Austria’s Election

by Andrew Stuttaford

As John Fund notes in his piece (on the home page) on Austria’s election, the right’s success (including a strong showing for the populist Freedom Party and a  shift to the right within the establishment-right People’s Party) is yet another consequence of Angela Merkel’s decision (fueled, in my view, mainly by panic, arrogance and narcissism) to throw open the doors of her country to nearly a million people (a mix of refugees and economic migrants) in 2015.

John writes:

Christian Kern, the left-wing Social Democratic chancellor of Austria, lost his job because of his own party’s involvement in opening Austria to 75,000 new migrants. Germany borders Austria, and many refugees and economic migrants entered Germany through Austria, with 75,000 remaining.

In the Financial Times, Tony Barber frets that the “challenge of how to contain Europe’s radical right continues”.

Well, one place to start might be for centrists to start acting like centrists. You have to live in a very tough little bubble to believe that a largely uncritical belief in the virtues of mass immigration, multiculturalism and the EU’s ‘ever closer union’ is anything other than radical.

Meanwhile, at the end of a recent and characteristically wide-ranging article (it’s well worth your time) in the New Statesman, John Gray observes:

Demolishing national and cultural identities makes moral and political sense if – and only if – the result will be better than the liberal societies that have actually existed. Yet these societies are highly fragile settlements, regularly disrupted by war and economic crisis. Today they are also threatened by [a ‘liberal’] ideology that wages war on their past. Societies that repudiate their historic inheritance in this way leave themselves defenceless against the dark forces that are now re-emerging. As George Santayana might have put it were he alive today, those who deconstruct the past are condemned to repeat it.

Brendan O’Neill responds to the Austrian election over at Spiked. I don’t agree with everything O’Neill has to say on this, but he is right to identify the Freedom Party’s success with the “failure of the mainstream, especially the left mainstream, to connect with people’s concerns about cultural and existential issues of nationhood, democracy and migration in the 21st century”. I don’t think that’s the whole story (Austria is Austria and the Freedom Party has, as O’Neill notes himself, been a force for quite some time), but it’s a significant part of it.

And then:

Austria makes two things clear. First, that the much-discussed ‘end of populism’, which became a huge, excitable talking point following Macron’s victory in France, is a fantasy. Populist politics and parties aren’t going away, because the questions they raise, or at least the public concerns they tap into, are still there, bristling, unresolved. What does Europe stand for? Who should decide on issues such as mass migration? Isn’t democracy preferable to technocracy? And why should I vote for politicians who have nothing but disdain for my way of life, my values, and my right to have a say? People will keep asking and thinking these things.

And the second thing it makes clear is the utter failure of the left to understand, engage with, and possibly even mould or lead the populist feeling in Europe right now. Across the continent, ballot-box revolts are taking place, against Brussels and against the old politics, and many on the left can only say: ‘This is dangerous and racist.’ They’ve thrown their lot in with the status quo, meaning the right can clean up, reaching out to a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit that the left foolishly fears and even wants to destroy.

That’s too narrow. There’s a ‘populism of the left’ that’s rising too, most notably, perhaps, in Greece (Syriza), the UK (Corbyn’s Labour), France (Melenchon) and Germany (Die Linke), and not just there. It may be fueled by a different mix of discontents, but it might well turn out to be no less of a harbinger of turbulence ahead.

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Phil, in relating the sad tale of Laura Moriarty, you write:

In the novel, Moriarty’s fifth, the U.S. government deports Muslims to internment camps in Nevada for practicing their religion, which move is marketed to Americans as “better for everyone’s safety.” This invites indifference from the book’s protagonist, Sarah-Mary Williams, a young white girl who “isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims” and believes media and government reports praising the set-up. That is, until Sarah-Mary meets Sadaf, a Muslim boy interred in one of the camps. After a while, her perceptions change, and she sets out to free him.

Struggling to grasp how this could possibly be offensive? Well, struggle no more. On Goodreads, reviewers take issue with the fact that Sarah-Mary decides to help. This, they argue, is reflective of an offensive ”white savior” narrative by which Moriarty suggests that minorities such as Sadaf need someone white to save them.

It’s perhaps a mistake to delve too deeply into the “logic” employed by the reflexively angry, but I can’t help but wonder what chance Moriarty had of escaping censure here. The conceit of her novel is that a minority group (in this case: Muslims) has been interned by the majority (in this case: non-Muslims). In consequence, Moriarty had only three options going forward: 1) To have her main white character support, or remain indifferent toward, the internment; 2) to have her main white character actively fight against the internment; or 3) to ignore white characters completely and focus exclusively on members of the minority. Per the synopsis, she opted for the middle course, after a brief change-of-heart narrative. For this, she has been attacked.

