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Jindal: I’d Back a Constitutional Amendment to Leave Marriage to the States


In the event that, this summer, the Supreme Court strikes down statutes defining marriage as between one man and one woman, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal would support an effort to allow states to define marriage as they wish. Asked about the topic this morning by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who noted that the question has split 2016 contenders, Jindal said he would support an effort like the one proposed by Senator Ted Cruz.

Jindal is gearing up for a 2016 run himself. He spent this past Saturday at a prayer rally sponsored by the socially conservative American Family Association in Louisiana, while a number of other 2016 contenders were at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

As Eliana Johnson reported for NRO earlier this month, the Rhodes scholar and former HHS official, perhaps surprisingly, seems to be making social issues and religious values a key part of his national message.

Tags: Sunday Shows January 25 2014

Denis McDonough Is Less Funny than Tom Brady


Asked this morning what President Obama thinks of the “Deflate-gate” scandal, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough appeared to take a cue from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s press-conference performance this week, in which Brady, well, really spread around talk of spheroids. McDonough’s lines, at least to the ear of this Massachusetts-born correspondent, didn’t pull off his puns with the same élan.

Brady’s performance, via the Washington Free Beacon:

Tags: Sunday Shows January 25 2014


Love Affair Between Iowans, Ted Cruz Continues


Des Moines, Iowa — The love affair between the Iowa voters and Ted Cruz is going strong. 

The Texas senator, pacing across the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit in a tan jacket and slacks, praised the state’s “unique and special role in the political process.” Iowa voters, he said, have a responsibility “to scrutinize every candidate for national office, to look them in the eyes and to hold them to account.” 

The tea-party darling urged them to be discerning when presidential contenders begin streaming through the state vaunting their conservative credentials. It helps, of course, that nobody can out-conservative Ted Cruz.

“Every candidate is going to come in front of you and say I’m the most conservative guy who ever lived,” Cruz said. “Well gosh darnit, talk is cheap. One of the most important roles men and women of Iowa will play is to say, ‘Don’t talk, show me.’”

Cruz’s suggestion was that his stand against the Affordable Care Act, which resulted in a government shutdown a year ago and his refusal to compromise — in fact, even to make friends — in Washington on a range of issues have proven his mettle somebody worthy of their vote. 

The senator went on to make calls that have become standard in his public remarks: He demanded the repeal of Obamacare, the abolition of the IRS, and the restoration of American leadership in the world. 

“There are 110,000 employees at the IRS,” he said. “We need to padlock that building ad put every one of those 110,000 on our southern border. If you crossed border and the first thing you saw was thousands of IRS agents, you’d turn around and go home too.” The crowd whooped and cheered. 

Cruz also said that any American who joins the Islamic State should have his citizenship stripped. The crowd erupted in applause. Cruz, too, applauded his proposal.

Web Briefing: January 29, 2015

Fiorina to Take Swipe at Hillary


Des Moines, Iowa — Carly Fiorina will take aim at Hillary Clinton in her remarks at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit. The remarks touch on matters from abortion to foreign policy and aim to position Fiorina as a conservative on a spectrum of policy issues.

While some potential Republican candidates are taking swipes at each other, Fiorina will aim her fire at the likely Democratic nominee.

“I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” Fiorina will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by National Review Online. “But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity, not an accomplishment. I have met Vladimir Putin and know that it will take more to halt his ambitions than a gimmicky red ‘Reset’ button.”  

Fiorina will go on to tout her accomplishments as the first female chief executive of a Fortune 50 company, as chairwoman of the Central Intelligence Agency’s external advisory board, and as president of the nonprofit group Opportunity International. 

Fiorina, who has openly expressed her interest in a 2016 presidential bid, is using her nonprofit group as a shadow campaign organization, hiring staff and building the infrastructure to support a run if she decides to pull the trigger.


Ernie Banks, Rest in Peace


“He was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known,” Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs, says of Ernie Banks, who died Friday evening. Warmth and sincerity are virtues that your family and close friends might admire you for. In the case of Banks, they were raised to such a high pitch that the public recognized them as prodigies on a level with his outstanding career numbers, which earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.

As a shortstop who hit for power — 512 career home runs — Banks was ahead of his time. A knee injury that he incurred during the Korean War recurred about ten years later and forced him to move to first base.

It also forced him out of the lineup when in 1961 he was pursuing the National League record for consecutive games played — 895, set by Stan Musial, with whom, if these things could be quantified, Banks would be tied for the honor of being the nicest man ever to wear a major-league uniform. Or maybe it’s a thousand-way tie, with Gehrig and Mel Ott and then 997 players whose character was off the charts but — life is unfair — are now largely forgotten because either their talent was modest or the ball just didn’t bounce their way. (When Leo Durocher pointed to Ott in the distance and said to a sportswriter that “nice guys finish last,” he meant something like “What an injustice.” That’s not the only interpretation of his remark, of course, but it’s the one that Durocher later maintained, and I choose to believe it.)

Go to Right Field to read Jason Epstein’s succinct overview of Banks’s career accomplishments. He also links to some beautiful remembrances by sportswriters who knew both Banks the great ballplayer and Banks the extraordinarily good man.

Walker Aims to Bring WI Message to National Stage


Des Moines, Iowa — Scott Walker on Saturday told a crowd in Iowa that his accomplishments in neighboring Wisconsin offer a national model for the Republican party. He tacitly argued that he is the leader who can translate his state-level accomplishments to meaningful change on the federal level by making him their presidential nominee.

His message: “Go big and go bold.” That’s what he’s done in Wisconsin, and conservatives should not be afraid to do the same on the national level, he said. 

“Maybe that’s why I won the race for governor three times in the last four years,” Walker said, in his low-key manner. “Three times, mind you, in a state that hasn’t gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago . . . If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results. You can applaud for that. And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you.”

The crowd here at the Iowa Freedom Summit is sizing up several potential 2016 contenders today including Walker, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former Texas governor Rick Perry, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. 

Walker talked about staring down mass protests in Madison, Wis., prompted by his passage of reforms to public-employee collective-bargaining laws, and fielding death threats that targeted not only himself but his wife and his sons. 

He is gearing up for a presidential bid: He has hired a campaign manager, Rick Wiley, and on Friday, the Des Moines Register reported that he is bringing on David Polyansky, who recently served as a senior strategist to newly elected senator Joni Ernst and who was on hand watching Walker’s remarks today. Polyansky previously worked as an aide for Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. Both went on to win the Iowa caucuses.

Walker’s challenge will be showing the party’s top-dollar donors that his victories at the state level can translate into a win on the national level. Today was a first attempt.

Syriza’s Moment?


Greece goes to the polls on Sunday, and it seems close to certain (insert Dewey/Truman reference here) that the far-left Syriza will come top of the polls.  The remaining question appears to be whether the party will win enough seats to govern on its own.


Four surveys on Thursday showed Syriza widening its lead over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s conservatives with just over a day of campaigning left. Samaras holds his final election rally on Friday.

A poll by Metron Analysis to be published on Friday showed Syriza’s lead over the New Democracy party growing to 5.3 points from 4.6 points. Syriza would take 36 percent of the vote, putting it on the verge of an outright victory, the poll showed.

A second poll, by Rass, showed Syriza leading by 4.8 points, while a third poll by GPO for Mega TV showed Syriza with a 6 point lead, up from a 4 point lead in a previous poll.

A fourth poll by Marc for Alpha TV showed Syriza was ahead with a 6.2 point lead, up from a 3.2 point lead in a previous poll….

Under Greek electoral law, parties must secure 3 percent of the vote to enter the 300-seat parliament. The biggest party gets a 50-seat bonus. The level required to win outright depends on the share of the vote taken by parties that fail to cross the threshold.

