What Trump Gets From Denying Defeat

It’s been a month since election night, and after weeks of lawsuits, recounts, wild allegations, baseless conspiracy theories, fired election officials, and fervent denials, nothing has drawn into question whether Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th. He will.

I suspect Donald Trump is fully aware of this, but don’t expect him to concede defeat… ever.

This isn’t simply about his ego, though that’s a pretty big part of it. Trump and his loyal followers are faithfully invested in the theme that he is a consummate “winner.” That’s a tough narrative to reconcile after he lost the election by 74 electoral votes and lost the popular vote by a whopping 7 million… especially considering he was running against a candidate as unimpressive as Joe Biden.

Some may recall that Trump did this same type of thing back in 2016, attributing state primary losses to corrupt officials and “rigged” systems. Heck, he even did it after he won the general election, claiming without proof that he lost the popular vote because 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.

This is what he does. Thus, the denials will continue.

But again, this is about more than ego. While Trump’s actions and rhetoric are bad for the country, they’re pretty helpful to his political future, should he decide to have one. Because so many Republican voters don’t buy the results of the election (between 70 and 80 percent, according to the polls), it appears he’ll manage to escape personal accountability — at least among the Republican base — for having lost.

John McCain and Mitt Romney were cut no such break. When they lost their respective presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, it didn’t matter that both had run against a very strong, historically important opponent. It didn’t matter that McCain had the unpopularity of the Bush administration, years of war-weariness, and a 30-year mortgage crisis working against him. It didn’t matter that Romney had a big political disadvantage in running against an incumbent, landmark president. The sentiment among the GOP base, later tapped into and amplified by Donald Trump, was that they were losers. Thus, the party needed to get behind a much different type of candidate.

In 2016, Trump was that guy. A plurality of Republican voters saw fire in Trump’s belly. He was someone who would say anything and fight anyone. It didn’t really matter what was the battle or who was the opponent.

Trump also had luck on his side.

Whoever won the Republican nomination that year was going to have the historical advantage that comes with running against an opposition party that’s held the White House for two consecutive terms. But Trump also got to face a uniquely bad and broadly disliked opponent in Hillary Clinton, whose email scandal had been brought back into the spotlight (just days before the election) by an announcement of new developments from FBI directory James Comey. Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by 3 million ballots, Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency.

With victory came the bragging rights, and boy did he brag.

Four years later, Trump also had a number of things working in his favor. He was the incumbent. The economy had been very strong under his watch, right up until the pandemic hit. The Democratic primary had come off like a political clown-show during every debate, producing one radical and ridiculous idea after another. That contest’s winner, Joe Biden, enjoyed little enthusiasm and drew serious doubts about his cognitive sharpness. Even with a global health crisis turning countless lives and livelihoods upside-down, state governors who took charge and exuded leadership saw their job-approval ratings rise; Trump did too, for a while.

But ultimately, Trump lost. And he lost by quite a bit. He was defeated by the same electoral-vote margin that he called a “historical landslide” four years earlier. 7 million more voters chose his Democratic opponent. In fact, as was the case in 2016, Trump won a smaller portion of the electorate than Mitt Romney in 2012, once again falling short of the 47% mark. Also, as in 2016, Trump under-performed congressional Republicans almost across the board.

By Trump’s own standards, as well as those of the Republican base in recent years, Trump is “a loser.” He’s a man who “choked.” A “total disgrace” who was “beaten like a dog.”

Yet, in the wake of the November election, few in the GOP seem to see it that way. By and large, Republicans aren’t placing blame on Trump. They’re blaming pretty much everyone else (Attorney General Bill Barr being the latest), but not him.

Trump’s super-power has long been his ability to alter reality, at least in the minds of many of his supporters, through righteous indignation and rhetorical repetition. All he’s had to do, post-election, is insist, over and over again, that he won. Well, that and cloud the airwaves and Internet with anecdotes, misinformation, and conspiratorial nonsense framed as massive, coordinated corruption.

