fully grasps just how out-of-the-loop this guy is.

I think I have a pretty good idea, based on the last year and a half. I’ve long known enough to see that — if you see the same things — you’d have to be stark, raving mad to want to put this guy anywhere near the Oval Office. But look what’s happened.

So, each day will bring us face-to-face with yet another thing that demonstrate that Donald Trump has never spent a moment of his garish life thinking about things that are second nature to people who — regardless of party or philosophy — possess the most basic qualifications to be president.

Sometimes it’s something small — but telling — such as this:

Now here’s a place where my own gut feelings are the same as those of our president-elect. The idea of someone showing such hatred and contempt toward the flag that our bravest Americans have given their lives to defend, and to raise over such places as, say, Iwo Jima — a flag that symbolizes the noble ideas upon which our nation was founded — is profoundly offensive, even obscene. I have utter contempt for anyone who would even consider such a thing.

But I wouldn’t use the power of the state to punish someone for it, certainly not to the extent of loss of citizenship, or a year of imprisonment. You might have me going for a moment on something such as writing the protester a ticket, but ultimately I’d even have to reject that. Why? Because of those very ideas that the flag stands for. If burning the flag causes a person to be burned or causes some other harm, then you have a crime. But if the expression itself is punishable, then it doesn’t matter whether the flag is burned because it doesn’t stand for anything.

(This is related to my opposition to “hate crimes,” one of the few areas where I agree with libertarians. Punish the crime — the assault, the murder, the arson, whatever the criminal did — not the political ideas behind it, however offensive.)

People who have their being in the realm of political expression have usually thought this through. And true, even people who have thought about it may disagree with my conclusion, wrong as they may be. Still others cynically manipulate the feelings of millions of well-meaning voters who haven’t thought the issue through themselves.

But I don’t think that’s the case with Trump. I think he’s just never really wrestled with this or thousands of other questions that bear upon civic life, so he goes with his gut, which as I admitted above is much the same as my own on this question. He engages it on the level of the loudmouth at the end of the bar: I’ll tell ya ONE damn’ thing… 

In a time not at all long ago — remember, Twitter didn’t exist before 2006 — we wouldn’t know this as readily as we do now. Sure, a political leader might go rogue during a speech, or get tripped up on an unexpected question during a press conference. But normally, the smart people surrounding a president would take something the president wanted to say and massage and process and shape it before handing it to a press secretary to drop into the daily briefing.

Now, the president-elect — or Joe Blow down the street — can have a gut feeling and without even fully processing the thought himself, immediately share it with the entire planet. As this president-elect does, often.

That’s a separate problem, of course, from the basic cluelessness of this president-elect. Not only does he not know a lot that he should, he has the impulse and the means to share that lack of knowledge and reflection with the world, instantly.

Quite a few people in public life haven’t figured out social media. They don’t understand something that editors know from long experience — that you have to be very careful about what you publish. (And yes, posting a random thought on Twitter does constitute publication.) Our governor, soon to be our U.N. ambassador, had a terrible time learning that, although to her credit she hasn’t done anything notably foolish on Facebook in a while.

As Aaron Blake writes on The Fix, it might be nice to think we could ignore these outbursts:

For the second time in two weekends, President-elect Donald Trump stirred controversy, bigly, using only his thumbs.

With a trio of tweets Sunday alleging millions of fraudulent votes and “serious” fraud in three states, Trump effectively hijacked the news cycle for the next 24 hours with baseless conspiracy theories. A week prior, it was Trump’s tweets demanding an apology from the cast of “Hamilton” for disrespecting Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience the previous night.

It can all feel pretty small and sideshow-y at times. Some have a prescription: The media should resist the urge to cover Trump’s tweets as big news. Others even say we should ignore them altogether….

But we can’t. In the months and years to some — assuming no one gets control of him, and I doubt anyone will — we must treat them as seriously as if the president strode into the White House Press Room and made a formal announcement.

This is what we’ve come to. Our window into the mind of the most powerful man in the world will to a great extent be these spasmodic eruptions onto a tiny keyboard.

We might as well brace ourselves…

The death of Fidel Castro (and Ron Glass, too!)

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By now, you’ve heard that Fidel Castro outlasted 10 U.S. presidents. I’ve read that several times. But I make it 11. Check my math:

  1. Eisenhower
  2. Kennedy
  3. Johnson
  4. Nixon
  5. Ford
  6. Carter
  7. Reagan
  8. Bush 41
  9. Clinton
  10. Bush 43
  11. Obama

Oh, I get it. They’re not counting Obama, since Fidel didn’t quite outlast him. Duh.