Oh yes, there’s this:

[Syriza leader] Tsipras was joined on stage by the leader of Spanish leftist party Podemos. Supporters waved Greek flags and placards reading “Change Greece, change Europe!”

Podemos may be even deeper into the lunatic asylum than Syriza.  Founded last year, it is now top of the polls (at some 28 percent) in Spain, which will also be holding a general election later this year.

Perhaps it’s unkind to point out that one of the justifications for the euro was that it would somehow keep extremists at the fringes of European politics. In reality (and predictably) it has given them their chance. 

So what will happen if Syriza wins?

Well, take a look at Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front has to say (via France 24):

 “There is a revolt within Europe that is being led by people who are retaking control of power from the totalitarianism of the European Union and its allies,” Le Pen told the leading French daily Le Monde on Tuesday.

“This does not make me a far-left activist,” Le Pen added in relation to her support for Syriza. “We do not agree with their entire programme, specifically their immigration policies. But we would welcome their victory.”

France’s leading anti-immigration party, the FN is also virulently anti-Euro, calling for France to drop the single currency and erect border controls with its European neighbours.

As Le Pen knows, Syriza is not a nationalist party: it is neither opposed to the EU nor (at least nominally) the euro. It is the (supposed) financial discipline that comes with the single currency that Syriza objects to.


Tsipras urged Greeks to give Syriza an outright victory in Sunday’s vote so the country could turn its back on four years of austerity under the terms of an EU/IMF bailout.

“On Monday, national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad,” Tsipras, 40, told flag-waving supporters at his biggest election rally. “We are asking for a first chance for Syriza. It might be the last chance for Greece.”

Tsipras has unnerved financial markets with a pledge to overturn austerity cuts and demand a debt write-off from European partners. But his message has resonated with Greeks struggling with unemployment over 25 percent and wage and pension cuts.

If Syriza wins (certainly if it wins outright), fears that Greece will either quit or be forced out of the euro zone (it ought to be hopes: ‘Grexit’ would probably be the least bad outcome for Greece, but that’s a different debate) will pick up sharply, but, I reckon, unnecessarily.

Syriza will make a lot of noise, but if I had to guess (and guess is the word), those running the euro zone will, after some months of theater, give Syriza most of what it is asking for. They will not wish risking their grand federal project just to make a point to Greece, and they will take the risk of setting a dangerous precedent that Podemos and others may follow. They will see that as a crisis for another day. That this will involve another humiliation for Germany may be a bug or it may be a feature, but, after the European Central Bank’s announcement of quantitative easing, it won’t be a novelty.

I suspect that Le Pen knows this too. But she also knows that there is plenty that might make a mess of this scenario, starting with a revolt in those parts of Europe that will be asked to bail out Greece just one more last time. 

And out of that mess some opportunity could come her way.

The worse the better, as Lenin (supposedly) said.  

Trump: ‘No Romney, No Bush’


Des Moines, Iowa — Fresh off his declaration that he would’ve demolished President Obama in the 2012 election, Donald Trump was at his Trump-est, all braggadocio and bravado, as he took the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday. 

As has become customary, the real-estate mogul floated the possibility of a presidential bid. “I am seriously thinking of running for president,” he said.

“It can’t be Mitt,” he said. “He choked. Something happened.” He continued, “Sort of like a dealmaker who can’t close the deal.” 

“We can’t have Bush,” he continued. “The last thing we need is another Bush.” His mention of Jeb Bush’s support for the Common Core educational standards drew boos from the crowd. Trump went on to assail the former Florida governor’s position on immigration. “They’re coming for love?” he said, of Bush’s remark that illegal immigrants cross the border as an “act of love.” 

“Half of them are criminals,” Trump said. “They’re crossing the border for a lot of other reasons.” 

Trump told that crowd that if he runs in 2016, his first order of business will be to build a fence along the southern border. 

