Monday, April 25, 2016

Trump, Cruz and the exchange rate for ‘mean’

Ever since his rise from political obscurity in Texas, observers have used words for Ted Cruz like "smart" and "shrewd."

Watching him on the campaign trail, I'm thinking, "Not so much."

Here's how smart Ted Cruz is. His "New York values" snideness in the pre-Iowa debate, which helped him win a whole eight delegates there, won him exactly zero delegates in New York. Indeed, in one precinct he got fewer votes than Ben Carson, now in a witness protection program somewhere.

We hear such words as "shrewd" and "smart" for how Donald Trump has handled all that daddy money of his. Watching him on the campaign trail, I'm thinking, "Not so much."

Someone who is going to spend a whole bunch of that money on becoming president would do a better job of building bridges, instead of walling off people, races, classes -- you know, people he would be elected to serve in the most unlikely event that he were chosen.

Should he get the nomination, Trump will be the least-liked nominee in history. That's a good reason why a lot of Republican leaders are planning to be somewhere other than Cleveland when the GOP awards that honor.

Understand, this nomination stuff is still speculation. Trump could come very close and not get it. Here's one reason he wouldn't: Pure meanness. Trump was so brutal in his treatment of Marco Rubio that the latter says he will withhold all of his delegates through the first ballot. The way things look now, it could be just enough to derail the Trump Train.

As for Cruz, no question, he has turned in a bravura performance getting hard-right tea party types to show up at caucuses and exalt his name.

However, when it comes to appealing to any other demographic — and we know the tea party to be basically a Glenn Beck quilting klatch — he is as unfit to appeal to a national demographic as Curt Schilling is to receive the next ESPY Humanitarian Award.

What is it with people like Cruz and Trump — and their Mother Teresa figure, Sarah Palin — that compels them to insult whole groups, even whole regions, of people? I can tell you it's not the compulsion to lead a nation.

Trump's handlers this week, with a nomination looming on the horizon like the last Stuckey's in this time zone, said he will be refining his demeanor to project a broader, softer, more presidential self.

Um, have they watched any TV news and late-night programming in the last eight months? Did they watch the debates? Did they hear their charge the next day, promising not to bore his audiences?

If there's a Good Donald, he is locked in a dressing room while Bad Donald performs every day, and I mean every day. Such branding would not be more deeply embedded if the GEICO gecko shared a bunk with you.

Meanwhile, you might have heard or noticed that Cruz, too, is also on his own image-burnishing campaign, showing up on late-night TV to show off his humor and humanity.

This is going to be a trick. The man's singular endeavor as a U.S. senator has been to shut down the national parks. He's been called the most hated man in the Senate. In Sen. Lindsey Graham's phrasing: "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you."

A word further on Cruz. It was a stunning achievement when the hard-right life force of the Texas Republican Party elevated him to the Senate over more moderate rivals. However:

As Cruz's appeal has been only to that segment, that white, intensely insular slice of society, and as Texas increasingly is more diverse and less insular, Cruz offers Democrats their greatest opportunity in decades to take a Senate seat and begin the inevitable process of turning it blue.

Smart men seeking to represent many wouldn't be so mean.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, April 18, 2016

National fetish is double-barrel menace

The current Texas Monthly is a special issue – a .38 Special, if you will. It's about guns.
Page after page, see and hear about Texans and their rods. A cover shot and photo gallery show people and their beloved rifles, carbines and sidearms. See former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson pose with his Colt .45 like one might a trophy walleye. If one could peer down that barrel, you'd bet one could see into the man's soul.
Artist Matthew Diffee depicts what he saw and heard at a San Antonio gun show. One quote: "We sell freedom implements and other bunker supplies."
Ah, freedom. In a bunker.
I understand how a few readers might see it differently, but one must ask how this form of fetishism took root.
After all, a firearm is an appliance that shoots a projectile. I have a toaster. It shoots toast.
Precedent set, we can look forward to Texas Monthly's "Toast" issue. For the photo gallery, I offer to pose with my Sunbeam 2-Slicer. We are inseparable. My slogan: "Toast -- the taste of freedom."
No one should take this as a criticism of gun ownership. My father had a service revolver, making him one among millions. One distinction: He was openly disdainful of any group that, like the NRA, would make the gun the Golden Calf of our time.
Once again: A rifle is an appliance. So when something called the National Rifle Association can be considered Washington's most powerful lobbying arm, one wonders what power the National Waffle Iron Association could wield.
The other day legions of petitioners called on the Republican Party to allow the open carrying of firearms at the national convention this summer in Cleveland. Fortunately, the Secret Service expressed its reservations.
As a fallback, petitioners could ask the Secret Service to allow the brandishing of blenders and food processors. Therein lies the solidarity of a great cause. I'll yield my Cuisinart when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
None can dispute the utility of rifles for trophy-hunting possum or nutria on a river bank. However, it is necessary to wonder how one's gun has become the extension of one's self.
As a child, I never questioned why Davy Crockett called his rifle "Old Betsy," but I am quite sure he didn't plan to marry her. For some of those portrayed by Texas Monthly's cavalcade of exhibitionism, one wonders if nuptials were performed.
The line is, "Guns don't kill people." True in the abstract.  However, guns are more likely to kill when their owners have transformed them into Pixar characters. The term is "anthropomorphizing." Webster's will explain that for you.
I understand how guns are "part of our heritage." So, too, is the butter churn. I understand how guns have "preserved the peace." So, too, have handshakes.
The problem, of course, is that firearms kill thousands of Americans every year. In sum, and inarguably, guns don't make this a safer place ("keeping the peace"). They make it far more dangerous than – say, oh, just about anywhere where run racks aren't treated like communion candles.
Reasonable gun regulations that would save lives are thwarted by unreasonable parties. Meanwhile, gun industry proxies terrorize lawmakers into doing their bidding.
I am the first to acknowledge that I would react violently if government knocked on my door to take away my toaster. However, I've told myself that's an overreaction. Considering how little has been done in 30 years to alter the proliferation of appliances that kill in bunches, maybe the bunker I had planned for my front yard would be overkill.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tiny tweak, big message about human dignity

At first glance, HB 16-1396, passed recently by the Democratic-controlled Colorado House, looked like one of those pointless and petty bills -- like Congress' designating National Tap Dance Day (May 20).

