The Corner


A Meaningful 20 Seconds

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London, September 29, 2018 ( Middle East Monitor via Reuters )

Day by day, it gets harder to cover up, or obfuscate, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi state. There is too much evidence (to say nothing of common sense). The administration may have to switch to a straightforward line: “They’re murderous bastards — sadists, tyrants — but the alliance is key to our interests.”

This view was expressed straightforwardly by Pat Robertson on his television show. “These people are key allies,” he said. “We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of. It’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

With equal bluntness, he said, “You don’t blow up an international alliance over one person — I mean, I’m sorry.”

(To read about Robertson and this issue, go here.)

Last night, the Washington Post published Khashoggi’s final column: “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”

I have been thinking about a remarkable pause — a pause of 20 seconds. I wrote about it last year. “It was one of the most amazing things I have seen in public life,” I said.

A State Department official was asked a question — a simple question, but one he was loath to answer. He paused for nearly 20 seconds, thinking — before delivering a non-answer.

Twenty seconds is an eternity of a pause.

The official was Stuart E. Jones, the acting assistant secretary for the Middle East. The question was essentially this: How can you criticize Iran for a lack of democracy when you’re standing right next to Saudi officials while doing so? Does the United States hold that democracy is a barrier against extremism?

Now, Jones is a smart and experienced man. But he couldn’t — or felt he couldn’t — tell the truth. I find the 20-second pause remarkably honest, in its way.

To read a news story about this episode, go here. To see it, on video, go here.

One part of me says this: If you’re going to be hypocritical in your foreign policy — democracy for Iran, good and necessary; democracy for Saudi Arabia, a different story — be unblushing about it, without hems, haws, obfuscations, excuses, and pauses.

In other words, Saudi Arabia without illusions. And the same with this horrifying world at large.

Most Popular


Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More