Politics & Policy

Re: ‘Trump Brings Out the Worst in His Enemies, as He Undermines Himself’

Loading...

Andy has another great Mar-a-Lago piece on Trump investigators getting carried away, even as Trump hurts himself. Over at Politico, I have a different gloss on how the politics of the search, and the renewed interest in Trump in general, helps both Trump and Biden:

Several weeks ago, Republicans were nervous that Trump would announce a 2024 presidential bid prior to the midterms. Now, it is almost irrelevant — Democrats and the Department of Justice have effectively announced for him.

Whenever things aren’t going well for a White House or a political campaign, the natural advice is to try to change the subject. This often doesn’t work — the maneuver is too obvious, or the new hoped-for subject can’t possibly compete with the old unwelcome subject.

That’s not the case here. Trump is something everyone wants to talk about — people who love him, people who hate him, journalists whose work gets more clicks and viewership when Trump is in the news, and of course, above all, Trump himself, who has never found any other topic quite as compelling or important.

Media

Amanda Carpenter’s Preposterous Swing-and-Miss at Brian Kemp

Loading...
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks after winning the Republican primary during his election-watch party in Atlanta, Ga., May 24, 2022. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

At the Bulwark, Amanda Carpenter has authored a sloppy, dishonest hit piece on Georgia governor Brian Kemp — one that was clearly the product of a desire to write a hit piece on Georgia governor Brian Kemp, rather than any well-founded frustration with his political sins.

Carpenter’s mendacity is observable as early as her headline, “Brian Kemp’s Running Mate Is a Fake Elector.” As the Dispatch‘s Andrew Egger pointed out on Twitter, running mate is a “weird choice” for a descriptor since the position of lieutenant governor has its own race, detached from the gubernatorial contest in Georgia, and Kemp did not endorse the eventual GOP nominee, Burt Jones, in the primary.

Her choice to describe Jones as Kemp’s “running mate” — an obvious attempt to make readers think Jones was selected by, and is attached electorally to, Kemp — becomes less strange as the smears keep rolling.

Carpenter asserts that the Kemp campaign has “one principle: to make nice with MAGA,” and writes that Kemp “has ignored Trump’s tirades against him, turned the other cheek, and told voters he was the better candidate to deliver on Trump policies than his Trump-endorsed primary opponent, David Perdue.” I can imagine that for Amanda Carpenter, there might be no worse indictment of a politician than their being able to ignore Donald Trump, but for many of us, it stands out as a novel and refreshing trait.

And besides, her evidence that Kemp has transformed into an acolyte of the former president hangs on a thread. Carpenter says that Kemp supported “a bill to restrict voting access in order to appease aggrieved Trump voters,” but she’s not confident enough in that claim to describe, link to, or even name said bill. It’s an understandable self-confidence issue, given that S.B. 202 extended early voting and implemented a broadly uncontroversial voter-ID requirement for absentee ballots.

Moreover, she lambasts Kemp for saying the following during a debate with Perdue:

I was as frustrated as anyone else with the 2020 election results, and I actually did something about it, working with the Georgia General Assembly to address those issues in Senate Bill 202, the Elections Integrity Act. We’ve outlawed Zuckerberg money, we’ve tied photo ID to absentee ballots by mail, we’ve secured drop boxes to make sure we don’t have those problems in the future.

“So which is it? Were Georgia’s election in 2020 free and fair? Or was something problematic about them, which required Kemp to change the law?” asks Carpenter.

If professing to be frustrated with the outcome of an election, or believing that it could have been better conducted, constitutes denial that it was free and fair, there may not be an American alive today who meets Carpenter’s standards. But the false choice she presents aside, she’s ignoring Kemp’s own words on the matter. During another debate with Perdue, Kemp responded to criticism of his handling of the 2020 election by telling him that “weak leaders blame everybody else for their own loss instead of themselves.”

Carpenter goes on to shame Kemp, implying that he is somehow complicit in Trump’s lies.

No matter that Kemp’s own election officials, such as Gabriel Sterling, disputed many of the theories Perdue put forward and begged Trump and other Republican leaders to stop promoting false claims, warning that “someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed” over them.

Think about that: Sterling warned that the president was creating an atmosphere in which someone might get killed.

This might be compelling, if Kemp was not one of the officials Sterling was implying might be at risk. But Kemp became a primary target of Trump’s ire — and of those who believed him — after Kemp refused to help him overturn the 2020 election. In fact, Trump was so incensed by Kemp that he joined Carpenter in boosting Stacey Abrams last year, declaring at a rally that “having [Abrams] I think might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth.”

“Stacey, would you like to take his place?” he asked. “It’s okay with me.”

Carpenter wants Republicans to lose elections, and she should feel free to work toward that end. But if she had any respect for her readership, she would return to her old vocation as a political staffer and spare them her demonstrated disregard.

Politics & Policy

The Case against Meeting Republicans Halfway on Trump

Loading...
Former president Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 9, 2021. (Rachel Mummey/Reuters)

In response to Re: ‘A Normal Politician’

Charles, as I wrote earlier, “We have to accept this crap because the Democrats will do bad things” is the same rationale the usual partisans and sycophants make for everything from voting for Marjorie Taylor Greene et al. to trying to whitewash January 6 and everything else.

You insist that this isn’t about reelecting Donald Trump. If you don’t think the Blake Masters campaign is about putting Donald Trump back in the White House, then you need to have a conversation with Blake Masters, who sees things differently — unless, like his prior statements on abortion, that becomes inconvenient.

If you have a persuasive argument for why we have to accept this election-conspiracy lunatic but reject that election-conspiracy lunatic, I haven’t heard you make it yet.

Surely it can’t all come down to aesthetics.

Of course there is more on the ledger than the sins of the Republican Party. But the presence of other things in the world to dislike or worry about does not erase these. And the Republican Party is, if I understand things correctly, a party, meaning that its members are conjoined in an allied effort toward a shared goal. And it won’t do to pretend that this goal is only heading off the worst that Nancy Pelosi’s addled little mind can imagine. Qui tacet consentire videtur. Republicans need to be plain, honest, and energetic in rejecting what Trump and January 6 stand for, but, with a few honorable and excruciatingly rare exceptions, they aren’t. Instead, they make excuses, try to change the subject, and, if pressed, shriek, “But Chuck Schumer!”

You’re willing to go all the way when it comes to Trump, rightly labeling him a “lunatic,” but, in my view, you are cutting excessive slack for his enablers and supporters. I understand your practical concerns, but you are operating on the wrong timeline. In spite of what the Sean Hannitys of the world insist every 24 months, this country is not going to rise or fall based on a single election — it might, however, be irreparably damaged by a nihilistic and authoritarian personality cult that embraces political violence and that has, in spite of its constant protestations to the contrary, utter contempt for our constitutional order. It was never one single man who ruined a republic.

Republicans had a chance to break with Trump and Trumpism after January 6, and, for about a week, it looked like they were going to avail themselves of the opportunity. But they have chosen another course. I believe in a politics of compromise, but I am not going to meet the Republicans halfway in what they are becoming.

Education

Anatomical Boys Showering with Anatomical Girls . . .

Loading...

. . . has been the fantasy of tens of millions of American schoolboys since the beginning of public education. It’s about to become commonplace.

The Biden Department of Education issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on July 12, which Rule would compel schools that receive federal funding (i.e., almost every school in the land) to assign anatomical and chromosomal boys who “identify” as girls to the bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers reserved for girls.

The Obama administration tried the same thing in 2016 by issuing a “guidance letter” that was quickly withdrawn. The Biden administration’s proposed regulation, however, is poised to be enacted after the Notice and Comment period closes on September 12.

The proposed regulation is inconsistent with Title IX and its regulations, which unequivocally permit schools to have separate bathrooms, showers, etc., by sex. Since the relevant statute permits schools to have separate bathrooms, etc., based on sex, a regulation cannot override it — although that fact likely won’t deter the Biden Education Department from putting a school through administrative hell and withdrawing funding for failing to comply with the regulation.

If you wish to comment on the proposed rule, go here. Cynics would be correct in concluding that comments in opposition, no matter how  plentiful and logical, will likely have little effect on the administration’s determination to enact the regulation. As someone who has litigated other federal regulations, however, I’ve found that such comments  can be enormously helpful in challenging a rule in court.

World

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Loading...

Serge Schmemann was one of the New York Times‘s best reporters in the ’80s and ’90s, and he wrote an interesting envoi to Gorbachev. But he has to be called out on this sentence. “A popular myth in the United States credits Ronald Reagan with that historic event [the fall of the Berlin Wall] but the forces that Mr. Gorbachev unleashed throughout eastern Europe were immeasurably more important.”

“The forces . . . unleashed” is a hefty bag phrase, enabling Schmemann to assign to Gorbachev numerous things he did not do or want done. One of those things was the pressure exerted on him by Reagan and Bush 41, and the inspiration they gave to his subjects. Gorbachev did not give a speech at the Berlin Wall saying, You know, we ought to tear down this wall. Reagan gave the speech saying, “If you seek liberalization. . . . Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, the last head of the East German government, told Reagan in 1990, “Mr. President, we have much to thank you for.”

We do indeed.

