Politics & Policy

Burkean Populism

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Greg Weiner wrote an important contribution to the conservative reckoning at hand. He proposes republicanism as a philosophy well suited to cut through the clamor of elites and the condescension of populists.

He contrasts Edmund Burke’s famous passage, about how representatives don’t owe their constituents their vote but their best judgment, with James Madison’s view that the job of representative and republican institutions is “to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

That’s an important point. Though I have, in practice, seen something like that sentiment used to justify a dismissive, even self-interested kind of paternalism.

A friend recently passed me another Burke quotation that speaks to the heart of our dilemma. From “Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents,” he writes:

I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. But I do say that in all disputes between them and their rulers the presumption is at least upon a par in favour of the people.

So, yes, even an Anglo-Irish high Tory can recognize that when the people are intent upon making controversy with their rulers, we ought to take them seriously.

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Impeachment Lawyers Quit

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Donald Trump’s impeachment-trial defense lawyers have quit, CNN reports

Former President Donald Trump’s five impeachment defense attorneys have left a little more than a week before his trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy. […]

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

If Trump wants his legal team to defend his claims of a stolen election, who else besides Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Jenna Ellis would be up to the task?

Media

Brooke Astor Unavailable for Comment

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Priscilla Chan, wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Tex., March 8, 2019 (Sergio Flores/Reuters)

The New York Times has a big article on women in philanthropy highlighting Mrs. Gates, Mrs. Zuckerberg, the Widow Jobs, and the former Mrs. Bezos. “How Women Are Changing the Philanthropy Game,” reads the headline.

How, indeed? The Times can’t quite bring itself to say.

Rich women have been giving away the money their husbands made from time immemorial — some of them are just a little more insufferable about it now.

It’s not like there are not female philanthropists who made their own money — Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, etc. — but you wouldn’t know it from the Times report.

Markets

The ‘Roaring Kitty’ Rally

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The Chicago Tribune has a nice profile on the Reddit and YouTube user who launched the insane retail stock rallies that have roiled markets and hammered hedge funds.

World

Late-Deflating Reputations

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site at William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, N.Y., January 23, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/Pool via Reuters)

I wonder if the public record will ever accurately reflect the performance of Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York during the pandemic. Like many, I initially found him surprisingly leaderly at the start of the crisis. And subsequently on “The Editors” podcast and elsewhere, I’ve urged charity in judging his decisions early in the pandemic. Last March, it was conventional wisdom that enormous temporary hospitals would have to be erected for the sick in major cities. London was building one. New York started one in the Javits Center. There were days when the number of dead was appalling and even caring for the dead was straining the system.

But, the latest report shows that once the state of New York figured out the disastrous results of their policy of returning sick COVID patients to nursing homes in order to free up hospital beds, there was a concerted government effort to deflect. And there’s Cuomo’s continued record of criticizing governors who in fact made decisions that turned out much better. Again, where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?

Similarly, we were told that Europe and Germany in particular had admirably competent responses to the pandemic. And indeed, the case numbers and deaths in Europe were much lower than in the United States. But, now Europe has clearly botched its provision of vaccines. And they are scrambling.

At this stage, the United States, the United Kingdom, and particularly Israel are surging ahead towards a COVID-19 endgame. Meanwhile, European governments are being told that their crisis is likely to last into next winter at the minimum.

I’m curious about the media’s investment in these storylines. Can the media turn on Cuomo after all their investment in his story? It seems easier to turn in regard to Europe and the United States because Trump is gone. The vaccine’s eventual success in America can be — and probably will be — attributed mostly to Joe Biden.

But I think the credit belongs to our character. Americans are too unruly to be locked down, and too inventive and rich not to come up with some kind of technological fix for our problems.

Politics & Policy

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s QAnon Rant: ‘I Definitely Would Believe’ the Rothschilds Are Funding ‘Global Evil’

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) in Washington, D.C., January 3, 2021 (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is drawing scrutiny for a 2018 post on Facebook in which she suggested that laser beams from outer space may have started California wildfires and that the vice chairman of “Rothschild Inc” may have been involved in order to profit from the disaster.

For many years, anti-Semitic conspiracies have often featured the Rothschilds as shadowy figures responsible for any number of evils. While Greene takes a just-asking-questions approach in her 2018 Facebook post on the insane space-laser conspiracy theory, in a 2017 video she said she “definitely” would believe the Rothschilds were involved in funding the “global evil” of child sex-trafficking.

In a YouTube video that appears to have been originally uploaded in November 2017, Greene discusses the deranged and elaborate QAanon conspiracy theory for 30 minutes. “Q is a patriot. We know that for sure, but we do not know who Q is,” Greene said. “Many of the things that he has given clues about and talked about on 4chan and other forums have really proven to be true.”

While Greene says she isn’t sure about some of the claims made by Q — such as whether Robert Mueller is really working with Trump — she does express certainty about several of the conspiratorial claims. “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it,” she says. At another point, Greene says that “Hillary Clinton is obviously involved” in Satan-worship.

About 15 minutes into the video, Greene notes that Q says that the Rothschilds, George Soros, and the Saudis are “the puppetmasters that fund this global evil,” and she adds: “I definitely would believe that.”

The 30-minute QAnon rant was deleted from YouTube, but a copy may be viewed here

Greene’s spokesman told the New York Times this week that Greene “doesn’t have anything to do with” the QAnon conspiracy theory and “thinks it’s disinformation.”

Greene’s extreme and conspiratorial comments go far beyond QAnon. In 2018, she said “there’s never any evidence shown” that an airplane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11

She has also promoted conspiracy theories that school-shootings were staged, the Washington Post reports

One commenter called the Parkland shooting “fake,” adding that “none of the School shootings were real or done by the ones who were supposedly arrested for them.” The user spread other conspiracy theories and called the Sandy Hook massacre — in which 20 children and six staff members at an elementary school were fatally shot in 2012 — a “STAGGED [sic] SHOOTING.”

Greene liked the post and replied, “That’s all true.”

In a deleted Facebook video, Greene told a crowd: “It’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason.” Earlier this week, CNN reported that in 2019 Greene’s Facebook account “liked” a “comment that said ‘a bullet to the head would be quicker’ to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Greene responded to the CNN report by claiming that someone else operating her Facebook account liked the comment about killing Pelosi: “Over the years, I’ve had teams of people manage my pages. Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views. Especially the ones that CNN is about to spread across the internet,” she wrote.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy will reportedly meet with Greene this coming week. On Saturday, Greene tweeted that she talked to Donald Trump and that she has support from the former president: “I had a GREAT call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump!  I’m so grateful for his support.” After Greene defeated a Republican neurosurgeon in the primary runoff election in August, Trump hailed Greene on Twitter as a “future Republican Star.”

World

U.N. Secretary General: Russian Vaccine Plays ‘Important Role’ in Fighting COVID

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A medical worker fills a syringe with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Moscow, Russia, December 5, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The Reuters interview in which U.N. secretary general António Guterres neglected to come out against Chinese authoritarian influence on the global stage wasn’t the only interview on his schedule Thursday. He also spoke with TASS, a Russian state media agency.

There’s been much said about China’s heavy-handed diplomacy to use global vaccine distribution to its national advantage. There’s another important angle here. The U.N.’s top official is now putting his thumb on the scales for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

An excerpt from the interview, which ran on Thursday:

– What’s your assessment of Russia’s contribution to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?

– First of all, Russia is a founding member of the United Nations, a permanent member of the Security Council and these are central pillars of our multilateral system. It’s important to mention that.

Russia has developed a vaccine and has made this vaccine available. It made a very generous offer to the UN. The only condition that the UN has in relation to inoculations is that we can only use vaccines that are approved by the WHO. I know that there are contacts at the present moment between the Russian authorities and the WHO, I hope that those contacts will lead in the quickest possible way to an approval or recognition by the WHO.

We believe that the Russian vaccine can play a very important role in that battle that I’ve mentioned. We need to make sure that we have vaccines available and affordable to everybody everywhere.

– And if, or when, it is approved, can it be used by the United Nations?

– It can be used in many of the UN’s operations in some vulnerable areas of the world where we will need vaccines for our staff and for the population which we support in our peacekeeping operations in fragile countries. So, we hope that the Russian vaccine will play an important role in that regard.

The secretary general offered a respectable hedge with his comment on the requirement of WHO approval of the vaccine, but going on to state a belief in the “important role” of the Russian vaccine in any international response is highly questionable.

No doubt, Guterres, who has announced that he wants to keep his post, is trying to avoid an international incident in the lead up to the selection of the next secretary general in fall 2021, but he really ought to follow the science here.

Science magazine reported on the trials that led to the approval of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine in November. The approval process didn’t “pass the smell test” for two reasons, according to experts.

For one, the sample size of the trial was just too small, as it only included 20 coronavirus cases, which experts interviewed by Science noted is a cause for concern. The second problem that they noted has to do with one of the proteins that’s used in Sputnik, which has been linked to “catastrophe” in an HIV vaccine study 13 years ago. Participants in the study who received vaccinations with the protein in question were more susceptible to HIV than were members of the control group.

That said, Sputnik V has been administered to over a million people around the world, who have decided that the risk involved with the Russian vaccine is less than that of the disease itself. And an Indian drugmaker found it to be safe in mid-stage trials (though the study was conducted in partnership with Russia’s Direct Investment Fund).

The jury is nonetheless still out, and it’s certainly too early for someone like Guterres to lend his support to Moscow’s global public relations campaign to promote its unreliable, and potentially dangerous, vaccine.

Guterres and others shouldn’t listen to what Russian officials say — they should instead look at what they do. Business Insider today reported that a Russian diplomat posted in Estonia opted to receive the Pfizer shot (which has been maligned as unsafe and ineffective in Russia) over the Sputnik vaccine.

