Krauthammer’s Take: Bannon ‘Had No Horns’ and Gave ‘Intellectual Heft to Trumpism’ at CPAC

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer credited Steve Bannon with providing an intellectual framework for Donald Trump’s ideas:

There is no tonic like winning. He came in third last year, and he was booed the year before when he talked about putting boots on the ground in the Middle East. I think Susan is right. This is a coming together of the conservative movement or at least a part of it. This is mostly the younger, more-edgy part, the one that would’ve been more receptive to a Milo presentation. I think it marks an important moment, and what was interesting was Bannon. He came in. He had no horns. He sounded rather amiable. But on the other hand he was absolutely unswerving, and he sort of gave intellectual heft to Trumpism. He was very specific about the three major goals: foreign policy, domestic economic policy, and what he called the undoing of the administrative state, the first volley in that war was the abolition of the “bathroom bill” or at least the directive coming from HHS — essentially, the federal government has no business here — and in all the cabinet opponents. So I think it was a real plus for them, and it presented a picture that for many conservatives — not all, some have trouble about the trade issue and the protectionism issue — but for many conservatives it was a kind of homecoming.

Who’s the Intolerant One?

by David French

This is surely one of the strangest tweet exchanges I’ve ever seen. Here’s CNN’s Christopher Cuomo responding to a person who asks, “What do you tell a 12 year old girl who doesn’t want to see a penis in the locker room?” His answer?

Not long ago, if school policies purposefully exposed girls to male genitals, they’d be subject to a backbreaking sexual harassment lawsuit. Suddenly, however, “tolerance” looks a lot like indecent exposure, and indecent exposure is what freedom looks like. This is beyond strange. I’m certain Cuomo would still object to a member of the football team walking straight into a girl’s locker room and disrobing, but he not only doesn’t object to the exact same anatomical features if they’re attached to a trans “girl,” he condems those who feel uncomfortable.

If the declaration that “preteen girls shouldn’t see penis at school” doesn’t resonate, I wonder if there’s really any hope for a common moral language when discussing the sexual revolution. In this circumstance, not even consent — the final moral firewall — matters. We used to be told that boys and girls should shielded from unwelcome sexual images. Now we’re told that they can be exposed to genitalia even over their strenuous objection, and they’re intolerant if they argue otherwise. Extraordinary.

The left-wing intolerance on this point is so extreme that they condemn school officials who seek to protect trans kids by giving them their own, private facilities — places where they can change in complete privacy. Yet arrangements like this are characterized as cruel and heartless discrimination rather than the compassionate accommodation they so clearly are. There are ways to protect the rights to all parties to this cultural dispute, but when social engineering is the goal, compromise is out of the question. 

Recording Professors

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dennis Prager argues that college students should record what their professors say in class. Professors will object, he says, only if they are abusing their position to indoctrinate their students and wish to hide it. I sympathize with Prager’s desire to combat that abuse, but off the top of my head I can think of four reasons a professor who has no reason to be “ashamed of what he or she is saying in class” might object to being recorded.

First, it might interfere with a college’s business model. A no-recording policy would make it easier to prevent anyone from putting lectures online so that people can get them for free.

Second, snippets from recordings could be taken out of context and used to subject professors to undeserved mockery, criticism, and abuse. Prager recommends that professors record themselves “to protect themselves against doctored material,” but that would not fully protect them from a social-media firestorm based on incomplete information–which, in case you have not spent much time on the Internet, sometimes happens. 

Third, a professor might worry that recording would chill classroom discussion in classes with significant amounts of give-and-take: that students might feel inhibited in asking questions or expressing viewpoints.

Fourth, speaking in front of a group of people, even a large group of people, is just different from speaking in front of a camera for people you can’t see. There is such a thing as weighing your words too carefully, and a professor might think that it would be impossible to avoid doing that if students were recording him. 

I don’t know if I would have a no-recording policy if I were a professor (or university administrator). But if a professor had such a policy, I wouldn’t hold it against him.


Scott Walker on the Tricky Task of Replacing Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

by Jim Geraghty

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke to NR today about his role in a small working group of governors attempting to help House and Senate Republicans forge the legislative replacement for Obamacare, including what to do about the people who are covered by the law’s expansion of Medicaid in 31 states.

“It’s a logical spot for me, particularly as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association],” Walker said. “It’s important to have governors [involved], particularly on the Medicaid side, since we’re the ones who are going to have to make that happen. We’ve met with both House and Senate chairs, talked to the Speaker, talked to others about this.”