Politics & Policy

Congressional Republicans Press Facebook for Information about Links to FBI

Loading...
Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) speaks during a news conference at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Thirty-five House Republicans, led by Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), published a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg today requesting “all documents and communications between October 1, 2020, and the present . . . between or among any employee or contractor of Facebook and any individual affiliated with the FBI” and “the Biden for President campaign or the Democratic National Committee” as it relates to “the New York Post’s reporting about the Biden family.” The letter also requested “all documents and communications between October 1, 2020, and the present” between Facebook and the FBI as it relates to “to purported election misinformation in the 2020 presidential election” and “to Facebook’s plans to implement, or its actions based on, the FBI’s message to be ‘on high alert’ for election misinformation.” 

The letter was a response to comments that Zuckerberg, whose Meta conglomerate runs Facebook, made during an interview with Joe Rogan last week. Diana Glebova reports:

Facebook suppressed stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 election after the FBI told the company they should look out for Russian “misinformation,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told podcast host Joe Rogan Thursday.

The “distribution” of the bombshell report was suppressed on Facebook for “five or seven” days when it was being determined if the laptop was real, Zuckerberg said, but users could still “share it.”

Facebook engineers downgraded the report within the platform’s “ranking and newsfeed” features, so “fewer people saw it than would have otherwise,” he said.

Asked how many fewer users saw the story as a result of the suppression, Zuckerberg said he couldn’t provide an exact number but offered that the effect was “meaningful.”

Facebook decided to suppress the story after the FBI informed executives they should “be on high alert” for Russian “misinformation,” Zuckerberg claimed.

Congressional Republicans have requested information from Facebook about its suppression of the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story in the past, but the social-media giant “has never provided complete responses to these letters and, in the months since, has avoided any real accountability for its actions in interfering with election-related public discourse,” today’s letter to Zuckerberg writes. “Government-driven and Big Tech-implemented censorship suppresses freedom of speech and free thought online in ways that harm public discourse. Facebook’s suppression of the Post article—and allegations of Biden family corruption highly relevant to the 2020 presidential election—following guidance from the FBI is highly troubling.”

Jordan posted the full letter on Twitter this morning, writing: “Facebook is on notice.”

Elections

Re: ‘A Normal Politician’

Loading...
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) reacts during her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 14, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Kevin asks:

“But we want a Republican majority!” Okay, sure — why? To give a bigger megaphone and a better-placed monkey wrench to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lindsey Graham? So that Lauren Boebert can have a better position on the House Budget Committee?

Count me less-than-enthusiastic about that.

I can only answer for myself here, but no, that’s not why I want a Republican majority. I want a Republican majority so that it can block the agenda of our currently unified government, which has done all sorts of things that I dislike, and which will continue to do so if it maintains power. Republican control of both chambers of Congress would be ideal. One will do, if necessary.

This isn’t about Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is going to win in 2022 whatever happens. It isn’t about Lauren Boebert, who is going to win in 2022 whatever happens. And it isn’t about Lindsey Graham, who is not up until 2026. It’s not really about anyone in particular. A Republican majority in the Senate can be achieved with just one Republican pick-up, and it can be achieved in the House if Republicans pick up four. I would like to see that happen so that the president is unable to convince Congress to change our federal laws in ways that I profoundly oppose, that will be extremely hard to undo in the future, and that could well change our system of government for the worse.

Even if one were to accept wholesale Kevin’s disdainful view of the GOP, it would be peculiar to conclude from it that the Republican Party — and, for that matter, the country — would be made worse by divided government. We’re not talking about reelecting Donald Trump here. We’re talking about putting Republicans in charge of the federal legislature in order to create gridlock in Washington D.C. so that the federal government cannot implement policies that all of us — including Kevin — disdain. Would I like to see a Senate that had better members than Blake Masters? Sure. I’d also like to see a Senate that had better members than Mazie Hirono. But I’m not going to get that for now, and, unless we are dealing with the handful of figures who have truly disqualified themselves from consideration, it does not seem reasonable to me that only one side should have to swallow its grenades.

Kevin says that “we should insist on better politics.” I agree. And, because the political ledger has more on it than the Republicans’ sins, I think that taking the keys away from the Democrats would represent “a better politics” than the one we currently have.

Economy & Business

Inflation as a Fiscal Limit

Loading...

I was happy to read this study that recognizes that there can be fiscal drivers of inflation, and that fiscal discipline needs to be part of any efforts to control it. The authors are economists at the Chicago Fed and Johns Hopkins University, and it is published by the Kansas City Federal Reserve:

Here is a snippet:

Trend inflation is fully controlled by the monetary authority only when public debt can be successfully stabilized by credible future fiscal plans. When the fiscal authority is not perceived as fully responsible for covering the existing fiscal imbalances, the private sector expects that inflation will rise to ensure sustainability of national debt. As a result, a large fiscal imbalance combined with a weakening fiscal credibility may lead trend inflation to drift away from the long-run target chosen by the monetary authority.

The authors warn that failure to address fiscal drivers of inflation will result in stagflation:

When fiscal imbalances are large and fiscal credibility wanes, it may become increasingly harder for the monetary authority to stabilize inflation around its desired target. If the monetary authority increases rates in response to high inflation, the economy enters a recession, which increases the debt-to-GDP ratio. If the monetary tightening is not supported by the expectation of appropriate fiscal adjustments, the deterioration of fiscal imbalances leads to even higher inflationary pressure. As a result, a vicious circle of rising nominal interest rates, rising inflation, economic stagnation, and increasing debt would arise.

 The study concludes:

Following the COVID pandemic, the United States, like many other countries, has implemented robust fiscal interventions. We have shown that these policy interventions facilitated the quick rebound observed after the pandemic recession. At the same time, they also contributed to the surge in fiscal inflation. Increasing rates, by itself, would not have prevented the recent surge in inflation, given that large part of the increase was due to a change in the perceived policy mix. In fact, increasing rates without the appropriate fiscal backing could result in fiscal stagflation. Instead, conquering the post-pandemic inflation requires mutually consistent monetary and fiscal policies providing a clear path for both the desired inflation rate and debt sustainability.

The excitement of seeing this study that recognizes the connection between fiscal and monetary policy is tempered by the behavior of the Biden administration and this Congress (aided at times by Republicans, such as in the case of the CHIPS Act) who not only failed to consider implementing fiscal consolidation to go along with the Fed’s rate hikes but continue to spend like drunken sailors.

Jack Salmon and I wrote about the need for a fiscal discipline to help the Fed here, here, and many other places since 2021.

I will also point to this important paper by UVA economist Eric Leeper presented last year at the Jackson Hole conference and recommend reading everything by Stanford economist John Cochrane.

Elections

‘A Normal Politician’

Loading...
Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters waves during former President Donald Trump’s rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022. (Rebecca Noble/Reuters)

Michael, Dan, I get it. I do. But every election season we hear the same bunk from the same rubes and carnies and the same lame rationalizations from people who know this is bunk from rubes and carnies but think we shouldn’t say so out loud.

You get what you tolerate, and, at some point, it’s time to say “No.” This is just normal politics, Dan says. This is going to keep being normal politics if we decide to keep letting it be normal politics. I think we should insist on better politics at once.

“But we want a Republican majority!” Okay, sure — why? To give a bigger megaphone and a better-placed monkey wrench to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lindsey Graham? So that Lauren Boebert can have a better position on the House Budget Committee?

Count me less-than-enthusiastic about that.

“But the other guys are worse!” used to be a pretty persuasive argument, until the Republicans tried to stage a coup d’état and nine-tenths of the conservative commentariat decided to try to justify that or explain it away in the hopes of selling one more doggie-vitamin advertisement. Donald Trump is out there right now calling for himself to be installed as president through some unconstitutional means. And Republicans act like he’s either the Second Coming of George Washington or, at worst, the wacky sitcom neighbor of U.S. politics.

Enough, finally, is enough.

Regarding socialism, I once observed that either there’s something inherently wrong or it’s just the unluckiest ideology in history, one that just happens to keep producing tyrants and monsters. I find it difficult to look at the Republican Party in 2022 and not ask the same question. Does it just happen to end up hand-in-glove with Q-Anon kookery — with every quack, charlatan, cretin, crackpot, tiki-torch Nazi, and Brideshead-cosplaying dork across the fruited plain — or is there something profoundly wrong with this organization, its animating spirit, and its people?

I know what’s wrong with Blake Masters — he thinks Republican voters are shallow, rage-addled, and exploitable. And he’s probably not wrong.

How many clowns do you have to see getting out of the clown car before you realize you’re at the circus?

Elections

Democrats Cynically Boost Pro-Trump Candidate in New Hampshire Republican Primary

Loading...
A voter leaves the voting booth at the polling place for the New Hampshire presidential primary in Milton, N.H., February 11, 2020. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Democrats’ intervention in Republican primaries is now a well-documented phenomenon.

The playbook for this electioneering scheme was the 2012 Missouri GOP Senate primary contest, in which Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill’s campaign promoted Representative Todd Akin, who she assumed was unpalatable to the Missouri general electorate. Her bet paid off when Aiken imploded after claiming in an interview with a local reporter about abortion that legitimate rape victims rarely get pregnant. Since then, Democrats have been trying to produce similar outcomes.