World

The Biden Administration Shouldn’t Back Down on Chinese Tech

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Huawei logo at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China (Aly Song/Reuters)

Asked Friday about the future of the China trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “everything the past administration has put in place is under review as it relates to our national security approach.”

This almost certainly also applies to the steps that the Trump administration took to deal with Chinese technology. There are many steps here worth preserving, but two stand out in light of the past week’s events.

The first is the Clean Network program, an extensive diplomatic push by the State Department that aimed to wean the rest of the world off of technology vulnerable to authoritarian regimes. By the end of the last administration, over 60 countries had signed onto agreements to curtail the use of equipment and carriers with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

This is exactly the kind of multilateral approach that national-security officials in Biden’s orbit have called for, yet the new State Department team neglected to commit to continuing it when asked by the Daily Caller:

Biden’s State Department told the Daily Caller News Foundation that it will pursue a more comprehensive approach towards combatting Chinese technology abuses, but did not address whether it intends to continue the Clean Network program or whether it was concerned that South Korea refused to join the initiative.

“Technology is at the center of U.S.-China competition. China has been willing to do whatever it takes to gain a technological advantage — stealing intellectual property, engaging in industrial espionage, and forcing technology transfer,” a State Department spokesperson told the DCNF.

“President Biden is firmly committed to making sure Chinese companies cannot misappropriate and misuse American data — and to ensuring that U.S. technology does not support China’s malign activities,” the spokesperson added. “We also have to play a much better offense, by investing in the sources of our technological strength — supercharging American research and development so that we maintain our innovation edge.”

There’s some unfinished business here. Although dozens of close U.S. partners have joined the Clean Network, some countries with major companies that use Huawei equipment, such as South Korea, have given the initiative a cold shoulder. The Biden team ought to continue this important work.

The other measure worth continuing is the Trump-era blacklisting of Huawei. It hardly needs stating that American entities should not be doing business with a telecoms giant that has extensive ties with the Chinese government. And yet, Gina Riamondo, the governor of Rhode Island, and Biden’s pick to run the Commerce Department didn’t commit to keeping Huawei on the entity list, Commerce’s blacklist, when asked during her confirmation hearing.

This didn’t go unnoticed. In a statement, Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on senators to put a hold on Raimondo’s nomination:

Huawei is not a normal telecommunications company – it is a CCP military company that threatens 5G security in our country, steals U.S. intellectual property, and supports the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide in Xinjiang and their human rights abuses across the country. We need a Commerce Department with strong national security credentials and a Secretary with a clear understanding of the CCP threat. Saying people should not use Huawei and actually keeping them on the Entity List are two very different things that result in very different outcomes. I again strongly urge the Biden Administration to reconsider this dangerous position. Until they make their intentions clear on whether they will keep Huawei on the Entity List, I urge my Senate colleagues to hold Ms. Raimondo’s confirmation.

Although Psaki attempted to clarify Raimondo’s comments by stressing the administration’s commitment to barring “untrusted vendors” from American networks, she also didn’t say anything about keeping Huawei on the entity list.

The Biden team has expressed a general willingness to maintain many Trump-era policies with respect to China, but the lack of commitment to these key parts of its tech strategy is cause for alarm.

Culture

Thirty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ethiopia, Bioethics, Dante & More (January 29, 2021)

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An Ethiopian Orthodox Priest holds a cross during the Meskel Festival, to commemorate the discovery of the true cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified on, in Addis Ababa, in 2016. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

Coming Monday from the Heritage Foundation and the National Review Institute: ON-DEMAND: Religion is Essential: COVID Lockdowns and Unjust Religious Discrimination

1. Kevin Clarke: Were Orthodox Christians massacred in Ethiopia?

2. Peggy Noonan:

On “Axios on HBO” Sunday we will hear from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. He is playing a hard hand. Russia is breathing down his neck, Republicans don’t want to hear about him because they’re embarrassed by the Trump phone call that triggered the first impeachment, and Democrats are embarrassed by Hunter Biden and Burisma. Mr. Zelensky seems kind of on his own, sitting on top of one of the world’s flashpoints. China has been sweetly reaching out.

Reporter Jonathan Swan asked the president how he felt as he saw the Capitol stormed. “Shocked,” Mr. Zelensky said. “I could not even imagine something like this was possible in the United States of America. . . . We are used to thinking that the U.S. has ideal democratic institutions where power is passed calmly, without war, without revolutions.” Such things happen elsewhere; they’ve happened in Ukraine. “That it could happen in the United States, no one expected that. . . . After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy in the world.”

For more than a century we have claimed the mantle of world power, basked in the warm glow of our exceptionalism, and put ourselves forward as an example. When you do that you have responsibilities; you owe something in return. What you owe is the kind of admirable behavior that gives the world something to aim for. On 1/6 they saw the storming and the siege and thought: Ah, no stability in that place. We can’t learn how to do it there and replicate it here.

This is a loss to rising democracies and also to us, to our standing and reputation. Senate conviction is the chance to show the world: No, we won’t have this; those who did it will pay the highest penalty.

It matters that all evidence be presented, that everyone sees we can come down like a hammer, ensuring that 1/6 was a regrettable incident, not a coming tendency.

It matters that the world see this. That we see it.

10. Inés San Martín: Syrian archbishop calls on the West to lift sanctions against his country

11. Keeping China accountable for Xinjiang

12. April Ponnuru:  Virginia fails to protect elderly: My parents caught COVID while vaccines languish unused

13. Nicholas Frankovich: We Can’t Let the Old Die, Just Because They’re Old and Expensive

14. The last thing New York needs: Advocates in N.Y. renew fight for ‘death with dignity’ bill 

15. Marlo Safi: ‘Untold Harm Has Been Done’: Twitter Sued For Allegedly Profiting From Spread Of Video Showing Sex Trafficked 13-Year-Old Boy

16. In Christianity Today: I Escaped. Now I’m Using My Voice for Victims Trafficked to the U.S.

Continue reading “Thirty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ethiopia, Bioethics, Dante & More (January 29, 2021)”

World

A Rough START for Biden’s Supposed Hawkishness on Russia

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President Joe Biden speaks during a brief appearance at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

When Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin earlier this week to discuss the extension of New START, a nuclear arms limitation treaty, he went on to lecture the Russian president on the SolarWinds cyber-espionage operation, the attempted assassination of Putin critic Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election, and reports that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. soldiers.

This fed into a triumphant attitude from some Democrats and media figures that doesn’t quite accurately describe Biden’s approach to Russia. The Twitter account of the House Homeland Security Committee Democrats stated that erroneous view most succinctly. “Finally a President that will stand up to Russia and Putin,” said the post.

But after just a week on the job, Biden caved on New START, agreeing to a five-year extension without any other conditions. Once Biden telegraphed his support of the extension to Putin, the Russian political system leapt into action — and by the end of the next day, both houses of the Russian parliament had approved the deal. Putin signed the bill earlier today.

Even some of the officials tapped to serve in Biden’s State Department wanted to drive a harder bargain. Last summer, Victoria Nuland, Biden’s designate for undersecretary of state for political affairs, wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs detailing the terms under which the U.S. should renew New START:

Washington should use Putin’s sense of urgency to tie discussions over New START to wider negotiations on all aspects of military power—nuclear and conventional, space and cyberspace. To allow time for those talks, the treaty could be provisionally extended for a year or two, but Washington should not grant Moscow what it wants most: a free rollover of New START without any negotiations to address Russia’s recent investments in short- and medium-range nuclear weapons systems and new conventional weapons. Nor should it insist on including China in the talks right away, as the current administration advocates.

It’s worth noting that Nuland staked out her position somewhere between the Trump administration’s ultimately unfruitful demands that China join New START and Biden’s decision to bless a five-year extension without any additional conditions. In the end, the president picked the position most favored by the Russian side.

One hardly needs to run through the record of Donald Trump’s rhetorical failures with regard to Russia. A non-exhaustive list would include his decision not to decisively condemn the Russian acts that Biden brought up during his call with Putin, in addition to the disastrous Helsinki press conference in which Trump took Putin’s word over U.S. intelligence community assessments and his impeachment-triggering effort to hold up lethal defensive aid to Ukraine.

But where the former president’s rhetoric failed, his administration had a clear-eyed approach to countering Putin’s ambitions. Trump’s attorney general and secretary of state both publicly blamed Russia for the SolarWinds hack. The administration implemented aggressive sanctions in an attempt to kill a Russian pipeline that would’ve harmed Ukraine’s position in European energy markets. And it expelled Russian officials and closed a consulate in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K.

Biden deserves credit for denouncing Putin’s destabilizing actions, but his decision to unconditionally extend New START doesn’t send any promising signs about his administration’s ability to deal with Moscow.

Culture

Twenty-Five March for Life–Related Things That Caught My Eye Today (January 29, 2021)

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Pro-life markers walk near the U.S. Capitol as they take part in the 48th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

From elsewhere on NRO:

Editors: Joe Biden’s Abortion Extremism

Editors: Andrew Cuomo’s Shame

Benjamin Watson: Pro-Justice Means Pro-Life

1. Mary Hallan FioRito: Remembering the legacy of pro-life pioneer Joseph Scheidler

2. Jeanne Mancini: Reality Is Not Arbitrary

3.

4. Charlie Camosy: Open Letter to Pope Francis on Prenatal Justice

5. Mary Eberstadt: President Biden, Speak to the March for Life [He did the opposite and rescinded the Mexico City Policy]

6. Ed Mechmann: Abortion and the Corruption of Law

7. Helen Alvare: John Paul II’s ‘Evangelium Vitae’ Gave a Voice to Those Promoting Respect for Life

8. Biden says he’ll make Roe the ‘law of the land’; what would that mean?

9. G. Tracy Mehan III:

But it is in the human heart where the greatest conflicts over abortion arise, both within itself and in its relationship with others.