From his comments, it doesn’t sound like many details have been hammered out yet, but the aim is to avoid taking away coverage from the new Medicaid coverage recipients, and instead swapping it for a market-based plan.

“We have a small working group of governors, evenly mixed between states that took the Medicaid expansion and states like mine that did not, and trying to hammer through some of those issues,” Walker said. “The House and Senate leaders would like to have a plan they can pass that will have the support of governors. If you don’t, not only is it politically harder to do, those who are legitimately trying to solve this issue understand that you can’t hand Medicaid off to the states in a way that sets us up for failure.”

Walker said he’s not worried Republicans are overpromising on how satisfied Americans will be with the legislative replacement for Obamacare.

“I think you can replace and reform in a way that gives people the same or better,” he said. “I’m not talking about having the same subsidy from the government. Because of the bifurcated Supreme Court decision, we [in Wisconsin] were able to determine our destiny on Medicaid. We didn’t take the expansion, and we’re not a state exchange state, but for the first time ever, we covered everyone in poverty with Medicaid. All those above [the poverty level], we transitioned them to the marketplace. Somebody conceivably earning just above poverty [level], working to tap into a reasonably-costing plan by virtue of the subsidies, now under the market-driven approach, we [can] do the same with a tax credit or something very similar to the tax credit.”

“When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.”

Walker also talked about his experience with angry protesters on the Left and offered advice to Congressional Republicans facing hostile crowds in their town halls.

“People have a right to be heard, and don’t respond in kind, but don’t let the noise of the protesters to drown out the voices of the people who elected you in the first place,” Walker said.  “When we had 100,000 or almost 150,000 protesters around our capital, a reporter asked me, ‘don’t these people have a right to heard?’ I said, ‘sure, that’s what great about America. You can protest your government. But I’m not going to let them down out the voices of the people who elected me in this state who are at home, taking care of their families, and working. They elected me to do the things I’m doing.’”

It’s a strange new status for Walker, to suddenly talked about his new status as one of the less controversial Republican figures in the new Trump era of the GOP.

“I had somebody at one of the colleges, say ‘compared to Trump, you’re actually pretty reasonable. I said, ‘thanks, I think,’” Walker said with a laugh. “Obviously, in her mind, she didn’t like me much before, but now I’m this mainstream guy.”

Hecklers at Town Hall Meeting Boo Opening Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As U.S. senators and representatives took a brief recess this week, visiting their home states for town hall meetings with constituents, one senator ran into some issues with a tough crowd. Bill Cassidy, a first-term Republican senator from Louisiana, was meeting with a crowd of constituents in Metairie yesterday, but as Louisiana State chaplain Michael Sprague begun to recite an opening prayer, the crowd immediately began to heckle him.

One man interrupted Sprague’s first words to shout, “Amen! Let’s get on with it.” Another person added, “Pray on your own time. This is our time.” Meanwhile, a group of people began to chant repeatedly, “Separation of church and state.” Here’s a video of the interruption of the opening invocation:

But the disruptions didn’t end there. As a local veteran took the microphone to lead the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the jeering continued, with one man audibly yelling, “Do your job.” Here’s the video footage of this bout of heckling:

According to a local news account of the town hall event, many constituents had arrived at 11:30 a.m. for the event, which wasn’t scheduled to begin until 3:30 p.m. The venue was much too small for the hundreds who actually showed up, because it had been booked weeks in advance and Cassidy’s staff hadn’t expected such a large crowd. To top it off, Cassidy arrived 20 minutes late, as he had been inspecting the tornado damage in New Orleans.

Throughout Cassidy’s remarks, the crowd remained unsettled, becoming particularly upset when he mentioned President Donald Trump and even more incensed when he referenced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It appeared from the footage and the news accounts that the constituents didn’t actually want to ask questions or hear what Cassidy had to say; they wanted to express their anger.

Three Michael Novak Links

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

As you know, Michael Novak died on Friday.

Mary Eberstadt’s remembrance of Michael’s wife Karen in 2009, which I know Michael was particularly fond of.

Mitch Boersma, who worked as a research assistant for Michael Novak, writes about how Michael Novak changed his life:

when I arrived for my first day of work with Michael at the American Enterprise Institute, I was more or less terrified at the prospect of working with such an intellectual heavyweight.  

Michael arrived at the office, dumped a dog-eared article off at my desk, and asked me to read it. I don’t remember what it was about, other than that I thought I disagreed with it.  

He later called me back into his office: “So, Mitch, what do you think?”