But now, the stakes are much higher. Democrats constantly remind us how “democracy” itself hangs in the balance. And yet Democrats have directly intervened on behalf of Trump-backed candidates in numerous Republican primaries across the country. From helping John Gibbs beat Peter Meijer in Michigan to assisting once-fringe gubernatorial candidates Doug Mastriano and Kari Lake in Pennsylvania and Arizona, respectively, Democrats seem to be doing everything they can to give the people they claim are the greatest threat to the republic a leg up.

The latest target of their cynical ploy is New Hampshire’s second congressional district, where a Democratic PAC is boosting pro-Trump Republican Bob Burns over Keene mayor George Hansel. Hansel is endorsed by Chris Sununu, one of the most popular governors in the country, and Democrats know he would pose a much more formidable general-election challenge for incumbent Annie Kuster. Burns doesn’t have the same views as Mastriano and Lake, but his MAGA bona fides set him up poorly for a general election in this swing district.

Taking stock of Democrats’ forays into Republican Party politics is crucial. For years, they’ve shed crocodile tears about the state of American democracy. To be clear, some of the threats they’ve highlighted are legitimate. But we can now see that, whatever Democrats may say about “democracy,” they’re cynical enough to play games by boosting candidates they’d otherwise disdain in the hope of improving the party’s chances in November.

World

Could the Prospect of Lower Gas Prices Be Motivating Biden’s Revival of the Iran Deal?

Loading...
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021. (EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via Reuters)

It appears that we are days away from the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Deal, the infamous agreement on Iran’s nuclear program between the Islamic Republic and the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, France, and Germany that the Trump administration withdrew from.

Restoring the accord would have grave geopolitical consequences for the wider region and be a boon for America’s adversaries. But one unappreciated aspect of the pact’s resurrection is how it could benefit Democrats politically. 

As soon as the deal is inked, Iran can increase its oil production by as much as 900,000 barrels daily, easing supply pressures significantly and bringing down prices in global energy markets. If crude-oil prices drop, prices at the pump will come down with them.

Lower gas prices would be a much-needed reprieve for consumers, but would also benefit Democrats politically in the run-up to the midterms. And achieving that desired outcome in this manner strengthens a regime hostile to the U.S. while enabling Biden and Democrats to escape the blame for the consequences of their policies, which are hostile to U.S. energy independence and incentivize foreign energy producers over domestic fossil-fuel production.

Now they think they can have their cake and eat it too: Reorient U.S. Middle East policy along pro-Iran lines — a longtime goal of the Obama administration, now sought by Biden — and get low gas prices.

This could help explain why the administration has been so quick to disregard the pleadings of our closest ally in the region, Israel, and do something that former national-security adviser John Bolton says is a “stunning mistake.”

Politics & Policy

No, Republicans Aren’t Planning an Assault on Social Security

Loading...

The Democrats are, as is customary, trying to scare voters about Republicans’ allegedly dark designs on the program. The sad truth is, though, that Republicans don’t have any plans on Social Security — which still needs fixing. My Bloomberg Opinion column goes into it:

We’ve reached the point in the midterm election campaign where Democrats insist that Republicans are itching to destroy Social Security. The usual gambit is to take stray comments from one or two Republicans and pretend that they represent a secret and sinister plan.

In October 2018, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell observed that “there’s a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes.” His Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, said he had “showed who the Republican Party really is.” Schumer even got some reporters to buy the spin that McConnell had said “ the GOP will push to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security” if it retained control of the Senate.

In the elections a few weeks later, Republicans expanded their control of the Senate. They did not move to cut any of those programs. . . .

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Bitcoin and Inflation Reduction Act

Loading...

Steve Hanke and Caleb Hofmann have seen enough from El Salvador to conclude its Bitcoin experiment has failed:

As night follows day, this higher risk profile has invited credit downgrades. In the last six months, Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch have all downgraded El Salvador’s sovereign-debt rating, pushing it into speculative territory — junk, and rightfully so. Not surprisingly, since the Bitcoin law was implemented in September 2021, the price of the Salvadoran dollar-denominated sovereign bond due in 2025 has plunged by 48 percent. Today, Bloomberg Economics lists El Salvador as the most likely country in Latin America to default on its debt.

The verdict is in on Bukele’s Bitcoin experiment. It was based on false promises from beginning to end. A total failure.

Amanda Griffiths writes about how the Inflation Reduction Act will hurt the economy and the environment:

Senate Democrats insist that the act’s clean-energy investments will set the U.S. up for a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, largely through “targeted federal support” — i.e., subsidizing producers and purchasers of federally approved eco-friendly products. But the fine print tells a different story. True, the act promises tax credits and grants to buyers and makers of electric vehicles, solar panels, and other green tech. It also shunts $3 billion to the United States Postal Service for the “purchase of zero-emission delivery vehicles” and requisite charging infrastructure.

The problem is that key elements in our green tech — including electric-vehicle batteries and charging equipment, materials for solar panels, and even hand-held electronics — are sourced from China, a country not known for its friendliness to the environment (it is the world’s leading emitter of CO2) or the U.S.

On this week’s episode of the Capital Record, David Bahnsen talks to Stephen Miran, lead portfolio manager at Amberwave Partners and a former Treasury economist. Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Culture

Don’t Let the Little Children Come unto Speaker Pelosi

Loading...
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 14, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

You may have read that the latest iteration of the Gospel According to Nancy Pelosi has proclaimed it sinful to oppose abortion. In the same “Women’s Equality Day” speech where she celebrates that her daughter and 13-year-old granddaughter (holding a “Women’s Equality” banner) are in the audience, she says:

And I’ll just say this: yesterday, I was at something in Los Angeles and a mom told me that – listening to all of this going on – her three-year-old daughter – the mother said something about, one time, she would go to bed, and she said, ‘Mom, nobody should tell girls what to do with their bodies.’

[Laughter]

Three years old.  So, it’s coming through.  It’s coming through.  A whole other generation.  Hopefully the boys, little boys are hearing that as well.

Three years old? Letting children keep some semblance of innocence is enough of a struggle for parents today. Three years old? I trust it is only the most radical among us who want little children thinking about abortion.

Kathy Hochul in New York has done something similar, talking about her infant granddaughter’s right to choose abortion.

There’s something so askew in our culture and politics when grandmothers are talking to us about their granddaughters’ abortions. Do they look at the little ones and thank God their daughters didn’t exercise their supposed right to “health care” and “freedom” and end the lives of their granddaughters? Or is that actually just for poor black women? Part of Pelosi’s “sinful” language was about poor black women. How about we help them be the mothers they already are? We need real leaders to inspire some unity on that kind of common ground for people of good will. I have to believe there are more of them than politics and the media reflect. I meet them often — just not at political rallies or abortion-fests.

Culture

Porn Wars

Loading...

I have a double book review in this month’s issue of Spectator World, reviewing a “sex-positive” porn star’s memoirs and a relativistic account of the American porn wars.

Politics & Policy

Fentanyl Rising

Loading...

The WSJ has a thorough and chilling report on how the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels dominate the fentanyl trade in the United States, which is still exploding:

The drug often arrives in the form of fake tablets made to look like prescription drugs, including pain pills, law-enforcement authorities said. The DEA believes these dupes — often stamped to look like real 30 milligram oxycodone pills — are aimed at driving prescription drug users toward an illicit, cartel-made product.

The cartels “don’t just fill a void, they create a market,” Mr. Dhillon said.

The pills are so ubiquitous that they have been falling in price, creating pressure on the cartels to roll out new products, according to a 27-year-old fentanyl producer who runs a clandestine lab in Culiacán. He said he and a partner are experimenting with a new version meant to be 30% more potent than the typical fake oxycodone tablets, known as M30s.

Over 56,000 fentanyl or synthetic-opioid overdose deaths were reported in the United States in 2020.

My own views on the drug war have changed over the last ten years or so. The toleration of drug dealers goes together with treating addicts as human biowaste. The number of Americans dying of these drugs is growing to a point beyond toleration. I expect public and elite opinion to begin shifting rapidly toward aggressive enforcement.

Elections

Sarah Palin Loses Alaska Special Election to Democrat Mary Peltola

Loading...
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, August 4, 2022. (Shelby Tauber/Reuters)

Democrat Mary Peltola has defeated Republican Sarah Palin in Alaska’s special election to fill the seat of late GOP congressman Don Young.

In the first round of voting, the results were 40.2 percent for Peltola, 31.3 percent for Palin, and 28.5 percent for Republican Nick Begich. Although 60 percent of Alaska voters cast ballots for GOP candidates as their first choice, under Alaska’s new ranked-choice-voting method, Begich was eliminated after the first round of voting and Begich votes that indicated a preferred second choice were allocated among Peltola and Palin.

In the second round, Begich voters broke 50 percent for Palin to 29 percent for Peltola, but 21 percent of Begich voters didn’t choose either Peltola or Palin. 

In the end, it was enough for Peltola to defeat the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. 

Education

Debt Attenuation for College Alumni

Loading...

A president is approaching a hotly contested election, and he wants to energize an important part of his base. The move he’s considering has widely been described as illegal, even by supporters, and there’s disagreement within the White House about proceeding. But he does it anyway, enacting through executive fiat, based on a patently absurd reading of the law, a measure that would do nothing to address the underlying problem.

