Still Calling


Sad clown makes phone calls

If you’re like me -and I know I am- there’s nothing that takes the edge off Trump’s so-called “presidency” like laughing at the elderly, half-senile, tv-obsessed clown that currently infests the Oval Office like a family of cockroaches. Trump decided to cap off last week by making ill-advised threatening calls to Mexico and Australia, where…

My Dilemma

I love my job at Raw Story. I mean, would I prefer to be paid thousands of dollars a week to be a rock star? Sure. But it’s a pretty sweet gig that allows me to work from home (wherever home may be), pays well, and gives me benefits like vacation and healthcare, and oh…

Quote of the Day

Random Guy on Facebook: “I’m extremely grateful that Jill Stein is spearheading this recount, and I hope above hope that something positive might come from it- but either way, the second this is all over I hope a piano falls from the highest skyscraper and lands directly on her head.”

Cutting through the bullshit

If you follow me on Facebook -and if you read this blog, the odds are you do- you’ve been seeing me growing a lot more hostile to many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. I’ve pissed off a lot of people by being utterly dismissive, often contemptuously so, of the more radical (and often downright damaging) claims his base is making about his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Some background about myself: I’m a 45 year old guy, low-income since 2012 or so, after one of the aftershocks of the Great Recession. I’ve been voting since 1989. I’ve been a political blogger for years, although I don’t do it as much anymore (Facebook has been the worst thing to ever happen to my output here at the blog). My original site, Brendan Calling From the Underground dates back to 2003, and wound up getting me a column at the Philadelphia Weeklym where I was the reliable fire-breathing liberal for a minute or two. I then moved to Brendan Calling, but in the aftermath of my breakup, I wound up in an awful depression, didn’t write for a hella long time, changed emails, and forgot to pay my annual bill to GoDaddy. Now my old site is a real estate marketing thing. Luckily, I still have the database on a Mac, and thus all the later material; unluckily, the video card died, so I can’t get to it easily. I need to do something about that. I will. I digress.

BCFTU is a little embarrassing in some ways: if you look back to some of the earlier posts, I’m just a bundle of rage over the Bush presidency and the war. For example, here’s 33 year old me praying that Jesus would give cancer to everyone who supported the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war. Here’s a REALLY good one I lobbed at ol’Rick Santorum back in the day that elicited a signed response I still have somewhere. Sample:

“Hello, Senator Santorum’s office.”

“Hi there!. My name is Brendan Skwire. I’m a Republican living in Pennsylvania and a constituent of the Senator. I voted for Senator Santorum before, and I plan on voting for him again, but I need his advice on a matter of some importance.”

“Sure, what can I do for you?”

“Well, I’ve read his comments to the AP about the homosexuals, and I’m sure there’s lots of food for thought there. And I understand his distinction between homosexuals and homosexual acts. While
I’m not gay, my wife and I are nevertheless concerned, because… well, I think we’ve been practicing homosexual acts. I just want to make sure that we’re not homosexuals ourselves, and that we’re not doing anything my Senator would disapprove of. Could you tell me what specific sex acts Senator Santorum endorses?”

“[chuckle] Well, uhh.. the Senator hasn’t given us a list of approved acts and he was only commenting on..”

“Like, sometimes my wife and I have anal sex, which is something I know the homosexuals do. Both my wife and I enjoy this, and I don’t want to give up putting my penis in her rectum and thrusting until I ejacualte in her bowels. I guess I didn’t consider that this was a homosexual act until it was brought to my attention by the senator. Is it OK for me to keep putting my penis in my wife’s anus?”

I’ve mellowed out a bit since then I like to think, even if some people might beg to differ. Like the Sanders supporters I’ve begun to ruthlessly criticize and factcheck.

A few months ago, I started noticing an uptick in really ugly attacks getting lobbed at Hilary Clinton. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to criticize her over, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and to a lesser extent her relationship with banks. But when I see someone on the LEFT post something like this…


… it sets off my radar, and not in a good way. Not because, as many of my friends seem to believe, I’m some kind of rabid Clinton fan. Far from it: I voted for Bill in 92, but by 96 I was a solid Nader supporter. In 2000, I wavered briefly about who to support but ultimately stood with Gore: Nader’s claim that things would have to get really bad before they got better never sat well with me: and George Bush was clearly the front man for some pretty evil shit. When Nader’s supporters started parroting the line that “both parties are the same,” I was off the bandwagon.