Whatever. Guy was in office a long time, longer than a lot of you have been alive.

And what’s he got to show for it? Almost six decades of oppression, and some beautifully preserved antique cars. I read over the weekend that since the thaw began, a huge part of the Cuban economy is American tourism and the officially tolerated sex trade, which takes us back to where he came in.

He’s been there so long, that it’s nice to do a recap to refresh your memory. Here’s one. Here’s another.

The big question now is, will things get better between the U.S. and Cuba now, or worse? I’m not overly optimistic, with you-know-who about to take over in Washington.

ron-glassAnd now, let’s pause a moment to remember Ron Glass, whom we all remember (if we’re old enough) from “Barney Miller,” but I recall more fondly as Shepherd Book from “Firefly.” As you may recall if you’re a Browncoat, one of the great unsolved mysteries from the short-lived series was just what sort of shady past the Shepherd had.

Now we’ll never know, even if there’s a revival of the series, which there should be.

Requiescat in pace, Ron… (Do they have Latin in the future ‘verse, or is it just English and Chinese?)

shepherd-book

Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations

haley-waving

Late on election night, the folks on PBS (Judy Woodruff, David Brooks, Mark Shields, and others), utterly flabbergasted and in desperate search for something to say, somehow got on the subject of “Whither the Republican Party?” Or something like that. I forget exactly how they got on the topic, but they got to talking about who might be waiting in the wings in the party — which is odd; it seems more like they’d have been asking that about the Democrats.

And maybe they did. My memory is cloudy because I was in shock, too. But here’s my point: Somehow the name that came up — and I think it was the first name, perhaps the only one — was that of Nikki Haley.

Which was… surprising. But national media have long thought a lot of her. As a young, presentable, female, nonwhite Republican, she plays well nationally, certainly in the Identity Politics sense. And she is very personable. She makes a great first, second and third impression. And her time in office has brought her greater poise, while she has moved somewhat away from the Tea Party fringe that elected her. And she truly became the leader of this state when she stepped out on the flag last year.

So now, after she had the good sense to distance herself from him during the primaries, she is Donald Trump’s choice to be U.N. ambassador. And it’s playing as a good decision in national coverage.

First let me say, I’m far happier with her as U.N. ambassador than I am with Donald Trump as president — no question. But let’s just say that’s not a high bar.

And… we can discuss this more later… I feel pretty good about Henry McMaster as governor. He was the best candidate for that office in the GOP primary in 2010, and the only thing I can think of to say against him is that he backed Trump in the primary.

But let’s discuss that later. Back to Nikki Haley…

I just have to say this, as a guy who cares deeply about this country’s dealings with the rest of the world: What qualifications does she have for the position? Aside from being as I said personable, which can be helpful in diplomacy, I cannot think of any at all.

Today, The Washington Post is saying:

Haley, a former Trump rival, is generally considered a mainstream Republican, with views on military and national security matters that fall within the GOP’s hawkish mainstream. She has little foreign policy experience.

First, let’s correct the second sentence — to my knowledge, she does not have ANY foreign policy experience. (And no, a few industrial recruitment trips selling South Carolina abroad do not count as foreign policy experience of the U.N. Security Council sort.)

As for the first experience — where are they getting that? Yeah, she has gravitated from a Tea Party candidate who couldn’t wait to make the Establishment miserable to a more neutral position (where I frankly think she is more comfortable). And bless her, she went with Rubio on the primary. But what “views on military and national security matters” are they referring to? Aside from being proud of her husband’s service in the National Guard, I cannot think of any that she has expressed. Not that she needed to; she’s never had a job that called upon her to do so.

(And is the GOP mainstream still hawkish? Are Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who well represent where the party has mostly been since 1945, still the gravitational center? We can discuss that another time, too.)

As U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley is a tabula rasa, as she was when she first ran for the House. The best thing that can be said is that she has no bad foreign policy habits to unlearn. If everyone in the GOP who knows anything about geopolitics had not run screaming from Donald Trump and all who sail in him, I suppose we could hope for her to be strenuously tutored — but who’s going to do it now? Trump?