I froze and thought to myself: What did I think? What was I supposed to think? I didn’t agree with it. Well, at least I think I didn’t agree, but what if I didn’t understand it completely? Did Michael like the piece? He did give it to me to read after all. What does he want me to say?

After a deep gulp, I stammered out, “It was, uh, interesting.”

Michael pulled his eyes up from his desk and shot back:  “Never use the word ‘interesting.’ Interesting is a weasel word. Every editor in the country will tell you your manuscript is interesting. That doesn’t mean any of them will publish it. Don’t be a weasel.”

There’s more here

We posted a symposium here that included contributions from some colleagues and former research assistants.


Erdogan to Me: Stay Out of Turkey

by Daniel Pipes

I participated Tuesday in a conference about the eastern Mediterranean at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) just outside Tel Aviv; and because Tel Aviv is the diplomatic center of Israel, its events attract a good number of diplomats. Tuesday was no exception, with a foreign minister and other diplomats from several eastern Mediterranean countries, including Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey.

My talk surveyed the role of Islamism in the region. In the question-and-answer period, Turkey’s newly-appointed ambassador, Kemal Ökem, vigorously protested points I had made about his country. I defended these, then challenged Ökem (in a video that can be viewed here):

Pipes: I started going to Turkey in 1972. I studied Turkish, not very successfully, but I did study it. I’ve gone back many times. And at this point, I dare not go back to Turkey because I am critical, as you may have heard, of the government and, in particular, I supported the July 15th coup [a position] which is absolutely an outrage in Turkey. And so, I dare not go back to Turkey. And so, let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, would it be it safe for me to go to Turkey and spend some time there or just go through the airport? You have a great airline that I would love to use but I dare not use it. Would I be safe going to Turkey?

Ökem: If you say that you support the failed coup attempt that killed 250 Turkish civilians and if you that say you support the kind of organization which we call a terrorist organization, which is a religious cult by the way, and trying to export something, if you say that, I would rather advise you not to go there because you be an accomplice, considered an accomplice. [laughter]

Pipes: That’s what I was expecting.

Ökem: It’s an expected answer but it’s legitimate answer. I mean, I would advise you to find good legal advice before you travel to Turkey.

The name of that “terrorist organization” was not spoken, but Ökem was referring to the so-called Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, or FETÖ (Fethullah Terror Organization). To the rest of the world, it’s the Hizmet movement founded by Fethullah Gülen, a former close and important ally of Erdogan’s until the two of them split. No one else sees it as violent, much less terroristic. Erdogan’s accusation that it organized the July 2016 coup attempt is noxious and absurd.

This ambassador’s statement has several interesting implications:

Left unspoken was what would happen to me, were I foolish enough to venture to Turkey, so I’ll make it explicit here: As someone deemed an accomplice of FETÖ, I would be jailed without charges and held for who-knows-how-long.

This is despite my having a long record of being critical of the Gülen movement. For example, the Middle East Quarterly, a journal I publish, ran so important a critical article on Hizmet by Rachel Sharon-Krespin in 2009 that it was translated and prominently featured by the leftist Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.

An arch critic of the Soviet Union, such as my father, Richard Pipes, had no problem visiting Russia in the still-repressive post-Stalinist era. In other words, Ankara, a member of NATO and a formal ally of the United States, imposes a higher level of thought control than did the USSR.

Turkish Airlines would seem to be the only airline whose passengers must pass an ideological test if they hope to complete their journey without danger of getting thrown in jail.

I have visited Turkey, one of my favorite destinations, ten times over 45 years, with the final trip in 2012. I shall miss the country. Like tens of millions of Turks, I look forward to celebrating the early termination of the Erdogan regime.

Treat Illegal Immigration Like What It Is: A Law Enforcement Problem

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Response To...

The Labyrinth of Illegal Immigration

Victor’s excellent column on illegal immigration raises the tough questions presented by removable aliens who have committed serious but non-violent identity-fraud crimes. They are tough because they implicate the gray area between two extremes.

On one end, everyone knows that it is neither possible nor desirable to deport the entire illegal-immigrant population (estimated at 11 million-plus); on the other, there is strong consensus that serious criminals and those in defiance of deportation orders should be deported forthwith, though we know this is just a minority subset of that population. It is not an insignificant subset: As Victor notes, even before President Trump entered office, close to a million people were facing government removal orders.

This brings to the fore a subject on which I fear I’m becoming a broken record, but I’ll hit it again anyway. Since 9/11, we’ve lost the distinction between national-security challenges and crime problems. Illegal immigration is a crime problem. Yes, it has some important national-security aspects (as do other crime problems), but the percentage of illegal aliens who threaten national security (as opposed to who are recidivist criminals) is negligible.