But wouldn’t she also have been attacked if she’d chosen either of the other options? Suppose that the Sarah-Mary character had been wholly indifferent throughout the book. Suppose that Sadaf had been left to orchestrate his own escape. Suppose that not a single white person did anything to help, or that instead of Sarah-Mary, Moriarty had chosen a non-imprisoned Muslim as her hero. Would that have been better? Would that have spared Moriarty from the “f*** this book” reviews and the “f*** you for perpetuating the idea that marginalized people need to suffer” barbs? Would it be better to depict a society in which white supremacy reins unchecked than one in which a “white savior” does something good?

There’s simply no answer to those questions, of course. Why not? Because there are no rules here. There’s an endgame, and then there is anything that will get us there.

Which is to say that the people who are outraged by this book are simply hooked on anger, and, that in order to ensure that they maintain a healthy supply of it, they have constructed an unfalsifiable worldview in which absolutely everything can be cast as evidence of their marginalization. If this book isn’t written in the first place, well that’s indicative of a broader cultural failure to grapple with the worst fears of America’s minorities. If the book is written, it shouldn’t have been, and serves as ample evidence of the author’s moral rot — and of our culture’s rot too. If the minority characters have to help themselves, that proves we live in a white supremacist hellscape. If the characters are saved by the majority, that merely feeds a “white savior” narrative. And so on and so forth. It’s f*** you for this, and f*** you for that, and f*** you for not knowing the rules we just invented.

When I first heard that there was a controversy around this book I assumed it was because those who had read the synopsis were bothered by the idea that a majority of their countrymen would be fine putting Muslims into camps. That instead we’re seeing outrage because a fictional girl helps a fictional boy escape imprisonment is the silliest thing I’ve heard for a long time.

Of Course Jeff Sessions Will Defend Transgender Individuals

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The New York Times reported yesterday that U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions has personally dispatched a federal hate-crimes lawyer to Iowa to aid in the prosecution of a man charged with murdering a transgender high-school student.

The article’s headline — “Aiding Transgender Case, Sessions Defies His Image on Civil Rights” — and overall tone seem to express some measure of shock at the idea that Sessions does not, in fact, approve of the systematic targeting of transgender individuals.

Of course, the headline is correct, in a sense: Sessions is defying his public image. But it’s a false image, crafted by wily media and political opponents who portray him as a bigot and refuse to acknowledge the reasonableness of his decisions as attorney general.

From the Times piece: “In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.”

This is a faulty comparison, and it pervades the article, which never acknowledges the innumerable and important differences between investigating and punishing the murder of an innocent individual — a potential hate crime — and choosing to relax Obama-era regulations that overstepped the bounds of federalism. To contrast these two policies is completely irresponsible.

“While it is of course good that D.O.J. is aggressively pursuing this case, it would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division under Barack Obama, told the Times.

Gupta would like us to believe that, unless the Justice Department compels every school in the nation to essentially dissolve gender distinctions and open all bathrooms to people of both sexes — in some cases overriding the wishes of students, parents, and teachers — Sessions is in effect allowing, or even contributing to, hate crimes such as last year’s murder in Iowa.

Such a claim is absurd. Sessions has led the Justice Department in rolling back a series of regulatory overreaches by the Obama administration not because he has an irrational animus against transgender or other minority individuals, but because, as a conservative, he believes many of these policies should be determined at the state and local level.

Reducing federal-government control over every aspect of public life is the essence of conservative politics, stemming from the belief that individuals and their communities deserve the freedom to determine their own local policies without the encroachment of an unaccountable bureaucracy. And none of the rules Sessions relaxed have been proven essential in protecting the dignity or human rights of transgender people.

If progressives are unable to see the distinction between workplace hiring rules or bathroom guidelines and prosecuting a man charged with murdering a transgender person, they do a serious disservice to their own cause. And they slander Sessions, who has never once indicated a lack of respect for the dignity of transgender individuals.

Unreleased Teen Novels Now Targets for the Outrage Mob

by Philip H. DeVoe

Even though Laura Moriarty’s new book, American Heart, hasn’t been released yet, it had already attracted the ire of the perpetually offended. On Goodreads, the novel has been slammed for supposedly pushing a “white savior” narrative. Yesterday, an independent critics’ website, Kirkus Reviews, removed its positive review “because some of the wording fell short of meeting [their] standards for . . . sensitivity.” Whatever happened to not judging books by their cover?

In the novel, Moriarty’s fifth, the U.S. government deports Muslims to internment camps in Nevada for practicing their religion, which move is marketed to Americans as “better for everyone’s safety.” This invites indifference from the book’s protagonist, Sarah-Mary Williams, a young white girl who “isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims” and believes media and government reports praising the set-up. That is, until Sarah-Mary meets Sadaf, a Muslim girl on the run. After a while, her perceptions change, and she sets out to help her in her quest for freedom.

Struggling to grasp how this could possibly be offensive? Well, struggle no more. On Goodreads, reviewers take issue with the fact that Sarah-Mary decides to help. This, they argue, is reflective of an offensive “white savior” narrative by which Moriarty suggests that minorities such as Sadaf need someone white to save them. Here is the top-rated review, for example:

f*** your white savior narratives
f*** using marginalized characters as a plot device to teach the white mc [sic] how to be a decent person
f*** you for perpetuating the idea that marginalized people need to suffer in order to be worthy of “humanity”
f*** this book and everyone who thought it would be a good f***ing idea

According to a Facebook post by Moriarty published this weekend, the “white savior” narrative isn’t true given the conclusion of the book. Indeed, instead of believing only she can save Sadaf, Williams realizes “that she alone can’t save anyone.” Moriarty points out that most of the Goodreads reviewers “openly admit to not having read the book,” which means their understanding of the book’s message must be limited to the introduction provided on the website.

Moriarty writes in her post that, despite these reviews, she felt vindicated by a positive review on the website Kirkus Reviews, which, in part, called it a

“ . . . moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis, desperate to show a disillusioned immigrant the true spirit of America.” [and] “sensible, thought-provoking, and touching . . . and so rich that a few coincidences of plot are easily forgiven.”

Last Friday, however, Kirkus announced it had decided to rescind its positive rating, suggesting its decision was fueled in part due to negative reactions to its review. Even though the reviewer was an “observant Muslim person of color,” the review apparently fell short of their “standards for . . . sensitivity.” The editors, in a note published to the website, said they are “evaluating the review and will make a determination about correction or retraction after careful consideration in collaboration with the reviewer.”

Moriarty, meanwhile, urged followers of her Facebook account not to fill Goodreads with five-star ratings to combat the negative ratings, but to purchase the book when it is released and rate it honestly. She concluded her post by pointing out the “sad irony” that a reviewer’s independent opinion about a book praising diversity and freedom is being suppressed by the howling of the mob.

Why Virginia Democrats Are Right to Be Nervous

by Jim Geraghty

On paper, Democrat Ralph Northam holds a small but fairly consistent lead in the polling of Virginia’s gubernatorial race. The most recent survey, from Emerson College, puts Northam ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie, 49 percent to 44 percent (with a margin of error of 5.5 points).

But Democrats don’t feel confident at all. Last week Paul Krugman wrote about the race in a tone of panic:

For whatever reason, however, Virginia isn’t getting nearly as much play in national media or, as far as I can tell, among progressive activists, as it deserves. Folks, right now this is where the action is: Virginia is now the most important place on the U.S. political landscape — and what happens there could decide the fate of the nation.

The Washington Post studied its own surveys and concluded, “far fewer Virginia voters are closely following the campaign than at similar stages in the past three gubernatorial elections.”

Last week, Sam Stein reported:

Democratic operatives working on the race and those closely following it are more openly panicked that complacency has set in. . . . three Democratic sources have told The Daily Beast that Northam’s internal campaign polling has the race within the margin of error, and not at the outer edges of that range.

Democratic anxiety is probably driven by three distinct causes. The first is a hangover from 2016. Last year many Democrats were absolutely certain that Hillary Clinton would win, and many believed she would beat Trump in a landslide. Like a quarterback who endures a brutal blindside hit, the Democrats “hear the footsteps” — they’re on alert for another rude surprise on Election Day. (The disappointing finish for Jon Ossoff in the runoff in the Georgia special House election might even compound this.) It’s worth noting that not only did Hillary Clinton win Virginia in 2016, this is one of the few states where she performed better than Barack Obama did in 2012.

The second cause is concern that Northam might resemble Hillary Clinton in the wrong ways. Like Hillary, Northam was considered the moderate in the party primary, and is a party loyalist asking voters to continue an era of Democratic governance. Neither one is a whirling dervish of raw political charisma. Like Hillary in 2016, Northam is offering voters the status quo with a bit more spending.