It doesn’t matter that his case keeps falling apart even under the slightest bit of scrutiny. It matters even less what the news media is reporting, because they’re “fake news.” By continuing to “fight,” and refusing to concede defeat, Trump never really lost.

This will prove to be a huge political advantage for him, should he decide to run for president again in four years (which he’s rumored to announce during Joe Biden’s inauguration). Heck, it will be great for him no matter what he decides to do, whether it’s buying a cable-news network, starting a podcast, or taking his arena-show on the road as a private citizen. He’s already raised a ton of money off of the “rigged election” angle, much of which has gone toward paying down his campaign debt.

What it won’t do is help the GOP, as we’re already seeing indications of.

It was initially believed that Republican senate candidates would have a pretty easy time winning their Georgia run-off races, and keeping the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate. But after a month of Trump and his crew (including a number of media conservatives) baselessly declaring a massive election-fraud operation in the state, led by Republican officials (who are receiving death threats thanks to the bogus charges), there are now very real concerns that Republican turnout will be low enough, because of voter disenfranchisement, to hand the victories (and control of the Senate) to the Democrats.

This could be a lasting problem, and it’s not good for democracy. If Trump continues to press this theme from the sidelines over the next few years, other elections may be affected as well (not just in regard to turnout but also voters refusing to accept their outcomes).

And if you think Trump will feel even the slightest bit bad about any of the artificial chaos he has created, you haven’t been paying attention over the past five years. What Trump does, he does for himself. As long as it benefits him personally, he’ll never stop fueling unrest.

Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!




Are We Living with Hillary Clinton’s Legacy After All?

I sometimes hear from lefties (both in my life and online) who insist that the Democratic base isn’t nearly as far to the left as the unhinged rhetoric on cable news and social media would suggest. Believe it or not, I’m sometimes even inclined to believe them.

Most of my Democratic friends, after all, are self-made people who aren’t out there advocating for socialist policies. Also, Joe Biden (who most people consider to be a traditional Democrat) took a significant lead in the polls over his more liberal competitors the moment he entered the 2020 race.

But one only has to have watched last week’s Democratic primaries, and listened to the words of almost all 20 candidates on stage, to derive that the crowd those individuals are speaking to is indeed very far-left.

Public funding of abortion (including late-term)? Government health insurance for all (including non-citizens)? Decriminalizing illegal border crossings? Free college tuition for all? Amnesty on student loans? These would have been considered fringe positions just a few years ago. Now, they’re right at the heart of the Democratic party.

So what happened, exactly? What drove the party so far to the left in a relatively short period of time?

And while we’re at it, what’s behind the similarly stark transformation of the Republican party?

Just a few short years ago, fiscal conservatism, free markets, stern foreign policy, government accountability, and personal responsibility were core beliefs of the Republican base. Now, Republicans shrug their shoulders at even higher levels of government spending than under Obama. They defend unprecedented trade intervention in foreign markets, along with the taxpayer bailouts spawned from it. They make excuses for our president’s fawning over murderous dictators, his diminishing of the work of our intelligence agencies, and pretty much everything else that comes out of his mouth. And they do all of this largely in the interest of tribal cohesiveness.

Democrats and Republicans have embraced populism to an extent not seen in my lifetime. And in a rather brilliant piece the other day, conservative writer Jonah Goldberg identified a single political figure who was instrumental in pushing both of the parties in the directions they’ve taken.

No, it wasn’t Donald Trump. Nor was it Barack Obama or even Bernie Sanders.

According to Goldberg, it was Hillary Clinton. And he lays out a very good case for her historical significance in this respect.

Goldberg points out that most people on the right agree that Donald Trump’s 2016 victory had a lot to do with Hillary Clinton. Where they disagree is how.

Always quick to point out the losses of John McCain and Mitt Romney against Barack Obama, Trump fans tend to believe that only someone as bombastic and unscrupulous as Trump could have taken back the presidency from the Democrats and the Democratic establishment (including the mainstream media). And because Trump was victorious, these folks view him as a savior of sorts, worthy of their unconditional loyalty.