The distinction is important. We must always have as a goal eradicating national-security challenges – even if the goal is unrealistic, a single terrorist attack can be so catastrophic, we must take extra measures to prevent it. To the contrary, it is not our goal to eradicate crime problems – it would neither be possible nor desirable (in terms of the costs to liberty) to do that.

Crime problems do not lend themselves to “comprehensive” solutions. Instead, they are managed by reasonable and hopefully efficient law enforcement.

Since enforcement resources are finite, priority will be given to removing serious criminals in the illegal-immigrant population. But what is a “serious” crime? The answer to this question, Victor points out, will depend on our view of identity-fraud crimes (and related varieties of document fraud). These are felonies. Because illegal aliens commit them massively, their apologists want us to think of such offenses as “unserious.” But they are even conceivable that way only when compared to heinous violent crimes; and we know they are not unserious because they are treated quite seriously by the government when committed by American citizens.

I don’t think it is useful to make a rule about how we should regard identity-fraud offenders in the immigration population, because the offense behavior varies so widely. One person may have gotten a single fraudulent ID years ago in order to get a job, in connection with which he pays taxes, living an otherwise law-abiding life and being an asset to his community. Another may use fraudulent IDs to purloin benefits from social-welfare programs. Another may be in the fraudulent-ID business.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. Better simply to let law enforcement do its job.

A sensible allocation of resources in immigration enforcement would focus on border security, apprehension and removal of known criminal aliens, and the magnets of illegal immigration – employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens and the abuse of welfare programs. If you address those things, you eliminate or drastically reduce the incentive for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. illegally. The illegal-immigrant population would decrease, probably dramatically.

Beyond that, illegal immigrants who choose to stay here take their chances. The thing I have never understood about proposals for “comprehensive immigration reform” is the presumption that it is our obligation as Americans not only to address but to cure the illegal status of people who choose to violate our laws by entering our country illegally or overstaying their legal permission to remain here. If you are an illegal alien in this country, that is your choice and therefore your problem, not mine. (Caveat: I am not talking about “DREAMers”; they are a comparatively small category of people who were brought here as children, whose illegal status is not their fault, and who have never known any home other than the United States.)

I don’t believe we need to or should hassle people, including illegal aliens, who are generally law-abiding. But if you are not here legally, and you encounter police when they are carrying out their normal duties, you run the risk of being arrested and deported. Maybe in an individual case, the equities will call for exercising discretion against triggering removal proceedings. But in most cases, illegal aliens who are encountered in the course of ordinary law enforcement operations should be detained and deported.

What ‘Uproar’ Over Repealing the Obama Transgender Bathroom Directive?

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

What ‘Uproar’ Over Repealing the Obama Transgender Bathroom Directive?

That other morning newsletter offered by Politico writes . . . 

Trump caused an uproar over his decision to withdraw protections for transgender students. . . . As Republicans across the country continue to face screaming constituents at town halls, Trump’s focus on transgender bathrooms doesn’t give them anything to say to people worried about losing their health care.

Did you hear the “uproar”? I must have had my earphones in at that moment.

Er, what presidential “focus” on the issue? It was one repeal of one directive from the Obama administration contending that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice — a directive that is being challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court already blocked a lower court order that would have required a school to let students use the bathroom they prefer. In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

From the media coverage, you could easily get the idea that there is a broad public support for allowing self-identified transgender students use the bathroom they prefer. The polling on this issue is a little contradictory, but it doesn’t support the Politico narrative at all. No doubt there are those who are in an “uproar” about the issue, but they’re likely to be concentrated in states and House districts that have already elected Democrats.

Let’s start with the CBS News/New York Times poll in May of last year:

While less than a majority, 46 percent of Americans say they think that transgender people should be allowed to use only public restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth. A smaller number, 41 percent, think transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom that matches the gender they identify with.

Question wording matters a lot. That month CNN asked, “Overall, would you say you favor or oppose laws that require transgender individuals to use facilities that correspond to their gender at birth rather than their gender identity? Do you [favor/oppose] that strongly or somewhat?” and found 57 percent saying they opposed them, 38 percent supported them.

A week later, Gallup asked, “In terms of policies governing public restrooms, do you think these policies should – [ROTATED: require transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender (or should these policies) allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity]?”

Gallup reported, “The results from this question wording were the opposite of the CNN responses. We found 50 percent opted for the first option that requires transgender individuals to use a restroom corresponding with their birth gender, while 40 percent chose the latter option, allowing them to use a bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.”