And is U.N. ambassador actually the place where you go to get your feet wet in international relations? No. It does not come with training wheels, to the best of my knowledge. Of course, I’m a child of the Cold War, and grew up on such cultural references as “Failsafe” (and now, with Trump as president-elect, feel like I’m living in “Dr. Strangelove”). I see the U.N. Security Council as a deadly serious, high-stakes kind of thing, to say the least. Growing up with those references, I took what comfort I could from the notion that the people representing us around those conference tables in a crisis knew a lot more about this stuff than I did. And I wonder — back when Trump was asked about the nuclear triad and found wanting, how would our governor have answered the same question?

As y’all know, I’ve had frequent occasions to praise Gov. Haley in the last year or so; I’ve really felt that she was growing in the job, and I will always praise her to the skies for her leadership on getting the Confederate flag down. That was amazing, and wonderful, and stunning. It made her a heroine in my eyes.

But does any of that, or her calm, visible leadership during weather crises — for which I also honor her — qualify her for this?

Please tell me it does, and explain why, because I really want to feel better about this…

SC Democrats celebrate the thinnest of silver linings

This is one of those posts that makes Jaime Harrison think about taking me off his mailing list — and makes Matt Moore feel smug for having never put me on his (despite my request).

SC Democrats are doing their very best to put a brave face on the recent election. It took them a couple of weeks, but they’ve managed to come up with three whole victories in partisan races, statewide, to celebrate:

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My Fellow Democrats,
As we prepare for the Trump Administration, Democrats are fortunate to have a strong contingent of leaders to lead the fight, both here in South Carolina and throughout the country.  We are particularly excited for those who were elected to new positions in our state to take office and get to work for all South Carolinians.  From school board to SC Senate, there are newly elected Democrats across the state.  These Democrats will play important roles in the coming struggle.  Some of these Democrats with important new positions include:
– Mia McLeod won the SC Senate election in District 22, which includes parts of Richland and Kershaw Counties.  Her victory keeps the seat in Democratic hands following the distinguished tenure of retiring Senator Joel Lourie.  The passionate and effective advocacy Sen.-elect McLeod displayed in the SC House will be a great asset in the Senate.
– Mike Fanning was elected to the SC Senate from District 17, which includes all of Fairfield and Chester Counties and part of York County.  He is committed to shaking up status quo in Columbia so that our state government serves the people, not special interests.
– Mary Tinkler defeated a 20-year Republican incumbent to be Charleston County Treasurer.  She will continue the important work she has done in the SC House looking out for all taxpayers.
In addition to these impressive Democratic victories, we would also like to congratulate Alfred Mae Drakeford on her election as Mayor of Camden in a nonpartisan race.  She will be the first African American to serve in that position.
With great public servants like these taking office, we can be confident that our values and priorities will be defended in the halls of power.  And with sustained effort from all of us in support of them and their colleagues, our future will be bright.
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison

Yeah… that’s, you know, kinda sad, guys…

Not that I agree with that silly letter in The State today. I think Jaime does a fine job. He just doesn’t have a great situation to work with, to engage in British-class understatement…

Is Graham trying to out-Trump Trump on Clinton?

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I thought this was an odd response from Lindsey Graham to the news that Trump was dropping the idea of prosecuting Hillary Clinton:

On Reports President-elect Trump Will Not Pursue Clinton Investigation:

“Well so much for ‘Locking Her Up’ I guess. The bottom line is that I think the Clinton Foundation, the whole mess, should be looked at with an independent view, not a political agenda. I never believed Obama’s Justice Department would seriously look at what she may have done. I can understand wanting to put the election behind us and heal the nation, but I do hope all the things President-elect Trump said about how crooked she was – well, we just don’t let it go without some serious effort to see if the law was truly violated.  I think that would be a mistake.”

I find it odd for several reasons, including:

  • Graham is not a guy who has been shy about holding Trump accountable, as demonstrated anew with his comments after the president-elect chatted with his would-be buddy Putin.
  • Possibly the most egregious moment in the campaign was when Trump threatened — in a nationally televised, live debate — to turn the United States into a banana republic by locking up his political opposition.
  • Graham is a big advocate for the rule of law, and an intelligent politician, and I can’t believe that he doesn’t see it would be impossible for Trump to pursue a prosecution against Hillary Clinton after having said what he said and have that be seen as anything other than abuse of power.
  • He certainly understands that any prosecutorial moves on her would be a judgment call — it’s not like she clearly and with malice aforethought went out a committed a major crime, something that couldn’t be overlooked no matter the political and constitutional ramifications.
  • Graham isn’t one of these guys with a 20-plus-year record of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. He got along pretty well with her when she served in the Senate, so it’s out of character for him to express reluctance to let go of this bone.