For some time now, Nader has made it perfectly clear that his campaign isn’t about trying to pull the Democrats back to the left. Rather, his strategy is the Leninist one of “heightening the contradictions.” It’s not just that Nader is willing to take a chance of being personally responsible for electing Bush. It’s that he’s actively trying to elect Bush because he thinks that social conditions in American need to get worse before they can better.

Nader often makes this “the worse, the better” point on the stump in relation to Republicans and the environment. He says that Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt was useful because he was a “provocateur” for change, noting that Watt spurred a massive boost in the Sierra Club’s membership. More recently, Nader applied the same logic to Bush himself. Here’s the Los Angeles Times’ account of a speech Nader gave at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., last week: “After lambasting Gore as part of a do-nothing Clinton administration, Nader said, ‘If it were a choice between a provocateur and an anesthetizer, I’d rather have a provocateur. It would mobilize us.’ “

Sound familiar?

Oddly enough, Nader was almost right: sure, we had to lose our civil liberties, trillions of dollars and thousands of dead and broken bodies in Iraq, two or three unpaid for wars, and an economic collapse that wiped out our nest eggs (especially among black families HOW PROGRESSIVE, RALPH), but we got over the past 8 years, with the full support of both Clinton and Sanders we had a President who:

1) passed the (imperfect) ACA, a progressive goal for DECADES, including a Medicaid expansion for the poorest (partially blocked by the SCOTUS)
2) Passed the Economic Stimulus, which saved jobs and took the economy out of a tailspin. It should have been bigger, but you can blame [still-dead] Arlen Specter for insisting it be whittled down.
3) Passed Wall Street Reform, including Dodd-Frank and the CFPB. (Coulda been stronger, but without a doubt a progressive accomplishment.)
4) Ended the Iraq war, officially.
5) Repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, HUGE progressive goal for years.
6) Increased fuel efficiency standards
7) Signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act, which to be honest is simply sort-of fixing something that the Democrats and Republicans passed in 2005.
8) Put two liberal-leaning justices on the SCOTUS.
9) Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009

Now, putting aside for a moment that much of this was Obama cleaning up the Republicans’ mess, and even putting aside the big things like health care reform and the SCOTUS, are things better than the status quo ante Bush? I’m not seeing it. What I AM seeing are the same statements from 2000. “There’s no difference between the parties”? “Clinton’s on the side of the wealthy”? “Clinton’s owned by oil companies”? It’s fucking crazy, it’s verkakte, it ignores all the hard work that’s gone into turning the ship around, and it’s paving the way for Trump.

Worse, I’m seeing a LOT of voters (typically younger voters, but quite often people old enough to know better) reflexively passing along news articles and memes attacking Clinton (and the Democrats generally) from the left without even bothering to check if what they’re spreading is even true. Given that for the past year or so it’s been an open fact that the GOP is trolling Sanders supporters:

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

“Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor,” intones Ms. Warren, as images of Mrs. Clinton with foreign leaders flash by.

…that’s troubling. It shows the tactic is working. For a recent example, here’s a piece by Doug Schoen I’ve been seeing many of my Sanders-supporting friends post all over Facebook this week, arguing that Clinton might not be the nominee after all:

The worries about Mr. Sanders’s strength have stirred the beginnings of a capitulation to him—by the Clinton camp, in league with the Democratic National Committee—at the convention. To placate him, they have already granted Mr. Sanders greater influence over the party platform. Two divisive figures, Cornel West and Rep. Keith Ellison, have been added to the platform committee, ensuring that the party will be pulled further left. In addition to putting Mr. Sanders’s socialist nostrums on display, the platform negotiations are likely to spur an ugly fight over the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Mrs. Clinton also faces growing legal problems. The State Department inspector general’s recent report on Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state made it abundantly clear that she broke rules and has been far from forthright in her public statements. The damning findings buttressed concerns within the party that Mrs. Clinton and her aides may not get through the government’s investigation without a finding of culpability somewhere.