Then Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research conducted a survey in July:

When asked the question about whether the government should force organizations to open bathrooms and other facilities to people of the opposite gender, 66 percent of adults disapprove, with over half of adults showing very strong disapproval.

Their wording: “Do you approve or disapprove of government forcing schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations to open the showers, changing facilities, locker rooms, and bathrooms designated for women and girls, to biological males and vice versa? And, would you say you STRONGLY approve/disapprove, or just SOMEWHAT?”

Then in October, the Pew Research Center asked about the issue:

About half of U.S. adults (51%) say transgender individuals should be allowed to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender they currently identify with, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But nearly as many (46%) take the opposite position – on the side of the North Carolina law – and say transgender people should be required to use bathrooms that match the gender they were born into.

If you oppose the North Carolina law and believe everyone should use the bathroom they feel is most appropriate for themselves, you’d like to think the CNN and Pew polls are more accurate. If you believe anybody with an outie should be using the bathroom with a urinal, no matter how they “self-identify,” you’d like to think the CBS News/New York Times poll, the WPA poll, and the Gallup polls are more accurate.

Or the public’s view may be a little more nuanced than these question phrasing permits; judging from the WPA response, a lot of people who might be comfortable with transgender individuals using their preferred bathroom really don’t like the idea when the words “government forcing” are used. Then again, that’s precisely what the Obama administration directive did; the directive declared that any school that refused to permit a student to use his or her preferred bathroom represented a violation of Title IX, and the school could no longer be eligible for federal funds.

Neither side should be convinced that they have an overwhelming majority of the public on their side. But if you drew a Venn diagram, depicting people who support the Obama administration’s directive and people who voted for Trump, the two circles would barely overlap at all.

Also worth noting: Six-tenths of one percent of American adults identify as transgender.

Krauthammer’s Take: ‘Weak Congress’ Has Become Dependent on Presidential Leadership

by NR Staff

Answering why parties always seem to be one election away from finishing a major piece of legislation, Charles Krauthammer laid the blame on Congress for ceding authority to the executive branch:

That’s the great irony here, you are always “one election away” if you get divided government. Here we have united government, or at least the same party controlling everything, with a lot of momentum. The beginning of every new presidency, they always give him the benefit of the doubt, and the great irony is that Congress has become so dependent on following the lead of a president in general — allowing its powers to be usurped, one presidency after another. This is not the province of one party. But now that it’s in control, it can’t get its act together, unless you get strong presidential leadership. The president, next week in his quasi-state-of-the-union address, saying, “This is what I want on tax reform,” and leading on it — that would be the decisive event. And in the absence of that it’s showing how weak Congress has become and how it has become habituated to looking to the White House for leadership. It’s not getting it. It’s not going anywhere.

Something’s Rotten in the State of Denmark. It’s the Welfare System.

by Ian Tuttle

From today’s you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me file:

The Danish government has been inadvertently paying benefits to citizens fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Danish officials said Tuesday, as outrage grows that militants are manipulating the country’s generous welfare system. . . .

Officials said that since last year, municipal and state authorities had been trying to collect about $95,000 in welfare benefits that had been wrongly paid to 29 citizens who had gone to Syria to fight for ISIS. [NY Times]

This is a tiny oversight, right? Kind of thing that can happen to anybody, yeah?

Until now, national regulations have made it difficult for the authorities to stop benefit payments to a suspected militant, even if the person had been identified by the intelligence services as an ISIS fighter. Officials said investigating the circumstances of individuals in Syria or Iraq was logistically challenging.

In case you didn’t catch that: Even if Danish intelligence spots you jihad-ing your way across the Levant, RPG-launcher on your shoulder, sex slaves in tow, the Danish government will still have a hard time cutting off your government check.

The thing about managerial liberalism is that it only works when the managers are competent. When news like this emerges, you start to see how voters could begin looking around for something — maybe anything — else. 

Is the Trump Administration Set to Repeal the Obama Administration’s Lawless and Radical Transgender Edict?

by David French

If true, this report from the New York Times is both promising and troubling. First, the promising part — it looks as if the Trump administration could at any moment issue new guidelines effectively repealing the Obama administration’s broad, lawless, and radical transgender edicts. In May 2016, the Department of Justice and Department of Education jointly issued a letter that dramatically expanded the scope of Title IX to require that federally-funded schools (virtually all schools from kindergarten through college) to treat a student’s chosen “gender identity” as their “sex.” 