All of that adds up to it being weird for him to go “Are you sure you want to do that?” when Trump, of all people, is willing to let it go — possibly at the price of loss of favor among a lot of the folks who voted for him.

Oh, and as long as I’ve got you, I should share the other topic he addressed — Jeff Sessions. Here’s a quote, and it’s all on the video below, two-and-a-half minutes in:

On the Nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General:

“I’ve known Jeff for twenty years. I think he’s a principled conservative. I’ll have some questions for him before the Judiciary Committee. These attacks on his personal character, about him being some kind of closet racist or what he may have said thirty or forty years ago is complete garbage. Jeff Sessions is one of the finest people I have ever known. I don’t think there is a hateful bone in his body. We have some policy differences so I’ll be glad to challenge Jeff where we disagree, but support him in terms of him being a good, decent man. And to my Democratic colleagues, you better watch what you do here.”

Did ‘Aaron Burr’ et al. play into Trump’s hands?

hamilton-public

I like putting “Aaron Burr” in headlines. It lets me pretend that I’m living in times in which “the damn’ fool that shot him” was alive and active in our politics. Not that I like Burr much. But it puts me in a time when our presidential choices were between people like Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison (and Burr, who nearly won over Jefferson, but let’s skim over that).

Sigh…

Anyway, to follow up on yesterday’s post about the “Hamilton” incident (again, something that sounds like the kind of incident I’d rather be writing about than “Trump” incidents), there’s a growing body of thought out there that the artsy liberal actors played right into the hands of the president-elect. Even that Pence’s presence there may have been a deliberate provocation.

And that this sort of thing is likely to happen again and again because, you know, those Eastern cultural elites are just so predictable, and can’t help themselves. Strike them on their emotional patellar tendons, and they jerk.

From Catherine Rampell:

Trump, and only Trump, won this round in the culture wars. And with many more rounds to come, liberals need to find some way not to take his bait.

Maybe Pence decided to see the hottest show on Broadway because it’s the hottest show on Broadway. Or because it’s a Pulitzer-Prize-winning work by a bona-fide genius. Or because, with its story of a destitute autodidact pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, it has had documented appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Pence attended Friday’s performance specifically hoping, or at least expecting, to stoke boos and a brouhaha that would ultimately rouse the Republican base — and distract from much more embarrassing Trump-related news.

Think about it. Trump could not have chosen a more perfect cultural foil than “Hamilton” if he’d designed the show himself. The show has — somewhat paradoxically — become an unwitting symbol of out-of-touch, cosmopolitan liberal elites.

Tickets to the smash hit can fetch thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to all but the reasonably wealthy. The show is fawned upon by effete elites such as myself….

Most important, at least to Trump’s base, “Hamilton” has Hispanics literally taking the jobs of old white men…

A digression: Actually, I think by casting “people of color” (one of the odder, most stilted, most retrograde-sounding phrases currently approved by those Trump is pleased to bait) in the roles of the Founders, Lin-Manuel Miranda has struck a blow against political correctness. By portraying the folks too many would dismiss as “old, dead white guys” as people of every race and color, he has rescued them from the scorn of the sillier Identity Politicians and shown the universality of their ideas and accomplishments. It sort of says, Shut up about their race and gender and read what they wrote!

But back to Ms. Rampell’s point, which has also been made by duty conservative Marc Thiessen:

Hey Democrats, want help to rally the country around Donald Trump? Here’s a great idea: Have a crowd of wealthy, out-of-touch Manhattan liberals (who can afford $849 tickets to “Hamilton”) boo Vice President-elect Mike Pence while the cast of the Broadway show lectures him on diversity.

The Democratic Party’s alienation from the rest of America was on full display at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night. And the left seems completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks to the rest of the United States. Professors at Yale and Columbia universities and other elite schools postpone exams and cancel classes for students who could not deal with the election results. Kids in Washington schools cut class with tacit approval from administrators to march in protest of the results of a free and fair election. School officials in Montgomery County offer grief counselors to “help students process any concerns or feelings they have about the election.” (Funny, I don’t recall anyone canceling exams or offering my kids grief counselors when Barack Obama was elected).