However, I've thought about HB 16-1396 a little more. I now realize it isn't pointless, it isn't petty, and it's not a small matter. It's as big as we aspire to be.

Procedurally, the bill is only a tiny tweak to Colorado law. It would remove "illegal alien" from all laws, just as California removed the word "alien" from labor laws.

From a logistics point of view, it's no big deal. Now watch opponents make a big deal out of it. Because, of course, we aren't talking about logistics.

The bill's rationale has been expressed often in such phrases as, "Human beings aren't illegal," and, "Aliens are from outer space."

On the other side, we'll quote State Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton: "It's that PC thing that's being pushed."

Ah, yes -- "politically correct" -- two words that, in full sneer, made Donald Trump instantly presidential to some.

The general thrust of opposition to HB 16-1396 is that, if we soften our language, in effect we'll be rolling out the red carpet for people who aren't welcome. This is why, by the way, the chances of the bill's passage are slim to none in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Of course, the intent isn't to soften immigration laws (something over which the state Legislature has no control). This is about words of respect vs. words that degrade. (The bill would change "illegal alien" to "undocumented immigrant" or "foreign national.")

At its essence, the impulse to call people "illegal" or "alien" advances the inclination to think of outsiders as bad people. Your experience may differ, but having worked with and having been served by innumerable undocumented individuals (and who hasn't?) for just about all of them that's not just factually wrong; it's morally wrong.

It's as wrong as using "savages" to denote the original Americans. It's as wrong as using "ragheads" for our friends of Muslim heritage. It's as wrong as "chinks" and "spics," and of course the N-word.

I'll suggest that if the term "PC" were around a lifetime ago when most of us got the above slurs out of our systems, the hangers-on would have denounced the change as "political correctness run amok."

Well, get incensed, all you hardliners. Recently the Library of Congress announced it would cease using "illegal alien" in its bibliographic listings.

Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro has authored a bill to eliminate the term from federal regulations. Fat chance that it will get anywhere in a House controlled by those whose fine-tuned lingo appeals to that good old bigotry in men, whether referring to people of color, of Muslim heritage, or a sexual orientation that varies from their own.

Whatever the case, it is right to expel "illegal alien" from our legal nomenclature. After that, we can work on our personal nomenclature.

Granted, it's a puny thing, except for the big message in, "All men are created equal." That, by the way, could be read to mean, "No man is created illegal."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Devil’s in the details, if we could find any

"Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it."

Donald Trump in 40 words or fewer.

Understand, now: Those words aren't from The Donald. They're from The Joker, lines cackled by the crooked-faced one in the 2008 Batman installment, "The Dark Knight."

We imagine Trump in his darkened Trump Tower screening room back then, pondering how one day he'd run the world, hearing the line and saying, "Damn. Wish I'd said that."

"I don't know what to do" would have been a heap better than what Trump told Chris Matthews when asked about how he'd handle women who had abortions if, as Trump said he'd prefer, abortion were illegal.

Trump said they should be punished, before backing away from the statement, then appearing to oppose any change in the law, before appearing to change his mind again, before appearing to change it again, before rolling the dice and advancing his token to Boardwalk.

Listen to Trump and one wonders if it is all a game, this governance stuff. Does it really matter what he says?

Here's the thing, though. What Trump said about punishing desperate women is, well . . . Let's let a Huffington Post headline express it: "Donald Trump accidentally articulates GOP abortion stance a little too loudly."

Let's face it, writes HuffPost's Jason Linkins. If abortion is a crime – "murder," "a holocaust," sayeth the anti-choice brigade, punishment of the perpetrators is only fitting. Trump enunciated "the actual implications of Republican policies" on abortion.

A dog never contemplates what it would do if it caught the car. And neither do those who want government to mandate that all pregnant women gestate until term. How to punish? Whom to punish? How to determine if a pregnancy ended naturally or unnaturally?

John Kasich says he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity. How would President Kasich enforce an exemption for rape or incest? Would the victim be required to appeal to a judge, and then have to wait on legally adjudicated facts about her rape (and apprehension and conviction of the rapist?) before getting the state's permission to end her pregnancy?

This makes it more efficient to do as Ted Cruz would, and require the rape victim to endure her assailant's seed all the way to the delivery room.

Republican leaders constantly are chasing cars without so much as a clue about what to do if they sunk their teeth into it.

Consider the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in the House have voted 62 times to abolish it. Not once have they suggested an alternative to it and what to do with the millions of Americans who would lose coverage without it.

Back to Trump and his riveting on-screen performances as Two-Face:

Abortion rights is just one matter on which he's shown he hasn't given much thought to what governance means. CNN has run down a list of them, and they're most curious.

For instance, on immigration, Trump told the New York Times editorial board that his ironclad vow to deport all undocumented individuals was "negotiable." And after saying he would ban new Muslim immigrants, he has said he'd accept "rich Muslims."

Trump has laid out multiple and contradictory positions on torture, on the Iraq incursion, on the Afghanistan occupation, on gun control, and, of all things, nuclear proliferation.

On the one hand calling it the "biggest problem" in the world, he's turned around and said he'd like to see Japan and South Korea nuclear-armed.

"Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" – The Joker.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: