The Democrats Have Outflanked LULAC

The Washington Post reports:

“I think there has to be some moderation. I disagree with the candidates’ positions about providing health care to undocumented immigrants, when you have Americans who don’t have health care,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). . . “I think that was a snap decision by some of those candidates that wasn’t thought through.”

Cecilia Muñoz, a White House aide to President Barack Obama and a former policy advocate at the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group now known as UnidosUS, said decriminalizing unapproved border crossings would make it harder for Democrats to combat President Trump’s populist appeal.


Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 15, 2019)

1. I was so pleased to see Ericka Anderson in the Wall Street Journal with Friday’s Houses of Worship column, “Is God the Answer to the Suicide Epidemic?” She writes, in part:

Every year, institutions and organizations devoted to reducing the toll of suicide in America’s communities publish resources devoted to prevention. Some of the most prominent ones come from Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet attending religious services isn’t included on these lists of resources. It’s time for these and other groups to consider faith as an legitimate prevention method.

People living in our increasingly secular culture are hungry for spiritual wisdom and transcendent purpose. For the already vulnerable, this drought of meaning and connection can have deadly consequences. For thousands of years, practicing a shared faith was a principal way to meet these spiritual needs. It can be again.

Here’s the link.

2. And also in the Wall Street Journal, our wonderful Madeleine Kearns writes about the brave 16-year-old, Selina Soule in “A Connecticut Girl Challenges Male Domination of Female Sports”

3. From Colorado: Mental health care for veterans remains a troubled endeavor at Fort Carson and beyond.

4. The latest Becket case:

5. A NYC blackout story.

6. Behold, The Millennial Nuns.

Continue reading “Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 15, 2019)”


On Native-Born Ingrates

American flag and Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Washington, D.C., in 2013. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

I appreciate Charlie’s response to my argument that immigrant citizens don’t owe a special debt of gratitude of to this nation — a debt over and above the gratitude that native-born citizens should feel for their home country. To be crystal clear, I believe Ilhan Omar and every citizen immigrant should be grateful for their place in this country. What I reject is the notion that native-born citizens like myself can demand a level of gratitude from immigrants beyond what we demand from native-born citizens.

In fact, to the extent that we should parse gratitude at all, I assert a simple proposition — the people who did exactly nothing to become citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the earth should be among the most grateful people on this planet. We should be grateful to God that we weren’t born elsewhere. We should be grateful to those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” to defend our nation and our Constitution. We should be grateful for those who endure great hardship to defend our liberty, safety, and prosperity.

Against the backdrop of this immense American gift, native-born Americans by the countless millions don’t trouble themselves to be educated enough about their own country to pass the basic citizenship test that we give to prospective citizen immigrants. All too many native-born citizens forsake the moral obligations of citizenship and instead focus only on reaping its considerable legal and constitutional benefits.

In radical sectors of American life, native-born Americans sometimes even casually adopt ideologies that are so dangerous to our way of life that immigrants can’t be naturalized if they hold those views. And who do we think so often radicalizes young immigrants like Ilhan Omar? Quite often its native-born Americans, people who scorn the blessing of their extraordinary liberty and opportunity and sometimes even loathe their own country.

It’s not lionizing immigrants (Charlie’s characterization of my argument) to state a simple fact — they’ve done more to become citizens than I have. Charlie, for example, left his home and family, built an impressive professional life here in the United States, passed his citizenship test with flying colors and swore an oath most Americans haven’t sworn. The only thing he hasn’t done is learn American English (have you heard him pronounce the word “garage”?), but he’s working on it.

The fact that Charlie worked to become an American doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be grateful. Of course he should! But somewhat-earned privilege is different from unearned privilege, and I think it’s worth acknowledging that reality. In fact, many (most!) citizen-immigrants look back on their journey to citizenship with justifiable fierce pride. Can I take pride in my birth? I don’t think so.

