Highway Robbery: Mandating Driverless Cars

by Andrew Stuttaford

In the course of a recent, strangely optimistic piece, Kevin Williamson (who appears to have forgotten that he’s a conservative: We’re meant to be the pessimists, Kevin) writes:

Autonomous cars won’t have to route around traffic jams because traffic jams will never form in the first place — that’s the value of the network. Countless man-hours now wasted sitting in traffic will be liberated. Fewer people will die in ambulances or waiting for fire trucks. Everything that moves between producers and consumers — which is to say, every consumer good and manufacturing input — will be transported more efficiently. Many of those problems are going to be solved by Millennials for whom owning a car and having strong feelings about it is a barbaric Boomer relic.

But watch those last three words. Watch that adjective. If a generation already showing some alarmingly authoritarian tendencies feels that something is ‘barbaric’, well…

Then there is AEI’s James Pethokoukis, writing in The Week

One recent gone-viral prediction comes from Bob Lutz, a former top executive and design guru at General Motors. In an essay for Automotive News, Lutz wrote that “in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.”

And that forecast, whatever its accuracy, may have inadvertently predicted the next great battleground of America’s culture wars.

Culture wars? If such legislation comes along, the battle will be about a great deal more than ‘culture’. Or it ought to be. 

For all the irritations that can come with car ownership, the essence of the automobile is the autonomy that it brings. The ability it gives, so long as there’s money for gas, to just get up and go, when you want, where you want, the way you want. 

Forget all the environmentalist grumbling, it’s that individual autonomy that has long made the auto so offensive to so many on the left.

Back to Pethokoukis:

Some social media users were thrilled by Lutz’s prediction, commenting on the technology’s potential safety aspects and how it could make commuting easier. But plenty of others were horrified at the prospect. Lots of “… from my cold, dead hands” tweets, for instance, a reference to the well-known National Rifle Association slogan. For these people, such knee-jerk opposition to driverless cars is all about maintaining personal autonomy and withstanding yet another elite assault on their lifestyle.

Note the dismissive use of ‘knee-jerk’ there. Actually, there are plenty of good, not so difficult to think through reasons why the idea of legislating away the driver-car is a very, very bad idea. And this is not about ‘elites’ or ‘lifestyle’, it’s about the power of the state and how far it should be allowed to override the rights of the individual. 


So you can see how this is going to play out, right? Just wait until Fox & Friends notices this issue, which means it will immediately land on President Trump’s radar. And then the tweets will begin. Maybe something like: “First guns, now the elites want to rip the steering wheel from your hands! Banning human drivers is wacko! I WON’T LET THEM!”

The implication is that no decent people would object to such a well-meaning idea as being denied the right to drive (for the good of society, of course). Only, to borrow a word, a ‘wacko’ with a weakness for CAPITAL LETTERS could possibly argue that such a prohibition would be wrong. 


Will it work? Of course there’s no constitutional right to manually drive your car, unlike the right to bear arms. So the freedom argument might not be as compelling as with guns.

I’m not sure about that. The ‘freedom argument’ in this case is just as intellectually compelling (maybe even more so), but the right to drive may lack the legal protections that have (thankfully)  kept the right to bear arms intact. That, however, is a different question. 

There are, of course, good utilitarian arguments for driverless cars. Kevin has made some, James Pethokoukis makes others: 

Then there’s the tremendous upside to driverless cars. Not everyone may personally know a gun victim, but who hasn’t been in a nasty car accident or doesn’t know someone who has? Widespread adoption of autonomous driving tech could reduce roadway deaths by at least 90 percent — saving some one million lives a year globally — making it one of the great public health achievements in human history. Now factor in enhanced mobility for the disabled and elderly, shorter commute times, and an end to all those wasted hours staring at the brake lights right in front of you.

If such cars do bring such practical benefits (and they could well), people will choose them for themselves, and only a stubborn minority—a minority too small to disrupt the smooth operation of a driverless traffic system–will stick with their retrograde jalopies. Even if we put the question of individual freedom to one side (and we should not), if driverless cars turn out to be as good as some predict they ought not to need compulsion to back them up.

But if there’s one thing we should have learned by now it is that systems are not as invulnerable as we’d like—imagine a mass hack.

And then there’s the question (give me a second while I adjust the tinfoil) of a universal off switch.