Others (including me) have a different view — one that Goldberg described in his column:

“It wasn’t so much that Trump was the one person who could beat Hillary, but that she was the one candidate he could beat. In other words, it was only thanks to the fact that she was so unpopular that Trump had a chance. Trump-reluctant Republicans and independents could be persuaded by the fact that he was better than Hillary when presented with a binary choice.”

It’s worth remembering that poll after poll during the election (the same national polls that predicted the actual voting outcome months later) showed that both Clinton and Trump were very unpopular with the American people. Their main competitors in their respective primaries were viewed more favorably among the general electorate. In fact, a number of polls showed that Trump was one of the few Republican candidates that Hillary could actually beat.

Goldberg explains that “Trump didn’t have to convince those voters that Clinton was unlikable and a little scary; he simply had to exploit their preexisting opinion of her. Indeed, Trump’s continued obsession with bashing Hillary points to how central she is to his identity.”

I think he’s right, and this also explains the conservative media’s continued obsession with Hillary, years after her political relevance expired.

The Left hasn’t forgotten about Hillary either, though they’re much less vocal about it. Liberals look back at her in much the same way that many Republicans do McCain and Romney: as an acceptable choice at the time, but an unenthusiastic and ultimately ineffective candidate.

There were of course additional problems with Hillary, and not just her aforementioned unlikability. She was perceived (with good reason) as corrupt, and she commanded a sense of entitlement in regard to her White House aspirations.

Goldberg describes why these were significant factors in the election:

“[Bernie Sanders] came way closer to beating Clinton in the primaries than most people thought he would by tapping into the passion of the base and the frustrations of other Democrats who didn’t relish a Clinton dynasty and disliked both Hillary personally and the corrupt practices of the establishment she represented. She ran on the implied claim that it was simply her ‘turn’ to be president — a poisonous framing in a populist moment (just ask Jeb Bush). In retrospect, not being Hillary was almost as big a boon to Sanders as it was for Trump.

If the Clinton machine had not scared away more talented and resourceful politicians from running in 2016, it’s possible that someone other than Sanders would have captured the passion of the party — just as Obama did when he toppled Hillary as the inevitable nominee in 2008.”

Goldberg argues that because Clinton lost to Trump, the Democratic base got the message that “Sanders-style socialist populism was the key to success just as the GOP has concluded that Trump-style nationalist populism is the future of the right.”

Again, I think he’s right. And this is important because it illustrates just how reliant our politics have become on personalities and personas, and how disconnected they are from serious issues and common sensibilities. Desperation hatched from defeat has compelled both parties to conflate personal identity with political proclivity.

It’s like a domino effect of perpetual misreadings and misunderstandings — the kind that could have given the writers of Three’s Company a few extra seasons worth of material.

But this isn’t a sitcom, where the characters straighten things out by the end of the episode. It’s today’s politics… where identity itself is the script. And for that reason, the script will continue to be followed, no matter how absurd the story becomes.





John McCain’s Funeral Invitations Are None of Our Business

Editor’s Note:

John Daly is taking over the featured spot with a column on the death of John McCain — and the people who didn’t like him when he was alive … and still don’t.  

Bernie

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Over the years, we’ve heard the term “derangement syndrome” used to describe the bombastic rhetoric often employed by vocal opponents of U.S. presidents. This began back in 2003, when the late Charles Krauthammer coined the phrase Bush Derangement Syndrome, describing it as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

For those who remember how much the Left absolutely loathed Bush back then (especially at the height of the Iraq War), it’s safe to say that Krauthammer nailed the diagnosis.

More recently, Trump Derangement Syndrome has been used by some to describe our current president’s fiercest detractors. But as any political writer could tell you, another prominent U.S. politician, who was met with more than his fair share of derangement, was Senator John McCain.

McCain was unique in that he somehow managed to draw out the very worst from both sides of the political aisle. Whenever I wrote a piece on McCain (or simply posted something about him on social media), my thoughts were almost immediately assaulted with vile, disparaging comments about the senator, usually involving some mockery of his war record or POW status, or a reference to the long-ago debunked conspiracy theory that his military recklessness led to over a hundred U.S. sailors dying.