Nothing I’ve said excuses anything that Ilhan Omar has said or believes. Many of her views are repugnant. But they’re not especially repugnant because she’s an immigrant. And we should not hold immigrants to a higher standard of gratitude than we apply to the people who did nothing to earn their place in this land.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Health-Care Plan Would Cover Abortion and Codify Roe

Joe Biden speaks with supporters in Marshalltown, Iowa, July 4, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Jack Crowe reported earlier this morning on former vice president Joe Biden’s health-care plan, which would expand the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option. This distinguishes Biden from the field of politicians vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, as most primary candidates have endorsed some form of “Medicare for All,” a single-payer model that would eliminate private insurance.

But his unwillingness to embrace the most radical health-care proposals on offer should not be mistaken for a dedication to moderation. Though Biden continues stubbornly to call himself a “personally pro-life” Democrat, his plan would enshrine into federal law the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, preventing states from protecting unborn life in any way (more or less formalizing the status quo, entrenched by courts that nearly uniformly interpret both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in favor of a woman’s supposed right to unlimited abortion access rather than in favor of states’ right to regulate abortion after fetal viability).

Biden’s plan would also repeal the Hyde amendment, a previously bipartisan rider added to federal spending bills to prohibit the direct federal funding of abortion. During his decades in the Senate, Biden consistently voted in favor the amendment and publicly supported it until last month, when he unceremoniously switched his position after facing public pressure from left-wing activists who favor allowing unlimited taxpayer-funded abortion. Biden has long said he wishes to respect the conscience rights of pro-life Americans — he does, after all, profess to be among their number — but his decision to abandon Hyde was made with nary an explanation and after publicly reversing himself on the issue no fewer than three times in the span of a couple weeks.

What’s more, the public option offered in Biden’s plan would “cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose” — in other words, it would explicitly fund both abortion procedures and contraception (presumably including emergency contraception and IUDs, both of which can induce abortion under some circumstances). As currently structured, Obamacare covers contraception at no cost to women, and the HHS contraceptive mandate requires all employers to cover it, although the Trump administration has offered a religious and conscience exemption.

Abortion, meanwhile, is currently excluded from the list of procedures that insurers must cover, and if they do cover abortion, they are required to segregate federal funding so that taxpayer dollars aren’t directly reimbursing abortion procedures. Though Biden has yet to speak publicly on whether he stands by his many votes in the Senate in favor of the federal ban on partial-birth–abortion procedures, his full embrace of the Left’s radical abortion agenda appears to be nearly complete.


The Sins of Beto O’Rourke’s Great-Great-Great Grandfathers

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Fla., June 26, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Beto O’Rourke’s announcement that he was “recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves” illuminates a great deal about presidential campaigning in 2019.

O’Rourke feels the country must know about the status of his great-great-great grandfathers on both sides. That’s five generations, roughly 170 years. Perhaps you think slavery continues to have a great impact on American society of 2019, or perhaps you think that its impact is minor compared with more recent events and changes in American society. Either way, you probably would find it surprising that a white man with roots in the American South is surprised by this, and that he feels the public should know about it as if it is some grand revelation.

O’Rourke declares, “the legacy of slavery in the United States now has a much more personal connection.” Should it matter? Should O’Rourke find slavery even worse now that he knows what his great-great-great grandfathers did? Should he feel guilt over the actions of his great-great-great grandfathers? Is O’Rourke somehow morally deficient or flawed because of the actions of his great-great-great grandfathers? (Is this why O’Rourke jumped on the “the Betsy Ross flag is hurtful” bandwagon so quickly?)

O’Rourke contends that he has unjustly benefited from the actions of his great-great-great grandfathers: “They were able to build wealth on the backs and off the sweat of others, wealth that they would then be able to pass down to their children and their children’s children. In some way, and in some form, that advantage would pass through to me and my children. I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others.”

But O’Rourke doesn’t have to go back five generations to find a system that treats him better because of his lineage. You may recall that in 1998, 26-year-old O’Rourke was driving drunk in a 75 mph zone of an interstate when he lost control of his Volvo and hit a truck. The impact sent O’Rourke’s car across the center median, where it came to a complete stop. Then, according to a witness, O’Rourke “attempted to leave the scene,” the reports say. O’Rourke blew a 0.136 and a 0.134 on police breathalyzers, above the legal limit of a 0.10 blood alcohol level at the time, according to the reports.  He was arrested at the scene and charged with DWI but later completed a court-approved diversion program, and the charges were dismissed.