While some dismiss this as merely implicating bathroom use, access to showers, and rooming arrangements for overnight trips, in reality it was far, far broader. As I wrote last year, it had implications for free speech, science education, religious liberty, and federalism. In other words, arguing that a man can’t get pregnant or a woman can’t have a penis could create a “hostile environment” or be considered discriminatory harassment. Teachers and administrators would be required to participate in and cooperate with the lie that boys can be girls, and girls can be boys. The curriculum would have to reflect that fact, sports teams would have to conform (with limited exceptions), and schools would be legally and formally opposed to orthodox Christian beliefs regarding the very nature of men and women. 

To emphasize, this was all done by letter, not by statute or regulation. Executive branch agencies can’t simply make up the law. At the very least, the Administrative Procedure Act requires a proper rulemaking process. In reality, the change is so substantial that it can and should only come through Congress. Given the letter’s radicalism, breadth, and lawlessness, repealing it should have been an easy administrative call. Apparently, however, it’s not. Reportedly (and surprisingly), Betsy DeVos objects. Here’s the Times:

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.

But Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

Though an official order from the administration was expected to be released as early as Wednesday, Mr. Sessions and Ms. DeVos were still disputing the final language.

This is troubling. Many of the Obama administration’s worst excesses came in the form of these Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letters, and it’s vital that DeVos move resolutely to restore the constitutional balance to publicly-funded schools. Moreover, she’ll have to do it in the face of sky-is-falling rhetoric from the academic left. There is an enormous ideological investment in using the Department of Education as an instrument of social engineering, and the Left will not cede that ground lightly. Here is an early Trump administration test. Will it restore proper legal processes and respect local control of public schools, or are some subjects simply too hot for it to touch?

Trump’s Staff vs. His Twitter Habit

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Tara Palmeri has a story in Politico about how Trump’s campaign aides tried to keep him from tweeting things they considered self-destructive. The story is based on a mix of named and anonymous sources. All of it is consistent with things we already knew about the president.

The story is being taken to confirm that Trump is a thin-skinned narcissist with a small attention span–and parts of it do indeed reinforce that impression. “One Trump associate said it’s important to show Trump deference and offer him praise and respect, as that will lead him to more often listen. And If Trump becomes obsessed with a grudge, aides need to try and change the subject, friends say. . .”

Yet the bulk of the story does not strike me as being nearly as damning as it is being made out to be. Take this passage:

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” said former communications director Sam Nunberg.

Or this one:

[Campaign officials] would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message. While Trump still couldn’t contain his Twitter-rage with [former Miss Universe Alicia] Machado, and ended up tweeting about a mystery sex-tape of the Hillary Clinton surrogate, aides say they dialed back even more posts.

“He saw there was activity so he didn’t feel like he had to respond,” the former campaign official said. “He sends out these tweets when he feels like people aren’t responding enough for him.”

So: The candidate felt that someone should defend him, and if he didn’t see anyone else doing it to his satisfaction he’d do it himself. His aides talked to media figures to get favorable stories in circulation, and then showed him that those stories were in fact circulating. There were a lot of things that were abnormal and appalling about Trump’s feud with Machado. The facts that he wanted certain points made in the media and that his aides were doing what they could to make sure it happened were not among them.

Join Me at National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit

by David French

We live in a world of bubbles, where different American cultures not only don’t interact with each other, they barely understand how the “other half” lives. At the National Review Institute, we break those bubbles — bringing together the best conservative minds from worlds red and blue, urban and rural.

Join me in D.C. at National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on Thursday, March 16, and Friday, March 17. I will be speaking on a panel with Kevin Williamson and J. D. Vance about conservatism and the class divide, and that’s just one of the discussions about our nation’s politics, culture, and faith. We hope to see you there. Please register today.

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (Feb. 22, 2017)

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

1. A clever young woman in Florida is putting together a rally for persecuted Christians today on the grounds of a shrine to Florida martyrs. I’m looking forward to being a part of it, speaking on March 4. Details here.

2. A sensitive piece by Terry Mattingly on the life of Norma McCorvey and the media.

Keep reading this post . . .

Pipeline Protesters Ruin Tribe’s Casino Revenue and Set Fire to Camp

by Paul Crookston

The Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are being forced to abandon their camp today, and rather than allow the site to be properly cleaned up, they have decided to light it on fire:

Burning sections of the camp will most likely make a sanitary and efficient cleanup more difficult for the authorities, which have repeatedly clashed with protesters over the camp’s threat to the environment. But the protesters’ primary consideration is symbolism, as one summed up by tweeting, “Some tipis are still burning. Dakota Access and their army can’t have them.”

