NR Webathon

Day Nine Shows We Have Much to Be Thankful For, but Miles to Go Before Sleeping

William F. Buckley Jr.

We commenced this 2019 Fall Webathon last week, as usual not knowing what to expect in real terms, confident many would be responsive, hopeful the generosity would induce tears of joy. So far, over 1,100 people have put something in the kitty, and that is just amazing. We appreciate that many people agree with our message – that the fight to protect free speech, which your favorite conservative magazine is doing in its Mann v. National Review legal battle, now in year seven – is not only NR’s fight, but the fight of everyone who understand that this challenge is truly a threat to the First Amendment.

We have some great case-making from our Fearless Leader, who penned Don’t Let Michael Mann Succeed, and Big Jim Geraghty, among others. Give their wisdom a look, and heed their suggestions for your being generous. And then maybe lend an ear to these following fine folks who found it fitting to finance their friend:

Herbert in Seattle sends a sweet Fifty and keeps it basic and real: “I love your magazine and am happy to make a contribution.” That sums it all up, except this – we love you even more!

Charlotte in Brookhaven, Ga., slips $100 into the basket and says the kind of thing you want to hear when you wake up in the middle of the night wondering, is it for naught? “I am delighted to contribute to National Review. You are the only ones who have kept me informed, made me think, and preserved my sanity for the last three years. Thank you, and keep up the good work. It is not in vain.”

Good ol’ Virginia from Irvine, Calif., allots $50 and scans the decades: “I’ve been reading National Review since I was in high school – and am enjoying it even more now than I did then. Keep up the good work!!!” Keeping, thanks to you.

From Highland Mills, N.Y., Chris sends one thousand smackers and after the smelling salts were applied we read the note attending his generosity: “This is, of course, for the indefatigable Jim Geraghty, the provocative Kevin Williamson, and the surgically precise Charles Cooke. This is also for the much needed Madeleine Kearns, the vigilant Wesley Smith, and the tireless defender of freedom Jay Nordlinger. This is for the most articulate pro-Trump voices who still fail to convince me (VDH and Conrad Black) and the most thoughtful conservative I rarely agree with (MBD). Thank you, Rich Lowry, for keeping the tent poles of right wing intellectualism far apart and giving us the most intelligent and least knee-jerk writers on the web. There’s no one I’d trust more to find just the right voices  to replace Jonah Goldberg and David French. Oh and also, Michael Mann can go . . .” We’ll keep this G-rated . . . and thanks for your G!

John in Rochester, N.Y., sends along a double sawbuck and has a polite request: “Please continue to defend our 1st amendment rights from attacks by people like Mann!!!!” Five bucks for each exclamation point, love it!

Out in Reno, Mark divorces his wallet of $100 and admits to something along with his kind donation: “I am probably more liberal than many of your readers and do not agree with all (perhaps even much) of what you publish.  I am grateful though that what you publish is always articulate – seeking to convince rather than  browbeat. More importantly, I believe a free press is the bedrock of our constitutional republic and therefore offer this modest show of support.” Nothing modest about that, Mark.

Likewise, Robert from Media, Pa., sends a C Note and gives a thumbs up: “I completely agree that this is a free speech issue; the so-called (by Obama) climate ‘consensus’ is more a political than a scientific one.” Amen, comrade. Thanks very much.

We could use another 1,100 supporters, and then another 1,100 on top of that, given our vast material needs. Especially if you have spent ages on NRO, marinating in its wisdom, all day, every day, we ask you to consider a profound response to this our appeal – if only because others have done such (thereby affording you the ability to enjoy NR as much as you do) . . . an if only because we are at the forefront of the fight to protect your right to free-speech. Yes, it is indeed under threat in Mann v. National Review. So . . . donate here. If you prefer to send a check, make one payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. Do this with confidence that our gratitude will be profound.


Buttigieg on the Courts

The mayor mentioned two priorities for the Supreme Court last night: protecting “women’s reproductive freedom” and (in the next breath) “reforms that will depoliticize the court.” That there is a tension between these two ideas does not seem to have occurred to him.


How Well Does Biden Know Washington?

In the debate last night, Biden said, “George Washington worried on the first time he spoke after being elected president that what we had to worry about is foreign interference in our elections, it was the greatest threat to America.” Does anyone know what he’s talking about? I think Biden must have been thinking of Washington’s Farewell Address, in which he said that “history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.”


Ten Things That Caught My Eye Today (October 16, 2019)

1. People need to seriously take up the cause of praying for Dr. Leana. First, in thanksgiving that the former president of Planned Parenthood would call out the abortion extremism, and be honest about the pain of pregnancy loss, however it happens (she’s written about her miscarriage).