And that was just from his fellow Republicans/conservatives!

By the way, if you think these trolls represent only a tiny contingent of the base, keep in mind that Trump’s poll numbers shot up dramatically during the GOP primary, right after he mocked McCain over his war-time capture.

Of course there was some overlap from the lefties, but liberals more often went the route of calling McCain a “neocon” and a “warmonger” (which some righties did as well).

Regardless, one would have hoped that the visceral ugliness would lessened sharply after McCain’s death, but sadly it hasn’t (as anyone who’s been following political discussions on social media over the past few days can attest to). In fact, there’s one story in particular that partisans have latched onto in an attempt to stoke one last anti-McCain narrative. And sadly, it involves the senator’s funeral.

We learned back in May, after the severity of McCain’s brain cancer was made public, that the senator did not want President Trump to attend his funeral. This shouldn’t have surprised anyone based the two’s history and McCain’s often expressed low opinion of our president.

By any reasonable measure, the decision made perfect sense. After all, if I had suffered five years of brutal capture and unimaginable torture in service of our country, I wouldn’t want a guy who mocked that experience attending my funeral either (president or not). And I can’t imagine many people seeing it differently.

Additionally, there are few things more personal than a funeral service. If the person being laid to rest has some requests for how it should be conducted, those requests should be respected.

Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the case with McCain. Trump partisans slammed the senator, framing him as a bitter old man who was disrespecting the office of the presidency. This despite the fact that McCain requested the previous two U.S. presidents (both of whom he’d lost to when he ran for president) to speak at his service.

The narrative returned earlier this week when it was reported that McCain’s 2008 presidential running-mate, Sarah Palin, was not invited to his funeral. According to some reports, she was asked by intermediaries not to come.

McCain’s detractors were quick to pounce:

The people above (along with many others) were responding to a Breitbart piece that focused heavily on Palin’s loyalty to McCain, with the implication being that she deserved an invitation.

Of course, in political terms, loyalty is defined merely by withholding public criticism of someone. And in the case of Palin and McCain, one could fairly say that both of them were politically loyal. Neither spoke ill of the other following their unsuccessful campaign from 10 years ago.

What isn’t mentioned in the column is that the two were never particularly close before or after the campaign, and probably saw very little of each other over the past decade. Who knows what their non-public relationship was like?

Also not mentioned what that a number a longtime McCain staffers, including other prominent members of his past campaigns, weren’t invited either.

The fact is, we don’t know how the invitation list was decided. We don’t know (other than in the case with Trump) who made the final decisions, and what rationale he, she, or they used. But what we should know — and this is important — is that this isn’t a public policy or representation issue. Thus, it’s absolutely none of our business.

It strikes me as odd that people who were not part of McCain’s inner-circle (and in some cases couldn’t even stand the man) feel qualified to decide who has earned the right to be at his funeral service. That seems awfully arrogant to me. I mean, if I died, and people had the audacity to trash me and my grieving family over not inviting an old co-worker to my funeral service, I would hope someone would have the common decency to stand up and put those folks in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why this is a story. Palin will forever be identified with John McCain, having become an overnight celebrity when he picked her to be his running mate. She was a favorite media punching-bag back then, and she still is. So any perceived slight of her — especially from her own side of the aisle — is going to generate headlines.

But that doesn’t mean we need to buy into the media narrative. And it doesn’t mean we should add to the disparagement of an American war hero (along with his family), who gave more of his life to this country than probably anyone any of us will ever meet.

A patriot’s family should, at minimum, be afforded the grace of honoring that patriot in whatever way they see fit. Let’s give them that grace… without the judgment.




Tribal Anger Toward John McCain’s Parting Words

According to reports over the weekend, Senator John McCain, who continues to go through brain cancer treatment, has been meeting with a number of longtime friends at his ranch in Arizona. The conversations have included reflections on McCain’s life, legacy and concerns for America’s future.