But the third cause seems like the best reason to worry. In both the 2013 gubernatorial race featuring Ken Cuccinelli and the 2014 Senate race featuring Gillespie, the Republican candidate dramatically overperformed compared to the final polls. The final RealClearPolitics average in 2013 had Cuccinelli trailing by 6.7 points; he lost by 2.5 points. The 2014 result was even more dramatic; the final RCP average put Democrat Mark Warner ahead by 9.7 points; he won by eight-tenths of a percentage point. Is this a “shy Tory” effect? Are Virginia Republicans particularly reticent to tell a pollster they’re voting for the GOP candidate? Is the Virginia Republican get-out-the-vote effort worth a few extra percentage points? No one in Virginia politics knows for certain. But it suggests that a small Democratic lead heading into Election Day might not be so reliable.

Apple Turnover

by Roger Clegg

Once again we learn that, in Silicon Valley as elsewhere in Corporate America, there is no place for politically incorrect truth-telling. What’s more, what the law says is not even part of the conversation.

The latest kerfuffle involves Apple’s vice president of “inclusion and diversity,” who made the following statement during a panel discussion: “There can be twelve white blue-eyed blond men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Well, talk about your mansplaining, and isn’t that just what you’d expect to hear from some corporate white guy?

Except that this particular executive happens to be a black woman, and of course she’s exactly right. Those twelve individuals may have wildly dissimilar life stories and outlooks, and for that matter you could also choose twelve people of wildly dissimilar ethnicities but nearly identical upbringing and mindset.

If Apple thinks having a diversity of life experiences and background is important in assembling a good team, fine, but why use skin color, national origin, and sex as a proxy for how people grew up and what they believe? That’s stereotyping, and by the way Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment. (I discussed all this a decade ago in testimony before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — see especially parts III and V.)

No matter. The outcry was immediate and loud, and an apology has been issued.

Give Trustees a Role in Faculty Hiring

by George Leef

Why do we have so many really awful professors on college faculties? One reason is that the hiring process is completely in the hands of academic departments, usually with minimal oversight from the administration. Therefore, when leftist radicals want a collegial (i.e., like-minded) new member of the department, they are likely to get their way.

But suppose that the school’s board of trustees could say “no” to politicized candidates who would probably cause trouble for the college or university — wouldn’t that make a difference? In a new Martin Center article, Jay Schalin argues that it would. “They are,” Schalin writes, “from outside the academy and are more in touch with the sentiments of the community at large (not merely those of the insular college town). Their livelihoods do not depend on their position at the university, and they need not fear recriminations from politicized faculty and administrators. Because of their independence, they can avoid the sort of parochial groupthink that is becoming academia’s Achilles Heel.”

The trustees don’t have a lot to do and having them give final consideration to a potential faculty member would be appropriate. And knowing that their choice might be vetoed, the faculty might be more circumspect in their picks.

What should the trustees think about when they look over a candidate’s record?

Schalin answers:

Trustees’ main criterion for judging faculty candidates should not be political, but should instead focus on whether a faculty candidate’s scholarship and public statements indicate support for the university as the free marketplace of ideas. By making open inquiry the litmus test, radical activists can be kept off of (public) university faculties. (There should be a secondary test to make sure that the candidate is the sort of individual whose character is worthy of a faculty appointment.)

Trustee involvement in faculty hiring would serve the same ends as giving the Senate its role in approving presidential choices for important posts — it would bring the concept of checks and balances into higher education. It wouldn’t be a panacea, but it would probably avoid some of the worst faculty hires.

Celebrate the Human Life Review

by Jack Fowler

If you are traveling to New York City next week to attend NRI’s fourth annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner, on October 25, consider spending an extra night in the Big Apple to celebrate the Human Life Review’s Great Defender of Life Dinner, which on October 26 will be honoring Carly Fiorina for her stalwart support of the right to life (and as an added highlight, the gala will be emceed by Larry Kudlow).

Founded by the late Jim McFadden, NR’s long-time associate publisher, HLR is in its 42nd year of providing scholarly support to the pro-life movement, and is essential reading on abortion, euthanasia, suicide, neonaticide, genetic engineering, cloning, fetal and embryonic stem-cell research and experimentation, and new issues as they emerge. The world’s a better place for our fellow Review, so, whether you are traveling to NYC or live in the area, do come to the Great Defender of Life Dinner and help this vital institution.