You want to talk about benefiting from the status of your forefathers? How about getting extraordinarily lenient consequences from the criminal-justice system for a DUI accident that easily could have killed someone — when your dad is a judge? But the candidate has no interest in talking about that incident at length because that’s not an abstract benefit of being white; that’s a particular benefit of being Beto O’Rourke.

He writes, “I will continue to support reparations, beginning with an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice.” O’Rourke doesn’t get into how those reparations would work — how one would determine who is qualified to receive reparations, who one would determine who is required to pay reparations, how the system would handle those who had ancestors who both owned slaves and were slaves, how you handle those whose ancestors immigrated after slavery ended, and so on. Like many Democrats, O’Rourke hides behind the vague declaration that it’s time to have a “national conversation.” This is disingenuous. No one calling for a “national conversation” is willing to accept that conversation ending with the conclusion that reparations would be a bad idea.

Politics & Policy

Mailbag: Health and Death Edition

1. An email in response (I think) to this post: “Before you condemn the death penalty, you should remember that one of the first Catholic saints, St. Dismas, was promised a spot in Heaven specifically for accepting the justice of his execution.”

My response: I think you can oppose the death penalty on moral grounds while affirming both that certain criminals deserve to die and that governments have a legitimate power to mete out justice to criminals. The key is that to inflict the penalty requires people to form the intent to kill other human beings — and not as the side-effect of acting on the intent to protect others from those human beings, but as the goal of the penalty. One can (and in my view should) hold that the formation of this intent is immoral without concluding that the Good Thief was in error on his cross.

2. An email in response to this column: “Republicans aren’t going to replace Obamacare [in the event federal courts strike it down]? Good. The federal government has no business in health care under the Constitution.”

I am sympathetic to where you’re coming from. But if Obamacare is struck down, it won’t be on that ground and the federal government will remain deeply involved in health care. It may even get more involved within a few years as a result of a backlash to the law’s being struck down and not replaced.

Law & the Courts

On the Declaration and the Constitution

George Will and Mark Pulliam have been debating whether the Constitution should be read in light of the Declaration of Independence. Allow me to suggest a compromise: Will is right that it should be; Pulliam is right that the Declaration does not furnish judges with independent grounds to strike down legislation. The Constitution should be read in light of the Declaration, but it’s not primarily judges for whom it’s important to read it that way.

White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans — rhetorically or otherwise — to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was typically stupid and it was typically counterproductive, and it deserves nothing less than has been aimed at it.

But not all criticisms are alike, and, while I agree with his conclusion, I nevertheless have quite a few problems with David’s broader argument. This passage especially bothered me:

Let’s also deal with the idea that the one actual immigrant Trump targeted owes a special debt of gratitude to the country and therefore temper her critiques of American politics and culture. I believe Ilhan Omar is a toxic presence in American politics. Her critiques are deeply misguided. But she should temper her critiques because they’re wrong, not because she’s an immigrant.

The blessings of liberty accrue to all Americans, including immigrants. And while all Americans should be deeply grateful for their freedoms and for American opportunity, it’s a simple fact that immigrant citizens have actually done something to earn their status. They’ve often migrated here at great personal cost, learned a new language, built a life in a new land, passed a test most Americans can’t pass, and then swore an oath that most Americans have never sworn.

By contrast, what must natural-born citizens do to earn their citizenship? Survive labor and delivery. That’s it. If anything, natural-born citizens should exercise the most gratitude. What did we do to earn our liberty?

I disagree with almost all of this. Legally, Ilhan Omar has exactly the same rights as someone born here. And she should, without exception. Culturally, though, the idea that Omar does not “owe a special debt of gratitude to the” United States is ridiculous, as is the idea that Omar’s views of the United States should not be affected by that debt. Of course she should be grateful! The United States saved her from a warzone, let her stay, accepted her as a citizen, and then elected her to Congress. If one can’t be grateful for that, what can one be grateful for?