People in the American heartland see all this, and they shake their heads in disgust. Today’s Democrats have become a party of coastal elites completely disconnected from the rest of America. Doubt it? Take a look at a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential election. You can drive some 3,000 miles across the entire continental United States — from sea to shining sea — without driving through a single county that voted for Hillary Clinton….

They may be looking at it from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it’s interesting that they both reached similar conclusions…

‘Heil Victory,’ say some members of the alt-right at gathering

This is from a report in The New York Times today:

WASHINGTON — By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the altright movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an underground organization and more like the establishment.

But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President­elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room — it was not clear who — shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back…

I won’t comment except to remind you of my frequent previous mentions of fascism, which were not exaggerations. Note that this occurred in Washington, D.C., not Nuremberg.

Politico passed on this nugget from the same event:

The meeting attendees — an overwhelmingly white and male audience, with many sporting closely cropped faux hawk-like haircuts, though one was spotted wearing a yarmulke — gathered in the atrium were an engaged group, often booing journalists asking questions. Outside, the scene was more rambunctious: protests raged off of Pennsylvania Ave., and one man with a bloody face was seen seeking police assistance, though the circumstances of his injury were unclear. Tila Tequila, a reality TV personality who was listed by event organizers as a guest, posted a picture of herself on Twitter engaged in a Nazi-style salute.

“Seig [sic] heil!” the tweet read….

Yeah, it’s hilarious — Nazi wannabes who can’t spell “Sieg.” Well, there was a time when good Germans thought the Nazis were a joke, too.

‘Aaron Burr’ just couldn’t follow his own advice with Pence

“Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, did not take to heart the advice his character gives the young Hamilton:

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice:

Talk less…

Smile more…

Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for…

If he had been the real Burr, he would not have singled out his successor-elect, Mike Pence, for embarrassment after the show the other night.

A lot of people who are as distressed over the election results as I am think it was great for Dixon to deliver this message from the stage to Pence, who was in the audience:

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to audience hoots and laughter. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”

As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say, “because this message needs to be spread far and wide.” The cast, in their 18th-century costumes, and the crew, in jeans and T-shirts, linked arms and hands behind Dixon….

“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” Dixon said to further applause. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us . . .”

The audience erupted in cheers again. “Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

As I say, some thought it was great. I did not. It seemed tacky, gauche, not the proper place. The man in the audience was a guest, and did not come to harangue anyone — or to be harangued.

It’s not that the actor was hostile or cruel or anything like that. He wasn’t inciting anything; he was just saying, We’re all pretty upset your ticket got elected, so please reassure us by your actions. Which is the sort of thing I myself might say to Pence were I to run into him and be introduced. But of course, that’s a different dynamic from singling someone out of a crowd.

Nor did Pence mind, or so he says. (as to what Trump thought, which we learned all about when he launched him on another of his childish rants, I address that in a comment below.) And I get that the cast and crew didn’t want to throw away their shot. But it just didn’t seem the place. I’d have felt terribly awkward had I been there. I feel awkward just hearing about it, especially since, as I am so dismayed at the election result — because of Trump, remember, not Pence — this gaucherie was committed by someone who agrees with me on that point. That makes me feel responsible.

So I thought I’d say something…

One more thought: One would think that everything the cast and crew wanted to say — about “diversity,” about the value of immigrants, about fundamental rights — had already been said, beautifully and creatively, by the play they had just performed. And since Pence had come to hear it, it seems to me that the message had been delivered, by the masterpiece it took Lin-Manuel Miranda seven years to write, far better than a hastily-penned speech could do.

The only thing the little speech said that the play did not was, Yo, Mike Pence — we see you out there — yeah, you. And we’ve got a problem with you.

And that’s the bit that seemed to me unnecessary.

If they wanted to acknowledge Pence, the stage manager could have stepped onto the stage before the show to say, We have a special guest in the audience tonight, vice president-elect Mike Pence. Mr. Pence, we hope you enjoy the show, take it to heart, and go forth inspired. We hope you all do.

That would have been appropriate…

All the bad guys in the world are THRILLED at prospect of a diminished United States under Trump

On a previous post, our own Phillip Bush said he’s concerned about the Trump administration being “Bush/Cheney redux.”

We’re not going to be so lucky. There’s little chance of having an administration that is anything like Bush’s — or Obama’s, or Clinton’s, or Reagan’s, or Carter’s, or Nixon’s, or Johnson’s, or Kennedy’s, or Eisenhower’s, or Truman’s.