No, There’s No Excuse for ‘Conservative’ Shout-Downs

by David French

Response To...

Pro-Trumpers Shout-Down Liberal Speakers at ...

As Stanley Kurtz noted on Friday, pro-Trump protesters shouted-down California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California State Assembly Leader Ian Calderon during an appearance at California’s Whittier College. This is a terrible development. 

Thus far the shout-down has been a predominantly far-Left tactic, one that’s spreading even to the point where progressives are turning on progressives (witness the recent Black Lives Matter shout-down of an ACLU speaker at William & Mary.) It’s shameful, it’s unlawful at public universities, and it violates the student code of conduct at private universities. The answer to the shout-down is the rule of law. The answer is the Constitution. 

Yet there are some “conservatives” who justify this new escalation (just like they justify public calls to fire radical professors who engage in offensive — but constitutionally-protected — speech) as a form of “fighting fire with fire.” It’s censorship in the name of freedom, and by making the Left “live under its own rules,” they’ll make the Left more reasonable.

This is as silly as it is unprincipled. 

The radical Left simply doesn’t view the world the way these conservatives believe they do. They don’t care if Xavier Becerra speaks or doesn’t speak. They’re not truly grieved in the least that he was shouted down. After all, the heckling, disrupting wing of the Left barely tolerates most Democratic politicians. Instead, they see the world through the prism not of persuasion but mobilization, and the emergence of right-wing lawlessness is God’s gift to their own efforts to “take the streets.” It’s God’s gift to their own efforts to tell more moderate members of the Left that the Right cares nothing for the Constitution and only seeks power. 

Here’s a radical idea. Let’s defend free speech by defending free speech. It’s the right thing to do, and it actually does work. This is not the first time we’ve seen a wave of campus shout-downs (the shout-down was a common radical left tactic when I was in law school). It ultimately receded then, and it will recede again — through public accountability and application of the rule of law. 

The right-wing mob will only make things worse, but then again I’m not sure the mob cares. To them, the “fight” matters far more than the Constitution. It’s brown shirts versus red shirts. They are who they hate, and if either side wins, America will most certainly lose. 

Re: Re: Tevi Troy for HHS Secretary

by Stanley Kurtz

I want to echo Jonah, Yuval, and Hugh Hewitt, all of whom are touting Tevi Troy for HHS secretary. Tevi’s a friend of mine and a friend and respected colleague to many others as well. The high regard in which Tevi is held helps explain his unanimous confirmation as deputy HHS secretary in 2007. As number two at HHS, Tevi was chief operating officer of the largest civilian department in the government, with over 67,000 employees. Have you heard of anything going wrong at HHS while Troy was steering the ship? I didn’t think so.

(Now everyone look away from this paragraph while I speak directly to the White House.) Yes, Jonah first floated Tevi’s name, but Troy has never been a NeverTrumper. He didn’t sign the NeverTrump statements, and that’s just not where he’s been at. As Hugh Hewitt put it, “Tevi Troy is maybe the perfect Trump cabinet member, because he’s self-effacing, and very loyal, and very effective.”

As HHS secretary, Troy would be working closely with Congress. Fortunately he has plenty of experience and connections on the Hill, where he was policy director for Senator John Ashcroft and domestic policy director for the House Policy Committee, chaired by Chris Cox. And as a former deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, Troy has deep knowledge of the White House as well.

Troy is a full-spectrum conservative who’s been a warrior for free-market health care reform for years. He’s worked for conservatives like Ashcroft, Chris Cox, and Elaine Chao (when she was at the Department of Labor). And that’s not to mention Troy’s writing in places like National Review and Commentary and The Wall Street Journal.

How does someone with impeccable conservative credentials gain such respect from across the aisle? Well, part of the answer is that Troy is a smart-as-a-whip straight-shooter with ramrod integrity, while also being an all-around nice guy. But it’s also that Troy’s books about the presidency are fair, and fascinating to readers of all stripes. His latest work, Shall We Wake the President? Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office, couldn’t be better preparation for the job.

In sum: Tevi Troy for secretary of HHS.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

Democrats Used to Know That Life Begins at Conception

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

HHS to Define Life as ...

Last week I posted about a proposed HHS strategic plan that will, if implemented, declare:

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception…

Oh, the screaming among the usual suspects.

What I didn’t know was that Democrat administrations used to acknowledge this basic biological fact.

But the splendid Richard Doerflinger, recently retired from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, dealt with this issue for decades in the context of his professional pro-life advocacy. He writes, “Various Democratic administrations whose departments and advisory commissions had said exactly the same thing.” 