An even bigger reason many in the Standing Rock tribe won’t be sorry to see visiting agitators go: The pipeline protest has been detrimental to their most important source of revenue, the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort. The Washington Times reported that the casino:

has taken a $6 million hit amid the turmoil stemming from the protests, thanks in part to agitators who blocked roads, forced the closure of the Backwater Bridge after setting it on fire and left tons of garbage in their wake.

LaRoy Kingsley, spokesman for the reservation casino in Yates, North Dakota, said this week that the venue has undertaken a public relations campaign to lure patrons put off by months of upheaval and clashes with law enforcement.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the protests and the closing of the bridge have had a significant impact on people’s ability to get to the casino and just their comfort level driving down,” Mr. Kingsley told WDAY-AM host Rob Port.

With a harsh winter afflicting the area, the closure of the Backwater Bridge came at the worst time for the tribe’s revenue. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted,” said the tribe’s CFO Jerome Long Bottom to the Bismarck Tribune. With a critical access route to the casino cut off, it follows that revenue is down from $14 million in 2015 to $8 million in 2016, according to figures in the Washington Times.

The protest posed various difficulties for the Standing Rock. When a blizzard hit, they sacrificed space in the casino to help protesters who were in danger from the inclement weather. Meanwhile, the tribe’s association with visiting protesters has discouraged some from patronizing the casino. It appears that massive taxpayer expenses, blocking road access, and halting energy production are not as popular among North Dakotans as they are among the cosmopolitan admirers of the protest.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set a deadline for protesters to leave by 2 p.m. Central Time this afternoon, and the state of North Dakota is offering not only to clean up the camp’s entire mess but also to give protesters free lodging, food, and travel. After spending $33 million on law enforcement and other expenses associated with the protest, the state considers it worth spending just a little bit more to be rid of the intruders at last.

The Maestro Sings, Speaks, Delights

by Jay Nordlinger

My guest on a new Q&A is Herbert Blomstedt, the venerable Swedish conductor. Actually, he was born in America, in 1927, to Swedish parents. The family returned to Sweden when the conductor-to-be was two. He has conducted all over the world, with tenures in Dresden, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

His dad was a Seventh-day Adventist missionary. Maestro Blomstedt is of this same faith, and does not rehearse on Saturdays. He once told an interviewer — I love this statement — “Really, there’s nothing so sensational about being religious. A great many people are.”

Maestro Blomstedt is guest-conducting the New York Philharmonic this week, and I sat down with him in his dressing room at Lincoln Center. We talked about his upbringing, his relationships with composers — especially his bond with Beethoven — and many other things.

He does a little singing in this podcast, to make musical points. That is one of the delights of this hour. The whole hour is a delight, featuring a rare artist and human being. The music-minded will like it especially, I’m pretty sure. But who knows? It’s available to all. Blomstedt is a communicator to all.

Again, the Q&A is here.

Former Ex-Im Beneficiaries Show They Can Get Private Funding

by Veronique de Rugy

For months, we have been told that the full lending power of the Export-Import Bank must be restored because companies won’t have access to capital and sales of U.S. goods can’t happen without Ex-Im backing the loans. One example of the casualties that pro–Ex-Im advocates liked to use was the failed Boeing sale of a satellite to a Singapore startup called Kacific.

Well, as many of us predicted, if the sale was worth the risk, the companies involved would find a way to make it happen. And they did. SpaceNews reports:

Kacific has finalized its order for a high-throughput platform it will share with Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan. . . . 

In the time since, Kacific raised $147 million in a late 2016 financing round, and signed 15 wholesale contracts for managed bandwidth collectively worth $434 million. That constituted enough to go forward with the satellite without the bank’s assistance, Kacific CEO Christian Patouraux told SpaceNews Feb. 20.

Diane Katz and I wrote about another Ex-Im misinformation campaign regarding another failed Boeing satellite sale back in 2015.

Economists understand why the few companies borrowing money with an Ex-Im guarantee would rather do that than use commercial loans like everyone else: With a government guarantee, they get very good terms and lower borrowing costs, which in turn gives them an edge over their competition. It also happens to shift the risk away from the buyer and the seller to U.S. taxpayers.

However, as we see in this case, the limitation of Ex-Im’s lending power doesn’t mean that these export deals can’t happen. I know Ex-Im advocates would like us to believe that, but it is simply not true. It just means that it may be more expensive and require more work from everyone. Also, not having access to a cheap loan doesn’t mean that these companies don’t have access to capital at all. Besides, you know what? Even before Ex-Im was shut down, 98 percent of U.S. exports took place without the support of Ex-Im–backed loans.