Biden’s college-loan gambit is simply running the play Obama pioneered in his DACA decree, which went into effect ten years ago this month.  At least there’s hope that Republicans will respond more quickly than they did to DACA. The Republican House waited a full year after the DACA decree before it roused itself to pass a resolution denouncing its illegality. After promising to “immediately terminate” DACA on Day One, Trump waited til September to announce an end to the program (more than five years after its enactment), and even then was basically forced into doing so by Jeff Sessions. And it wasn’t til 2018 that Texas and several other states sued to overturn DACA.

Of course, DACA’s still around, and isn’t going anywhere soon, and even Trump wanted to give them green cards (in exchange for a package of reforms, which Paul Ryan sabotaged in 2018). If Biden’s illegal college-loan proclamation is permitted to go into effect, it will be just as permanent as DACA.

Elections

What Is Charlie Crist Doing? Follow the Money, or Lack of It

Loading...
Gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Charlie Crist (D., Fla.) speaks at the Florida Democratic Party Leadership Blue 2022 convention in Tampa, Fla., July 16, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Charlie Cooke — a.k.a, the good Charlie in Florida — asked whether Charlie Crist, the bad Charlie in Florida, is trying to lose. Stephen Green, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, asks if Charlie Crist has secretly been a GOP deep-cover agent since leaving the party in 2010.

Charlie Crist announced he was running for governor in May 2021. At the time, GOP governor Ron DeSantis had a 60 percent approval rating, but perhaps Crist thought that approval rating would fade. After all, Florida gubernatorial elections, while won by Republicans lately, tend to be extremely close. In 2018, DeSantis won by about a half a percentage point. In 2014, Rick Scott won by about a percentage point over Crist. In 2010, Rick Scott won by about a percentage point over Alex Sink. The last Florida governor to win by a significant margin was… Crist, back in 2006.

Maybe Charlie Crist figured he would be in another jump-ball situation, and as a former governor, he could do what other Democrats like Alex Sink and the now-indicted Andrew Gillum could not.

But that expected collapse in DeSantis’s popularity hasn’t arrived. A poll commissioned by the Democratic Governors Association still shows DeSantis ahead by five percentage points. Florida now has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and the national political environment still favors the GOP. Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, a longtime Democratic donor and former employer of Crist, sounded glum in an interview with CNN: “I think Charlie has a very, very tough road to hoe. And I’ve pissed money away before.”

And yet, after the primary, Crist didn’t move to the center; he seemed to move further to the left. He denounced DeSantis supporters: “Those who support the governor should stay with him. I don’t want your vote. If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there.” He completely renounced his old positions on abortion. He picked a teachers’ union head as his running mate. He said that Biden was just being honest when he called Republicans “semi-fascists.”

So what’s going on? First, keep in mind DeSantis has $132 million on hand, while Crist had less than $1 million on hand, as of August 19. This is Bambi vs. Godzilla territory.

Florida is an extremely expensive state to run for statewide office, with ten media markets. Crist desperately needs money, and if the big Democratic committees are skeptical or have more pressing priorities, he needs the Democratic grassroots to fall in love with him fast. Thus, he’s sounding more and more like Howard Dean, Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, AOC, and other in-your-face progressives. Crist has to make the typical small-dollar Democratic donor more excited to give to him than, say, Beto O’Rourke, or John Fetterman, or Gretchen Whitmer.

Charlie Crist, running to the left but with money for TV ads, has a chance of keeping the outcome reasonably close. Charlie Crist, running to the center but with no money, is going to melt like an ice cream cone in the Florida midsummer heat.

If victory looks unlikely, what’s the next best outcome for the 66-year-old Crist? Something like the Stacey Abrams playbook — if you can’t win, leave Democrats, particularly the Twitter Left, believing that you should have won. And campaigning as an outspoken progressive should open up post-campaign gigs at MSNBC, etc. “Crist the reborn outspoken progressive” is a more interesting than “Crist who ran for office more often than Pat Paulsen.”

To understand what Charlie Crist is doing, follow the money… or the lack of it.

Science & Tech

Progressivism Colonizes the Science Journals

Loading...
A protestor holds a sign during the March For Science in Seattle, Wash., April 22, 2017. (David Ryder/Reuters)

The scientific establishment moans that it is no longer trusted. True. But there is good cause. The leadership of the hard-science sector has grown increasingly ideological — undermining the science’s overall credibility.

Here are two recent examples. Earlier this month, Science, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, published an editorial that could have appeared in the Nation or Washington Post on . . . how to fix the United States Supreme Court that has grown too conservative. From “Save the Supreme Court and Democracy,” by Maya Sen — a Harvard social scientist, meaning not a “scientist” at all:

The US Supreme Court has been busy. It recently overturned a nearly 50-year-old precedent protecting abortion rights, upheld the right to carry guns outside the home, and hamstrung the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate emissions—all while signaling an aversion to contemporary empirical evidence and instead favoring “history and tradition.” Although the majority of Americans disagree with many of these decisions, the court has only just begun to reshape the country. When it resumes in October, the court will be poised to outlaw affirmative action, undercut federal regulations regarding clean water, and possibly allow state legislatures to restrict voting rights without oversight by state courts.

With the exception of environmental regulation, none of that has anything to do with actual science. Science isn’t about politics, opinion polls, or subjective opinions. It is supposed to be about adducing facts about the natural world and applying them. Whether to permit, outlaw, or regulate abortion isn’t a question that science can answer. That issue belongs to the realms of morality, ethics, and politics. Ditto gun policy.

The answer to this non-scientific problem? The usual political suggestions of the Left:

Reforming the court to prevent extreme ideological movements may be difficult, but not impossible. For example, 18-year term limits for justices would regularize appointments—eliminating gamesmanship around vacancies and reducing incentives for justices to strategically time retirements. This would help prevent extreme partisan imbalance and thus keep the court closer to the ideological mainstream. Term limits enjoy wide bipartisan support and would put the US in line with other democratic peer nations, all of which have term or age limits for their high courts. Additional promising proposals by scholars to help reduce ideological imbalance include reconfiguring how the US selects justices and expanding the size of the court. Others—such as stripping the court’s jurisdiction—would address the argument that the court wields too much power.

Here’s the thing: This editorial isn’t going to make a whit of difference as to what political or policy decisions are made about the Supreme Court. But by publishing this blatantly political piece, the editors badly undermined respect for Science as a journal — and corroded the credibility of science as a crucial human endeavor — just as it did when the journal published an article endorsing “nature rights.”

Meanwhile, over at Nature Human Behaviour — newly adopted guidelines may preclude the publication of a scientific paper based on non-scientific considerations. From “Science Must Respect the Dignity and Rights of all Humans:”

We require that all content submitted for publication be respectful of the dignity and rights of individuals and human groups. Researchers are asked to carefully consider the potential implications (including inadvertent consequences) of research on human groups defined by attributes of race, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political or other beliefs, age, disease, (dis)ability or other status, to be reflective of their authorial perspective if not part of the group under study, and contextualise their findings to minimize as much as possible potential misuse or risks of harm to the studied groups in the public sphere.

In other words, even if the study has significant scientific merit, it may not be published because of the real or perceived political or social implications of the findings.

One can readily see how, for example that a report finding explicit dangers in “gender affirming care” could run afoul of the ideological barriers that are being erected here, and thus never see the light of day because of the “risks of harm” to transitioning children. Why would I think such a thing? This:

Sexist, misogynistic and/or anti-LGBTQ+ content is ethically objectionable. Regardless of content type (research, review or opinion) and, for research, regardless of whether a research project was reviewed and approved by appropriate ethics specialists, editors may raise with the authors concerns regarding potentially sexist, misogynistic, and/or anti-LGBTQ+ assumptions, implications or speech in their submission; engage external ethics experts to provide input on such issues as part of the peer review process; or request modifications to (or correct or otherwise amend post-publication), and in severe cases refuse publication of (or retract post-publication) sexist, misogynistic, and/or anti-LGBTQ+ content

See what I mean?

Instructions are also given about the language to be used and the assumptions to be made when writing about different groups. It’s a long editorial, so I will only include this passage on “gender identity” that clearly shows the “woke” approach expected of authors:

Gender identity — an individual’s conception of self as being a man, woman, masculine, feminine, nonbinary, ambivalent, etc., based in part on physical, psychological and social factors. It is the internal experience of a gender role. There is a broad range of gender identities including, but not limited to, transgender, gender-queer, gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, genderless, agender, nongender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and cisgender

Science goes badly off the track when it succumbs to ideological pressures — as it did with the eugenics movement. Elevating ideological progressivism over fact finding threatens to elevate subjective considerations over the objective focus that epitomizes the scientific method, threatening the overall credibility of the science sector and potentially impeding the work of scientists pursuing heterodox hypotheses that may offend current cultural sensibilities. If this continues, we will all be the losers.

The Economy

Economic Data Aren’t Adding Up

Loading...
Workers build electric buses at the BYD electric bus factory in Lancaster, Calif., July 1, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

At his blog, Apricitas Economics, Joseph Politano has written two pieces about economic data not adding up. The data in question are on two of the most important economic topics: employment and output.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses two different surveys to measure employment. One is the establishment survey, which is answered by businesses, and the other is the household survey, which is answered by workers. We get the total number of jobs from the establishment survey, and we get the unemployment rate from the household survey.