“We have to build a fence, and it’s gotta be a beauty,” Trump said. “And who can build better than me?” He continued, “If I run, and if I win, I would certainly start by building a very, very powerful fence.” 

Obamacare did not escape Trump’s ire. Everything about the Affordable Care Act, he said, was “a lie, a filthy lie.”

“Unless you’re hit by an army tank you’re not going to get coverage,” he said, calling for the repeal and replacement of the law. 

Trump’s political pronouncements and attempts to be taken seriously have become something of a joke among the political and media establishment, but he remains a beloved figure among the grassroots for his lack of inhibition and dry sense of humor.

“I’ve done so many deals, almost all of them have been tremendously successful,” he reminded the crowd. “You’ll see that when I file my statements. You’ll be very proud of me. Obama, what did he do? He did no deal. What deal did he do? A house. And if you did that deal, you’d be in jail.” 

Mourning Abdullah


International politics is a rough and necessarily hypocritical business.  A temporary alliance of convenience is not the same as friendship, but sometimes it makes sense to pretend that it is.

Saudi Arabia is a repulsive theocracy, a cesspit where self-righteousness and corruption walk, well, hand-in-hand. The influence that Saudi money has had on Islam worldwide has been malign. The west’s ‘partnership’ with the country’s regime is a matter of occasionally shared enemies at best.  Nevertheless, I can understand why it’s necessary for western leaders to feign a certain amount of sadness over the death of the Saudi Arabian tyrant enlightened reformer, Abdullah, fly to his funeral and so on.

But was it necessary to fawn quite so much?

Here’s David Cameron, admittedly not a politician who understands very much about the world beyond Britain’s shores, but still:

[Abdullah] will be remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.

Strengthening understanding between faiths?

Oh please.

Daily Mail (September 2014):

Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.

The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country’s hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.

Look, I can understand the need to say something nice about the man, but even if I did buy into the argument that Abdullah was moving his country in the right direction (“cautious modernization” was the weasel-phrase used by Angela Merkel, although the IMF’s sleazy Christine Lagarde won the prize with the claim that Abdullah was a strong advocate for women “in a very discreet way”) as rapidly as anyone could, I would not think that stressing the dead king’s commitment to “strengthening understanding between faiths” would be the way to go.

Cameron’s kowtowing was not the only British humiliation.

The Guardian:

A decision to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by flying flags in Whitehall at half-mast [half-staff] has been criticised by MPs. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had asked government buildings to fly the union flag at half-mast for 12 hours in line with protocol that says this is appropriate following the death of a foreign monarch. The Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said it was an “extraordinary misjudgment” in the light of the kingdom’s human rights record. The houses of parliament and Westminster Abbey are among the buildings in London where the government guidance has been followed after King Abdullah’s death early on Friday.

Lowering the flag over Westminster Abbey has, in particular, raised a few eyebrows, not least those of the Spectator’s Ed West, oddly unconvinced that this was an entirely suitable way to honor “the leader of a country where conversion to Christianity is a capital offence”.

In the abbey’s defense, it was argued that it had little say in the matter (true enough: it’s complicated, but it has to with the fact that England—quite rightly, given its history— has an established church), an excuse that lasted until, the Daily Telegraph reported,  the Archbishop of Canterbury said this:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted it was right for flags above government buildings and Westminster Abbey to be lowered to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Saudi head of state had played an “important role” in helping to bring faiths together and “tackle interfaith violence”.

If the West wants to signal that is a, to use Bin Laden’s phrase, “weak horse”, groveling like this is a good way to go. 

Carson on Obamacare: ‘Even if It Worked I Would Oppose’


Des Moines, Iowa — Grassroots favorite Ben Carson was the first potential GOP candidate to take the stage Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit, hosted by the conservative activist group Citizens United and congressman Steve King. 

The event serves as the unofficial kickoff of the 2016 presidential primary, and a host of the potential candidates are on hand for it, from Carson to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former Texas governor Rick Perry, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. 