Should Omar “temper her critiques of American politics and culture”? That depends. Again: Legally, Omar should enjoy every Constitutional protection available. And, as a matter of course, she should feel able to take part in the political process on the same terms as everyone else. But, culturally, it is absolutely reasonable for Omar’s critics to look at her behavior and say, “really, that’s your view of us?” It’s absolutely reasonable for Omar’s fellow Americans to dislike her and to shun her as a result. It is absolutely reasonable for them to consider her an ingrate — or to believe, as David does, that she is “a toxic presence in American politics.” And it is absolutely reasonable for them to wonder aloud how a person who hails from a dysfunctional, dangerous place built atop dysfunctional, dangerous institutions can exhibit the temerity — the sheer gall — to talk about America in the way that she does. There is a big difference between saying “I oppose current federal tax policy” or “I want more spending on colleges” or “the president is an ass,” and saying that America needs complete rethinking. As this Washington Post piece makes clear, Omar isn’t just irritated by a few things. She thinks the place is a disaster.

It is also absolutely reasonable for Americans to be alarmed that Omar is being encouraged, both implicitly and explicitly, by a worrying number of politicians and public figures — figures who, in any sane culture, would want newcomers of all stripes to believe the place they’d ended up in was virtuous. Last week, Beto O’Rourke told a bunch of refugees and other immigrants that America was a tainted, bigoted, white-supremacist nation, flawed in every particular, stained structurally to the core, and institutionally set against them. And he did so in public — for public consumption! — because he thought it would help him politically. That way lies cultural suicide. It is not only fine for Americans to be appalled by O’Rourke and his ilk, it is necessary.

As for David’s second argument, I can’t help but feel that he is getting pretty close here to suggesting that immigrants are in some way “more American” than native-born Americans simply because they chose to be here. Or, at the very least, I can’t help but feel that he is getting close to suggesting that immigrants should be less grateful for America’s blessings than should those who merely had to “be born” to enjoy them. I object to both these contentions. By definition, immigrants to the United States either chose to come here because they thought it was better than where they were born, or were forced to come here because the places they were in beforehand were too dangerous for them to stay in. It seems to me that it is far, far more normal for a person to feel gratitude at being allowed to move to a place of his choosing — a place in which he thinks he’ll be happier or safer or richer or freer — than to feel gratitude at merely being born somewhere by accident. David enjoys the Constitution’s protections because he was born within its jurisdiction. I enjoy them because I asked nicely and was allowed in by the existing citizenry. I should be the more grateful of the two of us.

This difference also affects what we should expect of immigrants compared to the native-born. Americans such as David effectively just “woke up” here; Americans such as myself explicitly chose to move here, explicitly chose to become citizens, and explicitly chose to make the promises and oaths that were associated with both. If those who merely “woke up” here don’t like the status quo, they bear no responsibility for that whatsoever. If those who chose to move here don’t like the status quo, they bear a lot of responsibility, because, unlike those who were born into it, they knew exactly what they were getting into (this isn’t true for refugees, but, as discussed earlier, they have their own reasons for eternal gratitude).

Lest I be misunderstood, I will reiterate that I do not think that there should be any legal differences between how immigrants such as myself engage politically and how native-born Americans such as David engage politically. I am for the Constitution, and for equal protection for all. But I do think that it is reasonable for native-born Americans to recoil when people who elected to come here try to make sweeping changes to the American system — or, even worse, when those people buy into the idea that the United States is corrupt and evil from the root. It is not only an acceptable cultural norm to expect immigrants to like America, to believe that it is worthwhile as it stands, to want to assimilate to its institutions and ways, and to avoid trying to overthrow its presumptions, it is a crucial one. There is a reason that we have the citizenship test that David mentions, and there is a reason, too, that one is not permitted to join the ranks if one is Communist or a Nazi, if one hopes to suppress religious liberty, or if one wants to overthrow the government: We expect the people who move here to meet basic standards, and we insist upon those standards before we treat them identically to those who have been brought up having the American tradition passed down to them by their parents. That many, if not most, do this admirably is a good thing. But there is no need to lionize them at the expense of everybody else simply because the president is imprecise in his language — or worse.

Politics & Policy

Tucker Carlson: ‘I Would Be Insane to Run for President’

Washington, D.C. — Fox News host Tucker Carlson delivered today’s keynote address at the National Conservatism Conference, outlining what he sees as the central problems with the progressive movement and the insufficient response from the right, particularly on social policy.