As a reminder:

The New York Times:

Tesla drivers in Florida got an unexpected assist this weekend as they scrambled to evade Hurricane Irma. Owners of certain Model S sedans and Model X S.U.V.s noticed that the battery capacity of their electric cars had increased, giving them as much as 40 extra miles of range to outrun the deluge. Range anxiety — the fear that an electric vehicle will run out of charge before reaching its destination — can be magnified in emergency situations.

Tesla confirmed that it had remotely enabled a free software upgrade for vehicles in the path of the storm, motivated by one customer who requested the change while making evacuation plans. The free upgrade will expire on Saturday…

Most other auto manufacturers “sell vehicles that are incapable of learning and improving and are highly vulnerable to obsolescence,” Adam Jonas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote in July. But not Tesla, which has become an industry leader in what’s known as over-the-air vehicle upgrades — the ability to make instant fixes without being anywhere near the car.

It’s an efficient method: Wirelessly communicating improvements to a digitally equipped vehicle means that customers don’t have to come in for every small tuneup. But some updates, like a strict speed cap that Tesla rolled back this year, also raise concerns about consumer privacy and control.

You think? 

Meanwhile Pethokoukis sees other benefits from going all driverless: 

For instance: Tech analyst Benedict Evans points out that gas stations will be going bye bye, just like the combustion engine. And that means big changes in American smoking habits since half of U.S. tobacco sales happen at gas stations, and are often impulse buys. “Car crashes kill 35,000 people a year in the U.S.A., but tobacco kills 500,000,” Evans writes.

And so the infantilization of adult Americans is set to continue. Can’t be trusted to drive. Can’t be trusted with stores that supply them with the products that they would like (however medically unwisely) to consume. The slippery slope is real, and we’re not to be allowed anywhere near a handbrake. 


So the evidence and data support moving to driverless cars ASAP, even if that means only the robots get to drive.

But notions of individual autonomy do not.

Driverless cars seem promising, but they must be designed to share the road with cars in which humans are at the wheel. 

Roy Moore Is Not The Cure For Judicial Supremacy

by Dan McLaughlin

One of the arguments made by serious conservatives in favor of Roy Moore – at least before his campaign was consumed by stories of sexual impropriety – has been that Moore is an enemy of judicial supremacy. While I’m sympathetic to the cause, Moore was never a good messenger for it.

Even aside from the substance of Moore’s political beliefs (such as they are), the central defining fact of his political career has been his refusal as a state judge to abide by federal court orders. Moore was popularly elected to six-year terms as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000 and again in 2012, and he was forced out of office halfway through each term (the second time, he resigned just ahead of being forcibly removed). In the first case, it was over a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument in his courtroom, on the dubious but decided-by-federal-courts legal theory that this was the equivalent of the state establishing its own church. In the second, it was over Moore’s refusal to comply with the even more dubious but decided-by-federal-courts legal theory that the Due Process Clause requires states to recognize same-sex marriages.

Regardless of the legal preposterousness of the federal court orders, Moore was bound by the Supremacy Clause, which plainly requires state courts to follow federal court interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and their interaction with state law. The Supreme Court concluded in 1816 that federal courts have this authority, and Moore stands practically alone over the past half-century (at least) in contesting it. As Jonathan Adler explains, Justice Story’s reasoning in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee is compelling, Moore’s lone effort to contest it 200 years later is as short on logic and history as it is on supporters: 

Story’s argument was not based upon any claim that federal judges are wiser or more likely to reach the correct result than state judges. Accepting “the most sincere respect for state tribunals,” he explained that the “necessity of uniformity of decisions throughout the whole United States, upon all subjects within the purview of the Constitution” was the reason why federal court decisions must be able to bind state officers, judges included. Indeed, this was the whole point of having a federal judiciary in the first place.

Our federal system readily accommodates differences in state laws. It is one of its virtues. Different parts of the country can adopt and enforce those laws that are most in line with local preferences. Federal law, however, is of a different nature. When laws are enacted by Congress, they are the “supreme law of the land”—and a law can hardly be “supreme” if it means something different in different places. 

Moore’s hairsplitting defense that the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage had not ruled on the Alabama Constitution’s prohibition was baldly frivolous, given that the decision had addressed popularly-enacted state constitutional bans enacted in Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio, without even examining distinctions in what they said or how they were enacted; no possible legal reasoning could distinguish Alabama’s rule. The only basis for Moore’s refusal to follow Obergefell is if Hunter’s Lessee was itself wrong.

The more honest pro-Moore response to this is that Moore, unlike nearly everyone else in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, was at least trying to do something about judicial supremacy. That’s a real problem, so one worth exploring.

Judicial supremacy is the view that a federal court can say or do literally anything, at least where Constitutional law is concerned, and none of the other branches of the federal or state governments – even up to the President and the Congress – can do anything but submit. Under this view of American government, if a federal court rules that the Constitution says the Earth is flat, the other branches must meekly comply unless they can appeal to another federal court or prove that the judge can be removed for office on grounds of being corrupt. That may sound extreme, but in practice it’s the governing ideology of our legal system and essentially all its participants.

In terms of its reasoning, what Supreme Court did in Obergefell - as in Roe v. Wade - was every bit as lawless as anything Roy Moore has ever done. Nobody would seriously argue that the Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment was intended or understood, when enacted by the people’s representatives in 1868, to make the marriage laws of every state over all of American history to date unconstitutional. The Obergefell majority did not even pretend to argue so, or even address the meaning of the text it interpreted. The majority felt that it was doing Right, so text of law and consent of the voters be damned. The worst nightmare of how Roy Moore would act with unchecked power to issue social-policy edicts is that he would act as the Obergefell majority did. Liberals who gloried in the ability to exercise that power without any possibility of restraint should consider how they should like it to be restrained in the hands of a man like Moore.

Judicial supremacy is a serious problem, especially if you think of judges as inherently political actors, and thus believe that their decisions should not be treated as if they were literally the Word of God. But whatever its best solution, Judge Moore’s approach was the wrong one, and very properly ended with him becoming ex-Judge Moore. The legitimacy of any act of government in America comes down to one simple question: who decides?  Moore wasn’t given the power to decide that whatever he wants to be the law, is the law – at least not as far as federal law goes. A state judge doesn’t get to decide what federal law is, once federal courts have decided otherwise. The answer to the rule of judges is not to empower different judges, even ones (like Moore) elected by the people to roles explicitly subservient to the federal courts.

Moore’s conduct as a state judge rendered him wholly unfit for any judicial or executive post in the future. I don’t necessarily think that – by itself – it was an absolute disqualifier for a legislative position (in any event, it’s hardly the only case against Moore as a Senator at this point), but it is certainly no argument in his favor.

Berniecare Would Cover Illegal Aliens

by Wesley J. Smith

I recently took a hard look at Berniecare — what he calls Medicare for All, but which is better described as Medicaid for All.

It would really bust the bank — increase federal spending by $32 trillion according to the Urban Institute — require free abortion coverage, and wreck medical conscience, thereby forcing pro-life and Hippocratic Oath–believing doctors and nurses out of medicine.

It would also cover every illegal alien living in the country. Section 102 of the legislation provides:

Every individual who is a resident of the United States is entitled to benefits for health care services under this Act

Note that the proposal does not refer to citizens or legal residents, but “every individual who is a resident of the United States.”

That means illegal aliens would be entitled to full health-care coverage without charge. That would include dentistry, eyeglasses, mental health, and addiction rehabilitation. Gee, you would think Bernie and his many Democrat cosponsors want people to come here illegally.

We are often told that there are at least 11 million people who entered the country illegally living within our borders. Promise free health care to anyone who comes and stays, and those numbers would surely soar.

Judge to Issue Ruling on Constitutionality of Seattle Income Tax Next Week

by Philip H. DeVoe

Earlier today, King County Superior Court judge John Rhule announced he would make a decision before Thanksgiving regarding the constitutionality of a progressive income tax in Seattle, after hearing the first round of oral arguments in Kunath v. City of Seattle. The hearing was the first step of an attempt to overturn the tax, passed by the Seattle city council in July. Those opposing the tax have cited the Washington state constitution, which directly prohibits any taxes that are not “uniform upon the same class or property.”

During its arguments, the city attempted to exclude Seattle’s tax from the state constitution’s prohibition by asserting that income is not property and that the measure in question is not an income tax at all, rather, a “transaction tax” for the benefit of living in Seattle, according to reporting by Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier. Former Washington attorney general Rob McKenna, who argued on behalf of the opposition, pointed out that a local tax is unconstitutional and cited state supreme-court precedent defending overturning the tax.

McKenna is correct — three times, in 1933, 1935, and 1936, the Washington supreme court ruled a similar tax was unconstitutional under this uniformity clause. Plus, graduated income taxes are widely unpopular in Washington; 64 percent of voters voted “no” on a ballot measure to establish one in 2010. The measure lost even in King County, which encompasses Washington’s largest metropolitan area.

Rhule is expected to rule against the tax, but the city will likely appeal to the state supreme court.

Bad Advice from the Wall Street Journal

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The Wall Street Journal’s editors suggest changing the Senate tax bill: The tax credit for children should be shrunk and the top income-tax rate brought down. These changes would, they say, protect people in high-tax states from tax increases (including owners of pass-through businesses). The only drawback to which they point is that “the income distribution tables would look modestly worse,” which doesn’t matter because critics are always going to complain that Republican plans are tilted toward the wealthy.

I think the Journal vastly overestimates the positive effect that cutting the top tax rate would have on economic growth. I don’t think its political case holds up, either.

Most of the complaints about the end of the state and local tax deduction have centered on people in the upper middle class. The Joint Committee on Taxation has produced a, yes, distribution table that shows how many voters in each income category would see tax increases under an earlier version of the Senate tax bill. It showed that the people most likely to take a hit are those making between $100,000 and $500,000 a year.

The Journal’s suggested changes to the bill would hurt almost all of those people to cut taxes for people making more than they do. The Journal wants to give fewer of those households the child tax credit and cut the amount of the credit for those who get it. Meanwhile, it wants the Senate to lower its proposed 38.5 percent tax rate to 35 percent — a change that would help only those singles making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1 million a year. Those aren’t changes that are going to make the bill more popular, or easier to get into law.

Orrin Hatch Fires Back at Sherrod Brown for Claiming Tax Bill Is ‘For the Rich’

by Philip H. DeVoe

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Senate’s version of the tax-reform bill, committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) pushed back against Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) after Brown claimed that the bill favors the wealthy. Hatch cited his record of defending middle- and lower-class Americans and his own experience growing up in the lower middle class.

A transcript of the exchange is below.

Sherrod Brown: . . . I just think it would be nice, just tonight, to just acknowledge, well, this tax cut isn’t really for the middle class. It’s for the rich, and that whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point, but we know companies don’t just give away higher wages. They just don’t give away higher wages just ’cause they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now, they’re sitting on a lot of profits now. I don’t see wages going up, so just spare us the — spare us the bank shots, spare us the sarcasm and the satire.

Orrin Hatch: I’m just gonna say to you that I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing this for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time, and it gets old. And frankly, you ought to quit it.

SB: But Mr. Chairman, the public believes it —

OH: Now just a minute, I’m not through. I get kind of sick and tired of it. True, it’s a nice political play, but it’s not true.

SB: Well all due respect, I get sick and tired of the richest getting richer and richer —

Overlapping discussion, Hatch calls the chamber to order.

OH: Listen, I’ve honored you by allowing you to spout off here and what you’ve said was not right, that’s all I’m saying. I come from the lower middle class originally. We didn’t have anything so don’t spew that stuff on me. I get a little tired of that crap. And let me just say something. If you didn’t — if we just worked together we could pull this country out of every mess it’s in. And we could do a lot of the things that you’re talking about too. And I’ve got a reputation of having worked together with Democrats.

SB: Let’s start with CHIP [the Children's Health Insurance Program, which Congress did not reauthorize in October].

OH: We’re not starting with CHIP.

SB: Start with CHIP today!

OH: I’ve got more bills passed than anybody on this committee together. And they’ve been passed for the benefit of people in this country. Now all I can say is, I like you personally, very much, but I’m telling you this bullcrap that you guys throw out here really gets old after a while. And to do it at the end of this is just not right. I just — it takes a lot to get me worked up like this.

The committee approved the Senate version of the bill along party lines, 14–12, during a vote at the end of the hearing.

Obamacare Hikes for 2018 May Top 80 Percent in Some States

by Jack Fowler

Your premiums are going to go up in 2018. A lot. Thanks, Obamacare. The national-average increase is a smidge over 27 percent, but depending on the state you live in, the hike could skyrocket to as much as 81 percent.

Freedom Partners has created a state-by-state 2018 “Premium Increase Tracker” that will let you find out just how bad the hit will be in your neck of the woods. Keep the Kleenex handy.

Which Taxes? A Clarification

by Jibran Khan

Commentator Sally Kohn seems confused. She attacks the bipartisan consensus (here’s the Democratic Ways and Means Committee dissenting from the GOP tax bill but supporting corporate tax reform) that the US’s corporate taxes are too high by citing a chart of taxes in general.

However, when you actually look at corporate taxes (via The Economist), the US has the highest rate in the developed world.

As I’ve said before, bad arguments don’t contribute to good policy debate. It was ridiculous when Donald Trump took the US’s high corporate tax rate to make a baseless aggregate claim. It is equally ridiculous for Sally Kohn to take the US’s low aggregate rates to make a specific claim about corporate taxes.

The chart she uses would have looked the same if the US had passed sweeping tax cuts for the ultra-rich with hikes for the middle class to balance it out. Would that be acceptable? I don’t think so either.



Trump Adds to His Supreme Court List

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The new potential nominees: recently confirmed appeals-court judges Amy Barrett and Kevin Newsom; D.C. Circuit appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh; Oklahoma supreme-court justice Patrick Wyrick; and Georgia supreme-court justice Britt Grant. So a mix of federal and state judges. Kavanaugh is the best-known of the bunch, and also a former Kennedy clerk. It is sometimes thought that Kennedy is more likely to retire if he thinks he will be replaced by someone of whom he thinks highly. But Kavanaugh is also, at 52, the oldest of the additions.

The ‘Weinstein Effect’ Doesn’t Trump the Constitution

by David French

Earlier this week, the New York Times published a piece arguing that the so-called “Weinstein effect” should impact the debate over sexual assault and due process on campus. How? In part by stopping efforts to bolster legal protections for accused students.

About six years ago, colleges began offering better support and justice for victims, pushed in part by a grass-roots movement among students themselves. But in September, pundits across the political spectrum approved when the Education Department rolled back some Obama-era rules that had broadened protections for college sexual assault victims, ostensibly because they robbed accused students of their right to due process in campus courts. Obama’s rules were already pro forma at some colleges before his 2011 federal guidance, so I believe the backlash isn’t truly about government policy, but discomfort about the change in how students approach the problem of sexual assault today.

This is very, very wrong. The “backlash” is triggered in large part because court after court (including judges across the ideological spectrum) has concluded that government tribunals (and at private colleges, government-mandated tribunals) have violated the fundamental due process and other legal rights of accused students. No amount of political awareness trumps the Constitution, and due process still applies to state efforts to deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property.”

These concepts are not difficult. When the government initiates legal proceedings that deprive a student of a liberty interest or property interest, there are certain due-process safeguards that automatically attach. They include, among other things, the right to fair notice of the charges, the right to a hearing in front of an impartial tribunal, the right to confront and cross-examine an accuser, and the right to see the relevant evidence. Colleges routinely violate those rights.

At the same time, when the government is not involved — such as when voters are deciding whether to elect a senate candidate, or when the viewers decide which movies to watch — due process does not apply. In fact, in most claims of sexual misconduct by politicians, due process is entirely irrelevant. There’s no judicial proceeding at all. Instead, the public’s duty is to consider the available evidence as fairly as possible, without partisan bias.

Going back to colleges, it’s in times of fear when due process is most important. Connecting the awesome power of the state to a wave of public fear almost always leads to bad results. Now is not the time to back away from our most foundational civil liberties.

The Disgraceful Private-Jet Tax Break in the Senate Republicans’ Tax Plan Was Introduced by a Democrat

by Jibran Khan

A provision in the Senate tax bill grants a tax break to private-jet owners. It has been rightly mocked throughout the media and Twittersphere . . . but lost in the indignation is the rightful target.

While the Republicans deserve criticism for including this bizarre handout, the measure was actually introduced by the Democratic senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio.

Voters Want Congress to Address Tax Reform and Obamacare Separately

by Alexandra DeSanctis

A recent survey found that 64 percent of likely 2018 voters believe Republicans should deal with tax reform and the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as two separate issues, rather than combining them into one legislative effort, as the Senate Finance Committee decided this week to do.

According to the poll, conducted by Remington Research Group, 50 percent of voters support tax reform as a general matter, 29 percent oppose it, and 21 percent remain unsure on the issue. Meanwhile, 50 percent of voters oppose Obamacare repeal compared to 40 percent who support it.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they’d be less likely to support tax reform if it included the abolishment of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

College Campuses Need More Debate

by George Leef

One of the more irritating leftist phrases we hear is that colleges and all other institutions should “model diversity.” That is, they should all have every shade of the rainbow in colors or people to show that we’re all one big happy family. (Bill Clinton’s “I want a cabinet that looks like America” was an early instance of this.)

Instead of “modeling diversity” I suggest that colleges model rationality. They should make sure to display different viewpoints and — more importantly — how to employ reason when points of view clash. Our campuses used to do that rather effectively, but not so much these days. (But one school where debate still thrives is Hillsdale, which recently hosted a debate over free trade between Don Boudreaux and Ian Fletcher.)