Specifically (my emphasis):

“Life is a constantly evolving process that begins with conception and continues until death.

Movement through time necessitates change and therefore is synonymous with life itself; the opposite state is stasis and death…. With the passage of time, the human organism grows from a single cell to a fully developed adult…. Life begins when a male sperm unites with a female egg.

The new life created by this union starts as a single cell…. In relation to the total life span of the individual, the early developmental years are short and serve as the foundation for the remainder of one’s life span. The needs of a child in the support of this growth and development begin before birth and continue throughout the growth years until maturity is reached.”
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Status of Children, Youth, and Families 1979, DHHS Publication No. (OHDS) 80-30274, pp. 29-30

Federal advisory commissions appointed by Clinton Administration
- 1994: “The preimplantation human embryo warrants serious moral consideration as a developing form of human life.” 
 National Institutes of Health, Report of the Human Embryo Research Panel (Sept. 1994), p. 2. 
- 1999: “[M]ost would agree that human embryos deserve respect as a form of human life.” 
President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission, Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research (September 1999), Vol. I, p. ii.

Thanks, Richard!

Notice the watering-down of basic biology as time passes-from an accurate scientific description to, “Most would agree…” And now? Science deniers!

I am against transhumanism, but in Richard’s case, an exception will have to be made.

When, decades from now, he moves along to his reward, we are going to have to upload his mind into a computer.The Doerflinger invaluable institutional memory must be retained!

Is Someone Trying to Blow Up Civil War Reenactors?

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Is Someone Trying to Blow Up Civil War Reenactors?

A story from outside Washington that deserves more national attention: a reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, of the Civil War, was temporarily interrupted as law enforcement dealt with some sort of explosive device.

Local and federal law enforcement officials declined Sunday to describe the “suspicious item” found at the battlefield here about 4 p.m. Saturday, which prompted law enforcement to evacuate the immediate area. Several re-enactors said they were told it looked like a pipe bomb.

In a statement Sunday, the FBI said that “the device was located during an annual re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek. No persons were harmed and the device was rendered safe by the Virginia State Police.”

Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman, said Sunday that the bureau “was not elaborating on the device.”

The FBI is investigating the incident, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Virginia State Police; the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; and the Middletown Police Department.

The battle re-enacted Sunday took place on Oct. 19, 1864, and was a Union victory.

Last week, organizers of the Cedar Creek event posted a warning on the group’s website.

“We would like to make everyone aware that the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation has received a letter threatening bodily harm to attendants of this event,” the foundation said in the statement. “With this in mind security has been increased and we ask that everyone work with us for a safe and enjoyable event.”

What’s going on here?

The organizers and law enforcement seem particularly tight-lipped about what the threatening message stated. One reenactor quoted in the story relates that “the letter sent to the foundation threatened that excrement would be thrown or weapons fired at the reenactors.” Why would someone hate a Civil War reenactment so much?

The simplest and most logical explanation is that this is a new, violent extension of the effort to remove Confederate statues. Down in New Orleans, the now-removed Battle of Liberty Place Memorial had the inscription: “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” One does not have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to believe that public squares should not feature inscriptions touting “white supremacy.”

But to terrorize or threaten a Civil War reenactment is completely different; this marks an indisputable attack on America’s history. The participants at Cedar Creek bristled with resentment at the suggestion that their passion for studying and reenacting history is driven by a desire to celebrate the Confederacy or white supremacy. (For starters, it’s a Union victory!)

We live in an era where far too many Americans remain profoundly ignorant of even basic facts about their own country’s history:

“A 2012 ACTA survey found that less than 20 [percent] of American college graduates could accurately identify the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation, less than half could identify George Washington as the American general at Yorktown ((Virginia)), and only 42 [percent] knew that the Battle of the Bulge occurred during World War II.”

And somebody wants to put a stop to a tradition that gets Americans to travel to Civil War battlefields and actually learn what happened there? Who did this, the Proudly Ignorant Insurgency? The Counter-Education Guerrillas? The Anti-History Brigade?

If Civil War reenactments are somehow unacceptable because of people playing the roles of Confederate soldiers, how much further must this effort to erase history go? Museums? Books? Movies or television shows?

(There is also the possibility that someone made the threat and left the device to discredit the effort to remove Confederate statues. If this was an episode of Law & Order, Bones, Castle, or any other police procedural drama, the big twist would be that the would-be bomber’s motive was personal, not political.)