These conflicts create a void, an absence of love, which severs the moral, emotional, and psychological ties connecting human beings to one another including their unborn children. Alienation, estrangement, guilt, a sense of loss, and loneliness are the consequence. In this very personal, private realm, literature often provides greater illumination than polemics.

10. Naomi Schaefer Riley: What lessons can the child welfare system take from the COVID-19 pandemic?

11. Knights of Columbus: Latest Marist Poll on “Americans’ Opinions on Abortion” finds most Americans still agreeing that abortion in the United States should be limited and that tax dollars should not go to fund abortions.

12. National Right to Life Committee State of Abortion 2021 report

13. The Institute for Pro-Life Advancement: The Pro-Life Support & Nuanced Abortion Views of Millennials and Gen Z

14. Serena Sigillito: The Feminist Movement Before and After Abortion

15. In America: Joe Biden’s missed opportunity on abortion

16. Dignity before Accomplishment

17.

18. Anthony Fauci to WHO:

And it will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally.  To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City Policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.

19. San Francisco archbishop responds to Pelosi: ‘No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion’

20. Helen Alvare: Catholic Church Is Correct in Not Letting Abortion Issue Slide

21. Fr. Raymond de Souza: Archbishop Gomez Rock-Solid in His Inauguration Day Message

22. George Weigel: President Biden and a Catholic inflection point

23. French doctor who made Down discovery closer to sainthood

24.

25. Rereading John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae

Religion

The Year the March for Life Went Virtual — Both Strange and Oddly Helpful

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Pro-life marchers take part in the 48th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

If you’re not a regular to the March for Life every January, you might not fully understand just how out of sorts those of us who did not go to Washington, D.C., to march today are feeling. I’m not sure there’s anywhere where I run into so many people I know or who know me (many National Review readers). For a number of years, I’d run up to the Supreme Court ahead of most, to see what was happening there. There’s usually a rag-tag group of angry anarchists with crude signs declaring their love for abortion. (Which I know is not representative of most people who identify as pro-choice.) This would mean I would run into very many of the thousands heading up the Hill to the Court. I’ve normally been overwhelmed in the best of ways by all the friendly faces.

The March for Life is an annual civic and spiritual ritual — though I am encouraged by the secular pro-life and even atheist groups that show up, too. For Catholics, there’s a big Mass the night before. Young people who came on buses and their chaperones will sleep in the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception after the Vigil for Life before they march. (They had the Mass last night with representatives, like the March this year, of everyone who would normally be there.)

It’s all an encounter with hope. We’ve endured a near half-century of legal abortion because of Roe v. Wade. And yet, every year, thousands of young people and others spend hours traveling to D.C. to take a stand against this human-rights travesty in our backyard. There’s horror about the evil, but there is also joy about the gift of life and a confidence that there will be victory over this intimate violence.

I have no doubt that some of the violence we have seen stems back to this poison in our country. I remember being at the Supreme Court for an abortion-clinic buffer-zone case that Mark Rienzi from the Becket Fund and Catholic University argued. Eleanor McCullen was the lead plaintiff, she’s a grandmother who had dedicated years to being a sign of hope to women who do not want to have an abortion. Outside the Court, after the oral argument, Eleanor talked about what a generous people Americans are — giving to people in need throughout the world as both a nation and as individuals. Except when it comes to the unborn. She challenged America to rethink this. Sadly, that was 2013, and now we have what looks to be the most anti-life president when it comes to abortion — and even more tragically, he’s a Catholic who should know better.

I watched video of the smaller March this year — and got some photos and reports from friends who were among the representatives of us all. It was much quieter, much more prayerful. It’s always prayerful, but you have a beautiful, wild mix — of young people with pro-life chants, singing, friends in conversation, and more. Usually there are so many people, some never figure out where the banner is and just go for it. It looks like many marches, if you are watching from the side of the Senate buildings.

And this year, the smaller march seemed appropriate in more ways than the coronavirus pandemic and fear of violence, knowing how riled up some are in the worst ways. Last year was the first year there was near-universal coverage of the March for Life because Donald Trump decided to show up to it. It was the first time I saw so many candidate signs at a March for Life. That didn’t seem right — people are free, too, of course, but it gave the March a different feel, one that wasn’t representative of what it has been for four decades. I actually always appreciated that George W. Bush didn’t, but would send a message.

The president showing up changes the dynamic of a thing. And people didn’t like W. either. Trump, of course, was a whole different scene. And it was hard on our credibility with people meeting the March for the first time — he said that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Even Nancy Pelosi? Yes, even Nancy Pelosi. And one of the fatal problems with politics today is that we see political opponents as evil. Their policies may be — abortion certainly is. I’m praying against all reason, perhaps, that there can be mass conversions on the issue. I think the slower, quieter march that left so many of us home praying and a quiet rose laying at the Court makes for a more contemplative marking of the January anniversary of Roe. How can we better show the face of love of the pro-life movement, a cause that is not associated with or contingent on any one person or politician? The cause is just and peaceful in the face of intimate violence shrouded by euphemisms that lie.

I was thinking today: When we hopefully see the day when we don’t have to march in protest of Roe (which I don’t think is imminent, contrary to the rhetoric around Trump Supreme Court picks), I think we will march anyway, in gratitude. But maybe the ruling restoring sanity to our law will come down in the spring, which would be fitting for new life for our country, instead of the appropriate bitter cold we march in now.

Politics & Policy

Jewish Space Lasers, Etc.

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Only today’s Republican party could pull off the public-relations coup of putting the dumbest person in Congress on the education committee.

Why Is Matt Gaetz Campaigning against Liz Cheney in Wyoming?

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) speaks with the media in Washington, D.C., February 2, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

What is Matt Gaetz doing?

In case you missed it — and let’s remember, the Florida representative’s entire modus operandi is designed to ensure otherwise, thus I am somewhat loath to give him what he wants — Gaetz has flown to Wyoming to campaign against Liz Cheney. Cheney is the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, and was one of ten Republican members to vote in favor of impeaching former president Donald Trump for his role in the January 6 chaos on Capitol Hill.

It’s worth conceding at the outset that one can consider that this is a complicated question

Politics & Policy

‘It Still Doesn’t Make Sense to Impeach and Convict Donald Trump’

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George Will has a column making the prudential case against impeachment, which I’ve always found pretty compelling and looks stronger all the time.

 

 

Politics & Policy

Will Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen Flip-Flop on the Filibuster?

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In 2019, Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada said she supported keeping the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for most legislation. “I think we should keep the filibuster. It’s one of the few things that we have left in order to let all of the voices be heard here in the Senate,” Rosen told National Review. “What you might think today would be in your favor, might not be in your favor tomorrow,” she told the Huffington Post. But it’s not clear whether Rosen, a moderate who was the only Democrat to unseat a Senate Republican in 2018, still supports the filibuster. In the Capitol earlier this week, I asked Rosen twice if she still backs the filibuster, but she wouldn’t reply. Two moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, reaffirmed their support for the filibuster this week.

Politics & Policy

Poll: Strong Majority of Americans Back the Hyde Amendment

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A pro-life demonstrator holds up a mock human fetus, as groups chant over one another outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

A new Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus asks Americans: “Please tell me if you strongly support, support, oppose, or strongly oppose using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion.” Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, while 38 percent support it. Those numbers are broadly consistent with polling on the Hyde amendment in recent years. In 2016, a Politico/Harvard poll found that likely voters oppose Medicaid funding of abortion by a 22-point margin — 58 percent to 36 percent.

President Biden this week rescinded the Mexico City Policy, so groups that perform or promote abortion overseas can once again receive funding for contraceptive programs from U.S. taxpayers. Pro-life Americans have long opposed the use of taxpayer dollars that subsidize abortionists, but keeping the Hyde amendment has been an even greater priority because direct funding of abortion procedures has greater impact on the number of lives lost to abortion

Protecting conscience rights is indeed a weighty reason to support the Hyde amendment, but there is an even better reason to do so. What makes it the most important pro-life public policy since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision is this: When you subsidize something, you get more of it, and this basic fact of social science holds true when that something is abortion.

One study by the Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood offshoot, found that in states that use their own tax dollars to pay for abortions undergone by Medicaid recipients, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients is 3.9 times the rate among nonrecipients, “while in states that do not permit Medicaid funding for abortions, Medicaid recipients are only 1.6 times as likely as nonrecipients to have abortions.”

The precise number of lives saved by the Hyde amendment is a matter of dispute, but according to a 2016 report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an organization affiliated with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, “the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million unborn children” since the policy was first enacted in 1976.

That’s an average of 50,000 human lives saved from abortion each year.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged in a 2009 interview that a major rationale for funding abortions for Medicaid recipients was that it would result in a culling of the poor, though she put it a bit more euphemistically. “Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of,” she said. “So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion.” For that reason, the liberal Supreme Court justice said she was surprised that the Supreme Court did not strike down the Hyde amendment in the 1980 case Harris v. McRae.

While the House appropriations chair is pushing forward to scrap the Hyde amendment in 2021, one former pro-life Democratic congressman, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, is doubtful Speaker Pelosi has the votes in the narrowly divided House to kill the pro-life policy.

In the Senate, two Democrats have committed to keeping the 60-vote threshold for legislation, including spending bills that fund Medicaid. But it remains to be seen whether a simple majority of Senate Democrats, under complex budget reconciliation rules, will find a way to fund abortion. West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin told National Review in December that killing “the Hyde amendment would be foolish and I’m strongly opposed to this push from some Members of Congress,” but Manchin hasn’t commented on whether he supports a “public option” for health insurance that would cover elective abortion.