“I love Iowa,” Carson told the crowd. ”There are so many people here who actually have common sense.” 

Carson is a favorite among voters in the first caucus state, which has a history of supporting surprise victors and threatening to throw the nomination to an insurgent: Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and Rick Santorum won the state in 2012. Carson, if he gets in the race, would be a real contender in 2016. 

As Citizens United president David Bossie introduced Carson before he took the stage, he reminded the audience of some of the famed Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon’s most controversial comments. Inside the historic Hoyt Sherman Place theater, the 1,500 plus-strong crowd cheered as Bossie recalled Carson’s remark that Obamacare is worst thing that has happened to America since slavery. 

Carson’s remarks ranged from the importance of hard work and education to illegal immigration and health care. 

As a matter of principle, Carson told the crowd, he opposes government control of health care, which he said “fundamentally changes America.” 

“Even if it worked I would oppose it,” he said. “It doesn’t.” 

Potential 2016 candidates absent from today’s event, the first in a series of forays to court voters in Iowa, included Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul, who is making his own visit to Iowa in a few weeks. 

What Works for Working Mothers?


Though Carrie Lukas makes a compelling case for “providing tax relief to parents across the board” rather than pushing parents towards institutional day-care centers here at NRO, I thought I’d share a passage from Abby McCloskey’s new National Affairs essay on how conservatives ought to advance the interests of working women:

Approximately one-third of stay-at-home mothers live in poverty, compared with 12% of working mothers. Work is a central component of upward economic mobility, and we should make it as easy as possible for women to re-enter the work force by reducing barriers to employment.

Republicans would do well to propose an expansion of child-care subsidies, as such programs consistently demonstrate positive labor-market effects. A robust academic literature suggests that offsetting child-care costs increases employment and decreases government dependency — two primary conservative objectives. Using data from the 1999 National Survey of America’s Families, David Blau and Erdal Tekin found that the child-care subsidies for welfare recipients resulted in a 13-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of employment for single mothers. Another study found that the introduction of subsidized child care in Quebec in the late 1990s resulted in a significant employment boost for married women.

McCloskey’s case for treating child care as a necessary work expense that ought to be treated as such in the tax code certainly doesn’t preclude also making the case for an expanded child credit. But she does make the important point that while a work-dependent child-care subsidy would likely increase work, we don’t have strong evidence that a larger child credit would do the same. Of course, that’s not necessarily a case against choosing a larger child credit over a more generous child-care subsidy: Stay-at-home parents make significant civic contributions that aren’t captured by our measure of GDP. As the University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox recently observed, support for stay-at-home parenting is extremely widespread. One wonders, however, if we can do both — if we can expand the child credit while also improving the tax treatment of child-care expenses. 

With this in mind, we might consider supporting another one of McCloskey’s proposals. She opposes either mandating that employers provide new mothers with paid leave or financing such a benefit through new taxes, on the grounds that an employer mandate might discourage employers from hiring women in the first place and that higher taxes have a particularly negative effect on female labor-force participation, but she calls for a modest benefit comparable to the average unemployment benefit that, if extended to all working mothers, would cost roughly $5 billion a year: 

Conservatives can avoid the pitfalls that the Democrats have fallen into by having the government pay for maternity-leave benefits directly, not through tax hikes and employer mandates, but by reducing waste in other programs. By reforming the vastly more expensive unemployment-insurance or disability-insurance programs, both of which are riddled with waste, the federal government could cover the expense. The savings could be used to provide a safety net for women, especially those who are hourly workers and have access to no other form of paid leave.

McCloskey’s central motivation is ensuring that women stay engaged in the workforce. Extended absences from the world of work can prove costly, as one foregoes work experience that can translate into higher wages over time. This is a perfectly reasonable tradeoff for those parents who are married to spouses earning decent incomes; it’s a much tougher one for those married to spouses with low earning potential, or for those raising children on their own. If McCloskey’s approach to maternity-leave benefits helps at least some mothers keep their jobs, it could yield significant dividends. 