“It never occurs to the geniuses on the Hill, if you’re making a play for non-traditional Republican votes, maybe you should take a non-traditionally Republican position on something,” he said. “And why wouldn’t it be a pro-family position in favor of raising your own children?” Carlson received extensive audience applause.

“How hard is that?” he continued. “If I were running for president — which obviously I would never do, I would be insane to run for president, I would never do that — but if I were advising someone who was running for president, I would say make that the centerpiece of your campaign. Vote for me and you can raise your own kids.”

Carlson made these comments in response to an audience question about whether he has hope that the “national conservative” effort will prevail even though people with progressive views control so much of Silicon Valley, academia, Hollywood, and Fortune 500 companies. He praised Elizabeth Warren’s 2003 book The Two-Income Trap and said social conservatives on the right haven’t written anything as useful about how difficult it is for parents to raise children in the modern economic climate.

“We have allowed the single unhappiest people in America to control our social policy,” Carlson said.

In the course of his remarks, Carlson made three primary arguments about the current political situation. First, he said that the main threat to individuals living the way they want to live “comes not from the government but from the private sector.” Second, Carlson asserted that the behavior of progressives “is all a kind of Freudian projection.” “Whatever they say you’re doing is precisely what they’re doing,” he added. He said that observing Antifa radicals is what led him to come to this conclusion: “It’s the guys who are literally armed with steel bars and have black masks on calling other people fascist.”

Finally, Carlson said that the Left is “not interested in peaceful coexistence” and that he rejects that. “I want to be really clear,” he added shortly thereafter, “I’m still for living with people I disagree with. I will always be for that. I will always be for pluralism. I will always be for intellectual diversity. . . . That will never change. I will not allow that to change. You become something less than you should be when you allow those impulses to take over.”

White House

Donald Trump’s Tweets Were Malicious, and Republican Silence is Deafening

(Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In 2016 Speaker Paul Ryan called Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Alonzo Curiel — Trump had called the American-born judge “Mexican” and claimed he was therefore too biased to preside over the Trump University litigation — the “textbook definition of a racist comment.” That critique also applies to Trump’s tweet thread yesterday, a thread that was obviously aimed at Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other members of her so-called “Squad.”

Here were Trump’s words, in full:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

With the exception of Omar, the country “from whence they came” is the United States of America. All of these Congresswomen, including Omar, have a constitutional right to “tell the people of the United States” how our “government is to be run.” The very notion that nonwhite Americans should leave this country to go back to ancestral homelands to prove their worth is deeply repugnant.

Moreover, there is something especially gross about a man who was too timid even to face the draft during his own generation’s war now presuming to define how Americans seek to reform their government. He is the last person to be the arbiter of patriotism or national loyalty.

The near-total silence (at least so far) from GOP leaders is deeply dispiriting. Do they not understand the message the leader of their party is sending — especially to America’s nonwhite citizens? Do they not understand that racial malice as a political strategy isn’t just an ultimately losing proposition but also deeply divisive, picking at the scabs of America’s deepest political, cultural, and spiritual wounds?

But the problem extends far beyond Washington. There are many GOP leaders who, quite frankly, understand that they criticize even the president’s racist speech at their own peril. The grassroots have spoken. Loyalty to the president must be absolute, or one risks a primary challenge. Yet individual voters have responsibilities as well, and they must understand that extraordinary loyalty to a malicious man broadcasts their own disdain for their fellow citizens.

Let’s also deal with the idea that the one actual immigrant Trump targeted owes a special debt of gratitude to the country and therefore should temper her critiques of American politics and culture. I believe Ilhan Omar is a toxic presence in American politics. Her critiques are deeply misguided. But she should temper her critiques because they’re wrong, not because she’s an immigrant.

The blessings of liberty accrue to all Americans, including immigrants. And while all Americans should be deeply grateful for their freedoms and for American opportunity, it’s a simple fact that immigrant citizens have actually done something to earn their status. They’ve often migrated here at great personal cost, learned a new language, built a life in a new land, passed a test most Americans can’t pass, and then swore an oath that most Americans have never sworn.

By contrast, what must natural-born citizens do to earn their citizenship? Survive labor and delivery. That’s it. If anything, natural-born citizens should exercise the most gratitude. What did we do to earn our liberty?