Health Care

Worst of Both Worlds, Continued

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Earlier today, in the grocery store, a guy bumped into me. What was particularly odd was that he was wearing two masks on his face . . . but both were below his nose. Clearly, this guy was not an anti-masker. He’s worried enough to wear two masks. But he’s not careful enough to keep either one above his nose, and thus his chin was doubly protected. And somehow he managed to not look where he was going and walk into me.

He’s a walking reminder to public-health experts that all the public-service announcements and awareness campaigns in the world just aren’t going to reach some people.

Health Care

Should Teachers Have Vaccine Priority over the Elderly?

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That’s clearly the assumption behind this Axios article. I don’t think there is any case for such prioritization absent a strong commitment to return to in-person schooling. But I’m not sure such prioritization — or really any prioritization that creates complexity or administrative delay — is a good idea anyway. The closer we can get to “first-come, first-served, with the elderly allowed to cut in line,” the better.

Politics & Policy

Capitol Police Head Calls for ‘Permanent Fencing’ on Capitol Hill

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One of the quiet, underappreciated charms of Washington, D.C., — yes, believe it or not, it has some — is the relative accessibility of some of the physical locations most important to our system of government. It’s true that the White House and Capitol Hill have for years required security procedures actually to enter them. But getting pretty close to both hasn’t been that hard, as legions of tourists with cheesy photos could attest.

Well, you might want to turn that “is” into a “was.” Over the summer, after an unfortunate spectacle in the proximity of the White House, the entire area around the White House North Lawn, a span of several blocks, has been fenced off, and remains so (at least as of the last time I was there). And now, after the events of January 6, Capitol Hill has gotten similar treatment. Virtually the entire area, encompassing not just the Capitol itself but also congressional offices and buildings for the Library of Congress, is now behind a security fence, and staffed with a contingent of National Guard and other officers.

Some of this may be permanent on the Hill. Capitol Police acting chief Yogananda Pittman said in a statement Thursday that “in light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol.”

Nothing is set in stone yet, and area politicians, including both Virginia senators and D.C.’s mayor, raised objections to permanent security measures of this nature. But fencing has already been up for nearly a month. And we’ve seen before how understandable security measures for an extraordinary situation can become a new normal. What that new normal may involve, and how it might affect not just the city but also the character of our government, remains to be seen.

Politics & Policy

State of Play

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Protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Here as of today is the state of play in the Senate GOP.

The president of the United States peacefully and patriotically sent a mob to the Capitol which peacefully and patriotically broke down the doors, killed a cop, trampled one of their own, suffered two heart attacks and a casualty in the line of fire, and demanded to hang the president of the Senate. Forty-five Senate Republicans evidently think this is no big deal, which suggests that they have a low view of their own consequence. I share it.

The five who do think this was actionable are two liberal women, a man in his last term, a septuagenarian multimillionaire with a safe seat, and Ben Sasse, whose campaign to be Mr. Anti-Trump is eased by having so little competition.

Meanwhile on the House side, Kevin McCarthy has met with the former president who, he says, wants to help Republicans win in 2022. How will the former president do that? Bigger mobs?

Politics & Policy

More on the Constitutionality of Impeaching Ex-Officials

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Then–President Donald Trump departs the White House, January 12, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Like Ramesh, I believe it is constitutional for the Senate to conduct impeachment trials for former officials, so it’s no surprise that I am in lockstep with his critique of the essay by professors Robert Delahunty and John Yoo, who’ve made a comprehensive case for the unconstitutionality position — which they style as “the originalist case,” though I find Dan McLaughlin’s more persuasive. (After all, Dan agrees with me!)

In particular, Ramesh is right that Robert and John are mistaken in inferring that our “it’s constitutional” side has conceded the force of their textual argument in support of the “it’s unconstitutional” position.

The misunderstanding, I think, is based on the subtle but significant difference between A) acknowledging that a textual argument is plausible, and B) conceding that it is dispositive (such that our only recourse is to argue against the text). Some proponents of the textual argument for unconstitutionality (John Bolton, for instance) are so convinced by it that they portray it as incontestable. This leads to a flawed assumption that those of us who rely on historical and precedential evidence are, indeed, making a wholly atextual argument.

What we’re saying (or, at least, what I am saying) is that, while the “it’s unconstitutional” side’s reading of the germane provisions is rational, it is not nearly as airtight as they suggest.

For example, Article II, Section 4, says that “The President . . . shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Now, it is rational to read this as meaning conviction in an impeachment trial is meant to apply to the incumbent president who can be removed from office as a result, and thus infer its inapplicability to a former president who cannot be removed. Yet, to acknowledge that a construction is rational is not the same thing as saying it is the only possible rational construction. It would also be rational to read the clause (as I do) merely to mean that if the defendant in the impeachment trial happens to be the incumbent president, he must be removed from office. That is, the clause says nothing about — i.e., it places no limitations on — who else might be properly subjected to an impeachment.

Notice, moreover, that the clause also says nothing about what other penalties besides removal might be imposed on an incumbent president. If Article II, Section 4 was meant to have the all-encompassing force that the “it’s unconstitutional” side gives it, one would think that the only available penalty for impeachment would be removal — after all, just as the clause only refers to incumbent presidents, it also only refers to the removal penalty. But we know removal is not the only penalty. Article I, Section 3 states that, besides removal, judgment in an impeachment case may include disqualification from future office.

Also notice that we can say with certainty that removal and disqualification are the only two impeachment penalties. How do we know? Because Article I, Section 3 explicitly says so. Why is that worth noting? Well, it suggests that when the Framers wanted to write a clear exclusion, they did so. But they did not write one excluding former officials from impeachment — and at the same time took pains to include a disqualification penalty that would make it rational to impeach a former official even if the official could no longer be removed.

Again, that’s not the only plausible reading. I do not pretend to be in possession of some Rosetta Stone that enables me to make an undeniable, dispositive textual claim. I am simply saying there is no such textual claim. We are all groping for rational inferences from the disconnected clauses. That is what lawyers do when a text is not indisputable.

What lawyers in that situation also do is consider evidence besides the text that may tell us what the public understanding of a term or clause was at the time the Constitution was adopted. To repeat, to do this is not to make an atextual argument; it is to make an interpretive argument about the disputed text.

For example, Parliament’s impeachment of Warren Hastings clearly influenced the Framers’ thinking about impeachment. Now, the fact that Hastings was no longer in office (as governor-general of Bengal) at the time of his impeachment does not necessarily mean the Framers intended to adopt Parliament’s application of impeachment to former officials. It would be rational to infer, however, that if the Framers were convinced that Parliament’s approach on this point was ill-advised, they would have said so some place — at least in the debates if not in the Constitution itself. But there is no indication of that. Instead, the Framers invoked a term, impeachment, that was known at the time to apply to former officials — just as, in lieu of “maladministration,” they adopted “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the then-longstanding British standard that was alleged against Hastings by Edmund Burke, who led Parliament’s impeachment prosecution.

Finally, some general thoughts on why I’ve become convinced that all the lawyering is missing a fundamental point. This is one of those situations in which lawyers are wielding undue influence over something that, in essence, is not a legal issue.

Because lawyers dominate debates over constitutional questions, they can’t help but bring to bear the constitutional-law toolkit: all the principles about construction, textualism, original public meaning, the effect of precedent, “organic” interpretation, and so on. That is the professional discipline. And it is all well and good — indeed, it’s essential — when we are dealing with a legal issue.

The Framers, however, made impeachment political, not legal. In doing so, they gave plenary authority over impeachment trials to the Senate, a political body. They did so precisely in the expectation that, in resolving impeachment, senators would bring to bear knowledge, experience, and political sensibility. That is, they would have much broader discretion in arriving at a judgment than is permitted in a judicial proceeding, where jurors A) are expected to consider only the factual evidence admitted into the record, and B) may apply only legal principles on which they’ve been instructed by the judge, who must derive those principles from settled law.

The Constitution’s text does not settle the question whether a non-incumbent may be subjected to an impeachment trial, conviction, and disqualification. What the Constitution’s text does settle, though, is that impeachment trials are completely controlled by the Senate. The only real boundary the Constitution sets is that the Senate may conduct an impeachment trial only if the House has found an impeachable offense. But whether and how to conduct the trial are political questions, not legal ones. The Supreme Court is not going to weigh in — except, perhaps, to direct any lower federal court that presumes to weigh that it must butt out.

In then-president Trump’s first impeachment, there was an issue that was similarly political but pored over nonetheless by constitutional legal beagles: What are high crimes and misdemeanors? It is another term that the Constitution’s text does not settle. As a result, there was no shortage of resort to Hamilton’s explication of the concept; to the exchanges between Mason and Madison during the Philadelphia Convention; to the laundry-list of offenses that Burke alleged against Hastings; and so on.

In the end, though, is was the commonsense reasoning of a seemingly lesser light, Gerald Ford, that carried the day. In the early Seventies (ironically, four years before he became president due to the near impeachment of Richard Nixon), Ford was the House minority leader trying (with Nixon’s encouragement) to launch impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Pressed on the question of how to define high crimes and misdemeanors, Ford said that they are “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers them to be at a moment in history.”

Yes . . . and similarly, with the Constitution’s text providing no definitive answer, if the House has voted an article of impeachment against a current or former federal officer, including a president, then an impeachment trial may he conducted if a majority of the United States Senate considers it appropriate to do so at that moment in history.

It should go without saying, this is not about whether conducting such a trial is prudent, just whether it’s permissible. That’s up to the Senate.

Politics & Policy

Marijuana and Black Markets

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Chemdawg marijuana plants grow at a facility in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada October 29, 2019. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Over the holidays, I had a career first: a mention in the National Enquirer. You will be relieved to hear that aliens hadn’t stolen my baby, and I hadn’t had a walk-on part in a celebrity scandal. It turns out that the publication’s website runs a regular column by the longtime marijuana-legalization activist Richard Cowan, and he objected to something I had written about his cause.