Yeah, I get why Phillip said that — John Bolton is a hard case, and some call him a “neocon,” although he really doesn’t fit the description. Neocons are liberals who deserted the left after Vietnam. Bolton has always been a conservative — he backed Goldwater in 1964.

But forget Bolton — in fact, I am little interested in who will hold this or that position. None of these appointments are as bad, or as consequential, as what has already happened — the election of Donald Trump, a man who just by being president will diminish the influence of the United States in the world.

You’ve probably read that most world leaders — particularly our friends — are deeply dismayed by what happened last week, and very worried about what happens next. They’re perhaps as upset as I am, and for some of the same reasons — my greatest worry about a Trump victory was its effect on international relations. You probably also know that this is exactly what Russia and China wanted — a clueless goofball at the helm of the United States, leaving the vacuum that they are eager to fill.

But others were cheering last week, too. And still are. The Guardian bothered to chronicle some of the reactions from a rogue’s gallery of extremists — mostly right-wing, populist nationalists: Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National in France; Viktor Orbán, the hardline nationalist leader of Hungary; Frauke Petry, the lead of Germany’s rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland; Greece’s Golden Dawn, the party seen as Europe’s most virulent far-right force; Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Austria’s rightwing populist Freedom party; the Dutch far-right leader and MP Geert Wilders; Beppe Grillo, the former comedian and the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in Italy; and of course Nigel Farage in Britain.

Fareed Zakaria looked beyond Europe, at some of the other bullies, tyrants and loonies who are happy that a man who neither understands or believes in America’s role in the postwar order will be in charge:

Duterte

Duterte

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad called Trump a “natural ally.” Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian leader of the Philippines, said of him, “We both like to swear . . . we’re the same.” Duterte has been hostile to the United States because Washington has criticized the extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses that have marked his tenure. Robert Mugabe, who has clung to power in Zimbabwe for 36 years while destroying that nation’s economy and liberties, has been similarly hopeful. A full-page editorial in a state-run paper there hailed the election of “the mighty Trump,” and the 92-year-old dictator has reportedly described Trump as a “friend.” No doubt Duterte and Mugabe hope that a Trump administration will go easy on them….

All over the world, separatists and nationalists, thugs and bullies of all stripes are ecstatic over Trump’s victory. Why? Because they see this as the end of the internationalist consensus that we’ve had since Truman, an unprecedented era of peace among major powers, largely led and guaranteed by an engaged United States.

Zakaria explains what’s at stake, in a simple, Geopolitics 101 manner:

But what is this globalism to which these people are so opposed? After 1945, after the Great Depression and two world wars, Western nations established an international system characterized by rules that honored national sovereignty, allowed for the flourishing of global commerce, and encouraged respect for human rights and liberties. This order resulted in the longest period of peace among the world’s major powers, marked by broad-based economic growth that created large middle classes in the West, the revival of Europe, growth in poor countries that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and the spread of freedom across the globe.

The U.S. role in all this was pivotal. It set the agenda and provided security, which was about more than just deterring the Soviet Union and other aggressive powers. Radek Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister, said, “America’s influence and its commitments have been our security blanket. They have allowed Europe’s national rivalries to stay dormant. If you take away those guarantees, Europe could get very unstable.” And remember, the European Union is the world’s biggest market and the United States’ largest trading partner.

For the United States, “globalism” has produced enormous advantages. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States dominates the global economy, in technology, education, finance and clean energy. One in five U.S. jobsis a result of trade, and that number is growing fast. The United States maintains the world’s reserve currency, giving it a huge economic advantage.

The benefits of growth and globalization have not been shared equally, and the pace of change causes anxiety everywhere. But these are reasons to invest in people, upgrade their skills and better integrate communities. They are not reasons to destroy the most peaceful and productive international system ever devised in human history….

Of course, some of my friends — Doug and others — would like to see the United States be a smaller, humbler country confined to its own borders. But my libertarian and my post-Vietnam liberal friends will find themselves in some ugly company in cheering a diminished United States.

This is a very bad moment for liberal democracy around the world.

Lindsey Graham on possible Trump nominations

Since I haven’t had time to write a real post today, I’ll share this from Lindsey Graham. It might prompt some discussion:

Graham Statements on Possible Trump Cabinet Appointments and Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made these statements today about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Ø  On Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton as Possible Nominees for Secretary of State:

“The overwhelming majority of Republican senators have the utmost respect for Rudy Giuliani.  He led the nation and New York through 9/11.  He’s a citizen of the world who is eminently qualified to serve as Secretary of State.