Never mind that the email “scandal” is a big nothing-burger, especially after Rove’s missing emails and Colin Powell’s admitted use of personal email services. Let’s look at the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON POSTING THIS “EXPOSE” BOTHERED TO LOOK INTO SCHOEN’S BACKGROUND. Because if they had they’d know that even though he’s putatively a Democrat, he’s also a Newsmax and Fox News contributor, who holds the following positions:

Schoen said that President Obama should not seek reelection in 2012. He has stated that the President has divided the country along partisan lines, and said that the Affordable Care Act had been a “disaster” for the Democratic Party.[3][4]

Schoen has been critical of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he wrote, “President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election.”[3][10] He believes that the protesters represent “an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence,” and that their common bond is “a deep commitment to left-wing policies.”[3][10] Schoen believes that the Democratic Party should not appeal to voters who support taxing oil companies and the rich, but rather to voters in the middle who want lower taxes.

Now, there are certainly arguments to be made about Clinton’s relationships with the ultra-wealthy, but Schoen isn’t exactly a fellow traveller with the left. He’s about as neutral an observer as an Eagles fan at a Cowboys game. Everything he stands for, Clinton generally opposes. Clinton is not only a supporter of the ACA, but wants to expand it with a public option, a position she’s held since Obama first proposed to reform health care. And her tax plan raises taxes on the rich. As for fossil fuels, FactCheck says Sanders’ supporters claims (and Schoen’s) are WAY overblown.

Now, anyone with even basic journalistic ethics would know to fact check Schoen’s claims, and to do some background research into Schoen himself. But most people aren’t journalists, even though the Internet and Facebook make us feel like we are. As a result, bad actors like Schoen get low-information left-wing voters to do his dirty work for him. Clever, eh?

But it’s not just right-wing trolls getting in on the act. We can also always count on friendly fire from (and I hate myself for using this term, because it used to make me so angry until I realized it was true) the professional left. Here’s Michael Moore, being very helpful:

moore obama

I’m not even going to put aside the fact that a few months prior Moore had BEGGED the president come to Flint, I’m going to highlight the fact that when Obama indeed came to Flint, Moore (elected by who, again? Representing who, again?) pretty much took a giant shit all over the man:

President Obama, thank you for responding so quickly to us in Flint. To have you declare a Federal State of Emergency for Flint after our letter to you — and to do it while we were all gathering for our rally in Flint today — that was a big boost of hope to everyone present.
Until, that is, we all got home and actually read your Order.

It turns out you are sending only $5 million in aid — and you are not sending it to Flint, you are sending it to the corrupt Governor Snyder who triggered the poisoning of Flint in the first place! Your Order says you’re invoking FEMA — and ONLY FEMA’s –help for just 90 days, and that all FEMA is to do is ship in bottles of water and filters. No EPA being sent to Flint. No CDC. No Army Corps of Engineers! Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea of the catastrophe that has taken place here?

Of course, Moore had some pretty serious demands, that are listed in the fine print at the end of his open letter:

We, the undersigned, call upon you to investigate and, if warranted, arrest and prosecute the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, for violating the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations in cutting off clean drinking water to the city of Flint and making the citizens, instead, drink polluted water from the Flint River; for fraud and political corruption; and for covering up the criminal actions of his administration.

Yes, that’s just what America needs: a President who can have sitting Governors arrested by fiat. And even if the president COULD arrest the governor, do you think that would be good for the country as a whole or would that be considered drastic federal and presidential overreach, the kind of action that could legitimately lead to impeachment? I don’t like what the governor did either, but removing Snyder is Michigan’s job, not Obama’s. Maybe that’s why the President didn’t respond to Moore instead of an 8-year old child: the child’s request was a hell of a lot less hysterical and a lot more reasonable.

It’s also worthwhile to point out that Moore is full of fucking shit. Obama gave Flint $80 million, not $5 million. That’s more than $30 million more than the Mayor of Flint estimated:

The president said Flint should still push forward with an effort spearheaded by Flint mayor Karen Weaver to remove lead service lines across the city. Weaver has estimated the city needs $55m to complete pipe replacement, and only about $2m has been appropriated for the effort so far – enough to remove roughly 500 lines in a city estimated to have about 15,000.

So when it comes to budgeting, I’m gonna go with the actual city administrator over the liberal gadfly filmmaker. Just me.

But hey, who cares who Moore slimes. What matters is he’s probably added a few thousand more names to his mailing list. So what if the cost is vilifying with his readers the only party that even gives half a shit about what happens to Flint, Michigan? Thanks pal.