The work of the late drug-policy scholar Mark Kleiman convinced me “that possession and use should be legal — but that sales should be confined to nonprofits, user cooperatives and state monopolies.” While the war on pot should be ended, we should also dampen the incentive for marijuana sellers to make it cheaper, to market their product, to fight regulation, and generally to nurture the growth of a customer base of intensive users.

Cowan disagrees with me in part because he does not think intensive users are a problem: He says they’re just people who use marijuana more than I think appropriate. That’s a glib dismissal of a real issue, one Kleiman wrote about in 2019.

Over the past quarter-century, the population of “current” (past-month) users has more than doubled (to 22 million) and the fraction of those users who report daily or near-daily use has more than tripled (to about 35%). Those daily or near-daily users account for about 80% of the total cannabis consumed. Between a third and a half of them report the symptoms of Cannabis Use Disorder: They’re using more, or more frequently, than they intend to; they’ve tried to cut back or quit and failed; cannabis use is interfering with their other interests and responsibilities; and it’s causing conflict with people they care about.

The more important source of Cowan’s disagreement, though, seems to be a misunderstanding. He has been much more engaged in the policy debate about marijuana than I have, and surely knows more about it than I do. In this case, though, added familiarity may have been a weakness. He must be used to arguing about proposals to decriminalize marijuana possession and use while continuing to criminalize its sale and distribution. He treats the Kleiman idea as though it were identical to that one. He thinks I propose “keeping cannabis in the black market,” which he says would both fail and continue to fuel organized crime in poor countries.

But I agree with Cowan that a large black market is a major problem with the current policy. The policy I wrote about would vastly shrink that market. It would not eliminate it, of course: No policy that (for example) leaves sales to minors illegal would. I live in a state, Virginia, where liquor is sold by the state government. It’s a set-up that has its pluses and minuses, and proposals are sometimes made to change it. Adherence to the law is far from perfect: I gather that underage sales, for example, still take place. But we don’t have anything like a 1920s-style black market in alcohol.

If we can have a much smaller black market in marijuana without also developing a thriving, politically powerful marijuana industry, that seems like a better outcome than the available alternatives. Is there a good reason we can’t have it? Enquiring minds want to know.

Politics & Policy

Why March for Life?

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Below is Lyla Stensrud, born at 21 weeks, in 2014. She is perhaps the most premature surviving infant in the United States — though soon medical technology will break that record. Somewhere around 10,000–15,000 viable or near-viable babies just like Lyla are aborted every year. Not only does our new president, at the behest of his party, support the legality of this heinous practice, but he also recently signed an executive order that allows American tax dollars to provide or promote abortion around the globe, and he backs the elimination of the Hyde amendment, which would allow the federal government to fund killing at home.

Now here is Lyla Stensrud at four years of age. I have yet to hear anyone offer a good argument — other than pointing to the extreme rare cases that genuinely threaten the life of the mother — as to why it is either moral or legal to end the life of thousands of children like Lyla every year.

Culture

The Pro-Life Movement Faces Unique Challenges in the Year Ahead

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A pro-life protester marches during the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Since this year’s March for Life is taking place virtually, many pro-lifers will be participating online. Meanwhile, pro-lifers will still be busy in other ways this week, with a number of online conferences and spin-off events. Students for Life of America (SFLA) is organizing Life Chains around the country. Today, 40 Days for Life and Live Action are encouraging pro-lifers to pray outside abortion facilities in lieu of taking their usual trip to Washington, D.C. These activities will surely play a helpful role in raising awareness on life issues.

Although the pro-life movement has yet to succeed in overturning Roe v. Wade, we have made progress over the years and have succeeded in reducing the number of abortions that occur. Since 1980, the U.S. abortion rate has declined by more than 50 percent. An important reason for this decline is that a higher percentage of women choose to carry unintended pregnancies to term. This illustrates the effectiveness of pro-life educational, service, and legislative efforts.

However, this year there are more reasons for concern than usual, including three developments that are particularly troubling. First, as has been covered elsewhere on NRO, the Biden administration is making abortion policy more permissive both at home and abroad. Second, many blue states are working to weaken existing legal protections for the preborn. Finally, multiple reports indicate that the U.S. abortion rate rose slightly in 2018, partly because of an increase in chemical abortions.

In recent years, Democratic presidents have made it all but impossible for pro-lifers to enact protections for the preborn at the federal level. There are reasons to believe that President Biden might do more damage to the pro-life cause than either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama did. Like his predecessors, Biden has done away with the Mexico City policy, and U.S. foreign-aid dollars, will once again fund non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortions overseas.

Unlike previous Democratic presidents, Biden opposes the Hyde amendment, which prevents federal Medicaid dollars from funding elective abortions. Furthermore, since the Democratic party has majority control of the House and a slim majority in the Senate, they will make a concerted push to do away with the amendment. There is a strong consensus among researchers across the political spectrum that the Hyde amendment saves lives. My 2016 Lozier Institute study found that the amendment saves 60,000 lives every year. Pro-lifers will have to work exceptionally hard this year to defend it.

There are reasons for concern at the state level as well. As Democrats have shifted to the left on life issues, they have been weakening protections for the unborn in many blue states. In recent years, both Illinois and Maine have begun to cover elective abortions through their state Medicaid programs. A few weeks ago, Massachusetts weakened its pro-life parental-involvement law, allowing 16- and 17-year-old girls to obtain abortions without informing their parents. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has indicated that he would sign legislation permitting non-physicians to perform abortions

Finally, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data released in November indicate that in 2018, the U.S. abortion rate rose for the first time since 2006. Some policy changes in liberal states played a role. Another concerning trend is a significant increase in chemical abortions. According to the CDC, between 2015 and 2018, the share of all abortions that were chemical abortions increased from 25 percent to 40 percent. In 2018 alone, the number of chemical abortions increased by more than 10 percent. As abortion facilities have closed down, supporters of legal abortion have used both legislation and litigation to expand access to chemical abortion.

As pro-lifers gather both in person and online to protest the tragic Roe v. Wade decision, we should certainly the celebrate the long-term gains we have made politically, legislatively, and in public opinion. However, we should also be aware that we face unique challenges this coming year. Since 1973, the pro-life movement has shown itself to be durable and resilient. In the face of setbacks, we have never stopped our advocacy on behalf of the unborn. To our credit, we have found ways to make progress even during hostile presidential administrations. This year, we need to redouble our efforts to build a culture of life and look forward to celebrating some impressive pro-life victories during next year’s March for Life.

World

Portugal Falls to Euthanasia Consciousness

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(Pixabay)

The Portuguese parliament has voted to legalize lethal-injection euthanasia. The president is expected to sign the bill shortly.

With Portugal, much of Western Europe outside of Scandinavia has legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide. Here’s a quick list.

  • Germany has death-on-demand after its highest court ruled that committing suicide — for whatever reason — is a constitutional right and that having assistance is an ancillary aspect of that right.
  • An Austrian court recently issued a similar ruling, although that remains subject to appeal.
  • The Netherlands has lethal-injection euthanasia for all ages, including babies and children, and has conjoined doctor-administered death with organ harvesting — including of people who are mentally ill.
  • Belgian euthanasia law is as radical as that of the Netherlands. There have even been joint euthanasia killings of elderly couples and people with mental illnesses.
  • Spain recently legalized lethal-injection euthanasia.
  • Switzerland allows suicide clinics to make people dead for a fee, which created the “suicide tourism” phenomenon.
  • Luxembourg permits lethal-injection euthanasia.

The issue is also being pushed hard in Ireland, Scotland, and the U.K., with Ireland the most likely to be the next country to jump into the abyss.

Euthanasia/assisted suicide is spreading throughout other Western countries. New Zealand just legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, after 65 percent of voters approved in a national referendum. Two Australian states, Victoria and Western Australia, legalized assisted suicide, with much of the rest of the country debating the issue.

Canada has a radical and expanding regime of lethal-injection euthanasia. The next step will be to remove death as “reasonably foreseeable” and permitting dementia patients to order themselves killed.

Meanwhile, eight U.S. states (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont, Maine, and New Jersey) and the District of Columbia permit doctor-assisted suicide by statute, with some moving to allow nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to lethally prescribe. Montana also has a murky supreme court ruling permitting assisted suicide without restrictions. There are serious legalization efforts afoot right now in New York, Connecticut, New Mexico, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

Politics & Policy

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly Won’t Say If He Supports Keeping the Filibuster 

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Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly speaks at an election campaign party in Tucson, Ariz., November 3, 2020. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

This week, moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona made firm public commitments to keep the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation, but some Senate Democrats have simply refused to say whether they support the filibuster.

One of those Democrats ducking the issue is Sinema’s Democratic colleague from Arizona, Mark Kelly, who won a special election in November to serve the final two years of the late Senator John McCain’s term. Earlier this week in the Capitol, Kelly was asked twice if he supports the filibuster, but he wouldn’t give a direct answer either time: 

National Review: Senator Kelly, do you have any thoughts on the filibuster? Do you share Senator Sinema’s position that you’re in favor of keeping it under all circumstances?

Senator Kelly: Well, I’ve been, since I got here at the beginning of December, you know, working really hard to come up with bipartisan solutions. We’ve got this bipartisan group—Democrats and Republicans—I was on the call with the White House the other day. I think any organization is going to function better when people can work together and we can work across party lines to get things done.

NR: Specifically, on keeping the 60-vote threshold, is that something that you would like to do? 

Kelly: Well, like I said, you know, bipartisanship is really important to me. I think it’s important to Arizonans too. We just want to make the place work.