Inquiring Minds


Our podcast this week is a little different — and a lot of fun, I think. Mona and I field questions from listeners. They ask excellent questions, too — about sports, music, politics, war, the fate of the West …

After the show, the producer, Scott Immergut, expressed surprise that I had quoted The Simpsons. I took mild offense to that. Time was, I was a Simpsons-quotin’ machine. Am a little out of practice, though. I also think I could do only about half the Caddyshack script now, not the whole thing.

The podcast goes out with the final notes of Beethoven’s Fidelio overture, as that opera came up in the discussion, right at the top.

Give it a whirl (the podcast, I mean, though the overture, and all of Fidelio, is okay too).

R.I.P. the Yemen Model, For Real Now


There’s been plenty of talk over the past weeks and months, as the official Yemeni government has lost control of more and more territory, and finally its own capital, that it wasn’t the greatest idea for President Obama to tout our counterterrorism project in Yemen as the model for the 2014–15 campaign against the Islamic State.

That comparison just started to look even worse, because said project in Yemen is, for now, over:

The Obama administration has been forced to suspend counterterrorism operations with Yemen in the aftermath of the collapse of its government, according to U.S. officials, a move that abruptly eases pressure on al-Qaeda’s most dangerous franchise.

Armed drones operated by the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command remain deployed for now over southern Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based. But U.S. officials said that the Yemeni security services that provided much of the intelligence that sustained that U.S. air campaign are now controlled by Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who have seized control of much of the capital.

Even before the disintegration of the government, officials say, the growing chaos in Yemen had resulted in a steady erosion in intelligence-gathering efforts against AQAP and a de facto suspension in raids by Yemeni units trained, equipped and often flown to targeted al-Qaeda compounds by U.S. forces.

“The agencies we worked with . . . are really under the thumb of the Houthis. Our ability to work with them is not there,” said a senior U.S. official closely involved in monitoring the situation. In a measure of U.S. concern over the crisis, officials also signaled for the first time a willingness to open talks with Houthi leaders, despite their suspected ties to Iran and antipathy toward the United States.

The “Yemen model,” as I noted back in September, only worked in the sense that it came at relatively low cost to the U.S. — the country and its government have not been going in the right direction for years, and that is, generally speaking, crucial to running a counterterrorism operation in said country. It’s not quite fair to say the same thing of Somalia — its has been moving in the right direction, partly because it lacks both an Islamist actor as competent as Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch and doesn’t have a strong insurgency with outside support like the Houthi rebels that just took over Yemen’s capital. (Yemen doesn’t need any more bad news but it cannot feel great o fall behind Somalia in anything.)

Rob Long and the French Sense of Humor


In the current print issue of NR is a fascinating article (behind paywall, sorry) by prominent comedy writer Rob Long explaining why he thinks Charlie Hebdo isn’t that funny:

It’s been more than two weeks since the deadly attack at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, which is enough time to allow me to say this: Charlie Hebdo isn’t funny.

Not really, anyway. Charlie Hebdo is French, and the French — who can be subtle and nuanced about things like cheese and marital fidelity — are remarkably ham-fisted about humor. For them, a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed engaged in a wet kiss with a rabbi is hilarious, because, well, how can that happen? In real life? On ne fait pas ça!

. . .

Charlie Hebdo is funny in context, if you imagine someone really uptight — a cleric, say, or some humorless religious zealot — reading it. In fact, the cartoons are funny — and even then it’s a stretch for me — only with the image in mind of the target, face red with rage, offense very much taken, holding the magazine with specks of foam around the mouth and spittle flying. 