Some of the senator’s feelings have made headlines, including the fact that he doesn’t want President Trump to attend his funeral service. Instead, Vice President Pence has been asked to represent the White House, and former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are slated to deliver the eulogy.

Another disclosure (as referenced in an upcoming memoir and documentary) was that McCain regrets asking Sarah Palin to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Instead, he wishes he would have selected longtime friend Joe Lieberman (who was a Democratic senator at the time).

Neither of these revelations should have been particularly surprising or controversial.

There’s been bad blood between McCain and Trump ever since Trump infamously mocked McCain in 2015 for being captured by the enemy (and later held and tortured for over five years) while serving our military during the Vietnam War. McCain has made no bones about his belief that Trump is a person of very low character, and that he’s unfit for the presidency.

As for Palin, her selection as McCain’s vice presidential nominee was largely seen at the time as a Hail Mary political move, in an election year that heavily favored the Democratic nominee. Republican strategists hoped Palin would appeal to women voters (who’d been let down by Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary loss) and conservatives (who were skeptical of McCain). McCain has long been complimentary and gracious when it comes to Palin, but it’s no shocker that he would have preferred a different running mate in his ultimately unsuccessful bid.

Yet, the airing of these sentiments has compelled some notable voices on the Right to say some downright nasty things about the ailing Arizona Senator. One of those people is Charlie Kirk, who tweeted this response to a headline citing McCain’s exclusion of President Trump from his funeral service:

Kirk isn’t a household name, but he’s been a rising star in conservative circles over the past few years. In 2012, Kirk (who’s now in his mid twenties) founded the activist organization Turning Point USA, whose stated purpose is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.”

The organization is active on university campuses, where Kirk does a number of speaking engagements (when he’s not appearing at other political conferences). Kirk is also very active on social media, where he routinely tweets recycled conservative memes, slams on liberals and liberalism, and defenses of President Trump.

And apparently, in Kirk’s mind, McCain’s decisions for his own funeral warranted an ugly, Trump-style retort.

It should go without saying that judging the life and legacy of an American hero like John McCain, by whether or not his funeral is sufficiently partisan, is mind-numbingly idiotic and disgusting. Still, some were up for the task in their apt responses to Kirk:

For others on the Right, it was McCain’s words on Palin that had crossed the line:

Again, McCain’s thoughts on Palin (at least those that have been released to the public) have not come in the form of insults. In fact, he has continued to defend her performance as his running mate. His expressed misgivings were in the context of him believing that Lieberman would have been a better choice, a statement that Lieberman was reportedly quite touched by.

Still, some interpreted what McCain had said as a capital offense:

Larry Klayman is the founder of Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch. He is also a former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor who has had a big voice within the GOP for years. And because McCain said that he wishes he would have chosen Lieberman over Palin, Klayman wishes the senator would just “shut up and die”. Furthermore, he tagged the Twitter accounts of Trump-friendly pundits who he believed might actually be receptive to his statement.

I’ve always understood people’s political frustrations with John McCain. I’ve had several myself. But this kind of stuff is downright sick. A man who has served this country in a way that few of us could even fathom (let alone endure) deserves respect as he battles for his life.

If you view the airing of McCain’s likely final wishes and misgivings as just another opportunity to lay in some rib-kicks on the man, it’s probably time to take a break from cable-news and the Internet, and engage in a little self-assessment.




“You Call This Torture?” and “Cruz Control”

Some people have been wondering about the timing of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s release of her committee’s report condemning the CIA’s interrogation of Islamic terrorists. After all, the practice of waterboarding had ceased several years ago, so why bring it out when one knew it would lead to the U.N. condemning the practice and insisting that those who took part be indicted and tried by the World Court? They also had to know that it would endanger the lives of our spies around the world.

There is nothing odd about the timing. One, the Democrats had to release it before the end of the year when the GOP would take control of the Senate, and relegate the report along with Mrs. Feinstein to the nearest dustbin. But, two, and even more essential to the Democrats, was that it be released on the very same day that Jonathan (“The American people are stupid and had to be conned into supporting ObamaCare”) Gruber would be testifying before a Republican-controlled House committee.