Kelly’s platitudes and evasions on the filibuster stand in stark contrast to the straightforward comments of Arizona’s senior Democratic senator. “They will not get my vote on [nuking the filibuster],” Sinema told Politico in November 2019. “In fact, whether I’m in the majority or the minority I would always vote to reinstate the protections for the minority. . . . It is the right thing for the country.” Politico reported on Monday that Sinema still “opposes eliminating the filibuster and said she’s as firm as Manchin and is ‘not open to changing her mind,’ her office said.” Manchin told the Washington Post this week: “I will not vote to bust the filibuster under any condition, on anything that you can think of.”

Politics & Policy

Impeachment vs. Censure

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During the last three debates over a presidential impeachment, many people have suggested that a censure resolution would be a better way forward. My Bloomberg Opinion column today looks at why that option seems attractive to so many people, and the reasons its advantages are smaller than they look.

Politics & Policy

Virginia’s Vaccination Failure

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My wife writes for USA Today about how the state government failed her parents.

Like many older people, my parents live with a number of health challenges. This week, I discovered they suffer from an additional risk: living in Fairfax County, Virginia. . . .

PC Culture

University of Dallas Refuses to Bow to Transgender Ideology

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(Screenshot from University of Dallas/YouTube)

The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher reports on a recent episode at the University of Dallas concerning the now-common conflict between transgender ideology and academic freedom. Unusually for a story of this genre, there was a satisfactory resolution.

The story, as documented by Dreher, is that of a disgruntled transgender alumnus who wrote an open letter to the university’s board of trustees, bishop chancellor, faculty senate, president, and provost in response to alleged “social media posting of hatred against trans persons by chair of the political philosophy department, Prof. David Upham.”

The alleged offender, Professor Upham, had publicly posted a (since-deleted) message on Facebook, complaining about Biden’s appointment of Dr. Rachel Levine (formerly Richard Levine) as assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Upham expressed his disapproval of what he perceived to be Levine’s immoral lifestyle choices; the abandonment of his God-given vocation as a husband and father in order to “put on a somewhat convincing hormonal costume to go along with his conventionally feminine dress.” He also expressed concern that

Dr Levine, in concert with the whole Biden administration will try to use the powers of the federal government to FORCE others, by their words and their deed, including their medical expertise and know-how — to participate in these falsehoods, these hormonal and surgical harms — these wrongs.

The author of the letter asking for his removal (a self-identified married trans woman and father to adult children) identified Professor Upham, on the basis of his Facebook post, as an enemy of truth and charity and accordingly asked the university to remove him. But the university’s response, issued in the form of a joint statement by the president and provost, was unwavering:

The university is following its existing policies and protocols in this matter, and will not yield to internal or external demands to divert from them. We are not in the business of limiting the speech of our faculty and staff when they speak on personal social media sites. If anyone is wondering whether we uphold Catholic teaching, we do. Our Catholic identity and fidelity to its teachings is at the core of our mission. The university embraces unreservedly the Church’s articulation of the moral law, including its articulation of those truths that deal with the embodied nature of the human person and human sexuality. If anyone is wondering whether we will protect the civil rights of all the members of our community, we can say unequivocally that we will. UD endeavors to respect the intrinsic dignity of each and every person in a spirit of truth and charity.

One of the oddities of the objection made by Upham’s accuser was that Upham had used his social-media platform as a “bully pulpit.” But since when has the public or private life of a federal government official been beyond criticism? The University of Dallas ought to be commended for its commitment to First Amendment principles in upholding religious and academic freedom.

Politics & Policy

Why the Constitution Does Not ‘Contradict’ Late Impeachments, Explained with Droll Elucidations

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(giftlegacy/Getty Images)

Ramesh Ponnuru offers an excellent rebuttal of Robert Delahunty and John Yoo’s argument that late impeachment trials are unconstitutional. I have a few related thoughts.

I was, I must say, mystified by this, the linchpin of D&Y’s article:

Article II of the Constitution declares that “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Impeaching a former official flatly contradicts this wording.

I mean no disrespect, but it appears that D&Y don’t know what “contradict” means. What it means is to “take issue” with something by “assert[ing] the contrary” of it, or “to imply the opposite or the denial of something.” (A “contrary” is “a fact or condition incompatible with another,” or “a proposition so related to another that they both may be false” — irrelevant for our purposes — “but they cannot both be true” — i.e., the truth of one is incompatible with the truth of the other.)

What’s that you say? This is terribly boring and it’s time for some droll elucidations? Well, if you insist.

Let’s say the Senate took an exam on the Constitution and you’ve graded it and you’re handing the tests back. (A lot of the senators failed, I’m sorry to report.) You say: “Senators with last names that begin with the letters A through M, to the front of the chamber, please!” Have you contradicted the instruction that N-through-Z’s shall come to the front of the chamber? No, you haven’t — maybe you’ll call them up next. Have you contradicted the instruction that N-through-Z’s shall go to the back of the chamber? No, you haven’t — maybe your assistant will call them there next. But have you contradicted the instruction that L-through-Z’s shall go to the back? Yes, you have — you can’t have L’s and M’s going to both the front and the back. Those situations, as well as the instructions bringing them about, are incompatible.

Now if you keep that in mind and look again at the constitutional text that D&Y think contradicts late impeachment trials, you’ll see that it does no such thing. A statement that the president, the vice president, et al. shall be removed and disqualified if convicted does not assert or imply that former officials may also be disqualified. But neither does it contradict it. Both options are compatible with the text.

Of course, the Constitution’s text also does not contradict the claim that any senator voting to convict shall be given a pony ride and a certificate of commendation. But it would be absurd to read the Constitution as meaning that. An unasserted, not-implied claim may be more or less plausible in light of what is asserted.

This is related to the distinction they draw in linguistics and philosophy of language (which to be honest I don’t know that much about, since I’m just a hack opinion writer) between “semantics” and “pragmatics.” Semantics concerns the denotative meanings of words and assertions. Pragmatics concerns meaning that goes beyond the denotation and depends on the circumstances of utterance. Let’s say I’m driving back from Mexico with Cocaine Mitch, me behind the wheel, him riding shotgun, trunk full of luggage. The speed limit is 70 but Mitch looks over at the speedometer, sees I’m doing 90, and drawls: “Hey man, you’re doing 90.” What this means semantically is: Hey man, you’re doing 90. But what it means pragmatically is: Slow down, you reckless fool. Not: Speed up. And not: My, what a beautiful saguaro over there. Slow down makes sense — the best possible sense — in the circumstances of utterance (though I suppose Mitch could also mean: Want to give Baja racing a try?). Speed up and What a beautiful saguaro don’t make any sense at all.

Since we can’t answer the question of late impeachment trials semantically from Article II — Allowed and Not allowed are both compatible with the text — what sort of pragmatic sense might we make of the Constitution?

What we should do is ask what the Framers were trying to accomplish — what their purpose was. Their purpose in Article II was: Hey, let’s set up an executive branch. Their purpose in Section 4 was: Hey, let’s specify when it is that dangerously rotten officials get booted early out of office. So it only stands to reason that they’d write Section 4 in a way that referred to current officials. It wouldn’t have been natural for them to talk about former officials, because what they were doing was providing the rules of operation for actual, not former, executive officialdom. But that hardly means, even pragmatically, that they opposed the conviction and disqualification of former officials. Why should they be taken to have opposed something that wasn’t relevant to what they were doing in Article II?

They did, however, say something elsewhere that has pragmatic significance concerning the trial of former officials. In Article I, Section 3, they wrote that “judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” D&Y concede that this text is “not clear” — that is, semantically ambiguous — as to whether former officials may be disqualified after they have left office. But, again, ask what the Framers were doing. Their purpose here was: Hey, let’s spell out the permissible consequences of conviction. One of the things they decided was: Hey, let’s make it possible for Congress to stop a dangerously rotten official from ever, ever, by golly we mean ever, holding office again. And — as so many others have noted that I won’t even bother to cite anyone — that purpose would have been defeated if dangerously rotten officials had been allowed to escape disqualification just by resigning from office before they could be impeached and tried; or by — I have not seen this mentioned, but probably it has been — delaying their worst conduct (of an election-stealing variety, say) until there wasn’t much time left to get rid of them. So it only stands to reason that the Framers should be read as having meant, pragmatically, that former officials may be disqualified. Otherwise our reading will undermine the very purpose that the Framers had in mind when they allowed disqualification. (I believe this type of consideration is referred to in legal-scholarly circles as a “functional” argument — an argument derived from considerations of the Constitution’s function — but I’m not totally sure since I’m just a hack opinion writer.)

Now if I were a senator who wanted to be a right honorable textualist/originalist, I would certainly give more weight to the just-presented pragmatic/functional consideration than I would to any speculations about the possible consequences of reading the Constitution to allow late impeachment trials. The reason I’d do that is that the pragmatic/functional consideration, though not denotative, is still rooted in the text of the Constitution as examined in the light of the Framer’s evident intentions. Once we start fretting over D&Y’s “parade of horribles” (as Ramesh put it), we’re not really interpreting the Constitution anymore. We’re just doing politics and pretending it’s constitutional law.

Some of what I’ve said here also applies, mutatis mutandis, to John Bolton’s comments on Article II, Section 4. He too thinks late impeachments are unconstitutional. Again, no disrespect intended to a writer I admire, but I find Bolton mystifying as well. Instead of “contradict,” his word is “meaningless”: “Trump obviously cannot be removed from office if he no longer holds it, which would render this provision of the Constitution meaningless.” Now if the text semantically forbade late impeachment trials, then interpreting it to allow the late impeachment trial of Trump would give the text a self-contradictory meaning, and so in a sense render it meaningless. But the Article II text is indeterminate on the matter of late impeachments, because it simply does not speak of them. So we’ll have to look elsewhere — namely Article I, Section 3, and its evident purpose. And then, in good textualist/originalist spirit, we’ll conclude that the functional logic–cum–pragmatic context of the Constitution permits late impeachment trials.