I can corroborate this with a small incident from my youth. I grew up in Francophone Quebec in the 1970s, and I once saw a French-language sketch-comedy show in which a segment began with an actor playing Jesus coming out faux-nailed to a large foam-rubber cross. The studio audience (or the laugh track, I don’t remember) hooted with uproarious laughter as the announcer declared that the crucified Jesus would now jump off a chair into a glass of water (more uproarious laughter). Then the segment abruptly ended, and the show moved on to another sketch.

At the time, I was a little Catholic boy, perhaps eight or nine years old, of rather tender sensibilities. I was shocked by the sketch — certainly, for the most part, because of the idea that the Crucifixion of Christ is no laughing matter, but also, even at that tender age, because there seemed to be no actual point to the joke. There is something innate in my comic sense that makes me expect the continual pattern of setup/punchline. But here there was no punchline; the crucified Christ in an absurd situation was the joke, point final.

Quebec at that time was reaching the tail end of its rejection of Catholicism, part of a historical phenomenon known broadly as the “Quiet Revolution.” Perhaps at that time there were still some older folks around who were as shocked by this sketch as a shy and sensitive youth of some eight years of age was. Nowadays, I’m sure, there are a lot fewer of them. At some point the strategy of épater le bourgeois runs out of bourgeois to épate.

Abortion and the Fourteenth Amendment


Sometimes you start writing an e-mail in response to someone, and then it grows into a Corner post, and then it grows longer than that. This is one of those times.




The black-capped skull obliviously alert
(My stare had not yet caught its yellow eye),
                                       His head jerked left then right.
Between each stab: the hooked neb, pricking at
             An upturned breast, its puff of white
             In full surrender to the sky.
Two talons clamped it to the garden dirt.
             To right and left the raptor spat

Out tufts of what it would not eat. Each feather-
Bit flew sideways to the grizzled snow
                               Not half through March’s thaw.
All this is what I saw from where I stood
             Behind my kitchen window: claw
             And bill-hook putting on a show
             That tied me to them on a weightless tether
             And dared me to pronounce it good.

— This poem appears in the February 9, 2015, print edition of National Review.

More on that Misleading NARAL Poll


Ramesh’s comments yesterday on the latest NARAL poll were spot on: the poll, which purports to show strong support for legal abortion in four congressional districts, is deceptive. That NARAL increasingly feels the need to conduct its own polls at all is a striking shift in and of itself. But it’s the change in the questions those polls ask that should really raise eyebrows.

For a long time, when pollsters would ask questions on abortion, the “pro-choice” position would come out comfortably ahead. That changed in May 2009, when for the first time ever, Gallup reported that a majority of respondents identified as “pro-life.” “Pro-life” has actually outpolled “pro-choice” in five of nine Gallup polls since then.

As such, groups like NARAL have had to work harder to claim that there’s broad support for legal abortion. This past August, NARAL released another poll on the subject, one which gave respondents a subtly different set of choices. The alternatives were 1) abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal; 2) personally opposed to abortion, but it should remain legal; and 3) abortion should be illegal.

A plurality of respondents preferred the second option, and NARAL quickly announced that the first and second options combined commanded majority support. Of course, the three questions did not allow for much nuance. Specifically, the poll did not ask about the 20-week abortion ban or other incremental pro-life laws that tend to poll well.

An important challenge for pro-lifers is to reach out to the middle group of voters who clearly dislike abortion, but are not quite comfortable with making it illegal. Good progress has been made here. Debates over incremental pro-life laws, better messaging, and ultrasound technology have pulled many of these people into the pro-life camp.  But NARAL’s polls show that this middle group is sizeable, and pro-lifers still have important work to do to win them over.

—​ Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New

‘The Dick in Dictatorship:’ Obama’s YouTube Interviews Were About as Awkward as You’d Expect


You probably won’t be shocked to learn there weren’t any major policy announcements or tough follow-up questions aired during Thursday evening’s live interviews of President Obama by three “YouTube stars.” But, since the White House chose this venue as the best way for the president to follow up on his State of the Union Address, here we are.