Anyone who believes that was just a coincidence must also believe that it was coincidental that Clinton ordered the bombing of a benign Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal. You can carve it in stone that there is no such thing as a coincidence in Washington.

As for the report itself, I would like to point out that our constitutional rights and protections do not apply to our enemies and even the Geneva Conventions don’t protect illegal combatants, aka terrorists. As for those who keep hollering about the Conventions, the fact is that they were first drawn up in order to guarantee for both sides that one’s captured soldiers would be treated humanely by their captors. However, in the case of Islamic terrorists, one, they are not signatories to the Conventions; and, two, they not only don’t have POW camps, but they torture and murder those, including civilians, who suffer the misfortune of falling into their hands.

In short, the Conventions were never intended to be a suicide pact.

Furthermore, while I don’t happen to believe that most Americans are blood-thirsty, even if our legitimate motive hadn’t been to extract information from those villains who were waterboarded or deprived of sleep, I doubt if many of us would have minded their being gnawed on by rats. That would especially have been the case with the memory of 9/11 and of innocent people leaping from the roofs of the Twin Towers to escape the flames fresh in our minds.

I know it’s not entirely fair to just pick on Feinstein and her liberal cohorts. After all, John McCain has long been a loud critic of enhanced interrogation techniques, and because he was a POW during the Vietnam War, he is believed to hold the high moral ground on this issue. Unfortunately, Sen. McCain has never seemed capable of differentiating between the Vietcong torturing Americans for the hell of it and the CIA torturing jihadists in order to extract information that could prevent a repeat of 9/11 or lead to the extermination of Osama bin Laden.

I realize that Fox pundit George Will happens to agree with Sen. McCain, but that’s because he believes that whereas others merely rent the moral high ground, he holds the actual deed.

When it comes to Sen. Feinstein, whom I have heard even some conservatives describe as a non-partisan grown-up in the Senate, I have to question the integrity and even the patriotism of someone who thinks it’s essential to rehash events from long ago that serve no other purpose than to give America a black eye and endanger those currently trying to protect the homeland.

On top of that, the self-righteous senator has managed to ignore every scandal connected to Obama, ranging from Operation Fast & Furious, through the Benghazi massacre, the IRS targeting of conservatives, the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s bias against Israel and his promoting the alleged rights of illegal aliens while ignoring those of American taxpayers.

At the very least, you would think that a U.S. senator would object to a president who, for all his denials of having the power and authority of an emperor, has chosen to ignore the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution that both he and Mrs. Feinstein have sworn to defend. In addition, he has made it a practice to lie to the American people and has turned Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney and now Josh Earnest into real life Pinocchios to fabricate on his behalf whenever he had a round of golf to play, a fund-raiser to attend or simply wasn’t in the mood to face the press and do his own lying.

In other news, I wasn’t even slightly surprised that Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown, law schools have all agreed to allow students who claim to have been traumatized by the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island to postpone taking their exams, knowing that college administrators have the spines of jellyfish.

Still, can you imagine how these self-indulgent young milksops will react when a few years down the road a judge or jury rules against them? Will they burst into tears, faint dead away, take to their beds with a case of the vapors or merely insist on a re-trial?

Finally, the way Bowe Bergdahl has disappeared from the radar, in spite of his news-worthy exchange for five high-ranking jihadists, you might think he had been aboard Malaysian Airline flight 370.

Is it any wonder that Obama has come to believe he can get away with absolutely anything when even the newshawks at Fox never ask about the Army’s alleged investigation of Bergdahl’s desertion?

In my opinion, it isn’t only members of the military who should stand trial for dereliction of duty.


Cruz Control

I know that for a lot of my readers what I’m about to say is sheer blasphemy, but I wish that Ted Cruz would stop seeking the spotlight. More and more he reminds me of a creature from a sci-fi movie, but instead of turning into a giant fly, Cruz morphs into a giant moth. The only difference is that in his case, it’s a TV camera not a flame that serves as the object of his obsession.