American polarization is reaching a dangerous phase. On a bipartisan basis, criticism of presidents and our political opponents is escalating. I’m old enough to remember all the way back to 2015, when GOP hatred for Barack Obama even on occasion trumped Republican patriotism. Remember when Mike Huckabee actually urged American Christians not to join the military so long as Obama — or someone like him — remained president? Which country should he go back to so that he can somehow earn back our respect?

Trump is fully employing malice as a political strategy. It’s not clever. It’s not shrewd. It’s destructive and wrong. The fact that so few Republicans can muster enough courage to state this obvious truth speaks to a sad reality — the rot extends far beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Politics & Policy

National Conservatism Conference: Why Nationalism, and Why Now?

(Jim Young/REUTERS)

Washington, D.C. — The second day of the National Conservatism Conference opened this morning with a series of short talks addressing why speakers believe a renewed commitment to American national identity is the solution to the present social and political divison in the U.S.

David Brog, former executive director of Christians United for Israel and a member of the conference presidium, spoke about Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, all of whom he said were economic nationalists.

“The woke Left is bullying us into a neo-segregation in which we are judged by the color of our skin and not the content of our character,“ Brog said. He noted that patriotism, unlike nationalism, isn’t enough to fix the divisions in America: “Patriotism asks us to love our country. What we need now is more than love of country. We need to love our fellow citizens. We must feel connected to each other and a connection that is deep enough to overcome our superficial differences.”

“Now that President Trump has declared himself a nationalist, this idea is the subject of heightened interest and preemptive attack,” Brog added. He focused much of his remarks on Lincoln, citing a famous line from the 16th president’s first inaugural address:

The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

“Our American soil has been the burning ground upon which events transpired that forever bind us to one another,” Brog said. “Only those who know our history can develop this requisite memory. Only those rooted on our soil can feel these cords reverberating down to the present day. Our identity has never been defined by blood or clan. . . . Anyone can become an American, but to do so they must undergo a transformation through which they acquire an American spirit and set down roots into the soil from which this spirit came.”

Yoram Hazony, author of the recent book The Virtue of Nationalism, closed the session by explaining the characteristics of what he sees as a successful nationalism that would help American division, what he called “this perpetual revolution.”

“God gives Israel borders. He doesn’t say, ‘Go out and conquer all the nations of the world,’” Hazony said, emphasizing the need for national independence. “We want others to leave us alone and we’ll leave them alone. Not because we don’t care, but because that’s the best way to care.”

He also stated that “national cohesion is the most important thing to be thinking about right now.” “You can’t have cohesion over nothing,” Hazony added. “You have to have cohesion over something shared.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article named Brog as executive director of CUFI rather than former executive director.

Law & the Courts

The Elusive ‘Dartmouth University’

Dartmouth Campus (Photo via @dartmouth, Madeline Chisholm)

The new issue of Vanity Fair has an article about the Sackler family’s involvement with opioids that contains the following sentence: “ ‘The importance of the standards cannot be underestimated,’ says Brian Sites, M.D., director of acute-pain service at Dartmouth University’s school of medicine.” I think Dr. Sites means “must not” instead of “cannot,” but that’s not what I’m posting about today. The error I want to correct is Vanity Fair‘s reference to “Dartmouth University,” which does not exist; it should be “Dartmouth College.”

In pointing out this solecism, I am not just being pedantic, because it involves an important legal principle that marks its bicentennial this year. In 1815 the state of New Hampshire had a dispute with Dartmouth, so it unilaterally rewrote the college’s charter, reconstituted it under the name Dartmouth University, installed a new board of trustees, and occupied most of the college’s buildings. The real Dartmouth objected, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, representing the original college, made his famous remark that Dartmouth “is a small college, and yet there are those who love it.”

The state argued that since education was a state responsibility, it could revise the college’s old charter (dated 1769) to meet the needs of the present day. But in 1819 the Court ruled, by a 5–1 margin, that the takeover was barred by the Constitution, which prohibits any law that “impairs the obligation of contracts” (the contract in this case being the college’s charter). The case has stood ever since as a restraint on government interference in the affairs of nonprofits and is regularly cited in cases such as Citizens United.