So where am I going with all this? Well, two three places I guess.

First: It would be great, I agree, if we had a parliamentary party with all sorts of options. But we don’t, not nationally at least. We have Democrats and we have Republicans. Those are your choices. That is what the kids call #realtalk. The work to change that, which I support wholeheartedly, will take decades and will play out at the state level first.

But you don’t get there by tearing down the only party the kind of sort of has your back because the better organized nominee with the better name recognition and the more distinguished career in public service and more votes isn’t to your liking. You just don’t. I think it’s pretty fucking evident that, contrary to Ralph Nader’s fever dreams, things didn’t get better after they got worse. They just got worse and worse and stayed worse, by pretty much every metric from 9/11 through the security state through the failure in Iraq through the Great Recession, all of which haunt us nearly twenty fucking years later. You know when things got better? When the fucking Democrats got elected. Barring something extraordinary happening, Hilary Clinton is probably the nominee, and yet some dumbfucks on my side of the aisle seem to think that if we just bet one more time on Worse-to-Get-Better, THIS time that broken old mare is gonna win, place, AND show all at once. It’s not a good bet. Go home, you’re drunk.

Second: I’ve written about this before, most likely on Facebook. When I was a young English major, my Comp 101 professor had an enormous bug up his ass about critical reading. He’d have us study advertisements to look for suspicious claims. We’d read opinion columns, and later straight news articles, looking for bias. It was a skill I used throughout my all-too brief academic career, and a skill I’ve used throughout my adult life (anyone who’s read my phone call transcripts can see, for example, how I play games with context and semantics). As a news and media consumer, it’s probably the most important skill a reader can develop. If you are not a critical reader, LEARN THIS SKILL. Who is the writer, and what is his or her background? What are the claims? Are they presented in neutral terms and can they be fact-checked, or are they surrounded with words and phrases chosen to evoke an emotional response?

That’s why I am such an uncompromising and downright mean bastard about sites like usuncut, occupydemocrats, and addictinginfo, none of who I will link to here. Poke around their sites: you may find all sorts of questionable factishness about politics, but one thing you won’t find is a masthead. No sign of the editorial team, the publisher, or who’s behind the enterprise. It’s a blank. I challenge you to find any of the editorial or leadership team members at these enterprises. It is troubling to me that a site with 1.5 million Facebook likes (as of my last visit) is able to put out such questionable material that is then spread virally through the internet without even a modicum of accountability. The National Enquirer may be a pointless tabloid rag, but at least there’s a face behind it. And unlike the Enquirer, which everyone knows is trash, usuncut et al. represent themselves as actual news outlets, even when they are often completely wrong. I’ve never seen a retraction either.

The unfortunate result is that a lot of the younger voters I know -many of who have never voted or don’t have a long political memory- are being fed the kind of bizarre shit about Hillary Clinton that used to be the provenance of the dingdongs who listen to Dennis Prager for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but from a position of… I don’t even really have the words to describe it. Pseudo-millenial purist pseudo-outrage is close enough. And the unfortunate result of that -and this goes back to the fact that most people don’t get taught critical reading- is that these same voters get caught up in the same kind of epsitemic closure that movement conservatives have been stuck in for years. So an article by a shithead like Doug Schoen gets passed around like gospel truth, instead of as an example of something to be scorned. Michael Moore derides the president that helped his city, and everybody applauds.

Third: before you go slamming the Democrats, the candidates and the President for this, that, or the other betrayal (imagined or otherwise) it might be a good idea to learn how your government functions. You know why Michael Moore has 600,000 plus signatures of his petition? Because evidently 600,000 plus people don’t have any fucking clue how the the government runs, are completely ignorant of the system of checks and balances, and have no real knowledge of how the House works and how that’s different from the Senate. It’s the political equivalent of saying the Super Bowl is rigged because you don’t know what an offside or an audible is, and then calling your friend, who does know the game, condescending and mean when he tries to set you straight.

None of these pictures is good for our republic, in the short term or the long term.