Finally, the fact that capital markets will not extend loans to all companies is not a bug — it is a feature of the capital markets. Not all loans and business ideas are worth financing at regular interest rates.

Now, I know that President Trump has made some comments about being open to helping the crony program out. However, there are some hopeful signs.

First, last Friday during his press conference at the Boeing plant in South Carolina, Trump talked about jobs but never mentioned the Ex-Im Bank.

Second, the Ex-Im Bank is among nine programs targeted for elimination under the White House Office of Management and Budget’s proposal circulated last week. As I noted a few weeks ago, those in charge of writing the budget proposals are serious free-market advocates and the new director of OMB, Mick Mulvaney, is a fierce opponent of all corporate welfare and of Ex-Im, in particular.

Finally, last week Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), a Freedom Caucus member, reiterated his staunch opposition to the Bank and signaled he would fight the president on this issue if need be. Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg reported Jordan’s comments:

I’ve fought against the Export-Import Bank for years and will continue to do so​. Ex-Im is the definition of crony capitalism: big business getting a special deal from big government at the expenses of the American taxpayer. Additionally, as is often the case with government programs, the Ex-Im Bank is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse and should be shuttered.

We know that the way to make America great again and create jobs isn’t through crony programs artificially boosting the bottom lines of Boeing and GE. Even a pro–Ex-Im group, the American Action Forum, acknowledges that “for the economy as a whole, export financing [such as Ex-Im] merely redistributes jobs across the economy rather than create[ing] more overall jobs.” That’s exactly correct: Ex-Im boosts jobs in the subsidized industries at the expenses of jobs in non-subsidized ones.

The best way to create jobs and boost the economy is, of course, to implement fundamental tax reform. On the corporate side, it means lowering the tax rate and moving to full expensing and a territorial tax system. Deregulation would also go a long way toward boosting growth and creating jobs. Finally, draining the swamp by ending the unhealthy marriage between the government and big businesses would also be a step in the right direction. So let’s do it.

The Ridiculous Case Against Econ 101 Gets Destroyed

by George Leef

Is the standard-model Econ 101 course bad? One person who thinks so is University of Connecticut law professor James Kwak. He has written a book and published at least two articles (in The Atlantic and The Chronicle Review) arguing that students are misled by the “simplistic” ideas taught in Econ 101, revolving around supply and demand. What bothers him especially is that students may become skeptical about the sorts of interventionist policies that leftists favor, such as minimum-wage increases.

In this Martin Center article, economics professor Don Boudreaux of George Mason University rises to the defense of Econ 101 — at least when taught as it should be.

Boudreaux nails it when he writes, “It turns out that the analyst who is simple-minded is not the good Econ 101 student, but instead, Kwak himself, who clearly doesn’t have what it takes to reason as carefully as does this student.”

Fortunately, despite the excessive formality of advanced economics, good Econ 101 courses are not uncommon. In those courses, students learn the “mental toolkit” of economists.

They learn that prices and wages are not set arbitrarily, that voluntary trade that crosses political borders is no less mutually advantageous than is voluntary trade that doesn’t, that all goods and services have costs that someone must pay, that profits are a reward for serving consumers and not an unjust extraction from workers, that intentions are not results, and much more.

Along the way, they also learn that most of what non-economists, and their political representatives, believe about the economy is mistaken.

The college curriculum is degraded enough, and if schools take out Econ 101 in favor of nothing or (worse) fluff courses that will further incline students toward the belief that government can solve all our problems, the country will be much worse off. And before “progressives” embrace Kwak’s notions fully, they might contemplate that students who can see the folly in believing that minimum-wage laws only have good consequences are also students who can see how Trump’s attack on free trade will harm most of us. An economically ignorant population cuts both ways.

Incidentally, I strongly recommend a daily trip to Don’s Cafe Hayek.

Two Opportunities Monday in D.C. to Shine a Light on Life

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Ryan Anderson and I are teaming up thanks to the Heritage Foundation, the Catholic Information Center, and the National Review Institute, at two times on Monday, Feb. 27th to talk about alternatives to physician-prescribed suicide.

One is at 3:00 at the Heritage Foundation on the Hill and will include a keynote by Senator James Lankford.


Details and RSVP information here.

And another is at 6 pm at the Catholic Information Center near the White House.

Details and RSVP information here.

Please consider joining us as we address a heartbreaking topic with people working for compassionate alternatives to a dangerous approach to health care that leaves the vulnerable ever-less protected.