I realize that for a great many conservatives, Cruz represents their ideal, but that’s because they place a premium on symbolic gestures, no matter how futile they happen to be. In fact, they celebrate that very futility because they believe it confirms the senator’s purity of purpose. I, on the other hand, who am every bit as conservative as Cruz, believe that politics should be rooted in reality and that before setting out on a crusade, one should not only have a specific and achievable goal in mind, but should be aware that failure often comes at a very steep price.

In Sen. Cruz, I see a man possessed of such naked ambition that his primary goal is self-promotion. I don’t happen to care for showboats in any field. I never liked football players who pranced around after sacking the quarterback or spiked the ball after scoring a touchdown. I never liked Barry Bonds or any other baseball player who stood in the batter’s box watching in awe as his home run cleared the wall. In short, I admire professionals who get the job done with a minimum of fuss and self-aggrandizement.

Cruz, on the other hand, seems interested in maximizing the fuss even if it accomplishes nothing more than garnering him TV exposure. In 2013, his prominent role in closing down the government achieved nothing except that it helped the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, win the gubernatorial election in Virginia.

This year, Cruz was at it again. This time, his pigheadedness allowed Harry Reid to get liberal zealots Sarah Saldana appointed to head up Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Tony Blinken to be the new deputy secretary of state. In addition, Cruz provided Reid with the opportunity to appoint a number of left-wing judges to the federal bench and saddled us with a surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, an anti-gun zealot who believes that the Second Amendment is the single greatest threat to the health of Americans.

Ted Cruz is an egotist who subscribes to the loony notion that whatever furthers his personal agenda is what’s best for the nation. It’s a psychosis he happens to share with Barack Obama.

I understand that some of my readers regard it as traitorous when I attack Republican politicians, whether it’s a conservative like Ted Cruz or an idiot like John McCain. I happen to believe that if you can’t write honestly about those in your own party, nobody should trust you when you write about your political opponents. On the other hand, I happen to sympathize with all of them, Republicans and Democrats alike. I mean, imagine if your employment depended entirely on really dumb people deciding every two, four or six years, if you get to keep your job. It’s no wonder that most of them wind up as crazy as poodles.

Recently, I was reading about painters and it got me thinking about the astronomical prices that some paintings fetch. It doesn’t bother me that some people can afford to pay $75 million for a single work of art any more than it bothers me that some people own their own jet planes or own mansions on three or four different continents. I readily admit that there are some very wealthy people I despise — people such as George Soros, Ted Turner, Tom Steyer and Warren Buffet — but it’s not their bank balance I resent, but the issues and individuals they choose to promote with their money.

I understand that the cost of most things is determined by the price people are willing to pay for them. It’s just that while I understand why mansions and jet planes cost a fortune, I’m at a loss when it comes to paintings.

After all, the paint, frame, canvas and varnish, are not very expensive, so that doesn’t explain it. And unlike sculpting, which requires intensive labor, painting is so easy, it can easily be done while sitting in a chair.

One painting can’t cost more than another because of its rarity because even an amateur’s work is unique. Also, most paintings aren’t even what you would call aesthetically beautiful. And what’s more, even the greatest forgery, no matter how faithfully rendered, is essentially worthless once it’s found out. In a way, that’s something of a shame. After all, whereas the original painter merely used the materials at hand, the forger is required to duplicate it centuries later, while disguising the fact that his own work only dates back to last Thursday.

So what is it that makes some paintings – paintings such as Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” — worth tens of millions?

All I can come up with is that they’re famous. In a sense, they’re the equivalent of our own celebrities, people like Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber and people named Kardashian, who are famous for no other or better reason than that they’re famous.

In a logical world, or so it seems to me, a painting of a bowl of fruit would be worth far less than an actual bowl of fruit because you can’t eat a painted banana.

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©2014 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write BurtPrelutsky@fastmail.com.