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor George La Noue makes the case for reviving debate. He and a team of grad students recently published a paper on the decline of debate. He writes,

Our findings were discouraging. Except for wealthy institutions possessing high-status research centers or law schools, sponsoring debates or forums about public policy with different perspectives is not a priority in higher education. Many political issues debated everywhere else in American society are not debated at all, or only rarely, in campus public events. Almost all undergraduates can vote, but few are exposed to diverse viewpoints about the major policies which should inform their franchise.

The problem is that administrators mostly prefer to avoid possible altercations likely to result when Social Justice Warrior types try to shout down speakers they don’t like (even if there is another speaker they do) and the faculty has done little to stand up for the civil exchange of ideas. That being the case, La Noue argues that trustees and state officials need to prod schools to do more.

He concludes,

A public inventory of campus debates and forums, as our research has done, should be the first step in holding higher education accountable for exposing students and future citizens to diverse ideas. That should eventually improve the kind of civil and tolerant political culture so important in a democracy.

It would be great to see our campuses buzzing with debates over all sorts of contentious topics: the minimum wage, the drug war, socialism, Obamacare, gun control, taxation, etc. Students would learn that people who disagree with them are not monsters and that arguments must be met with counter-arguments, not blind rage. Thanks, Professor La Noue, for calling attention to this serious problem.

Senate Finance Committee Approves GOP Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

The Senate Finance Committee voted last night on a 14–12 party-line vote to approve the Senate version of the GOP tax bill.

It will come to the Senate floor after the Thanksgiving recess for further debate and consideration.

It features significant differences compared to the House version of the bill, so the two will have to be reconciled.

The House version adds more to the deficit, keeps the property tax deduction, does not sunset most of its individual taxes, and does not repeal the individual mandate.

It’s Like an Instant-Replay Review for One of the Big Decisions of 1998

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

It’s Like an Instant-Replay Review for One of the Big Decisions of 1998

The spectacularly convenient shift among Democrats continues, now with Kirsten Gillibrand leading the charge . . . 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.

(As I wrote a few weeks ago, spectacularly convenient shifts are a habit for Gillibrand.)

Still, for those of us who always felt Bill Clinton escaped serious consequence for his long history of sexually pursuing women who worked for him, this long-delayed emerging bipartisan consensus is a bit of a pleasant surprise, the political equivalent of the Missouri Tigers being officially notified that there shouldn’t have been a “fifth down” in that infamous game against Colorado in 1990. Clinton’s critics were right, and his supporters were defending the indefensible. Let’s start revising those history books, folks.

(I know everybody remembers the Clinton presidency for the dot-com boom, welfare reform, and the Macarena, but there’s a need for a serious reconsideration of the Clinton record — most spectacularly in the rise of al-Qaeda, the aid deal with North Korea, and the botching of probably the best opportunity for entitlement reform . . . )

Plus, the thermonuclear reaction from the remaining Clinton enclave is going to be delightful to watch. Philippe Reines, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is beside himself: “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

Actually, yes, this is an interesting strategy for the 2020 primaries. Reines seems to think that deviating from the Democratic party’s orthodoxy over an impeachment battle from what will then be 22 years ago will be a make-or-break issue in what is likely to be a crowded primary. By 2020, Bill Clinton’s impeachment will be further back in the past than the Vietnam War was in the 1992 presidential race.

Will the Democratic primary electorate of 2020 be so convinced that a statement like Gillibrand’s is such blasphemy? We can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. A lot of behavior that was once unsavory but did not generate serious consequence is now fodder for stories and part of a “trend.” (More on that below.) No doubt within the inner circle of the Clintons, women like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones are all considered to be terrible liars, and Clinton’s interaction with Monica Lewinsky was an entirely personal indiscretion that warranted no serious public scrutiny or consequence. Never mind the country as a whole, I’m not sure most Democrats believe that anymore. Vox contributor Matt Yglesias is getting a lot of skepticism for his recent essay, but I’m willing to take him at his word that he’s really changed his mind:

“My boss took advantage of me,” Lewinsky writes in the same article, a piece in which she correctly argues that the ensuring debate ended up entirely slighting highly relevant issues including “the balance of power and gender inequality in politics and media.”

Had Clinton resigned in disgrace under pressure from his own party, that would have sent a strong, and useful, chilling signal to powerful men throughout the country.