And pray for conversion. It’s happened before. I keep thinking, Bernard Nathanson, if you are in heaven, work on this mission! I can only imagine someone who worked as hard to end abortion in his later years, would be doing even more work in eternal life.

Also: for Tulsi Gabbard!

Some earlier Dr. Wen thoughts here and Gabbard here.

2. Kelly Rosati on today’s abortion conversation

3. LifeSiteNews: Jury riveted by testimony on abortion industry horrors in Planned Parenthood body parts civil trial

4. The Federalist: Judge Suppresses Evidence Of Baby Body Part Trafficking In Planned Parenthood Trial

5. Family court crisis: courts placing children with abusive parents with tragic results

6. The Top 10 Ways to Lose a Foster Parent

(This reminds me of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recent report on how to honor foster parents.)


8. The Assyrian Mind




Plus: A screening and discussion of the adoption documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue in NYC on Nov. 4

A book discussion with Mary Eberstadt on her new book Primal Screams, also in NY


Buttigieg on ‘Assault Weapons’

I thought Pete Buttigieg had a pretty good night, but one of his arguments against Beto O’Rourke was clearly wrong. He said, “On guns, we are this close to an assault weapons ban. That would be huge. And we’re going to get wrapped around the axle in a debate over whether it’s ‘hell, yes, we’re going to take your guns’?”

We are not “this close” to an assault-weapons ban, which didn’t even have 40 supporters in the Senate the last time the Democrats ran it.


Harris’s Comment on Abortion

Senator Harris had one of the most peculiar riffs on abortion I’ve ever heard from a candidate last night: “Women have been given the responsibility to perpetuate the human species. Our bodies were created to do that. And it does not give any other person the right to tell a woman what to do with that body. It is her body. It is her right. It is her decision.” The last four sentences don’t exactly flow naturally from the first two, do they? And can you imagine what the press would be saying if an *opponent* of abortion had said the first two sentences?

Health Care

Warren’s Medicare Tax Dodge

The weird thing about Warren’s refusal to just come out and say that her Medicare for All plan involves higher taxes on the middle class is that she has already implicitly admitted that it’s true. Whenever she is asked about it, she launches into the same spiel as she did last night, about how middle-class “costs” are going to go down. That answer makes sense only on the theory that middle-class people’s taxes will go up but their premiums, co-pays, and deductibles will go down by more, leaving them ahead.

Whether their costs would truly go down is debatable — I think there are very good reasons not to believe it — but whether her plan involves higher middle-class taxes is not. Reporters would be within their rights to say that Warren’s plan would raise taxes on the middle class, although she has been careful not to say so.

White House

Watch: Kat Timpf Says Trump-Ukraine Poll Shows How ‘Partisanship Supersedes Facts’

In a new video for National review, reporter Kat Timpf says that a recent poll showing that just four in ten Republicans believe that President Donald Trump mentioned investigating Joe Biden to the Ukrainian president is a “symptom of a larger problem.”


Taxing Churches Is a Terrible Idea

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas House member and Democratic presidential candidate, was asked last week whether religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status. He thinks they should. This is a terrible idea.

The tax deduction for charitable contributions offer significant support to houses of worship. If you’re in the top tax bracket, the true cost of a $100 gift to your church is only $63, since you don’t have to pay the 37 percent tax rate on the $100 of income you are giving away. This leads to more charitable giving than there would otherwise be.

It’s hard to say what would happen to the total amount of charitable contributions if Mr. O’Rourke has his way. But I discuss some evidence in my latest Bloomberg column.

Forthcoming research by economists and charitable-giving experts Jonathan Meer and Benjamin Priday finds that a 10% increase in the “price of giving” reduces philanthropy by a little over 10%. (The price of giving changes when Congress changes marginal income tax rates.) For households in the top tax bracket, eliminating the deduction entirely for religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage — as O’Rourke says he would attempt to do if elected president — would increase the taxpayers’ cost of giving to those groups by 59%. This would cause their charitable contributions to plummet.

Why else to be opposed to O’Rourke’s idea? Income given freely away should not be taxed. Churches, mosques, and synagogues are tax exempt because many of the services they offer are complimentary to government programs. The American tradition of turning not only to government for the provision of social services. And:

When the U.S.’s social ecology is healthy, religious organizations and the government enjoy a wide distance. O’Rourke’s plan would have the state put the church under a microscope, inspecting its theology and rituals to ensure that they support same-sex marriage, doling out tax breaks to some and not to others.

He would keep the tax exemptions for those churches, mosques and synagogues that subscribe to his preferred theology. Those that don’t would be required to provide financial support to the government.

Check out my column for my full argument. Your comments, as always, are very welcome.