The North Carolina situation

It has been a bad few days for Pat McCrory, governor of North Carolina. After signing off the on unnecessary “bathroom bill”, which not only gives the green light to discrimination against sexual minorities in that state but also “pre-empts local employment ordinances governing wages, benefits, employee protections and leave policies”, everything went to Hell pretty quickly. My chronology is probably a little off, but PayPal canceled a major expansion in the state, costing North Carolinians jobs and revenue; Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia (hardly the most evolved human/state on the planet) decided to veto Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill; then the equally neanderthal Governor Nikki Haley indicated she’d veto a similar bill in South Carolina; then Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert; then Deutsche Bank froze its plans to expand in the state, costing North Carolina 250 high-paying jobs; and then Ringo Starr canceled a concert as well. I’m sure I missed a few, but the point is that Pat McCrory is up to his eyeballs in a big river of shit, and some pundits in North Carolina are already predicting that Attorney General/gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper, who has refused to defend the law, will soon take McCrory’s place.

This is why I was fascinated to get a series of messages from my friend Travers Chandler, who is a rank-and-file Republican in North Carolina and has some insight into how the state and the governor got into this fine mess. He has graciously allowed me to quote him at length here. And at this point, let’s have a Laurel and Hardy break, because this is essentially how I envision the relationship between the governor and the legislature:

And now, here’s Travers…

Dude you need some perspective about what’s going on down here in NC… this shit’s been brewing for over a year.

First the mayor of Charlotte is… not at all interested in any kind of sound governing. At no point was there any clamor for gender assigned anything in Charlotte. The CMPD are shooting people down in the street, mass transit is in chaos, the city lost control of their airport and the lovely mayoress makes bathrooms her top priority. Mind you she finds her way to the mayors desk because her predecessor was arrested on corruption and assorted other charges.

This was all by design.. Now the governor previously vetoed two pieces of legislation that would’ve restricted the civil rights of the LGBT community while vocally stating he would sign a third that would extend protections on the state level (I can’t find a link to this, so I’ve sent Travers on the hunt). During this time he vetoed legislation that would place further restrictions on abortion.

This whole episode was designed. Now the NC legislature is full of extremist scumbags, and I fervently disagree with the legislation, but this crusade is bullshit, and the supposed outrage from outside makes me want to fucking puke if not homicidal. Where was this outrage a year ago? Where were these companies a year ago? The entertainers? Why weren’t they here creating interest in this issue? Because they give two fucks less about the LGBT community in NC. Its election year demonizing on both sides and the people of my home state pay the price. I realize there’s genuine out rage from some folks about this but goddamn.

I disagree with Travers on the hypocrisy of outsiders. Those of us who don’t live in North Carolina don’t get a daily does of the political machinations in that state. By the same token, when a Rhode Islander asks me about Pennsylvania’s “Porngate” scandal, I don’t expect them to know about the feud between Kathleen Kane and Frank Fina, or how the story ties into the Sandusky scandal. All they see is “Porngate”, just like to all we see in North Carolina is “anti-gay discrimination”. And that’s important because as Travers points out…

Just shows you what gets overlooked. Its a shitty deal all the way around. Mccrory ain’t my favorite, but he’s pretty pragmatic and he’s being painted by a broad brush.
He nixed a bill last year or the year before similar to the GA and MS bills. His words were “nobody’s threatening religious liberty in NC, it’s absurd.”

The real problem is a man named Phil Berger: look that asshole up. The main feud began with Mcrory and the legislature. Phil Berger leads that legislature. Berger has fought the governor tooth and nail on teacher pay raises. [The] governor is up for reelection and they are forcing everything far right. They have to energize western and rural eastern nc to overcome Democrat strongholds in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) and Wake County (Raleigh).

[If] Mcrory doesn’t sign the bill he doesn’t get his education bill and the teacher pay raises he has desperately been working on for two years. Not saying its justified, but they’ve bent him over a barrel and he figures sign the bill, get the education spending he wants, and at some point maybe he survives and the court strikes down the law.

[I]t’s Berger forcing Mccrorys hand. Pat would be ok with Charlotte making its own rules. He’s a true believer in government on local level. But he wants his education plan, while Berger wants the toll road and so [does] Charlotte GOP. Unfortunately the town of Cornelius (Republican) wants to block it, and can through town council ordinance under NC law. Also, Democrats in Charlotte have a hard on for Mcrory from his time as mayor when he fought them on a crony deal on downtown commuter train and trolley. Throw in a dirty plan to privatize and toll I-77 thru the burbs and it gets ugly. NC politics are filthy.