Instead, the ultimate disposition of the case — impunity for the man who did something wrong, embarrassment and disgrace for the woman who didn’t — only served to confirm women’s worst fears about coming forward.

Yes, there is no consequence for Democrats suddenly coming to their senses now and concluding that Clinton deserved to pay a steeper price. That’s why the Clintons should be so terrified. How many Democrats, in the back of their minds, heard a little voice of conscience during the Clinton scandals and knew that they were defending a creep?

(An early indicator: The 2008 Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy-drama Definitely, Maybe features the actor as a political consultant who briefly worked for Bill Clinton, and events of the Clinton presidency are playing in all of the flashback scenes. After Clinton admits the affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Reynolds character grumbles to his friends, “Maybe he should be impeached. Why not? I put my faith in him. We all did. I thought he was gonna be different than the other jokers, but this guy, he can’t even define the word ‘is.’ What happens if they give him one of the hard words, like ‘truth’?” The movie moves on to the romantic plot, but that’s a pretty scathing assessment to hear spoken aloud by the lovable male lead of a romantic comedy, and Hollywood was always one of the places the Clintons were loved the most.)

Maybe a good chunk of Democrats defended Bill Clinton because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to. And maybe there’s been some resentment over that brewing for the past two decades.

Friday Links

by debbywitt

The Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869.

These crabs can grow up to 3 feet long — and hunt birds, a biologist’s video proves.

Watch 245 People Jump Off a Bridge.

The Gettysburg Address was seven score and fourteen years ago tomorrow (November 18) — here’s some history and an excellent brief video with contemporaneous photos and illustrations. Related: Newspaper prints a retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address “silly remarks”; retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

The pigeon’s rump cure for childhood seizures.

My Surprising Career as an Amazon.com “Fake” Reviewer.

ICYMI, Wednesday’s links are here, and include Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s birthday, are cats, technically, a liquid?, an X-ray murder trial, and how female turkeys choose their mates (and avoid the rejects).

We Conclude Our Webathon this Sunday

by Jack Fowler

We remain short of our $200,000 goal. Yes, we are more than halfway there. But there is a big gap. Help fill it. These people have, and have sent encouraging words along with their generosity:

  • Michael doles out $100 and puts it plain and simple: “You guys are the best and always have been (to me at least).” Back at you pal!

  • Don makes with a fifty and speaks to how his day begins and ends with us: “I am not really set for the day, until I can read up on the latest at National Review. And I have to check in late before bedtime, to read up on what I couldn’t that morning! It is a voice of sanity and logic and reflection, that steadies me in the current whirlwind of national controversies and scandals. Thanks guys, for what you do!” This means a lot.

  • Corey, from Badger country, drops $50 in the plate and gets all Velveeta on us: “From the heart of cheese-head country I extend a hearty thank you for the continued education I receive on a daily basis. The wit with which the articles are delivered is an extra bonus! I especially enjoy reading my favorite Libertarian, Kevin Williamson – keep up the great work and we’ll keep the US well-supplied with our cheese!” I’m tempted to do a cut joke here. Anyway, thanks much.

  • Another 50 bucks finds its way to NR, courtesy of Randy. We’re loving why: “Made in WFB’s memory. As a long time sailor, whenever I get down I pull out one of his many sailing books and soothe my soul. Been reading a lot lately! Keep up the good fight, you guys are needed more than ever.” So good of you Randy.

  • And then a wow-inducing $1,000 shows up from Greg. He shoots straight: “I don’t always agree, but your is by far the most consistently high quality political writing anywhere. Keep it up.” With friends like you, we have, we can, we do, we will.

We hope these sentiments inspire you to do likewise. Please help NR by making a generous donation here. Paypal donations should be made here if you prefer. Or send a check, payable to “National Review,” to our new address: 19 West 44th Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10036. To all who have supported us during the Fall 2017 Webathon, on this 32nd Day of #30DaysHathBucktember, many thanks.

Huck Finn & More

by John J. Miller

Catch up on the Great Books podcast: Weekly, 30-minute conversations with scholars and experts on the books they love. Recent episodes: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Beowulf, and The City of God. Subscribe for free!

We Have Enough Checks on the President’s Power to Order a Nuclear Strike

by David French

Earlier this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a highly unusual hearing. For the first time in decades it considered whether it’s necessary to alter or restrict the president’s power to order a nuclear strike. Democratic senator Christopher Murphy claimed the hearing was necessary because President Trump is “unstable” and “volatile.” Republicans were more measured, but concerns about potential confrontation with North Korea are more than enough reason to at least carefully think through current processes.