With its four graduate divisions and 6,000-plus students, Dartmouth is no longer “a small college” but a major university. Yet despite a strong nationwide trend to the contrary, it will never change its name to Dartmouth University, for these historical reasons.

Law & the Courts

A Weak New Gun Study

Gun enthusiasts inspect rifles displayed at the MagPul booth during the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, May 5, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

This morning a lot of websites are touting a new study in Pediatrics that claims various forms of gun control reduce “pediatric” firearm deaths. By this the researchers mean deaths among all Americans aged 21 and under. (As I’ve pointed out before, also in the context of gun research in Pediatrics, even when you limit the age range to 18, you’re mainly talking about older teens, not young kids.)

Normally, if you want to know what effect a law has, you look to see what changed before and after it went into effect. Do states that enact the law experience different trends relative to states that don’t? This study doesn’t do that; though it combines five years’ worth of data, it just compares gun-death rates across states with various scores from the anti-gun Brady Campaign. It’s “cross-sectional,” in other words. It doesn’t tell us whether the laws actually do anything, or if states with fewer gun deaths are more likely to enact the laws to begin with.

You can add assorted “control variables” to make these comparisons a bit better, and the authors do, but at the end of the day this is not compelling. It’s not rigorous enough to even be included in the RAND Corporation gun-study review I wrote about last year, which quite sensibly excluded cross-sectional research entirely. 

In addition, because they’re focusing on “gun deaths,” the researchers don’t take account of substitution effects; it’s possible for a law to reduce gun deaths without reducing total deaths, if people switch to other methods of suicide and homicide. And on top of that, of the three specific laws they analyze beyond the overall Brady scores, one of them (microstamping/ballistic fingerprinting) has been passed in just two states and another (background checks for ammo purchases) in three.

Just to troll, though, I’ll point out that the study included gun ownership as a control variable, and the result for that variable is statistically insignificant, meaning we can’t be confident that gun ownership is correlated with gun deaths at all. If anything, in fact, the result suggests that having a gun-ownership rate above the national median reduces gun deaths by 4 percent, coincidentally the same reduction the researchers claim for a ten-point higher Brady score.

In all seriousness, this shouldn’t budge anyone’s priors on gun control in the slightest.

Politics & Policy

Look, Ma, No Hands

Fred Thompson on the campaign trail (Wikimedia)

In his column today, E. J. Dionne has a proposal. “Democratic presidential candidates should join in an informal union (they are pro-union, aren’t they?) and agree to stop answering ‘raise your hands’ questions in debates. Inevitably, they are forced later to say that this or that issue is complicated, that the question they were asked was not exactly the right question —  and the more they explain themselves, the more slippery they look.”

I had a memory of the 2008 cycle, on the GOP side. It was the final debate before the Iowa caucuses. The moderator asked for a show of hands on climate change. (It was basically, Do you think global warming is real and caused by human beings?) Ex-senator Fred Thompson said, “I’m not doing hand shows today. You wanna give me a minute to answer that?” (The moderator said no.)

I admired Thompson’s crotchety independence.

Politics & Policy

Trump, the GOP, and Conservatives

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan with congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, May 4, 2017 (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

“Let Reagan be Reagan,” we used to say. We got it from “Let Poland be Poland.” Poland was being dominated by the Soviet Union (no matter what President Ford said, in a colossal foul-up, in that infamous debate). The slogan “Let Poland be Poland” originated in a Polish protest song from the mid 1970s.

There is no need to say “Let Trump be Trump” — he is, 24/7, and that’s one of the things his fans love about him. Yesterday, he tweeted,

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.


“Go back where you came from” is probably as old as America itself. (You can imagine the Indians saying it.) So is “Love it or leave it.” These feelings spring up in me, from time to time. My inner Archie Bunker comes out. When I see activists on the streets of America chanting “Sí, se puede” and waving Mexican flags . . . why . . .

Of course, you have some people on the right, too, who got here two seconds ago and now want to overturn our longstanding liberal-democratic order. You’ve got enthusiasts for Putin and his Euro-buddies. The Archie Bunker in me wants to bark at them, too.