You no doubt have heard the Santayana quote, “Those who do cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I can’t help but wonder if those who did worst in history class are determined to destroy it, because it reminds them of their inadequacies.

‘The Heart of It All’

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today is the usual mish-mash, beginning with Ryan Zinke and his special flag. The Interior Department has a secretarial flag. Who knew? Someone did. It is raised when Secretary Zinke enters the building — indicating he is present — and lowered when he leaves. I thought only Queen Liz got this.

In my column, I write, “Kevin Williamson, Jonah Goldberg, and David French visit National Review headquarters in New York only rarely. I’m going to see if we can get some kind of flag to hoist when they’re in town …”

I have an item or two on President Trump, who tweeted, “Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!”

My comment:

I’m not sure a president ought to be bragging about the plunging of stocks. And bragging that he caused it. A reader of mine wrote, “This affects my 401(k). Am I not an American?”

These are really strange times. What would we conservatives say if a Democratic president bragged about causing stocks to plunge?

For the eight years of Obama, we said, “What if George W. Bush had said this? What if George W. Bush had done this?” For the eight (?) years of Trump, many of us will be saying, “What if a Dem …?”

Speaking of Obama, he has joined Columbia Country Club, in Chevy Chase, Md. — the site of the 1921 U.S. Open. It was won by “Long Jim” Barnes, an Englishman. President Harding was in attendance, and so was Vice President Coolidge. A long while later, Bill Strausbaugh Jr. was the head pro at Columbia. One of the great golf teachers in America, and a golden human being.

Finally, there is this, in Impromptus:

The most representative American state? I’m sure there are stats on this — science — but I’m going seat-of-the-pants: It must be Ohio. Ohio has virtually everything: urban blacks, rural whites (urban whites, rural blacks). It is both northern and southern. Maybe even eastern and western. It is microcosmic, I think.

I always thought that their license-plate slogan — “The Heart of It All” — was justifiable.

Of course, you could make a case for Illinois. And for [name your state] …

What is the most representative American state? The most microcosmic, as I have said? If you have an argument to make, please let me know at [email protected].

Great Books Vote

by John J. Miller

Help me pick a title for an upcoming episode of The Great Books podcast. Vote here on Twitter.

To subscribe to the podcast for free, go here. You’ll get the next episode–a conversation on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with Paul Cantor–as soon as it releases.

Billionaire at the Barricades

by Rich Lowry

I ran into my old friend Laura Ingraham last week the day her new book launched. I haven’t had a chance to dip into it yet, and there are certainly things I disagree with in it (we’ve had our disputes over the past two years), but I’m sure it’s smart and sharp-elbowed. Even if you are not in sympathy with Trump-style populism, it’s not going away, and Laura is one of its top voices.

 

The Rise of Discretionary Legality

by Rich Lowry

A new feature or our government is what might be called discretionary legality. Checked legislatively after his first two years, Obama stretched the law beyond the breaking point to continue to implement his agenda on all fronts.

Enter Donald Trump. He now gets to pick and choose which of these illegal initiatives to keep or discard or unwind on a timetable to his liking. He’s been pretty aggressive in rolling them back, which is good. But there is a huge element of discretion involved.

He set up a political timeline for rolling back DACA and has reportedly said he may decide to further extend DACA. It hard to see how such a decision would accord with the law — the very illegality of DACA becomes a permission slip to end it immediately, slowly, or not at all. The same dynamic was at play with the illegal cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurance companies. Trump keep making them until he decided not to, and if different voices had prevailed with the administration, he might be making them still.

This is obviously not how the system is supposed to work. But Obama made extra-legality the playing field of our politics in many areas. And with the Senate now largely AWOL, this is the only field where Trump can reliably put up points — or not, as suits him.

 

Helprin and Paris

by Jay Nordlinger

Several weeks ago, National Review had a cruise, or a crossing, from England to New York. One of our guest speakers was Mark Helprin, the novelist — and the political writer, the military analyst, etc. I sat down with him for a Q&A podcast, here.

Our topic? Mainly, his latest book, his latest novel: Paris in the Present Tense. It is a book about love, loyalty, World War II, the Holocaust, France, memory, the War on Terror, courage, honor — in other words, it’s a Helprin novel. It joins the shelf with A Soldier of the Great War, In Sunlight and in Shadow, and so on. (Plus, there are the short stories.) As I said recently, Helprin has struck another blow for truth and beauty. A magnificent novel, real literature.

And our podcast, once more, is here. Just a little appetizer or something.