As for Bolton’s “Trump obviously cannot be removed from office if he no longer holds it,” this just begs the central question of whether former officials may be disqualified from office.

Bolton makes one other argument:

Article I provides that “when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” Former presidents are not mentioned, so the better view is that Chief Justice John Roberts should soon decide that he will not preside over the Senate trial.

But the clause’s real importance is in the light it sheds on the fundamental jurisdictional issue of whether post-incumbency impeachment trials are permissible at all.

If fairness to an impeached incumbent president, in the extraordinary circumstances of a Senate trial, requires the chief justice to preside, why doesn’t fairness also require the chief to preside after a president leaves office? Did the Framers believe that it was acceptable to be less fair to a former president — as many would say if Vice President Kamala Harris or Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy presided? The only logical conclusion we can draw from this dilemma, reinforcing the points made above, is that there is no constitutional warrant here for a Senate trial.

On the matter of whether Chief Justice Roberts should have chosen to preside, I have no view. But to the point about fairness I think there is a good functional answer, which Andrew C. McCarthy has already given. Andy writes:

In terms of the trial’s public legitimacy, . . . leaving it to the Senate created an obvious problem: The presiding officer of the Senate, the vice president of the United States, would have a conflict of interest. If the president were impeached and removed, the vice president would accede to the presidency. Thus the vice president would have a motive to influence the trial in favor of conviction.

It is to avoid this specter that the Constitution provides for the chief justice’s participation. The role is more ceremonial than substantive. The Senate retains plenary authority over impeachment and may overrule the chief justice (just as in non-presidential impeachments, in which the chief justice has no role, the full Senate may overrule the presiding official).

Unlike an incumbent president’s impeachment trial, a Senate trial of former President Trump would present no conflict of interest for the current vice president. Trump is out of office. Were he convicted, it would have no effect on Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden would remain president.

So there you have it: The crucial consideration is not “fairness” (a vague notion in Bolton’s deployment of it) but the avoidance of a conflict of interest.

***

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Republican senators who don’t want to hold a trial, each and every blessèd one of them, bothered to explain why the Constitution (supposedly) doesn’t allow them to? Or at least told us whose explanation they have found most persuasive, which arguments they are accepting? Is it too much to ask that they reason with their disagreeing colleagues, and the public at large, on a matter of such importance? Instead of just having some secretive lunch with Jonathan Turley, harrumphing the word “unconstitutional,” and trying to shut the whole thing down? It’s almost like they don’t even care about the Constitution and just wanted to pull a political stunt in service of their personal and partisan interests. But Republicans would never do that, would they?

World

China’s Brazen Vaccine Diplomacy Continued

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In response to The Brazenness of China’s Vaccine Diplomacy

My colleague Jimmy Quinn recently highlighted “the brazenness of China’s vaccine diplomacy.” Further illustrating his point, China’s state-controlled Global Times recently announced that it has the potential to “reshape the global structure” were it to win the vaccinations race. The editorial reads:

Only by getting vaccination rates in China roughly on par with the rates in the US and European countries, along with keeping the social distancing capabilities we already have, can China continue to lead in being open in the future. That would not only safeguard our own national interest but also provide the impetus for the recovery of the global economy.

As Jimmy noted, China’s efforts to provide global leadership in the provision of vaccines have been embarrassingly disingenuous and ineffective. Nevertheless, the CCP’s ambitions to lead the “recovery of the global economy” give cause for concern. (China’s economy bounced back with nearly 5 percent growth in GDP in 2020, narrowing the gap with the U.S. And the Centre for Economics and Business Research projects that China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy by 2028.)

Energy & Environment

The Biden Jobs Purge

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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

No, no, the Biden administration does not represent some sort of return to Bolshevism (nothing like), but something about its willingness to insist on ‘short-term’ sacrifice in pursuit of a radiant green future unmoored to any kind of reality is faintly reminiscent of the ruthlessness of an earlier generation of millenarians — red rather than green — a century ago.

Fox News:

President Biden climate advisor Gina McCarthy said Wednesday that the administration is “not asking for sacrifice” with its executive order to shut down construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

According to the Keystone XL website, the project, initially proposed more than a decade ago, would have sustained about 11,000 U.S. jobs in 2021 – including 8,000 union jobs – and generated $1.6 billion in gross wages.

Not to worry though:

“The most exciting thing about this is we’re not asking for sacrifice here,” McCarthy said during a Wednesday interview on NBC’s “TODAY Show.” “The president fully understands that people are suffering now. So this [is] all about recovering from the COVID crisis. This [is] all about building good, clean jobs, jobs where you can get access to jobs to good pay and unions.”

Translation (after ignoring McCarthy’s effort to muddle the issue by bringing COVID-19 into the discussion): We are asking for sacrifice, but don’t worry, green jobs will come to the rescue, a promise that will doubtless comfort a fortysomething oil worker, whose skills may not quite be as transferable as all that.

Fox:

Gina Raimondo, Biden’s nominee for secretary of commerce, said during a Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate that the Biden administration will ensure union workers who lost jobs due to the blocking of the XL pipeline will get new jobs.

Quite how, in a free-market economy, she can “ensure” that such workers will get new jobs is beyond me. But perhaps a free market is not what we are talking about.

Somehow I suspect that the unions whose members’ jobs flow(ed) from the Keystone project don’t seem to be entirely convinced about the green-jobs bonanza that the Biden administration would like us to believe lies just around the corner:

KOMO News:

President Joe Biden won an estimated 57 percent of union households across America in last year’s election, but one of his earliest actions in the White House on Wednesday a flurry of criticism from leading labor groups: his executive order revoking federal permitting for the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project.

“Deeply disappointed,” said the head of the North American Building Trades Unions, which endorsed Mr. Biden in October. “Will kill thousands of good-paying #UNION jobs!” tweeted the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “Sadly, the Biden Administration has now put thousands of union workers out of work,” lamented the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters.

Given Biden’s climate crusade, there will be many more job losses to come. The green new dole will be what it will be.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Any doubt that the Biden Administration plans to slowly regulate fossil fuels out of existence vanished this week. First came the Keystone XL pipeline kill, but perhaps more significant is the 60-day freeze on new leases on federal lands and bureaucratic permitting. The pause could soon become a long-term ban.

Federal lands account for about 22% of U.S. oil production, 12% of natural gas and 40% of coal. When the Obama Administration slowed oil and gas permitting on federal land, drilling and exploration shifted to private land. The Biden Administration may shut that down too.

Start with the 60-day suspension on new leases on federal land. Producers in older oil and gas fields won’t be significantly affected, and many have already scaled back investment in places like California and Louisiana while pouring more into shale. But shale fracking occurs in large part on federal land in western states, and it continually requires new leases and investment.

Federal land accounts for 51.9% of New Mexico’s oil production and 66.8% of its natural gas, as well as a sizable share of gas extraction in Colorado (41.6%), Utah (63.2%) and Wyoming (92.1%). A federal leasing ban would cost some 18,000 jobs in Colorado, 33,000 in Wyoming and 62,000 in New Mexico by 2022, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

States would also lose hundreds of millions of dollars of mineral royalties that are shared by the feds. Oil and gas revenue accounts for 20% of New Mexico’s budget. Downstream suppliers like fracking sand mines in Wisconsin and steel manufacturers in Pennsylvania would also be hit . . .

For more on the difficulties that are, specifically, likely heading New Mexico’s way, take a look at Paul Gessing’s article for Capital Matters last month.

Those splendid new green jobs are going to have to materialize very quickly, and, some states must hope, in the right places.

Count me skeptical.

A notorious phrase about omelets and broken eggs comes to mind.

And so does one famous reply: “Where’s the omelet?”

Impromptus

Fair and Foul

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Left: Sam Snead at the Augusta National Golf Club in 2001. Right: Ted Williams at a Red Sox–Mets games in 1999. (Reuters; Mike Segar / Reuters)

“If you live long enough, you see that things repeat themselves, in strange ways.” Yes. I write that in my Impromptus today. In the late ’90s, I heard “move on” a lot. There was even an organization founded: “MoveOn.”

I hear the very same today, from Republicans.

But look: The body count from January 6 continues to rise. Did you see this article, on the Capitol police? Very, very disturbing. You will understand if some of us are not quite ready to “move on.”

I admired what Peter Meijer said yesterday (after I wrote my column): “It’s just staggering how many folks continue to try to paper over what happened, try to ‘move on,’ just say, ‘It’s been a couple of weeks, let’s forget about it.’ I’m just at a loss for words.”

Meijer is the new congressman from Grand Rapids (a Republican). He is the son of Hank Meijer, with whom I did a podcast two years ago. Illustrious Michigan family.

Anyway, my column is on the state of the GOP — the Republican Party at the beginning of 2021. It is not a “nice” column. (I will return to those.) But it is a frank and true one, I believe.

Some mail? First, I have to do a little quoting. I have a letter responding to the following item, contained in some notes I posted after January 6:

Some people have asked me, “How has the Trump era changed you?” For one thing, it has made me a lot more conservative — not in the Fox-and-talk sense, but in an older, Burkean one. Most of the radicalism in me has been snuffed out.

One of the GOP’s new congressmen, Madison Cawthorn, said, “I want a new generation of Americans to be radicals.”

Well, to hell with that.

Okay, our reader writes,

You say that the Trump era has purged the radicalism out of you. Me too.

The other big takeaway for me: There are people with whom I share values but not politics, and these people are closer to who I am than people whose policy preferences sometimes coincide with mine, but whose values are very different.