Back to President Trump and his authenticity. On Thursday, he tweeted the following (and, as above, I’m combining some consecutive tweets — the president is a threader now):

The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1000/24th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!


In those tweets, you see classic Trump, including his name-calling and his denigration of others’ looks. Much of the public thrills to this. The grip of Trump and Trumpism on the Republican party, and the conservative movement, is firm. There is no denying this. It is “manifest,” as WFB would say.

Trump frequently says that he’s more popular than Reagan, at least among Republicans. On Saturday, he tweeted,

94% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, an all time high. Ronald Reagan was 87%. Thank you!

I don’t have the data, but, like everyone else, I have impressions — and I have never seen more fervent devotion to a politician than the devotion to Trump. His supporters live and die with him. Every victory for him is their victory; every slight he suffers is a slight against them, too. I understand this very well: I was similarly attached to Reagan, and even more than I loved him, I hated his enemies. I defended him at every turn, including Iran-contra and Bitburg.

In 2016, there was a wide array of candidates before Republican voters: Jeb, Cruz, Rubio, Christie, Carly, Jindal, Walker — and Trump swamped them all. The narrower the field got, the stronger he got. What he was selling, the people wanted. He is the People’s Choice, or certainly the GOP’s.

The transformation of the GOP and the conservative movement has long been clear, but it has been especially clear, I think, in recent days. Yesterday, Trump retweeted Joy Villa. She had tweeted out an article from Fox Business, whose headline was “This is what the ‘new conservative movement’ looks like.” It showed a picture of Ms. Villa herself. She is a singer-songwriter and a Trump booster. At CPAC this year, she sported eye-catching earrings: Q earrings.

“Q” stands for “QAnon,” which is a movement with a startling contention: President Trump and the U.S. military are engaged in a glorious shadow war against a global pedophile cult, in which top U.S. Democrats figure prominently.

One of the leaders of this movement is a radio personality named Michael Lebron, also known as “Lionel.” He is a contributor to RT, the Kremlin propaganda outlet. Last year, he had his picture taken with President Trump in the Oval Office. Meeting Trump, he said, was “an awesome transcendental moment.”

The Q movement apparently grew out of “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that, again, involves pedophilia. The contention is that top Democrats were, or are, running a child-sex ring out of a D.C. pizzeria. A man from North Carolina, under the influence of the theory, drove to D.C. and shot up the pizzeria. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

One of the promoters of Pizzagate has just been named a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. Mona Charen and Jonah Goldberg both wrote about this last week, with great pain. (Mona’s column is here, and to sign up for Jonah’s G-File, go here.)

Remember Paul Ryan? He was a congressman from Wisconsin and a Great Conservative Hope. Ryan had some candid things to say about President Trump to Tim Alberta (late of National Review), who has written the best-selling American Carnage.

Trump fired back:

Paul Ryan, the failed V.P. candidate & former Speaker of the House, whose record of achievement was atrocious (except during my first two years as President), ultimately became a long running lame duck failure . . .

When Mitt chose Paul I told people that’s the end of that Presidential run. He quit Congress because he didn’t know how to Win. . . .

I remember well the run-up to Romney’s vice-presidential pick. A lot of people who fancy themselves “true conservatives” said that, if the GOP nominee picked anyone but Ryan, he would prove himself an “establishment” nothing-burger.

Back to Trump, who tweeted,

People like Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party. Weak, ineffective & stupid are not exactly the qualities that Republicans, or the CITIZENS of our Country, were looking for.

To my knowledge, the only Republican who has defended Ryan is Mitt Romney. He tweeted,

The fault for our 2012 loss is mine alone; ‪@SpeakerRyan was a tireless campaigner, fundraiser, and conservative champion. As the sole person who could unite the House, he acquiesced to be Speaker as a service to the country.

His selfless leadership and lifelong policy work were critical to the tax and regulatory reform that have helped propel the economy. A man like Paul Ryan does not often come along.

You know where I think the fault — or, better, the responsibility — for the 2012 result lies? With the electorate. Because I’m a writer, not a politician, I can say that, thank heaven (and WFB).

What will become of the GOP and the conservative movement after Trump? That will be interesting — but surely no more interesting than now.

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