None of this, by the way, is meant to elicit any sympathy for McCrory, except to the extent that it looks like Phil Berger has successfully avoided any backlash himself. But it does go to show that things aren’t always as simple as they look. If Travers is to be believed -and he is, in my opinion- the NC legislature (like other Republican-held statehouses) may be a bit further to the right than their constituents. Yes, support for the bill holds a bare majority -51%, according to an article in the Charlotte Observer that remains behind an annoying firewall– but that’s going to change, and change fairly rapidly as Big Money begins calling in its chits, and the glare of national condemnation begins to take its toll. No one likes to be a laughingstock, and unlike Mississippi, North Carolina has always been in the vanguard of the New South: cosmopolitan, international, and forward thinking. That’s why the boycott and negative attention is already working. My guess is that far from institutionalizing discrimination in the state, the law will not only be repealed (or, more likely, deemed unconstitutional by the SCOTUS), but that McCrory will lose handily to Cooper, and that the Republicans in the legislature may also find their numbers diminished a bit, as the rank-and-file turn their back on the agenda of the religious right that has had such a tenacious grasp of the party (not sure if Travers would come to the same conclusion, of course).

Trump, Cruz, and Bullying

I’m gonna re-visit that video of Lyin’ Ted calling out the Drumpf real quick…

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that Ted Cruz was always more of an egghead than a fist fighter as a child and a teenager. Everything I’ve ever read about or seen involving the man tells the story of an unliked, friendless human being:

[T]hings Ted Cruz should avoid doing: Shaking people by the hand in a crowd (he always looks past you to the next person); talking to a gaggle of reporters (he stays on script rather than relating to the particular individuals); telling jokes (he tends to be the only one laughing); hugging (no one wants a hug from Ted). This is starting to sound mean-spirited, but I understand where Cruz is coming from: He has a mild form of social anxiety disorder, we all sense it. People upset him. This is not an insurmountable handicap for a politician, but it is the real reason he is losing to Trump, despite the fact that his core message is aligned with the vast majority of the Republican base. He simply doesn’t like people. And, so it goes, they don’t like him.

In this way, as different as their politics are, Ted Cruz on stage reminded me of Richard Nixon—canny, but inept at the theater of politics. Cruz has an an air of persecution which, in a large setting, comes off as arrogance; he can be surprisingly charming when he lets his guard down. Cruz is the kid who gets picked on at school and tells himself that he’s unpopular because he’s smarter than everyone. I could see this vulnerability in Ted at 18, but at 45, I got the feeling the snot-nosed kid we’ve read about has had a lot of the snot beaten out of him. It was all too easy to imagine Cruz’s farewell address, if not during this campaign, then perhaps the next: “You won’t have Ted Cruz to kick around anymore!”

That’s what stands out most to me in that video of Ted Cruz from when he was 18: his sheer dorkiness. Even this early glimpse the self-aware awkwardness comes out:

What you’re seeing in that clip is an unpopular nerd who KNOWS he’s unpopular and can’t quite grok why, so he retreats into his own sense of superiority as a defense mechanism. Ted Cruz can call Donald Trump a “sniveling coward”, but if you were to travel back in time to Cruz’s high school days, my bet is that it was typically Ted sniveling, usually on the floor of the locker room or the hallway to English class. I recognize it because when I was a kid, until I discovered punk rock, I was an unpopular nerd who retreated into his own sense of superiority as a defense mechanism. YES, I HAVE SO GROWN OUT OF IT, STOP SAYING THAT.

I remember my bully from 6th and 7th grade. He used to chase me down every single day after lunch, and beat me up while calling me “Spaz” and “Jew”. I was a little pussy, and tried anything to get out of fighting: trying to talk my way out of it, making jokes of my victimhood, flat-out running away… but there was only one way to get the punching to stop. I ultimately had to fight back, with my fists. It was the only thing that stopped it.

So if lyin’, friendless, unpopular Ted Cruz thinks telling Donald Trump to “leave Heidi the Hell alone”, thinks that’s going to shut up his rival, he’d better think again. The bully’s response is never “Oh, I’m sorry, I won’t do that again.”

It’s “Make me.” And that’s exactly how I expect Trump to respond.