Warren Lags in Endorsement Race

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Tuesday’s Democratic debate confirmed Elizabeth Warren’s frontrunner status. She’s second to Joe Biden nationwide and leading him narrowly in both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the RealClearPolitics average. She’s second to Bernie Sanders in fundraising. And she’s posed for a lot of selfies. But there’s one track where this putative frontrunner lags: endorsements.

“The Massachusetts senator has the same small number of endorsements from congressional colleagues beyond her home state as she did beforehand: three,” writes Jonathan Martin in the New York Times. Warren is in fourth place in’s endorsement primary, behind Biden, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker. Her most prominent endorsement has come from the left-wing Working Families Party of New York. But she lost the coveted endorsement of the far-left “Squad” of House freshmen Democrats to Sanders.

Endorsements are a good measure of how comfortable a party establishment is with a given candidate. Some endorsements become inflection points in a campaign. Think of endorsements of Obama by Oprah, Ted Kennedy, and Colin Powell in 2008, and of Trump by Chris Christie in 2016.

Martin says many Democrats are waiting to see how the multi-candidate race shakes out. They don’t want to give the impression the primary is rigged.

My explanation? Warren makes many Democrats nervous. Some of them are concerned about her viability in a general election. And some of them are worried that she might win.

Politics & Policy

Hey, Good for You, Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Hillary Clinton, speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C., November 8, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters )

Chelsea Clinton declares on The View that she’s not considering running for Congress.

Throughout the run-up to the 2016 election, I was a pretty dyspeptic critic of Chelsea Clinton — from her $1,083-per-minute speaking gig at a university, to her selection to give the keynote address at SXSW, to her awards for “Woman of the Year” and “Mom of the Year,” to her insufferable declaration that she “couldn’t care about money on a fundamental level” . . . and perhaps most of all, the endless puff pieces that kept trying to convince us that she was someone fascinating and surprising and a natural leader, and that she would still be getting this same attention and praise and opportunities if she didn’t come from a famous family. Nor did I have any patience for those pieces immediately after the 2016 election that seemed to pitch her as the next great Democratic hope.

But it’s worth noting that since 2018 or so, Chelsea Clinton has shown a recurring willingness to call out figures on the Left who are beyond the pale, from Louis Farrakhan comparing Jews to Termites to public attacks on Brett Kavanaugh’s daughters and Barron Trump. The willingness to criticize ideological allies has been in short supply in recent years.

If Chelsea Clinton ran for this open House seat in New York, she would begin with an instant name-recognition and fundraising advantage in the primary, and she would probably win in the Democratic-leaning district. But from all appearances, she has no deep yearning to run for office or serve in elected office anytime soon. She’s carved out a happy life for herself and her family, far from the realm of politics and this seems . . . wise. Level-headed. A refreshing respite from the sense of entitlement that so many famous children seem to exhibit.

I’ve urged Americans to take a break from the Kennedys for the sake of everyone (including the Kennedys), and while the younger members of the Bush family seem like nice people, the country is not yearning for the restoration of any dynasties. American politics is not supposed to be an endless war among the same half-dozen rival families, like some less violent version of Game of Thrones.

Health Care

Sex-Change Regret

In the United Kingdom, where the mainstream media are more honest in their coverage of the transgender movement, stories have been emerging about “detransitioners.” Detransitioners are people who have taken steps to “change” their sex but have since reverted — and who now feel their transition was a mistake.

From the Times of London:

Peter Benjamin knows more than most about the realities of transgender life. For several years, he tried living as a woman. Then he had sex-reassignment surgery, realised he had made a mistake and reverted to being a man.

The market researcher, 60, who has a grown-up daughter and son, says living as a woman was “making me ill”. He is speaking about his experience out of concern for people who, like him, change gender, only to find their lives as isolated and challenging as they were before.

“My anxiety levels were sky high,” he said, explaining his decision to return to his birth sex. “I was seeing the doctors for all sorts of problems. My drinking was going up because I couldn’t cope any more with being transgender. I just had to get out of it.”

From Sky News:

Hundreds of young transgender people are seeking help to return to their original sex, a woman who is setting up a charity has told Sky News.

Charlie Evans, 28, was born female but identified as male for nearly 10 years before detransitioning.

The number of young people seeking gender transition is at an all-time high but we hear very little, if anything, about those who may come to regret their decision.

Earlier this year I spoke to four young detransitioners for National Review Online which you can listen to here. One young woman told me:

When I found this trans stuff online I felt it explained everything: why I didn’t like my body, why I was bullied, why I didn’t fit in. Just every question and problem that I had I just felt it was automatically answered. Explained by this trans thing. But not only was it explained it also offered me a solution.

Soon, I will be sharing more heartbreaking stories from American detransitioners at National Review.