“As for John Bolton, he was United Nations Ambassador under President Bush.  He is a reformer who would turn the State Department upside down and make it work better.  He understands who our friends and enemies are.  We see the world in very similar ways.   

“I believe an overwhelming majority of Republican senators would support either candidate and some Democrats would too.  You will never convince me that Giuliani and Bolton are not qualified to serve at this level.”  

Ø  On Senator Rand Paul’s Threat to Filibuster Giuliani or Bolton:

“You could put the number of Republicans who will follow Rand Paul’s advice on national security in a very small car.  Rand is my friend but he’s a libertarian and an outlier in the party on these issues.  The fact that Senator Paul opposes Bolton and Giuliani will not keep them from serving.” 

Ø  On South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as Possible Secretary of State:

“She’s done a good job as Governor of South Carolina.  She’s talented, capable and would do a good job in any assignment given to her.  I think Nikki is a traditional Republican when it comes to foreign policy – more like Ronald Reagan than Rand Paul.  I like her a lot.  I would certainly support her.”   

Ø  On Ted Cruz for the Supreme Court:

“We are replacing Justice Scalia, who was probably the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.  Ted Cruz is a constitutional conservative in the mold of Justice Scalia.  If you are looking for a Scalia-type figure, Ted Cruz fits the bill.  We have had our differences, but even his worst critics cannot say Ted Cruz is not one of the smartest, most gifted lawyers in the country.  If you are looking for someone like Justice Scalia to serve on the Supreme Court, take a look at Ted Cruz.”

#####

TV had better do Stranger in a Strange Land RIGHT!

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Y’all may recall that several years back, this item topped my list of Top Five Books that Should Have Been Made Into Movies by Now:

  1. Stranger In A Strange Land — … Definitely number one. An entire generation would buy tickets to see this, if it were any good at all. The sex stuff toward the end might have been a barrier in the 60s, but not now. I remember once in the early 70s hearing that it was being made into a movie starring David Bowie, but that turned out to be something else. Since nobody else seems interested, I’ve thought about trying to write the screenplay myself, but only if Hollywood would let me be in it. I would have been a natural for Ben Caxton when I was younger, but now I’d probably have to audition to be Jubal Harshaw. Of course, the soundtrack would have to include the Leon Russell song of the same name.

And today, just days after the death of Leon, I get this news:

Robert Heinlein’s Scifi Classic Stranger in a Strange Land Is Coming to TV

True to its name, the Syfy channel has made a habit of adapting science fiction and fantasy literature both established (Childhood’s End, Hyperion) and contemporary (The Expanse, The Magicians). Now it seems there’s another much-beloved property on the network’s list: Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land.

According to a press release, this is the first TV adaptation of Stranger in a Strange Land—very broadly, the tale of a Mars-born man who travels to Earth and experiences human culture for the first time; it influenced the counterculture and won a Hugo en route to becoming a classic. No further details on the proposed TV series were announced, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this one….

OK, first, this had better be good. I’ve been waiting for it for 46 years. Not a long time at all from an Old One’s perspective (they’d be content to wait another century or two), but quite a stretch for those of us who have no immediate plans to discorporate.

And in that time — especially most recently — we have become accustomed to a level of quality in TV series that we couldn’t have dreamed of back when I first read the book.

So when I say this needs to be be good, I mean like “Sopranos” good, or “Band of Brothers” good. I want it to be better than “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.” Merely making it better than “Dune,” The Worst Movie Of All Time, won’t even get you into the right universe of how good this needs to be.

So yeah, we’re ALL gonna keep an eye on this one. If they don’t grok the fullness, if we sense a wrongness in the result, the Old Ones will know, because they’re monitoring.

You grok what we’re saying, TV people?

Oh, also, I’d still like a part in the series. Ben Caxton would be best, but as I say, I’m too old. And I’m much, MUCH too young to play Jubal — he’s supposed to be so old, people are amazed to find him still walking around, much less as spry as he is. He’s like at least in his 90s.

I’d settle for something minor. How about James Oliver Cavendish, the famous Fair Witness whose services Ben engages to go interview the fake Man from Mars? I think that’s in my range.

Now, let’s discuss who will play the other parts….

It better be THIS good. We'll be watching. Capisce?

It had better be THIS good. We’ll be watching. Capisce? (That’s Italian-American for “grok”…)