As it is, the president possesses the exclusive legal authority to order a nuclear attack. No general can decide to use our most deadly weapons, even if the forces under his command face complete destruction and only a nuclear strike can save his troops. A general facing a crumbling front and an imminent military disaster has only conventional weapons at his command.

At the same time, the president doesn’t have to consult with Congress before using our nation’s ultimate weapons. It’s one reason why the American commander-in-chief is rightly described as the most powerful man in the world.

But it’s not unchecked power. Every American president is subjected to important constitutional and military restraints. The most important constitutional safeguard against the kind of man who’d launch a truly rogue strike — initiate genocidal war on impulse — is the 25th Amendment. A man so unhinged is incapable of serving as president, and the Constitution provides for his emergency removal if the vice president and a “majority of the principal officers of the executive departments” determine that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Moreover, a proper reading of the Constitution also limits the president’s authority to initiate any kind of war, including nuclear war. The Constitution reserves the power to declare war to Congress. The commander-in-chief, by contrast, is responsible for waging war.

When our constitutional system is functioning, the only time the president should be able to act without Congress is when he’s responding immediately to an actual or imminent attack on the United States, on Americans abroad, or to an attack on American allies when we’re under a Senate-ratified defense obligation. Even then, he should turn to Congress as soon as possible to ratify his defensive response and authorize offensive military action.

As we know, however, a number of American presidents have disagreed with this constitutional formulation and have taken it upon themselves to wage war without congressional approval. And they’ve done so without facing any constitutional consequence. In other words, one of our constitutional safeguards has already failed — at least in the face of lower-stakes conflicts.

Thus, we have to consider a nightmare scenario. What if a president snaps — acting before his cabinet can remove him — and orders an indefensible, rogue nuclear strike? The answer is simple. The military wouldn’t comply. It’s officers are bound by law to refuse lawless commands, and the modern American military has profound cultural and moral restraints against the kind of world-changing mass murder that would result from a rogue strike. It won’t happen.

In fact, it’s doubtful that it would happen even in the face of more defensible temptations to launch a first strike. Our nation has suffered conventional military disasters (for example, deep in North Korea during the first year of the Korean War) without resorting to nuclear weapons, and it’s hard to imagine a single general recommending a nuclear strike in the absence of actual or imminent opposition use of weapons of mass destruction. Our military is built to fight and win wars through the use of conventional weapons . . . and conventional weapons alone.

Of course one can always imagine a different, dystopian future where our current safeguards would be inadequate. But as much as I’ve critiqued Trump on other grounds, I have no fear that he’ll attempt a rogue strike. In fact, his actual military policies since assuming office have been quite moderate, and his military operations have not just been successful, they’ve been conducted squarely in compliance with the laws of armed conflict.

Moreover, there are good reasons for putting the nuclear authority in the hands of the commander-in-chief. In many likely nuclear launch scenarios, decisions will have to be made with extreme speed. In case of a defensive strike, the decision may have to be made in the few minutes while opposing nuclear weapons are in the air — or in the moments before an imminent opposing nuclear launch. In such situations, decision-by-committee could lead to catastrophic delays and cost millions of lives.

Finally, let’s not forget that the system has worked, and in worked through decades of hair-trigger nuclear alerts and times of far worse international tension. This American system is not broken. There’s no harm in evaluating the current system, and the committee was right to hold a hearing. But after further consideration, nothing should change.

New NR Podcast: The Jamie Weinstein Show

by Charles C. W. Cooke

I’m thrilled to announce that National Review will henceforth be hosting one of our favorite podcasts, The Jamie Weinstein Show. Over the last year or so, Jamie has sat down with figures as diverse in background and outlook as Roger Stone, David Frum, Tomi Lahren, Jamie Kirchick, Dana Perino, Richard Spencer, Bill Mitchell, Bill Kristol, and Bill Ayers. On each occasion, he’s managed to cut the 20-seconds-of-shouting-and-then-back-to-the-ads approach that is so common on cable news, and to really get into his chosen topics. The results have been illuminating and entertaining. We’re thrilled to be the new home for this excellent show.

For the inaugural episode at NR, Jamie went to Texas to talk to none other than Mark Cuban. You can listen to that show here, as well as subscribe to the feed on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher (TuneIn will be added by the end of the week). Jamie has also taken the time to write up what he thinks were the most interesting parts of the interview, and I’d recommend reading that too. Enjoy!