Judge Applies Minimal Scrutiny So Harvard Can Keep Discriminating

On the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

It took federal judge Allison Burroughs nearly a year to write her decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, but I suspect she knew how she’d rule before the trial began.  Good liberals just know deep down that discrimination in favor of applicants who happen to have ancestry that puts them in an oppressed category is a good thing. If Harvard says it’s beneficial, then it must be.

In today’s Martin Center article, Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity (which opposes racial preferences) writes about the case and its future trajectory. Even though Harvard won, this was just round one in a battle that will almost certainly end up on the Supreme Court’s docket in a couple of years.

Where is the judge’s ruling vulnerable? Clegg thinks it’s her failure to come anywhere close to strict scrutiny. Is it really true that the school gains some “educational benefits” from marginally increasing the number of students from black and Hispanic families who are accepted while marginally decreasing the number of students from Asian families? If so, is there no other way of obtaining those supposed benefits than setting up racial categories (and apparently quotas)?

Clegg also takes issue with her notion that some discrimination is permissible as long as it isn’t “undue.” He writes, “I believe she’s wrong in concluding that our law permits group discrimination as long as it doesn’t hurt disfavored groups ‘unduly.’ The Civil Rights Act in particular and the 14th Amendment weren’t written that way. But Harvard drew one of the judges who reads the Supreme Court’s dubious jurisprudence to conclude that they were.”

I’m completely with Clegg in hoping that the Supreme Court will ultimately take this case and make a clear ruling against racial preferences in college admissions. If so, schools like Harvard that are so dedicated to curating a student body with whatever mixture it wants will still be able to do so, but only if they are willing to turn away the federal funds that put them under the Civil Rights Act.

Clegg points out that the last time the Court considered this issue, Fisher v. Texas,  it seemed ready to strike down racial preferences, but then Justice Scalia died and the liberal justices dragged Justice Kennedy over to their side, to write a feeble opinion allowing Texas to continue its preferential admissions policy. With Kennedy’s retirement and the addition of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, there is reason to hope that this case will turn out differently.


What Kind of ‘Great Operation’ Does North Korea Have in Mind?

President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom, June 30, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Far away from the debate stage in Ohio, North Korean’s regime is making some vague, ominous announcements: “Aides to Kim Jong Un are convinced the North Korean leader plans “a great operation,” state media said on Wednesday in a report that included lavish descriptions and images of the leader riding a white horse up North Korea’s most sacred mountain.”

At first glance, Kim Jong Un is currently sitting pretty. He’s got a U.S. president who is willing to meet with him and have big summit meetings. He’s still got his nukes, and the rest of the world has limited leverage to get him to give them up. The Trump administration’s relationship with the South Koreans and Japanese is complicated at best. North Korea is launching missiles into Japanese waters again.

The North Korean regime back to testing and launching, and Trump hand-waves them away as small potatoes — even though the pause in testing and launches were one of the few measurable benefits of the previous effort at outreach.

Yes, the U.S. and South Korea are back to doing joint exercises, and there are still plenty of sanctions. The Norks recently called the negotiations “sickening.”  Our ambassador to South Korea recently characterized the most recent talks as, “North Korea demanded that the United States do everything before doing anything.” Maybe we’re about to get another round of brinksmanship, with Kim Jong-un thinks he can get Trump to blink on sanctions.

The North Koreans are probably miscalculating if they think Trump will make more concessions, but that wouldn’t be the first time Pyongyang did that. Trump’s dealing with impeachment, abandoning the Kurds, USMCA, China trade negotiations, and reelection. He just doesn’t have any political capital to spend on, “hey, let’s cut the North Koreans a break, let’s see if that makes them more agreeable.”

The worst case scenario would be that Pyongyang concluded from the situation with the Kurds (and the aborted strike on Iran!) that when push comes to shove, Trump will absolutely refuse to use military force to defend an ally, particularly a year away from running for reelection.

If you’re a country that’s hostile to the United States, you’re entering a brief but significant time period of golden opportunities. Trump isn’t inclined to stand up for allies to begin with, he’s reluctant to get involved in foreign wars, the U.S. is deeply internally divided, and Trump probably isn’t going anywhere for another 14 months or so, at minimum. If you want to start some trouble or make aggressive moves, you do it now. The political environment in the United States probably will not change until November 2020 at the earliest. A hostile state could do something aggressive now, and then offer a peace deal to President Warren or whomever shortly after Inauguration Day, consolidating their gains . . .


Beto’s Coming Door to Door for Your Guns

Beto’s worst moment of the night was his inability to answer the question of how he’s going to confiscate guns, since there is no way for the government to know who owns them. He had no answer, because there is no answer. He was asked about it again this morning and in response to a hypothetical of a rancher who doesn’t want to comply with a law he believes is unconstitutional, said that government agents would show up at his door to take his gun:

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