In theory, those surveys are two different ways of getting at the same information. If a survey asks you about your job or asks your employer about your job, both will say that your job exists and it is occupied, which is one of the top things we care about when considering the labor market. There is also information that’s unique to each survey, which is why both are needed, but the overlap is considerable.

They never tell exactly the same story because they use different methodologies, and the scale of data collection means that discrepancies will be inevitable. But Politano writes that right now, the discrepancy is much larger than normal:

Those two reports, however, are in near total disagreement over the state of the US labor market over the last four months. If you believe the household survey, then 168,000 fewer people have a job than in March. If you believe the establishment survey, then businesses added more than 1.6 million jobs since March. It’s the difference between a strong boom and total stagnation.

There are known factors that contribute to the discrepancy, but even when adjusting for them, Politano writes, there’s still a gap of around 1 million jobs:

Once you account for workers taking on second jobs, leaving self-employment, exiting the agricultural sector, and some other conceptual differences between the two surveys, the household survey would estimate only a 722,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls since March—leaving a 958,000 gap still unexplained. In fact, adjusting the household survey to establishment survey concepts estimates a nonfarm payroll level 1.1 million below official establishment survey data.

Politano speculates that increased immigration and the unreliability of other jobs-related data could explain some of the rest of the discrepancy, but it’s still not entirely clear what the problem is or what it means for the economy.

In another post, Politano looks at output data and finds similarly wide gaps between measures that should be similar. He writes, “Official statistics for GDP and GDI have now completely diverged — and the gap between the two stands at nearly 1 trillion dollars.”

Gross domestic product and gross domestic income should be exactly identical. GDP looks at output from the consumption side, and GDI looks at output from the income side, but in economic theory, that’s the same thing. It’s an accounting identity in macroeconomics (Y = I). Just intuitively, it makes some sense: Everything you buy is income to someone else, so whether we add up all the money people spend or we add up all the money people make, we should get the same number.

In the real world, of course, this doesn’t work, and GDP and GDI are never actually identical. But, similar to the employment data, the gap is much larger than normal right now. Politano writes:

If you believe real GDP then the economy has been shrinking for half a year. If you believe real GDI then the economy is still growing (albeit at a slower-than-normal rate). On the flip side, if you believe nominal GDP then total spending has slowed down to a level consistent with ~5% long-run inflation, but if you believe nominal GDI then incomes are growing at a level more consistent with ~8% long-run inflation.

Again, Politano considers a range of possible explanations, all of which seem plausible. He points to underestimating investment and manufacturing output, overestimating corporate profits and aggregate wages, and miscounting trade as possibilities to help explain the discrepancy. But these explanations are still not entirely satisfying, and Politano writes that “it might take years before more comprehensive data and revisions bring GDP and GDI together.”

These gaps aren’t necessarily huge problems. As Politano writes, “Even with the massive GDP-GDI gap, both measures are essentially saying the same thing from a bird’s eye view: nominal growth is extremely high, real growth is relatively low or negative, and inflation is still high.” There’s no evidence that any of this is being tinkered with for political gain by anyone, and each side of the political debate can point to totally legitimate government data to back up its arguments.

It’s always hard to answer the question, “How’s the economy?” because there’s just so much to consider, and there will always be some people who are doing well and others who are doing less well at any given time. But now, government statistics that measure the same economic concepts are providing divergent answers to a much greater degree than in the past. We’re truly in uncharted waters.

Elections

Can Brian Kemp Be the Lead Blocker for Herschel Walker’s Run?

Loading...
Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally in Perry, Ga., September 25, 2021. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

In response to Georgia Poll: Kemp 51, Abrams 44

John,

You have to figure Georgia governor Brian Kemp enjoying a consistent lead over Stacey Abrams in the governor’s race is good news for GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker. (Walker himself is looking a little better in Georgia’s recent polls, as well.)

In each of the last five statewide polls, Abrams has been at… 44 percent. This doesn’t mean Kemp and his campaign can break out the party hats, but it’s a sign he’s on pace to win by a solid margin. (The easy joke here is to call Abrams an incumbent, because of her insistence that she didn’t legitimately lose the 2018 election, but at this point Abrams is a known quantity among Georgia voters, almost like an incumbent. In the Emerson poll, three of the 600 respondents said they had never heard of Kemp, who has been governor for four years. No respondents said they had never heard of Abrams. They survey found 44.6 percent of respondents felt favorably towards Abrams, and 49.5 percent felt unfavorable.)

If you’re incumbent Senate Democrat Raphael Warnock, you would rather not have your Senate career dependent upon having enough people who are voting to reelect Brian Kemp choosing to split their tickets.

In Ohio, J.D. Vance is similarly likely to benefit from GOP governor Mike DeWine winning by a wide margin, and an experienced team bringing out Republican-leaning Ohio voters.

But not every first-time GOP Senate candidate is so lucky. In Arizona, Senate candidate Blake Masters has the… er,  “help” of gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz might genuinely need the help of Doug Mastriano.

Finally, note that there are some signs that the Colorado governor’s race, between incumbent Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Heidi Ganahl is within five points; Ganahl’s campaign says their internal polling shows it even closer. In the Senate race, Republican Joe O’Dea is still an underdog against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet, but this is a race worth keeping an eye on.

Religion

More on the Vatican’s Authority

Loading...
Pope Francis celebrates the Eucharist during Mass as part of World Youth Day at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, November 22, 2020. (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool via Reuters)

I wrote about the Vatican wasting its authority by using the Pontifical Academy for Life as a vehicle for trying to undermine and reject the teachings of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.

One other thought that has been bothering me concerns Pope Francis’s reversal of Pope Benedict’s permissions for the Traditional Latin Mass. First, of course, is the dishonesty in it. Benedict had premised liberalizing the TLM on the idea that it was part of the patrimony of all Latin Rite priests; that it was holy and could not really be a source of division, given the continuity of faith in the Church. It was justified on substantive grounds. But Pope Francis suppressed it purely on practical grounds, asserting that it caused disunity.

The boldness of Francis’s move is very likely to still the hand of his successor, even a conservative or traditionalist one. The idea of three consecutive popes dramatically reversing their predecessors’ decisions on this matter would make the Roman Church look ridiculous even to conservatives.

The only response one can offer is that the Roman Church already appears ridiculous on this issue, and going back to a gracious and correct position is always more dignified than persisting in a nasty error.

Elections

Georgia Poll: Kemp 51, Abrams 44

Loading...

The latest Trafalgar poll shows Georgia governor Brian Kemp leading Stacey Abrams by nearly 7 points: 

The same survey finds Republican Herschel Walker less than a point ahead of Democrat Raphael Warnock—47.5 percent to 46.7 percent—in the race for U.S. Senate. If no candidate gets 50 percent in November, the race heads to a December 6 runoff.

Elections

Fetterman Backs out of Pennsylvania Senate Debate

Loading...

The Hill reports: “Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman said Tuesday he won’t participate in a debate against his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz during the first week of September, citing his ongoing recovery from a recent stroke.”

Refusing to debate is typically a tactic employed by candidates with large leads who see no reason to give their opponents an opening. Fetterman has a healthy 47.3 to 39.9 percent lead over Oz in the RCP polling average, but the two most recent polls show the race tightening: Emerson finds Fetterman leading by 4 points and Susquehanna finds Fetterman leading by 5 points. Pennsylvania polls significantly underestimated support for Trump in the fall of 2016 and 2020, but they were on target during the 2018 Senate race.

Art

Restoring Notre Dame the Old Way

Loading...
The reconstruction site at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Paris, France, July 28, 2022 (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Reuters)

After so many stories suggesting that Notre Dame Cathedral will be modernized, while it is being rebuilt following the 2019 fire that transfixed the globe, this story comes as a great relief and consolation. The Guardian writes about the Guédelon project, a medieval castle that is being built according to medieval techniques of stone and woodcutting. Construction began at Guédelon in 1997 and it has trained many carpenters and other artisans in the exact techniques that can be used to rebuild Notre Dame as it was built in the first place:

“We have 25 years’ experience of cutting, squaring and hewing wood by hand,” he says. “It’s what we [have done] every day for 25 years. There are people outside of here who can do it now, but I tell you they all came here to learn how. If this place didn’t exist, perhaps the experts would have said: no it’s not possible to reproduce the roof of Notre Dame. We [have shown that] it is.

“This isn’t just nostalgia. If Notre Dame’s roof lasted 800 years, it is because of this. There’s no heart in sawmill wood,” he says.

Guédelon Castle receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Now, the people who have worked on it are being contracted by the various firms bidding to rebuild this priceless ornament of Christian civilization. It’s almost as if Providence is at work.

Culture

15 Things That Caught My Eye: The Discrimination against Christians in Egypt, ‘Reproductive Freedom’ in Michigan & More

Loading...

1. The Tablet: “Tragic Egypt Church Fire Spotlights Coptic Christians’ Struggle

CAIRO, Egypt — Cries of grief rose, and fingers of blame were pointed in the wake of a tragic fire that gutted Martyr Abu Sefein Coptic Church and claimed the lives of 41 people including 15 children and the church bishop, Abdul Masih Bakhit.