Someone who favors a regulation because he thinks it helps someone, but which I think is wrongheaded, is a potential friend with whom I have a disagreement. Someone who has the same policy view as mine because he thinks it “owns the libs” is like the broken clock, right twice a day.

In some notes about Inauguration Day, I groused about music (of course):

I’m afraid that our inaugural ceremonies have turned into pop concerts. Marian Anderson, Marilyn Horne, Jessye Norman, Susan Graham (of George W. Bush’s hometown, Midland, Texas) — gone with the wind. This says something about our culture more broadly.

A pity.

A reader writes,

I feel ya. While I found the sight of Senator Roy Blunt and Lady Gaga on the same stage more than a bit amusing, I’m resolving right now to vote for any candidate who promises to have Joyce DiDonato sing at the inauguration.

Ha. (DiDonato, by the way, is a mezzo-soprano from Kansas, and one of the greatest singers in history.)

Early on Inauguration Morning, a reader and friend wrote,

President Trump meant no compliment when he dubbed our incoming president “Sleepy Joe,” but danged if it doesn’t sound pretty good right now. I have felt like a shocked lab rat for four years. George Carlin quipped, “People are always complaining about inefficiency in government. Do we really want them to do more of what they do?” Alas, our “sleepy” new prez has a long agenda.

Alas. (By the way, the phrase “shocked lab rat” is perfect.)

Finally, golf. Earlier this week, I had an essay called “Golf in a Time of Pandemic: Or, home on the range.” My colleague Katherine Howell writes,

Golf has always been mysterious to me, as a non-golfer, so it’s interesting to read about it. My uncle Billy was a big golfer, and I remember having an argument with him when I was eight or nine years old about whether it’s harder to hit a baseball or a golf ball. I said golf must be easy because the ball doesn’t move. So he took me to a driving range to prove to me that I was wrong.

Ah, yes. Old, old argument, old, old theme. It is hard to hit a golf ball for many reasons. One of them is: The ball doesn’t move. In tennis, for example, you have something to react to. Instinct takes over. In golf, the ball just sits there, smirking at you.

The story goes that Sam Snead and Ted Williams were having the baseball–golf argument. Ted said, “You don’t face a pitcher, for heaven’s sake.” Sam said, “True — but we have to hit our foul balls.”

Again, to read my column today — blunt — go here.

Music

Making Up for Our Educational Deficiencies

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Changes in society have left many young Americans poorly prepared to deal with all the stuff life throws at them. Our schools aren’t doing a good job at filling the void.

In today’s Martin Center article, Florida State music student Eric Jansen argues that many students have been short-changed in the realm of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). He thinks that music education is one way to help them.

Jansen writes, “SEL seeks to teach students the skills they need to control themselves in social situations and to properly deal with their emotions. This can be as simple as knowing how to introduce oneself or how to manage anger in a professional setting, or as complex as how to have a healthy relationship or how to deal with the death of a loved one. These skills are ignored all too often when it comes to educating our future generations because they are not ‘academic’ and are seen as irrelevant to developing job skills (although we will see later why this is a misconception), compared to easier-to-test skills like literacy or arithmetic.”

Young people used to get large doses of SEL from family and religious life, but both have declined, he correctly observes. Music education would be one way for schools to teach SEL.

“Music educators already teach many SEL skills such as collaboration, co-operation, self-discipline, and self-awareness. If an ensemble does not work together properly, or if the players don’t do their work, the group can’t perform. These lessons transfer to social situations in school and work and would prepare students for higher education and their careers,” Jansen writes.

Many of his college classmates are lacking in SEL, he notes.

I’d certainly like to see schools do more music education and drop the infatuation with “diversity,” but I’m not optimistic about that.

Delahunty and Yoo vs. Impeaching Ex-Officials

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Then-President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Valley International Airport after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Harlingen, Texas, January 12, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Robert Delahunty and John Yoo are in good company in thinking that the Constitution forbids the Senate from convicting a former official in an impeachment trial. But I think their argument for that view has two great weaknesses.

The first is that they wrongly take the other side of the debate to “concede. . . on the constitutional text” — by which they seem to mean that we acknowledge that the text of the Constitution confines impeachment to currently serving officials. That premise makes their argumentative work easier: To refute the other side as they present that side, they need establish

World

Top U.N. Official Sidesteps Chinese Influence Question

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Germany, December 17, 2020. (Michael Sohn/Pool via Reuters)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hasn’t said much about the topic of authoritarian influence within the international organization he leads, and he seemed to sidestep a question about the Chinese Communist Party’s cooptation of multilateral institutions during an interview with Reuters today:

New U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations accused China on Wednesday of trying to “drive an authoritarian agenda” at the 193-member world body.

When asked for a response, Guterres said: “In relation to the United Nations I can guarantee that we are very strongly committed to make sure that the U.N. is a beacon of all the values are related to … security, development, human rights.”

Guterres, who acknowledged to Reuters that the U.S. and China have “completely different views” on human rights, has faced criticism from human-rights groups for his refusal to condemn the CCP’s genocide of Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, though he claims that he’s raised the issue with China’s diplomats. Nevertheless, none of his public statements amounts to anything nearing a clear denunciation of these acts.

These are critical questions, and although he might feel that coming out publicly against Beijing would limit his capacity to be an effective broker, it’s impossible to credibly lead an entity dedicated to the promotion of human rights while refusing to pointedly criticize the actions of a country that uses international institutions to whitewash its mass atrocities.

Guterres earlier this month announced that he’s seeking reelection to his post, and his record on China should factor into any U.S. decision about whether to support him.

Politics & Policy

On the Senate’s Constitutional Authority to Convict a Former President

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Most scholars believe that the Constitution allows Congress to impeach former officials, including former presidents, but Stanford law professor Michael McConnell points out that isn’t the question facing the Senate today. McConnell writes to Eugene Volokh at Reason:

Whether a former officer can be impeached is beside the point. Donald Trump was President of the United States at the time he was impeached by the House of Representatives. The impeachment was therefore unquestionably permissible (putting aside any disagreements over the nature of the charges).

Article I, Section 3, Clause 6, states: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” The key word is “all.” This clause contains no reservation or limitation. It does not say “the Senate has power to try impeachments against sitting officers.” Given that the impeachment of Mr. Trump was legitimate, the text makes clear that the Senate has power to try that impeachment.

Read the rest of his analysis here.

World

Climate Negotiations with Beijing Won’t Come without Significant Concessions

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U.S. climate envoy John Kerry speaks while White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy listens during a press briefing at the White House, January 27, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden administration officials have pledged to seek cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party on questions of combating climate change, and they’ve promised that their negotiations would not force the United States to compromise in other areas, such as territorial disputes and human rights. The Chinese government says otherwise.

On Wednesday, newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and John Kerry, the president’s special envoy on climate, both made remarks on the administration’s plans to negotiate with the Chinese.

At the White House, Kerry addressed some of the concerns that have been raised about the administration’s approach, stating that the U.S. position on issues such as the South China Sea dispute and intellectual-property theft “will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate.” “That’s not going to happen,” he continued, “But climate is a critical, standalone issue.”

Blinken later in the afternoon similarly defended the administration’s intention to negotiate with the Chinese on climate issues, which he said is a topic “where it’s in the interest of China and in the interest of the United States and the interest of countries around the world to make concrete progress in combating global warming.” “I think and hope that we’ll be able to pursue that,” he added.

But just how much of a standalone issue can climate actually be? And is it true, as Blinken argued, that it can be an area of cooperation?

The Chinese Foreign Ministry answered Blinken and Kerry today, according to the Global Times, a Party tabloid:

Neither side should expect to wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interest, while at the same time demanding China’s support in bilateral and global affairs, said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

“China-US cooperation in specific areas is not just ‘flower in a greenhouse.’ It is bound to be closely related to the overall China-US relations. China hopes the US can create favorable conditions for China-US coordination and cooperation in important areas,” Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the ministry noted at a daily press briefing on Thursday.

Kerry can’t simply wave away the concerns that climate negotiations with Beijing will require U.S. concessions in other, unrelated areas if the Chinese government publicly demands such concessions with regard to “interference in China’s internal affairs” (which is to say human rights).

This raises some important questions: Why bother to claim that climate negotiations can work without significant concessions if that’s most likely not true? And just what, and how much, is the Biden administration willing to sacrifice in order to strike a bargain with the CCP on climate?

NRI

Join Together for Discussion and Good Cheer: No Regrets Accepted!

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Conservatives and Buckley Lovers in the NYC and Philadelphia areas pay heed: National Review Institute’s popular Burke to Buckley Program is seeking applicants for the forthcoming session. Designed for mid-career professionals (typically ages 35–50) who want to develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought, “B-to-B” applicants come from a wide variety of careers. There is a preference for law, finance, health care, education, business, the arts, and the non-profit section (it’s not intended for recent graduates, or those working in public policy or politics).

This spring’s program will run from March to May in New York City and Philadelphia. Accepted participants will gather during eight sessions (over Zoom, and in-person / socially distanced over dinner as well, as local conditions allow) to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer or fellow) will guide the discussion, (be warned: this is not a lecture series), providing a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another (and likely form new and worthwhile personal and professional relationships). Program topics include:

  • William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism
  • The Founders’ Constitution
  • Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism
  • Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism
  • Mediating Structures between the State and the Individual
  • Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
  • The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude

Does this sound like something that might interest you, or someone you know? How couldn’t it?! So apply — now. Do that here. Applications will close on February 10. The program cost for participants is $500 (which covers a mere third of the actual per-participant cost).

In addition to the rewarding program, B-to-B participants join a nationwide alumni network, and will be invited to various National Review Institute events.

Program applications for both cities are found here. Those with questions should contact the great Lynn Gibson, who runs B-to-B with grace and style, at lynn@nrinstitute.org. Remember: The deadline is February 10.