Of Dinos and Scouts: Some Mail

by Jay Nordlinger

Below, I had a post about “dinosaurs,” or “dinos,” which is what some people are calling us pre-Trump conservatives, perhaps with justification. A reader from Israel sends this note:

Here’s a dinosaur joke for your amusement. A little girl is visiting the natural-history museum, looks at the bones of the T-Rex, and asks the guard, “How old is the dinosaur?” He replies, “This dinosaur is 65 million, 17 and a half years old.”

The little girl asks, “How can you know so exactly?” He says, “Because when I came to work here, I asked how old the dinosaur was, and they said 65 million. That was 17 and a half years ago.”

While we’re on the subject of being dinosauric: My late father-in-law, who lived to be 97, was a professor of classics. In his later years, he used to say, “I’m an ancient historian, in both meanings of the term.”

I further had a post on the Boy Scouts, and its decision to admit girls. A reader writes,

Both my boys are in Scouts, and my older is working on Eagle. Rule of thumb is, make them bust their hump to get it done before girls and cars overwhelm their mind. Right now in Scouts, they’re thinking about camping, hiking, getting in shape for Philmont [a Scout ranch in New Mexico], trying to get leadership positions, learning marksmanship, and a hundred other things. Add girls to all that, and, well …

The Horowitzian Eye on Campus

by Jay Nordlinger

I was going to say that David Horowitz needs no introduction, but pretty much everyone needs an introduction — if only because young people come along, with (reassuring) regularity. Horowitz is a famous lefty-turned-righty, or communist-turned-conservative. He was important when he was on the left, and he stayed important when he went right. In 1997, he published his celebrated autobiography, Radical Son. (The title has its echo, of course, in Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son.)

A few years ago, I wrote a three-part series about David, “A Witness” (Part I, Part II, Part III). He had embarked on a series of his own — a very big series called “The Black Book of the American Left.” You will hear the echo in the title. In 1997, the same year as Radical Son, academics in Europe published The Black Book of Communism. It counted the corpses. David’s Black Book collects his writings as a conservative, and indicts his former comrades and allies.

He is now up to Volume VIII, “The Left in the University,” just published. This is an extremely important subject. “Give me a child until he is seven, and I’ll show you the man,” goes an old saying. Well, you enter college well past seven. Still, a college education can have a great effect on a person — for good or ill.

David reports some horrors on campus, and he calls for an academic bill of rights. He also inveighs against indoctrination. Education ought to be liberal, as in “liberal education,” and illiberalism is a threat to our very democracy, which is liberal.

Often, it takes a conservative to teach “liberals” liberalism.

A couple of days ago, I read about right-wingers at Whittier College, shouting down a pair of California officials. WTF? This was truly man-bites-dog, to me. All my life, I have read about, and witnessed, the Left shouting down the Right. I had never seen, or heard about, the opposite.

In any event, I used to know Whittier College as Nixon’s alma mater. Now I know it for this recent sad event. I’m not sure which they prefer!

But back to the point of my post: David Horowitz has been a leader in trying to hold our universities to account, and I recommend his latest volume, as a record and a service.

No Girlz Allowed?

by Jay Nordlinger

A reader writes,

I have an old Army buddy with over 50 years in the Boy Scouts. Eagle Scout, troop leader, proud to be seen in public as an adult in a Boy Scouts uniform, including shorts and knee socks. He stayed with them through the whole gay thing, but girls in the Boy Scouts was a bridge too far for him. He resigned this week.

This guy has devoted his life to this organization, and they can’t figure out why he’s made a big deal about it.

The Boy Scouts can do what they want, and I have no real standing in the debate. I was not in the Scouts, though I wish I had been — I can barely tie a knot (much less start a fire with sticks). But I do have a strong view on boy-girl stuff.

I rather like single-sex schools (though I never attended one). Why? People have a lifetime to deal with messy boy-girl stuff. (And if it’s not messy, congratulations: You have had a fairly uncommon experience, I think.) There’s time a-plenty to deal with boy-girl stuff.

As a boy, or former boy, I can tell you that the presence of girls skews everything. All you can think of is girls. Other guys won’t tell you this — “Don’t listen to him! The only girl I’m thinkin’ about is helpin’ the little old lady cross the street” — but I will, your ever-faithful correspondent.

Let there be boy-only stuff, and girl-only stuff, like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for a decent stretch of time before adult life begins. As a rule, it’s better for all involved, I think.

Of course, there are many exceptions, and I bet I’ll hear about some of them. But they are, I think, exceptions that prove the rule.