About 5,000 people were gathering on August 14 for Sunday Mass when the fire broke out at 8:30 a.m. inside the small four-story building in Imbaba, a working-class neighborhood five miles from Cairo.

Government officials said the deaths resulted from an ensuing stampede and smoke inhalation. Witnesses told The Tablet the first firefighters didn’t arrive for more than an hour-and-a-half after scores of trapped worshippers had already suffocated to death. As the fire spread to the upper floors, some screaming victims jumped out of windows.

Church officials said the blaze was caused by a short circuit in an air conditioner, but one news wire service reported that witnesses also pointed to a faulty generator. Neighborhood residents rushed to rescue the people inside the church as the emergency response was slow. The children died when they were trapped in a daycare room inside the church as the unchecked blaze engulfed the building, witnesses said.

“The firefighters came after the people died although they [were on] the next street [from] the church,” another witness said. “Even the bodies were laid in the street be- cause the ambulance was slow to arrive. Nobody cares about those poor souls.”

. . .

In a phone call with a local TV station, Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II said the Martyr Abu Sefein Church, like many others, is too small for the number of congregants it serves and urged that authorities allow the building of more churches.

“In Egypt, major disasters mostly afflict the poor. Egypt is a very racist country … Muslims are more secure than Copts, and men are more secure than women and children, while the most vulnerable among Egyptians are those poor Coptic women and children, which is what happened in this poor church,” Mohamed Abou El-Ghar, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, wrote on his Facebook account on Aug. 15.

Abou El-Ghar criticized the discriminatory and bureaucratic obstacles that prevent building safe churches and called for more equality.

“The constitution clearly states that all Egyptians are equal, which means that Christians have the same rights as Muslims, and because Muslims build their mosques without problems, churches must also be built without problems,” El-Ghar said.

2. Al-Jazeera: “Egypt’s Copts want changes to law after deadly church fire

3. Mustafa Akyol: “Muslims, Too, Can Defend Salman Rushdie’s Freedom

4.  An Aid to the Church in Need: Interview with Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of the Latin Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine:

In the hospital I visited a couple who had lived together for 60 years, we prayed together, and afterwards the husband said it was the first prayer in his life, and it filled him with joy. Three days later I learned he had died. His wife told me that in all those years she had never seen him so happy. She was very grateful. The man was in disbelief all his life but three days before his death, he met God.

5. From Charlie Camosy: “‘Unimaginable cruelty and trauma’ — A survivor of forced sterilization speaks out

Continue reading “15 Things That Caught My Eye: The Discrimination against Christians in Egypt, ‘Reproductive Freedom’ in Michigan & More”

Politics & Policy

No, U.S. Pro-lifers Should Not Look to Canada’s Example

Loading...
Pro-life demonstrators hold a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 12, 2022. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade this summer, mainstream media outlets have published many articles analyzing sanctity-of-life issues. Unfortunately, more analysis had not always led to better analysis. Writing for the Daily Beast, Notre Dame professors Susan Osterman and Tamara Kay make an exceptionally poor and unconvincing argument that Canada should serve as an example for U.S. pro-lifers who seek to lower the abortion rate.

Indeed, Canada certainly seems like a very odd country for U.S. pro-lifers to emulate. A 1988 court ruling legalized abortion throughout Canada. In fact, Canada is one of seven countries where abortion is legal on demand for all nine months of pregnancy. Additionally, elective abortions in Canada are publicly funded. Furthermore, several Canadian provinces have laws in place prohibiting protesting or sidewalk counseling outside of abortion facilities.

In their article, Osterman and Kay acknowledge that aspects of Canada’s abortion policy are permissive. However, they argue that because of widespread access to contraception and universal health care in Canada, “Canada had a quarter fewer abortions per women than
in the U.S.”

Unfortunately, the data fail to support the authors’ analysis. The authors state that the U.S. abortion rate is 14.4 per thousand women of childbearing age, linking to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, that U.S. abortion rate figure comes from the year 2010. The most recent CDC data from 2019 indicate that the U.S, abortion rate was 11.4 abortions per thousand women of childbearing age — only marginally higher than Canada’s 2020 abortion rate of 10.1 abortions per thousand women of childbearing age.

Furthermore, other research shows that the U.S. and Canada have very similar abortion rates. This past March, Guttmacher and the World Health Organization released a study that calculated abortion rates in 150 countries. Their data indicate that between 2015 and 2019, the United States and Canada had identical abortion rates. In both countries, the abortion rate was 12 per every thousand women between the ages of 15 and 49. Multiple data sources show that Canada’s abortion rate is largely similar to that of the United States.

A comparison of abortion trends in both countries further weaken Osterman and Kay’s analysis. According to Guttmacher, the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by more than 47 percent since the early 1990s. During the same period, the abortion rate in Canada fell by only a paltry 7.7 percent. It is clear that the U.S. has enjoyed far more success than Canada in reducing the incidence of abortion. As I have often written, an important reason behind the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is that a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term. This nicely shows the effectiveness of pro-life educational, service, and legislative activities.

In their article Osterman and Kay praise the widespread availability of contraception in Canada. However, one reason why Canada has struggled to reduce its abortion rate is that the Canadian rate of unintended pregnancy is increasing. According to Guttmacher, it has increased by more than 19 percent since the early 1990s. Pro-lifers receive a considerable amount of criticism for not being more supportive of contraceptive programs. However, a good body of research shows that efforts to promote contraceptive use are either ineffective at best or counterproductive at worst.

In their conclusion, Osterman and Kay claim pro-choicers will “shift support to a pragmatic strategy that preserves freedom and lowers abortion rates.” However, the data clearly show that the U.S. has enjoyed far more success than Canada in reducing the incidence of abortion. Furthermore, incremental pro-life laws — along with other pro-life efforts — have played a key role in the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate. Furthermore, the reversal of Roe v. Wade opens up some exciting possibilities to do even more to legally protect the preborn. As of mid-September, approximately 16 states will have laws in place protecting preborn children. As always, pro-lifers would do well to stay the course.

Woke Culture

Taking Back Our Institutions

Loading...
(Steve Nesius/Reuters)

I have a long investigative piece out today all about Major League Baseball’s (MLB) unseemly support for groups that promote or directly provide sex-change drugs and surgeries for minors. If you’re looking for a Sparknotes-length version, I wrote a long-ish Twitter thread on the highlights (or lowlights) from the piece:

And here’s the full team-by-team breakdown:

I spoke with Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, to get his thoughts on the topic. In the interest of length, we only included a few relatively short quotes from him in this morning’s piece, but I wanted to share a few other insights he provided, as I think they’re valuable.

Roberts rightly noted that MLB’s embrace of far-left transgender groups is “a classic case of institutional capture by the Left,” telling me that the power of left-wing activist groups “has become ascendant in American institutional life, such that the most conservative and traditional of our sports leagues, with the most conservative fan base, is on the brink of going woke.” So how should conservatives respond?

There have been a variety of debates on the Right about the role of government and public policy in confronting the cultural power of the Left. Conservatives of various ideological stripes can disagree in good faith about the extent to which the Right should be using government to wrest control of our institutions away from the Left. But one thing that we should all be looking to harness is the power of organized voluntary action. On that front, Roberts’s suggestion surrounding public-pressure campaigns and fan boycotts seems like a good place to start. The first step, as I wrote in the piece, is “forcing a public reckoning for the MLB’s support for hard-left groups.” 

As Roberts noted, “The fan base is obviously our biggest ally” in this endeavor — MLB fans tend to be more conservative than NBA or NFL fans, and MLB’s center of gravity traditionally sits in red America. “If we can do a really good job of highlighting this, I actually think the fan base will turn on Major League Baseball,” Roberts said. From there, “We need to find the one or two or three worst offenders among the baseball teams, and we need to say on this night, we’re not buying tickets. We’re not going to this game. . . . The reason that they have these Pride Nights is because the Major League Baseball ownership and managers perceive that it helps in the market. We’ve got to send a market signal, so to speak, that shows that it doesn’t.”

That requires commitment at the grassroots level, but also a coordinated effort by elite conservative institutions to put together a viable movement. “We just need to orchestrate it,” Roberts told me. “We have to do this. It’s just really about saving American culture.”

World

The West Won the Cold War… Right?

Loading...
President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1985 summit in Geneva, Switzerland (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

A stray thought that didn’t quite fit in today’s Morning Jolt section about the death of Mikhail Gorbachev is the seemingly blasphemous question of whether the United States, NATO, and the West really won the Cold War.

At first glance, that seems like a ridiculous question. The Soviet Union dissolved, and the Eastern European countries that were de facto servant states to Russia declared their independence. Across eastern Europe, a whole generation enjoyed free elections, more freedom of speech and more civil liberties than their parents ever imagined. The U.S. strode across the globe as the world’s sole remaining superpower. Even on America’s bad days, we still have the world’s largest economy, an extensive network of allies, gobs of diplomatic influence and soft power, the ability to project military forces into any corner of the globe quickly, top-of-the-line innovation and technology, an education system that remains the envy of the world, and roughly 150 million people around the globe who dream of living here, some of whom willing to swim through shark-infested waters for the opportunity. By just about every measure, the U.S. – along with our allies – look like the undisputed reigning heavyweight geopolitical champions of the world.