Obama sat down with Hank Green, GloZell Green (no relation), and Bethany Mota, all YouTube performers with millions of followers. While their questions were generally interesting enough, they didn’t seem to have the chops to follow up on the president’s incomplete, inconsistent, or half-hearted responses. (Which was probably the point.)

But the awkward moments came fast and thick — especially from Ms. Green, who grew up in Florida and wanted to know how Obama justified dealing with Cuba’s Castro. “The guy puts dick in dictatorship!” she said. At another point, she handed Obama green lipstick for his “first wife” — ohh, she meant the First Lady! So embarrassing and certainly not staged.

Ms. Green, full of nerdy nervousness, admitted she didn’t know much about politics, drawing a condescending explanation from the president. And, of course, she asked Obama what his favorite super power would be. (He picked flying or speaking any language. Invisibility is too “sneaky.”)

Sure, it was uncomfortable and entirely beneath the office. But for a live event with a high potential for awkwardness, you could argue Obama did pretty well. He took what could’ve been an absolute disaster and made it something, well – well, just kind of weird.

Face-Off: Rubio, Cruz, & Paul Share Spotlight at Koch Retreat


Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told aides to “proceed” as if he is running for president, a revelation that comes just as he is set to join two other Tea Party senators with presidential ambitions at an economic policy forum this weekend.

Rubio, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) will participate in a panel discussion moderated by ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Sunday. Governor Scott Walker (R., Wis.) will attend a seminar during the weekend conference.

“Our members care deeply about the future of our nation and we’re honored to host some of today’s most influential and respected leaders in shaping public policy,” James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch-backed Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, tells National Review Online. “We hope that this panel will give each participant the opportunity to lay out their vision of free markets and the role of government. Our goal in 2015 is to help inform the national debate around key domestic economic issues, and this forum is the beginning that conversation.”

Freedom Partners released a plan for economic growth that politicians might well look to as a blueprint for an agenda — especially if they hope for support from Freedom Partners Action Fund, which spent millions attacking Republican opponents in the 2014 elections.

The Rubio/Cruz/Paul event is a dramatic demonstration of a dynamic that has played out behind closed-doors in the Senate. As outsider candidates who pulled of upsets with the help of tea party activists, the trio went through an accelerated political coming-of-age: the moment they emerged as viable Senate candidates, the same national political appeal that brought them to that point made them possible presidential contenders. And because they were all Tea Party candidates, they were expected to be natural allies in the Senate — expectations that Cruz and Rubio fulfilled, at least partially, with their support for Rand Paul’s NSA filibuster.

The senators drifted apart, most notably when Rubio joined the Gang of Eight immigration group. Cruz opposed the bill, while Paul kept quiet on it, for the most part. That effort may have tarnished Rubio’s appeal among Tea Party activists, but it didn’t necessarily burn his bridges with the Koch allies. In fact, Charles Koch sponsored an “immigration summit” that immigration hawks regarded as stacked in favor of amnesty.


Marriage Federalism Is Popular


Last week I suggested that Republicans are suffering from excessive angst about the political costs of opposing same-sex marriage. In the absence of a Supreme Court decision requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriages, conservative candidates for federal office in 2016 should say that they oppose it, why they oppose it, that they understand that many people of good will disagree, and that they have no intention (or power) to stand in the way of states that chose to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

It’s worth noting that a state-by-state approach appears to be popular. My AEI colleague Karlyn Bowman points out that the most recent CBS/New York Times poll on the subject, taken in February 2014, found 64 percent of the public in favor of letting individual states set marriage policy and 33 percent in favor of a federal solution. And that preference appears to have grown a little bit more pronounced between 2012 and 2014. The same pollster, incidentally, also finds a preference for letting states take the lead on marijuana policy.

My guess is that if the Supreme Court rules for coast-to-coast recognition of same-sex marriage, most people in polls will say that they like the decision–but maybe not if the pollsters ask them about the alternative of letting states decide.


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