And yet… Putin-era Russia doesn’t look all that different from the bad old days of the Soviet Union, particularly this year.

The Russian army invaded neighboring territories – not just Ukraine today but Georgia and Crimea in the not-so-distant past. The Russian military operates with horrifying brutality and the deliberate targeting of civilians. In recent years, Russian military forces and like-minded mercenary forces deployed to Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic. Putin wants the de facto restoration of the Soviet Union’s borders through “spheres of influence,” where eastern European countries bordering Russia would be left technically independent but not really capable of defying Moscow.

Just about all dissent in modern Russia is gone; pro-state propaganda dominates all forms of media. If Russians aren’t happy with Vladimir Putin’s vision for the country, they’re awfully quiet about their objections. The American brands like McDonalds and Starbucks in Moscow disappeared after the invasion. Russia is no longer interested in engaging with the West if that engagement requires them to abandon their dreams of an expansionist empire.

As much as the U.S. and its allies tried to isolate Russia, there are signs that ties to China, Iran, and other countries will mitigate the economic effects of sanctions.

Sure, Putin doesn’t think of himself as Communist, but he still endorses complete government control of whatever the state wants or needs in the economic realm. The oligarchs know the price of their luxurious lifestyle is a privilege that flows from their relationship with the president, and maintaining it depends upon their continued loyalty and obedience to him.

The KGB is now the FSB, the hammer and sickle is replaced with the white, blue and red flag or the “Z” symbol, and the old propaganda rag Pravda is less important than RT television. Putin’s Russia has a different style than the Cold War-era Soviet Union, but it remains the same in most of the ways that matter most: totalitarian, brutal, aggressive, expansionist, habitually deceitful, paranoid, devious, and controlled by men whose blood is almost as cold as the country’s winters.

You see a lot of references to a “new Cold War” or “Cold War 2.0” among foreign-policy thinkers. That suggests the Cold War wasn’t truly “won” or resolved but merely went on hiatus for a generation or so.

In light of all that… did we really win the Cold War? Or did we just win the first round?

Politics & Policy

While We’re Impeaching People . . .

Loading...
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

Charlie calls for the impeachment of President Biden over his unconstitutional student-loan plans, much the same as President Trump should have been impeached over his illegal border-wall funding and over January 6, and President Obama should have been impeached over his unconstitutional DACA order.

Reclaiming the impeachment power would be valuable, as it has been effectively erased by congressional impotence. Ours is a system of checks and balances, and Congress has effectively given up one of its checks on the executive branch by refusing to impeach and convict officials who violate their oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

One other such official is Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who is the one set to execute the illegal student-loan action. It was his office of general counsel that produced the specious bit of legal “reasoning” to justify this action, and it will be he who unilaterally adds about $1 trillion to the deficit without congressional approval.

Cardona would join William Belknap, secretary of war under President Grant, as the only other Cabinet secretary to be impeached. Belknap’s was a fairly straightforward case of corruption, and he resigned in 1876. The House learned that he had resigned and still made it a point to impeach him anyway. The Senate went ahead with a trial and a vote to convict, even though he was already out of office. The vote failed because a sufficient number of senators believed they did not have the power to convict an official who had already left office, but they all agreed he was guilty. It would be nice to see that level of vigor in the legislative branch again.

And then when the impeachment proceedings against Cardona are complete, abolish the Department of Education, which is unconstitutional and unnecessary, and may even be harmful to education in the United States.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: ESG

Loading...

Andrew Stuttaford writes about the creatures in the ESG ecosystem:

It is, in other words, yet another creature that flourishes in the ecosystem that ESG has created, staffed by a team who have an interest, naturally enough, in seeing that the demand for their services increases. Its members manage $51 trillion in assets, money that, in many cases, will not be theirs, but will belong to their clients. One wonders what those clients or — where the clients are themselves institutional asset managers — the clients of those clients think of the stance being taken by those to whom they have entrusted their funds, most of whom will have been hired to maximize risk-adjusted financial return. Playing political games with climate policy will do little or nothing to enhance that return and may even reduce it. It won’t do much for the climate either, but that’s a topic for another day.

Read the whole thing here.

Politics & Policy

Do They Hear Themselves?

Loading...

Writing in the New York Times, Mary Ziegler frets that abortion restrictions will end up “pitting the interests of fetuses and women against each other.”

If one concedes, as Ziegler here does, that the unborn have interests, then it is abortion that must pit the interests of the unborn against their mothers in the most fundamental and intolerable way.

If our pro-abortion friends are now conceding that the unborn have interests, they are halfway home in spite of themselves.

Education

Teacher Training in the U.S. Is Poor, but Could Be Improved

Loading...

To be allowed to teach (in most states), an individual must go through an education-school program where he or she supposedly learns at least the basic elements of pedagogy. Unfortunately, education schools were long ago captured by “progressives” who use them to impart dubious educational theories and toxic philosophies.

In today’s Martin Center article, Sandra Stotsky argues that it needn’t be that way. One major problem she identifies is that education schools attract weak students:

One reason for ineffective professional development is the quality of our teaching force itself. As Jonathan Wai has reported, education majors consistently had the lowest academic aptitude on five independent tests from 1946 to 2014. He concluded, “These data show that U.S. students who choose to major in education, essentially the bulk of people who become teachers, have for at least the last seven decades been selected from students at the lower end of the academic aptitude pool.”

Federal funding to improve education schools has proven to be a failure, Stotsky reports.

What should be done?

Stotsky has a number of recommendations, such as: “States should require prospective teachers of grades five and higher to earn either a master of arts in teaching (MAT) degree in the subject they plan to teach, which typically includes real graduate work in that subject as well as an apprenticeship in the schools, or a master of science (MS) or master of arts (MA) degree in the subject (a common requirement for secondary-school teachers in Europe), followed by an apprenticeship in the schools.”

A great idea — make prospective teachers have command of a body of academic knowledge. Currently, many are weak on content, but have their heads full of approved ideology. That’s not good.

World

John Bolton and a Dangerous World

Loading...
John Bolton, then national security adviser to President Trump, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 27, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

In recent weeks, John Bolton has been the target of a murder plot by the Iranian regime. Naturally, we talk about this in the podcast we recorded on Tuesday morning: Go here. Bolton has displayed sangfroid in the face of this plot. Still, the whole thing is horrifying, certainly to me.

As it happens, I know two people who have been targeted for murder by the Iranian regime. The other is Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American journalist and activist. A podcast with her is coming up shortly.

In Tuesday morning’s podcast, Bolton and I talk about Iran’s nuclear program and what to do about it. He is strongly opposed to reentry into the “deal.” He favors a policy of regime change. This is not to say that the United States would commit troops; it is to say that the U.S. would bolster opposition within Iran.

He makes an elementary point about Iran, and one that bears emphasizing, and reemphasizing: Iran under the Khomeinists is not only a state sponsor of terrorism; this Iran is a terror-state.

We also discuss Ukraine: the courage and determination of the Ukrainians; the support of the United States (indispensable); the relative weakness — perhaps surprising — of the Russian military.

Bolton says that Putin may try to “grab the political and diplomatic initiative” and declare a ceasefire — with the ceasefire line the new border between Russia and Ukraine. Europe might go for this, as wintertime is coming, and Europeans will be wanting that Russian gas.

If the United States allows this, says Bolton — if Russia is able to seize Ukrainian territory a second time by force — the negative effects will be many and widespread.

He talks about NATO, and its importance: the difference it makes in Europe and to the security of the United States. Russia has never crossed a NATO border. The Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine concentrated Swedish and Finnish minds, to put it mildly.

How about the American Right? Will it stick with NATO? Will our Right support Ukraine, in its fight to stay alive against the expansionist dictatorship next door? These are other topics of our conversation.

Taiwan, too, is on our agenda. Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan did not create tension with China, says Bolton; it revealed the existing tension. Thus, it was a “teaching moment,” says Bolton — a teaching moment for the American people. We need a big national debate on China and Taiwan, he says. In Bolton’s view, it is now time to ditch a policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Americans should be apprised of the threat posed by China and of the relation between Taiwan’s independence and our security.

Staying in the Far East, we discuss the Koreas. The U.S. is currently engaged in military exercises with our South Korean ally. President Trump canceled these, calling them “war games,” as Bolton says. Trump thought they were needlessly provocative of the North Koreans. Bolton points out that North Korea never stopped its own “war games.” He explains, in some detail, why joint exercises between our forces and South Korea’s are important, for the sake of deterrence and peace.

John Bolton is a lawyer, as well as a diplomat and national-security analyst. He worked in the Justice Department. And he has had a career of handling classified documents. In our podcast, we talk about the recent FBI search at Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach.

The former president spent 18 months refusing to turn over the documents in question to the National Archives, says Bolton. And these are not Trump’s personal documents, but rather the property of the U.S. government. And some of the documents are very highly classified.

“What we need to do is let the legal process play out,” says Bolton. Some Democrats say Trump should be prosecuted immediately. But they don’t have nearly enough information to go on, says Bolton.

He continues, “My advice to everybody is, calm down and let our system of due process work here.”

On television, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, said that, if Trump is prosecuted, “there will be riots in the street.” According to Bolton, Graham should have gone on to say, “And I would condemn that violence, and I urge everyone who’s upset about this search to stay calm and stay within the parameters of our legal system.”

Bolton adds the following: “If you don’t like an outcome in our legal system and you decide that violence is the answer, you’re overthrowing the Constitution. You get due process in the United States. You’re not guaranteed a win.”

We end our podcast as we began it: with Iran, and with the murder plot against John. I recall Barbara Bush: “I believe in God and the Secret Service, in that order.” She said she thought the Secret Service was the best agency in the U.S. government. Bolton has Secret Service protection now, as he did when he was in the White House. “If you’re not safe with the Secret Service,” he says, “there isn’t any safety.”

He immediately pivots to what he regards as the larger issue: “The important thing here, however, is to make sure the regime in Iran doesn’t think that this kind of approach” — murdering former or present officials, murdering U.S. citizens on American soil — “can succeed with the United States.”

As always, John Bolton is very interesting, very well-informed, and very frank. Again, for our podcast, our Q&A, go here.

Politics & Policy

Poll: Youngkin Job-Approval Rating Hits 55 Percent

Loading...
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election-night party in Chantilly, Va., November 3, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

A new poll by Roanoke College shows GOP governor Glenn Youngkin’s job-approval rating ticking up to 55 percent in Virginia, while President Biden’s job-approval rating is at a dismal 39 percent in a state he carried 54 percent to 44 percent in the 2020 presidential election.

The Roanoke poll finds that most voters in the state disapprove of overturning Roe v. Wade, but the decision hasn’t hurt the pro-life governor’s standing. Youngkin said he’d push for a 15-week limit on abortion in the state, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother. But he has also said he’d sign an earlier limit on abortion if it made it through the state legislature. “Any bill that comes to my desk I will sign happily and gleefully in order to protect life,” Youngkin said on June 28. Republicans control the House of Delegates, but Virginia Democrats have a narrow 21–19 majority in the state senate. One moderate Democratic state senator has expressed support for at least a 20-week limit on abortion, and the AP reported in February that Democrat “indicated a willingness to join with Republicans in a long-shot procedural move to try to bring it to a floor vote.” GOP lieutenant governor Winsome Sears would cast any tie-breaking vote in the upper chamber.

Science & Tech

The Self-Driving Car Will Change More Than You Think

Loading...

In response to Self-Driving Cars? Pass

Luther argues against self-driving cars as a symptom of safety-ism that is not, as of yet, quite that safe; Rich argues against fearing the transformative future; Kevin argues that we are not going to be given a choice in the matter, and that self-driving cars will be imposed as yet another form of social control.

Self-driving cars are indeed worth viewing with skepticism during the transitional period when they are not fully or reliably self-driving and are sharing the road with human drivers. My own argument about the long-term future is that we have not yet fully understood the transformative potential of a world made entirely of self-driving cars, either Rich’s futurism or Kevin’s justified paranoia. I wrote a long piece in 2014 walking through 17 ways that society would change if we switched to driverless cars, and there is plenty to love, and plenty to fear: changes to car design, insurance, accidental deaths, military preparedness, disaster readiness, privacy, policing, radio programming, the drinking age, the job landscape for non-college men, the mobility of the disabled, and economic inequality.

Sports

Aaron Judge Could Become the Yankees’ Home-Run King, but Records Still Matter

Loading...
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) watches hits his 50th home run of the season against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., August 29, 2022. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

In response to If Aaron Judge Gets to 62, He Should Be Considered the True Home-Run King

Records are more important to baseball than to any other sport, for a variety of reasons that include the game’s stability and tradition and the fact that batting records in particular reflect batter vs. pitcher competition. The game has maintained something resembling consistent rules and enough offense/defense balance continuously since the 19th century to make fans feel as if it is a reasonable argument, as it would not be in football or basketball, to compare today’s records with those of the 1950s or 1920s. The importance and comparability of records is why we argue about the game’s most impressive records, why it is controversial but important to count the records of the Negro Leagues during the period that the game was segregated, and why Ichiro Suzuki isn’t American baseball’s hit king, but something comparable.

Hardly any record is more prestigious than the single-season home-run record. Yankees fans are understandably protective of the Yankees’ hold on the record, which was broken by Babe Ruth in 1919 (with the Red Sox, with 29 home runs in a 138 game schedule), 1920 (with 54 in a 154 game schedule), 1921 (with 59), and 1927 (with 60), and by Roger Maris in 1961 (with 61 in a 162 game schedule). Ruth, for his part, averaged 54 homers per 162 games for a 12-year period from 1920 through 1931, in which he also hit .357. Aaron Judge is now threatening to break the team records of Maris for a full season and maybe Ruth for a 154 games, and that is a thing worth celebrating.

Phil has a fair argument that all the over-61 homer seasons should be regarded with a very large grain of salt. Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999, averaging 63 homers per 162 games for a 7 year stretch from 1995–2001), Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999, 64 in 2001, averaging 62 homers per 162 games for a 4 year stretch from 1998–2001), and Barry Bonds (73 in 2001, averaging 61 homers per 162 games for a four-year stretch from 2000–03) all used steroids.

For my part, while it’s totally fair to brand McGwire, Bonds, and Sosa as especially egregious cheaters, the reality is that baseball has always been a game in which people cheated and got away with it, so we shouldn’t really go down the rabbit hole of weighing which kinds of cheating matter more, and we wouldn’t if Bonds hadn’t gained such a huge advantage from steroids. It’s not as if Ruth, who almost certainly corked his bat, was a stickler for the rules. If Judge beats Maris and Ruth, he becomes the Yankees home run-king, and he can claim some bragging rights for doing it cleaner — and in a much lower-scoring environment — than the muscleheads of the late ’90s and early aughts. But the record is still the record.

Politics & Policy

Abortion Cowardice Just Makes Blake Masters a Normal Politician

Loading...
Blake Masters at a “Unite & Win Rally” at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., August 14, 2022. (Gage Skidmore)

In response to Blake Masters Is Still the Pro-Life Choice

Kevin argues that Blake Masters has disqualified himself because he’s a coward and flip-flopper on abortion; he cites Donald Trump as an example of a Republican politician with a late-in-life conversion on abortion of dubious sincerity, although Trump (for all his other flaws) ended up being an unyielding friend of the pro-life movement in office. Michael argues that Masters is still more pro-life than his Democratic opponent — by a mile — and cites Mitt Romney and George W. Bush as examples of Republican politicians with late-in-life conversions on abortion of dubious sincerity. In Romney’s case, he claimed two conversions, one in the early 1970s from pro-life to pro-choice, the other in the late 2000s in the other direction. As I noted during the 2012 primaries, “his explanation of how he became a pro-lifer over the stem cell issue (oddly, an issue on which many pro-life Mormons are not on the pro-life side) is less personal and less convincing than his prior narrative of how a family experience led him to be pro-choice. The dual conversion narrative leaves both positions sounding hollow and insincere: St. Paul only went to Damascus the one time.”

Of course, both Kevin and Michael are right. Kevin is right that Masters is a calculating politician, rather than the brave BUT HE FIGHTS warrior he claimed to be in the primary; Michael is right that your typical establishment Republican is also a calculating politician, and yet, that nearly any Republican is better on life than just about every Democrat. And all of us were right that Republicans across the country needed to be thinking through long in advance how to respond if the Dobbs case resulted in the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which was entirely foreseeable in 2021, but which few Republicans (Masters included) seem to have planned for.

Masters has not disqualified himself from your general-election vote by his current stance on abortion, or by his visible retreat from his previous rhetoric on the issue. But he has disqualified the credibility of a lot of people who claimed that Masters was somehow a braver man than Mark Brnovich, who withstood far-more-difficult tests from both parties without buckling. It turns out that Masters is not so different from ordinary Republican politicians, after all.

Elections

Blake Masters Is Still the Pro-Life Choice

Loading...
Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks during former President Donald Trump’s rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022. (Rebecca Noble/Reuters)

It seems fair for pro-lifers to worry when politicians seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona ran in the Republican primary as a no-compromise pro-lifer. His website used to say he was 100 percent pro-life, and supported a personhood amendment. That verbiage has disappeared, and now he has put out an ad saying he favors a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

For this, Kevin Williamson declares him unsupportable. That’s understandable. It’s better to have consistency in the right direction.

Was this position applied back when George W. Bush was campaigning for the presidency and responded to specific questions about a pro-life constitutional amendment by saying, “The Republican Party should maintain its pro-life tenor“? (Seemed like cowardice to me.) Or saying that he wouldn’t commit to a pro-life running mate? Mitt Romney had once campaigned for a Senate seat by preposterously claiming he was more pro-choice than Ted Kennedy. Was he deemed unsupportable in 2012 because of his flip-flopping on the issue? I only remember that he wasn’t supported enough to win.

The primaries are over. One Senate candidate in Arizona supports the Dobbs decision and supports federal restrictions on abortion that a majority of Americans support. The alternative does neither. It’s good to punish cowardice, but I also really would like to see Republicans control the Senate next year.